fresh start? The boss appealed before the Left Party Congress

Janine Wissler

Janine Wissler (Die Linke) speaks at a Bundestag session. Photo: Britta Pedersen/dpa

© dpa-infocom GmbH

Election defeats, accusations of sexism, quarrels: the left is struggling with itself and the world. At the party conference in Erfurt at the weekend, it’s about the whole thing.

Before its crisis party congress, the left is trying to close its ranks. party leader Janine Wissler demanded a closed line on Thursday.

“Anyone who speaks for the party must represent the position of the party,” she said German press agency. Leipzig’s Sören Pellmann, who is applying for co-chairmanship, said the party had to “arm each other and put selfishness aside”.

In contrast, the former group leader emphasized Sarah Wagenknecht the directional dispute before the meeting beginning on Friday. However, according to Wagenknecht, he cannot come to Erfurt due to illness. There is a suspicion that she was infected with Corona, she told the dpa. “I’m very sorry.”

Wagenknecht said the “Frankfurter Rundschau” with a view to the line to the Russian war of aggression in the Ukraine: «I am appalled that the Left Party Executive is now also promoting so-called human rights wars without a UN mandate. That would be the definitive break with the previous peace policy tradition of the left.” Wagenknecht clearly distanced himself from party leader Wissler: “I think we need fresh, convincing faces at the top, personalities where people say: They really work for us!”

The starting position: For the left, it’s all about the whole thing

Wissler, Wagenknecht and others at least agree that the party is in an existential crisis. In the federal elections, the left only got into parliament with 4.9 percent through three directly won mandates Berlin and Leipzig done. Pellmann won one of them. In the state elections in Saarland it reached 2.6 percent, in Schleswig-Holstein 1.7 percent and in North Rhine-Westphalia 2.1 percent. In addition, allegations of sexual harassment and sexism shook the party. Wissler’s co-chair Susanne Hennig-Wellsow resigned in April.

The candidates: Unknowns to the top?

In Erfurt, the entire party executive is to be re-elected on Saturday. In addition to Wissler and Pellmann, eight other women and men are candidates for the dual leadership, which the party lists alphabetically on its website: Julia Bonk, Carlo Eidmann, Wolfgang Kolonko, Christoph Mehrle, Heidi Reichinnek, Martin Schirdewan, Rolf Schümer and Torsten Skott. In addition to Wissler and Pellmann, chances are calculated for Reichinnek, a member of the Bundestag, and Schirdewan, a European politician. Hardly any of them are known nationwide.

Celebrities in the Backdrop

Wagenknecht and the former faction leader Gregor Gysi are much better known. The current parliamentary group leaders Dietmar Bartsch and Amira Mohammed Ali and other members of parliament such as parliamentary director Jan Korte, former party leader Bernd Riexinger or ex-Vice Klaus Ernst also have a better profile. Bodo Ramelow is Prime Minister of Thuringia. But either they don’t want to run or they don’t have a chance of winning a majority.

Controversial topic Ukraine – and everything else imaginable

Many leftists seem to agree on many points – focus on social policy, take care of the poor, attack traffic lights from the left, speak simple language. Nevertheless, leftists argue with a sharpness that is often astonishing for outsiders, also on Twitter. Foreign policy will be a top topic at the party congress. How clearly is Russia’s war against Ukraine condemned? How much complicity attributed to NATO? Is the left also in favor of sanctions against Moscow and if so, which ones? Ramelow told the dpa: “I have the expectation that the party conference will provide clarity. We cannot side with autocrats.” A common line is also being sought on how much climate protection is socially acceptable.

Is the left still needed?

The left likes to refer to a study by the party-affiliated Rosa Luxemburg Foundation. She had 2,300 people questioned, 18 percent of whom could imagine voting for the left. Wissler told the dpa: “The situation calls for a strong left voice.” Poor people are particularly affected by rapidly rising prices. The left must stand up for them.