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on the First Congress of the Party DIE LINKE, May 2008, Cottbus

The first congress of the new party DIE LINKE took place in the town of Cottbus. Far in the East of Germany in the land of Brandenburg, this town’s name meant originally "pretty cottages". On the fairground of Cottbus DIE LINKE celebrated its first birthday. About one year ago DIE LINKE was founded in Berlin.

553 delegates (51,4% female) arrived to the congress. The majority of the delegates had been elected by subdivisions of the party, as district organisations. Additionally, 42 delegates were elected by federal alliances and 20 by the youth organisation. Furthermore, more journalists than ever before and many guests attended the congress.

Frank Szymanski, mayor (SPD) of Cottbus warmly welcomed the congress. Afterwards Thomas Nord, the chairman of DIE LINKE in Brandenburg was addressing the delegates.

Speeches were held by the two chairpersons Lothar Bisky and Oskar Lafontaine.

Lothar Bisky emphasized the role of DIE LINKE in the European Left. He said that there is only a chance to change the European Union in cooperation with each other and in solidarity. The new party DIE LINKE was founded to find new ways and he warned not to become haughty.

Oskar Lafontaine stressed the necessity to combine freedom and social justice. He listed the demands of DIE LINKE, like minimum wages, pensions that prevent old-age poverty, the withdrawal of the Bundeswehr (German troops) out of Afghanistan and to abolish Hartz IV.

Gabriele Zimmer reported on the work of the GUE/NGL, whereas Gregor Gysi held the closing speech. He urged for stronger company and talked about alleged differences between East and West. The speeches will be translated into English and are available soon.

The adopted lead motion deals with the current political situation in Germany and beyond. After a discussion of various amendments and the adoption of some of them, the vast majority of the delegates voted in favour of this motion (also available soon).

Moreover, the congress enacted a campaign which encounters a subject with high topicality: the retirement-pensions, which are not assured anymore and decline continuously. Therefore, DIE LINKE claims that fair wages are pre-condition for fair pensions. Only a coherent and transparent pension formula can avoid old-age poverty.

Central were also the upcoming elections. The "super"-election year 2009 has already casted a cloud over this congress. There will be not only the election of the European Parliament and the Bundestag (National Parliament) but also in Thueringen, Saarland, Sachsen and Brandenburg. DIE LINKE has good chances to achieve good results, and the well-known politicians and top-candidates Oskar Lafontaine (Saarland), Kerstin Kaiser (Brandenburg) and Bodo Ramelow (Thueringen) might get the chance to become prime minister in their particular federal state.

But first the election in Bavaria will be held this year. The electoral law is especially malicious in Bavaria and DIE LINKE is campaigning hard to move into the next western Landtag in September. In a symbolic act, a part of the successful election-campaign-team from Lower Saxony, where DIE LINKE had won 7,1% of the votes in February,  handed over the necessary tools to the comrades from Bavaria.

Much time was spend on party-elections: the Chairpersons, the Treasurer, the Party Secretary, the Deputy Party Chairs, the members of the board, the Arbitration Committee and the Auditing Committee. The congress was therefore coined by elections.

Lothar Bisky and Oskar Lafontaine both were confirmed in their position as chairpersons. The same counts for Dietmar Bartsch, the Party Secretary and Karl Holluba, Treasuerer of the party. As Deputy- chairpersons were elected: Katja Kipping, Halina Wawzyniak, Ulrike Zerhau and Klaus Ernst. Moreover, 29 members of the board were re-elected, 7 have not been in the board before. More information is available here.

For time reason the congress was not able to finish the debate on all forwarded motions on national and international development. It was decided to forward these motions for further consultation to the newly elected Executive Board as well as to the Federal Committee of DIE LINKE.

A controversial debate was lead about a motion concerning family-policy. The motion, which was adopted by a big majority, calls for an "emancipatory family policy". DIE LINKE is campaigning for a massive extension of non-contributory child-care places. Children can learn best when they are together with other children. DIE LINKE denies conceptions that lay a focus on domestic upbringing for pre-school age children. Poverty is the biggest risk for the development of a child; therefore DIE LINKE calls for more social security. To enable parents to spend more time with their family, DIE LINKE demands also a cutback of working-hours.

Already last year, the party-congress had been laying the first cornerstone for a "Kita-Campaign" (day-care-centre-campaign). Especially for children under 3 years, there are not enough day-care-centre places.

Adopted was also the motion of the Executive Board on electing a Statute-Commission by the Federal Committee, which has to prepare the discussion of forwarded motions concerning organisational and institutional aspects of development of our party.