Wed Nov 2nd, 2005 at 11:00:50 AM EST
How can one pass up quotes from Goethe in political discourse?? From the front page ~ whataboutbob
In the midst of coalition-building negotiations between SPD and CDU, SPD chairman and designated vice chancellor Franz Müntefering has announced his resignation from party chair by mid-November. Today, Münteferings choice for party secretary, Kajo Wasserhövel, was defeated 23-14 in a vote against Andrea Nahles by the SPD executive council. Nahles, a new member of parliament but despite her young age already a seasoned politician, is a well-known figure of the SPD's left wing.
The following verses are taken from Goethes' "Sorcerer's Apprentice" ("Der Zauberlehrling"), and they fit the situation quite well:
See him, toward the shore he's racing
There, he's at the stream already,
Back like lightning he is chasing,
Pouring water fast and steady.
Once again he hastens!
How the water spills,
How the water basins
Brimming full he fills!
Stop now, hear me!
Of your treasure
We have gotten!
Ah, I see it, dear me, dear me.
Master's word I have forgotten!
Off they run, till wet and wetter
Hall and steps immersed are Iying.
What a flood that naught can fetter!
Lord and master, hear me crying! -
Ah, he comes excited.
Sir, my need is sore.
Spirits that I've cited
My commands ignore.
Wanna read the poem in German?
Why is Müntefering the sorcerer's apprentice?
- Read below the fold!
Seht, er läuft zum Ufer nieder!
Wahrlich! ist schon an dem Flusse,
Und mit Blitzesschnelle wieder
Ist er hier mit raschem Gusse.
Schon zum zweiten Male!
Wie das Becken schwillt!
Wie sich jede Schale
Voll mit Wasser füllt!
Denn wir haben
Ach, ich merk es! Wehe! wehe!
Hab ich doch das Wort vergessen!
Und sie laufen! Naß und nässer
Wirds im Saal und auf den Stufen:
Welch entsetzliches Gewässer!
Herr und Meister, hör mich rufen! -
Ach, da kommt der Meister!
Herr, die Not ist groß!
Die ich rief, die Geister,
Werd ich nun nicht los.
While his master has gone, the sorcerer's apprentice, supposed to clean the house, tries to ease his work by using magic. He enchants the buckets and the brooms, and they begin to do the work. But when they are finished, they do not stop: The apprentice has forgotten the magic words to stop the spell. The house drowns in water until the master returns to spike the spook.
"Spirits that I've cited
My commands ignore":
In German, the sorcerer's apprentice's exclamation from Goethe's poem is a proverb. It is a proverb that fits Müntefering's situation quite well. The spirits he summoned to win the election (or, at least, to prevent a miserable defeat) have been succesful. By staging a lefty campaign, Müntefering and Schröder hadf an amazing rush in the polls, resulting in the SPD remaining in government. Müntefering, now on his own, does not need the lefty spirits any more. Quite the contrary: What use are they when negotiating bitter reform packages with the CDU? But he is unable to disenchant them, in the word's literal meaning. Because in the current coalition negotiations, the SPD's left wing was disenchanted (now in the common meaning of the word) by policy measures like raising the VAT from 16 to 18 or even 20 percent (categorically excluded by Müntefering before the elections) and raising the retirement age to 67 (massive opposition by the unions here).
By this vote, the left and even parts of the centrist "Seeheimer Kreis" within the SPD says: "If you are going to become vice chancellor on our social-policy-coattails, you will have to pay for it!" Since the price has not been payed in the currency of policy, the majority of the executive council took its refuge to personal politics: Now, the important position of party secretary will be filled by a representative of the left wing. To understand the scope of Müntefering's defeat, it is important to know that traditionally, the party secretary is only formally elected; in fact it is the party chairman who chooses him or her.
So, what about the consequences?
First of all, it is a major blow to Müntefering's position as chief negotiator with Angela Merkel. But moreover, it puts the whole coalition-building in jeopardy: What if Müntefering, ripped of his party's support, negotiates policy measures which will not be supported by the majority of the Social Democrats? If Müntefering's retreat is for real, who could possibly succeed him? Platzek from Brandenburg? - Too early. Beck from Rheinland-Pfalz? - Too regional. Steinbrück from Nordrhein-Westfalen? - Maybe the most likely alternative.
By announcing his retreat (or is he only threatening? - hard to tell), Müntefering exposes himself as Schröder's disciple. He wants to establish a "so far and no further" against the party's opposition against his negotiation results. In a worst case scenario, this could result again in a cleavage between Social Democrats. But I am tempted to turn the mountain back into the molehill: Electing Nahles served as a valve for disenchanted party exectutives; working together with Nahles in a grand coalition situation might not be easy for Müntefering, but it is by no means impossible. Nahles is not a desperado. She is a pro who knows knows the ropes and is aware of the necessity of keeping the party together. And having discharged the steam, the left wing on the party executive level might return to peaceful cohabitation with Müntefering.
But nevertheless, the house is getting real wet right now.