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Social Democrats warn leftists after Wall praise

The Local · 16 Aug 2011, 11:41

Published: 16 Aug 2011 11:41 GMT+02:00

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The remarks on Monday by Andrea Nahles, the SPD's general secretary, came just days after Germany marked the 50th anniversary of the day the Berlin Wall started to go up with a memorial service and a minute of silence in memory of those who died trying to flee to the West.

The commemoration was marred by a handful of The Left (Die Linke) delegates at a party conference in Rostock, northern Germany, who refused to stand up in honour of the victims, and by the publication of an article in the far-left newspaper Junge Welt thanking the former East German communist regime for building the Wall.

A clear condemnation of the Wall is "an obligation The Left owe not only to their possible coalition partners, but also to all the victims of the Wall and their relatives," Nahles told reporters.

Her warning comes just ahead of regional elections in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania on September 4, and in Berlin on September 18, when coalition governments led by the Social Democrats are expected to be returned to power. In Berlin they govern in an alliance with The Left.

The SPD there forced a declaration from the PDS, the successor to the East German communist party which later merged with western socialists to form The Left, condemning the 1961 building of the Wall which separated the Western and Eastern sectors of Berlin for 28 years.

Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, a Social Democrat in charge of the city-state's government, Saturday described the Wall "as part of a dictatorial system, an

unjust state."

"The Wall is now history, but it must not be forgotten," he warned, to applause from the crowd at the memorial ceremony.

Hundreds of people died trying to cross the Berlin Wall to freedom in the West.

"Questions surrounding the building of the Wall are highly charged," Nils Diederich, a political scientist at Berlin's Free University, told news agency AFP. "And repudiating the Wall is identical to repudiating efforts to restore the socialist system."

Many believe that by attempting to justify the Wall "The Left are just trying to salvage the old East German identity," he added, mobilising die-hard voters.

Some Left party members, including leader Gesine Lötzsch, have said building the Wall helped prevent an armed conflict during the Cold War, while others have justified it as "a historical consequence" of Nazi Germany's invasion of the Soviet Union.

SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel, for his part, has said forming a coalition government with The Left at the federal level is out of the question.

Story continues below…

It would be "incomprehensible" to form a coalition with a party "whose relationship to democracy and to German history is so open to question," he told ARD public television.

The SPD has traditionally sided with the pro-environment Green party when looking for a coalition partner.

But the Social Democrats, over the past 20 years, has also agreed to form regional

governments with The Left in five of eastern Germany's six states at various points, something which makes the party's latest "emotional political pronouncements a little less credible," said Diederich.


The Local (news@thelocal.de)

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Your comments about this article

12:11 August 16, 2011 by LecteurX
This is a disgrace. Shame on these people. And Die Linke dared to leave a wreath at the Wall Memorial on Bernauer Straße on Saturday. The criminals have no shame at all.
13:24 August 16, 2011 by frankiep
Berlin Mayor Klaus Wowereit, a Social Democrat in charge of the city-state's government, Saturday described the Wall "as part of a dictatorial system, an

unjust state."

The despicable actions of Die Linke - itself a party just as despicable as the NPD - should come as no surprise to the mayor or anyone else since a dictatorial and unjust system is the goal of every communist. It is truely a feat of mental gymnastics how anyone can support this disgusting party yet still claim to be on the side of "the little guy". At least it's good to see that people are starting to call out these tyrants for what they really are.
16:57 August 16, 2011 by Talonx
3 things . . .

1.) I'm not a member of Die Linke

2.) The content of the supposedly pro-wall article is misrepresented here on The Local

3.) Die Linke is not composed of like-minded individuals as is the case for most other parties, it is specifically an opposition coalition party. It is composed of a disperate set of folks who vary in opinion from Gorby-style communism, minarchism, to full-blown anarchism (these are vary drastically different things as Gorby.-style communism is actually a sort of capitalism). The only opinion these folks share is that socialism can be a good thing. If that's a capitalism inspired socialism or a spontaneous we're-all-in-it-together socialism or a forced state socialism is not something that the party determines.
17:33 August 16, 2011 by frankiep
If what you say is true, then it sounds like they don't exactly stand for anything at all. In which case then I would have to ask why anyone would take them seriously to begin with.

On a semi-related note, I have to say that I never quite understood communists who adhere to what they call Gorby-style communism since Gorby-style communism resulted in no communism. Sounds totally contradictory to me.
17:35 August 16, 2011 by LecteurX
This excuse is too easy, Talonx. Let's imagine that tomorrow, Gesine Lötzsch or this Gysi fellow go to the press and say, "wow, capitalism is great, communism sucks, let's privatise Deutsche Bahn and do away with all social benefits right now". What would you think would be the party's reaction in this unlikely situation? Of course, after some internal debate, they would swiftly chuck these reactionaries out of the party, presumably. This is what political parties do all the time. Sarrazin was almost expelled from the SPD for his loud brand of xenophobia. In the end, reason prevailed and they kept him. I say this because although I disagree with Mr Sarrazin and dislike xenophobia, I don't think it's healthy to stifle debate in your political party and nothing states that not disliking immigrants (or not being too loud about it) is a condition to be an acceptable member of the SPD. That's not what the SPD is about.

In the case of Die Linke, however, the party would do very well to reprimand severely these members or better still, to expel them asap, IF Die Linke is serious about not advocating a totalitarian system. I live in Berlin where we have elections in a month, so I could see loads of posters sprouting up all over the streets lately. It seems to me there are at least half a dozen far-left parties in the campaign, all trying to out-Marx each other. Die Linke is the biggest of them all and the only one which takes part in democratic coalition governments, including in the city of Berlin, which suffered such a heavy toll due to the evil doings of the SED in DDR times. So if Die Linke is serious about being a democratic party, getting rid of those shamelessly unrepentent ideologues should NOT be negotiable. If they keep these guys in the party, then this is a strong message they give to the German people. It means they say: "Look, people, we're very serious on the communism thing; however, we're not too sure we're big on that democracy thing." Actually that's what you say at the end of your point #3.

I hope people will heed this message.
05:39 August 17, 2011 by Talonx

Gorby-style communism is capitalist inspired communism. According to Gorby they aren't mutually exclusive.


Firstly, 'because Sarazin wasn't booted out of the SPD, Die Linke should get rid of ideologues' is non sequitor. Secondly, your whole argument misses two previous points: 1.) these folks don't want the wall back and 2.) Most of the communists in Die Linke are the Gorby-style ones that helped bring the wall done.

You don't have to agree with somneone to be honest or informed about their position. I would ask that you two (Frankiep and LecteurX) heed that piece of advice before writing again.
07:03 August 17, 2011 by frankiep

I agree. Capitalism and communism are not mutually exclusive since I look at communism as merely being state controlled capitalism. Capitalism will always be present no matter what form of government is in place since there is always some form of capital to be circulated. The difference is that in the so-called free societies which are prevalent today, this whole process is for the most part directed by market forces so as to be somewhat efficient. In communist regimes it is forcefully directed by unaccountable bureaucrats. Anyway, since Gorby's policies ultimately destroyed this system of forced government control, it seems kind of odd to me that people who want this sort of control support it.
11:36 August 17, 2011 by LecteurX
Talonx, maybe I confused you with my example but I really never said (read carefully) 'because Sarazin wasn't booted out of the SPD, Die Linke should get rid of ideologues'. Where exactly did you see that? What I did say is: political parties expel members all the time, and even when they don't, they do consider strongly it when said members become too much of an embarrassment, hence Sarrazin being almost kicked out of the SPD. That's just what I said, so please don't distort my words and then tell me about "non sequitors" [sic], thanks. Would you heed that piece of advice before writing again?

Now, let's take the much clearer example of a political party I strongly disagree with, Austria's rightwing populists of the FPí. They kicked out a party member and MP after that guy had uttered wild rightwing theories in the wake of the Utøya massacre. That's because, no matter how rightwing they are, they still decided to draw a line somewhere and not tolerate rubbish in excess of their own. That's all I say.

Then, it's all fine that they're mostly Gorby-style communists at Die Linke nowadays (a disputable statement), but that does not prevent the party from strongly adhering to democratic principles and unambiguously distancing itself from the evil deeds of the SED by paying elementary respect to those hundreds of Germans, young and old, who were murdered in the name of the same ideology.

Please don't give Gorby too much credit for "helping" the Wall coming down, the whole thing spiralled out of control after an unprepared press conference by Günter Schabowski (http://www.thelocal.de/national/20090920-22033.html), and when the situation became absolutely unmanageable in Berlin, they couldn't reach Moscow on the phone because it was too late at night. Gorby found out about the Wall being open the next morning after a sound night's sleep. Herr Schabowski was promptly thanked by the SED by getting, you know, kicked out of the party.

By this attitude, Die Linke tramples the bodies of the Wall's victims; that's outrageous. The irony is that I do agree with some of Die Linke's ideas, but I strongly reject murder and with totalitarianism. Paying respect to the fallen and not whitewashing the DDR times just as "Junge Welt" did last week is THE LEAST they can do to earn their place in a democratic society.

Finally, you say "they don't want the wall back", well then considering that 15% of Germans do want it back (http://www.reuters.com/article/2009/09/17/us-wall-odd-idUSTRE58G5GS20090917), I'm sure you can easily find the odd one out among Die Linke.

No party is a One-Thought monolith, there are always factions. But those shameless ideologues should not be allowed to stay. Otherwise, what Die Linke says to the whole of Germany is: "ultimately, we don't care about those people the SED killed or about what you think"
15:10 August 17, 2011 by Talonx
@ Frankiep

I don't think you know what the necessary and sufficient parts of the definition of communism are.

@ Lecteurx

Your intellectual dishonesty/forgetfulness is stifling, I'll quote you word for word on your non sequitor:

"This is what political parties do all the time. Sarrazin was almost expelled from the SPD for his loud brand of xenophobia. In the end, reason prevailed and they kept him. I say this because although I disagree with Mr Sarrazin and dislike xenophobia, I don't think it's healthy to stifle debate in your political party and nothing states that not disliking immigrants (or not being too loud about it) is a condition to be an acceptable member of the SPD. That's not what the SPD is about.

In the case of Die Linke, however, the party would do very well to reprimand severely these members or better still, to expel them asap, IF Die Linke is serious about not advocating a totalitarian system."

Regarding the fall of the wall, you may well note that that event was percipitated greatly by a visit to the DDR by Mr. Gorby and that prior to that Gorby had already begun dismantling the Iron Curtain. Read up yo.

As for 15% of Germans, firstly, I think you'll find that half that number is West German and the other half is a microcosm of the 25% of East Germans whos quality of life fell following the poorly planned reunification period. According to your logic, some folk in the CDU/CSU would have to also be happy to put the wall back up.
17:14 August 17, 2011 by LecteurX
Talonx, you'll find it's "non sequitur", not "sequitor", as you wrote twice. I'd advise you improve your spelling of Latin words you like to show off.

Now seriously give me a break with that Sarrazin story. The whole point of the example was to express that the SPD made it clear it strongly disapproved of his personal statements, to the point of effectively considering whether to kick him out of the party. In the end, they chose not to, but now nobody can seriously accuse the SPD of condoning his ideas as a party after this. THAT'S ALL. I got mixed up in my digression, sorry. What matters is the unambiguous message coming from the party; actually I don't care about Mr Sarrazin and whether he stayed or not. Indeed I don't even get why he's not leaving the SPD himself for consistency's sake, anyway.

Maybe they found that disliking foreigners and writing a book about it was not completely incompatible with being a Social-Democrat and no ground for exclusion: that's what I tried to say.

However, committing to the values of democracy and human rights, unambiguously rejecting political oppression and murder should be the bare minimum, non negotiable aspects for being a relevant "regular" political party in Germany, ie fit for running things in a coalition. It beggars belief that so many of them at Die Linke try to newspeak their way around the issue.

Have we seen yet any officials condemning those hard-core ideologues for their lack of basic empathy and respect? I see the former chairman, Lothar Bitzky, fittingly called them "Ideology Ayatollahs". I could not find anything else coming from the current leaders. In French we say: "a mistake confessed to is half forgiven". For me, as long as Die Linke fails to denounce this, they will just appear as a bunch of unapologetic Stalinists in a cuddly "Gorby"-style sugar-coating, and I don't think I'm the only one thinking that...

I've read enough on the Eastern Bloc countries and the demise of socialism, thanks. There was all the political and economic context, yes. We can't really start a full debate on Gorby's role, but most of the help he gave was: not going "Tiananmen" on European soil, which I guess we can thank him for...

Yes, I'm saying that some Germans across most parties (except NPD surely), and certainly within Die Linke would be glad to get the wall back. I didn't make this Junge Welt front page saying "Wir sagen einfach DANKE". Never did I say it's an official party goal. I was simply countering you for saying: "these folks don't want the wall back", which does not appear to be true.

You say it yourself: "Die Linke is not composed of like-minded individuals." I definitely agree! Obviously, some of them at the party are bonkers and bring shame on the whole group if the group fails to denounce them. It strikes me that a former Die Linke chairman is much more critical of this party than you are, and that tells a lot about you.
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