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The Resurrection of European Communism By: Sven R. Larson
FrontPageMagazine.com | Friday, July 14, 2006


In a scene strikingly reminiscent of a bygone era, Communist activists rallied this June in Berlin to pledge allegiance to the establishment of a strong, national Communist party in Germany. Proclaiming their contempt for “neo liberal Capitalism” and the major German political parties, who have “no broader social perspective beyond the present,” these 21st century Communists declared their commitment to a “socialist society.” The rally would hardly be newsworthy were it not for the fact that, nearly two decades after the fall of the Berlin Wall, Communists are once again a force in German politics.

In the first decade after the fall of the Wall, many people thought it inconceivable that totalitarian ideologies would ever again have any appeal, especially in Europe. After all, the free world had now defeated both versions of the same totalitarianism: fascism and communism. However, oppressive ideologies do not die young, as the Islamo-fascist war on the West reminds us. Now the West is seeing the resurrection of its own, homegrown totalitarianism. This is most evident in Germany where the old East German communist party is leading the only growing political movement in the country. Their voter share is growing rapidly, while the old, established parties are stagnant and deadlocked. Worst of all, their ideology is outspokenly Leninist and anti-capitalist.

At the helm of this communist resurrection is a new generation of young, intellectually savvy and well-educated politicians. And they have momentum. The former East German communist party, now known as The Leftists-Party for Democratic Socialism, Die Linke-PDS, has been very successful in many recent elections:

Berlin - It forms the mayoral administration (Berlin is not part of any state) together with the Social Democrats, controlling one quarter of the parliamentary seats and virtually tying with the Christian Democrats as the second largest party.

Brandenburg – It increased its voter share by one fifth from 1999 to 2004. With 28 percent of the votes, it is close to becoming the largest party in the state.

Saxony (Sachsen) – With 23.6 percent of the seats in the state legislature it is almost two and a half times larger than the Social Democrats.

Meckenburg-Vorpommern – It earned 16.4 percent of the votes in the 2002 election and formed a government together with the Social Democrats.

Notably, Die Linke-PDS does well in the states in former East Germany but has had little success in the onetime West Germany. But this is likely to change, as the 2005 national election results hinted.

The Left Party more than doubled its votes compared to 2002, and a great deal of the success was owed to an alliance with West German based WASG, a new leftist party. [1] The WASG drew a great deal of attention when Oscar Lafontaine, finance minister in the 1998 Social Democratic administration, left the social democrats for WASG. [2] Die Linke-PDS remains relatively small nationally. Its share of the votes in 2005 was 8.8 percent. However, this also means that it is as big as longtime established parties like the Christian Social Union (CSU) and the centrist Free Democrats (FDP).

America has good reasons to be concerned about the resurrection of communism in Germany. As mentioned, Die Linke-PDS is not a traditional Western European leftist party. It is the former official communist party of East Germany. It still denounces economic freedom and capitalism; it diminishes the atrocities committed by governments in the Soviet empire; and its success is a source of inspiration to other European communist parties. Down the road, it will seize every opportunity to influence the European Union and it already boasts skilled and experienced politicians in the European Parliament.

One of them is Sahra Wagenknecht. A leading ideological scholar in the communist resurrection movement, she represents Die Linke-PDS in the European Parliament. There she holds a seat on the prestigious Committee on Economic and Monetary Affairs. Aside from her ambitions to create a strong German communist party, she nurtures the European Union’s relations with Latin America. Her affinity for Latin American socialism was expressed in her book Alo Presidente, a tribute to Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez. She is also the German spokesperson for Venezuela Avanza, a “solidarity movement” promoting Venezuelan socialism.

For her native Germany, Wagenknecht is advocating a strong, unified Communist party. The clear intention is to bring old East German Communism to the rest of Germany. Such ambitions are made clear in a political statement endorsed by Wagenknecht, titled “For an Anti-Capitalist Left” (Für Eine Anti-Kapitalistische Linke), [3] which has been widely endorsed by leading German leftists. Vehemently anti-capitalist, the statement makes the stunning claim that a free society is actually worse than Soviet communism. (Never mind that it was people on the eastern side of the Berlin Wall who tore it down to get out, not people on the western side who tore it down to get in.) In rhetoric eerily reminiscent of Lenin’s “Imperialism: The Highest State of Capitalism,” the statement declares:

With the end of system competition Capitalism has stepped in to a new expansive and aggressive phase. The worldwide removal of control mechanisms and regulations on financial capital, the exploitation of poorer countries, the opening of their markets and the seizure of control over their natural resources and industrial capital, the raw privatization policy around the world has led to an unprecedented concentration of economic power. A few hundred corporate giants preside over the development of the world economy, over investments and jobs, over the distribution of wealth and misery, over the prospects of billions of people. The more uninhibitedly the profit interests rule, the deeper the rift between North and South, between Misery and Prosperity. [4]

In other words, Wagenknecht and her peers take a disturbing “no remorse” attitude to the crimes against humanity that the Soviet system was responsible for. (In this way they bring to mind the European neo-Nazi campaign to restore Hitler’s horrendous ideology during the 1980s.) The immense suffering under communism is dismissed by the “Anti-Capitalist Left” statement as a mere “socialist experiment.” [5]

In her book Kapitalismus im Koma [6], Wagenknecht solidifies this blatant disrespect for freedom and for the suffering at the hands of Stalinist tyrants, gloating over the imperfections of the free market system. Citing the mafia methods of old corrupt communist leaders, to whose party she now belongs, as representative examples of how a free economy works, she derogates Eastern Europe’s transition out of communism after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989. “Milk and honey arguably flowed after 1989: in East Europe, for the small half mob caste of privatization profiteers who together could branch off for themselves a considerable part of the [privatization] sell out; and in the West, lush for those, who were already sitting right at the top of the well [of milk and honey],” she writes. [7] She then claims that freedom is equally absent in the free West as it was in the Soviet empire. When the Berlin Wall fell, there was no choice of freedom at hand, she insists. “The error was not in the fact that people, of two possible alternatives, chose the wrong one,” she writes. “The alternative they were to consider never yielded anything. They have lost their social safety net and they have not come one step closer to a life in freedom. For he who has fear is not acting in freedom, but under pressure and constraints.” [8]

Adding predictable rants about Enron, WorldCom and the war on terror, Wagenknecht goes on to assert that life in the West is not free, not prosperous, and certainly not desirable. Contrary to what the 21st century communists would have us believe, Western society triumphed over fascism and communism precisely because it is free and prosperous. But these obvious and undeniable advantages of capitalism and freedom stand in the way of those who, like Wagenknecht, are striving to resurrect communism. Therefore they must be denied and the West made to look worse than the Soviet Union.

A similar message was declared by Communist activists at their June rally. “In a Capitalist society ever present competition determines how humans live together, and has led to the private acquisition of socially produced surplus value, as well as developed as its safeguard the ideology of market freedom; [our new party] ties together the socialist visions of social equality and public property with the goal of general human and cultural emancipation.” [10] In short, the new unified German Left wants to eradicate Capitalism and economic freedom, to maximize the size of government, and to impose an arbitrary idea of social equality on the German people. Bearing in mind that this is the only growing political movement in Germany, the prospects for the future are disturbing. The German Left will soon be in a position to strongly influence its country’s politics – and, in the future, the fate of the European Union.

Both Germany and Europe are today in political deadlock. The federal German government rests on a fragile balance between the conservative and socialist coalitions. Its only accomplishments thus far have been higher taxes and sleazy attempts to impose the new European constitution on the German people. To voters, these tricks come across as disrespectful and will likely drive more of them into the arms of Die Linke-PDS.

That would give aspiring communist movements in other European countries something to look up to and be emboldened by. In the long term, this will of course do damage to Europe’s economy and to the freedom in Europe. It will also affect trans-Atlantic relations negatively and weaken America’s fledgling alliance with Europe in global matters such as the eradication of terrorism and tyranny.

Even more disturbing is the possibility that growing European communism can forge an international alliance with ideological cronies elsewhere in the world, primarily in Latin America. This perspective, which is somewhat speculative but not unrealistic over the longer term, is perhaps the most frightening to America, as it would create an openly anti-American alliance on a continent where America has generally found friends and allies.

Endnotes:


[1] Wahalternative Arbeit und Soziale Gerichtigkeit. http://www.w-asg.de.

[4] Mit dem Wegfall der Systemkonkurrenz ist das kapitalistische System in eine neue expansive und aggressive Phase getreten. Der weltweite Abbau von Kapitalverkehrskontrollen und Regulierungen, die Erpressung der ärmeren Länder, ihre Märkte zu öffnen und ihre Naturreichtümer und Wirtschaftsressourcen den Multis zu übereignen, rüde Privatisierungspolitik weltweit haben zu einer beispiellosen globalen Konzentration ökonomischer Macht geführt. Wenige hundert Konzerngiganten entscheiden heute über die Entwicklung der Weltwirtschaft, über Investitionen und Arbeitsplätze, über die Verteilung von Wohlstand und Armut, über die Lebensperspektiven von Milliarden Menschen. Je unumschränkter ihre Profitinteressen regieren, desto tiefer wird die Kluft zwischen Nord und Süd, zwischen Arm und Reich. http://www.sahrawagenknecht.de/de/Fur_eine_antikapitalistische_Linke_1_.pdf.

[5] Für Eine Anti-Kapitalistische Linke, p. 4.

[6] Wagenknecht, Sahra: Kapitalismus im Koma – Eine sozialistische Analyse, Edition Ost, Berlin, Germany 2003.

[7] Wagenknecht 2003, p. 124. In German: Milch und Honig flossejn nach 1989 wohl: in Osteuropa für die kleine halbmafiose Kaste der Privatisierungsgewinnler, die zugleich einen wesentlichen Teil der Ausverkauferlöse für sich abzweigen konnte, und im Westen üppiger denn je für die, die schon vorher ganz oben an der Quelle sassen.

[8] Wagenknecht 2003, p. 126. In German: Der Fehler lag nicht darin, dass die Menschen 1990 von zwei möglichen Alternativen die falsche gewählt haben. Die Alternative, die ihnen vorgegaukelt wurde, gab es nie. Sie haben ihre sozialen Sicherheiten verloren und sind einem Leben in Freiheit um keinen Schritt näher gekommen. Denn wer Angst hat, handlet nicht frei, sondern under Druck und gezwungen.

[9] Wir wollen, dass es sich die neue Partei zu ihrer Aufgabe macht, die Debatte über eine grundsätzliche Alternative zum neoliberalen Kapitalismus wieder in die gesellschaftliche Diskussion zu bringen. Alle anderen im Bundestag vertretenen Parteien orientieren sich in ihren Forderungen und politischen Projekten dagegen nur am Gegebenen und haben keine Gesellschaftsperspektive, die über das hier und jetzt hinausweist. Uns geht es stattdessen darum, mit unseren heutigen Forderungen und unserer Politik die Perspektive einer sozialistischen Gesellschaft aufzuzeigen.

http://www.antikapitalistische-linke.de/article/17..html.

[10] Denn während die Gesellschaftsform des Kapitalismus die allseitige Konkurrenz zum bestimmenden Merkmal menschlichen Zusammenlebens macht, die private Aneignung des gesellschaftlich produzierten Mehrwerts realisiert und die Ideologie von der Freiheit des Marktes zu ihrer Absicherung entwickelt hat, verbindet die sozialistische Perspektive soziale Gerechtigkeit und gesellschaftliches Eigentum mit dem Ziel allgemein menschlicher und kultureller Emanzipation. http://www.antikapitalistische-linke.de/article/17..html.

 

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