Germany’s Left Must Find a New Strategy to Stop the Rise of the Right
Michael Brie, of Germany’s Die Linke, explains that the German left needs to strengthen solidarity with those who have been excluded from Germany’s economic successes
SHIR HEVER: Welcome to The Real News Network. I’m Shir Hever in Heidelberg, Germany.
“The Return of Hope For an Offensive Double Strategy,” is the name of a new article just published in Bullet Magazine, a publication of the Socialist Project, the article was written by Michael Brie, and Mario Condeias. And indeed, it is an ambitious attempt to call on the left, and other opposition forces, especially in Europe, and especially in Germany, to inform themselves and adopt a new approach.
The authors argue that it is not enough for the progressive left to defend liberal democracy, and social democracy, but it must go beyond and build a strong agenda of solidarity as well.
We won’t be able to cover all of the arguments in this article here. But let us address some of them, and especially those, which are relevant for the German left.
Here to discuss this article is one of the authors Michael Brie. Michael Brie is a social philosopher at the Institute for Critical Social Analysis of the Rosa Luxembourg Foundation in Berlin. He writes about the history of the left and Marxist thinking; and his most recent book, which came out in German is, “Rediscovering Polany”. He’s joining us from Berlin, Germany. And thank you for joining us Michael.
MICHAEL BRIE: Hi to all of you.
SHIR HEVER: Now, with the rise of the populist right in the United States, in the UK, in East Europe, to a lesser extent also in the Netherlands, and in France, what specific challenges exist for the progressive forces in Germany?
MICHAEL BRIE: We are facing the following problems: on the one hand, is we also have a rising new right-wing force in Germany, and like in a lot of other European countries. That’s the first challenge we have, and especially with the so-called migrant problem, we are facing new forms of racism and nationalism embedded deeply in the German society. That’s the first challenge we have.
Maybe even more important is that the current policy of Chancellor Merkel and, together with Social Democratic Party, is the cause of a lot of problems inside Germany, but also all over Europe, austerity policies and the polarization inside our societies. It’s also the decrease of democracy.
So, there are two forces we should oppose: the mainstream neoliberal governments on the one hand, the rising new right forces, and we should build up our own as you said, pool of solidarity, a kind of third force.
SHIR HEVER: Social Democratic Party which is currently in the coalition government with the Christian Democrats, and specifically, there is now a new candidate for the Social Democratic Party, Martin Schultz. He was compared by the media to Bernie Sanders in the , and to Jeremy Corbyn in the UK. Do you agree with this kind of comparison? Do you think his agenda is similar? And is he a real challenger to the Christian Democratic Party Chancellor Angela Merkel?
MICHAEL BRIE: These are two questions. I start with the second question: if he’s really a challenge? Because of the weakness of the ruling government, let’s say, there is a desire for an alternative. We see that Merkel is already ruling 12 years and there is a kind of exhaustion of this type of government going on, muddling through.
So, inside the German society and, especially on the more left side there is a strong desire, people are looking for an alternative. The problem is if Martin Schultz is the alternative.
SHIR HEVER: Right.
MICHAEL BRIE: We have said just by appointing somebody else who was not in government, who was in Europe and was somehow moderately criticizing neoliberal policies increased the Social Democrats by 10% in the opinion polls from 20 they were rising up to 30, even up to 35. The problem with Martin Schultz is that he is not at all a Corbyn or Bernie Sanders. He’s not fighting. He’s not really fighting for left alternative. We have already seen him, he was arguing for moderate changes of Social Democratic policy of the past. Moderating neoliberal policies with regard to unemployment and so on.
SHIR HEVER: Right.
MICHAEL BRIE: But no real change. No real deep change and we had a smaller defeat of the Social Democratic Party in one of the regions of Germany, and he immediately shifted more to the Liberal Party. Which is a strongest supporter of neoliberal policies in Germany.
SHIR HEVER: Right. I want to go back to your article actually, and you make an interesting division within the article between what kind of programs the left should adopt, and which not. What is more realistic for the left to hope for, to try to achieve? And what is unrealistic?
One of the things you mentioned is that you suggest it would be a good idea to divert income from exports to domestic spending. And I wanted to ask about this. Aren’t exports actually dependent on low wages? And if the income would be diverted into the domestic spending in Germany, then Germany will lose its export advantage. So, is it even possible to divert this kind of income?
MICHAEL BRIE: Firstly, you see Germany is benefiting by the euro. From the German perspective, the euro is totally undervalued. For the Greek, or for the Spanish, it’s overvalued. So, this is a problem we are facing. And as far as we are in one currency union, in such a case there would be a need for larger redistribution from Germany and from other winners of this situation to the others. But this doesn’t happen. We have created a currency union without larger redistribution inside the currency union. This is the first problem we are facing.
The second is we have a split inside the German which owners, between those working for the export sectors and for the service sectors. We have low wages, especially in the service sectors. So, it’s totally imbalanced. That’s the second problem we are facing.
The third, as you said, export. We are exporting 9% of our Gross National Product more than we are importing, so, 8 to 9%. This is totally impossible. It’s totally crazy, and so we have an underinvestment, especially in infrastructure, in education, and social security at home. And this is endangering our own future.
So, all these problems are inter-connected, and I think we should address them combined.
SHIR HEVER: I want to ask you one last question about the issue of solidarity, which is sort of the most important argument in your article.
Because there is one thing about the German left that separates it from all the other left movements in Europe. In every country in Europe the left is standing in solidarity with Palestinians against the Israeli occupation. But in Germany the Israel-Palestine question is somehow completely addressed differently.
And the left party in Germany is actually headed by a pro-Israeli politician, Gregor Gysi, who went so far as to accuse Palestinian solidarity activists, calling them anti-Semites, banning events about the Occupation. So, why is the German left in Germany an exception in all of Europe? And is this an obstacle to cooperation with the left movement in other countries?
MICHAEL BRIE: Firstly, I think Gregor Gysi and others have a very concrete understanding of the very complicated Israel-Palestine question. And, you see in Germany, I do not know how it’s in other countries; in Germany we have a deep split in the left around this question of Palestine and Israel.
And so, often I think that this split is not because of the real situation of the real Palestinians and real Israelis, Jews in Israel, but it’s more about the concrete German situation. And you see from a German left perspective, I’m from my own, also from a Jewish family, we are very concerned on the one hand that the continuation of the Israeli policy is endangering Israel itself, and is destroying any chance for co-existence of the Palestine and Israel people on the land of former Palestine and today Occupied Territory and Israel.
So, this is our approach to… we are looking… looking and we are trying to support real peaceful co-existence.
SHIR HEVER: So, thanks for this and I hope that in your future articles you will also continue to challenge the German left, also on the issue of Israel-Palestine. Thank you very much for joining us Michael.
MICHAEL BRIE: Thank you too. Bye bye.
SHIR HEVER: And thank you for joining us on The Real News Network.