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Views in brief

September 9, 2005 | Page 12

Left Party's contradictions
Opportunity to be seized

Hypocrisy on Gaza pullout

SOCIALIST WORKER is right to call out the Gaza withdrawal as a "major misdirection play" on the part of Ariel Sharon's administration ("Israel gains from Gaza withdrawal," August 19).

Through "disengagement," Israel is able to claim victory and the moral high ground by appearing to make great sacrifice for the sake of peace. But in reality, nothing could be further from the truth. Israel is maintaining real control over Gaza's land, sea, air and borders, while it gains cover for its plans for expansion in the West Bank and redefines the "peace plan" to be a unilateral process under Israeli control.

The Israeli settlers have even taken to comparing their evacuation to the Holocaust and taunted the soldiers charged with their evictions by calling them Nazis. What a sick and disingenuous manipulation.

Most sickeningly (but not surprisingly), the U.S. media has played its usual role as willing accomplice. Day after day, newspapers like the (ostensibly "liberal") New York Times have featured front page articles with color photos of tearful settlers being evacuated by Israeli soldiers, or workers taking apart a settler's house brick by brick.

When was the last time the New York Times ran a story or printed a photograph of one of the daily demolitions of Palestinians' homes? I can't recall if ever. When was the last time the New York Times went meticulously through--house by house, block by block--a neighborhood to report on the lives disrupted and ruined by Israel's policies in the territories? Never.

While commenting on the 20 years a settler has (illegally!) lived in Gaza, no mention is made of Palestinians who have been uprooted from the homes they had lived in for generations. The media's obsessive attention to the few thousand fanatic settlers adds insult to injury to the over 1 million Palestinian refugees whose lives and deaths are consistently and systematically ignored.
Hadas Their, New York City

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Left Party's contradictions

I READ with great interest the article of Jeff Bale about the new Left Party in Germany ("The Left's challenge in Germany," August 19). Because of the importance of this political development for progressives and revolutionaries not only in Germany, but also elsewhere in Europe and beyond (Germany is the economic powerhouse of the European Union), I would like to add some elements that are crucial to understanding the strengths and weaknesses of this party from a left-wing perspective.

First of all, there is no doubt that its emergence, and the support it has gained of about 12 percent in opinion polls around the country, comes as a breath of fresh air to all those struggling against the ruthless policies of the right, but especially the "left" (the social-democratic SPD and the Greens) over the last years.

It represents a breakthrough for the ideas of all those who fight against the dogmas and policies of privatization, "too-high labor costs," workfare schemes, the whittling away of pension rights, etc. Its support expresses a deep anger against those, both politicians and bosses, who have enforced neoliberalism in Germany--and also in favor of the conviction that a decent living is a basic right for everybody in the society. And this anger can now, partially, express itself on the public stage--for the first time on this scale, thanks to the struggles and strikes of workers and the unemployed over the last two years.

Unfortunately, there are some nasty black clouds hovering above this new party. Jeff Bale explained the problems of populist rhetoric regarding foreigners. But there is worse--and it explains the populist speeches to cover up the contradictions.

The real name of the party is "Die Linkspartei. PDS" ("PDS" meaning "Party for Democratic Socialism"), but it can simply be called "Die Linkspartei" in West Germany, because the PDS is largely shunned there. That is because the PDS was founded in 1989 in then-independent East Germany as the daughter of the Stalinist Communist Party (SED), to save the political future of its officials. The PDS is still largely run by men who ruled in the SED.

Worse, today the PDS is not really an opposition party in Germany. It runs two states, Berlin and Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, where it forces through privatization and socially destructive policies--along with its SPD partners--just as all (local and national) ruling parties in Germany do. So much for defending the poor, the workers and the jobless!

This is very important so as to understand the Left Party, because this new party is now mostly run by PDS officials, and most of the candidates in the coming national elections will be PDS. That has been the price the other wing of the party, the West German WASG (Electoral Alternative for Work and Social Justice), has had to pay to be able to run in these elections with some hope of winning seats.

But for the leadership of WASG, ex-SPD trade-unionists mostly, this is coherent with a strategy based on winning elections for state office, not on struggling and organizing the exploited against a ruthless ruling class well-served by the whole national political spectrum. By the way, the avowed ultimate political goal of the Left Party is to be a coalition partner with the SPD after the elections of 2009--the party which has led the worst anti-worker policies in Germany since the Second World War.
George Waardenburg, Member, Movement for Socialism (MPS/BFS) in Switzerland

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Opportunity to be seized

NATHAN AARON Selles-Alvarez and Adrienne Johnstone both raise important points about the AFL-CIO's split ("Opportunity for labor?" and "Step back for the unions?" August 26). It is premature to judge whether increased raiding or greater rank-and-file militancy will result, though both, as they suggest, are possible.

Both writers, however, fail to consider the main dynamic of the formation of the Change to Win Coalition. The AFL-CIO formally recognized its own crisis of decline starting with the mid-1990s election of John Sweeney's "New Voices" slate. Sweeney initially brought welcome but limited changes: lifting the ban on communists, a more combative public profile for the federation, openings to student radicals and the left, and pressure on unions to spend more on organizing.

It is clear now that these changes were too weak and were resisted too strongly to bring the promised reversal of union density, so the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) has decided to press for growth in a more determined way. The union's recent history of winning organizing drives, including the janitors' strikes for recognition across the country in the last few years, show that their rhetoric about multiracial organizing and militancy are not entirely hollow.

If the Sweeney reforms were a shot in the arm to labor, their more aggressive continuation today, with the Change to Win Coalition way further out on a limb and under more pressure to deliver, may provide a bigger boost.

The U.S. union bureaucracy is a profoundly contradictory bunch. So the undeniable facts of the Coalition leadership's contempt for internal democracy, frequent concessionary sell-outs of their members, and narrow electoral vision of workers' power should not blind us to their potential to make significant organizing breakthroughs. And either their success or their failure in this will raise questions that can only be solved by rank-and-filers organized independently of both bureaucratic camps.
Avery Wear, Members for Reform, SEIU Local 2028, San Diego

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