New leadership and Russia course: The left escapes (for the time being) the big dispute

At their party conference in Erfurt, the really big questions are on the agenda for the left.

New leadership and Russia course: The left escapes (for the time being) the big dispute

At their party conference in Erfurt, the really big questions are on the agenda for the left. She elects a new dual leadership and, after heated debates, agrees on a stance on the Ukraine war. Nevertheless, the party is now threatened with a wave of exits.

It's such a thing with mottos of party conferences, they can often be wonderfully related to the constitution of the party. The Left, for example, opted for a half-sentence by Karl Marx this weekend, which reads: "... it is important to change them." The world is meant, but party leader Janine Wissler also stated that it must also be about the left. As far as their own chaotic state is concerned, not much seems to have happened in the past decade.

In any case, Gregor Gysi, who has been with the party since it was founded 15 years ago, sounded similar to the 2012 party conference in Göttingen. Back then, too, he spoke of "denunciation," of an existential crisis, and spoke to his leftists' conscience: Either we settle this now and end the internal quarrels, or the party is threatened with collapse.

It still hasn't happened that way, the left fights and continues to exist. While at the time Gysi was concerned with the "hatred" and the "messed up marriage" between East German pragmatists and West German fundamentalists, today it's about accusations of sexism, the Ukraine war, Russia and NATO. But of course there is also the question of power.

In the election of the party leadership, the approximately 570 delegates in Erfurt decided in favor of Janine Wissler and Martin Schirdewan. It's a cautious new beginning: After Susanne Hennig-Wellsow's resignation, Wissler led the left alone, and a series of electoral defeats weighed on the 41-year-old. Although Wissler apologized to the victims of sexual assaults in their own ranks. However, the topic that was ubiquitous at the party congress will continue to occupy the chairman.

The party leader herself is accused of not reacting appropriately to allegations, especially young leftists were disappointed after their re-election. With only 57 percent approval, Wissler received a weak result.

Nevertheless, the new, old chairman can also be relieved. Like his predecessor Hennig-Wellsow, Schirdewan is considered a pragmatist, while Wissler belongs to the left wing. However, those involved are spared an even greater potential for conflict in the dual leadership. Because against Schirdewan defeated the member of parliament Sören Pellmann, who is attributed to the camp of Sahra Wagenknecht. The member of the Bundestag, one of the most prominent leftists in the country, had repeatedly positioned herself against Wissler in the past.

The big task for Wissler and Schirdewan will be to involve Wagenknecht and their supporters. Recent statements by Pellmann show how difficult that could be. He criticized the newly elected party leadership to the "Spiegel": He missed a real dialogue between the camps, the new chairmen had not yet tried to talk to him.

It is questionable how the group, referred to within the party as "Wagenknecht", will react to the results of the party congress. Because she also has to put up with a bitter defeat in terms of content. Her amendment, with which she wanted to relativize Russia's responsibility for the Ukraine war, clearly failed. Is there now a wave of withdrawals? Should this happen, the parliamentary group status of the left in the Bundestag could be endangered. Wagenknecht himself had at least not ruled out a farewell in advance of the party congress, which she was absent for health reasons.

And programmatically? The delegates agreed on the goal of climate neutrality by 2035. However, the discussion on the leading motion of the old party executive on foreign policy was awaited with greater excitement. It is entitled "No rearmament, no war. For a new order of peace and international solidarity."

The debate was heated. In the first section of the paper, which was approved by a large majority on Sunday, the left now condemns "Russia's criminal war of aggression in the strongest possible terms." Sanctions are no longer rejected outright, but arms exports continue to be. "It is becoming clear that Russia is pursuing an imperialist policy," it says of the attempt to "establish authoritarian vassal regimes" in post-Soviet states.

Numerous delegates, including the group around Wagenknecht, did not want to let that stand. In their unsuccessful amendments, they called for greater emphasis on the West's alleged complicity. For example, there was talk that the EU wanted to "incorporate" Ukraine. In addition, there are of course the eastward expansion of NATO and capitalism as the cause of all evil.

The real question, which is not explicitly stated but is behind many speeches, motions and arguments, seems to be this: How and where exactly do we make it clear that the Russian war in Ukraine is illegal under international law, but so is the West is responsible for the crises of our time? In the second sentence of the key motion that was passed, the "increasing geopolitical rivalries between different imperial claims to power" follow the "Russian attack on Ukraine."

This is how the left often loses itself in a paralyzing both-and this weekend. It does manage to get the majority to name the Russian war as such. However, it remains unclear what its solidarity with Ukraine is worth if it sticks to the profile of an unconditional peace party and continues to want nothing to do with arms deliveries.

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