The federal elections in Germany held past sunday have seen some provisionally official results published. The result is, as was expected by many, a sufficient victory for the liberal FDP to allow a coalition with the conservatives of the CDU/CSU, especially after the major collapse of the votes for the social-democratic SPD, which suffered its worst result since 1953. This is not surprising, since the SPD campaign led by Frank-Walter Steinmeier was possibly the first in which the social-democrats no longer even bothered talking about improving the welfare of the workers, but instead focused on sniping away at the ruling party, implying that the task of running liberal capitalism should be left to them instead.
The German voters rejected this out of hand. Those whose heart still lies with a better organization of society went for the real thing, and voted for the excellent left-wing pluralist organism known as “Die Linke”, which increased its seat total by 22 and went from 8.7% to 11.9%. Those who were looking for undisguised management of capitalism also went for the real thing, namely the party of management and capital itself, the FDP, which with 14.6% of the vote also had the best result hitherto. It even bested the CSU, the collective of pompous Bavarian Catholic reactionaries, and as such will steer the new coalition in a decidedly liberal direction. Germany can expect from this the worst of both worlds, just like it has experienced the past four years with the ‘grand coalition’.
What was interesting as a phenomenon is the growth of the German left. Although it still shows weakness and vacillates on the inevitable point of the East German question, it has greatly gained in confidence and strength over the past decade or so. West Germany, of which the current federal state is the sole successor, has always been extremely hostile to the development of any real left in its midst, in order that it could justify its appeasement of its fascist layers with the threat of Communism and yet repress the latter in the name of its veneer of ‘democracy’. One of the first acts of the ‘democratic’ West Germany was for this reason to ban its large Communist Party, the KPD.
However, since the unification this right-wing faux consensus has found a real challenger in the vigorous revival of the left in the eastern parts of the country, where it not only has gotten large amounts of its vote, but even in some constituencies defeated the other parties in the first-past-the-post vote, and where it has drawn away much of the SPD’s support. The immense unemployment as well as the economic and moral collapse of the eastern parts has driven some in despair to the fascists, but it is noteworthy that despite the much broadcast small successes of the NPD, in all cases its real vote this election was dwarfed by that of the left forces. In a town like Frankfurt an der Oder, in the proportional vote the NPD received 2.8%, but Die Linke 31.4%. In much afflicted Rostock, the main city of the poorest land Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the proportional vote for the NPD was 2.3%, the vote for Die Linke 31.1%. Additionally, the constituency seat was taken by Die Linke’s candidate Steffen Bockhahn from the SPD incumbent. These and similar results show that the East German people are decisively rejecting the temptation of fascist backlashes, but instead are oriented towards a left reconstruction of their collapsed society.
This should come as no surprise, since to the shock and dismay of the extremely bourgeois German political establishment, a majority of inhabitants polled by the tabloid Der Spiegel indicated they preferred life in the old DDR.(1) Now we must not have too many illusions about that state, which was created as an anti-fascist bulwark by an accident of history and so was in essence a prison for its own inhabitants, if an imprisonment voluntarily sought by many; but what is more telling is the degree of disillusion with the ‘new’ Germany, not just with the old, but also with the young. It is heartening to see therefore that after a much more uphill battle, Die Linke is now also increasing its electoral performance and its political presence in the western parts of the country. In Saarland it showed great performances, aided by the leadership of Oskar Lafontaine (who represents West Germany in the two-man cooperative leadership of the party), himself a native of that area. Saarland is a much neglected former mining region, and a ripe ground for a charismatic and competent left politician to sow the seeds of progress, although it is still too close to the richest parts of Europe to be truly progressive. But perhaps more importantly there have also been steady increases in the traditional bulwarks of the SPD, although they too are too labor aristocratic and there is too little effective political presence of Die Linke to have any real results yet. Nonetheless, in the entire Ruhr there were across the board increases in the vote for Die Linke, and in Hamburg the vote was almost doubled. The average result of some 10% is probably the ceiling of what can be achieved on the basis of the current economic situation in those places, unless the labor aristocratic union movement in Germany becomes less hostile towards the real left as a result of the current crisis. It would also be suitable if the small sectarian Communist parties, such as the DKP and MLPD, joined Die Linke as platforms within their structure. There is sufficient internal freedom to make this possible, and it would push Die Linke to a more principled position on Communism in general.
In the meantime, Germany will have its just deserts, and be ruled by a decidedly neoliberal government. Given the almost unbelievable degree of bourgeois self-satisfaction and myopia prevalent in most of the western parts of Germany, this is no surprise. Nothing better indicates the current state of the porcine farmers’ greed in that country than the following quotation, as reported in The Guardian:
Beneath the sparkling chandeliers, coats of arms and high ceilings of Kloster Machern, near the studiously picturesque medieval village of Bernkastel, Matthias Knebel has joined a wine-tasting organised by the local growers’ association. The participants hold their glasses to the light, swirl the wine around, sniff, then slurp delicately, making a burbling, bubbling noise with their tongues. Then they spit the precious liquid into a pot and try another bottle.
“I don’t understand why people say there is no choice between the parties. I don’t think they are paying attention,” Knebel said. “The private sector produces 80% of tax revenue. The government has to make it easier for companies to create new business and jobs. But the SPD’s main idea is to increase the minimum wage. This is not affordable for me. In fact it’s ridiculous.”
1) Julia Bonstein, “Homesick for a Dictatorship: Majority of Eastern Germans Feel Life Better under Communism”. Der Spiegel (July 03, 2009).
2) Simon Tisdall, “German voters face poll conundrum”. The Guardian (Sept. 25, 2009).