The real story of the German election, which has not been accurately reported in the American corporate media, is that the left won.
The combined tallies of the ruling Social Democratic Party of Chancellor Gerhardt Schroeder, its coalition partner the Green Party, and a new leftist party, the Left Party, composed of the former Communist Party of the former German Democratic Republic (East Germany) and breakaway leftists from the SDP, add up to almost 52 percent of the vote, and represent a majority of the Bundestag, the German parliament.
But Schroeder and the SDP, which like Tony Blair and the British Labour Party, has moved decisively away from its socialist roots and traditions, are vowing not to cut a deal with the Left Party, which of course, would be able to demand significant concessions (and important cabinet posts) from the SDP on things like continued funding of social programs, protection of unions and union jobs, and the like in return for its participation in the government.
Absent such an agreement with the Left Party, Schroeder would have to cut a deal with the economically conservative Free Democratic Party, which would pull the coalition much farther to the right than even the main SDP membership wants. There is also the risk that the Greens would refuse to join such a coalition, leaving the SDP still without a governing majority.
In the end, absent selling his party’s soul to the FDP (which would likely lead to further SDP defections to the Left Party), Schroeder’s only real choices are to accept a coalition that includes the Left Party, or to agree to a secondary role in a so-called “grand coalition” with the Conservative Union of his opponent, Angela Merkel, who has been described as a German Margaret Thatcher, hell-bent on dragging Germany and Germans away from the welfare state and into an American-style society where the rich get to keep their money and losers are left by the wayside to fend for themselves.
The reality shown in the election results is that a majority of Germans don’t want to see such a disaster foisted upon them, but you wouldn’t know that from following the American press, which was rooting for a big Merkel win, characterized typically in pre-election reports as a victory for “reform.”
Schroeder himself, and his SDP, have clearly taken a deserved drubbing, but not because they have been pursuing a socialist political model. It is defections to the left, in the form of the Left Party, that forced the chancellor to call early elections, and that have left him without a governing majority to stay in power.
Germans, despite 11 percent unemployment, are not clamoring for Thatcherism. Indeed, Merkel’s CDU, with 35.2 percent of the vote, suffered one of its worst electoral showings, garnering only .9 percent more votes and 3 more seats than Schroeder’s own discredited and fractured SDP.
The newly formed Left Party, in its first national election foray, garnered 8.7 percent of the vote, out-polling the Green Party-not a bad showing when one considers how many Left Party sympathizers must have held their noses and voted for Schroeder and the SDP, fearing that polls predicting a Merkel win might have been correct.
The U.S. media seem unwilling to admit that a country as economically well off, and as socially and politically conservative, as Germany, might have a majority that favors socialist or progressive solutions to economic and social problems, and might reject a candidate as sympathetic to American political views and American foreign policy as Merkel and the CDU, but that is the real message of the German election.
Whatever the outcome of intraparty negotiations to form a new government, it is clear that a majority of Germans still want a government that protects workers, protects the elderly, and that controls corporate power, and that maintains a foreign policy independent of the U.S.
DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. His new book of CounterPunch columns titled “This Can’t be Happening!” is published by Common Courage Press. Information about both books and other work by Lindorff can be found at www.thiscantbehappening.net.
He can be reached at: email@example.com
ALEXANDER COCKBURN, JEFFREY ST CLAIR, BECKY GRANT AND THE INSTITUTE FOR THE ADVANCEMENT OF JOURNALISTIC CLARITY, COUNTERPUNCH
We published an article entitled “A Saudiless Arabia” by Wayne Madsen dated October 22, 2002 (the “Article”), on the website of the Institute for the Advancement of Journalistic Clarity, CounterPunch, www.counterpunch.org (the “Website”).
Although it was not our intention, counsel for Mohammed Hussein Al Amoudi has advised us the Article suggests, or could be read as suggesting, that Mr Al Amoudi has funded, supported, or is in some way associated with, the terrorist activities of Osama bin Laden and the Al Qaeda terrorist network.
We do not have any evidence connecting Mr Al Amoudi with terrorism.
As a result of an exchange of communications with Mr Al Amoudi’s lawyers, we have removed the Article from the Website.
We are pleased to clarify the position.
August 17, 2005