Oskar Lafontaine [ ˌʔɔs.kʰaɐ̯ 'la.fɔn.tʰɛːn ] (born September 16, 1943 in Saarlautern , now Saarlouis ) is a German politician and publicist . From 1985 to November 9, 1998 he was Prime Minister of the Saarland . He was the SPD's candidate for chancellor for the federal election on December 2, 1990 (shortly after reunification ) and from 1995 to 1999 chairman of the SPD. After the federal election in September 1998 - Gerhard Schröder became Federal Chancellor - he took over the Federal Ministry of Finance in the Schröder I cabinet . In March 1999 he surprisingly resigned all political offices, including his parliamentary mandate. From then on he appeared as a critic of the red-green government course, while Schröder took over the chairmanship of the SPD as Chancellor.
In 2005, Lafontaine switched from the SPD to the newly founded election alternative Work & Social Justice (WASG). Through his initiative , this entered into an electoral alliance with the PDS in June of that year , which renamed itself Die Linkspartei.PDS . From 2005 to 2009 Lafontaine was with Gregor Gysi parliamentary group chairman of the left parliamentary group in the German Bundestag . From June 16, 2007 to May 15, 2010 he was next to Lothar Bisky party leader of the newly formed party Die Linke . He retired from both political offices for health reasons, but became politically active again at the state level after recovering. Since the state elections in Saarland in 2009 , in which he led the left to a landslide success with more than 20% of the vote, he has been chairman of the left in the Saarland state parliament . Since May 2012 he has also been the leader of the opposition there , although several times he unsuccessfully sought an alliance with the SPD at the state level.
Origin, studies, first job and private life
Lafontaine’s parents were the secretary Katharina Lafontaine, b. Furthermore (1915-2006), and the trained baker Hans Lafontaine (1916-1945), who was at the front when Oskar was born. He has a twin brother who was born a quarter of an hour before him and was named after his father as the firstborn, while he was given the first name of his mother's brother who died in the war. Katharina Lafontaine lived with her two sons, her mother and a sister in her parents' house in Dillingen - leases until the place was evacuated in December 1944 because of the approaching Allied troops. Then they found refuge in Pettstadt near Bamberg . When they returned to Lenten at the end of the war , 60% of the place that lay directly on the Siegfried Line was destroyed, including their parents' house, which they had to laboriously rebuild. There was no news from his father and he was considered missing for years until it became known in 1952 that he had died in Bad Brückenau (Bavaria) in April 1945, shortly before the end of the war , possibly on the way home from his last assignment in Berlin to Pettstadt where the family expected him.
In the Saarlouis district at that time over 90% of the residents were Catholic, and Katharina Lafontaine was one of the most zealous members of the Lenten community. Her sons were raised strictly Catholic. Oskar was noticed as a very bright student. After primary school, the twins came to the Episcopal Konvikt in Prüm in the Eifel at the recommendation of the Pachten pastor and attended the local Regino high school . For the nine-year-old Oskar, being torn out of the familiar environment with its diverse freedoms and the confrontation with the strict rules of the monastery was initially a shock, and he always felt the daily religious rituals in the Konvikt as a burden. In high school, however, he got good grades without much effort, and the Konvikt offered leisure activities in the fields of sports and music, where Oskar excelled as a center forward in football and as a singer. In gymnasium classes he showed a particular interest in boxing. A year before graduating from high school , he was expelled from the Konvikt and had to look for a room in Prüm because he and his comrades had been drinking beer in a pub.
After graduating from high school in 1962, Oskar Lafontaine began studying physics in Bonn . He had chosen the place of study because he could live there with a school friend with his uncle. From the second semester onwards , he received a scholarship for gifted students from the Bishop's Cusanuswerk , which was linked to a wide range of educational opportunities. According to Lafontaine, the actual course was carried out with "minimal effort"; He also read a lot, Albert Camus and Jean-Paul Sartre being his favorite authors, and attended lectures on philosophy and constitutional law . In 1965 he moved to Saarland University in Saarbrücken to be with Ingrid Bachert, whom he married in 1967. He completed his studies in 1969 as a physicist. The subject of his thesis was the breeding of barium titanate - single crystals .
Until 1974 he worked for the Versorgungs- und Verkehrsgesellschaft Saarbrücken mbH, from 1971 as a member of the management.
Lafontaine was married to Ingrid Bachert's first marriage (1967-1982). The second marriage (1982–1988) with the artist Margret Müller has a son (Frederic, * 1982). In 1988 Lafontaine had a nine-month relationship with the singer and songwriter Bettina Wegner . The third marriage (1993–2013) with Christa Müller has another son (Carl-Maurice, * 1997). On November 12, 2011, Lafontaine made his relationship with Sahra Wagenknecht public. His marriage to Christa Müller was divorced in February 2013. He has lived with Wagenknecht in Merzig (Saarland) since June 2012, and the couple has been married since December 22, 2014.
Lafontaine's twin brother Hans studied law in Saarbrücken and became a lawyer.
Political career until 1990
Saarland local and state politician
In 1966 Lafontaine joined the SPD, which he later justified with the correspondence between Christian charity and social democratic solidarity. He became chairman of the Young Socialists in Saarbrücken, which he had planned to take over together with his deputy and long-term party partner Reinhard Klektiven . Lafontaine's political focus was on local and state politics, not on participating in the revolutionary student protests of the time. Because of its rejection of the government price of the SPD in the grand coalition he joined in 1968 temporarily to the interest of the SED - travel squad , but already the following year Lafontaine more critical judged.
In 1968 Lafontaine was elected to the state executive committee of the Saarland SPD . From mid-1970 to 1975 he was a member of the state parliament . In the state capital of Saarbrücken, Lafontaine was first mayor from 1974 to 1976 , then, as successor to Fritz Schuster ( CDU ) , who was ill and who resigned prematurely, until 1985 mayor . In 1977 he also took over the state chairmanship of the Saar-SPD, which he was to hold until 1996.
As Lord Mayor, Lafontaine promoted the expansion of local public transport at the expense of private transport . Another focus was the equalization of the city budget, which also succeeded towards the end of Lafontaine's tenure. An important milestone in the history of the city of Saarbrücken is the redesign of the area around the run-down St. Johann market to a pedestrian zone , which is now a center of the city. The establishment of the Max Ophüls Festival also falls within his term of office as Lord Mayor.
In 1980 Lafontaine stood as a candidate for the office of Prime Minister. He led his party to a relative majority, but was not yet able to replace the black-yellow coalition under Werner Zeyer . In the municipal and European elections in 1984 , the first test for the state elections in the following year, the Saarland SPD expanded its lead over the Union, which also lost approval due to the unresolved steel crisis . Lafontaine's distinctive profile as an ecological peace politician helped prevent the Greens in Saarland from gaining strength . In the election campaign for the state elections on March 10, 1985 , he also announced that if he won the election, he would appoint the environmental activist Jo Leinen as environment minister. In this election, the SPD received 49.2% (CDU 37.3; FDP 10.0) of the vote and thus 26 of the 51 seats in the state parliament. On April 9, Lafontaine was elected Saarland's first social democratic prime minister. The election on January 28, 1990 (SPD 54.4%; CDU 33.4; FDP 5.6) and the election in October 1994 also resulted in absolute majorities in the SPD in the state parliament.
In his government declaration of April 24, 1985, Lafontaine named reducing the unemployment rate, which had risen to around 15%, overcoming the poor budget situation in the country and resolving the steel crisis as priorities. In order to obtain funding for the industrial restructuring of the state, the Saarland filed a lawsuit with the Federal Constitutional Court against the state financial equalization scheme . The court recognized the budgetary emergency of the Saarland; The financial resources that were thus allocated and the banks' debt relief led to a short-term alleviation of the budget problem. After Saarland took over a majority of the shares in ARBED Saarstahl in 1986 and the corporate structures were consolidated, there were further layoffs and early retirements; these were designed to be more socially acceptable than under the previous government. The restructuring and the recovery in the steel industry in the second half of the 1980s made the concept partially successful.
As one of the first official acts, the new state government repealed the radical decree of 1972, making Saarland the first federal state without this regulation. Thanks to good personal relationships with Erich Honecker , Oskar Lafontaine achieved a noticeable incoming order from the GDR for Saarland products. In 1985 Lafontaine spoke out in favor of recognition of the citizenship of the GDR , for which he received no approval and some criticism in the SPD executive committee . In 1985, Saarland was the only federal state to end payments to the central registration office of the state justice administrations , which had been jointly supported by all federal states and documented human rights violations in the GDR.
The school landscape in Saarland changed with the introduction and recognition of comprehensive schools as mainstream schools and the closure of numerous smaller schools. In addition, the lessons have been expanded to include the possibility for social organizations to provide information in schools. In general, these efforts were aimed at reassessing and upgrading peace education .
Working in the peace and environmental movement
In 1979, in the context of the growing West European peace movement , Lafontaine took a position against the NATO double decision that had been advocated by the social-liberal coalition . If negotiations failed, he saw the missile deployment announced in it not as a retrofit, but as an upgrade and, in this case, called for the Federal Republic of Germany to withdraw from NATO . This made him, alongside Erhard Eppler, the spokesman for internal party opponents of the double decision. In the course of 1982 these won a majority within the SPD base. This contributed decisively to the end of the social-liberal coalition, so that Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt lost his office on October 1, 1982 through a constructive vote of no confidence in Helmut Kohl in the Bundestag . In the course of the dispute over the attitude of the SPD to the NATO double resolution, Lafontaine incurred Helmut Schmidt's lifelong aversion to an interview given to STERN in 1982, in which he stated that with the secondary virtues praised by Chancellor Schmidt, sense of duty, predictability, feasibility and steadfastness could be used one “also run a concentration camp”.
On September 1, 1983, Lafontaine took part in a three-day sit-down in front of the US military depot on Mutlanger Heide , which was intended to be the site of Pershing II missiles, with thousands of opponents of rearmament, including some celebrities . He published his views on defense policy in 1983 in the book Fear of Friends. The nuclear weapons strategy of the superpowers destroys the alliances .
Lafontaine also made a name for himself as a representative of ecological socialism. The book The Other Progress (1985) contains his thoughts on the connection between personal responsibility in work and the future of the environment and economy. Progress can only be achieved if the “fight against the exploitation of man” is combined with the “fight against the exploitation of nature”, that is, the social with the ecological question. He explains that progress can also be achieved without growth and explains the steps on this path that is necessary for him. He also criticizes the previous growth and environmental policy of the SPD and attributes the destruction of the environment to an alienation of humans from nature through their diminishing self-determination in working life. Politically, he draws the conclusion that there will be cooperation between the SPD and the Greens and that nuclear energy must be dispensed with.
Program author in the SPD party executive
In 1987 Willy Brandt proposed Lafontaine as his successor in the office of SPD party chairman in order to bring about a generation change. But this initially refused. After Brandt's resignation from the chairmanship of the party, he was elected as a representative of the party left alongside Johannes Rau as deputy to the newly elected federal chairman of the SPD, Hans-Jochen Vogel .
In addition, Lafontaine took over the management of the commission that was supposed to work out the SPD's new basic program. It was adopted as a Berlin program at the Berlin party congress in December 1989 and committed the party to international cooperation for disarmament, equality for women in work and society, ecological modernization of the economy and structural reform of the social security systems. In this context, Lafontaine also advocated reductions in working hours without full wage compensation in agreement with works councils and workforces, as well as a more open attitude towards weekend work and longer machine running times. This brought him into opposition to the West German trade union associations . Since then he has been considered a “modernizer” there.
Attitude towards reunification in autumn 1989
Even before the events of autumn 1989, Lafontaine considered the idea of the nation state in the age of European integration to be out of date: "The nation state has already outlived the reasonableness of its idea."
After the fall of the Berlin Wall , he said he wanted to avoid a collapse of the GDR economy and political complications with the four victorious powers of World War II . In order to persuade GDR citizens to stay in their homeland, he proposed economic aid for the GDR . On November 27, 1989, he also advised that the influx of GDR citizens into the Federal Republic should be limited administratively. He commissioned the Saarland State Chancellery to examine whether the move could be made legally dependent on proof of residence and work in the West. On November 28, 1989, Chancellor Helmut Kohl surprisingly presented his ten-point program for German reunification . In it he advocated a confederation of the two German states as an intermediate step towards German unity, but left open the recognition of the Oder-Neisse border and the alliance of united Germany.
Lafontaine’s negative attitude towards Germany’s policy of the Federal Government at the time met with criticism from party friends. The SPD party chairman Hans-Jochen Vogel accused him with the support of Johannes Rau and Herta Däubler-Gmelin in a conflict-laden SPD presidium meeting on December 10, 1989: “They are taking down walls and you are trying to erect them.” Thereupon Lafontaine warned at the Berlin party congress of the SPD on December 18, 1989 from “national drunkenness”. He commented on the recently publicly raised demand by Chancellor Advisor Horst Teltschik for membership of a united Germany in NATO: “What historical nonsense!” Lafontaine criticized the fact that Kohl had not coordinated his plan with the victorious powers of the time. This criticism was shared by François Mitterrand , Margaret Thatcher and Mikhail Gorbachev , who at the time still wanted to preserve the statehood of the GDR and rejected the eastward expansion of NATO.
Lafontaine described Kohl's plans as priceless and received approval from the then Bundesbank President Karl Otto Pöhl . Like many SPD politicians, he believed that “re-unification” would set the wrong political priorities and reawaken fears of German superiority in other European countries. He emphasized social democratic internationalism and strived for state unity as a consequence, not a prerequisite for approximately equal living conditions and development opportunities: For him, “it is not about unity within a border. The people in the GDR want unity in prosperity ”. However, he agreed with many East German civil rights activists that the GDR should first reform itself politically and economically without Western pressure. To this end, he advocated a confederation of the two German states as part of a pan-European unification process. Lafontaine did not ask whether the neighboring countries wanted to merge into a united Europe at all.
On the other hand, Willy Brandt, Hans-Jochen Vogel, Hans Apel and Helmut Schmidt advocated state reunification for the old SPD and younger East German Social Democrats like Markus Meckel , Richard Schröder and Wolfgang Thierse . His opponents inside and outside the SPD accused Lafontaine of wanting to prevent state unity and of having no concept of his own for the unification process. Because of these differences, too, the political and personal relationship between Lafontaine and Willy Brandt was shattered.
Chancellor candidate of the SPD and assassination attempt in 1990
After his election victory with 54.4 percent in the state elections in Saarland on January 28, 1990, Lafontaine was unanimously nominated by the SPD executive board as a candidate for chancellor for the 1990 federal election. He then consulted extensively with party friends and European economic experts, including Helmut Schmidt, Bundesbank President Karl Otto Pöhl, EC Commission President Jacques Delors and union leader Franz Steinkühler . They partially agreed to his rejection of a rapid economic and monetary union between the GDR and the Federal Republic. He made his candidacy for chancellor dependent on the agreement in the SPD. Lafontaine expected that the next federal election campaign would only take place in West Germany and therefore primarily addressed West German voters. It was not until July 1990 that the first all-German elections were set for December 2, 1990. After that, according to some analysts, he adjusted the SPD election strategy too late. Before the election, the former Chancellor Helmut Schmidt Lafontaine predicted a “deserved defeat” because of his fundamental attitude towards Germany.
In the run-up to the GDR Volkskammer election in 1990 , Federal Chancellor Kohl surprisingly announced an imminent monetary union on February 13, 1990, without initially setting an exchange rate . At the following SPD party congress in Leipzig from February 22 to 25, 1990, Lafontaine presented his economic and socio-political concerns. He feared and warned that the monetary union would make large parts of the industrial and agricultural economy of the GDR suddenly uncompetitive, lead to their collapse and millions of unemployed . He expected tax increases and decades of billions to be transferred to the accession areas and pointed out that this would weaken investment in the old Federal Republic, cause job losses there too, and thus endanger social cohesion throughout Germany. He appealed to the council of experts to assess the overall economic development and advised to reform the economy of the GDR step by step in order to preserve its sales markets and to strengthen its competitiveness vis-à-vis western companies. Instead of abruptly introducing the D-Mark , a fixed exchange rate should be aimed for for the GDR-Mark . After the Bundesbank had recommended an exchange rate of 2: 1 in April and thus triggered strong protests in the GDR, he abandoned his recommendation and now advocated an exchange rate of 1: 1 for all savings, wages and pensions in order to increase purchasing power in the East to strengthen after monetary union has taken place.
On April 25, 1990, Lafontaine was critically injured by the mentally ill Adelheid Streidel with a knife stab near the carotid artery during an election campaign appearance in Mülheim (Cologne) . In the weeks of his treatment and recovery from the attack, the SPD parliamentary group deviated from his course. The assassin was only released from psychiatry in 2014. Lafontaine was not informed of the release by the authorities.
On May 18, 1990, the incumbent federal government agreed the state treaty on monetary, economic and social union with the new, democratic GDR government . It was decided that the GDR would take over the economic and socio-political system of the Federal Republic in one step. In a secret vote by the SPD parliamentary group, the majority followed Willy Brandt's recommendation to approve this contract in the Bundestag . Because of the lack of support for his course, Lafontaine then offered within the party his resignation from the candidacy for chancellor. But no one else on the SPD federal executive board was ready to run. In the subsequent vote in the Federal Council on June 22, 1990, only Saarland, ruled by Lafontaine, and Lower Saxony, ruled by Gerhard Schröder , rejected the State Treaty on Monetary Union .
After the British and French had given up their reservations about the national unity of Germany, the Bundestag and Bundesrat passed the unification treaty on September 20 and 21, 1990 with the votes of the SPD parliamentary group and all SPD-led federal states . This enabled the GDR to join the Federal Republic with the necessary two-thirds majority in accordance with Article 23 of the Basic Law, which officially took place on October 3rd. The course of events had thus overtaken Lafontaine's concept. In December 1990 he lost the first all-German federal election . After that he initially withdrew from federal politics, renounced the SPD chairmanship offered to him and remained Prime Minister of the Saarland.
In an interview with the Saarbrücker Zeitung on September 29, 2010, Lafontaine replied to the question: “Do you admit that you yourself made mistakes in 1990?”: “I underestimated the unity euphoria, simply overestimated the rational argument. The truth is not always popular. "
Politics in reunified Germany
Chairman of the SPD
Lafontaine was President of the Federal Council from November 1, 1992 to October 31, 1993 . It was not only during this time that he was involved in preventing legislative proposals from the Federal Government led by Helmut Kohl, which were dependent on the approval of the state majority, from failing in the Federal Council . He was also significantly involved in the so-called Petersberg Turnaround of the SPD, which led to the " asylum compromise " of 1992 and the approval of the Social Democrats for military operations within the framework of UN peace missions .
In 1994, Lafontaine was confirmed as a member of the German Bundestag by direct mandate with 56.4 percent of the votes in his Saarbrücken constituency . Before the Bundestag election in 1994 , he belonged to the SPD “ Troika ” together with Gerhard Schröder and the SPD candidate for Chancellor Rudolf Scharping and was a candidate for the office of Federal Minister of Finance. The SPD lost the election despite gaining 36.4 percent of the vote.
In the period that followed, Scharping was unsuccessful as an opposition leader and lost approval within the party, especially when he dismissed Schröder as the SPD's economic spokesman. Lafontaine often took on a mediating and balancing position between the two poles of Scharping and Schröder during this time of internal party conflict. But he publicly disagreed when Scharping advocated foreign deployments of the German armed forces outside the NATO treaty area. After an inspiring speech (especially in contrast to Scharping's contribution) at the SPD party congress in Mannheim , several delegates invited him to run as party leader. In the fight vote on the following day, November 16, 1995, he prevailed with 321 to 190 votes (62.6%) and replaced Scharping as party chairman. This was widely referred to in the media as a “coup”.
In March 1996, Lafontaine praised the reception and support of Germans from Russia and ethnic repatriates as a culture of humanity. He named this immigration of 220,000 resettlers annually as one of the reasons for the imbalance in the statutory social security systems in the course of the 1990s and advocated a limit on the number of resettlers. He found criticism for this, among other things, within the SPD and from the Greens. The then Foreign Minister Klaus Kinkel replied that the expenses for the admission were manageable. Instead of following Lafontaine's suggestion, the government reacted to the high level of immigration, among other things by significantly reducing pensions and providing integration assistance for repatriates.
In 1997 Lafontaine had the tax reform planned by the CDU / FDP coalition - the so-called Petersberg model - blocked in the Federal Council and at the same time won public approval in the Bundestag with an alternative proposal. In doing so, he created an essential prerequisite for Helmut Kohl's replacement as Federal Chancellor. He also ensured that the question of the SPD's candidate for chancellor for the 1998 Bundestag election was kept open for a long time and that the election program was first determined. Important demands such as a training place fee in the event of a shortage of apprenticeships, an ecological tax with a simultaneous reduction in social security contributions and the withdrawal of the pension cut, were enforced by him. As early as 1991, he had determined that the SPD would not participate in NATO war missions. After Gerhard Schröder's victory in the state elections in Lower Saxony on March 1, 1998, Lafontaine called him chancellor candidate for the federal election on September 27. In the election campaign that followed, both emphasized their political agreement.
In 1992 the news magazine Der Spiegel found out that Lafontaine's pension entitlements from his time as Lord Mayor of Saarbrücken were not properly offset against his remuneration as Prime Minister and that he had received too much money. This made headlines in the nationwide media as the “pension affair”. The error was due to an unclear provision in civil service law that the previous CDU government had introduced. After an expert opinion by the financial lawyer Hans Herbert von Arnim had proven the facts and the Saarland Court of Auditors had supported the opinion of the Spiegel, Lafontaine paid back around 230,000 DM without legal proceedings.
In 1993, the journalist Kuno Haberbusch researched for the news magazine Panorama about relations between Lafontaine and some Saarbrücken nightspots in the 1970s. One spoke of the "red light affair". For Der Spiegel , Lafontaine was “suspected of having served some characters from the milieu with favors”. The latter did not deny that he had stayed in the bars more often, but rejected all the suspicions derived from them and criticized them as "pig journalism". He prevented the broadcast of an NDR report on the case by a court order . In 1994, with a majority of the SPD, he implemented an amendment to Saarland press law , which forbade editorial comments on counter-statements on the same page. Lafontaine called for the following restrictions on press freedom:
- Counter-notifications must appear uncommented, although their truthfulness is not checked by anyone.
- Comments by the editors (“editorial tail”) may only be printed in a later edition of the newspaper and must be limited to “actual” information.
- Commenting, including false counter-statements, is generally prohibited.
- Affected persons can obtain counter notifications against photos.
- Judges who decide on replies should advise the applicants on the drafting of the text.
The change went down in press history as "Lex Lafontaine". This encroachment on press law met with considerable resistance from the media and journalist organizations. In March 2000, the Saarland state parliament changed the controversial rules on counter-notification after the SPD had lost its majority in the state elections on September 5, 1999.
Federal Minister of Finance 1998/1999
After winning the election, Lafontaine was appointed Federal Minister of Finance in the Schröder I cabinet on October 27, 1998 . After an initial rejection by Schröder, he achieved an expansion of competencies for his department, in which u. a. the unit for the annual economic report has been included. Thus the Ministry of Finance, modeled on the British was Treasury (Treasury) adjusted to a Keynesian (demand-driven) fiscal policy to allow. Jost Stollmann , a non-party young entrepreneur whom Schröder had presented in the election campaign as a candidate for the now downsized Ministry of Economics , then announced that he would not join the cabinet.
Lafontaine later appointed Heiner Flassbeck and Claus Noé as his state secretaries, who had conceptually prepared his demand-oriented financial and tax policy. In the coalition negotiations with the Greens , he rejected their demand for a lower top tax rate. He influenced important personnel decisions and prevented Scharping from being chaired by the SPD parliamentary group again. When filling the office of the President of the Bundestag , the Head of the Chancellery and the Minister of Health, he was unable to assert himself with his personnel proposals. In the public perception, Lafontaine still dominated the negotiations and was soon seen as the “traditionalist” and “shadow” of the Federal Chancellor who allegedly blocked important reform projects.
In the first few weeks of the red-green government, Lafontaine implemented some of the promises made in the election manifesto and obtained the repeal of a number of laws passed under Kohl. He again secured 100% wages for employees in the event of illness for the first six weeks, revised the restrictions on protection against dismissal in smaller companies, reintroduced bad weather allowance and introduced a posting law for foreign construction workers as well as an immediate program to reduce youth unemployment. As a result, the alliance for work between trade union representatives, employers' associations and the government, which had collapsed in Kohl's last year in office, was initially renewed.
In the following months there were coordination problems, conflicts and alienation between Lafontaine and Gerhard Schröder at various points. One point in the SPD's 1998 election program was the compulsory social insurance for 630 DM jobs. To compensate for this, the low-wage sector free of social contributions should be expanded. In Schröder's government declaration, however, there was talk of letting the insured bear half of the social security contributions themselves. According to Schröder's will, corporate taxation should also be reduced to 35 percent in the long term, contrary to the agreements made before the election. Schröder's decision to limit the ecological tax to six pfennigs per liter of petrol also posed problems for the finance minister.
In the run-up to the state elections in Hesse in February 1999, Lafontaine pleaded for a consensus with the Union parties on the planned new citizenship law . The red-green parliamentary group leaderships and responsible ministers rejected this. The CDU / CSU signature campaign against the reform of German citizenship law and the conditional right to naturalization for foreigners living in Germany was successful: the SPD and the Greens lost the Hessen election and thus the majority in the Bundesrat.
Lafontaine received criticism in early 1999 for his attempts at the European Central Bank to lower the key interest rate , which took place in February 1999, and to control the international financial markets. He proposed a regulation of short-term capital movements to curb the speculative profits of hedge funds and stable exchange rate target zones through international agreements. The main features of these ideas came from US Federal Reserve President Paul Volcker . A conference of G7 finance ministers and central bank governors, at which Oskar Lafontaine promoted his reform proposals in the international financial system, did not go well for the German negotiating side.
On March 10, 1999, Schröder declared at a cabinet meeting that an anti-business policy “could not be done with him”. The following day, the Bild newspaper said he had threatened to resign and particularly attacked Lafontaine - but according to him, the criticism was directed at Environment Minister Jürgen Trittin and Family Minister Christine Bergmann . The Chancellor did not deny the threat to resign. A G33 seminar on the international financial architecture was scheduled for March 11th on the Petersberg near Bonn, from which the German side expected considerable progress in reforming the monetary system. On the same day, March 11, 1999, Lafontaine announced his resignation from the office of Federal Minister of Finance. At the same time he resigned the chairmanship of the SPD and his mandate in the Bundestag. In a short press release three days later, he justified his withdrawal from all offices with the "bad team game" in the government. He does not want to give any further details in order not to harm the government.
On March 18, 1999, Oskar Lafontaine was released by Federal President Roman Herzog in Bellevue Palace in Berlin ; he was in the ministerial office for a total of 142 days. Like every Federal Minister of Finance, he was Chairman of the Board of Directors of KfW Bankengruppe .
After resigning in 1999
Critic of the Kosovo war and author
On May 1, 1999, Lafontaine came out publicly at rallies of the German Federation of Trade Unions with sharp criticism of the NATO bombing of Serbia , which began on March 24 . In October 1999 he published his book The Heart Beats Left , in which he gave detailed reasons for his resignation. The main reason he cited was a lack of solidarity within the government. Personal injuries also became clear: the alienation between him and Schröder had already started after the Lower Saxony election in 1990. According to Lafontaine, Schröder said to him "in his inimitable charm":
"The stab in the throat brought two percent."
He had consciously relived the trauma of the attack in 1990 in the months after the SPD's 1998 election victory, for which he had worked for years; his resignation is also a long-term consequence. He doesn't want to sacrifice his life to politics and devote himself to his family. He had planned to resign anyway, but brought this forward after the disappointing government experience.
Opponent of Schröder's social policy
After his resignation, Lafontaine criticized the Chancellor's change of course towards what he saw as an anti-worker social, economic and tax policy based on many individual examples. The Schröder-Blair paper , a statement Schroeder and Tony Blair of May 1999 for the modernization of industrial society , he saw - for example, the French Socialist Lionel Jospin - as a departure from the social democratic values and turn to neoliberalism . Lafontaine called for the SPD to return to its 1998 program, but was largely isolated in his party after the publication of his book The Heart Beats Left .
In April 2000, at a party convention of the Saarland SPD, Lafontaine admitted complicity in the poor performance of the Social Democrats in some state elections. At the same time he declared that he wanted to participate in programmatic decisions of the SPD. Lafontaine refused to work at the federal level.
Lafontaine again received public attention with various proposals. In September 2003 he advised the Eastern SPD to merge with the PDS. He denied speculation about a renewed top candidacy for the Saarland SPD in the state elections in 2004 only late. In a ten-point program for the special party conference of the SPD on March 21, 2004, he called for the "withdrawal of the zero round for pensioners", "removal of the practice fee " and "withdrawal of citizenship of Germans taxing abroad", so voters for the To win back the SPD and to promote an intra-party discussion about Schröder's course.
In the case of the kidnapped and murdered Jakob von Metzler , Lafontaine supported the threat of violence by the Frankfurt Police Vice-President Wolfgang Daschner on May 17, 2004 : he would have acted the same in his situation. The prohibition of torture in the Basic Law applies “not only to the criminal, but also to the kidnapped child”. Punishing Daschner is a "disaster for the rule of law". This should not “watch inactive”, “how a child is tormented and tortured”: If the perpetrator is then established, threats of violence must be allowed.
In August 2004 Lafontaine supported the establishment of assembly camps for people wishing to enter North Africa, which Otto Schily had called for . He continues to justify this attitude today with the poor chances of foreign workers on the German labor market and a failed integration, which generates growing drug crime and xenophobia . “Unregulated” immigration increases unemployment.
On August 30, 2004, Lafontaine took part in the demonstrations against the Hartz IV legislation as a speaker at one of the Monday demonstrations against cuts in welfare in 2004 in Leipzig. In the renewed SPD election defeat in Saarland on September 5, 2004, the federal executive committee of the SPD gave him a considerable complicity.
Leaving the SPD (2005)
On May 24, 2005, Lafontaine announced his exit from the SPD, which had been announced the previous year. On the same day, he agreed to support a left-wing alliance made up of the WASG and PDS in the early 2005 Bundestag election. He returned his party membership card on May 30th - membership ended formally after almost forty years.
To this day, Lafontaine cites the SPD's departure from the Berlin program as the reason for this step. SPD representatives accuse him of joining the Left Party only because of a disturbed relationship with his former party.
New party political activities
Entry into the WASG and return to the Bundestag (2005)
After the governing bodies of the PDS and WASG had agreed on joint candidacy models for the 2005 federal election , Lafontaine announced on June 10, 2005 that he would stand for the left-wing alliance together with Gregor Gysi. On June 18, he joined the WASG together with his wife. On July 30, the NRW state members' assembly of the PDS in Essen elected him to the top of their open list for the federal election. He also ran for a direct mandate in the Saarbrücken constituency , where he received third place behind the local SPD and CDU candidates with 26.2 percent of the first votes. During the 2005 election campaign, the SPD saw the left alliance predominantly as a “very clear challenge” ( Franz Müntefering ) to the Agenda 2010 policy introduced by Schröder .
Since the federal election on September 18, 2005, Lafontaine was again a member of the German Bundestag and shared the chairmanship of the Left Party with Gregor Gysi in the 16th electoral term . He criticized Schröder's claim to the Chancellery on election evening as “puberty behavior”.
From 2005 to 2009, Oskar Lafontaine was a member of the Joint Committee , which, after a state of defense had been declared, acts as an emergency parliament, acting as the Bundesrat and Bundestag. From 2005 to 2009, as a member of his parliamentary group, he was a member of the board of directors of KfW Bankengruppe in Frankfurt am Main.
Left Party Chairman (2007)
On December 29, 2005, Lafontaine declared in writing to the Saar regional executive that he would join the Left Party. In November 2006, he announced to trade union representatives and works councils in the Saarland wayside shrine that he would run as the top candidate for the Left Party united with the WASG in the 2009 state elections. On June 15, 2007, the two organizations merged to form the new party Die Linke . The following day, Lafontaine was elected chairman with Lothar Bisky at their founding party convention, with 87.9 percent .
In August 2008, the Saarland state association of the party Die Linke nominated Lafontaine as the top candidate for the 2009 state elections at a state party conference . The Left was the third strongest party with over 20 percent of the vote. Coalition negotiations with the SPD and the Greens failed because the Greens, led by Hubert Ulrich , decided to form the government with the CDU and FDP as part of a Jamaica coalition .
Group leader of the Left Party in Saarland (2009 to date)
On October 9, 2009, Lafontaine announced that he would not run again for the parliamentary group chairmanship. One month later, on November 17, 2009, he announced that he was going to undergo surgery because of his cancer and would then decide whether to continue his political work. After it was reported that the procedure for prostate cancer had been successful on November 18, 2009, Lafontaine made political appearances for the first time in January 2010. Shortly afterwards, however, he announced at a board meeting that he would give up his Bundestag mandate for health reasons and refrain from running again for party chairman at the party congress in Rostock. On February 1, 2010, Lafontaine resigned from the German Bundestag; Yvonne Ploetz from Saarland moved up for him . In April 2013, Lafontaine announced that he would not run in the 2013 federal election.
In the state elections in Saarland in 2009 , Lafontaine stood as the top candidate of the left and reached 3rd place (21.3%). On September 9, 2009, the left-wing parliamentary group in the Saarland state parliament elected Lafontaine as parliamentary group chairman. In the state elections in Saarland in March 2012 , Lafontaine again ran as the top candidate of his party. The party lost while 5.2%, but was strongest opposition force, so that Lafontaine since the appointment of Kramp-Karrenbauer second Cabinet 9 May 2012 opposition leader was.
Xenophobia and Populism
On June 14, 2005, Lafontaine declared at a rally in Chemnitz that the state was “obliged to prevent family fathers and women from becoming unemployed because foreign workers are stealing their jobs at low wages.” “ Foreign workers ” was often used as an expression from the language of the National Socialism criticized, which Lafontaine used deliberately to exploit xenophobia and thus to win potential NPD voters for the new left alliance. Leading PDS members like Bisky and Bodo Ramelow therefore kept their distance from this choice of words.
After the 2017 federal election , Lafontaine publicly attacked Kipping and Riexinger . The “failed refugee policy” is “the key to the lack of support” from those “who are at the lower end of the income scale”. Large sections of the Left Party, including chairmen Riexinger and Kipping, accused Lafontaine of "feeding more or less clearly racially based resentment" in this context. Criticism came in particular from the Berlin regional association, which had been strengthened in the Bundestag election: State Secretary Alexander Fischer wrote that he was ashamed of the “speaking meanness” from Lafontaine's contribution. On the evening of the election, Berlin's top candidate, Klaus Lederer , told Lafontaine's wife Wagenknecht that the left should not allow the AfD to “dictate” the issues. In the conflict over how to deal with cross-front activists, Lafontaine then took sides with Ken Jebsen and against Lederer, who, as Berlin's Senator for Culture, had expressed concerns about an award ceremony for Jebsen in a cinema funded with state funds.
Political opponents today often classify Lafontaine as a populist . Hans-Ulrich Wehler criticizes that his book Politics for All serves populist resentment by speaking of the German people as a “community of fate”. For Frank Decker , Lafontaine is one of the German politicians with the greatest ability to address populist voters. Rafael Seligmann , Michael Wolffsohn and Wolfgang Schäuble referred to Lafontaine as demagogues . He also publicly advocated the closure of a television station critical of the government by Hugo Chávez ; In a comment, Mathias Döpfner , CEO of Axel Springer AG, accused him of a protectionist, nationalist and xenophobic worldview. There was also clear criticism of Lafontaine’s behavior in his own party. As chairman of the Berlin Left Party , Klaus Lederer said that one had to be careful not to believe one's own promise of salvation.
Opposition to the euro
Lafontaine is a proponent of the introduction of national currencies. He explained to the Saarbrücker Zeitung : "We need a better currency system in which there can also be national currencies, for example in Cyprus and Greece". Bernd Riexinger criticized him for this statement and declared that there was no one on the left who shared this demand.
Ukrainian civil war
Lafontaine criticized the US policy on Ukraine in the context of the war in Ukraine since 2014 and called US Defense Minister Ashton Carter “Minister of War” in June 2015 after he had announced the first relocation of heavy US military equipment to the NATO countries in Eastern Europe. Washington wants to temporarily station equipment for a combat brigade, including tanks and artillery. Lafontaine wrote on Facebook in June 2015 : “The US Secretary of War calls on Europeans to oppose Russian 'aggression'. The Europeans would have every reason to oppose the aggression of the USA. ”With his insult“ Fuck the US-Imperialism! ”At the end of the Facebook post, Lafontaine was referring to a statement made by US-Europe diplomat Victoria Nuland on the Ukraine crisis, who said in a telephone conversation with the US ambassador in Kiev: "Fuck the EU!" (freely translated: "The EU can do us!")
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- on the underlying facts see: spiegel.de of July 7, 2007, Solidarity with Chavez, Lafontaine defends press censorship in Venezuela
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- faz.net: America moves heavy military equipment to Eastern Europe , June 24, 2015.
|BRIEF DESCRIPTION||German politicians (SPD, WASG, PDS), MdL, MdB|
|DATE OF BIRTH||September 16, 1943|
|PLACE OF BIRTH||Saarlautern , today Saarlouis|