Oskar Lafontaine (German pronunciation: [ˈlafɔntɛn]; born 16 September 1943) is a German politician who served in the government of Germany as Minister of Finance from 1998 to 1999. Previously he was Minister President of the state of Saarland from 1985 to 1998, and he was also Chairman of the Social Democratic Party from 1995 to 1999. After having won the 1998 German federal election along with new Chancellor Gerhard Schröder, he resigned from all political offices, including his seat in the German Bundestag, only a half year later and positioned himself as a popular opponent of Schröder's policies in the tabloid press.
Oskar Lafontaine in 2017
|Leader of The Left|
16 June 2007 – 15 May 2010
Serving with Lothar Bisky
|Preceded by||Office established|
|Succeeded by||Klaus Ernst|
|Federal Minister of Finance|
27 October 1998 – 18 March 1999
|Preceded by||Theodor Waigel|
|Succeeded by||Hans Eichel|
|Leader of the Social Democratic Party|
16 November 1995 – 12 March 1999
|General Secretary||Franz Müntefering |
|Preceded by||Rudolf Scharping|
|Succeeded by||Gerhard Schröder|
|Minister President of Saarland|
9 April 1985 – 10 November 1998
|Preceded by||Werner Zeyer|
|Succeeded by||Reinhard Klimmt|
|Mayor of Saarbrücken|
1976 – 9 April 1985
|Preceded by||Fritz Schuster|
|Succeeded by||Hans-Jürgen Koebnick|
|Born||16 September 1943|
Saarlouis-Roden, Nazi Germany
|Political party||Social Democratic (until 2005) |
|Spouse(s)||Ingrid Bachert (1967–1982)|
Margret Müller (1982–1988) (1 son)
Christa Müller (1993–2013) (1 son)
Sahra Wagenknecht (2014– )
In the forefront of the federal election, 2005 and as a reaction to Schröder's Agenda 2010 social reforms, Lafontaine joined the newly founded party Labour and Social Justice – The Electoral Alternative in June 2005. Following the merger with the Party of Democratic Socialism in June 2007, he became co-chairman of The Left. After being diagnosed with prostate cancer in 2009, he announced his resignation from federal political functions in January 2010, citing health reasons. Having been cured from it, he has instead been member of parliament for The Left in Saarland since September 2009 and leader of the opposition since May 2012.
Family and educationEdit
Lafontaine was born in Saarlouis into a family of craftsmen. His father, Hans Lafontaine, was a professional baker and was killed serving in World War II. He spent his childhood living with his mother, Katharina (née Ferner), and his twin brother, Hans, in Dillingen.
He attended a Catholic episcopal boarding institution in Prüm and there was educated at the Regino-Gymnasium, a public school. He left school in 1962 and received a scholarship from Cusanuswerk, the scholarship body of the Catholic Church in Germany, to study physics at the universities of Bonn and Saarland. Lafontaine graduated in 1969; his thesis concerned the production of monocrystalline barium titanate. He worked for Versorgungs- und Verkehrsgesellschaft Saarbrücken until 1974, serving on its board from 1971.
Lafontaine has been married four times and has two sons by his second and third wives. In November 2011, Lafontaine officially presented fellow politician Sahra Wagenknecht as his new girlfriend, who is 26 years his junior. Since December 22, 2014 they have been married. He is a non-practising Catholic.
Lafontaine rose to prominence locally as mayor of Saarbrücken and became more widely known as a critic of chancellor Helmut Schmidt's support for the NATO plan to deploy Pershing II missiles in Germany. From 1985 to 1998 he served as Minister-President of the Saarland. In this position he struggled to preserve the industrial base of the state, which was based on steel production and coal mining with subsidies, and served as President of the Bundesrat in 1992/93.
Chancellor candidacy and assassination attemptEdit
Lafontaine was the SPD's candidate for Chancellor in the German federal election of 1990. He faced nearly impossible odds. The election had been called two months after the reunification of Germany, and the incumbent government of Helmut Kohl was in a nearly unassailable position.
At the "Mannheim convention" in 1995, he was elected chairman of the SPD in a surprise move, replacing Rudolf Scharping. He was mainly responsible for bringing the whole political weight of the SPD to bear against Kohl and his CDU party, rejecting bipartisan cooperation that had characterized German politics for many years. Lafontaine argued that any help given to Kohl would only lengthen his unavoidable demise.
Minister of FinanceEdit
During his short tenure as Minister of Finance, Lafontaine was a main bogeyman of UK Eurosceptics. This was because, among other things, he had called for the prompt tax harmonisation of the European Union, which would have resulted in an increase in UK taxes. In 1998, English tabloid "The Sun" called Lafontaine "Europe's most dangerous man". On 11 March 1999, he resigned from all his official and party offices, claiming that "lack of cooperation" in the cabinet had become unbearable. Until the formation of the Left Party he was known for his attacks against the Schroeder government in the tabloid Bild-Zeitung, which is generally considered conservative.
Leaving the SPD and formation of The Left partyEdit
On 24 May 2005 Lafontaine left the SPD. After two weeks of speculation it was announced on 10 June that he would run as the lead candidate for The Left party (Die Linke), a coalition of the Labor and Social Justice Party (WASG), which was based in western Germany, and the Left Party.PDS, which was the successor to the ruling East German Socialist Unity Party (SED). Lafontaine joined the WASG on 18 June 2005 and was selected to head their list for the 2005 Federal Election in North Rhine-Westphalia on the same day. Moreover, he also unsuccessfully contested the Saarbrücken constituency, which he had previously represented from 1990 to 2002. Nevertheless, the result of the Left party in the Saarland was by far the best in any of the federal states in the West of Germany.
In 2007, when the Left Party was formed in a merger between 'Left Party.PDS' and WASG, he became chairman alongside Lothar Bisky.
In May 2009, he declared that "Financial capitalism has failed. We need to democratize the economy. The workforce needs to have a far greater say in their companies than has been the case so far."
An article by Lafontaine on Erich Honecker, state and party leader of the German Democratic Republic and a fellow Saarlander, in the magazine Der Spiegel was criticised as laudatory by many observers. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, he tarnished his left-wing credentials with a plea for pro-business policies and a call for the reduction of the influx of Germans from Eastern Europe and asylum-seekers.
Lafontaine lives in a manor-like house, commonly known as the "palace of social justice" (Palast der sozialen Gerechtigkeit). When asked about whether this could be in conflict with his socialist ideas, Lafontaine said politicians of the left do not have to be poor, but they have to fight against poverty.
- Hoell, Joachim: Oskar Lafontaine. Provokation und Politik. Eine Biografie. Dirk Verlag EK, Lehrach 2004, ISBN 3-9806151-8-9.
- Lorenz, Robert: Oskar Lafontaine. Portrait eines Rätselhaften. Monsenstein und Vannerdat, Münster 2013, ISBN 978-3-86991-970-6.
- Lorenz, Robert: Techniker der „kalten Fusion“. Das Führungspersonal der Linkspartei. In: Tim Spier u. a. (Hrsg.): Die Linkspartei. Zeitgemäße Idee oder Bündnis ohne Zukunft? VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden 2007, ISBN 978-3-531-14941-7, S. 275–323.
- Das Lied vom Teilen. Die Debatte über Arbeit und politischen Neubeginn. Heyne, München 1989, ISBN 3-453-04001-5.
- Keine Angst vor der Globalisierung. Wohlstand und Arbeit für alle. Dietz Verlag, Bonn 1998, ISBN 3-8012-0265-8 (zusammen mit Christa Müller).
- Das Herz schlägt links. Econ Verlag, München 1999, ISBN 3-430-15947-4.
- Die Wut wächst. Politik braucht Prinzipien. Econ Verlag, München 2003, ISBN 3-548-36492-6.
- Politik für alle. Streitschrift für eine gerechtere Gesellschaft. Econ Verlag, München 2005, ISBN 3-430-15949-0.
- "Rückzug als Linken-Chef". Spiegel Online (in German). 23 January 2010. Retrieved 24 January 2010.
- Lafontaine und Wagenknecht – Linke Liebe. sueddeutsche.de, 12 November 2011. Retrieved 20 March 2012.
- "Oskar Lafontaine und Sahra Wagenknecht haben geheiratet". faz.net (in German). 21 March 2015. Retrieved 21 March 2015.
- Deutscher Bundestag: Lafontaine, Oskar Archived 27 September 2009 at the Wayback Machine, bundestag.de; accessed 16 September 2015.
- FT.com / Europe – New leftwing alliance to challenge SPD
- Interview with Left Party Leader Oskar Lafontaine: 'We Want to Overthrow Capitalism' – SPIEGEL ONLINE – News – International
- "Palast der sozialen Gerechtigkeit" (in German). Archived from the original on 2 December 2008.
- Linkspartei: Der Charmeur und der Chef – Bücher – Feuilleton – FAZ.NET
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Oskar Lafontaine.|
- (in German) www.die-linke.de – The German Left Party
- (in German) Oskar Lafontaine Information on the website of the parliamentary group Die Linke
- Will Germany Go Left of the Left? by Markus Deggerich, Der Spiegel, 25 September 2009
| Mayor of Saarbrücken
Hans-Jürgen Koebnick (SPD)
Werner Zeyer (CDU)
| Minister-President of Saarland
Reinhard Klimmt (SPD)
Theodor Waigel (CSU)
| German Minister of Finance
Hans Eichel (SPD)
|Party political offices|
| Chairman of the Social Democratic Party of Germany
| Co-Chairman of the Left Party
With Lothar Bisky
Klaus Ernst & Gesine Lötzsch