Left party before the party conference: party of contribution cheats

Membership in the Left Party is expensive, even for low-income earners. That’s why many pay less than they should. A motion wants to change that.

Expensive supporters: The Left Party does not come cheap Photo: dpa

Publicly, the Left Party is currently happy about the influx of many younger members. Indeed, at the end of the federal election year, the Left had 62,300 members, about 3,400 more than a year earlier. But if you look closely, the situation doesn’t look quite as positive as the party’s executive board claims. As internal documents obtained by the taz show, the average age has hardly changed between 20. In the western associations it is still in the mid-40s, in the eastern associations in the mid to late 60s.

Insiders cite the high turnover of members as the reason for this. Younger people who joined the Left Party in its founding phase or after its great electoral success in 2009 have since left the party again.

However, the Left Party should be most concerned about another statistic: The best contributors are members over 86 from the east. They pay an average of 22.64 euros a month. Nationwide, the contributions of older people from the new states are also important: East German members over 61 contribute about 49 percent of Germany’s total.

A motion from the Berlin chapter of Friedrichshain-Nordost is likely to cause some excitement at the Leipzig party conference in June. In it it concerns the contribution honesty of the members. According to the membership fee regulations, their membership fees are far higher than those of the SPD and the Greens – and also far higher than those of comparable European left-wing parties such as Podemos, Labour, the SPo or Groenlinks. Anyone earning between 1,700 and 1,900 euros net is to pay 55 euros a month. The minimum contribution for people with no income is 1.50 euros.

Resistance from the East

However, only a few people adhere to the contribution rules. On average, members in the east pay between euros a month, in the west between 4.30 (Saarland) and 12 euros (Bremen). "The contribution table misjudges the reality of life of the members," write the Friedrichshainers in their motion. They demand now of the federal executive committee a new contribution order with a clear reduction of the membership dues: "A goal is it to simplify the entrance and remain in the party for humans of all income classes."

The request encounters above all in some east land federations resistance. Thuringia’s treasurer Holger Hansgen, for example, argues in an internal letter that "it is precisely the high contributions of older members" that keep the party viable. And adds regretfully, "These members are increasingly leaving us due to age."

The Friedrichshainers do not take into account that the tax office deducts half of the contribution from the tax burden, says Hansgen. He finds the comparison with the lower contributions at SPD and Greens inadmissible: The two parties received corporate donations. Instead of a new contribution order with lower contributions he wants a campaign "contribution honesty".

According to information from the taz, the federal executive board is now trying to settle the dispute. In an amendment, it wants to delete the goal of a "significant reduction in membership fees" from the Friedrichshain proposal. Reason: It does not go "around lower contributions, but around a new contribution table, which comes the reality and the readiness for achievement of the members more near". However, a spokesman for the Federal Executive Board could not or would not confirm that the amendment, which is available to the taz, will actually be submitted by the Federal Executive Board.