Uncertain time for Germany’s politics

John Wojcik

During my two-week vacation in Germany last month it was clear to me that Germany, like the U.S., is at a crossroad. Dangerous developments connected with a rising fascist movement under the banner of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) are underway. Germany’s Left Party (die Linke), on the other hand could well be on its way toward mounting an effective fightback.
First, the bad news The German version of the Nazis and KKKers who descended on Charlottesville, Virginia, last year are out and about in that country too. They’re in the streets flashing barely disguised Nazi symbols (Displaying the swastika is still illegal in Germany) and shouting anti-immigrant slogans.
But, like in the U.S., there are also the clean-cut, “respectable” politicians and commentators who yearn for a return to the days when Germany was “great.” I saw them on the afternoon and evening talk shows giving interviews and trying to put across the idea that the AfD is a party of “decent” Germans interested in a good life for the German people, free of immigrants and ant-social elements they claim are “overrunning” the country.
Another major parallel is that Germany, like the U.S., is a wealthy and powerful player on the world’s economic stage. Capitalism in Germany results in less than 50 billionaires being “worth” as much as 41 million other Germans combined. The wealth gap, though not as big as it is in the U.S., qualifies as obscene. Children of single mothers are in overcrowded classrooms. Immigrants struggle to raise kids who are sometimes the victims of bullying and discrimination in schools. Seniors find it difficult to live on their pensions. Skyrocketing rents force them, and young people too, out of apartments and send them further away from the city centers.
All of these problems are shaper in the East, the former German Democratic Republic, than they are in the West, the former Federal Republic of Germany.
Now the good, or at least better news When it comes to the right-wing thugs who carry on in the streets, Germany’s youth have been turning out in huge numbers to overwhelm them withmassive, peaceful demonstrations.
On the electoral scene, however, the AfD has not been as easy to deal with. Now at about 15 percent in national polls that come out every day in the Berlin newspapers, the AfD is a hair behind the Social Democrats’ second place – a second place that is getting weaker every day. Merkel’s conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) is moving more to the right, under pressure from its sister party, the Cristian Social Union (CSU) in Bavaria and from the AfD. The CSU, fearful of losing first place there, with far under 50 percent of the support in that state, is also trying to win back voters it has lost to the AfD. There is some talk that the CSU may do something thus far ”verboten” in the Christian parties – enter into a coalition with the AfD.
The Greens, once a party for which progressives had great hopes, are instead moving closer to big business. Perhaps the worst of these unfortunate situations on the electoral front is that of the Social Democrats. Once Germany’s most powerful political party and having close ties to the labor movement, it has lost support and has entered into an unpopular coalition with the two Christian parties. Some of its members have even defected to the AfD which, like the Trumpites in the U.S., poses as a friend of the workers.
This leaves us with die Linke Die Linke is the only party in the Bundestag committed to peace, opposed to the placement of German troops anywhere outside Germany, pushing for drastic hikes in the minimum wage, for affordable housing on a mass scale, for higher pensions, for improved child care and for improved care for the aged. It also is the leader, for all practical purposes, of the anti-fascist movement in Germany. To understand the significance of die Linke in German politics one has only to imagine a Germany without it. There would be almost no calls in the Bundestag for a policy of peace or for any policies that boost the working class and its allies.
This important party, however, has been unable to exceed 11 percent, or, at times, 12 percent in the polls. While it has made slight gains in some of the West German states it has lost some support in some of the East German states. The aging and death of some of the older supporters in the East, people who supported socialism in the GDR days, have contributed to some of this slippage. (IPA/To be continued)

Wednesday, 29 August, 2018