Tuesday, October 20, 2009

The deadweight of sectarianism

By Frank Brenner

Oct. 21, 2009

I want to follow up a previous blog of mine (“The PSG and the EU elections”[1]) by commenting on a recent article by PSG leader Peter Schwarz called “The PSG and the German Left Party”.[2] While Schwarz’s article is an exchange of letters with a reader, it isn’t hard to see that he is also addressing my earlier posting (though without bothering to mention the latter, a practice all too common in the polemical style of the ICFI leadership).[3]

Without repeating material from the previous blog, it needs to be said that the trends analyzed there became more evident in the Sept. 27 German federal election. The Social Democrats (SPD) had their worst result since the end of the Second World War, losing over 11 percent of their vote. The other ‘natural’ governing party, the Christian Democrats (CDU), also had one of its poorest showings ever. Lesser parties – the Free Democrats, the Greens and the Left Party – all made substantial gains. The German political landscape is being altered by the seismic shifts within global capitalism.

From the standpoint of the working class, the key development is the decline of the SPD and the growth of the Left Party. It is clear that many workers and youth, facing increasingly bleak economic prospects, no longer see the SPD as a party of social reform. They identify it – rightly of course – as a pro-business, establishment party. This represents an important shift in the political consciousness of a significant section of the German working class, and that shift has manifested itself in a turn towards the Left Party.

It is this last point, evident to anyone who has followed the German political scene, which Schwarz and the PSG vehemently deny. They are happy to discuss the political decline of the SPD but see no significance, so far as the development of working class consciousness is concerned, in the growing support for the Left Party. To this end, Schwarz marshals a number of arguments, all of which repeat earlier PSG statements and none of which stand up to critical analysis.

[2] “The PSG and the German Left Party: An exchange of letters,” WSWS, Sept. 28, 2009: http://www.wsws.org/articles/2009/sep2009/left-s28.shtml. The article was originally posted in German: “Die PSG und die Linkspartei”, WSWS, Sept. 26, 2009: http://www.wsws.org/de/2009/sep2009/link-s26.shtml.
[3] It is worth noting that the letter Schwarz is responding to makes no mention of the Left Party. Schwarz, however, spends six-and-a-half pages discussing little else but the PSG’s attitude to the Left Party, which also happens to be one of the main themes of my article. Moreover, while the letter-writer, F.S., demonstrates political confusion when he calls on the PSG to collaborate with various revisionist outfits, he also criticizes the PSG’s EU election campaign very much along the lines of what I had written, a point I’ll come back to later.

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

The PSG and the EU elections

By Frank Brenner

Deutsch: Die PSG und die Europawahl

After the recent European Union elections, the WSWS ran a number of articles assessing the results of these elections, including the performance of the German section of the International Committee, the PSG (Partei fur Soziale Gleichheit). These articles bear some comment.

First, some facts. The PSG received 9,673 votes in the election. This compares to the previous election, in 2004, where the PSG received 25,800 votes. Which is to say that the party’s vote fell by a whopping 62.5 percent. To call this a steep decline is an understatement. Moreover, the PSG scored dead last of the 31 German parties contesting the EU election, including some very obscure and makeshift groups peddling everything from spiritual politics to the merits of internet file-sharing. This result is all the more noteworthy given that these elections were held in the midst of the global financial crisis, which is hitting the German working class hard.

So what accounts for this? Surely that should be a pressing concern for the party. But you won’t find a coherent explanation in the WSWS commentary. Here is how PSG leader Ulrich Rippert handles the issue in his assessment of his party’s campaign:

"The PSG received 9,673 votes. While this total is significantly less than the vote won by the party in the European election five years ago, it would be a mistake to assess the significance of the elections from the narrow viewpoint of how many votes were won."

Now, it is true that Trotskyist parties are not electoralist machines and that votes are not the primary consideration determining our politics. But clearly votes have some significance. Imagine if the PSG vote had increased by 62.5 percent: of course the party would have trumpeted such as a result as indicative of a growing influence in the working class. Indeed this is just what happened in 2004. Then the WSWS was so proud of the PSG vote that it put the vote numbers in the headline: “Socialist Equality Party of Germany receives nearly 26,000 votes”. The article went on to declare: “This increase in votes is of considerable political significance. It shows that a section of workers, intellectuals and youth are beginning to seriously take up political issues and support an international socialist perspective.”

But you can’t have it both ways – you can’t take credit for a good result but dismiss the significance of a bad one. There is – or should be – no question that such a dramatic fall in the party’s vote calls for a critical reappraisal of what the PSG has been doing to reach the working class.

Read entire essay HERE

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