Germany’s ailing leftwing party Die Linke has come another step closer to splitting following the resignation of its parliamentary co-chair amid deep divisions within the bloc.
Dietmar Bartsch’s departure comes just days after his co-chair, Amira Mohamed Ali, announced she was resigning.
Mohamed Ali is a strong supporter of Sahra Wagenknecht, a prominent figurehead in the party who holds no office, but has long been touting the idea of forming a new, breakaway party.
Die Linke was founded 16 years ago, in a merger between the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and Social Democrats disillusioned by the labour policies of Gerhard Schröder, the then chancellor. In the Bundestag’s 2013-17 term, it formed the largest opposition force.
But more recently it has found itself in a perilous struggle to remain relevant and to retain its parliamentary group status, only narrowly entering parliament in 2021.
Divisions within the party, which have been evident since its founding, have intensified in recent years, in particular over the issues of climate, immigration and more recently and most explosively, over the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
The party’s failure to take a decisive position over economic sanctions against Russia triggered a series of high-profile resignations last autumn.
Bartsch, a founding member of Die Linke, was a leading figure in its forerunner, the PDS, successors of the East German communists, the Socialist Unity party (SED). He is considered a member of its moderate, reform wing, and has long striven to keep the party together, advocating for it to stay on its socialist course, aimed at bringing together union movements and social justice groups.
In his resignation speech, Bartsch said he had come under pressure within the party to stay, in order to help it through “its difficult situation”, but he otherwise failed to refer to the crisis.
The nationalist-leftist camp in which Mohamed Ali belongs, along with about 12 other party members, have quietly expressed their approval of Wagenknecht’s plans to form a new, leftwing, anti-mass-immigration party, which are expected to be made official by the end of the year.
In 2018, Wagenknecht attempted to establish a mass movement called Aufstehen, or Rise Up, which took its inspiration from the French gilets jaunes (yellow vests) protest movement, but it failed to take off.
The disgruntled MP has long toyed with the idea of running in next year’s European parliamentary elections.
Mohamed Ali said her resignation was linked to a decree issued by the party’s leadership on 10 June, in which it made clear that Wagenknecht was no longer welcome in the party.
Wagenknecht, in contrast to those who supported punitive action against Moscow, delivered an incendiary speech in parliament in September in which she called the chancellor Olaf Scholz’s administration “the stupidest government in Europe”, because it imposed sanctions on Russia, which had supplied over half of Germany’s gas needs before the start of the war in February 2022.
“How dumb is the idea that we can
punish Putin by pushing millions of German families into poverty and destroy our economy while Gazprom [the Russian state-backed energy firm] makes record profits?” she said.
The speech was warmly applauded by the party leadership, as well as by members of the far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD). She and the AfD have unofficially joined together in their calls for citizens to take part in protests against rising energy prices, and more recently against a building heating reform bill.
Within the AfD, where Wagenknecht is considered by some to be something of a secret hero, there have been calls for her to consider a coalition with the party.
Source : The Guardian