Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

Lothar Bisky, Die Linke, Dies.

with 5 comments

Bisky was somebody completely respected, and warmly liked, in his party – Die Linke,  and before that the PDS. He died unexpectedly on Tuesday, four days before his 72nd Birthday.

Neues Deutschland.

German politician Lothar Bisky has passed away. He had two spells as leader of the successor party to the East German communists and helped form the Left party.

Bisky’s death at the age of 71 was announced by the parliamentary leader of the Left party, Gregor Gysi, on Tuesday.

In a statement released later, Gysi and his two party co-chairs expressed their sorrow at the loss of one of the Left’s key figures since the fall of the East German communist regime and reunification.

In the statement. they said Germany had lost a great mover and shaker of recent times and that Europe had lost a dedicated champion of “the project of the political, social and economic unification of the continent.”

The statement also described him as a “leader and shaper of the Left party,” saying he had fought for a “strong German and European left-socialist party.” Deutsche Welle.

Der Speigel says,

Bisky was twice leader of the PDS: 1993-2000 (succeeding Gysi) and from 2003 to 2007. He took over after the merger of the PDS with the West German Election Alternative (WASG) together  with Oskar Lafontaine and they managed,  for three years,  the leadership of the new party “Die Linke”. At the party congress in Rostock in 2010, he did not run for office. His succesors were  Klaus Ernst and Gesine Lötzsch .

Bisky 2007-2010 was Chairman of the European Left – since 2009 he was a member of the European Parliament. In March 2012 Bisky resigned from the leadership  of Die Linke. He cited health problems as his reason.

“Left is unthinkable without him”

For Die Linke Bisky was, in recent years, powerful  integrating force. Again and again he managed to overcome the serious battles between the Eastern  and Western German parts of the Party, which regularly saped the Party’s morale. He resisted making sharp comments.  Bisky stood out with his pleasant manner from  some other top comrades. …

There is a Wikipedia entry on Lothar Bisky which highlights some, perhaps, less admirable aspects of his past. That is, about his links with the Stasi.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 18, 2013 at 11:22 am

5 Responses

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  1. Just to point out that I wrote this (heard it on Deutschlandfunk a few days ago, part of my continuing efforts to learn German), because as far as I can tell nobody on the English speaking left (apart from the ‘anti-Pabloite’ WSWS) seems to have written about Bisky – someone of great importance.

    Andrew Coates

    August 18, 2013 at 12:18 pm

  2. Without wanting to defend the Stasi I would point out that the German Wikipedia entry on Lothar Bisky and the Stasi is far more nuanced than the English entry you link to is. Bisky, who was a media scientist and rector of the film school in Potsdam, was allowed to travel to the west, to go to conferences, etc. As was always the case in the GDR, those, such as Bisky, who were permitted to go to the west on such visits, had to report back to the state on who they had met, what they had talked about, etc. This was possibly just as much about controlling those academics and functionaries, business people etc., who could go to the west as about getting information about those who they had dealt with while abroad. This information was then forwarded to the Stasi. Anyone who had such (indirect) contact with the Stasi would have been given a codename and would have had ‘their own’ files.

    There is also no evidence of Bisky having written or signed an agreement to work as a Stasi informer, which was almost always the case for those with a more ‘normal’ relationship with the Stasi (informing on workmates, colleagues, etc.) as opposed to having such reports forwarded to them without direct contact.

    Otherwise Bisky never really came across since 1989 as being anything but a left-ish social democrat, and certainly not a defender of Stalinism. In that he was certainly one of the better leaders and members of the PDS and then Die Linke.

    P.S. For learning German (or indeed, for any purposes) I would recommend Deutschlandradio Kultur as opposed to Deutschlandfunk, and maybe also Dradiowissen (if you can cope with the ‘youthfulness’ of it all). Dkultur is much less dry and often more informative. Deutschlandfunk tends to suck up to politicans far more and their interview technique seems often to consist of “Mr. Minister, please tell us why your policies are so good (and I promise not to interrupt you or even ask another question for the next six minutes)”. Unless the politician is on the left, of course. Also Bayerische Rundfunk (Bavarian radio) for proper, detailed, old-fashioned or even ‘Reithian’ radio news – e.g. at bayern2.de


    August 18, 2013 at 10:27 pm

  3. Thanks Dagmar, I didn’t post the text of the Wikipedia entry because I was wary of this kind of thing.

    A few days ago I found the Jacques Vergès English entry full of gaps – and other errors of judgement if perhaps not facts, given in the French one (which still has its faults).

    I very familiar with this history of Jacques Vergès, and no doubt this kind of problem is easy to find in many Wikipedia entries when you know stuff.

    Yes, as you say, Bisky sounded a decent chap – though politically a left socialist would probably disagree with him on some things.

    Deutschlandfunk is available at night on the Medium Wave here, which is why I listen to it.

    Also spoken formal German is of such beautiful clarity that I can understand it!

    Though as you say, that radio station is a bit dull.

    If I had the Internet at home I would primarily listen to France Culture – all the time!

    Andrew Coates

    August 19, 2013 at 11:44 am

  4. Persevere with the German Andrew. Tendance Coatesy. Left Socialist Blog. Berlin, Paris and Ipswich.

    Mick O

    August 19, 2013 at 12:12 pm

  5. It won’t be on medium (or long) wave for much longer – but yes, Deutschlandfunk has recently got rid of the fairly interesting night-time music programmes and replaced them with repeats of their dull daytime speech output, so, fair enough.

    Deutschlandfunk was originally meant as a propaganda’ station for East Germans, broadcast from the west*? It had a good reputation in the east as a source for reliable news and political commentary – until the night the Berlin wall came down. That evening the classical music concerts from the archives of the EBU were not interrupted, as the rules that normal programming would only be replaced in case of war or the West German president or chancellor dying….

    The GDR had a similar station, intended for listeners in the west, Deutschlandsender (renamed Stimme der DDR in 1971).


    August 19, 2013 at 2:38 pm

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