Why do people fight in real life
Fighting together for a real, courageous social and ecological change of course
Speech by Bernd Riexinger, chairman of the DIE LINKE party, at the political start of the year 2021
Dear Comrades, before I come to our economic policy, let me say a few more sentences about the riots in the USA. With all the justified criticism and outrage about Trump, but also about the behavior of the police, which would have appeared differently towards the left or the BLM movement, the calculation must not be played down. It is Trump and his environment about the orientation of the Republican Party radically to the right. About the mobilization of violent masses, which can be called up at any time. A permanent fight against democratic institutions and thus authoritarian capitalism. This movement has long existed in Europe and Germany. It is international, unscrupulous and power-conscious. It has a broad social base, which is nourished ideologically by the various social and economic crises. The fight against the right and its breeding ground is becoming a permanent task of left politics. The struggle for a social and just economic order is part of it.
Dear comrades, the old year ended with the dominant theme of the pandemic and began with a tightening of the lockdown. We are not criticizing the federal government for wanting to prevent the hospitals from becoming overburdened. We criticize them for the fact that the social protective shield is far from sufficient, that the necessary measures to restrict contacts only affect people's leisure time and families, while protection against infection at work is neglected. After almost a year of pandemic, not enough nurses were hired. Here we are experiencing a spahn failure and a market failure: the nursing emergency continues, hospitals are experiencing financial difficulties.
The government is sticking to the failed market and competitive orientation - even though it costs lives and endangers health. It has been shown clearly: The market does not regulate anything. We have to regulate the market.
It is also scandalous that corporations are receiving government aid and paying dividends. That aid to corporations is not linked to any conditions for securing jobs and climate protection. The government is idly watching as the corona crisis is being abused by many corporations and companies for massive cost reductions at the expense of employees. Employees in industries such as gastronomy, retail, event services and culture will be. let down. Those who work at the minimum wage cannot make ends meet with 60% short-time allowance. Hundreds of thousands of livelihoods are being jeopardized to keep returns high. The number of unemployed has already risen by 500,000. We need higher short-time working benefits of 90 percent for those employees who are particularly threatened by the second lockdown, in restaurants, in retail, in areas where there are no co-payments and wages are low anyway. It worsens the social divide when millions of people can no longer make ends meet with 60/67 percent. The same applies to mini-jobbers, students and self-employed people. In addition, the minimum wage must be increased immediately to 12 euros and then to 13 euros.
The constant appeals of the Chancellor to the solidarity of the population become an abuse of this beautiful word if the concrete decisions do not lead to a solidarity society. Yes even the social divide is deepened. The federal government is pretending that the old situation can simply be restored after the pandemic. It has no answer to the interrelated crises of our time. Worse still: she relies on failed recipes. Our economic policy surcharge for a socio-ecological way out of the crisis is a clear alternative to the government's course.
It combines immediate answers to the pandemic and the social crisis, the urgently needed conversion to an emission-free economy, with what every economic system should achieve: give priority to good wages, safe and meaningful jobs, the expansion of public services and a sustainable infrastructure. And we are making a convincing proposal for just and fair financing. We will fight with all our might to prevent the costs and consequences of the crisis being passed on to the employed, unemployed and pensioners, while the super-rich get even richer.
Dear comrades, we want to set the course for a better future for everyone with our immediate program. This includes an ambitious public investment program. We want a crisis-proof, strong health system. Instead of flat-rate case fees, needs-based financing. Hospitals are not allowed to make profits and belong in public hands. With the establishment of a nationwide investment company, the return of the already privatized facilities into public ownership would be supported. It is high time that a fund was set up in the federal budget to raise basic nursing salaries by 500 euros. When does this health minister understand that an appreciation of the social professions is not to be had with gossip and nice speeches? We fight for strong municipalities that are able to finance the expansion of local public transport, a reduction in fares, investments in public and social housing and good services of general interest. To do this, they must be relieved by an old debt fund.
The core of an ecological and social change in traffic is the expansion of local public transport, rail and bicycle paths. More mobility with less car traffic and traffic jams. Without this core project, climate protection will fall by the wayside. The expansion of local public transport and rail transport creates at least 200,000 well-paid, climate-friendly industrial jobs. A change of direction also means: we must stop seeing the public sector and public services only as appendages to the private economy. 6 million people work in the health sector, over 400,000 in passenger transport, and 2.4 million in education. They pay all taxes and social security contributions, shop at retail outlets. Every investment in these areas also employs craftsmen, construction workers and cleaners. The sociologist Wolfgang Streek describes those sectors as fundamental economics, the more they contribute to social prosperity, the less they are organized and function according to capitalist principles. This fundamental economy needs to be developed. Up to 2 million largely emission-free jobs can also be created there. The fact that the federal government is sticking to the nonsensical debt brake is, of all things, an economically absurd stumbling block on this path in times of cheap borrowing due to negative interest rates.
Dear comrades, we are combining the expansion of the public sector with an urgently needed socio-ecological restructuring of industry, which forms the basis for an emission-free economy and for secure and well-paid jobs. The basic idea of this left-wing Green New Deal: Employees must not be faced with the decision that they will either lose their jobs or put the future of their children and grandchildren at risk. For this reason, all state aid for job and location security and compliance with collective agreements must be linked. We are calling for a transformation fund of at least 20 billion euros per year. This is intended to support the conversion in particular for the automotive supplier. Here in particular, we are often dealing with small and medium-sized companies that are barely able to cope with the transformation on their own. This is not about traditional economic aid but about restructuring the industry.
Many employees know that a lot has to change in the industrial structure. But they have also made the experience that the costs of every conversion are paid out of their pockets and at the expense of their quality of life. It has to be different with this transformation.
We need a further qualification allowance with an income guarantee of 90 percent for two years to accompany the conversion to new technologies. This must not be left to the discretion of companies that regularly fail to qualify their employees in good time. In addition, the technical colleges and universities must be opened to employees from industry and other areas.
Dear Comrades, I have no understanding whatsoever that locations are being closed or relocated that have been built up over decades by the workforce, not by the managers, not by the shareholders. For greater profits, thousands of people can lose their livelihoods with the stroke of a pen. That is why we are calling for co-determination to be expanded. In the event of site closings, relocations and massive job cuts, the works councils must have a veto right.
It is scandalous that works councils, e.g. at Daimler, are supposed to be blackmailed into making concessions with investment decisions. That is why we want to set up economic and social councils that are involved in the ecological restructuring of the economy in particularly affected regions. This requires a future plan that ensures CO2-free industrial production by 2035 and is linked to job and income guarantees for employees. With the participation of the workforce, trade unions, science, environmental and social associations. We live in the 21st century. It's time to get started in economic democracy.
Unemployment will rise if left unchecked. Reducing working hours and redistributing work can prevent layoffs. This is already shown by company regulations for the four-day week. It is cynical when hundreds of thousands have their working hours reduced to zero while others work overtime. That is why we demand political support for company and collective bargaining regulations of the trade unions to reduce working hours. It can be combined with further training. We also need wage compensation in the short term. Therefore, a solidarity fund should be set up for financing, pay into the companies and be supported by companies that are in crisis in reducing working hours.
Dear comrades, all of this is affordable. By extending the debt repayment to 50 years, by a property levy from a net asset of 2 million euros between 10 and 30 percent. The annual burden would be between 0.1 and 1.5 percent if the repayment is stretched over 20 years. 320 billion more could be earned. That would be a good introduction to a permanent wealth tax of 5 percent for the rich and the super-rich. Anyone who accepts that the club of the super-rich was able to increase its wealth from 420 billion euros to over 500 billion euros in the pandemic, while millions of people have to accept severe income losses, cannot claim the word fair. Lidl owner Dieter Schwarz increased his wealth by 11.1 billion during the pandemic, the Aldi brothers by 5 billion while the employees still do not have a generally binding collective agreement. Those who accept this are closer to the rich than to women in the low-wage sector!
Dear comrades, let's fight together for a real, courageous social and ecological change of course. Let us encourage people to stand up for a system in which the economy is there for the people.
Thank you for your attention.
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