WORLD: Mr. Bartsch, your party is more crisis-ridden than ever and is at four percent in nationwide surveys. Has the Left Project failed after 15 years?
Dietmar Bartsch: No! The current political situation calls for a strong left party. The glaring social injustice, the gigantic inflation, the war against Ukraine are examples.
However, it has not gone unnoticed to anyone that we are in difficult waters. But when the need is greatest, you have to fight. To do this, everyone must be aware of their individual responsibility.
WORLD: What is your responsibility for the misery?
Bartsch: We are jointly responsible for the results of the Bundestag election. As the top candidate at the time, I was of course self-critical and introspective. I come to the conclusion that I can and want to make my contribution so that we can get out of this low.
WORLD: Where did you make mistakes?
Bartsch: It was a mistake that I didn’t insist more strongly on the clear commitment to the political independence of the left beyond a centre-left option. In addition, we should have had a more continuous program debate for a long time in order to be able to provide up-to-date answers to current challenges in view of the rapid pace of social development.
To do this, we must finally start naming our successes. For example, that we bear responsibility in four state governments and do good politics. No one likes to get involved in a party that is constantly talking about its downfall.
WORLD: There were also demands for your resignation. But one could also ask the other way around: Why are you still doing this party?
Bartsch: For years, in more difficult situations than today, I fought for Germany to have a permanently successful party to the left of the SPD. That is still my motivation. If the federal election result had been very good, I would have been more inclined to give up. But leaving in the middle of a crisis would be irresponsible and not in my character.
WORLD: Will you be running again as parliamentary group leader next year?
Bartsch: The question does not arise at the moment. One thing is clear: I will not stand as a top candidate in the federal elections in 2025. I explained that early on.
WORLD: A study commissioned by the left comes to the conclusion that you could win up to 18 percent of those eligible to vote – but almost half of them are prevented by left-wing foreign policy from electing you. What conclusions do you draw from this?
Bartsch: The war in Ukraine changed a lot. I did not believe that this Russian aggression against Ukraine was possible and I was dramatically wrong. As a party, we must find answers to this turning point.
WORLD: In 2021 you answered the question “Putin or Biden?”: “Neither.” What is your answer today?
Bartsch: I strongly condemn Putin’s war and have no sympathy for the Kremlin’s policies. But what bothers me is this expectation that I am committed to Biden. I won’t do that, although I was happy about his election victory against Trump.
WORLD: Basically, the question is whether you change your position on NATO.
Bartsch: We rightly viewed NATO with clear criticism in the past. Incidentally, that’s what the French President did too, when he said that NATO was brain dead. Just think of NATO member Turkey and its role. But Russia’s war changes a lot. This has also changed our positions and will continue to do so.
WORLD: Does that apply, for example, to the call for a security alliance that includes Russia?
Bartsch: A collective security system that includes Russia is now a long way off. Nevertheless, in the long term I wish for a worldwide peace architecture with a different Russia. Without Putin. We talk – rightly – a lot about the war in Ukraine. But there are so many wars and conflicts, so much suffering. That’s why I’m worried about a new armament spiral.
WORLD: Among other things, you are against arms deliveries to Ukraine.
Bartsch: There will be no military solution to the war in Ukraine. Of course, the pressure on Russia must be increased so that a ceasefire can be reached as soon as possible. Instead of discussing arms deliveries in a very one-sided manner, Germany could finally effectively enforce sanctions against oligarchs, for example.
WORLD: In the left-wing faction, dealing with the war leads to disputes, including Sahra Wagenknecht, who emphasizes that NATO is partly to blame. Gregor Gysi accused her of lack of emotion.
Bartsch: After the war began, the leadership of the party and faction took a clear position. Media and in the Bundestag. Some of what was said in addition was not very helpful. I clearly criticized that in my group. Because that made it public only about this controversy and not about which position we represent. That annoyed me greatly.
WORLD: In addition, one is raging
Bartsch: If a long-time member of the parliamentary group only expresses rather abstract allegations in the context of a “Spiegel” article, that’s “special”. I’m still waiting for more specifics. However, the cases described make me think.
It is absolutely clear that we must consistently take the victim’s perspective and promote full clarification. What I don’t allow is the impression that the left is a haven for sexism. This is absurd, stupid stuff.
WORLD: Although politically stricken, the remaining party leader Janine Wissler will take up the presidency again at the end of June. Is she the right person for a fresh start?
Bartsch: Throughout the debate, I took a stand of solidarity with Janine. I think it’s inappropriate to use the accusations as an opportunity to say “it can’t go on like this” and only talk about the party leader.
WORLD: The European politician Martin Schirdewan joins her in the team. Leipzig member of the Bundestag Sören Pellmann is also a candidate. Who would you prefer?
Bartsch: I will not declare any preference in the run-up to the party congress. It is important to me that the Left Party represents the party and is able to put their own interests aside in order to achieve joint success.
WORLD: How likely do you think it is that the left will still be in the Bundestag in 2025?
Bartsch: I will do what I can to ensure that the next left-wing faction in the German Bundestag becomes stronger again. I see solid opportunities for this, but I also see the magnitude of the task.
“Kick-off Politics” is WELT’s daily news podcast. The most important topic analyzed by WELT editors and the dates of the day. Subscribe to the podcast on Spotify, Apple Podcasts, Amazon Music or directly via RSS feed.