Thursday, 17 April 2008

Lafontaine wants passages from Marx included in Left Party programme

Wednesday, April 16, 2008: The Irish Times

GERMANY: OSKAR LAFONTAINE, leader of Germany's new Left Party, has called for passages from Karl Marx's The Communist Manifesto to be incorporated into his party's new political programme.
DEREK SCALLY reports from Berlin.

Mr Lafontaine, a former Social Democrat (SPD) leader and later finance minister under chancellor Gerhard Schroder, has also called for Germanyto follow the example of Bolivia and Venezuela and renationalise public utilities.

He told Die Welt newspaper that, in his opinion, Karl Marx's manifesto - the founding document of the communist movement - was as relevant now as when it was first published in 1848.

Mr Lafontaine hopes to use Marx's attack on the bourgeoisie for imposing a free trade system where personal worth has an "exchange value".

"In one word, for exploitation, veiled by religious and political illusions, [the bourgeoise] has substituted naked, shameless, direct,brutal exploitation," Marx wrote.

The Left Party was formed last year when disillusioned SPD members joined forces with the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), the successor to East Germany's Socialist Unity Party (SED).

In the Die Welt interview, Mr Lafontaine called for the renationalisation of the formerly state-owned post and telephone companies and of Germany's privatised energy market, which he blamed for "monopoly prices and rip-offs".

Asked how the German state could take control of energy giants like Eon, worth €40 billion, Mr Lafontaine replied: "The change in ownership structures can only happen step by step."

Mr Lafontaine has made a long list of demands since returning full-time to German politics.

Those demands, and his energetic delivery, are undeniably popular in Germany - the Left Party is already the third most popular party in opinion polls.

Last year's merger helped the former PDS shake off its image as an eastern regional party.

Now it has MPs in several state parliaments - east and west - as well as the second-largest opposition block in the Bundestag with 54 seats.

The revival in Mr Lafontaine's fortunes has forced his former SPD colleagues to take their own party left in competition.

At the same time, unrest is brewing within the Left Party at what critics see as Mr Lafontaine's preference for political populism.

Younger officials in particular are worried that nationalisation demands will alienate younger voters the party badly needs to rejuvenate its ageing voter base.

No comments: