Under fire from his fellow leftists for purportedly living the high life, Klaus Ernst told the latest edition of weekly newsmagazine Stern he had no reason to be ashamed of his champagne socialist image.
“I like driving a Porsche,” he told the magazine. “As a leftist you can't just run around as if you haven't slept for three days, had nothing to eat, and drank bad booze to boot.”
Besides his flashy ride, Ernst owns a mountain lodge in the Alps. His lifestyle has rubbed some members of The Left the wrong way, arguing it was inappropriate for the leader of a socialist party.
“Ascetic socialism just isn't my bag,” he said. “A leftist has to be able to enjoy life too.” Otherwise, Ernst said, The Left would become “as attractive as a cow pie.”
Ernst also distanced himself from comments by his party's co-leader, Gesine Lötzsch, who recently spoke of the “paths toward communism.” Her remarks sparked a national debate about ultimate political aims of The Left, which is the successor to the East German communist party.
She has since declared herself committed to democratic socialism, but Ernst emphasized The Left was not nostalgic for discredited ideologies. “Communism is not the goal of The Left,” he told Stern. “Many think of Stalin and the (Berlin) Wall when they hear that term.”
But the communism debate appeared to have dented the party's standing in an opinion poll published on Wednesday, which showed The Left down two percentage points to nine percent in a Forsa survey.