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Germany's changing political landscape

by jandsm Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 08:45:08 AM EST

Promoted by Colman: this diary, and the comments in it, are too good to miss.

The Federal Republic is currently expecting a massive shake up of her political system. As many of you are probably aware, national elections are expected for September 18, 2005.

This in itself is unusual. The current 15th Bundestag - the German parliament - was elected for four years in 2002. Under the German constitution, called Grundgesetz ("Basic Law"), parliament cannot be disolved by the chancellor like i.e. the British parliament can dissolved by the Brititsh prime minister at any time of poltical convenience.

The constitution provides for the possibility of new elections, in article 68, but only under very specific and limited circumstances. The chancellor has to lose a vote of confidence in parliament. Then the president can chose to dissolve paliament.

Much of the debate in Germany was focused on the constutionality of the presidents decision to accept a faked vote of no confidence and the chancellors wisdom to go for new elections when he was at 25 percent in the polls. Still Germany's supreme court in Karlsruhe could stop the proceedings, most likely triggering a constitutional reform.

These debates miss the point. Regardless the question whether Germany will vote in September, we are seeing the manisfestation of a change in the German political sphere. I will argue below the break, why I believe these are much more important for the rest of Europe than currently expected.

First, one should have a look at the German post-war history. Particularely at the development of the political party system - which is the real "wunder" of the post-war period. The development of Party systems are always closely related to the economic, cultural, regional, religious and ideological factions of a society at a specific point of time. Another important element are age groups in the political elite.

Some Party systems also tend to live longer than the conditions that created them. Some parties may adapt, some dissappear.

With respect to the Federal Republic of Germany, founded in May 1949, we can see something rather surprising. After a period of 7 years, a stable party system was created whose basic elements survived until today. This was an enormous achievement.

Take a look at the West-German society: 30 percent of the polpulation were still living in agriculture. The war had been lost and most of the main cities were destroyed - though the industrial infra-structue remained intact. The population of this second republic had only a few years ago been the the population of a totalitarian state. This society had just committed the worst crime in history by sending millions to the gas chambers and shooting other millions - let alone the slave laborers and the 3.8 million soviet soldiers starved to death on purpose. How to build a democracy with that kind of society?

Another important point is, that due to the loss of one third of the former Germany's territory, 13 million (!) refugees added to an already needy population of around 45 million.

It is a defining moment, that at this point of time 3 main partys developed: the christian democrats (CDU) and the social democrats (SPD) plus the tiny Free democrats (FDP) - a mixture of classic liberalism and nationalism.

Both the christian and the social democrats intgrated the right and the left of the German political spectre. With the Bundestag as the political arena, they managed to create an accepted and trusted political system, based on a stron federal level and weaker but not unimportant states ("Länder"). The important thing is that no radical or revanchist party developed.

Due to the worldwide economic upturn, the "gilded age" (E.J.Hobsbawn), the massive growth of industrial production managed to provide more than enough jobs for the workforce. At least on the econimic level an integration of the refugees from the east took place and neutralised their potential political influence to an acceptable degree.

Additionally, the first parliaments did not only pay off the Reich's debts - reestablishing Germanys financial credibility, but they also shifted the direction of the German ideological spectre "west-ward": Towards European integration, international organisation. Another important element was anti-communism and massive hostility against the East. Also, they created the German social system.

More than in most countries the social net in Germany is linked to the nation building process. It was the core element, providing legitimacy to a new political system and creating a new state-citizen relationship. This may be important information for those who are always fast at calling for cuts: this goes to the very heart of the acceptance of the German poltical system as a whole.

One other point: those who are argue in the current debates on Iraq that Germany is a positive example should note that all those positve democratic discoursed where there in Germany at least since the failed revolution of 1848, but were always countered by a conservativ cultural/political/ecnomic power structure. With this struture delegitmised in 1945, those old tradiotions got through. just for the record.

Under the Leadership of the conservative CDU, Germany lived through economic prosperity and cultural backwardness. This was not a happy land. And change was about to come in the 60s. Among the best things the U.S. did to Germany, was to send Elvis Presley on military duty to Germany. Because in the 60s, when Germany's middle classes were developing and for the first time youth was growing up with significant economic resources, rock and pop music hit Germany like and cultural tornado and wouldn't be the same since.

The Late 60 saw a generational change in the German electorate and a cultural change as well. Thus in 1969 an coalition of young urban voters, new urban middle classes and the old working class (already breaking up - but still there), voted for the first social democratic government on national level. This is the second important development, because it came with a cultural change of the political discourse and with a positive and progressive model of reform. The athmosphere of these years provided for a new generation of political leader -  now coming from the middle classes. They believed the situation in Germany could be changed more drastically, they fought against the war in Vietnam (the defining moment for all of them) and most of all, the believed the social democrats did not deliver.

So, within the SPD and outside in the New social movements, like the anti-war movement and anti-nucleat energy movement - all of those able to mobilize hundreds of thousands of people - new political concepts developed and a new generation of political elites started to emerge.

At this time the to main parties were still representing destinctive social and ideological groups of th German society. The exemption being Bavaria with is conservative, catholic, bavaran political party, which was allied to the conservatives on the Federal level.

Now, at the end of the 70s, the Social democrats missed the point to intgrate the new social movements into their structures. The Greens were created: A party based on cultural and ideological representation and not so much attasched to distinctive social groups. They are the only new political formation that managed to enter parliament in 1983. And they are probably the most successfull party of the last 30 years. The pushed their issues: ecology, womens rights, human rights and so on right into the center of the political arena. Suddenly everyone had to talk about green issues. Politically, they have been so successful, they actually are no longer politically necessary and are desperatly trying to develop a new profile somewhere in the dubios "center".

Anyway, the 1980's saw a new conservative government and in opposition a mixture of social democrats and greens and people engaging in social movements. The important issue with respect to the topic here is that at some point the memberships of the parties stopped to regenerate. They started to lose their represenative function to a growing part of the electorate. Voters moved more quickly from one party to another. Call it progress, call it crisis of legitimacy: the party system was starting to lose the contact to society on a very structural level.

In 1990, Germany was about to vote for another parliament. All available polls show that the coservatives under Helmut Kohl were to be thrown out of power. This actually triggerd a rebellion within the CDU, which Kohl killed, thus berobbing the CDU of most of its intellectual figureheads. More important though, the Communist East collapsed economically and within a year East German socialist dictatorship was transferred into 6 new states within the German Federal Republic.

This was pushed theough before the elections, guaranteeing Kohl a victory. He stayed in power for another 8 years. This time, 16 Million people arrived in more critical economic conditions. West-Germany was a fantastically rich state. It has been able to power 1.5 trillion Euro into the new states. Look at the situation of infra-structure, social services and income in Poland or the Ukraine in comparison and you can see what has been achieved.

Again, these 16 million people had no place in the political system, they were practically forced to align themselves to a political system that wasn't desdinged by them. At the same time, the fragmentation of West Germany's social and idological formations continued. The East saw over 90 percent of the workforce to change their jobs. Imagine a whole nation to disappear. All rules changed and no more certainties. The fertility rate went down to nearly 0 in the years 1990/91. Imagine 5 states in which no child is born. This shows the dramatic extent of the transformation.

One new party was added to the system: the former socialist party of the East entered parliament and due to the charismatic talent of its chairman in parliament and a very stron social formation in the East the managed to be elected into the Bundestag for 2 more terms. The PDS tried to be a socialist party for all of Germany. But this could not have been successfull.

Those who might have been attracted to such a party were still betting on the great generational project of the western politcal left: a coalition of the SPD and the Greens. And it happened in 1998.

The thing is that most underestimated the dramatic ideological changes in the social democratic leadership and the extend to which the party was only an empty hull. Schröder formed a power base based on charism, not on concepts. He was elected with a mandate for change, but the change he was about to brung over his country was not the change, his voter wanted.

Future historians may judge his political substance, but one thing I blieve is sure: Schröder perfectioned the pseudo-presidential chancellorship. Parliament lost its role as the center of political debate.

Under his leadership, his party broke into pieces, with 150.000 people leaving it. Generally it can be said that within the last 7 years, the lowest number of people in the history of the Federal Republic has felt represented by any of the political parties.

It was interesting to watch the social democrtatic elite pushing through an agenda which lead to one election defeat on state level afer another. 11 in a row, and still, they didn't an inch.

The elections of 2002, were supposed to be pivotal. But the red-green coalition managed to pull a victory based on its stance against the war in Iraq and the - overlooked - complete failure of the conservative candidate. Thus what we are experience now, is a delayed 2002 election: The difference is that people are even more disaffected of the political system as a whole.

The nation is less than 2 months away from an election and no one cares. The next election will probably mark the end of a political generation that dominated German politics for 30 years. Also, it will mark the end of a political project.

The real story of this election has so far been the foundation of a new pary the "Leftist PartY" (Linkspartei) of which I have to admit I am a member. It is a coalition of socially conservative groups in the East, young disaffected middle class students and the groups of the Unions and former SPD members.

Anytime a new party shows up and is at 12-14 percent in the polls within a week, one should be very cautios because it indicates serious instability. And this is never positive.

Currently, there is a certain feeling of emptiness in the politcal sphere.The whole system seems to suffer a burn-out sydrom.

The problems are alarming: Germany is getting older, Unemployment is high, inflation adjusted wages did not rise for 15 consecutive years.

But for me the upcoming election will mark the point when the German party system finally and officially lost their representative function. They all became small power factories. They are trying to appeal to charisma, and charisma only.

If charisma is the last resort of power in a democracy, it is a danger to the democratic formation of a society as a whole.

I fear, a lot of taboos will be broken: First, Germanys pro-European stance will get in trouble over the accession of Turkey, which at the same time will force the ethnically German population to face the issue of integration of ten million migrants, many of them of Turkish origin. Second, liberties within will be lost. I believe it will take progressive forces in Germany 10-20 years to recover from the loss they are about to suffer - or already suffered. With or without social-democratic ministers in a conservative government.

The next 10 years will be interesting - and not in a good way.

As a historian I know how acadamically inappropriate the approach hear is, so I admit: this is my narrative of what is happening today. A diary, in the true sense of the word. Not cross-posted anywhere.

...but sometimes it is better to view things in perspective and not isolated. Was a little bit tired in the end. But I hope you find it informative.
by jandsm on Sun Aug 7th, 2005 at 03:47:20 PM EST
Thank you very much. That's really informative in a way that "proper" history probably wouldn't be!
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 7th, 2005 at 04:21:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
A lot to think about...

I have one first question. Do you say that the coming election is a turning point irrespective of the result, or because you expect the right (CDU/CSU/FDP) to win, with a strong showing of the Left party, and thus the SPD to desintegrate? Or conversely, you expect no one to have a majority, and thus the CDU and SPD to from a grand coalition that fill kill them both once and for all (you seem to say that the CDU had run its course in the late 80s).

But what's next?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 7th, 2005 at 04:48:17 PM EST
I think it's very, very unlikely that either the SPD or the CDU will desintegrate -- irregardless of the upcoming result.  There are far too many conservative voters in Germany for the CDU to disappear.  And the SPD, well, there are the party with the longest tradition in Germany which goes back more than 130 years.  But maybe I'm not imaginative enough regarding the implications of the next poll.

As to what's next, who knows?

by hesk on Sun Aug 7th, 2005 at 06:30:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I've been struggling to cover the German election here and I'd never be able to write such an insightful historical primer about Germany's post-war political history.

A few tidbits:

  • IHMO, it's very true that Schröder (and also Joschka Fischer) used their charisma to govern, and I think that's one reason why so many people are disappointed with the last 7 years.  For all the popular support Schröder had, he never used it to articulate a vision and actually push for it.  In fact, except for his strong anti-war stance regarding Iraq and his strong showing in the Elbe flood in 2002, I remember few great moments about him being chancellor.  This, of course, was the reason the coalition got reelected then.

  • Secondly, not only are the Greens the children of the 68 generation, but so is Schröder  ("Ich will hier rein!" oder so).  So, in 1998 it seemed that the 68 generation had finally arrived at the steering wheel of the country.  But over the last 7 years it became apparent that they had lost their legacy, except for some Green pet projects.  I don't want to understate the achievements they had, but IHMO they fell short of their promise.

  • BTW, I don't agree that the Greens are moving towards the center.  If you read the election manifestos of the Greens and the Left Party, they appear to me to be very similar in the long-term vision, although the Left Party is much more radical in its approach towards achieving that vision.  I certainly hope that they don't move towards the center, as it is currently my party of allegience and always has been since I've been able to vote in 1998.

  • Finally, I'm not quite sure that the current showing of the Left Party signifies great instability.  They're not really a new party, rather the PDS has finally been legitimized in the West by the appearance of the WASG.  Being from East Berlin, this was long overdue, IHMO.  However, 8% for the Left Party in the West (poll from about two weeks ago) is quite significant, so maybe you're right there.  However, I've argued before, that the numbers for the Left Party are currently inflated.  We'll see in 6 weeks how strong its support actually is.

Now, the major point of your article is the separation between the Bundestag and the people and the general frustration of the voters.  This is very true, and it's very sad.

Coincidentelly, today I stumbled across the website of Mehr Demokratie e.V. which is pushing for elements of direct democracy in our constitution.  

All parties -- except the ever-conservative CDU/CSU -- call for elements of direct democracy in their election manifesto.  In fact, just month before the election in 2002 the Red-Green coalition put a law before the Bundestag to introduce direct democracy.  SPD, Greens, PDS and parts of the FDP voted for it, but it failed to reach the required 2/3 majority.  Roland Claus of the PDS then argued that the whole debate was just election politics and that the SPD only put forth the law when it was sure that the CDU would vote against it, thus ensuring its failure.  Judging from the non-showing of the SPD elite I tend to agree with his assessment.  You can watch the debates online if you like (1. Lesung, 2. und 3. Lesung), there are some great statements by the PDS and Gerald Häfner (Greens) who is a strong proponent of direct democracy.

Of course, I should not forget that the PDS had already put forth a similar law in 1993 and, unfortunately, was ridiculed for it.

So, let's hope that in the next legislative period we can finally achieve this and maybe revitalize the voting public.  Merkel is against it, but a poll in 2000 showed that 68% of the CDU favor direct democracy.

by hesk on Sun Aug 7th, 2005 at 06:17:01 PM EST
Direct democracy in what sense?
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 02:12:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Direct democracy like in Switzerland, where, if you gather enough signatures, you can force the parliament to look into an issue (a people's initiative) and if you gather even more signatures, you can force a referendum.

We only have this on the state level in various degrees.  Bavaria has the most experience with easy DD in Germany, and has had good results.

by hesk on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 01:54:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It sounds like the various European systems are good and productive, but beware poorly engineered direct democracy systems.

California's direct democracy form (albeit at the state level also) called the initiative system, sounds like it shares some of the conduits of the Swiss system. If you gather enough signatures, you can get a special election, or an initiative on the ballot, or even a "recall" election. (This last one is the way Governor Schwarzenegger was elected, via a mid-term recall of Governor Davis, who was not so corrupt as to be indictable, but was not well-liked, especially by the conservative Republican faction in the State.)

Other states have this process, too, but the result is sometimes very messy -- initiatives are usually poorly or loosely written, and money drives the signature gathering and initiative agenda focus 100%. It's a sharp stick in the hand of the most wealthy individuals and special interest groups.

If it's just us, it seems like an awful waste of space. -Carl Sagan, Contact

by kaleefornian on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 03:32:04 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yes, I'm aware of the mess the system has produced in the US, although it is in some ways cited as a positive example (esp. California).

Anyway, the proposal by Mehr Demokratie is specifically designed for Germany's political system and includes certain safeguards:

  • Before an initiative (ie, a proposal to change a create a new law) can become a referendum, it is subjected to a review by our constitional court (called Normenkontrollverfahren), a process that already exists in other places in our system.  So, initiatives that don't make sense, get shot down early in the process.

  • The Bundestag can propose a counter-initiative or even just pass a law regarding the resolution.  There is also a place for negotiations at various places.  Finally, every voter gets a leaphlet containing arguments for the initiative or any counter-proposals by the Bundestag or others.  (This is copied from the Swiss.)

  • If you take part in an initiative (ie, private persons or public associations), you get compensated for your expenses (up to a limit of course).

Finally, they make a strong case that a direct democracy is not (or should not be) a way to pass laws, but to create a public debate regarding the issues.  Switzerland, Italy, parts of the US (California) and others are good examples.  It's like the entering of the Greens into the German Bundestag.  Like jandsm wrote, suddenly everybody had to talk about green issues which has had a strong influence on the country.
by hesk on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 06:11:00 PM EST
[ Parent ]
What you said; and I want to reply to this half-sentence about the Greens:

jandsm: Politically, they have been so successful, they actually are no longer politically necessary

I disagree. With Clement pushing the line of the coal lobby, and the whole of the CDU, CSU and FDP pushing the line of the nuclear lobby against alternative energies, their stance on energy still needs them for pushing - if left to the other parties, the same thing will happen as in Denmark (where Rasmussen's neoliberal dogmatism brought private wind power installations almost to a standstill). Organic farming also needs them against the CDU/CSU-aligned Sonnleitners and the coming Big Agrobusiness - also in the field of genetically modified crops (my main problem with those aren't health and pollution fears, but their enabling of the rise of giant agricultural corporations). And, RE immigrants, their push for a change in citizenship law from ethnic-based to residence- and culture-based (which, BTW, Lafontaine agreed with passionately - do some recent comments indicate he doesn't anymore?), the most other parties are so much against that the Bundesrat stopped the proposed law.

Last but not least, public transport would need someone to push it against highways and cheap airlines. On the other hand, the German Greens didn't achieve much on this front. Now okay, decisions were in the hands of SPD ministers, but they didn't talk much about the issue, and when they did, I disagreed with proposed solutions (they agree with railway privatisation, in my opinion one of the big silly ideas in Europe today that are pushed though dogmatically everywhere, even disregarding or misreading negative experience elsewhere).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 08:21:21 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You seem pessimistic over the outcome of the coming election, and so was I. However, my spirits were lifted a little when I saw a poll that showed a majority for Grünen+SPD+LinksPartei.

I haven't been following German politics too closely lately, but what are the chances of them working together should they get a majority?

Also, I read (in der Spiegel as I recall) that Angela Merkel has an image problem, and that they don't want her to debate Schröder, since he'll easily outcharm her. Which I can easily believe.

Lastly, I saw a story on German news about Merkel's foreign policy person being received by Bush personally. I don't think that being close to Bush is going to win any votes. Or is it?

by Frank (wijsneus-aht-gmail-doht-com) on Sun Aug 7th, 2005 at 07:13:39 PM EST
for September 4, I think (I may be wrong about the date, but I am certain that they agreed to a Schroeder-Merkel TV debate).

Both the LP and the SPD/Greens have so far stated that they would not join the other in government. We'll see what happens on 19 September, I suppose, if the CDU does not have a majority and these 3 could have one.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sun Aug 7th, 2005 at 07:31:53 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Also, only 10% of the Germans want a SPD/Green/LP coalition.  Top choice is a grand coalition with 39%.  This link has a pretty graph.  The poll question reads "Which coalition would be best for Germany?"

Regarding the debate, 70% think that Schröder will win and 80% say it will have no effect on their voting decision.  No wonder that Merkel doesn't look forward to it.

The huppla about the debate was that Merkel only wants one debate, while last year we had two debates.  Last year was also the first time ever for a TV debate, so everybody assumed that there would be two debates this year as well, one for the public TV channels and one for the private ones.  When Merkel was asked why she only agreed to one debate, she cited "scheduling difficulties." Riiight.  Last week wasn't really kind to her.

On the flipside, it looks likely that we'll have a debate between the three smaller parties which is new and promises to be much more exciting.

by hesk on Sun Aug 7th, 2005 at 07:52:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Just what I weeped about in the other  thread...

Translating the graph in hesk's link:

Which coalition would be best for Germany?

  • Grand Coalition (= Social Democrats + Christian Socialist Union (Bavaria) + Christian Democrat Union (outside Bavaria)): 39% (+9% on previous week)
  • CDU + CSU + FDP ((neo)liberals) 29% (-5%)
  • SPD + Greens 14% (-2%)
  • SPD + Greens + Left Party 10% (+1%)

Within the SPD, the preferences are:
  • Grand Coalition 47%
  • SPD + Greens 36%

That so many SPD voters think that replacing the Greens with Merkel, Koch & co would be the solution is the sad thing. Does this signal residual longing for a party-less system of national unity? Or just a longing for political stability, regardless of what that stable government will do?

Within the CDU and CSU:

  • CDU + CSU + FDP 65%
  • Grand Coalition 32% (+15%)

Within the FDP:
* CDU + CSU + FDP 77%

Within the Greens:

  • SPD + Greens 35%
  • Grand Coalition 40%

Now this is even stranger. The way I can make sense of it, dissatisfaction with the SPD runs so high that going into opposition and returning after the failure of the next government is preferred by two fifths.

Within the Left Party:

  • SPD + Greens + Left Party 48%
  • sum for other combinations offered (see above): 40%

Now this is the strangest. I'd expected "none of the above" at 40%. Maybe some hope of a positive effect of the Left Party by forcing the government to take heed of some issues. Or - maybe, this 40% are protest voters who were thinking of SPD/Grüne without Schröder?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 08:51:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Regarding the preference of a grand coalition in the SPD, my guess is, that they know that if Red-Green wins the Bundestag again, the Bundesrat, with its CDU majority, would continue to block their agenda, and nothing will have changed.  A grand coalition would neutralize the Bundesrat.

Also, I fear, that the SPD doesn't really appreciate the Greens, although it was the strong showing of the Greens in 2002, that enabled them to continue the coalition then.

Same with the Greens, but your interpretation sounds plausible, too.

The problem is inherent in the poll.  First, the question can be interpreted in two ways:

  • Best, to actually get things done.  (This would imply neutralizing the block the Bundesrat has.)
  • Best, to steer Germany in the right direction.

Second, as always with polls, the numbers do not reflect the reasoning, how the people come to their answer, which is most likely not uniform at all.
by hesk on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 02:20:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This could come from the fact that these numbers are shaped by the exepctations on each side.

SPD voters favor a grand colaition because they see this, rightly or wrongly, as the only way to stay in pwoer.

CDU voters would see it as a failure in the election.

Same thing for the small parties, who don't want to be left out (although some there probably take the strategic view that a grand coalition can only favor those outside, i.e. them, at the next election)

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 9th, 2005 at 06:25:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
hesk: Regarding the debate, 70% think that Schröder will win and 80% say it will have no effect on their voting decision.  No wonder that Merkel doesn't look forward to it.

Always the pessimist, I'd also contemplate the Bush script: create expectations that Merkel will be disastrous in the debate, and if she barely hangs on, she has outdone expectations - and up go the sympathy points.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 08:54:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
minor historical correction. Germany lost one quarter of its territory, not one third.  Also a disproportionate number of those refugees ended up in the DDR not the BRD, understandable considering East Germany was right next door to most of the Vertreibungsgebiete. The number of expellees in West Germany in 1945 is much lower than your quoted figure of 12 million. In early 1947 the authorities counted some 6.25 million expellees. By 1950 it had gone up to 7.83 million reflecting a combination of the last trickle of expellees from Poland, the migration of some expellees from the DDR to the BRD, and natural population growth - German statistics counted children (and later grandchildren) of expellees as expellees. That only changed after reunification. These figures do not include 'native' refugees (Fluechtlinge) from the DDR .   Yeah, quibbling but it's my diss topic, I get touchy :)

But its a  really great diary even if I'm not particularly supportive of your choice of political parties. (I dislike the PDS for its past and Lafontaine for his playing for the extreme right vote in the present)

by MarekNYC on Sun Aug 7th, 2005 at 08:08:50 PM EST
Good points with those numbers; I'll add that the 10 million immigrants number is incorrect too, the percentage of resident Ausländer is now stable at 7.35 million and would be reduced significantly with citizenship reform ("immigrants" born in Germany...)

Marek, you wrote elsewhere that the expellee issue is actually your work, so I feel confident to quibble for some more details:

One, do you have a number for expellees in East Germany?

Two, could have been there a large number of expellees who weren't in official statistics, say because they found a new home with relatives and didn't register for state help, or moved on to another country (I guess primarily the USA)?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 09:09:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry, just found a newer number (my previous one was for ewnd-of-2003, this one is end-of-2004): resident foreigners in Germany are down to 6.72 million.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 09:14:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To this number you have to add the more 2.4 million immigrants from the former USSR who got German citizenship and who represent a big and yet unsolved integration problem. This is why I wrote "migrants" and not foreigners.
by jandsm on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 09:34:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
this number refers to immegration from the former communist countries since 1990.
by jandsm on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 09:36:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On one hand, I think that number is similar to the number of integrated non-citizens - or less. On the other hand, I suspect those 2.4 million aren't all non-integrated, either. (Note tough, this all may be quibbling about numbers - while it may be a third to a half of what you wrote, I don't deny that there is a problem.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 09:44:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo, I don't happen to have the figures for the DDR offhand (I deliberately excluded them from my Diss to keep the already over large topic manageable - it also includes the Polish settlers, I'm concentrating on expellees from and settlers in Lower Silesia through 1970) but I believe it is about 4 mill. As to unofficial ones - no. Some did move on to other countries but the numbers are small and they were kept track of. I can look them up if you want.  The story of the expellees in the DDR has recently been the topic of various studies, I can give you references if you want. Initially the KPD had the same position on the borders as all other German parties but was quickly forced to change its tune by the Soviets, something which contributed to its loss of any significant popular support in the West even before it was made illegal.
by MarekNYC on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 01:48:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
You are right of course:I wasn't precise. Of originally 14 million people moving westward, 12.5 million arrived in west and east Germany combined, plus 400.000 who went to Austria and other countries. Of these 12.5, 8.1 million arrived in the West (this number is of 1950).

Their distribution though was disproportionate: More people moved naturally to the rural and the Eastern parts, because these area were closer and less destroyed than the cities. I am from Lower Saxony where migration from Silesia was highly significant.

To this number I believe one has to as the refugees from the GDR which was at 2.7 million until 1961. Additionally, 1.4 million ethnic Germans migrated from the USSR into the FRG between 1951 and 1990.

Sources: [link] and [link]

by jandsm on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 09:49:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The 1.4 million figure of 'Spaetaussiedler' is not from the USSR but from the East Bloc. Primarily from Poland and to a lesser extent from Romania. In the case of Poland it mainly concerned people who the Polish authorities had categorized as ethnically Polish in Upper Silesia and the former East Prussia. Their actual ethnic identity was a lot more complicated than that.  In addition at the very end of that period plenty of full blown Poles wrangled their way into Germany using their residency in Upper Silesia as their ticket to the West. There is currently a German minority of several hundred thousand in Poland, mostly in the Opole province (Western Upper Silesia). I'm not sure why the discrepancy between my 7.83 mill and your source's 8.1 mill. Mine is drawn from BMV figures.  You should also note that while those Vertriebene who fled in the closing months of the war ended up wherever they found refuge, the expellees proper were deposited according to the rules set by the occupying powers (minus the French who refused to accept any).  In any case in the Western Zones the main area for expellees from what had become Poland was Schleswig Holstein and Lower Saxony (your province). Sudeten Germans gravitated to Bavaria.

In the early fifties the federal government strongly encouraged a better distribution of refugees and that combined with the pull of the Wirtschaftswunder created a large expellee population elsewhere, particularly NRW. They integrated quite quickly but remained at a socio-economic disadvantage to the 'natives' (einheimische) for quite some time and that disadvantage lived on in the next generation.

In political terms the expellees were and explosive group, subject of fears that they would turn radical left, or more likely radical right. When they were allowed to organize themselves politically in the early fifties they formed their own party the BHE which initially did quite well. It faded  partly quickly because it accomplished some of its goals in the form of a massive compensation program, and because of the CDU's skill in gobbling up/destroying all other right wing parties. The BHE's leaders were a pretty nasty bunch,led by the long time Minister for Expellees, old guard Nazi, and war criminal Theodor Oberlaender (who was actually quite a competent minister).  

Germany's policy towards them was contradictory, on the one hand seeking to integrate them socio-economically, preventing them from settling as coherent groups made up of former neighbours, and on the other hand pumping huge amounts of money into preserving their identity as Silesians, East Prussians, etc. so they would be ready to go back when the 1937 borders were restored.

In political terms they then were spread out across the spectrum until they started to turn sharply towards the CDU/CSU in the mid sixties as the SPD began to gingerly edge away from the hardline national consensus on the border issue, culminating in the de facto (but not de jure) recognition of the Oder-Neisse line by Brandt in 1970. They then became a key part of the CDU's base leading to the kind of absurdities like Kohl's reluctance to formally recognize the border in 1990.
Anyways, I think I ran on a bit too much, as I sometimes do on this topic.

by MarekNYC on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 01:40:26 PM EST
[ Parent ]
you seem to be one of the few who actually know something about it and it is great to read.

has your ph.d. been published? if yes, it would be great if you could send me the publishing information via email.


by jandsm on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 05:19:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks. Unfortunately it's not finished. The draft is done and I'm now rewriting it with a department set deadline of the end of the year for my defense. Then I'll get to worry about how to get a publisher willing to publish it in yet another rewritten version. The market for highly specialized academic first books being what it is I'm not looking forward to that. But I'd be happy to give you some refs on what is out there if you're really interested. I'm not the only person who noticed in the late nineties that there was this glaring hole in the historiography of the Bundesrepublik.  My topic focuses on how the expellees from Lower Silesia sought to maintain their local identities once in West Germany and on how the Polish settlers in Wroclaw/Breslau sought to create one of their own, the interaction between the two processes and the similiarities of government/social/academic action in these two very different socio-political systems. (I couldn't focus on expellees from Breslau only due to the nature of the archival sources)
by MarekNYC on Tue Aug 9th, 2005 at 12:22:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
thanks for your insights, it's really fascinating.

And good luck with your thesis publication. My chances of being published were shot down because I got caught in a fight between two "churches" (ideological factions) in a long running economic debate, and one of the professors in my jury felt that I leaned too much to the other side (no matter that the other side thought the same) and, as he was the editor of the relevant collection where my thesis could have been published, he killed it (and also prevented me from receiving the unanimous "félicitations du jury").

So my PhD was only ever read by a dozen people. As I had decided to leave academia (too much petty infighting), it did not bother me too much, but it's a pity. I'm quite proud of what I wrote!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Aug 9th, 2005 at 06:29:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Fabolous diary. Thanks.

One other thing should not be forgotten, however. The CDU, CSU, FDP have a majority in the Bundesrat. Which means they have and continue to block any Bundes(Federal)-legislation where the Laender (States) have a say. Pension and health-insurance are two of those things(I think). (This is part of the complicated relationship between the Federal government and the State government. The second chamber in Germany is made up out of representatives of the States and there is tough negotiation going on. They don't always vote along party lines, but most of the time they do. When the CDU won North Rhine Westfalia earlier this year, they cemented their already existing grip on this body.

It was then, that Schroeder made his thoughts for elections public and set the steps in motion, that lead to Koehlers decision to dissolve the parliament.
The definite loss of power in the Bundesrat cannot be underestimated and is (in my opinion) the main reason, why  Schroeder called the election.
This has of course also consequences for the future. Any government without CDU participation will, apart from the "moral" win, have no greater power to reform than the current government. And will have to fight the same battles as the once that lead Schroeder to "resign", well the call for the motion of no-confidence.

by PeWi on Sun Aug 7th, 2005 at 08:42:46 PM EST

However, when Schröder came to power in 1998, the SPD had a strong majority in the Bundesrat and had used this power-advantage before the 1998 election as well.  It was only in 2001, I think, that the tide changed when Koch in the state Hessen exploited xenophobic tendencies in the conservative base and became Prime Minister.  He (and the entire CDU) promised to block the new proposed citizenship law, by using a disgusting signature-gathering process to vitalize his base.

Although I'm for more direct democracy, I say disgusting, because the other side had no say in this, and he used one state to force the CDU's views onto the whole republic.

by hesk on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 02:10:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Great diary...very thought provoking and informative. I hope your pessimism is wrong...but we will soon find out. Hate to hear that Germany is moving in a conservative direction.

"Once in awhile we get shown the light, in the strangest of places, if we look at it right" - Hunter/Garcia
by whataboutbob on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 01:21:48 PM EST

Could you or Hesk please explain what you mean when you say of the Linksparty,

It is a coalition of socially conservative groups in the East, young disaffected middle class students and the groups of the Unions and former SPD members.

In what way "socially conservative" yet economically liberal? Are we talking the residue of several of the socialist parties in the East? Scared of everything that's different from them? We've seen these unreformed socialist parties in Southeast Europe and elsewhere..and "thanks, but no thanks."

Or do you mean something else? Thanks for the good post.

by gradinski chai on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 01:51:00 PM EST
When I wrote "socially conservative" I referred to the social group in East Germany that lost most through the unification: the administrative middle class of the GDR. This could be the administrator of of a rural agricultural production facility or the worker in a ministry or a university professor in art history. I.e. NEarly all university staff was fired, even though not all were involved in the crimes of the regime. And there are those who are nostalgic. These are people who you would not expect in a small left wing political party. Many would oppose immigration, but they are voting PDS because they see it as the voice of the East. The party has to carefully find a balance between being a party which represents a region (it is up to 33 percent in the 5 new states) and nation-wide leftwing party.

This is a pretty complex coalition.

by jandsm on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 05:17:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I am not quite sure where you got your figures that nearly all University Staff was being fired comes from. When I studied in Leipzig starting in 1991, that was not an issue? Most (9/10) of my Profs were still the old guard. Yes, there were redundancies, but such a sweeping statement is wrong. Some faculties certainly had to be completely restructured and took on a lot of new staff, but they tried to keep most - if they were not completely intolerable. Also redundancies due to a higher Prof - Student ratio had to be made. As with most things about Germany - the situation is very different from Land to Land - different people and parties were/are responsible.
Apart from that - I completely agree and can give you an example of one of my professors who was 45 and said:"The Reunification has taken away my future"
That generation are the big loosers. What is often not realized is the complete destruction of the social "you help, I help" attitude with scare resources. And the social bond that created. Now you can buy everything, you don;t need to trade anymore, you don;t need to be friendly, social kit crumbles quickly
plus the care that was in existence from the cradle to the grave. Everything was catered for if one wanted.
Wall comes down and suddenly you learn your wife, father and grandchild betrayed you to the Stasi, or you suspect they did, but you cannot access you record till 2007 because there are so many others. You loose you job. Your security, your money and you are supposed to be grateful to those that come and tell you how it is all been done from now on.
I still don't agree. But then I only lived with the people that went through this - I am not one of them.
by PeWi on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 07:15:51 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That´s the part I didn´t understand either.

The PDS, the socialist party evolved from the former communist East German SED is one main part of that new "Linkspartei".

I wouldn´t call them a "socially conservative group in the East".

Oh, and just to illustrate the point...
First a short VERY simplified explanation.
Germany has a mixture of a proportional and representive election system. Half of the elected representatives are directly elected in voting districts. Simple majority vote.
The other half gets elected according to the percentage of the vote. VERY simplified your party gets 10% of the votes in a state, you get 10% of the elected representatives of that state.
So in a small party being first on that state "list" is good for your chances to get actually elected.

First three places on the list going to former PDS members.

Second, third, fourth place (according to n-tv) going to former PDS members.

And why?
Because of German election laws (source n-tv).
(Simply put founding a new party takes time.)

"Only a few weeks ago it looked as though the (mostly East German) PDS might not get elected into the new German parliament. Then the party "renamed" itself into "Linkspartei.PDS". The public probably thought that the fusion with the (mostly West German) WASG party was already a done deal.

That fusion though hasn´t happened yet. Only in about two years time PDS and WASG plan to fusion into a joint party. In this election WASG members like former SPD leader Oskar Lafointaine are joining PDS lists.
Because of resentments in the West against the name "PDS", WASG politicians insisted in a renaming of the PDS.

What initially looked like blackmail by the WASG is now considered a huge boon for the PDS: Election laws help them to dominate and control the order of nominated candidates. The left-wing daily newspaper "taz" commented that with a cite by (East German communist party leader) Walter Ulbricht from 1945: "Everything should look democratic, but we must control everything." "

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 05:26:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It was always clear, that this was a takeover by the PDS.  The WASG had no party infrastructure and also, the PDS has strong support in the Eastern public (across all ages).
by hesk on Mon Aug 8th, 2005 at 06:18:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's more PR than you make out because the number of list seats you get is reduced by the number of direct seats you win in order to make it straight PR.
To explain, imagine a Land with 100 seats in the Bundestag - 50 from the lists and fifty directly elected.
Party A gets 40% of the vote and 35 direct seats.
Party  B gets gets 35% of the vote and 15 direct seats.
Party C gets 15% of the vote and no direct seats
Party D gets 10% of the vote and no direct seats.

Party A gets an extra 5 seats from its list to make it have 40 in total.
Party B gets 20 seats to give it 35
Party C gets 15
Party D gets 10
In sum a perfectly proportional result.

Things get more complicated in special cases where a party gets more seats than it should, for example like the SPD in the last elections in some of the Eastern Laender where it got all the direct seats with less than 50% of the vote. Those are known as 'overhang' seats and the party that gets them gets to keep them but the other parties still get the number they deserve.
Hope that made sense.

Also you need at least 5% of the national vote or a certain number of direct seats to get party list seats. The PDS failed to do so last time and ended up with just its 2 or 3 direct seats. These 'wasted' votes are divied up between the other parties.

by MarekNYC on Tue Aug 9th, 2005 at 12:34:04 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I think Detlef's point was, that since the Left Party will get few direct seats, the party lists are were the members of parliament are drawn from.  Which are dominated by PDS people, even in the West.  The Left Party will likely get four or five seats in the east and probably none in the West.  But, if they get 10% of the votes as recent polls suggest, almost 60 members of the parliament will be from the Left Party and few will be from the WASG part.

Why does election law favor this?  Because, AFAIK, German law prohibits parties from forming joint lists.  Since the PDS and the WASG are not really merged, you can't just put only WASG people on a PDS list.  These lists are likely to be declared invalid.  Thus the lists are heavily PDS dominated.

BTW, regarding overhand votes, they actually favor the party who gets them, because these members are added to the Bundestag, AFTER the parties have received the share of seats according to the poll.  This favors big parties, because small parties are unlikely to get direct seats at all and thus they have no chance for overhang votes.  

Overhang votes are a flaw in the German election system, that clearly needs to be fixed. But since they are so few (and since they favor big parties) , there's not a great push towards change.

by hesk on Tue Aug 9th, 2005 at 08:38:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, hesk already did give you an answer. :)
And yes, I know that my explanation was simplified.
That´s why I called it a very SIMPLIFIED overview in my first comment.

Basically, extrapolating from past elections:
The "PDS" alone would get something like 30+ percent in the five East German states. And something like 2-4 "direct seats" in East Germany. Probably enough to give them "some" presence in the new German parliament.
BUT not a deciding influence!

In West Germany though, the "PDS" on its own would get around 2%. A marginal party in the whole of Germany. That by the way is the same point, the main speaker of the "PDS" Gregor Gysi is telling his "own" PDS state groups now.

By associating the "PDS" with the mainly West German "WASG" party and using the new name "Linkspartei" the "PDS" party avoids that "obstacle". It´s much easier for West Germans psychologically to vote for a new "Linkspartei" than to vote for the formerly communist "PDS".

While at the same time, due to current German election laws, the "PDS" remains in control of the nominating process.
(In Germany party members or party committees decide on nominating parliament candidates. We don´t have "primaries" or elections by voters to decide on nominees. So in a new "list" a few hundreds or thousands of dedicated party members in a state could decide the placement of all the candidates on the list.)

I do admit that I didn´t research the nominating lists for each state. I did look for some but I found only newspaper articles about Berlin and Bavaria for now.
I could understand Berlin, the "PDS" is really strong in Eastern Berlin. So giving the first three list places to "PDS" members might make sense.

But Bavaria?
Simply put, give me a break!
No candidate of the "Linkspartei" will get a direct seat there. If a member will get elected there, it will be over the joint state list.

Three out of the first four list candidates in Bavaria are "PDS" candidates. THAT is simply unrealistic!
There is no way that the "PDS" is four times stronger than the "WASG" in a West German state!
Totally unrealistic even if the new "Linkspartei" polls at anything as their 10+ percentage right now.

THAT seems to indicate that the "PDS" is using its advantage as the "listed" party to place as many of their own candidates on the list while using the name "Linkspartei" to their advantage.
And screwing the "WASG" in the process....

by Detlef (Detlef1961_at_yahoo_dot_de) on Tue Aug 9th, 2005 at 05:25:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
PDS only got 2 in 2002 as can be seen here
if they had been getting three, they would be in parliament like 1994
when they got four
Interesting tidbid from that last link: have a look at these statistics:
                     FDP     GREENS     PDS   Others
Turnout 1994
(up to 77.60%)         4.9      5.9    11.2      3.8
(up to 81.61%)         7.6      8.0     1.7      4.1
(up to 87.07%)         8.0      7.7     0.9      3.0

ELECTION RESULTS       6.9      7.3     4.4      3.6
If the turnout was low the PDS got vastly more voters, than with the actual average. This just proves that their base is highly motivated, but they didin't (don't) have much backing in the wider population.
So, everybody vote please!!!

by PeWi on Tue Aug 9th, 2005 at 05:29:13 AM EST
upps this meant to have been a reply to this post
by PeWi on Tue Aug 9th, 2005 at 05:30:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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