In the spring of 1999, in a period when KPL had not yet recovered from the negative consequences of the defeat of socialism in the »cold war« and of the split in 1993, when the party was still isolated to a large extend and had no chances to receive any mandates on national and on communal level, the Enlarged Central Committee of KPL (members and candidates of the CC, members of the local party committees and members of the party’s Control Commission) took the decision to participate on the national elections of June 1999 as part of an electoral alliance. In this alliance participated the »New Left« as well as a Trotskyist Organisation, members of the social-democratic trade union, which had left the »Luxembourg Socialist Workers Party« (LSAP), and left-minded individuals that have not organised in any party.
The decision to participate in that alliance was not taken on a theoretical basis, but for tactical reasons, with the aim to improve the opportunities for KPL at the parliamentary election of June12th, 1999 as well as for the communal elections four months later. However there was no profound discussion about the principles of the communist policy of alliances before the decision was taken.
But the members of the CC had been aware of the fact that the party would face a great challenge, since the political, ideological and even personal differences between communists and »renovators« continued to exist. It could not be excluded that several partners of the new alliance would misuse the co-operation to neutralize the KPL politically.
It was an additional disadvantage that the overwhelming majority of the comrades had neither theoretical knowledge nor practical experiences concerning the policy of alliance, because they had not witnessed the time of local alliances between communists and social democrats on communal level. Furthermore, about one third of the comrades had joined the KPL after 1990.
There also had been comrades who for principal reasons rejected any kind of co-operation, since they did not recognise that an electoral alliance of communists with social democrats and other left-wing forces can be useful – given the fact that the compromises necessary for such an alliance are not violating ideological or strategically important issues. One local group of KPL even abstained from establishing a list of candidates for the local elections and called for voting in favour of the social democratic LSAP. Other comrades did not want to shoulder the additional burden and abstained from participating in the election campaign.
From today’s point of view we have to evaluate that the alliance under the name of »déi Lénk« (the Left) was ill-fated from the very beginning, since the diverging concepts of the different partners of the alliance had not been finally discussed in the preparation process.
The communists did not succeed in implementing their proposal to define the co-operation as an election alliance of independent organisations. Instead an individual membership was adopted. Furthermore it was decided that the allowances of future deputies on national or communal level would be given to »déi Lénk«.
In the course of establishing the lists of candidates there have been many attempts to exclude candidates proposed by the KPL and to keep the number of KPL militants on the lists a low as possible. The electoral law in Luxembourg allows the voters to give individual votes for individual candidates, as well as for a complete list of a party, or even for individual candidates of different lists. On the other hand, the law does not allow the participating parties to give preferences to candidates on their lists. This does not favour alliances between two or more parties.
Unfortunately, in several cases machinations against communist candidates were successful. Even some members of the CC of KPL who had already broken their relatedness with the party and later publicly changed the side, have been involved in the intrigues. Inside the party a feeling of mistrust appeared and the organisational structure of the party was weakened. In that time the KPL already had big financial problems and had difficulties to maintain its printing house and the communist newspaper. Under those circumstances, the party leadership had to undertake bigger efforts to secure the property of the party. This went on the costs of other political activities.
As a result of the elections one deputy was elected into the national parliament and several common candidates on local level became deputies in the bigger working class cities in the south of the country. The candidates nominated by KPL had relatively good results. The consequence of this success was that the differences between the various components of the electoral alliance were not further discussed. But beyond the surface the intrigues against the communists went on, and there have been growing intentions to develop the electoral alliance into a political party.
This option had been formally excluded by all participants at the very beginning of the foundation of the electoral alliance. Nevertheless it became more and more clear that a certain part of the participants did have the agenda of forming a new political party and thus to destroy the Communist Party of Luxembourg. This could easily have happen, if the KPL would not have reacted.
In the course of 2002, the party leadership – some members were at the same time involved in the leading bodies of »déi Lénk« – had to reject again and again several attempts to prohibit activities or even own slogans of KPL on the occasion of public manifestations, as well as declarations of the party on national and international issues. Additionally those members of »déi Lénk« who were actives on international level systematically tried to make other communist and workers’ parties believe that the Communist Party of Luxembourg had ceased to exist. In some cases members of KPL, who later left the party, had been involved in those anti-communist activities. So the Communist Party of Luxembourg began to renew its direct contacts with other communist parties.
In February 2003, the electoral alliance refused to establish in a due time the list of candidates for the elections to the »European Parliament« in June 2004 and to give a guaranty that a certain number of KPL members would be included in the list, though the communists had strictly fulfilled all agreements. This was the beginning of the final break of the electoral alliance.
Before the Communist Party of Luxembourg announced the establishment of its own open list of candidates in April 2003, it sent a letter to the »National Co-ordinating Committee« of »déi Lénk« with a last attempt for an agreement on a joint list with equal representation of candidates nominated by KPL and »déi Lénk«. This was immediately rejected by »déi Lénk«, since some of the previous »renovators« and »new leftits« expected an easy success if there would be no KPL members on the lists. But at the parliamentary election in June 2004 neither KPL nor »déi Lénk« received a mandate in the national parliament.
At the parliamentary elections of June 2009, the KPL reached 2.1 per cent in the largest electoral district, but could not reach the four per cent necessary for a seat in the parliament. In 2012, the KPL after 18 years of absence reached communal mandates in the second and the third biggest cities of the country: in Esch/Alzette (5.25%) and Differdingen (4.84%), and in the city of Rümelingen (9.29%).
From today’s point of view we have to assess that the electoral alliance formed in 1999 under very unfavourable conditions with other left-wing forces in that time, easily could have been led to a disappearance of KPL from the political scenery.
However this unfortunate experience must not be used as a pretext to principally reject alliances with left-wing and social-democratic forces, since compromises in political issues – but never in ideological and in important strategic questions – belong to the normal practice of Marxism.
But in questions of the policy of alliances in general and of electoral alliances in particular it is in any case important to keep in mind basic considerations of the Communist movement. Otherwise there will be a great danger for the existence of the communist party.
Questions of alliances and in particular of electoral alliances always have to be analysed under the premises that they have to serve the task to create class consciousness, to win the majority of the working class for our aims and to enlarge our influence on other social strata.
Furthermore we have to take into account different national conditions and experiences. This means that our own analyses and conclusions can not be translated automatically to the conditions of other countries.
The most important principle has to be that the political ability of acting of the communist party must not be damaged or even endangered by the form of the alliance for the participation in elections. The organisational and ideological independence of the communist party has to be ensured. In other words: The communist party must not get carried away with the alliance, its independent action must not be restricted.
Friedrich Engels wrote in 1889 in a letter to the Danish social democrat Gerson Trier:
»For the proletariat to be strong enough to win on the decisive day it must – and Marx and I have advocated this ever since 1847 – form a separate party distinct from all others and opposed to them, a conscious class party.
But that does not mean that this party cannot at certain moments use other parties for its purposes. Nor does this mean that it cannot temporarily support the measures of other parties if these measures either are directly advantageous to the proletariat or progressive as regards economic development or political freedom.«
Engels continued writing that he »would by no means be unconditionally opposed to any and every temporary collaboration with« other parties »for definite purposes«, »provided that the proletarian class character of the party is not jeopardised thereby. For me this is the absolute limit.«
* Ali Ruckert is President of the Communist Party of Luxembourg
(1) German version: »Marx Engels Werke«, Band 37, Seiten 326 und 327, Dietz Verlag Berlin 1974
English version: Karl Marx and Frederick Engels, Selected Correspondence, Progress Publishers, Moscow, 1975