On 8th July 2021 it was announced by the Federal Election Commissioner (Bundeswahlleiter) that the German Communist Party (DKP) will not be allowed to contest the coming national election in September. The reason given for this was that the party had repeatedly handed in its financial report too late. As financial reports have to be compiled following a lot of time-consuming work by accountants, it is not surprising that small parties often find it difficult to follow the timetable.
This bureaucratic problem could lead to a full ban of the DKP. In 2018, the German law on parties was amended. The new law – which takes effect retroactively from 2015 (or 2016, the exact date is disputed) – contains the following passage:“An organisation loses its legal status as a party when they do not take part in a national or local election with their own election proposals for six years.”
This means that if a party decides not to take the expensive step of contesting local elections, it only needs to miss one general election to lose its legal status. If the DKP challenge to this decision fails, they will lose their legal status on the 29th of July. This has several implications.
In an interview with the newspaper junge Welt, DKP chair Patrik Köbele explained: “the loss of party status has two implications: that, like every random association, we can be banned by a decision of the interior minister, and that it is no longer possible to issue a certificate that would enable donations to be written off against tax. The latter is an attack on the financial base of the DKP.”
Increase in state bans
The ban of the DKP is not an isolated case. At the beginning of this year, Germany’s main anti-fascist organisation, the VVN-BdA (Association of people persecuted by the Nazis – Federation of antifascists) had its charity status removed, as did the anti-globalisation organisation attac. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (Verfassungsschutz) has put the junge Welt newspaper under observation.
Flags of the Kurdish organisations PKK and YPG are banned in Germany, and a recent ban has been issued on the non-existent flag of Hamas. Bans on Palestinians and their supporters go much further than Hamas. We have reported on several instances of how organisations and individuals giving a platform to Palestinian voices have had concerts cancelled and funding removed in recent months. Even the Jewish Voice for Peace (Jüdische Stimme) has had its bank account closed.
This is not just a matter for the Left and supporters of Palestine. In the run up to the election, and under the name of “fighting Islamism”, a working group of MPs from the governing party, the CDU, is considering “if and how the introduction of a mosque register is constitutional.” The CDU/CSU fraction in the Bundestag is demanding surveillance of mosques by the security services. Many mosques have been under surveillance for quite some time.
Meanwhile, the German State seems to be a lot more sanguine about the far right. A Thüringen court recently rescinded the decision to view the AfD as a “test case” and a possible danger to democracy. This at a time when the growing Nazification of the AfD is becoming increasingly clear. This is before we get to the Nazis who are organising in state institutions like the police.
Meanwhile the number of right wing extremists in Germany who are sanctioned to own weapons is growing. The “NSU Complex”, which led to the trial of five Neo-Nazis has shown an astonishing level of state support for the Nazis. It does seem that the state is, as the saying goes, “blind in the right eye”. This means that any bans will be used disproportionately against the Left and religious minorities.
An attack on us all
I am not a member of the DKP – but of another party, die LINKE. I have significant political differences with the DKP and believe that it is a mistake for them to stand in elections and to split the Left vote. However, they are part of the wider political Left, and such debates should be resolved through comradely discussions and not state bans.
This is not least because any strengthening of the state’s ability to decide which parties are “legitimate” – and which are not – could be used against all of us. The German state has already banned left-wing organisations. One of the first acts of the Nazi government in 1933 was to Enabling Act which banned the KPD. A similar ban was issued by Konrad Adenauer’s CDU government in 1956. In both cases, the “fight against communism” was used to justify wider repression and attacks on civil liberties.
When push comes to shove, the state is not neutral. Black Lives Matter has made clear what many of us already knew – there is a high level of racist police violence, both in Germany as well as the USA. Demonstrations against racism are often heavily policed, particularly those containing a significant number of young Muslims. Meanwhile demonstrations of Corona deniers – often with a strong Nazi presence – are generally allowed to run rampant.
Ultimately, the people who would ban the DKP would be the same people who prevent serious investigations into the AfD, who allow a serious Nazi presence in the police and security services, and who are maintaining a neo-liberal racist state. They are not our friends. Any ban on the DKP will only strengthen the power of this state.
As LINKE MP Niema Movassat says
“with the loss of their party status, the DKP loses the specific protections for parties – such as against banning orders. The interior minister can ban the DKP relatively easily. With the history of the persecution of Communists in this country, this all has a politically unsavoury taste”.
A ban on elections is not the same as a full ban of the party, but it is a distinct possibility, depending on how we react.This means that the starting point for any serious socialist is not to question whether the DKP followed their bureaucratic obligations to the last detail, nor to bring up specific differences we may have, say, on the nature of the Chinese state. This is not why the DKP is under attack. If they are successfully removed, right wing forces will be coming for socialists, Muslims and other minorities next.
But if we stand together, we will all be stronger.