Communists win in Karlsruhe
The legal attempts to exclude the German Communist Party from the Bundestag Elections have failed — but no thanks to some parts of Die Linke, writes KEITH BARLOW
IN A shock decision on July 8, without any warning, Germany’s Federal Election Commission (FEC) ruled that the German Communist Party (DKP) was to lose its status as a political party.
This would have meant it not being eligible to contest the coming elections for the Bundestag, the federal parliament, on September 26. A number of other parties were also affected for various reasons.
In the FEC, parties with seats in the Bundestag are represented. Normally, decisions of the president of the FEC regarding the admittance of parties seeking to contest Bundestag and also European parliamentary elections are accepted.
The basis for this is whether the legal criteria have been fulfilled or not. In the event of rejection, there is right of appeal to Federal Constitutional Court located in the city of Karlsruhe. There were just four days for appeals to be lodged.
Political parties in Germany are bound by law to submit their annual reports to the president of the German Bundestag within six years.
In the case of the DKP, it was claimed that in recent years it had often been late in the submission of its annual reports — the president of the FEC, Georg Thiel, defended this ruling by stating that “deadlines are deadlines.”
The DKP rejected Thiel’s claims. Its report for 2017 had already been submitted and it was aiming to submit its report for 2018 by the end of July.
In its verdict on July 27, Karlsruhe stated that the ruling of the FEC regarding the DKP “not adequate” for it to lose its status as a political party.
Put another way, the election commission’s ruling was seen to be political and Karlsruhe wanted no part in it. The appeals of other small parties to Karlsruhe were unsuccessful, but the DKP can now proceed with its election campaign.
Communists, especially in Germany, are only too aware of the possible implications if this ruling had been allowed to stand.
Not only would there have been the loss the DKP’s right to contest the coming elections, it would have opened the way for the minister of the interior to ban it by the stroke of a pen.
The Communist Party of Germany (KPD) was banned by the Nazis in March 1933. It was banned again in August 1956 at the height of the cold war.
Although the DKP was able to constitute itself and register as a political party in 1968, being under conditions more favourable than those at the height of the cold war, the ban on the KPD remains in force.
Another implication of the loss of party status is financial: the loss of public funding (through topping up subscriptions and donations), with members and donors no longer being able to include any payments on their tax returns. This works to the disadvantage of smaller parties, especially those on the left.
In the FEC, only the representative of the Greens opposed this ruling against the DKP. All the other party representatives there supported it. To the dismay of many of its members and supporters, this includes Germany’s Die Linke (Left party).
A number of the Die Linke’s MPs, groups within the party, as well as well-known people, both inside and outside the party, came out in solidarity with the DKP.
Also significant was the widespread international solidarity with the DKP.
Most notable are the words of the chairman of the Die Linke’s council of elders, the last-but-one prime minister of the German Democratic Republic (GDR), Hans Modrow.
In an edited statement on the coming Bundestag elections in the Morning Star’s sister daily newspaper in Germany, Junge Welt, on July 20, Modrow expressed fears of attacks on democratic rights and a hard hand against the left opposition if the DKP could “be silenced through legal tricks.”
He reminded us that in the 1950s Federal Republic of Germany banned the KPD and previously the Free German Youth organisation because there were active anti-fascists and war opponents campaigning against rearmament and the rehabilitation of Nazis.
The case concerning the DKP is of a political and in no way of a formal technical matter and it is more than just one of simply being allowed to contest the Bundestag elections, he said, and therefore “the DKP needs right now our solidarity and support in its appeal to the Federal Constitutional Court … An exclusion which could lead to an outright ban must be prevented.”
With Modrow’s words, the handling of this matter by Die Linke leaders lies in ruins.
Formed in 2007, the Die Linke had clearly forgotten that following the loss of the GDR over 30 years ago, its predecessor, the Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), was subject to vicious attacks coupled with calls being made for it to be banned. Solidarity with the PDS was crucial in preventing this. Solidarity came also from the DKP.
Over the years prominent Die Linke members, to put it mildly, have taken to not wanting anything to do with the DKP and of simply seeking to ignore it.
The result of all this became evident in the way the party’s representative voted in the FEC on July 8.
In effect, it put itself in a position of being discredited whichever way Karlsruhe was to decide. This has not helped the Die Linke election campaign in any way at all. Some serious thinking is needed.
There have always been differences among left parties. As far as the DKP is concerned, there is one thing the Die Linke often forgets: its enemies lie to the right of it, not on the left.
The attack on the DKP was an attack against the entire German left. Solidarity was crucial in defeating this.