The chairman of the council of elders of the party Die Linke, Hans Modrow, wrote a letter to the co-chairmen of the party, Susanne Hennig-Wellsow and Janine Wissler, last week, jW documents below the previously unpublished letter, which is intended as a contribution to the discussion before the party congress in Erfurt this summer.
Dear Susanne, dear Janine,
For the first time in many years I stayed away from the silent commemoration in Berlin-Friedrichsfelde, could not honor together with you and many others those on whose shoulders our party stands. I was absent not for political reasons, as some others were, but for health reasons: I was in hospital. The medical diagnoses are not exactly friendly, which is why I consider it advisable to put my affairs in order. Therefore also this letter. It should also be my contribution to the discussion in the run-up to the party congress in Erfurt.
The Left Party – which emerged from the WASG and the PDS, and the latter in turn from the SED, which had its organizational roots in the KPD and the SPD – is in a critical situation. This did not just come about as a result of the disastrous outcome of the Bundestag elections. The result merely made the inner constitution visible. If the party is not clear about what it stands for and what its purpose is, the voters will not know either. Why should they vote for a party whose main interest seems to be to form a government with the SPD and the Greens?? The fact that this conception obviously dominates in the leadership and among the mandate holders is neither to be attributed to the work of individual comrades nor the result of a single wrong decision. It is the consequence of a development that has lasted for years and decades. The question of when this process began and who was causally responsible for it can no more be answered than the question of whether real socialism was abandoned after the 20th century. The Left Party could have been saved from the 1956 CPSU Party Congress or the Prague Spring of 1968. We do not know.
Everything on the test bench
But we know the democratic rules of the game. We have accepted it, just as we have to accept social reality, whether we like it or not. Even Bismarck knew and acted accordingly: "We must manage with realities and not with fictions."It is part of the democratic rules of the game that everything must be put to the test after a resounding defeat. Critical self-questioning necessarily includes personnel issues. Because if all those responsible remain in office, everything else will remain the same as well. It’s not enough to eat chalk and vow improvement. A Saul with a political mandate has never yet become a Paul. That was a biblical legend.
The degree of co-responsibility varies for each party member, but is greatest for those who lead the party. The federal director, for example, bears a greater responsibility for the party’s electoral strategy and substantive orientation than a simple party member – one could say: a decisive responsibility. Announcements of the party leaders have a higher circulation than the opinion of a grassroots group; what is said in the parliamentary group has a different effect than, for example, a statement of the council of elders. Therefore, I think that a new start cannot be made without personnel consequences. I am convinced that the party congress in Erfurt this summer is the last chance for this; there will not be another one.
In the party from which I come, the slogan of the unity of continuity and renewal circulated, whereby everyone saw that renewal was at best a phrase to cover up stagnation. Where this ended up, we all know. Marx was perhaps mistaken when he said, quoting Hegel, that history happens twice, "one time as a tragedy, the other time as a farce. Even if history does not repeat itself in reality, analogies cannot be completely dismissed out of hand. According to my impression, certain processes seem to repeat themselves in our party. The SED perished because the leadership pursued its course complacently and arrogantly, unperturbed and unimpressed, ignoring what the critical base found objectionable about it. Thus, this leadership objectively destroyed the party from above. The end is known.
At the end of my days I fear the repetition. The political consequences of the failure more than 30 years ago can be seen in East Germany. The consequences of the failure of the Left Party will affect the whole of Germany and the European Left as a whole. One as well as the other is irreparable. We should be aware of this! We therefore have a great responsibility – every comrade and the party as a whole.
As Chairman of the Council of Elders, I have always been aware of this responsibility. We have acted in accordance with the party’s federal constitution: "The Council of Elders shall, on its own initiative or at the request of the party’s executive committee, deliberate on fundamental and current problems of party policy. It submits proposals or recommendations and participates in the party-public debate by taking the floor."However, I had to experience that our proposals and recommendations remained without visible effect, which is why I repeatedly asked publicly whether this body is needed at all. We were apparently superfluous and a nuisance, as ignorance clearly showed. Nobody needed our experience.
In West German hands
Of course, as in every family, there is a generational conflict in our party as well. The tendency of the younger generation to perceive the advice of the old as instruction or paternalism is not alien to me: after all, I was young once, too. In addition to this conflict, there is also the conflict of origin. Those born and raised in the East have experienced a different socialization than comrades from the West. Socialization includes: Education, language, manners, mentality, experience, staff culture … All this fades with the years, as their bearers also disappear. However, it has an effect. Across generations. The East Germans, it must be said, are not the better people. They are different. This should be considered both in the party itself and in its political work. If this does not happen, one receives – as recently happened – the receipt in elections. Elections to the Bundestag are not won in the East, but they are lost there.
I can’t help feeling that the party, too, is now in West German hands, just as the eastern country was in its day. Its representatives and allies set the tone. As in the state, there is no unity, I call the state two-ness. And this now seems to be the case in the party as well. Yes, I know, the composition of the party has changed, many young people from both West and East have joined. They come mainly from cities, not from the countryside, and have different needs and interests than we did when we were their age. It is all the more important that we make them aware of the traditional movement from which their/our party comes, what its roots are and what generations have fought for: not for the stabilization of the capitalist system, but for its overcoming.
And the character of the system is not recognized with the help of the clipping service and the so-called social media, but from theory and practice and their connection. I am therefore not afraid to call for systematic political education work in the party. Of course, this is not a panacea, but useful to see the world and determine what the task of the party is. Even if its condition is in constant change, the character of class society does not change. Onomatopoeia, Anglicisms and gendering or the fight against the climate catastrophe do not overcome the social contrasts in bourgeois-capitalist society. The supposed disappearance of the industrial proletariat has not wiped out the working class. Social research now speaks of the service proletariat, and means those dependent employees who have to work for little money in order to exist: Nurses and caregivers, saleswomen in supermarkets and field workers in logistics companies, employees at the post office, in retail, in gastronomy and tourism, and so on. According to recent studies, they now account for up to 60 percent of the workforce and are hardly unionized at all. They are just as much working class as the 18 percent or so who work in industrial companies. These almost four-fifths of society hardly appear in the perception of our party. After all, it’s not a class, it’s not a majority, it’s just a fringe ..
Struggle for peace
No less dangerous is this absurd equidistance from the outside world. One cannot keep the same ideological distance from all movements and states. Who blows the same horn as the capitalist critics of Russia and China, Cuba, Venezuela, etc.?. makes itself objectively common with its declared economic and political opponents. Do we want to help them in the Cold War to create a shambles like in the states of the Arab Spring, in Afghanistan, in Ukraine and in other states where the secret services and the military machinery of the West raged?? Of course, we should not approve of everything that happens in other countries. But in our evaluation it is not only useful but also necessary to take the perspective of others. There must be no neutrality in the struggle for peace. The Christian-European cultural circle, from which we come just as much as Karl Marx and the whole of capitalism, cannot be the yardstick with which we measure the world. There are cultural peoples who are thousands of years ahead of us. And there are priorities that Willy Brandt also set: peace is not everything, but without peace everything is nothing.
Dear Susanne, dear Janine, I can promise to spare you in future with letters like this one. My strength is spent, I can only hope for the grandchildren who will fight it out better. There’s hope. And, as we know, it dies last.