November 14, 2012

Left leading: Interview with Die Linke leader Katja Kipping

From Red Pepper:

With 76 seats out of 622 in parliament, Die Linke is Germany’s fourth largest party. It was founded in 2007 in a merger between the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) and the Electoral Alternative for Labour and Social Justice (WASG). Members of the PDS were predominantly East German and many had also been members of the Socialist Unity Party, the former ruling party of East Germany. WASG, meanwhile, was predominantly West German and made up of trade unionists and social movement activists, as well as social democrats who had left the German Social Democratic Party.

Since its founding, Die Linke has campaigned on a variety of social justice issues and for greater regulation of financial markets, while also remaining critical of the deployment of the German military abroad. Its members have supported mobilisations such as the anti-G8 summit protests in 2007 and, more recently, the Occupy/blockade protest Blockupy. The two new co-chairs, trade union organiser Bernd Riexinger and Katja Kipping, who is known to be close to social movements, stand for a renewal within the party that aims, among other things, to close any remaining gaps between East and West Germany.

Emma Dowling Congratulations, Katja, on your election as co-chair of Die Linke. In recent speeches and interviews, you have proposed a ‘break towards the future’ for the party. What does that mean concretely?

Katja Kipping There are two directions. My co-chair and I have launched a ‘listening offensive’ within Die Linke. We’ve set up a website called ‘Walking we ask questions’ and are doing a summer tour around Germany to talk to people directly. Beyond these internal initiatives, we have plans to engage a broader public on three key topics – the crisis, precarity and public services.

In contrast to somewhere like Greece, the crisis in Germany manifests itself as a kind of creeping precarity in our ways of life and work, and there are commonalities across different segments of society. Everyone is experiencing more and more stress: the agency worker; the self-employed on their laptop; the unemployed person who is stressed because they have to go to the unemployment office and be subjected to all sorts of pressures and humiliations.

We see a strong connection here with the crisis because Germany has had a massive trade surplus that is based on low wages. The problem of the ‘debt brake’ [new post-crisis legislation in Germany limiting permissible levels of structural deficit] is also further exacerbated by the fact that privatisation occurs where public finances are lacking. To us, privatisation is theft of public goods. We want to prevent further privatisation and fight locally for recommunalisation, for example of private electricity grids.

Read the entire interview here.

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