Infostand in Dresden
Katja Kipping am Arnoldbad
Three years ago before Katja Kipping was appointed co-chair of Germany’s The Left party (Die Linke), wich was at loggerheads, mired with internal divisions. But the storm has now subsided and the party — now the third largest in Germany — is showing its first signs of coming of age.
The Left was founded in 2007 as a result of the merger between the successor party to the East German Communists, known as PDS (Party of Democratic Socialism), and the WASG (Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Justice), a grouping composed mainly of Western Germany’s trade unionists, activists from social movements and disaffected members of the Social Democratic Party (SPD).With the SPD now aligned with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU), Die Linke finds itself as the country’s largest opposition party, with 64 seats in the Bundestag (Lower House) after taking 10.2 percent of the vote in the 2013 election.
During a recent visit to Argentina to participate in a three-day conference paying homage to Argentine political theorist Ernesto Laclau, organized by the Culture Ministry, Kipping spoke to the Herald about Europe’s refugee crisis, Germany’s role in Greece’s negotiations with international creditors and Merkel’s effectiveness in office.
Chancellor Merkel will most likely be re-elected a fourth time in 2017. Why is she still so popular?
It is not the enthusiasm or the conviction of the masses that keeps her in power, but rather passivity and the lack of alternatives. Angela Merkel doesn’t motivate people to become active in politics. Her message is more like: “We will do it for you.” She waits until opinion surveys come out before she gives her opinion clearly. So, she is still firmly in the saddle.
How do you assess Germany’s handling of the growing refugee crisis up to now?
Germany, and in fact all of Europe, were very short-sighted. They should have known that there would be many more coming.
Compared to other countries in Europe, Germany has allowed a larger number of migrants to stay in the country.
It was a good public relations campaign for Angela Merkel, opening the border for a short period. Unfortunately, this was only a single humane gesture and afterwards they implemented stricter controls. Nevertheless, the movement of refugees has confronted Europe with deeper questions. The thousands of people crossing borders out of sheer desperation makes us realize the limitations of the capitalist system. They have certainly put the issue of global inequality firmly on the agenda. The slogan of some refugee organizations — “We’re here because you’re destroying our countries” — expresses this precisely.
Germany continues to export arms to conflict zones in countries in the Middle East, Arabian peninsula and North Africa.
Yes, indeed. My party is demanding the government completely stop the export of arms and defence. One shouldn’t be surprised that these exports are causing deaths and forcing people to leave their countries. If the United States hadn’t intervened militarily in Iraq, the Islamic State wouldn’t have become so strong. It reminds me of Goethe’s poem The Sorcerer’s Apprentice which says: “Spirits that I’ve cited, My commands ignore. “
According to German statistics, compared to last year, there have been more violent attacks on refugee homes and at several anti-Islam rallies. Why do you think this is happening?
In German society there is a strong politicization and polarization with regard to the refugee situation.
On the one side, there’s the growth in racist violence and death threats toward politicians who welcome migrants. On the other side, there is a growing civilian commitment to helping refugees. There is no excuse for becoming a racist, however. We know that a society which is filled with fear of social decline helps racist propaganda find more fans. Furthermore, in the regions where there are less Muslim migrants, fear of Islam is higher. There is fear of the unknown. The new movement on the right has deliberately chosen the anti-Islam strategy because they believe they can attract more followers from the heart of society.
Between the 1950s and 1970s, thousands of guest workers from Turkey, Italy, Spain, Greece moved to Germany. Some experts believe the integration of Turkish citizens especially hasn’t been that smooth. Do you think that the state is partly to blame?
No. Migrants shouldn’t be seen as a burden, but rather as a potential asset. Some Conservatives are mistakenly talking about migrants living in parallel societies.
Honestly, if you go to a beer hall in the Bavarian countryside and then to a techno rave in Berlin you can come to the conclusion that they are parallel worlds, but all this is part of our diversity. We should free ourselves from the thought that there is just one compelling dominant culture. As long as anyone can remember, culture has always been subjected to change.
This is not a bad thing.
It could be argued that there has been a growth in integration between left-wing movements in countries in Latin America, Is there such a development in Europe as well?
Many years ago the European Left Party was founded, which is a union of different left-wing parties, such as Greece’s Syriza and our party Die Linke. Furthermore, one could observe a promising development following the election of Alexis Tsipras, the left-wing politician, in Greece. Tsipras and former finance minister Yanis Varoufakis objected to the orders of the Troika (the European Commission, European Central Bank and International Monetary Fund) in the public eye. This contributed to a politicization. Until now countries, who were part of the aid programmes, had quietly followed instructions. Most negotiations took place behind closed doors.
How would you assess the negotiations between Greece and the Troika?
It was blackmail (on the part of the Troika). Wolfgang Schäuble (Germany’s finance minister) was leading the blackmail. They always gave the impression that it was all about reform. However, when neo-liberals talk about reform they are thinking of the neoliberal trinity of privatization, social cuts and additional attacks on the rights of the employed. This medicine has already been taken for many years by Greece and it impoverished the country even more. Within five years, its economic output was reduced by one-fourth. A physician who provides the medicine and sees the effects aren’t working shouldn’t increase the dosage, but maybe think about using another type of medicine.
What is the solution?
First of all, the rich should be taxed higher. There are many poor people in Greece but there are 2,000 families who are very rich and have their money abroad. Second, we propose a European-wide conference to discuss debt restructuring. It’s shameful that Germany has refused to do it, since in the 1950s, it profited from a substantial cut to its debt. Thirdly, we need — in southern Europe — an investment programme for the reorganization of the socio-ecologic model. The investment could help Greece become more independent in the energy sector, with the expansion of renewable energies and public transportation.