25.06.2022, Thüringen, Erfurt: Martin Schirdewan und Janine Wissler (beide Die Linke), stehen nach der Wahl als Parteivorsitzende bei einem Pressestatement nebeneinander beim Bundesparteitag der Linken in der Messe Erfurt. Am zweiten Tag des Bundesparteitags in Erfurt sollen nicht nur die Doppelspitze, sondern der gesamte Vorstand neu besetzt werden. Foto: Martin Schutt/dpa +++ dpa-Bildfunk +++

The left is attempting a fresh start, once again. At the party conference in Erfurt, she elected Janine Wissler and Martin Schirdewan to the top. A difficult task awaits the two of them: They are to protect their party from falling into insignificance, which is threatened by the desolate election results. A spirit of optimism should emanate from this party congress. At the weekend in Erfurt, the Left practiced self-conjuration: We are still alive and we are needed!

Who behind the facade of perseverance slogans still offers a desolate picture. Even the supposed successes of this party congress actually point to the deep-seated problems of the left. The previous party executive around the re-elected chairman Wissler succeeded in Erfurt in getting the left to unequivocally condemn the Russian war of aggression in Ukraine and declare their solidarity with the people in the war-torn country.

That is a correct and important step, and yet it is a sign of failure for a democratic party committed to human rights that there should be any discussion on this issue at all.

Before the meeting in Erfurt, the left-wing politician Sahra Wagenknecht sought the power test. She wanted to force the party executive to forego condemning the Russian incursion and instead denounce previous US wars. Wagenknecht and her followers did not get through with this proposal at the party congress, a large majority rejected it.

Wissler, who defended the draft of the party executive herself, can also claim this as a success. The foreign policy positions that Wagenknecht repeatedly represents on talk shows are not capable of winning a majority within the left, the controversial ex-group leader has now written. Wissler hopes that the decision will finally put an end to the “polyphony” in Russia policy.

But will Wagenknecht now line up and follow a party line that she rejects? We will hear more about the controversial politician, who has repeatedly caused disruption in her party in recent years.

It is now clear what attitude a majority in the party takes towards Putin’s Russia. But in Erfurt it became all too clear what crude ideas a not so small minority is pursuing: an anti-Americanism that blinds people to imperialism and the crimes of Putin’s Russia, and a worldview schooled in Marxism, according to which capitalism is actually the cause all evil and thus also this war.

The “Putin understanders” are a heavy burden for the party, and they are unlikely to exercise restraint after the Erfurt decision.

The success of Wissler and Schirdewan is not untroubled either. The previous party leader managed to be re-elected despite criticism of her handling of sexism and assaults in the party. But immediately after their victory, women who had themselves experienced abuse expressed their horror at the vote of the party congress majority.

So Wissler hasn’t managed to credibly deal with those affected in the past two months, she also has large parts of the youth association against her. Little good can be expected from this for the party’s necessary pacification in the future. Wissler’s co-boss Schirdewan is inexperienced in federal politics and, as an MEP, has little contact with the grassroots.

Both were not elected by a fairly large part of their party. The rifts in the Left Party are still deep. Added to this are unsolved structural problems such as the competing centers of power in the party and parliamentary group. So for the time being there can be no question of a genuine new beginning for the left.