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Spinning the German left swing

by DoDo Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 07:16:06 AM EST

In Sunday's regional elections in the German states of Hessen and Lower Saxony, the numerical winner was the CDU (ahead of the SPD by 0.1% even in Hessen). The practical winner was the hard-left Left Party, which now has a foot in three of the ten West German states. The winner on swing vote was Hessen SPD's Andrea Ypsilanti, who levelled her party's 20% lag behind the CDU of Germany's supposedly second-most-powerful conservative, with a markedly leftist campaign.

But, how do the usual suspects in the English-language media react to the news?

The Murdoch media flagship magazine Times comments with the ignorance one expects from Tory Eurosceptics. However, the Financial Times, much better versed in foreign politics (this is the paper of Wolfgang Münchau), already found a good narrative for the economic-liberals.

Read a partial deconstruction of the two articles below the fold.


Both articles interpret the results as a setback for chancellor Angela Merkel. But in the Financial Times article, that's not what's interesting.

FT.com / World - Setback for Merkel in regional elections

The party of Angela Merkel, Germany’s chancellor, suffered a setback on Sunday after Roland Koch, the Christian Democratic state premier of Hesse, saw his vote plummet following a closely watched regional election.

Note that while the title speaks about Merkel, the article itself says the party of Merkel [all highlights mine!], which is more correct.

Then the FT immediately shifts the focus from CDU voes, to play up SPD voes:

Yet the Social Democratic party, junior partner to Ms Merkel’s CDU in the “grand coalition” and its main rival in Sunday’s elections, had little to cheer about after the Left party, a radical leftwing grouping, captured a higher than expected share of the vote.

...The Left party’s performance will come as a disappointment to Kurt Beck, SPD chairman, who has steered his party to the left since the summer in an attempt to reverse an exodus of voters to the smaller, more radical grouping.

Here it is: the reader could think that the SPD failed to draw voters back, as they stayed with the Left Party. That because the FT doesn't even mention that the Hessen SPD gained a spectacular 7.6% with its leftist campaign! That's more than the Left Party total (5.1%). Thus also, of course, zero analysis of where those 7.6% voters came back from -- would be inconvenient...

I also note that the Left Party vote in Hessen wasn't "higher than expected" (polls saw them just at 5%), only that in Lower Saxony (7.1% vs the 5% in polls).

Later in the article, they go on speculating about the fallout in the SPD:

The Left party’s good performance is likely to revive a debate in the SPD on Mr Beck’s strategy – and could deepen the divide between pro-market reformists, well represented in the government, the SPD leadership and its parliamentary group, and the party’s left wing.

This is the most dangerous part. Here it is only implicit, but I expect that the tenor will be the inversion of the argument against rightist pandering to the far-right: "centre-left pandering to the left won't thwart, only enbolden the far-left".

But what this leads up to has zip to do with left wing vs. reformists. FT's last paragraph on Hessen is then spin run amok:

Analysts expect the performance of the Left party to encourage the small group of SPD leaders, led by Klaus Wowereit, Berlin's mayor, to call for the formation of ruling coalitions with the radical grouping at the regional level – a scenario Mr Beck has rejected.

This mixes up issues and mis-represents what's going on. Wowereit has an actual coalition with the Left Party in Berlin, and the taboo was long broken in the former East German areas. The real debate is about expanding the viability of such coalitions towards the West and to the federal level. The advocating group characterised as 'small' includes influential SPD leaders mainly from the East (Wowereit himself is a bigshot). One could also read the above paragraph as implying SPD leftists demanding even further shift to the Left -- in truth, Wowereit and others are pragmatists within the market-friendly centrist mainstream of the party!

I should also point at the characterisation of the Left Party, which is at best hard-left (championing many a position formerly held by the SPD), as 'radical group'.

:: :: :: :: ::

Now let's look at some bits of an article Fran quoted in the Salon, as asked for by Metatone.

Disaster for Angela Merkel as ally Roland Koch sunk in big switch to left - Times Online

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, was last night dealt a political body-blow after one of her key allies appeared to lose a bitterly contested regional election.

The article starts off with a display of cheerful ignorance on all things Continental one expects from the British Eurosceptics.

Koch is NOT a key ally of Merkel. More like his strongest rival.

Until last Sunday, Koch was the most important member of a mutual-support, no-mutual-criticism power alliance within the CDU, the so-called Andenpakt (Andes Pact, so-called because it was formed by then CDU youth on a plane to visit Pinochet's Chile). Check the list of members on the German Wiki page: four state heads, ministers, and the President of the European Parliament. Throughout her rise and reign as party head and chancellor, Merkel had to fight attempts by the Andenpakt, usually instigated by Koch, to topple her or undercut her comparably moderate policies. They prevented her candidacy for chancellorship in 2002. We mentioned how Koch even got the support of Bush & the neocons in 2003. There was also a move by Koch to put hiself in position when Merkel failed to win majority with traditional partner FDP in 2005. Koch regularly mouthed off on policy without consulting Merkel, who couldn't afford to contradict him in public.

In fact, Koch's current xenophobic 'foreign youth crime' campaign was another example of upstaging Merkel on policy, who felt forced to tag on. (Koch was even made chief of a CDU committee on street crime during the ruckus.) But, as nanne argues, despite her for-show campaigning for Koch, Merkel's position actually strengthened: now she doesn't have to fear rebellion in the own ranks. (That is unless softie Wulff in Lower Saxony is in truth scheming big behind the curtains.)

If we read into the rest of the article, the rivalry is mentioned briefly -- but in past tense, and it only makes the article incoherent (it was obviously re-edited by different authors):

Mr Koch used to be an internal party rival to Mrs Merkel, a conservative who was always suspicious of watering down policy by allying with the Social Democrats. When and if he is formally declared the loser of the election, the best he can hope for, party insiders say, is a Cabinet position under Mrs Merkel, probably as Economics Minister, after a predicted reshuffle. In German politics the move from regional prime minister to federal Cabinet minister is a big demotion. In theory that should please Mrs Merkel – one more potential thorn removed from her side – but, instead, there were nothing but worried faces in party headquarters last night.

Angela Merkel, the German Chancellor, was last night dealt a political body blow as one of her key allies struggled to stay in power after a bitterly contested regional election.

As if Merkel supporters will show open happyness before the media or even fellow party leaders... There is also a suggestion about Koch getting the post of federal Economy (not -ics!) Minister. Similar happened to Koch's SPD predecessor as Hessen PM, Hans Eichel, whom Schröder took as finance minister into the federal government. However, the present economy minister is one of two ministers of the Bavarian CSU, Michael Glos, and the CSU is unlikely to take a 'lighter' position. (The only possibility revolves around Defense: currently held by longtime Koch ally Franz-Josef Jung.)

Provisional results seemed to show that Mr Koch had been confirmed in the premiership by a wafer-thin margin: 36.8 per cent for the Christian Democrats, 36.7 per cent for the rival Social Democrats led by Andreas Ypsilanti. Social Democrats were last night considering a call for a recount. In Germany the strongest party has the right to form a governing coalition — but in Mr Koch’s case the ruling line-up would have little legitimacy and be very fickle indeed. If the result is confirmed he will attempt to form a government with the liberal Free Democrats who won 9.3 per cent of the vote.

Multi-party systems see too complicated for the Times author. What the strongest party has the right for is putting up the PM candidate, who then can attempt to form a government -- but that then needs the confirmation vote of the regional parliament. CDU+FDP don't have majority, so it wouldn't just be fickle, but destined to fail.

Koch or a CDU successor as PM candidate can only attempt to sow enough intrigue that either they can gain a leftist party as coalition partner, or all sides agree to new elections.

...turbulent times as the grand coalition parties begin divorce proceedings before next year’s general election. The gloves are now off, said Jürgen Falter, a leading political scientist from the University of Mainz. “The tensions in the grand coalition in Berlin will increase — the Government will be strained to the very limit.” It is now unlikely that the Government in Berlin will be able to undertake any important reforms.

What's important for the Church of the Free Market, added after a quote from a political scientist, while it's not clear whether it's paraphrasing him.

Times ends the Hessen stuff with more display of superficial knowledge:

“Germany is shifting to the left quicker than anyone realised,” said a senior Christian Democrat adviser, “and we don’t yet have an answer.” The Left party, which includes former communists from East Germany, entered both the Hesse and Lower Saxony parliaments yesterday — their first foothold in western Germany.

Nope, the Left Party is already in the Bremen city parliament.

I also note that they quote a 'senior Christian Democrat adviser', but none from the Left.

Display:
With what spin was the election commented in your media, if at all?

(We already saw another example from afew.)

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

by DoDo on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 07:22:01 AM EST
I hardly listen to MS-media anymore, so cannot tell. Just called to say: what a magnificently enlightning article!
by findmeaDoorIntoSummer on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 08:20:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Added observation: when Metatone asked me to do this diary, he said the Times piece is a prime example of Foreign Correspondent's Disease. But from the quote in the Salon, I thought this is more an example of ignorance from afar. Reading into the article, it's possibly both: local reporter with FCD, desk editor with absolute cluelessness.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 11:30:05 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In a leader, the German branch of FT eulogises Koch. It is interesting because of the hilarious marketista spin and praise mixed in:

Trotz seiner harten Auseinandersetzungen mit der SPD hat Koch die Große Koalition in Berlin von Beginn an pragmatisch unterstützt und sie inhaltlich vorangebracht. Zu den wichtigsten Erfolgen des ungeliebten Bündnisses zählt die Reform der Unternehmensbesteuerung, deren Grundzüge Koch gemeinsam mit Finanzminister Peer Steinbrück von der SPD ausgearbeitet hat - ohne Polemik und öffentliche Reibereien. Despite his tough confrontations with the SPD, Koch supported the Grand Coalition in Berlin pragmatically from the start, and moved it ahead on issues. Among the most important successes of the unloved alliance, one can count the reform of the corporate tax, whose outline was worked out by Koch together with finance minister Steinbrück of the SPD - without polemics and public friction.
Koch hat mit seinen harten Attacken gegen den politischen Gegner stets hoch gepokert, oft gewonnen und dieses Mal haushoch verloren. Seine Fähigkeit zur Zuspitzung wird der CDU im Bundestagswahlkampf 2009 voraussichtlich fehlen. Der Niedersachse Christian Wulff ist ein Meister der rhetorischen Leere, ebenso wie seine Parteivorsitzende Angela Merkel. Zu erklären, wohin sie die CDU führen wollen, wird ohne Koch um einiges schwerer werden. Koch always played high stakes poker with his tough attacks on the political opponent, he often won, this time he lost sky-high. The CDU will foreseeably miss his ability for sharpening in the 2009 federal election campaign. The Lower Saxon Christian Wulff is a master in rhetorical emptiness, just like his party chairman Angela Merkel. To explain where they want lead the CDU will be quite more difficult without Koch.

So, without a populist who mouths off to play to xenophobic hatred, but tones down when designing a present for his corporate friends, the CDU won't be able to articulate what message?...

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

by DoDo on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 07:50:29 AM EST
I love it when the FT Deutschland explains how politics that lose elections are better than politics that win elections.

I can only hope the CDU and FDP are taking notes!

Merkel will not lead the CDU to anywhere. She will keep it in the centre. Where she is, and she seems quite comfortable there. More importantly, the Germans are comfortable with her being there.

The SPD has to improve its politics considerably, or she'll have another term as Chancellor.

For that, the Hessen elections provide an instructive example.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 09:07:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hubert Kleinert/Greens, a centrist who was first an ideologue for the possibility of Red-Green, and later for CDU-Green options, writes another eulogy for Koch.

Es ist nachvollziehbar, dass die Unionsstrategen nach Themen zur eigenen Profilierung suchten, nachdem mit dem Auftritt der Linkspartei die "bürgerliche Mehrheit" im letzten Herbst unsicher geworden war. Statt aber darauf zu setzen, aus einer Position der Mitte und der Regierungserfahrung heraus mit Argumenten von Wirtschaftskompetenz und Solidität um Zustimmung zu werben, statt herauszustellen, was man bei Integration und in Sachen Kriminalitätsbekämpfung getan hat und zu tun gedenkt, hat Koch auf Lagerbildung und Zuspitzung gesetzt und sich damit auf ein für ihn selbst gefährliches Unternehmen eingelassen. It is understandable that CDU strategists looked for themes to enhance their own image, after the "bourgeois majority" became insecure with the entry of the Left Party last fall. But, instead of betting on courting support from a center position and government experience with arguments of economic competence and solidarity, instead of exposing what one did and plans to do on the issue of integration [of immigrants] and fighting crime, Koch betted on block formation and polarising agitation, and with that, he exposed himself to an endeavour dangerous to himself.

In other words: the centrists think Koch failed because he didn't try to be a centrist in the rightward direction. In fact, a number of CDU/CSU regional leaders are echoing this, in the form of lesson for their own election campaigns.

I guess that's something to celebrate: the Overton Window shifted for the other side, and significantly so, and xenophobic campaigns may be out even for Bavaria! However, I think it is more honest to point out that the centrist analysis is wrong: would it not be, Koch would never have won two elections before.

Claus Christian Malzahn, a resident neocon with SPIEGEL, is also finished with Koch. He calls his campaign xenophobic, even if he 'submits' that there is such a problem as immigrant youth crime, where he locates a key Koch error in pretending that it mainly hits Germans rather than fellow foreigners. (Possible translation: the Islamofascists enforce agreement with violence on the streets?...)

But what's really interesting in the Malzahn piece is that he is almost begging the FDP to re-consider its rejection of a Traffic Lights Coalition. Why?

Eine Ampel in Hessen könnte ... zudem ein Testlauf für den Bund sein. In Wiesbaden könnte man üben und Rollen verteilen: Die FDP als wirtschaftspolitisches Korrektiv in einer eher linksgewirkten Regierung - da gäbe es viel Raum für vernunftbetonten Auftritt. A traffic lights [coalition] in Hessen could ... also be a test run for the federal level. In [Hessen capital] Wiesbaden, one could exercise and allocate roles: the FDP as economic policy correction in a more left-acting government - there would be lots of room for reason-emphasizing demeanor.


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 10:55:52 AM EST
[ Parent ]
the Overton Window shifted for the other side, and significantly so,

That's the encouragement coming out of Hesse..!

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 11:02:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Just saw the intro of another op-ed in SPIEGEL ONLINE:

STANDORT D
Deutschland in der Sozial- Falle
Habitat G
Germany in the social trap
Mindestlohn-Streit, Nokia-Eklat, Protest gegen hohe Managergehälter: Die Deutschen handeln, als sei die Globalisierung nur ein böser Traum. Volk und Politiker sind vereint im Umverteilungsrausch - das bittere Ende ist gewiss. Von Wolfgang Kaden mehr... Fight over minimal wage, Nokia scandal [a tax-break-subventitioned factory got outsourced], protest against high manager wages: the Germans act as if globalisation would just be a bad dream. People and politicians are united in a redistribution high - the bitter end is certain. By Wolfgang Kaden more...

Hahahahahah!!!!

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

by DoDo on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 11:11:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Her strongest rival...

My spin on Koch is that he was destined to be kingmaker, not chief. Party leader, not front-runner. He's just not a good candidate for a national election (Wulff is). I still find this speculation about whether he'll go to Berlin kind of odd. I mean, he is responsible for a major loss, and he has nothing to bring to Berlin. Koch is not someone you want to hang on to because of his talents.

Just has a couple of friends in high places. But Merkel is in a much better position, and I have more faith in her game.

...

It is astounding how little behind the scenes coverage you get in the foreign press.

I mean, these people do this for a living, right? Pretty lousy job.

I know, I know, their job is not to report, just to put a spin on stories so that it fits the narrative their paymasters want... I'm getting to that level of cynicism already, don't worry...

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 08:49:23 AM EST
Excerpts from Le Monde:

Lemonde.fr : L'aile droitière de la CDU désavouée à Francfort - Europe Le Monde: The right wing of the CDU disowned in Frankfurt

Les Allemands ont infligé, dimanche 27 janvier, de lourdes pertes à l'Union chrétienne démocrate (CDU), le parti de la chancelière, Angela Merkel, lors des élections régionales de Hesse, la région de Francfort. La CDU perd 12 points par rapport à 2003, en recueillant 36,8 % des voix, tandis que le Parti social démocrate (SPD) gagne plus de 7 points et obtient 36,7 % suffrages.

Sunday 27 January, the Germans inflicted heavy losses on Chancellor Angela Merkel's party, the CDU, in Hesse, the region of Frankfurt. The CDU lost 12 points compared to 2003, getting 36.8% of votes, while the SPD gained more than 7 points and obtained 36.7%.
<...>
Le ministre-président de Hesse, Roland Koch (CDU), qui gouverne la région depuis 1999, essuie une défaite cuisante. Le choix de mener une campagne électorale controversée sur la délinquance juvénile des jeunes issus de l'immigration s'est retourné contre lui.
<...> The PM of Hesse, Roland Koch (CDU), who has governed the region since 1999, suffers a stinging defeat. The choice of controversial campaigning on immigrant juvenile delinquency boomeranged against him.
C'est aussi un échec pour Mme Merkel qui avait soutenu M. Koch.
<...>
M. Koch s'est dit victime d'une campagne de diffamation.
It's also a setback for Mrs Merkel who supported Mr Koch.
<...>
Mr Koch said he was the victim of a smear campaign.
Son score tranche avec celui enregistré le même jour en Basse-Saxe (région de Hanovre) par le ministre-président sortant Christian Wulff (CDU). Il a perdu quelques points mais il peut, avec 42,5 % des voix, continuer à gouverner avec les libéraux (8 %).
<...>
His score is in contrast with that of PM Wulff (CDU) in Lower Saxony (region of Hanover). He lost some points but, with 42.5%, can go on governing with the liberals (8%).
<...>
A la différence de M. Koch, M. Wulff a évité les polémiques et s'est montré tantôt conciliant sur le salaire minimum tantôt modéré dans le débat sur la criminalité des mineurs. Cette stratégie correspond davantage au style de la chancelière, qui cherche à positionner la CDU comme un grand parti du centre. Unlike Koch, Wulff avoided polemics and was as conciliatory on the minimum wage as in the debate on juvenile delinquence. This strategy fits better with the Chancellor's style, that seeks to position the CDU as a broad centre party.
L'affaiblissement de M. Koch aura des répercussions sur la stratégie du parti et les ambitions des uns et des autres. Non seulement, il est l'un des plus influents dirigeants de la CDU, mais c'est l'un des relais des cercles libéraux et conservateurs du parti.
<...>
Sa défaite devrait laisser le champ libre aux tenants d'une droite plus sociale tels que M. Wulff ou Jürgen Rüttgers, ministre-président de Rhénanie-du-Nord-Westphalie.
The weakening of Koch will have repercussions on his party's strategy as well as individual ambitions. He is not only one of the most influential CDU leaders, but one of the relays of (free-market) liberals and conservatives in the party.
<...>
His defeat should leave the field open for supporters of a more social right like Wulff or Jürgen Rüttgers, PM of NRW.
La remontée du SPD en Hesse vient conforter la stratégie engagée par le président du parti Kurt Beck. Depuis son élection à la tête du parti en 2006, il renforce le profil social du SPD <...> The rise of the SPD in Hesse reinforces the strategy of party president Kurt Beck. Since his election in 2006, he has strengthened the social profile of the SPD <...>
En choisissant de mettre en avant la justice sociale et le salaire minimum au coeur de sa campagne, Mme Ypsilanti s'est inscrite dans cette nouvelle ligne.
<...>
By choosing to feature social justice and the minimum wage at the core of her campaign, Mrs Ypsilanti was in accordance with that line.
<...>
Cécile Calla
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 09:22:01 AM EST
Apart from "setback for Merkel", printing Koch's ridiculous "I was smeared" claim without criticism, and lack of emphasis for Ypsilanti's role, that seems rather well-written.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 11:04:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
svt.se - Förlusterna en framgång och ett problem för Merkel
Bo Inge Andersson, utrikeskommentator Rapport/SVT
Losses are a victory and a problem for Merkel
Bo Inge Andersson, foreign commentator Rapport/SVT
Söndagens val visar på två trender: Stöd åt förbundskansler Angela Merkels samförståndslinje men även stöd åt en mera vänsterinriktad socialdemokratisk politik.Sunday's election shows two trends: Support for Chancellor Angela Merkel's 'co-understanding' line, but also support for a more leftist socialdemocratic politics.
De två trenderna drar åt olika håll.The two trends are pulling in opposite directions.

This article acknowledges the internal issues in both parties, and a victory for a particular line for each: The moderate line of Merkel, and the more leftist line in SPD. I don't know why he thinks the trends pull in opposite directions. It seems that much of the right might be happy with a more moderate line, and are pleased to see some of the troubling xenophobic tendencies of their party disappear. At the same time, with more clear alternatives on the left, promising leftist economic policies on wages, pensions, unemployment, and other issues, the xenophobic lure of blaming all problems on foreigners loses its attraction for the working classes. Let's remember that xenophobic tendencies are one of the favourite ways for the right to gain votes amongst those of lesser economic means, and it seems to work much less well in a political situation with a clear, viable economically left alternative.

Rasistiska inslagRacist elements

Elements of racism in the campaign covered. Merkel's rivalry with Koch reviewed. Predicting strengthening on Merkel's position within the CDU and a weakening of the hard right wing of Koch.

SPD:s vänsterkurs bekräftasSPD's leftward movement proves successful

SPD's successful attempt to recover some of its leftist electorate who might view the grand coalition as pulling the party to the right. No mention of Schröder and his role on moving the party to the right. Seen as potentially reinvigorating the SPD, but possibly leading to tensions in the grand coalition.

Vänsterpartiets genombrott i västThe Left party's breakthrough in the west.

Possible problem for the SPD with the breakthrough of Die Linke. SPD's refusal to cooperation with the party noted, but since the support might come from previous SPD voters, this too might mean a strengthening of the leftward course of the SPD.

Merkels CDU gick tillbaka i HessenMerkel's CDU backs in Hessen
FRANKFURT. Dött lopp och ett komplicerat politiskt läge i Hessen. Segrare är ändå s-ledaren Andrea Ypsilanti och hos kristdemokraterna på restaurang Zum Goldenen Löwen går meningarna isär om partiledaren Roland Kochs valkampanj var lyckad eller inte.FRANKFURT. A tie, and a complicated political situation in Hessen. The victor is still Andrea Ypsilanti, and with the CDU in the restaurant Zum Goldenen Löwen they cannot agree if the election campaign of Ronald Koch was successful or not.

The correspondent of Dagens Nyheter seems to have decided to go hang out at the election night party place of the CDU. (He probably wants to make sure he would not be mixing with any dirty leftists...) There are few people present, and the few quotes of his interviewing do not put them in a very sympathetic light. One woman blames the CDU's defeat on 'meddling' by the Turks, and then remembers to add that "it's okay if they are German citizens"... Lightweight piece with no substantial analysis.

Aftonbladet: Tysk vänstervindAftonbladet: German leftwind

28 januari 2008 Vad betyder ett par delstatsval i Tyskland för oss i Sverige? Mer än man kan tro. Gårdagens vänsterframgångar påverkar nästa års val till förbundsdagen - och därmed maktbalansen i EU.

28 januari 2008 What does a couple of state elections mean for us in Sweden? More than one might think. The increased support of leftist parties yesterday will influence the elections next year - and therefore the balance of power in the EU.
Tysklands politiska landskap är märkligt. De röd-gröna partierna fick en klar majoritet i det senaste parlamentsvalet.The German political landscape is bizarre. The red-green parties got a clear majority in the last parliamentary elections.

All because the SPD will not cooperate with the Left party! But how long will the SPD torture themselves in grand coalitions with the right when there is a possible majority for progressive politics?

(Aftonbladet is a left leaning paper, if you failed to guess.)

The article is mainly celebrating the failures of the right, and are not too interested in elaborating the nuances of oppositions within the CDU and end up describing Merkel as supporting Koch.

SvD » Utrikes » Oväntad seger för s i tyskt val
Tomas Lundin
SvD » Foreign » Unexpected victory for S in German Elections
Tomas Lundin
- Vi har i dag visat att det går att vinna val med krav på social rättvisa för alla, ropade Andrea Ypsilanti till de jublande anhängarna."Today we have shown that it is possible to win elections with demands of social justice for all", exclaimed Andrea Ypsilanti in front of cheering supporters.

Also this article fails to acknowledge the intra CDU conflicts and trends, describing Koch as "one of the most important party-members for Merkel's CDU"

Ypsilantis inbrytning är därmed också en seger SPD-ledaren Kurt Beck som förra hösten lade om kursen i partiet och bröt med förre förbundskanslern Gerhard Schröders svångremspolitik med sänkt a-kassa, höjda kostnader i vården och nerdragningar för pensionärer.Ypsilantis victory is also a victory for the SPD leader, Kurt Beck, who last fall steared away from Gerhard Schröders reform politics with lowered unemployment benefits, higher fees in healthcare and lowered pensions.

Emphasis on left against right, and the implications for next year's elections. Predictions that the SPD will now have the courage to go to elections of a traditional welfare platform. Very brief mention of the gains by the Left party. No anti-left spin, dry and factual, but failing at getting to any of the nuances of intra-CDU conflicts.
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 09:58:50 AM EST
So svt.se was the best, with a foreign [affairs] commentator NOT suffering from Foreign Corresponditis. Now, is that the state TV? And do you or others versed in Swedish politics know something about Andersson? This piece gives the impression of a good journalist.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 11:24:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup, that would be the state TV. I don't know anything about this guy, so hopefully someone else can respond. (I read Swedish media too rarely to have a sense of who is who.)
by someone (s0me1smail(a)gmail(d)com) on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 03:05:54 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He is their main extra talking head in the newscasts when it is about foreign affairs. You know, when they have to explain something and run the script between two journalists. He also writes longish in-depth pieces for their website and teletext.

For more info I had to check Wikipedia. Apparently he has an academic degree related to German language and Germany, and has worked two stints (76-79 & 85-89) as correspondent in Bonn. So when it comes to Germany he has a very solid foundation.

Being a very well established journalist, working in a fact-interested environment and getting time to do this in-depth pieces he should have the time to do be good. And he generally is.

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se

by A swedish kind of death on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 05:00:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Several great diaries lately, DoDo-- when do you find the time to write these things?
I learn a great deal from you, and De Gondi, and--- lots of people here.
Thanks.

Capitalism searches out the darkest corners of human potential, and mainlines them.
by geezer in Paris (risico at wanadoo(flypoop)fr) on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 09:59:16 AM EST
Thanks a lot for this DoDo!
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Mon Jan 28th, 2008 at 04:24:15 PM EST
I'm not so happy with your analysis, though I have to admit to be a conservative.

Die Linke is a radical party. Important party members have repeatedly claimed, that the BRD was as responsible for the wall as the DDR, including the shots on people who tried to go over the wall. They glorify the DDR in many ways, not acknowledging, that the DDR has spied its citizens, imprisoned ... (I think you know what as you live in Hungary); and the DDR has economical completely failed. After the fall of the wall the nominally wages increased within some years by 1000% (thousend). Todays wellfare is higher than the average DDR income.

As well I think it is not useful to compare with the last Hesse election, but with the federal election in 2005. I'm pretty sure, that if in the federal election next year the people of Hesse and Lower Saxony decide to vote as they did in the latest state elections, a CDU/FDP coalition would be possible. In Bavaria and BW e.g. people will vote overwhelmingly conservative. The last state elections were under special circumstances dominated by federal policy. The current elections were not dominated by the federal policy.
The most important issue on state level is education, where the federal level has no influence. And Koch had a good friend of him as minister for education who failed to do a good job (I don't live in Hesse, but there were several people refering to it), whereas Wulf (for whom I have voted) did a good job on education. A petition for a referendum initiated by a SPD friedly organisation shortly before the election was a complete failure.

As well I would "deconstruct" the quote from FT, that "It is now unlikely that the Government in Berlin will be able to undertake any important reforms.", because this was unlikely before. How should a result have looked better for the coalition? The CDU was recently so strong on the state level, that the SPD would have been destroyed, if there would not have come more favorable results. Therefore a bigger winning of Roland Koch would not have strengthend the coalition in my opinion.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 06:29:58 PM EST
Die Linke is a radical party.

In my definition, 'radical' would be a formation demanding the immediate nationalisation of most of the economy, or a party associated with groups beating up factory owners on the streets and shouting "death to capitalists!" on football matches, or the re-naming of BDR into DDR with the re-adoption of the old flag and coat of arms. Just to keep up the symmetry with what counts as 'radical' on the rightward direction.

I note that permanent observation of the PDS by the Verfassungsschutz failed to find it problematic.

Without agreeing with the DDR-apologists among the Linke, I will note that there is a wide range of historical interpretations among former inhabitants of the Eastern Bloc, and judgements of developments don't rely on per capita GDP only. This is as true for the ex DDR as Hungary. You may be surprised to learn that a not insignificant part of the Right here thinks that it was better under Kádár (the post-1956 communist dictator) than today.

Good points in your last paragraph.

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

by DoDo on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 07:02:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
the DDR has spied its citizens

By the way, did you support the Großer Lauschangriff in its original form, and various later demands to expand what became of it?

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

by DoDo on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 07:33:59 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe you know this:



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

by DoDo on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 07:35:25 PM EST
[ Parent ]
>>"Just to keep up the symmetry with what counts as 'radical' on the rightward direction."

With your very strict definition of 'radical' "Die Linke" is probably not a radical party, though e.g. the "Republikaner" wouldn't be one as well and they were assumed to be too extreme to be accepted as coalition partner.
I doubt you can name a right wing party, which is widely accepted as coalition partner, excusing violance against any co-habitant, even if they are policemen, as justified part of political opposition as politicians from "Die Linke" have done.

>>"and judgements of developments don't rely on per capita GDP only."

True, but if the economic development is completely unsustainable, very destructive to the environment (even compared to the still not perfect protection of environment) and would lead to a bankrupcy the day the borders were opened, then I think it is quite fraudulent to promise one can remake the DDR even on the longer run. And that is the official goal, not immediately, but a development to abandon capitalism (as it is for the SPD).
Unfortunately I don't know much about Hungary, but I'm indeed surprised that people on the Right in Hungary think it may have been better in 1960 than today.
Though I can't imagine that this might be true by any objective measure, some problems would have occured anyway. E.g. the end of cheap oil is mostly independent of politics. And of course Hungary had no other country  pumping a trillion Euro into it for catching up lost development.
But even if it were true by an objective measure, this would be a success of capitalism, because Westgerman people are far better off today than then and in Hungary probably from the end of Kádár until 1990 there  would have been an overall bad development. And Westgermans today would be even better off, if in Eastgermany there would have been the western model from 1949 on as well.

>>"By the way, did you support the Großer Lauschangriff in its original form, and various later demands to expand what became of it? "

As far as I know the original "Großer Lauschangriff" is rather old (I'm 25 years old) and I don't know what exactly was the original proposal.

"Stasi 2.0" is completely hyped and indeed it makes me angry that people use this term to describe actual politics.
I am not happy with Schaeuble on his recent survailance increase and far less happy that he hypes an IMO nearly not existing thread of Islamistic attacks on Germany for getting his stuff through the parliament, but the dimension is simply a completely different one than the former Stasi had.

I'm sorry if you found my first statement harsh, because your analysis really had a lot of valid points regarding misinterpretation of the events by the FT.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sat Feb 2nd, 2008 at 09:29:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sorry I didn't get back to you earlier.

Re "radical": I don't think my definition is restrictive, to the contrary, I think some cricles use it too loosely.

Regarding the Republikaner, even the present-day party demands the abolition of the right for asylum (even church asylum, which is rather strange for a party speaking about a superior "Christian-Occidental culture"), which I'd consider a rather radical change. They also demand the abolition of the Verfassungsschutz [Office for the Protection of the Constitution, created to monitor groups suspected of an intent to overthrow the democratic order, like the Nazis did], and the re-creation of Prussia state, which would change Germany rather strongly; and 'total' freedom of speech, which is a transparent sop for Holocaust deniers.

However, the Republikaner that earned the far-right reputation, and the one I am much familiar with, was the time of Franz Schönhuber (until 1994). That was much nastier, they xenophoby was without qualifications, they had no qualms about integrating hardcore ex-Nazis and neo-Nazis, and cooperation with DVU and NPD (the other two, harder far-right parties) foundered only on personalities (who should be the leader). (One small episode from that time I remember fondly was how a Turkish village, upon learning what that nice German gentleman who bought a holiday home does at home, declared Schönhuber an unwelcome person...)

Regarding violence against policemen, I don't know which specific utterance you mean (and thus whether I'd interpret it similarly to you). However, either way, I could surely quote CDU members approving violence by policemen against political demonstrators  -- or worse, deported foreigners. But this is a cultural war of incompatible worldviews that won't lead anywhere. Instead, some deviations:

  1. I imagine I would have a hard time explaining how I, personally, think <both> violent protesters and violent policemen can be both right and wrong, and how observers can be wrong about both the the assumption of justified and unjustified violence, by both protesters and policemen; and that without being accused of equivocation. However, to get my perspective across in a different context, I refer you to some of my writing on the Budapest riots in 2006 and 2007 -- where the rioters were on the right and the 'police supporters' on the Right: on the first riot (see the comments), Scary (if you check just one, check this), second major riot, The Day Budapest Burns To Cinder (or not) (third major riot and precedents, with in-person observations).

  2. At a level of principles, on the topic of violence against practicioners of the state monopoly on violence, I quote some official documents:

That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it
(United States Declaration of Independence)

The doctrine of nonresistance against arbitrary power, and oppression, is absurd, slavish, and destructive of the good and happiness of mankind.
(Constitution of New Hampshire)
(Constitution of North Carolina)
(With slight differences, Constitution of Tennessee)


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 4th, 2008 at 02:50:01 PM EST
[ Parent ]
In principle it is of course right, that one has the right to defend against the gov violantly, but the question is under which circumstances.
Policemen are lousy paid and on big issues, e.g. those negotiated on G8 summits, they often agree with people who defend than those who beat them up.
Therefore I think this is a sign of being against the whole system, because for consistency one would have to suggest the policemen to stay at home. This of course is even more inconsistent as e.g. most G8 protesters want the G8 to get more done, not less.

I didn't know that the riots in Hungary were so serious. It seems that Hungarians are even more enthusiastic on revolution than the French.
I think we have there a different culture. In Germany in the early 30s it were radical right and left wing gangs who were beating up democrats and in '89 the protests were completely peaceful without harming anybody. No violant revolution in Germany has ever brought serious improvement.
If there are right-wing violant protests in Hugary I don't defend them. I can accept violance only as a very last measure for whatever purpose.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Feb 7th, 2008 at 04:36:20 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Policemen are lousy paid and on big issues, e.g. those negotiated on G8 summits, they often agree with people who defend than those who beat them up.

I know of a few instances when at G8 or similar protests, policemen (a) started the beat-up, (b) went ahead to beat the non-violent majority of the protesters, too, without or improperly distinguishing them from the violent ones. (That said, my view of the 'Black Bloc' and their violence fetish, even if against just shop windows, is entirely negative.)

most G8 protesters want the G8 to get more done, not less

Well, in a way agreed, though to my knowledge most G8 protesters want things done in the framework of other institutions, not a club of the richest countries('s governments).

I think we have there a different culture.

There are differences in culture, but not in the scale of violent protests. Though, on the German right, this is constrained to xenophobic attacks of the far-right and mostly to East Germany (think Rostock-Lichtenhagen 1992), while on the German left, the far-left Autonome was more active (think Chaostage, May Day mayhems in Berlin Kreutzberg, and some earlier nuclear transports). Looking back a bit further, let's not forget some quite violent protests against nuclear plants, against the third runway of the Frankfurt airport, and riots involving squatters (Joschka Fischer beating up a policeman!).

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

by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 11:42:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On the first I think we agree on what is the right thing to do and what is the wrong thing to do. I just see quite a lot people who seem to think different.
Your diary about the party exclusion in lower saxony is a sign that at least in the west really Die Linke changes its behavior. I still don't think that this would have happened in east Germany.

Well, the G8 is obsolete, but often a better institution is as well lacking.

In France the revolution was good for something. In Germany even the 68er, who have achieved something, did this not so much by violent protests, but by the "march through the institutions". Teachers, school books, in a way the Green party, that was what really did it. For this Fischer is as well an example.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Tue Feb 19th, 2008 at 02:19:19 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I still don't think that this would have happened in east Germany.

It may be that the East German Left Party has more in-the-closet Honecker admirers, especially with the big contingent of ex-SPD WASG in the West. But as the linked SPIEGEL article at the end says, the East Left Party is more mainstream-ed, e.g. closer to the center than the West German sectarian leftists among the West German Left Party members.

In France the revolution was good for something.

In hindsight :-) In the early 19th century, one could argue that the revolutionary terror of the Jacobins and the rise, emperorship and expansionist warmongering of Napoleon prove that liberalism can only deliver bloodshed and dictatorship. Conservaties of the time have actually argued so.

In Germany even the 68er, who have achieved something, did this not so much by violent protests, but by the "march through the institutions".

I argued the claim that Germany had no political violence of the level seen in Budapest recently, not its effectivity.

But on effectivity, picking nits, I note (1) the Marsch durch die Institutionen came after the street violence, with the so-called "street credibility" playing a part; (2) there is individual and collective achievement, and some of the protests decades ago did achieve a backing down of the state or changed public discourse.

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

by DoDo on Mon Feb 25th, 2008 at 07:58:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are right, with regard to most every day policies, that "Die Linke" is more main stream in the east. But that was never my biggest problem with them. I disagree with them, but what they suggest e.g. on taxes, social aid and so on, is often just SPD positions a bit more radical a decade or so ago, and would hardly justify to declare it an undemocratic party, which is done, when some say they have talks with all democratic parties, but don't mean Die Linke with this. My main problem with them is, that too often various PDS politicians have proven a very strange understanding of history.

"I argued the claim that Germany had no political violence of the level seen in Budapest recently, not its effectivity."
Then you argue a point I have not made. But one could make this point as well. My history teacher in school (who was relatively pro-68er although I don't think he used ever violence) said in France the protests had a different quality than in Germany.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Mon Feb 25th, 2008 at 09:50:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In 1968, the French protests were definitely on another level. However, France didn't have anything comparable to the fight over Startbahn West or the big anti-nuke protests, and the street fights accompanying the car-burnings one and a half years ago were less worse than the worst Chaostage.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Mon Feb 25th, 2008 at 10:28:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
On Stasi 2.0, and the argument that the dimension is completely different: I would counter that in two ways.

First, there is a difference between claimed intent, and real or expected practice. In Schäuble's case, that's the difference between his claims to spy on al-Qaida cells (which you may perceive), and widely held fears of spying powers used to spy on a lot more people. There was such a difference for Stasi 1.0, too: the official rhetoric of the dictatorship was about catching spies and saboteurs, but the practice was the surveillance and blackmail of millions.

Second, there is the slippery slope aspect. just as Nazism wasn't bad only after it killed 6 million Jews (and Gypsies and homosexuals and communists) in death camps but already a decade earlier, one shouldn't just look at the end state of Stasi 1.0 as the largest state surveillance bureaucracy ever. The Stasi grew into that over years. So, Schäuble's push for increased use of surveilance with decreased checks and balances can be seen as leading down a path.

I'm sorry if you found my first statement harsh

No, I more found it challenging to a respectful debate :-) I'm just passionate about my opinions.

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

by DoDo on Mon Feb 4th, 2008 at 03:05:31 PM EST
[ Parent ]
As I said, I don't agree with Schaeuble, but those people who use this Stasi 2.0 often don't talk about it in a "Wehret den Anfaengen" way, but talk really of it like if were were already in the medium of it.
I can't read minds, but I guess Schaeuble has as well some polit-tactical reasons. He wants to be stronger on security whatever Schily has done before.
The media has IMO a strong left-wing bias, when it comes to economy. There is not much the CDU can win. But no main stream media can seriously be strongly on the left-wing regarding security, because that would mean one would have to stop hyping the islamistic threat and then immediately the question would arise, if we don't have to change our relationship with the US drastically - who wants to send troops to Afghanistan to fight people who have done us no harm for protecting those who have just recently kidnapped and tortured two of our citizens without ever charging them.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Thu Feb 7th, 2008 at 04:49:45 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The media has IMO a strong left-wing bias, when it comes to economy.

On this, we definitely disagree.

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

by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 11:45:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Another reply I forgot two weeks ago (I 'lost' this thread during the Stop Blair campaign):

As far as I know the original "Großer Lauschangriff" is rather old (I'm 25 years old) and I don't know what exactly was the original proposal.

OK. You were then 15 resp. 21 years old when the important stuff happened.

The original Großer Lauschangriff was approved by CDU+FDP Bundestag majority in the last year of the Kohl government, in early 1998. It's aim was to enable police to monitor any suspect anywhere, that is also in their homes, and also journalists and pastors. Then the Bundesrat de-fanged it, but not completely. So some people -- checking, it was dissident FDP members led by Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger -- called up the constitutional court, which decided only in 2004: they didn't quash the entire law, but many of its implementation provisions. Proposals to expand it came thereafter, first from Zypries's ministry in Schröder years in the form of the supposed replacement of what the constitutional court tossed out, which was abandoned, then demands from Schäuble and others.

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

by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 12:33:23 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I heard about the court ruling, but I thought that had nothing to do with the original "Grosser Lauschangriff", but was just a rehash of old battles and wasn't interested much at that time (and only a modem internet connection).

On the current stuff from Schaeuble I was sensitised by a friend who already longer was very keen on preventing to spread too much of his data in the Internet.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Tue Feb 19th, 2008 at 02:26:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Gute und informative¹ Diskussion.

Danke an Euch beide.

¹Gleichen Wort, wie im Englischen, nicht wahr?


She believed in nothing; only her skepticism kept her from being an atheist. -- Jean-Paul Sartre

by ATinNM on Sun Feb 3rd, 2008 at 01:21:24 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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