Carole Thoma says she is disappointed by the supposedly left-wing parties of government, the LSAP and Déi Gréng
Photo: Matic Zorman/Maison Moderne
As part of our Summer like no other series, Delano and sister publication Paperjam are publishing portraits of “young leaders” who might well shape the future of the grand duchy. Pierre Pailler has this sketch of the spokeswoman for left-wing party Déi Lénk.
“I never thought I would enter politics,” says Déi Lénk’s spokesperson, Carole Thoma. “I thought it was just old men talking about taxes.” The 29-year old from Dudelange says that prejudice has now been well and truly been buried.
Thoma’s real interest in politics began in 2011 in her hometown. At the age of 20, she was invited by friends to a meeting of the local branch of the Déi Lénk party, attended by André Hoffmann, one of the founders of Déi Lénk and an iconic figure of the left in Luxembourg. “He listens, he is very close to people, and during discussions he shows that politics is not just played out in parliament.”
Initially Thoma became engaged at the local level. “At first I understood nothing,” she admits. “But I worked and improved. From 2012 to 2015, I slowly learned about politics.” In 2014, she was elected spokesperson alongside Marc Baum. “It became more serious.” And her colleague helped her get a handle on the job. “I learned a lot in those years.”
For Thoma, “politics is learned in the field.” And, by her own admission, she was not predisposed to this: “At first, I didn’t like to talk in front of people. Even a roundtable in front of high school students, I thought it was horrible. But not knowing what to say, not saying the right things, that’s how you learn.”
And the lessons can sometimes be harsh. When she stood as a candidate in the 2013 national elections, she placed last on the list of the south constituency. “I was young and, in Luxembourg, it is difficult when you do not have a known surname.”
Like many in Luxembourg, politics is a family affair. “My mother also joined the local section of Déi Lénk,” Thoma says. “But after me,” she explains. In the 2018 legislative elections, with more experience and having created a name for herself as the party’s spokesperson, she came fifth on the list.
Concerned by social inequality, Thoma says she has a “rather left-wing” sensibility and the choice of the Déi Lénk was a natural one. She considers the party “the only one in Luxembourg that really tries to fight inequality. And not just by reforming, but by changing the way our society and our economy operate.”
She is disappointed by the left-of-centre LSAP. “Even though they are in government, inequality is growing,” she says. “They are too steeped in realpolitik, too much in favour of free trade agreements...” As for Déi Gréng, “they are even less to the left. They have no vision of an alternative society. It is becoming increasingly clear that we cannot fight climate change with our liberal system. I don’t even see their purpose anymore,” she says.
Reverse the balance of power
An engineer by profession (mainly bridges and tunnels) at TR Engineering, Thoma is also a member of the OGBL and has been a member of the Chambre des salaries (chamber of employees) for a year. “It is very interesting to regard legislation from a trade union point of view,” she reckons. “I don’t know if it has a huge impact, if members read our opinions, but it is a link in the system.”
But politics is a matter of patience, according to Thoma. “It’s a long war” that is played out both in parliament and in the field, talking to people. “Being an MP is the most important mandate one can hold in our democracy, so being elected to the Chamber of Deputies would be an honour,” she admits. But if changing the law is essential, the real political struggle consists in “changing the way people perceive our society, to reverse the balance of power. This is a change that must come from the people. That is why I am in politics: to participate in this change.”