Former GUE/NGL group leader Lothar Bisky, 1941-2013
Parliament Magazine

Parliament's GUE/NGL group president Gabi Zimmer commemorates the life and work of colleague and former group leader Lothar Bisky.

This summer, on 13 August, my friend, colleague, and comrade Lothar Bisky sadly and unexpectedly passed away. His death is a brutal loss and he will be thoroughly missed both as a valued member of our political group and as a prominent figure who shaped the history of the Left in both Germany and Europe.

Born into a poor family in Pommerania, now part of Poland, in 1941, his family were forced to leave and settle in West Germany in 1947. But Bisky knew that his unprivileged background meant he would not have the opportunity to go to university. It was for this reason that he moved to East Germany in 1959 at the age of 18 to undertake his university entrance diploma as he identified with the GDR's commitment to free education for all, a principle actively upheld in the East at the time, unlike in the West.

This was the beginning of Lothar's lifelong passion and commitment to the importance of universal education provision, and as was the case with all his convictions, he stuck to them rigorously and fervently, regardless of whether they went against the party line or not. He acted how and when he felt was appropriate, an 'anti-politician' in many ways. Yet although he knew how to stand his ground, he was at the same time someone who preferred to listen than to talk, a quiet authority on the Left. This capacity to listen and his modesty made him a profoundly human person whose work was appreciated across all party lines.

My friendship with Lothar goes back to 1989, where we worked together on the Left after German reunification. Lothar was instrumental in helping the old communist party shake off the shackles of Stalinism, emphasising the need for democracy and open-mindedness; principles he lived by. He was someone who fought for unity on the Left.

He was a member of the German bundestag from 2005 to 2009, before entering the European parliament in July 2009 as president of the GUE/NGL until 2012. As president he really influenced people by showing how important it is to be patient, open and interested in the views of others. He was also chair of the European Left party from 2007 to 2010.

During his time in the European parliament he was active on the culture and education Committee as well as on the delegation for relations with the People's Republic of China.

Widely respected beyond the confines of the European parliament and known for his commitment to a social Europe, Lothar Bisky was tolerant, loyal and remarkably cultured; an internationalist who was open to all, a humanist and completely faithful to his convictions.

For Lothar, culture was an intrinsic part of life and social justice and he'll be remembered above all for to upholding the importance of culture and his passion for film, as well as for all the years he worked towards building an open, innovative and democratic left at the European level.

Gabi Zimmer is chair of parliament's GUE/NGL group

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