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The Final Act of German Unification, by Francis Wurtz, MEP

Translated Sunday 24 June 2007, by Steve McGiffen

Last weekend I had the good fortune to participate in the founding conference of the new German party of the left, Die Linke. Die Linke, if you recall, was born of the fusion of the PDS-Linkspartei, founded in the East after the fall of the Wall, and the WASG, constituted a short while ago in the West, principally on the initiative of trade unionists of the social democratic movement who saw themselves as having been betrayed by the smashing to pieces of their country’s emblematic social model by the SPD government of ex-Chancellor Schröder.

Our group of the United European Left (GUE/NGL) in the European Parliament maintains not only extremely close links with the ex-PDS – which has been, since 1999, one of its major components – but also relations of mutual regard with the other component of the new party, the ex-WASG. The two co-presidents of Die Linke, Lothar Bisky and Oskar Lafontaine, as well as the co-president of the parliamentary group in the Bundestag (the German Parliament), Gregor Gysi, gave our group, moreover, on the occasion of this historic conference, a welcome which honoured us, illustrating the quality of our links.

I call it “historic”. I believe it, in fact! The most optimistic of those who have known the PDS since its inception could not have imagined such a perspective. In 1990, “at a time when it was not easy to declare oneself to be of the left”- as I opportunely reminded a delegate – courageous militants were driven to go on hunger strike in order to prevent the new masters from financially asphyxiating the young party. The director of Bertholt Brecht’s famous theatre, the Volksbühne, then opened the theatre’s doors to these resistants as a mark of solidarity. He was there again, last Saturday, at the congress of Die Linke.

This humanist intellectual put into words the expectations of numerous German progressives in relation to this party: “Work is a human right, a condition for a person’s dignity and cultural development,” he stressed. “We are no longer communicating with the excluded, in Germany as in the rest of the world,” he continued, in his call for greater solidarity. He also castigated Germany – of all countries! - for participating in military operations abroad, an allusion to ex-Yugoslavia and to Afghanistan.

Also remarkable was the intervention of the vice-president of the powerful trade union VerDi, in which he expressed “all of his respect” for the founders of the new party and wished them “courage and success.” Because, he added - citing the case of the major strike at Deutsche Telecom, of the threat posed by competition to the public postal service, and the decision of the “grand coalition” to introduce retirement at 67, the refusal by the government to institute a minimum wage – “we need our (political) partners to realise our objectives.”

Finally, another interesting intervention came from a personality of German feminism, who concluded her speech by announcing that she was joining the new party of the left. Even if, from the statements made by other members, a great deal remained to be done to free this party from the “patriarchal culture”.

Something is happening in Germany, and Die Linke has arrived at a good moment. The brilliant Gregor Gysi has described this PSD-WASG fusion as “the last act of German unification” adding, beneath the applause, “and it is we that have realised it!”.

Nobody underestimates the complexity of the challenge facing Die Linke: two different histories, two political cultures extremely distant from each other, the impact of the personalities issuing from the two tendencies ... and all of the hazards presented by political life and by life in general. But this congress revealed an extremely strong political will and the mutual recognition of the vital requirements for success. That is already a great deal! All of our good wishes go with you: fair wind, Die Linke.

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