Gregor Gysi on the economic crisis

Gysi’s speech in Thursday’s Bundestag debate. These are the times when you’re glad you have a performer like him around.


  1. Andy Newman said,

    January 24, 2009 at 8:58 pm

    he is a class act, I like the bit where he is challenged about the record of the red-red coaliton in berlin, and comes to a storming defence of the berlin council.

    I read his biography a couple of years ago, and was suprised to learn that he is Doris Lessing’s nephew.

  2. Mick Hall said,

    January 25, 2009 at 11:59 am


    Is Gysi’s defense of the Red-Red Berlin coalition in English any where, or even writen German? Unfortunately all we get here from the Left about this coalition is tales of a sell out.

    Best regards

  3. @ndy said,

    January 25, 2009 at 12:42 pm

    Couldn’t understand a bloody word.

  4. splinteredsunrise said,

    January 25, 2009 at 2:38 pm

    His defence of the Berlin coalition is quite strong, although it wouldn’t please the purists who reckon the problem with die Linke is that it isn’t a Trotskyist group.

    The Lessing connection is a bit of a surprise though.

  5. Mark P said,

    January 25, 2009 at 8:00 pm

    It also won’t please the stubborn sorts who think that Die Linke should actually, you know, act in the interests of working class people and oppose cuts and privatisations rather than implementing them.

  6. Andy newman said,

    January 25, 2009 at 8:52 pm


    Mick, I suspect that Splinty’s German is better than mine, but if Ii get the time I will hazard a translation, or at least try to find some accessible sources in written German, and translate the key bits.

  7. Mick Hall said,

    January 25, 2009 at 9:59 pm

    Good man Andy.

  8. January 26, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    Gysi is by far the best orator in today’s German parliament … and unlike most other MPs, he is his own speach writer (when he doesn’t speak “impromptu”), his popularity ratings are higher than those of his party … this speach contains a good analysis of social inequality and the government’s pro-business politics comparing e.g. the different aprroaches on minimum wages in Germany and France … but his politics as a member of the state government in Berlin 2001/02 was different

  9. Mark P said,

    January 26, 2009 at 3:04 pm

    What? A reformist politician giving militant speeches while in opposition, but behaving differently when in power? I refuse to believe that such a thing could be true!

    More seriously, Die Linke do represent an important step forward for the German worker’s movement and Gysi is undoubtedly talented. But the leadership of the organisation is essentially left social democratic, with all of the positive and negative things that implies. They seem a bit more radical than they are, both because they are in opposition nationally and because, after the transformation of the old social democratic parties into straightforward neo-liberal parties, even old school social democracy carries with it a bit of excitement.

  10. Henrich Monoevre said,

    January 26, 2009 at 4:33 pm

    Any Lucy Redler speeches on your youtube Splintered? If we’re going all German here, I’ve no idea what she’s saying, but she is nicer to look at than the distinctly GDR-ish Gysi. Mark P would approve I’m sure (though not of my ‘sexism’. Do the German Milis all have a particular accent like the way all Irish militant supporters used to affect a Dublinese patter?

  11. January 26, 2009 at 6:12 pm

    the German CWIers (SAV) are from several areas (their 5-6 strongholds scattered all over Germany) and have no particular accent, among the German left, the “Arbeiterbund fuer den Wiederaufbau der KPD” is the only group with a distinct regional accent (Bavarian) … in the Nineties, it was generally supposed by the media, that one secret of Gysi’s and the PDS’s electoral success was his sex appeal … 😉

  12. Neil said,

    January 26, 2009 at 6:45 pm

    “like the way all Irish militant supporters used to affect a Dublinese patter”

    You know, it’s interesting that I have heard that jibe in several different countries about the CWI. Not that they all spoke with a Dublin accent unfortunately, (I’d love to hear Siritunga Jayasuriya deliver Sri Lankan perspectives in a Dublin accent 🙂 ) but the fact that our members were ‘pretending’ to be working class.

    The most famous example was the idea that all Militant supporters in Britain spoke with an affected Scouse accent. The fact that out of 8000 members at the time almost 1000 were from Liverpool didn’t seem like a reasonable explanation for this. After all given the *ahem* “university background’ of many of the trendy left in the Labour party at the time, not to mention certain other groups on the left, the very idea that actuall working class people might have their own views on marxism, socialism and revolution or that they might even lead mass movements was incomprehensible. And allot of them were Scousers to boot, when every sensible middleclass english person knows a Scousers natural place in the global division of labour is either as a cheeky guttersnipe or as the defendant!
    Clearly these troublesome people using big words like “nationalise the commanding heights of the economy” couldn’t possibly be working class, they must be middle class people ‘pretending’ to be working class.

    This is the kind of logic only really sophisticated thinkers can come up with.

    You can say what you like about the CWI, but if you hear a CWI’er speaking with a working class accent, it’s because they probably are.

  13. Mark P said,

    January 26, 2009 at 7:16 pm

    Now, now, Neil. You should know better than to respond to that kind of thing. It’s true enough that most Irish Militant supporters, in the South at least, spoke with a Dublin accent. They were after all mostly from Dublin.

  14. Henrich Monoevre said,

    January 27, 2009 at 8:16 am

    Ah Mark P and Neil, now now. I knew Militant supporters from the south of England you affected the Scouse accent, just as I knew the daughter of a senior Irish Army officer who spoke with a Dublin accent (she wasn’t from Dublin). Of course lots of Militant supporters were working class. They just weren’t working class Dubs. And what was it with the need to be boring? Because the ‘trendies’ liked to at least convoy the socialism might have a bit of excitment?
    It wasn’t just a MIlitant thing. The SWP used all shout ‘Socialist Worker, on sale ‘ere’ like a cross between Dick Van Dyke and Danny Dyer. And that was in Dublin.

  15. January 27, 2009 at 10:20 am

    most Sparts have an American accent … everywhere

  16. Neil said,

    January 27, 2009 at 2:18 pm


    So basically you knew ONE Millitant supporter who, so you claim, affected a Dublin accent, that’s a long way from “all” don’t you think?

    Anyway back to the serious stuff. What do people have to say about Die Linke’s actuall record in government? I’m genuinely interested in hearing what other people like Splinty or entdinglichung think activists in Die Linke who are opposed to privatisation etc should do in regards to the leadership policy of collaberation with the SPD in implementing cuts?

    Mark has made the CWI position clear but I think I detect just a little bit of disagreement from Splinty? So what’s the best way forward for Die Linke with Federal election not too far away?

  17. January 27, 2009 at 3:08 pm

    I don’t expect Die Linke to develop into a revolutionary organization or even into a pre-2006 Rifondazione because of its 100%-commitment to parliamentarism and to work in local councils (were several of their members do of course a good job) … generally speaking, it would be healthier for the party (and its election results) to pull out of the state government in Berlin, left-wingers or rank & file activist should in my opinion concentrate more on grassroots work (in unions, campaign groups, etc.) and shouldn’t try to get lost in factional struggles or (often non-political) inner party conflicts … better to spend 2h distributing leaflets at a tube station or factory gate or doing a stall on a market than losing 2h in a boring and often frustrating local party committee meeting

  18. Neil said,

    January 27, 2009 at 4:53 pm

    Well entdinglichung, most of that is pretty much the perspective of the SAV.

    I don’t think anyone in the SAV is arguing that Die Linke should become a revolutionary party. What the German comrades do argue is that in order for it to grow into a mass party (I’m talking about a party with 100,000’s of members, entirely possible in the current political climate) it must be more than an electoralist formation. It must also actively intervene into the struggles of the working class. Part of this strategy is a refusal to participate in coalitions that implement cuts.

    Unfortunately part of turning Die Linke into a more activist party does involve two hour local party meetings in order to expose the false strategy of many in the leadership of Die Linke and convince the broader membership of the need for a more combatitive approach. In this way Die Linke can become something greater than the RC pre 2005.

    I would certainly agree that many in the leadership of Die Linke, particularly Gysi are committed, in their own minds, to a purely parliamentary road. However Germany 2009 is not Italy 2004-5. The pressure from an increasingly dire economic situation and growing militancy from the working class will not long tolerate a purely parliamentary strategy, let alone collaberation in cuts. Gysi knows this which is one of the reasons why he is trying to keep the leadership of the SAV out of Die Linke in the East. He knows the SAV will act as a lightening rod for those who want to see a more activist stance taken by Die Linke.

  19. Mark P said,

    January 27, 2009 at 5:56 pm

    I wouldn’t go so far as to say that “he knows that the SAV will act as a lightning rod” in that sense. It could happen, but then again it very easily might not. I think I’d phrase it in a less grand manner:

    The leadership of Die Linke know that the situation is changing and that there is potential for significant rank and file pressure to develop on them if the economic shit really hits the fan in Germany. One of the advantages they have at the moment is that the left of the party is either badly disorganised or, in some cases, is quite comfortable with the current dispensation in the party. SAV on the other hand have a perspective of trying to increase and organise that pressure and they are highly organised, so while there is no guarantee that they will have a significant impact, the leadership aren’t for the most part disposed to let them try. Trying to keep them out of Die Linke in the East is, from the point of view of the leadership faction, a sensible bit of risk management.

  20. Bryan said,

    January 27, 2009 at 11:05 pm

    SAV is growing partially out of the notoriety. We have a US comrade living in Essen, isolated. He had been selling twenty copies of the paper at a train station every issue. Two weeks ago, not through his activity but through the description of SAV in the media, two people got in touch with him through the web, saying they want to get active. They are planning on holding a series of public meetings in the Spring and starting a branch.

    Part of what Neil’s saying about the class prejudice on the left against CWI’ers is true. However, people often take on the speaking mannerisms of people they work closely with or admire.

    The founder of the US section has a hint of a Liverpool accent cuz he learned his political English language from the Militant (he is Greek). Our Boston organization is overwhelmingly working class with some very thick accents. Students or people from other areas who get trained politically in Boston often pick up a hint of the very noticeable aspects of our local dialect.

    I think that other folks on the left use faux accents to pretend to be workers. From what I’ve seen in the CWI, there is a natural (albeit strange) mixture of accents that doesn’t reflect the broad left practice of pretending to be workers. Similar accent mixtures happen in the ranks of the US military.

    When I worked closely with a certain Ireland-recruited ex-Spart, I began to develop aspects of his accent. Then when I’d get drunk, my Boston accent would come out more exaggerated and hopelessly obvious (this doesn’t make you any friends in NYC).

  21. skidmarx said,

    January 28, 2009 at 10:33 am

    So the Millies/SP/CWI have tended to recruit in traditional working class areas rather than from students and ex-students. If we can’t make jocular criticisms, isn’t any dispute likely to be taken too seriously?

  22. January 28, 2009 at 10:54 am

    the majority of German CWI’s are either school or university students or were recruited as school or university students, they have some good union activists (mainly in the public service union Ver.di) … a tendency with a more workerist orientation left the SAV in 1998 but disintegrated after an attempted merger with a “morenist” group some years later

  23. james said,

    January 31, 2009 at 12:41 pm

    “most Sparts have an American accent … everywhere”

    This entirely and eerily correct. I have encountered no exceptions. Either they’re a bunch of ex-pats or they have training sessions or something…

    Additionally, they never seem to be aware that they aren’t IN America. When I encountered one at Marxism he started talking to me about their views on African Americans, which are about to fade into insignificance over THERE, while here…

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