Why do people change political parties

Bundestag election 2021Wissler (left): "We want a change in foreign policy"

Four and a half months before the general election, a lot seems possible. Even a left alliance is no longer excluded. The top candidate of the left, Janine Wissler, said on Deutschlandfunk that if there was an arithmetical majority after the federal election, all three parties were responsible for exploring whether a political majority could also be made out of it.

For a possible formation of a government, Wissler has also named its substantive lines. "The Left will not take part in any government that engages in social cuts, promotes privatization, or supports the armed forces' combat operations abroad."

She was alienated by Robert Habeck's request to Die Linke to commit to NATO. "The Greens were founded as a peace party," said Wissler. She is happy if Habeck is open to a center-left alliance, but it is now a matter of talking about content and not about confessions.

(AP) Comment: top duo shows the span of the left
The Left Party has silently chosen its top duo for the federal election: A lot of persuasion is waiting for both candidates, says Johannes Kuhn.

For the left it is about a change in foreign policy. The military operations would not have made the world more peaceful. "If Germany wants to ensure a more peaceful world, then one should stop exporting weapons to the world." The left advocates the dissolution of NATO and a new global security architecture.

Regarding the current poll of the left, she said: "Of course we have to ask ourselves why people voted for us who no longer vote for us today." Therefore Die Linke wants to go stronger where the people are. "We need better anchoring, and generally more members in society."

The interview in full

Philipp May: Do you want to participate in government after the federal election?

Janine Wissler: That always depends on the content. Of course we want to change things. We came up as a party to make society more socially fair, to ensure effective climate protection, to achieve a peaceful foreign policy, and of course we want to do the same in the government, if the content is right and if you look forward to good ones Can communicate projects.

May: But now the SPD has moved to the left, and so have the Greens, at least in terms of their election program. If I were a leftist, I would ask myself how much sense it would make now if a majority were able to criticize from the opposition bank, if that were mathematically possible.

Wissler: Yes, we are happy when the SPD writes the right things in its election manifesto. Only the SPD has always been involved in the federal government in recent years and that's why it's not enough to write good things into the program. You also have to implement them. And it was just a candidate for Chancellor of the SPD and Federal Minister of Finance who, in recent years, has always prevented necessary investments with reference to the black zero and the debt brake, be it in social affairs, in health, in climate protection. Therefore: We are happy when we have programmatic agreements, but now we continue to fight to make Die Linke as strong as possible. And if there is an arithmetical majority after the election, then all three parties are responsible for exploring whether these arithmetical majorities can also be turned into political majorities and ending 16 years of CDU-led federal government.

"We want to change society, that's why we want to govern"

May: Where do you put red lines?

Wissler: After the election, I would actually like to talk about what is possible together and where the similarities are. But what we as the left have made clear in our basic program is that Die Linke will not participate in any government that implements social cuts, promotes privatization, supports the armed forces' combat missions abroad, which dismantles democracy. For us these are like red lines, where we say we are not ready to do that because we want to change society, but we also want to govern for that. But of course we don't want to do the opposite of what we said before after the election. It's also about credibility. That is why we are now fighting for a strong left in the election campaign and everything else has to be seen after the election.

(IMAGO / snapshot) The left and government participation
Political scientist Torsten Oppelland told the Dlf that the topics of NATO membership and foreign missions of the Bundeswehr are basic ideological elements of the left that they can hardly do without.

May: Much of what you have said can certainly be done with Red, the SPD, and the Greens. But you mentioned one catchphrase: Combat missions of the Bundeswehr abroad. The other parties are definitely putting red lines. Robert Habeck says that green-red-red requires a commitment by the Left Party to NATO. Do you confess?

Wissler: I am of the opinion that we should not now demand mutual commitments from one another, but rather we should talk about specific policies. The left is clearly saying that we want to stop rearmament. The defense budget has risen by 35 percent since 2014, always with reference to NATO's two percent target, which provides for an even more blatant armament. We believe we have to have a peaceful foreign policy. We have to strengthen development cooperation. We need a just world economic order. And if Germany wants to ensure more peace in the world, then one should stop exporting weapons all over the world, because that is happening right now.

Dissolve NATO and replace it with a collective security alliance

May: But now you haven't answered my question. You are calling for that in your election manifesto. The Left Party wants to lead Germany out of NATO. Isn't that negotiable for you?

Wissler: The program does not say that Die Linke wants to lead Germany out of NATO, but that we want to dissolve NATO and replace it with a collective security alliance. This is also not something that Die Linke invented, but there were debates at the beginning of the 1990s about whether it is not necessary to have a new security alliance. And I answered the question so far that I think that this is not about confessions that are mutually required from one another. Of course we're not going to commit ourselves to NATO, to capitalism or anything else, but rather we want to talk about concrete politics, and I am a bit strange that a Green chairman - the Greens have founded themselves as a peace party - now of all things NATO because makes a condition. I am happy if Robert Habeck is open to a center-left alliance, but then we should really talk about content and now not about confessions, whatever that means. I think our criticism of NATO is sound and we have good arguments here. We have now read that the Greens also reject NATO's two percent target. So we are happy to talk about disarmament.

(dpa / Christoph Soeder) "We are freeing the Social Democrats from captivity by the Union"
Left-wing politician Dietmar Bartsch considers it "absurd" that SPD chancellor candidate Olaf Scholz is questioning the left party's ability to govern.

May: The two percent target and rejecting armament is one thing. The other question is whether to dissolve NATO, as you write it in the election manifesto. Upgrading and increasing is another difference to dissolving.

Wissler: Yes of course!

A different course in foreign policy

May: So the question is: do you just want to get away from the two percent target? Is that something you could talk to the other parties? Or do you really say very clearly that for us there is only one coalition without NATO?

Wissler: At first I am not saying that there is only a coalition for us if, but rather the Left is campaigning for our positions and I have just described them. We don't want Germany out of NATO; we want to dissolve NATO because we believe that the NATO countries have not contributed to peace in the world in recent years, and neither has NATO. Look: This is an alliance of values ​​including Turkey. We have a lot of criticism of what Erdogan is doing in Turkey when we look at the situation with the Kurds, with the internal party opposition. We criticize the German government for always showing consideration for its NATO partner Turkey and for not finding clear words about it, and we are of the opinion that we need a new security architecture worldwide. This is our position. And yes, we want to stop rearmament, but we want a different course in foreign policy. This includes stopping arms exports and relying on civilian solutions rather than military ones.

May: What about the Bundeswehr's missions abroad? Have you already mentioned. Is that an absolute no-go, or would foreign assignments also be possible under certain conditions with a red-red-green federal government?

Wissler: I said what is in our basic program that Die Linke wants to end combat operations by the Bundeswehr and does not participate in a federal government that decides on it. I said that clearly.

May: What about reconnaissance missions serving the fight against IS, for example, in Syria or Iraq?

Wissler: Look, we are not in coalition talks here, we are now at a point where we are making our positions clear. I said yes, we want a fundamental change in foreign policy. If we look at the situation in Iraq, for example, then the result is what we have there, and the situation there is also the result of decades of war policy by the West, of decades of Western intervention. The problem is that all these Bundeswehr operations or military operations in general do not make the world more peaceful, but we are not going to solve the problems with the same means that arose in the first place. That is why we need a peaceful foreign policy. We need a just world economic order. We have to eliminate the causes of flight and we also have to give people an economic perspective. Many conflicts are fueled. Many earn well from the fact that there are wars, and we want a fundamental change there. That is why we said again so clearly yesterday that we don't just want to turn individual screws, we want to have a change of direction in politics. We want to use the money that is spent on armament, on the one hand, of course, for social affairs and for climate protection, but above all we want to use it by strengthening development cooperation by relying on civil conflict solutions and not arms around the world deliver and then send the Bundeswehr afterwards if necessary.

(imago / Future Image / N. Kubelka) Wissler: "Corona infections do not end at the company gate"
The world of work must finally be included in the fight against pandemics, demands Janine Wissler, Co-Chair of the Left, in the Dlf. One possibility is the obligation to work from home.

May: Ms. Wissler, where you mentioned change of direction. Your past in the communist network Marx21 is repeatedly highlighted and criticized by your political opponents - a network that is observed by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, from which you do not want to distance yourself. You can still find speeches in which you called for a revolution, modeled on the Arab Spring, for example. You don't do it underneath, underneath revolution?

Wissler: The speech you are referring to was indeed about the Arab Spring, yes, and I am very happy that there were revolutionary conditions in these countries because we had dictators in power there and people stood up against them . The question is, what does revolution mean, and revolution first of all means a fundamental and lasting change. And if you ask me like this: Yes, I am of the opinion that if we want to achieve the 1.5-degree target and finally make progress on climate protection, then we have to change our economy very radically. Otherwise we will have generations who can no longer live on this planet. And yes, I think if we look at what is necessary, then at one point or another we are talking about revolutionary changes. This is an energy revolution. This is a revolution in the way we do business if we want to meet the climate targets. That is why I think that we need fundamental changes and that they have to be sustainable, and what the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has to say about this is by no means a standard for me. Until a few years ago, this was led by a right-wing conspiracy ideologist Maaßen and that is why the protection of the Constitution is not a measure of my political action.

"It's about fundamentally changing the way we do business"

May: I understand! - Just to make it clear again: Is Revolution more about our western way of life and less about our social system?

Wissler: I think that we have to discuss how we can make society more democratic, how we can better involve people in political processes. It's about fundamentally changing the way we do business. Look, we have the world-wide situation where eight people own as much as 3.5 billion people, like half of humanity. This unjust distribution of wealth must be changed. We don't want pharmaceutical companies to decide that not enough vaccines are made because they don't release the patents. We don't want real estate companies to decide how we live and hospital groups to decide what our health is like. No, we want a democratic society. That means, infrastructure and services of general interest in the public hand. And we want to change the power and ownership structures. In other words, it is not real estate companies that own large chunks of apartments and drive prices up. We want to change that.

(dpa / picture alliance / Christoph Soeder) SPD parliamentary group vice Miersch - "We do not make politics for the Left Party"
You do not make politics for other parties, said SPD parliamentary group vice Matthias Miersc in the Dlf. He also promoted wealth tax to ensure solidarity in these difficult times.

May: Ms. Wissler, many of the issues that you have just touched on are actually bothering very, very many people. When I look at the USA, I see that left-wing issues are pretty socially acceptable right now. Joe Biden is currently running the leftmost program in the US since Roosevelt in the 30s. Nevertheless, Die Linke is bobbing here just above the five percent hurdle. Why is that? How do you explain that?

Wissler: We want to change that now in the election campaign. We have a program, we have top candidates, we have a political offer that we make. Of course, we have to ask ourselves why people once chose us who no longer choose us today. Of course, we are doing anything but easy in the Corona situation, because we are of course a party that relies on door-to-door election campaigns, street election campaigns, events and rallies. I think that we have to go more where the people are, find another way of addressing them, not just hold events and hope that people will come to us, but really go where the people are. We need better anchoring, and generally more members in society. These are all things that we have to address, and of course it has not been easy in the last few months with two postponed party congresses due to the pandemic, a bit of an unclear situation at the top. That certainly didn't make anything easy. But now we are throwing ourselves fully into the election campaign and are fighting to make The Left as strong as humanly possible.

Statements by our interlocutors reflect their own views. Deutschlandfunk does not adopt the statements of its interlocutors in interviews and discussions as its own.