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European Left Party elects Die Linke's Heinz Bierbaum as new president

THE European Left party congress in Malaga over the weekend elected Heinz Bierbaum, head of international relations for Germany’s Die Linke, as its new president, replacing his compatriot Gregor Gysi.

Mr Bierbaum, formerly general secretary of Frankfurt region’s IG Metall union, called for a “critical evaluation” of the group’s future given the reverses suffered by left-wing parties across the continent.

He acknowledged that member parties, which include the French, Spanish, Finnish, Austrian and Moldovan communist parties, Portugal’s Left Bloc, Die Linke and many more, have “different positions on whether the EU can be reformed” — but that should not stand in the way of greater co-operation between parties.

“Our problem is that we were unable to present ourselves as a credible political alternative,” he said, criticising the tendency of social democratic parties to adopt policies indistinguishable from those of the neoliberal right.

Together, Europe’s left parties could push for ending EU-imposed austerity and fighting for a massive programme of public investment, as well as a new industrial policy that ensures a clean energy transition while creating jobs and strengthening social and economic rights, he said.

And he said the left needed to develop a convincing response to the rapid digitalisation of the economy that is causing job losses, greater precarity at work and desperately requires a massive upgrade in skills and training for working-class people.

The alliance is seeking new affiliates, with Mr Bierbaum saying he wanted to see Podemos and La France Insoumise join.

He also threw his weight behind a further development of the European Forum, an initiative to build dialogue between progressive groups that has garnered the support of sections of the Greens and social democracy, as well as civil society and trade unions.

Mr Bierbaum expressed his desire to build a European party that is not only an umbrella organisation for the European left but which is also an actor in its own right with distinct identity and activities.

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