60 years after the ban of the KPD: upright leftists, persecuted communists and friends of the GDR meet and complain about the dismantling of democracy.
When Frederick Langer sings workers’ struggle songs, it sounds a bit like a church service Photo: Jan Zier
Willi Gerns is the "prototype of a revolutionary." That’s what a German court decided, in the name of the people. Three times they indicted him, 30 months put him in prison judges who had previously served the Nazis. He served his sentence, to the end, no regrets. Because he is a communist. And was committed to the KPD, which had been banned since 1956. On this evening, the 85-year-old once again earns great applause for his fight for the working class.
"Away with the shameful KPD ban" was written in the invitation, in large letters. A good 60 people came, many older men, a few women. The large hall in the Weserterrassen community center is full. They have not hoisted any flags, only hired a guitarist to sing workers’ struggle songs. First, of course, Brecht’s song of the united front: "It can be the liberation of the workers/ Only the work of the workers." But here they all sing very devoutly, it sounds a little like church.
It’s been 60 years since the Federal Constitutional Court banned the KPD. That’s "60 years of dismantling democracy," says Wolfgang Meyer of the Left Party, the moderator. That’s why they’ve gathered here once again. First and foremost Willi Gerns, whom Der Spiegel once named the "chief ideologist of the DKP. He had been a member of the KPD since 1949 because it "most decisively" embodied the slogan: "Never again war, never again fascism. Later, he was on the DKP board for decades. Its federal chairman Patrik Kobele also came.
The Left Party has sent Inge Hoger, a member of the Bundestag who is extremely controversial because of her criticism of Israel. Not here. Hoger is one of the spokespersons for the anti-capitalist Left; the "toilet affair" once brought her into the headlines nationwide. She is also one of those fighting for the lifting of the KPD ban: "It can be used against the peace movement at any time." The evening gets academic expertise from Ekkehard Lieberam, a professor of state theory and constitutional law in the GDR. When they wanted to draft him into the Bundeswehr, he emigrated over there.
"The third wave of communist persecution is still going on," Lieberam says, recalling all the GDR "state employees" who were fired after the fall of communism. There is not a single bad word about the GDR in this discussion; Hoger does not want to call it an "unjust state," and Lieberam certainly does not. He finds the idea that people were not allowed to speak their minds freely in the GDR rather absurd.
"The rulers have a vehement interest in maintaining the ban on the KPD," Lieberam says, and that "our struggle" against it gets "too little solidarity." "The democratic movement of this country will always suffer from the KPD ban," says the chairman of the DKP. They don’t want to talk so much about a dictatorship of the proletariat, only about the fact that a rule of the workers would be much more democratic than that of capital. "It’s just that the ruled class usually doesn’t want to recognize that and organize against it," Kobele says.
Not a bad word is said about the GDR in this roundtable.
Inge Hoger hopes for the peace movement, Willi Gerns rather for those who are committed against the free trade agreements TTIP and Ceta. What would a reversal of the "pig verdict" bring? Kobele speaks of compensation, of rehabilitation, of the return of the former party headquarters. About the fact that they had to use "slave language" when they founded the DKP in 1968 because of the ban on the KPD. Just a few years ago, he says, he was prosecuted at a demonstration because of a parasol with the KPD logo.
When the evening is supposed to end with "Bella Ciao," that melancholy song of the Italian partisans, they suddenly rise, some raise their fists. Everyone sings the Internationale. It ends with the cry "Red Front!". This time it sounds really militant.