Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Left Party woes in West Germany

by DoDo Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 06:20:26 AM EST

With the entry of the Left Party into two more West German regional parliaments last month, the transformation of the German party landscape into a five-party system seems final.

However, any (locally) new party, having untested and unknown members, is exposed to the danger of some ticking bombs exploding and causing scandals. By now, all three Left Party factions in West German regional parliaments had high-profile cases; the latest in Lower Saxony. Though the party leadership is dealing with them, these actions may have been timely much earlier.



Five parties

After the first few elections, a three-party system settled down in post-WWII West Germany: stable mainstays in the federal and regional parliaments were the Christian Democrats/Socialists (CDU/CSU, the latter in Bavaria, the former everywhere else), the Social Democrats (SPD), and the liberal Free Democrats (FDP).

In the eighties, the Greens became the fourth pillar.

After Reunification, the reform wing of the former East German one-party dictatorship formed the Democratic Socialists (PDS), which integrated some progressive-left and youth tendencies, but also some old "concrete heads". Contrary to the hopes of the West German establishment, PDS didn't disappear with an expected success of Reunification. However, it had a strong presence only in East Germany; this fact, long-time opposition status, and pragmatist local coalitions with the SPD kept it on a different path from its equivalents elsewhere in the former East Bloc.

In the first half of this decade, dissatisfied with policies of then-chancellor Gerhard Schröder's SPD-Greens government, a lot of people on the SPD's left wing left and formed the WASG party. And then, when Schröder called for snap elections in 2005, some leftist intellectuals practically forced the two left-of-SPD formations to unite, and also integrate further small leftist formations.

The process was long and conflict-rich, but ultimately successful. The Left Party is now represented in the federal parliament, and nine of the 16 states of Germany, including three of the ten West German ones.


Bremen

Achieving 8.4% in the 13 May 2007 elections of the city-state Bremen was the Left Party's first West German success, I diaried it.

The major scandal emerging there was like out of a soap opera. Party whip Manfred Steglich (photo left from Hürriyet), of WASG origins, fell in love with Sirvan-Latifah Çakici, a fellow MP of Kurdish ancestry (right on photo via SPIEGEL). But the love was one-sided, and Çakici complained of harrassment in the form of serial text-messaging.

In November 2007, Steglich was fired. However, he wouldn't submit, he denied the charges (claims he sent one single text-message of love), sued against his firing, and pulled another MP with him, that was quite some infighting. The scandal also made it into the Turkish media.


Hessen

The much-talked-about 27 January 2008 state elections in Hessen, in which the Left Party achieved 5.1%, were covered extensively on ET:

In the local Left Party, or at least its Frankfurt leadership, former members of the former West German communist micro-parties gained a rather strong presence. In the August 2007 inner-party vote for leading candidate, they achieved the defeat of the favourite, an ex-SPD union leader, and got Pit Metz elected, a member of the [West] German Communist Party (DKP) (left on a DPA photo from SPIEGEL).

Fortunately for the Left Party, Metz's scandal broke very early in the campaign. He criticised the presence of German troops in Afghanistan, making the rather crude comparison with East German soldiers' order to shoot at the Berlin Wall.

After the ensuing scandal, and outrage from the party base, Metz was forced to resign by the federal party leadership. Successor Willi Van Ooyen, a longtime peace and social activist, could then lead the party into the regional parliament.


Lower Saxony

Also on 27 January 2008, the Left Party entered the parliament of Lower Saxony by scoring 7.1% in elections.

This Thursday, state television ARD's Panorama magazine did a documentary on the DKP and its piggybacking on the Left Party. By today, the formerly Moscow- and Honecker-loyal DKP became a micro-party (the saner left for the PDS long ago) dominated by the old-timer nostalgics.

Those apparently include Lower Saxony Left Party faction member Christel Wegner, who was interviewed by Panorama, and stated that the Left Party's position is not enough, then laid out her (the DKP's) positions. The excerpts released in advance [pdf, German transscript!] were enough to cause a storm; with media focus on the two hot-button issues of recent history:

Zur Wiedereinführung der Staatssicherheit [Stasi]: On the re-installment of the State Security [Stasi]:
"Ich denke nur, wenn man eine andere Gesellschaftsform errichtet, dass man da so ein Organ wieder braucht, weil man sich auch davor schützen muss, dass andere Kräfte, reaktionäre Kräfte die Gelegenheit nutzen und so einen Staat von innen aufweichen." "I just think that if we build a different form of society, then we will need such an agency, because one must have protection against other powers, reactionary powers, using their opportunity to water up such a state from the inside."
Zum Bau der Mauer: On the construction of the [Berlin] Wall:
"Der Bau der Mauer war in jedem Fall eine Maßnahme um sozusagen zu verhindern, dass weiterhin Westdeutsche in die DDR konnten. Einmal die Wirtschaft schädigen, indem sie billig eingekauft haben - das war ja so - auch um zu verhindern, sass irgendwelche Kräfte über die Grenze spazieren, die man da nicht haben wollte." "The construction of the [Berlin] Wall was in any case a measure to, as it were, prevent West Germans from continuing to enter East Germany. On one hand, to [not] damage the economy, by buying cheap - because that was the case then - and also to prevent that any powers one didn't want there from walking across the border."

Beyond the immediate whopper of endorsing the Stasi and the Berlin Wall, note two things:

  1. she is buying and channelling the former official line on what the Stasi and the Wall were about,
  2. though she is speaking of a future socialist Germany, she ignores that the German federal state already has an agency that tracks reactionary elements as far as it is possible in a democracy, the Verfassungsschutz (Office for the Protection of the Constitution).

Ironically, some conservatives called for the (renewed) observation of the Left Party by the Verfassungsschutz after Wegner's remarks.

The Left Party leadership however is not pleased itself. Already in the TV documentary, the reporters asked Gregor Gysi, the 'star' of the former East German PDS, who criticised the West German Left Party branches for accepting DKP members, saying:

Ich hätte es anders entschieden... weil ich weiß, dass die Positionen haben, die mit unseren nichts zu tun haben... Es gibt für uns keinen Weg zurück zur DDR. Es gibt für uns keinen Weg zur Verstaatlichung der Produktionsmittel, denn wissen wir wo das endet. I would have decided differently... because I know that they have positions which have nothing to do with ours... For us, there is no way back into East Germany. For us, there is no way to nationalise the means of production, because we know where that ends.

The Lower Saxony faction leadership reacted even before the airing of the documentary, calling on her to resign, and declaring:

"Es kann mit uns keinerlei Rechtfertigung für die Verbrechen der Staatssicherheit geben" "No one with us can justify the crimes of the Stasi"
Vorstand distanziert sich in aller Form Leadership distances itself in every form
Die Äußerungen des DKP-Mitglieds Christel Wegner sind inakzeptabel. Der Vorstand der Partei DIE LINKE distanziert sich davon in aller Form. Für DIE LINKE gilt ohne jede Einschränkung der vom Parteitag beschlossene Grundsatz: "Wir haben aus der Geschichte gelernt: Respekt vor den Ansichten Andersdenkender ist Voraussetzung von Befreiung. Wir lehnen jede Form von Diktatur ab und verurteilen den Stalinismus als verbrecherischen Missbrauch des Sozialismus. Freiheit und Gleichheit, Sozialismus und Demokratie, Menschenrechte und Gerechtigkeit sind für uns unteilbar." The comments by DKP member Christel Wagner are unacceptable. The leadership fo the Left Party distances itself from those in every form. For the Left Party, the principle accepted by the party congress is valid without any restrictions: "We learned from history: respect for the views of those with different opinions [Rosa Luxemburg reference] is a pre-condition of liberation. We reject any forms of dictatorship, and condemn Stalinism as a criminal mis-use of Socialism. Freedom and equality, Socialism and democracy, human rights and justice are indivisible for us."

:: :: :: :: ::

Are these stories birth pangs, or a signal of more trouble to come? Will the 'East German Realists' (quoting an article in SPIEGEL) succeed in "taming the wacky Westerners"? Commentators' opinions differ according to party affiliations, only the future will tell.

At any rate, the Left Party looks set to enter a fourth regional parliament: on 24 February, the city-state of Hamburg elects a new city parliament, and the last polls showed it at 7-8%.

Display:
...so that I don't always just praise the Comrades ;-)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 06:21:34 AM EST
What if we want you to praise them?

The Hun is always either at your throat or at your feet. Winston Churchill
by r------ on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 09:21:02 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I noticed that I forgot to finish the last sentence, where I wanted to mention Hamburg polls -- now corrected.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 10:20:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for the diary.

There is, it seems to me, not enough attention being paid in our discourse to what it takes to build a party. I'm not saying you can't stomp a party out of the ground in a short period of time, but it requires a huge amount of organisational work, and an extreme amount of care in doing so.

In the current political landscape, in which many countries have an increasingly large drifting electorate, the volatility caused by high fluctuations for existing parties and big entries for new parties is turning into a real governance problem.

This is partially informed by observing the rapid rise and implosion of Fortuynism in the Netherlands, granted. But I think it's an important side of (and trend in) politics few people are really paying enough attention to.

So, again, thanks.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 04:42:48 PM EST
[ Parent ]
This is a really insightful comment, thanks.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Sat Feb 16th, 2008 at 10:54:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, I have no choice but to pay attention, given that in the former East Bloc, rapid rises followed by implosions are the rule, not the exception :-)

However, in Germany, I think this applies to the Schill party in next-to-vote Hamburg, and the one-off successes of the far-right parties in the East, less to the Left Party.

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

by DoDo on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 05:04:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The left party in the west is new. The only difference with these other parties is that it has a national leadership with some political experience, which should favour its chances of eventually becoming a functioning, established party.
by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 08:01:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think there are two more differences:

  1. Much of the membership didn't came from anywhere, but from prior organisations, be them SPD, PDS/West, KPD, Greens, or civilian initiatives. Thus organisational experience is there, leadership and office-holder experience is what's missing.

  2. The Left Party is neither single-issue nor centred on a single charismatic leader.

That said, I too would not characterise the Left Party in the West as presently a "functioning, established party".

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Feb 19th, 2008 at 10:09:58 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think you mean woes!!!

It's a plus for the Germany political system that voters are offered a choice between conservative, liberal, social democrat, green and harder left options, and it is no harm to have those views represented formally in parliament rather than through "extra-parliamentary" means as often happens else where.

Give me proportional representation over binary choice single vote simple majority systems anytime.(US/UK -to a large extent).  They promote a much more inclusive and pluralist political culture.  Obviously the political landscape can become so splintered that coherent Government becomes difficult (Italy?), but so far the German move from 2 and a half parties to 5 hasn't been debilitating, and can reinforce the re-unification process by making similar choices available across all states.

Having said that, any association with (never mind legitimation of) Stalinist Stasi/Berlin Wall type politics can only be extremely damaging for any progressive political movement and the Left Party badly needs to distance itself firmly from such "hold-outs" and old guard communists if it is ever to exceed 10% of the vote nationally.

The promotion of a more egalitarian society must not be tainted with a more authoritarian or totalitarian one - in Germany of all places - and providing greater opportunities for all need not involve restricting the development of an enterprise and innovation culture which Europe badly needs in order to compete more effectively in a globalising economy.

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."

by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 07:53:37 AM EST
Spelling now fixed.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 07:58:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For future reference, what was it? "Voes"?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 01:26:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Yup.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 04:02:24 PM EST
[ Parent ]
if we wanted to be really picky we would also say western Germany.  West Germany was the before re-unification!

"It's a mystery to me - the game commences, For the usual fee - plus expenses, Confidential information - it's in my diary..."
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 05:08:10 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Heh. Never thought of this finesse possible in English, as in German, there is such difference (it's Westdeutschland and Ostdeutschland before and after).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 05:14:35 PM EST
[ Parent ]
as in German, there is such difference

no such difference.

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

by DoDo on Sat Feb 16th, 2008 at 05:48:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Agreed on all counts!

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 10:22:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
For the record note: I tried to keep the diary as impartial as possible from me, but I'm known to cheer the Left Party on ET. That means on one hand shared positions, on the other hand, an expectation that a loud hard-left party will pull discourse in Germany more leftward, with the center getting closer to my ideas even if on some point I disagree with the Left Party.

Also, I harbour no categoric rejection of hard-core commies. I do think that anyone looking for an ideal society in the past is a conservative at heart, and think that those who waste time defending a past system lost sight of the ideals even before looking at the details. However, people change, even Moscow-loyal commies, and I think the Italian, French, Swedish, East German commies showed that they can cooperate rationally if the situation arises.

Also, there is the Austrian example: the KPÖ was a poster example of a hardcore pro-Soviet party, they rejected Eurocommunism and repeatedly purged members who'd favour it, with the result that by the late nineties, their voters were hardly more than the party members. But one guy in the city of Graz thought, all this ideological debate is boring, let's do something for workers! The result was double-digits support in elections for the local parliament. (Though on the last elections this past 20 January, they lost heavily -- with the Greens gaining most --, they still got 11.2%, and the media linked losses to the popular local leader's switch to the regional parliament.)

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

by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 10:39:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree that 5 parties are better than 4. The more parties the more the parties have to compromise. This means essentially that many voters will accuse them of lying. As voter you never know on which points of politics they will compromise and on which not. What if you vote mainly for an environmental purpose, but then the party sacrifices this for doing something on family policy, what you bitterly have swallowed for the other issue. What if the leading party promised to cut spending and then they make a compromise with another party to increase spending and taxing as the current coalition has done.
Essentially the 5 party vs. the 4 party parliament is only an improvement for those, who agree with one of the parties more or less fully and have similar priorities for all of the parties major goals.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 11:11:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do people vote for parties on a single issue?

I think in any coalition, if the parties negotiated right, everyone can implement part of the promises. This of course is more difficult if the coalitioners come from opposite sides of the spectrum, or if there are several dwarf parties that can blackmail a narrow coalition (see Italy).

On the other hand, if there is a narrower party spectrum, the voter's choice may not be between partial implementation of election promises and opposition, but voting for a party with mere hints of one's preferred policies or not vote at all. (For the record, this is my current "choice" at home.)

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

by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 11:23:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo:
Do people vote for parties on a single issue?

Well those people who vote for extremist right wing parties that have policies of deporting Asians/Turks/A.random.foreigner aren't voting for them because they have a good, rounded, transport policy.

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.

by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 11:26:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, OK...

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 11:46:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"...aren't voting for them because they have a good, rounded, transport policy."

Silly me, and here I am thinking this whole time that they just wanted the trains to run on time.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Sat Feb 16th, 2008 at 06:01:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]


"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"
by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Sat Feb 16th, 2008 at 06:26:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
voting for a party with mere hints of one's preferred policies or not vote at all
Well, that are the options for most poeple.

Do people vote for parties on a single issue?
No, but nowadays the parties compromise on most issues and as I said, I already don't agree with the parties before the compromises. Probably its me, but I guess I'm not alone. Most conservative voters will tell you the same as the CDU has given up conservatism on nearly every field apart from immigration and foreign policy, which are the only two, where I'm left of the center. I prefer a party to go to oppostion than to change its entire soul.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 12:28:12 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Incidentally, would you vote for the CSU would it go federal?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 12:37:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe.
At least the insistence on paying compensation for families who don't want to send their children into a Kita is rather encouraging, but I would of course have to check the programm overall.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 01:01:11 PM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way. I don't know if anyone else beyond me would be interested, or if you would have the time for it, but it would be interesting if you'd laid out your views on what a proper (German) conservative platform should be.

In particular, from what I cauht from your comments in other threads, it appears your concept of economy is not the 'the freeer the market, the better' dogma of today, and doesn't exactly map to the views of our industrial-capitalist Swedish conservative, Starvid, either.

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

by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 01:11:33 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Sure, I'd like to do this, but it may take some days.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun Feb 17th, 2008 at 05:24:14 PM EST
[ Parent ]
True. But on the other hand the the more parties, the better chance your choices map with one of them.

I think if you want decisions to match the political will of the majority, in the end Swiss style referendums are better then vesting the power with representatives.

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

by A swedish kind of death on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 11:51:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I have a theory that, in most countries in Europe, our political systems are developing two closely balanced blocks each having a core party that basically spends all its energy chasing the centre and compromising, while the other minor parties in the blocks (and other "extremist" parties outside the blocks) basically represent either single issue parties, regional parties or policy-oriented (as opposed to electioneering-machine) parties. The smaller parties can afford to compromise a bit less, and in fact by compromising they hurt themselves unless they're making a stab at becoming the core party in their block.

We have met the enemy, and he is us — Pogo
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 01:07:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I disagree that 5 parties are better than 4. The more parties the more the parties have to compromise.

They will have to compromise more publicly, but I am not sure that they will have to compromise more in absolute terms. If the new party represents a genuine interest group that is sufficiently distinct from the core voters of the existing parties, then the existing parties would have to compromise with that group anyway (or attempt to exclude them from political influence altogether and bet that they will hold their noses and vote for them anyway because the alternative is worse).

The difference is that with a separate party, those compromises get more out in the open and the interest group that the new party represents is at least represented by people they actually agree with, rather than people who have already made the compromises before the election.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Sat Feb 16th, 2008 at 10:34:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That's true. But I would like to know which compromises they are willing to accept before I vote.
And at least in Germany the small parties are not so much single issue. The Green party e.g. is not just for environment protection, but has as well a broad social agenda and a pacifist branch, although this is today a small minority, and of course even environment protection is a broad field, if you have to judge, if you want to start shut down coal or nuclear.
The FDP is a free market party, but when it comes to more free market for craftsmen regulation they want to protect their specific clients.

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers
by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Sun Feb 17th, 2008 at 05:15:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
That's true. But I would like to know which compromises they are willing to accept before I vote.

There is, of course, a tradeoff between the variety of positions that candidates can take before the election and the ability of candidates to stick to those positions after the election.

And while I can in principle sympathise with the notion that a few big parties will mean that the deals that are brokered before the election will have a better chance of being implemented, this can be both an asset and a liability in terms of representation. It's cool when you happen to largely agree with the compromises that are made. It's a lot less cool when you are effectively presented with a fait accompli that you don't much care for.

More importantly, unless you are prepared to invest a not inconsiderable time in semi-professional politics, you really have only two ways to influence a political party: You can join a party you support (and leave it if they sell out on an issue you find to be of overriding importance), or you can stop voting for them.

The problem with having only a few big parties thus becomes that it effectively prevents voters from punishing their party for making compromises they don't like. After all, if you can only choose between CDU and SPD, you can't very well vote for someone else because SPD sold one of your ideals down the river in a compromise with the CDU - since that someone else would be CDU, who are even worse. So you hold your nose and vote for the SPD while they continue to sell you down the river.

If, on the other hand, you have a continuum of parties, you can shuffle your vote around within the bloc to reflect your support for the stances the different parties take in the internal compromises of the bloc, without giving the other bloc (who are presumably even worse than your own, or you would have switched) an advantage.

Roughly speaking, in the short term the same compromises are going to get made, whether there are more parties or fewer (unless you propose to use the few, big parties model to effectively disenfranchise a large part of the population - the way they do it on the other side of the Pond). So having fewer parties just means that the voters have a harder time booting out the leadership of their bloc. I'm not sure that's desirable. To put it mildly.

Regarding the FDP sell-out, I can't say I'm surprised. Neoliberalism isn't so much an ideology as it's an excuse to further narrow special interests - a scam, in other words - so one should not be surprised when neoliberal politicians cater to special interests. That's a feature, not a bug.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 06:03:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the FDP's case, I wouldn't call it sell-out, because I think the special interests came before neoliberalism: their liberalism wasn't always neoliberalism(-only).

From the above, it appears to me that Martin's real problem as a conservative is lack of diversification on the Right, he can't punish the CDU for compromising with the SPD :-)

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

by DoDo on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 06:39:56 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the FDP's case, I wouldn't call it sell-out, because I think the special interests came before neoliberalism

It's my impression that it always does. That was kinda my point: Neoliberalism is a political cover for catering to special interests. Thus, one should not be surprised when neoliberals cater to special interests. And if those special interests aren't your own, well it's not like you didn't know in advance that they are motivated more by expediency than principle.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 07:02:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
You are right. Maybe one should try the Swiss model of direct vote.

Then I will always lose, but will have the impression it was fair ;-)

Der Amerikaner ist die Orchidee unter den Menschen
Volker Pispers

by Martin (weiser.mensch(at)googlemail.com) on Tue Feb 19th, 2008 at 12:47:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Almost missed this, thanks Melanchthon for leading me to his homepage: a week ago, Daniel Cohn-Bendit put down his vote on what kind of government should be formed in Hessen.

Herr Cohn-Bendit, Rot-Grün, Rot-Grün-Rot, Schwarz-Grün, Jamaika oder Ampel - wie hätten Sie´s gerne? Mr. Cohn-Bendit, Red-Green [SPD+Greens], Red-Green-Red [SPD+Greens+Left], Black-Green [CDU+Greens], Jamaika [CDU+FDP+Greens] or traffic lights [SPD+FDP+Greens] - which one would you like?
DANIEL COHN-BENDIT: Wir müssen zur Kenntnis nehmen, dass wir eine veränderte Parteien-Landschaft haben. Diese Veränderung erfordert geistige Beweglichkeit. Das heißt, man muss herausfinden, welche Machtverhältnisse möglich, nötig oder erstrebenswert sind. DANIEL COHN-BENDIT: We must recognise the fact that our party landscape has changed. This change necessitates mental flexibility. That means that we must find out which power relations are possible, necessary or desirable.
Der Zwang zur Beweglichkeit löst bei den Grünen Konfusion aus. The necessity of flexibility causes confusion among the Greens.
COHN-BENDIT: So klar sind weder CDU, SPD oder FDP, weil bei denen überhaupt keine Bewegung ist. Beispiel Hessen: CDU sagt: große Koalition - ist nicht gerade beweglich. FDP sagt: Schwarz-Gelb, sonst nix - ist ja nicht gerade beweglich. Ypsilanti sagt: Ampel - die niemand will. Und sich glaube auch nicht, dass bei uns die Konfusion am größten ist. Ich interpretiere das Wahlergebnis in Hessen als den Wunsch nach einer Mehrheit jenseits von Schwarz-Gelb. COHN-BENDIT: Neither CDU, nor SPD, nor FDP are this clear, because there is absolutely no flexibility among them. The Hessen example: the CDU says: Grand Coalition [CDU+SPD] - not really flexible. FDP says: Black-Yellow [CDU+FDP], nothing else - not really flexible, aint' it. [Local SPD leader Andrea] Ypsilanti says: traffic lights - which no one wants. And I don'tr believe that the confusion is the greatest among us. I interpret the election result in Hessen as a wish for a majority beyond Black-Yellow [CDU+FDP].
Und die SPD zieht mit? And the SPD follows suit?
COHN-BENDIT: Was soll sie denn machen? Nach diesem Wahlkampf kann doch keine Partei eine Koalition mit der CDU eingehen. DANIEL COHN-BENDIT: What else should they do? After this campaign, no party can enter a coalition with the CDU.

In other words, he is endorsing an SPD-Greens minority government with Left Party outside support. If you speak German, also read the rest of the interview!

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

by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 11:17:02 AM EST
Since I am a member of this blog since the beginning and since I spent the last two years of my political life to build up the Left Party in Lower Saxony, let me just tell me that I am still shocked about the commemnts by the DKP member (whose candidature I actively opposed).

For the German speakers here, I post a public statement, I sent to the members of my regional orgnization today. Full disclosure: I am the chairman of the Left Party in Hannover and an elected member of the Regional Assembly. The Left Party in Hannover represents 25 Percent of the total members in Lower Saxony.

Jörn Jan Leidecker, Kreisvorsitzender DIE LINKE. Region Hannover

Christel Wegener muß gehen. Eine persönliche Stellungnahme

Die Ausführungen von Christel Wegener in der gestrigen Panoramasendung lassen nur eine Konsequenz zu: sie muß entweder heute zurücktreten oder umgehend aus der Fraktion DIE LINKE im Niedersächsischen Landtag ausgeschlossen werden.

Christel Wegener spricht nicht für DIE LINKE in Niedersachsen. Ihre Kandidatur war umstritten. Erst im zweiten Wahlgang hat sie sich gegen eine hannoversche Kandidatin mit 73 zu 71 Stimmen durchgesetzt. Ihre Kommentare sind ein Schlag ins Gesicht derjenigen die seit Jahren versuchen, eine linke Partei aufzubauen, die sich nicht auf die autoritären und dikatatorischen Traditionslinien, sondern auf die emanzipatorischen Wurzeln der Linken bezieht.

Gegenüber der Stasi kann es keine Ambivalenz geben. In der Stasi kam zum Ausdruck, was das gesamte sowjetische System in den 80 Jahren seiner Existenz von einer Hoffnung der Freiheit zu einem Alptraum aus Unterdrückung und Angst gemacht hat: Es war der Sicherheitsapparat einer miesen und menschenverachtenden Diktatur, die  Angst vor den Menschen hatten, und zu Recht haben musste, die sie beherrschte. Der Kontrollwahn und die Bösartigkeit der Sicherheitsbehörden, die Folterungen und stalinischen Massenmorde, die Knäste, die Verfolgungen und das Ausspionieren von sog. Regimegegnern - all dies hat mit "Links" nichts zu tun. Wer demgegenüber ambivalent ist, der verhöhnt die Toten und verlacht die vielen immer noch lebenden Opfer.

Vielleicht fehlt bei einigen, die in der Bundesrepublik einen hohen Preis für ihr Linkssein gezahlt haben und die sich im Angesicht westdeutscher Intoleranz der DDR hoffnungsvoll zugewandt hatten, eine wesentliche Erkenntnis: Der sog. reale Sozialismus war ein autoritäres und menschenverachtendes Regime, das Uniformität und Kleingeistigkeit beförderte, Menschen vernichtete und das bei all den Hoffnungen und positiven individuellen Leistungen, umfassend, komplett,  zu Recht und viel zu spät gescheitert ist.

Das Schicksal von Freunden ist für mich entscheidend, die, weil sie Christen waren unterdrückt, wurden, und nicht studieren durften. Ich denke an diejenigen, die zwangsumgesiedelt wurden. Ich denke an die Familien von Menschen, die auswanderen wollten, und deren Angehörige  Leid und Verfolgung ertragen mussten.

Gerade auch im Bildungssystem hat die DDR versagt. Margot Honeckers Schulsystem mag als systematische Skizze ja im Wahlkampf lustig mit dem finnischen Schulsystem zu vergleichen sein, es war aber in der Praxis ein System das Anpassung statt dem Entdecken der eigenen Fähigkeiten und der Kreativität diente. Schon das Bildungssystem war politisch, anstatt offen zu sein. Die Widerlichkeit des Aussortierens von unangepaßten Schülern ist häufig dokumentiert.

Wenn wir eine neue LINKE sein wollen, dann müssen wir uns an diejenigen halten, die in den Staaten Mittel- uns Osteuropas und in der Sowjetunion diese graugesichtigen Diktaturen von der Landkarte gefegt haben. Und an die wenigen positiven Traditionslinien, die es wert sindm, erhalten zu werden: Eine moderne LINKE steht in der Tradition derjenigen die sich im Prager Frühling den sowjetischen Panzern entgegengestellt haben und nicht in der Tradition der Panzerfahrer.

Der Aufstand der Danziger Leninwerft hat mehr mit uns zu tun, als die Verkündung des polnischen Ausnahmezustandes. Der ungarische Aufstand von 1956 ist mehr Teil unseres Bezugssystems, als die Ermordung Imre Nagys. Mein Mitgefühl gehört denjenigen Menschen, die sich 1989 in die Prager Botschaft der Bundesrepublik geflüchtet haben. Wir stehen in der Tradition derjenigen die in den Zügen von Prag in den Westen durften und nicht an der Seite derjenigen, die mit Maschinengewehren versucht haben, tausende an der Erstürmung der Bahnhöfe zu hindern.

Und das alles, weil wir Sozialisten sind. 150 Jahre organisierte Arbeiterbewegung haben gezeigt, dass die soziale Veränderung, die nicht die Freiheit und die Unverletzlichkeit der Würde des einzelnen Menschen unabhängig von seiner ökonomischen, kulturellen und sozialen Herkunft in den Mittelpunkt ihres Handelns stellt, an sich selbst scheitert, ja sich selbst gegen sich wendet. Ich bin stolz darauf, wie eindeutig meine Partei ihren Anteil an den Chancen, aber auch am Versagen in den Neunzigerjahren aufgearbeitet hat.

Die Antwort auf die Verbrechen und die gebrochenen Versprechungen des Staatssozialismus ist nicht die Abwendung von der Idee, dass man die ökonomischen und sozialen Verhältnisse fundamental anders gestalten muss. Dies kann aber nur als Emanzipationsprozess geschehen. Die Geschichte der Bundesrepublik gibt uns Traditionen in die Hand, die zeigen, wi es geht. Ich denke an die Frauenbewegung, die Friedensbewegung und die Umweltbewegungen.

Die sozialen Bewegungen haben dieses Land verändert, freier und offener gemacht. Eine kluges Einher von parlamentarischer und außerparlamentarischer Bewegung haben Fortschritt und Emanzipation ermöglicht, so dass dieses Land heute freier und auch von links gestaltbar ist. Dafür haben die 68ger aber auch viele andere Demokraten jahrzehntelang gearbeitet.

Dieses Erbe, das Erbe von Gustav Heinemann und Willy Brandt, von Fritz Bauer und Martin Niemöller, von Elisabeth Selbert und vielen anderen, gilt es zu bewahren.

Unser Sozialismus hat nicht nur ein menschliches Anlitz - er ist entweder menschlich, oder er ist Nichts.

Hannover, d. 15.2.2008

by jandsm on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 11:51:33 AM EST
Can you provide a brief synopsis in English?

"Pretending that you already know the answer when you don't is not actually very helpful." ~Migeru.
by poemless on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 12:05:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I will try to post a diary on the weekend... Right now, I have to go to a crisis meeting.

Basically I claim that a left party can only be left when she clearly rejects the authoritarian regimes and traditions.

by jandsm on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 12:10:40 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Could you help us disseminate the petition against Tony Blair in Germany? We don't have a lot of signature from there so far...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet
by Melanchthon on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 03:54:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
He does sound quite busy...

Un roi sans divertissement est un homme plein de misères
by linca (antonin POINT lucas AROBASE gmail.com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 05:53:28 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Log time no see! I hope you'll find the time for a diary over the weekend.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 12:38:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Christel Wegener

Is her name not Wegner?

Also for ther German speakers, I suggest that you watch the video of the actual interview, there is a circumstance I don't see mentioned in the written media: when the reporters ask her how Stasi and shooting order go with democracy, there is first a 10-second or longer silence from her.

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

by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 12:42:37 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I now read your piece to the end, it's great and forcefully argued.

Minor note on history, for 1956, you could also have mentioned the workers' councils, for the Prague Spring, its socialist leaders, to make the leftist reference clearer.

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

by DoDo on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 12:49:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Welcome back, jandsm!

I hope we will see you more on ET...

"Dieu se rit des hommes qui se plaignent des conséquences alors qu'ils en chérissent les causes" Jacques-Bénigne Bossuet

by Melanchthon on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 03:52:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Good to see you, jan!
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Fri Feb 15th, 2008 at 04:14:29 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Thank you for that fine statement.  I've been a member of Die Linke since 23.11.2005 here in NRW.  This may seem odd for a member of this party but I am an American residing in Germany.

The platform comes the closest to my political beliefs.  And believe me, I did look at SPD and Greens as well. But the SPD seems to suffer from the same malaise as our American Democrats and the Greens just didn't sell me.

That said, I did have the chance to Sarah Wagenknecht speak and I like her a lot.  However, she made me slightly uneasy.  Perhaps it was my level of German comprehension at the time, that could very well be and I could have missed some nuances.  However she appeared to me to be just a little stalinist leaning and it made me uneasy.

However, I also think it is good to have people of various degrees of Left in the party for discourse and prevent the stagnation of an echo-chamber effect, to keep the party vibrant.  So I became a member.

I have a slight Schuldgefühl as perhaps I should be a little more active than I am locally, especially now that I decided to stay here and take a citizenship, but my academic pursuits also demand a lot of time.  It is quite possible that I will move to Jena as I am in the middle of a transfer from an American University to Friedrich Schiller Uni-Jena to finish up my Promotion.  I have my Betreuungszusage and positive news, but still waiting on an official Zulassung before I celebrate.

Perhaps I may be more useful and active once in Jena and outside of the countryside in Sauerland.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Sat Feb 16th, 2008 at 06:20:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
ZDF reports that, as expected, the Left Party faction in the Lower Saxony parliament voted to expel Christel Wegner. However, she won't give back her mandate, so the faction called on her to do so a second time, citing a prior agreement to do so if there is disagreement between Left Party and DKP.

Wegner herself protests that the TV documentary causing the storm cut her interview in a manipulative way.

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

by DoDo on Mon Feb 18th, 2008 at 11:28:56 AM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]