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Germany

Left party leader's communist remarks spark outrage

The leader of Germany's Left party, Gesine Loetzsch, has come under fire for an essay entitled "Paths to Communism." Her opponents are critical, but even members of her own party aren't happy about her comments.

Gesine Loetzsch

Loetzsch has clarified that communism is not her goal

Leaders across the German political spectrum have reacted angrily to an article entitled "Paths to Communism" by Left party leader Gesine Loetzsch.

In the Monday edition of the leftist newspaper Junge Welt, Loetzsch stated that "the path to communism can only be found if we hit the road and try it out, whether in the opposition or in government."

Bodo Ramelow, the leader of the Left party in the state of Thuringia, said Loetzsch should have also mentioned the dark history of communism.

"Millions of citizens have been killed in the name of communism. This must always be a part of the conversation, and must always be made clear," he said.

For many Germans, communism has negative connotations associated with the former German Democratic Republic (GDR), even though the main party called themselves socialists, not communists, says Heinz Schulte, a political analyst in Bonn.

"In West Germany, we always had a very negative view of the GDR...and after the fall of the Berlin Wall, it was clear that communism had had its day," Schulte told Deutsche Welle.

Talking with terrorists

Police on the border of the former GDR and Western Germany

Many people died trying to escape the former GDR

Loetzsch herself has since backpedaled a bit, clarifying that communism is not her goal.

"My political goal is democratic socialism, as I described it in this article: peaceful, democratic and free from exploitation for all people," said Loetzsch.

But on Saturday, Loetzsch is scheduled to take part in a discussion with Inge Viett, a former terrorist affiliated with the violent left-wing Red Army Faction (RAF) group. Viett has never distanced herself from the group's acts of political violence.

Stefan Liebich, a Left party parliamentarian, said Loetzsch needs to act carefully.

"If you're going to sit down at a podium with a former RAF terrorist and the leader of the German Communist Party, then the least you should do is say very clearly that a lot of crimes were committed in the name of communism, from which we distance ourselves very explicitly, " Liebich told German public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk.

Under observation

The Left party is one of Germany's newest parties, founded in 2007 by disgruntled western German trade unionists and members of the successor to the East German Communist Party.

In July, a top German court ruled that the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the country's internal security agency, had the right to monitor the party's activities. A spokesman confirmed to Deutsche Welle that the party is still being observed, but declined to comment further.

The general secretary of the governing Christian Democrats, Alexander Dobrindt, has demanded the Left party be more closely observed.

"Communism as a national objective clearly reveals the unconstitutional convictions of the leadership of the Left party," Dobrindt told Spiegel Online.

Author: Sarah Harman
Editor: Martin Kuebler

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