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Self-abasement and self-effacement January 21, 2018

Posted by Citizen of Nowhere in Uncategorized.
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The German SPD, the oldest political party in Europe, has just opted for its own slow strangulation. A delegate conference voted by 56% to go into coaltion talks. During talks on a framework agreement as a basis for a coalition the SPD gave everything and got next to nothing.

The framework agreement is in essence: more of the same plus much of the AfD’s anti-immigrant agenda. All that’s new is that the anti-immigrants have got an effective stop on refugees’ families joining them. With predictable effects.

The way in which the framework agreement was announced at a press conference is indicative of the current relationship between the Union (CDU/CSU) and the SPD. First Schulz gave a little talk where he thanked everyone involved, and mentioned no substance. Then Merkel spoke and unscripted said something to the effect that Schulz was ‘a great man for a vote of thanks.’ And then the head of the CSU, with his usual sharkish smirk, listed off the two or three minute gains of the SPD as a collective achievement.

The contempt of the Union for the SPD is palpable. The relationship from here on in will be sado-masochistic. And not in a good way.

The SPD is split over the deal with nearly half the party against, and probably the majority of grass-roots members against a coalition on the basis of the framework agreement – the usual delegation selection effect in favour or the leadership applies. The leadership and the grass roots in the party have never been so split.

Normally leaders speeches at an SPD conference are ritually applauded with standing ovations. Schulz got at best half-hearted applause. Those speaking against the coalition enjoyed, in contrast, huge applause.

So the SPD leadership is putting out a number of stories to cover their arses. First, there is a myth that during negotiations the SPD will get more. Why? The Union knows they can’t walk out of the relationship and will turn the screws and the SPD will bend the knee.

There is also a myth that the next government will only go half term. Highly unlikely. The SPD are now in the same position as the Irish Labour party were in the last two Irish governments – hanging on for dear life because they knew that they would incur further losses at an election. So the new German government will be highly stable. No wonder the German employers organisations are cock-a-hoop.

What could the SPD have done otherwise? Well, they could have refused to enter coalition, then voted for Merkel as chancellor, without a working majority – that’s the way the German constitution works. Then it would have been up to Merkel to either form a minority government or call another election.

Either way the SPD could have started campaigning for the genuinely social democratic positions that have a wide acceptance in the electorate.  They could have tried to ensure that the game was played on that playing field rather than the racist and anti-immigrant one constructed by the AfD (and their CSU fellow-travellers), which favours only the AfD. The media may or may not have played along, but at least the SPD would have had a chance of renewal rather than certain decay.

At least genuine social democrats in Germany have somewhere to go other than apoliticisation and tiny left parties. Die Linke encompasses a broad range of positions ranging roughly between genuine social democracy and democratic socialism. If die Linke can’t attract numbers of former SPD members and trades unionists then they are doing something badly wrong.

What will the effects for Ireland be? Harder to say, but barring the faint possibility that the SPD membership will reject the coalition agreement when they vote sometime before Easter, it will mean that in the Brexit negotiations there will be no wedge to be driven between Macron and this German government. The Brexiteer UK government will have no friends in the German government now the the FDP have ruled themselves out, and the AfD are still in opposition.

That means Ireland needs to prepare itself either for a CETA plus a bit agreement, with continuing confusion over the the border on the island, or the real possibility of a hard Brexit.

Comments»

1. WorldbyStorm - January 21, 2018

“At least genuine social democrats in Germany have somewhere to go other than apoliticisation and tiny left parties. Die Linke encompasses a broad range of positions ranging roughly between genuine social democracy and democratic socialism. If die Linke can’t attract numbers of former SPD members and trades unionists then they are doing something badly wrong.”

+1

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2. Lamentreat - January 21, 2018

Interesting that the key moment in Schulz’s speech – possibly the decisive one in terms of getting the vote over the line – was his (shameless) appeal to “giving Macron a partner in Germany”. Right down to “without GroKo, we could eventually be ushering in a Front National government in Paris” and “look at Budapest, look at Warsaw”. Basically the entire pitch was “we’ll negotiate this better, promise, trust us” and “do it for Europe!”

Even by the pitiful standards of European centrist social-democratic leaders (Hamon, Milliband, etc), Schulz is truly pathetic: a lame-duck party leader, incompetent election manager, and a leaden, unconvincing speaker.

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Pasionario - January 22, 2018

He was social democracy’s great hope only a few short years ago, as I recall.

This may be the Pasokification of the SPD. But I have my doubts Die Linke will benefit. They’re still carrying a lot of DDR baggage.

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Citizen of Nowhere - January 23, 2018

The DDR baggage is a favourite theme of the anti-left media. In the last election die Linke lost a fair number of voters (unfortunately to the AfD) in the former East Germany and picked up an equivalent number of voters in the former West Germany. So it is as much a West German as an East German party now.

So there is very little DDR baggage left apart from the fact that die Linke is the only political force to acknowledge that not everything was entirely bad about life in the DDR. The right to affordable housing being one.

During the next Governments period of misrule, there will be plenty of issues around which to build a left alternative. Like the drop in real workers income, after to include rent increases, due to rampant speculation and pseudo-rent-control that the last government deliberately sabotaged. I could go on …

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3. seachranaidhe1 - January 22, 2018

Reblogged this on seachranaidhe1.

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4. Redline - January 24, 2018

[…] see here.   […]

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