FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Germany Has Elections, Too

It’s not only the USA election campaign which is full of contradictions, often connected with its corset of two dominant parties. Germany, with three state elections on March 13 and more coming in the fall, has problems too, even with its largely uncorseted system of many parties.

Take southwestern Baden-Wurttemberg (capital Stuttgart), with relative prosperity largely due to Daimler-Benz and its Mercedes, untouched (as yet?) by emission scandals. The bristly-haired minister-president with his gruff, local dialect is almost too popular! As the first and only Green Party leader to head a state, Winfried Kretschmann, 67, has shared power until now with the Social Democrats as junior partners. But while his party expects a record vote (32%), the poor Social Democrats have sunk in the polls to a measly 13%. With such a one-sided loss, the two may well fail to form a majority, and despite six parties jostling for seats there could be few new options. Would Kretschmann and his Greens stoop to join with the Christian Democrats, soul-mates of US Republicans? Some Greens in other states have done so, swallowing pride and their original claims of being a left-wing party.

But with a week left to go, things can happen. One leading Green on the national scene, Volker Beck from Cologne, 55, the first in the Bundestag who “outed” and always a fighter for gay rights (such as marriage equality, not yet achieved), was caught by the police in Berlin near midnight with 0.6 grams of forbidden crystal meth, probably after leaving a dealer’s apartment. A scandal! He has stepped down as party spokesperson on domestic and religious law and chair of the German-Israeli group, but not from his parliamentary seat.  Some think this might cost his party points in the elections.

In nearby Rhineland-Palatinate (capital Mainz), two women face off in a neck-and-neck race for their party to win out – and make them minister-president. Such a woman vs. woman race is a first. What is truly odd is that the Christian Democrat has been knifing Angela Merkel, the national head of her own party, while the Social Democrat has been more defensive of her – though Merkel is getting murkier every day on the nationally over-riding refugee question. Indeed, most leading politicians are in retreat on the “All are welcome” stand, demanding ever higher barriers for all nationalities except maybe Syrians or Iraqis, chipping away at the right to fetch families, tightening requirements for staying in Germany. And the “Christian” candidate here is one of the toughest and nastiest. Merkel, stone-walled by most European allies, has turned to bribing her former foe, Turkish dictator Erdogan, to have him halt the dangerous voyages across hazardous Aegean waters. Yet somehow her nose-dive in the popularity polls here, urged on by a cabal in her own party, seems to have ended; Mama Angela’s grip on the German helm seems as tight as ever. But as for the European Union – “Oy vay”!

In the third election on March 13th, in Saxony-Anhalt (capital Magdeburg), her party is holding its leading position. But this being East Germany, the party palette has different colors. The LINKE (Left), polling only 4% in the two states mentioned above and struggling to squeak over the 5 % hurdle and gain a few legislature seats, holds second place here with 21 %, well ahead of the sad-sack Social Democrats. Indeed, the LINKE leader once hoped to win first place – and the top job in the state. That is hardly likely now; Christian and Social Democrats will probably have to continue their very unequal, very chilly coalition.

But a new factor has emerged, even more worrisome than elsewhere. While the Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the two western states moved up to 13% and 9%, it soared in Saxony-Anhalt to third place in the polls, with 19%. With a few points it might even push ahead of a rather less dynamic LINKE. The AfD, like Trump, Cruz and Rubio rolled into one with its attacks on immigrants, here mainly Muslims, appeals to the meanest, narrowest instincts. It, too, uses that ancient trick, so devastating in the past in Germany and the USA, of getting people to blame “those others”, poorer than themselves, for one’s problems and fears – thus helping the true culprits, smugly perched atop their growing hoards of euros, dollars, pounds or other currencies and angling for ever more.

Saxony-Anhalt should not be confused with just plain Saxony, though both are in eastern Germany (while Lower Saxony is West German). Plain Saxony is worst of all in the hatred scale. It was there that a fascistic mob besieged a bus-load of immigrants last week, mostly women and children. When the police finally ambled in, their first “assistance” was to drag a 14-year-old refugee to “safety” with a painful headlock, an indication as to which side many cops are on. The police chief later praised them and blamed the panicked refugees. The next day in Bautzen (the beautiful medieval city where I once lived, also in Saxony), a former hotel, almost ready to house immigrants, was set on fire while a drunken, rowdy crowd laughed and pelted the firemen. The cops, late and understaffed as usual, reluctantly arrested two of the most violent spectators. Stanislaw Tillich, 56, the minister-president of Saxony (since 1990 always a Christian Democrat), deplored the incidents in the same meaningless, useless tones used after all the many recent incidents of a similar nature.

In the midst of this triple election campaign the Supreme Court of Germany finally got around to a trial of the National Democratic Party, the NPD. Unlike the AfD, which maintains a respectable exterior while selling its poison, the NPD is more visibly a gang of storm trooper thugs, with a sprinkling of young, raw-looking kids. Those fat shaven napes, their flags, banners and loud demands are enough to make any decent person shudder. An earlier attempt to outlaw it in 2003 failed when the Supreme Court found so many of its leaders to be undercover government spies, often penning the worst statements and joining the fray, that it could not find against the party’s legality.

Now, after years of pressure, the NPD is again on trial, this time with government spies no longer in key leadership jobs. After three days in court, examining their fascistic views and the fiery effects these may be having, the Supreme Court withdrew to arrive at a decision, perhaps in three months. If outlawed the NPD would lose substantial subsidies, paid by the government to all political parties on the basis of their voting results, as well as TV and radio time in elections, and its marches would no longer be considered legitimate party activities.

But win or lose (and views differ on possible benefits), the matter has lost some importance. If the NPD is indeed outlawed, its neo-Nazis, shouting the same slogans, will then more fully support the AfD, only outwardly more mannerly, which will soon acquire seats and a voice in three more states after March 13th (currently it’s in 5 of 16). After general elections in 2017 the AfD will gain the almost certain satisfaction of reaching a goal the NPD never achieved, speaking on TV from the floor of the Bundestag, possibly as third largest caucus. The rapid growth of this young sibling of older neo-Nazi groups confirms the truth of Bertolt Brecht’s warning: “Fertile still are the loins from whence that crept”.

More articles by:

Victor Grossman writes the Berlin Bulletin, which you can subscribe to for free by sending an email to: wechsler_grossman@yahoo.de.

February 18, 2019
Paul Street
31 Actual National Emergencies
Robert Fisk
What Happened to the Remains of Khashoggi’s Predecessor?
David Mattson
When Grizzly Bears Go Bad: Constructions of Victimhood and Blame
Julian Vigo
USMCA’s Outsourcing of Free Speech to Big Tech
George Wuerthner
How the BLM Serves the West’s Welfare Ranchers
Christopher Fons
The Crimes of Elliot Abrams
Thomas Knapp
The First Rule of AIPAC Is: You Do Not Talk about AIPAC
Mitchel Cohen
A Tale of Two Citations: Rachel Carson’s “Silent Spring” and Michael Harrington’s “The Other America”
Jake Johnston
Haiti and the Collapse of a Political and Economic System
Dave Lindorff
It’s Not Just Trump and the Republicans
Laura Flanders
An End to Amazon’s Two-Bit Romance. No Low-Rent Rendezvous.
Patrick Walker
Venezuelan Coup Democrats Vomit on Green New Deal
Natalie Dowzicky
The Millennial Generation Will Tear Down Trump’s Wall
Nick Licata
Of Stress and Inequality
Joseph G. Ramsey
Waking Up on President’s Day During the Reign of Donald Trump
Elliot Sperber
Greater Than Food
Weekend Edition
February 15, 2019
Friday - Sunday
Matthew Hoh
Time for Peace in Afghanistan and an End to the Lies
Chris Floyd
Pence and the Benjamins: An Eternity of Anti-Semitism
Rob Urie
The Green New Deal, Capitalism and the State
Jim Kavanagh
The Siege of Venezuela and the Travails of Empire
Paul Street
Someone Needs to Teach These As$#oles a Lesson
Andrew Levine
World Historical Donald: Unwitting and Unwilling Author of The Green New Deal
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Third Rail-Roaded
Eric Draitser
Impacts of Exploding US Oil Production on Climate and Foreign Policy
Ron Jacobs
Maduro, Guaidó and American Exceptionalism
John Laforge
Nuclear Power Can’t Survive, Much Less Slow Climate Disruption
Joyce Nelson
Venezuela & The Mighty Wurlitzer
Jonathan Cook
In Hebron, Israel Removes the Last Restraint on Its Settlers’ Reign of Terror
Ramzy Baroud
Enough Western Meddling and Interventions: Let the Venezuelan People Decide
Robert Fantina
Congress, Israel and the Politics of “Righteous Indignation”
Dave Lindorff
Using Students, Teachers, Journalists and other Professionals as Spies Puts Everyone in Jeopardy
Kathy Kelly
What it Really Takes to Secure Peace in Afghanistan
Brian Cloughley
In Libya, “We Came, We Saw, He Died.” Now, Maduro?
Nicky Reid
The Councils Before Maduro!
Gary Leupp
“It’s All About the Benjamins, Baby”
Jon Rynn
What a Green New Deal Should Look Like: Filling in the Details
David Swanson
Will the U.S. Senate Let the People of Yemen Live?
Dana E. Abizaid
On Candace Owens’s Praise of Hitler
Raouf Halaby
‘Tiz Kosher for Elected Jewish U.S. Officials to Malign
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Deceitful God-Talk at the Annual National Prayer Breakfast
W. T. Whitney
Caribbean Crosswinds: Revolutionary Turmoil and Social Change 
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Avoiding Authoritarian Socialism
Howard Lisnoff
Anti-Semitism, Racism, and Anti-immigrant Hate
Ralph Nader
The Realized Temptations of NPR and PBS
Cindy Garcia
Trump Pledged to Protect Families, Then He Deported My Husband
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail