Category Archives: Germany

The German Greens’ “Jamaica Coalition”

Distribution of seats in the Saarland Landtag (parliament)

Distribution of seats in the Saarland Landtag (parliament)

This blog has commented before on the rightward evolution of the German Greens.

It comes as no surprise therefore that in the German state of Saarland the Greens have now decided to form a so-called (after the parties respective colours) “Jamaica” coalition. It is forming an administration with the conservative Christian Democrats, and the free-market radicals of the liberal Free Democrats.

The politics of the Saarland, Germany’s smallest state, were shaken up in at the end of August the state’s parliament.

Both the tow main parties did badly. The CDU dropped 13 percentage points and the Social democrats dropped six.

The reason it hit the headlines though was the astounding breakthrough made by the Die Linke (“The Left”). It jumped 19 points to gain 21% of the vote. This of course the home state of Oskar Lafontaine, leader of Die Linke and former SPD candidate for Chancellor.

The free-market FDP gained four points. The Greens went up 0.3 of a point, winning just three seats.

But between the CDU on the right, and the SPD and Die Linke on the left, the Greens’ three seats made them the kingmakers.

Up until now the Greens have been seen as being on the “left” and have been in national government with the SPD.

As has been pointed out on this blog the Greens are a party who’s membership and base is thoroughly middle class (as Perry Anderson put it, the Greens have become the party of “bourgeois bohemians”). Its politics might seem left, but fundamentally they represent a break from ideas of class and their philosophy is a radical variant of liberalism.

This has meant that it is contradictory, and has tended to try and face both ways at once. But as with most of the European Green parties it has become ever more integrated into the system and have moved steadily to the right.

Saarland may be a small state but the future possibility of such a “Jamaica” coalition at a national level has been under discussion for a while in Germany. This is a step in that direction, as has been recognised by much of the German media.

Such as step would bet the final death-knell for the idea that the Greens are a party of the left.

The problem facing us in this country is the death of the Labour party as a party of the working class. The question arises of whether the Greens and their politics can make a contribution to the rebuilding of working class politics or whether they lead away from it, to a liberalism of the “left”. The warning from Germany needs to be taken seriously.

Links

Der Spiegel on the “Jamaica” coalition (in English)

Perry Anderson, A New Germany, New Left Review

A. Stevens, Are the Greens an Alternative? The Junius Blog

Survey of articles on the rise of Die Linke

A New Hope in Germany, analysis of the German election results

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A New Hope in Germany

It was a good night for the left but a bad night for social democracy in Germany.

In particular it was a good night for Die Linke (The Left) taking 11.9% of the vote and electing 76 MPs (including it seems Christine Buchholz and Andrej Hunko, previously mentioned on this site)

The regional state elections earlier in the year where pointing to a real breakthrough for Die Linke in the western states. Though it will take a much more comprehensive breakdown to be done than is possible at this point in time the figures seem to be suggesting very real gains in across the country for the party.

election results
Before looking at the figures a quick word of explanation on how the electoral system works may be in order.

In Germany for elections to the lower house Federal Parliament, The Bundestag, people have two votes: one for a constituency MP and one for a party list. An MP is elected in each of the 299 constituencies.

But it is the vote for the list that is more important. The number of votes received by the party on the list decides by how many each parties’ number of MPs in the Bundestag are topped up.

Party list results by constituency

Party list results by constituency

This means that a party cannot elect any MPs at a constituency level, but as long as they pass the 5% will gain seats in parliament.

Virtually all constituency seats are held by the big two parties the SPD and the conservative CDU/CSU. The “smaller” parties (the liberal FDP, the Greens and Die Linke) tend to get all their MPs elected from the lists, and hence don’t put much effort into the constituencies)

The continued rise of Die Linke

Nationally Die Linke took 11.9% of the vote (up 3.2 points on the 2005 elections) and polled 5,153,884 votes in the party list ballot. It also got 11.1% (or 4,790,007) in the constituencies.

Their best results, as might be expected, came in the Eastern states taking 29% in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, 28.5% in Brandenburg, (beating the CDU into 3rd place), 32.4% in Saxony Anhalt and 28% in Thuringia. In Berlin (in the East, and previously divided, they took 20.7%.

Though Die Linke was expected to do well in the Eastern states, the results do not reflect a party just resting on its laurels. In all five it increased its percentage of the vote (up 5.3, 1.9, 5.8, 2.7 and 3.9 points respectively compared to 2005).

Die Linke also won 16 constituency (all in the East) a considerable improvement on the three won in 2005. (The Greens only won one constituency , the FDP won none. All the other constituency seats were divided between the CDU/CSU.)

Progress in the Western States

In the western states Die Linke also increased its vote.

In the country’s most populous state, North Rhine-West Phalia, it took 8.4% (up 3.2 points on 2005). Saxony 24.5 (+1.7), Baden Wurtemburg 7.4% (+1.2), Hesse 8.5% (+3.2), Rhine land Palatinate 9.4% (+3.8), Saarland 21% (+4.7).

Even in generally conservative Bavaria it went up 3 points to 6.5%.

In the city-states of the west it took 11.2% (+4.9) in Hamburg, and 14.2% (5.8) Bremen.

In other big cities it also increased its vote, for instance in the constituencies of Cologne it took 9.6% (+3.5), 7.1% (2.3), 10.2% (+); in Dortmund 11% (+4.7), 11.5% (+5); in Stuttgart 9% (4.1) or in Frankfurt am Main 11.2% (+4.1) and10 %(+3.5).

Even in Munich, capital of Bavaria 6.8 (+2.8), 6.6 (+2.9), 6.9 (3), 6.7 (+2.8).

These represent much bigger increase than in the national vote. In Hamburg Die Linke’s vote went up from
59,463 to 98,696 (a 60% increase), in Bremen from 30570 to 47,895 (a 56% increase) Stuttgart’s two districts from 12,218 to 20,874, ( a 70% increase)

Disaster for the Social Democrats

The leader of The SPD Frank-Walter Steinmeier described the results as a “bitter day for German social democracy”. And he was right.

It is the lowest national vote the party has received since the Second World War on 23% down 11 points on 2005. Or to put it another way their vote of 9,988,843, represented a drop of 17% compared to the 12,077,437 they took in 2005.
German_parliamentary_elections_diagram_de
One might well note that this is the kind of vote that Labour is heading for in next year.

Both parties have self destructed by their craven embrace of neo-liberalism, or their failure to come up with any alternatives, in fact their decisive rejection of any, in the face of the crisis.

However there is no Die Linke to rally people towards a different way of running society.

Failure of the far right

The SPD may have nose dived, and the Die Linke may have picked up a lot of its votes, but where did the rest go?

One thing is clear, the far right has not benefited. The main fascist party the NPD only took 1.5% of the vote, a drop of 0.1 points. That a far right party should do so badly even after as steep a slowdown as suffered by the German economy in the last couple of years seems strange.

NeonazimarchIn the Eastern states the party got 3.3% in Mecklenburg Vorpommern (-0.2), 2.6% in Brandenburg (-0.7)
2.2% in Saxony Anhalt (-0.3), 3.2% in Thuringia (-0.4), and 4% in Saxony (0.8).

In the western states the results were as bad for instance taking only 0.9 (+0.2) in North Rhine West-Phalia ( where the SPD dropped -11 points on 2005) or 1.1% in Baden Wurrtemburg (where the SPD dropped -10.8 points)

Now, the history of Germany does in some ways mitigate against a revival of fascist forces, but on the other hand the same could be said of Austria and Italy. In Austria however in last year’s general election the (departed) Jorg Haider’s Freedom Party took 17% and in a regional election at the weekend doubled its vote.

And of course in Italy the former leader of “post fascist” National Alliance is now speaker of the lower house of parliament.

In the post unification period the German fascists managed to reestablish themselves as a small presence on the political scene. In 1990 Republicans took 1.2% and the NPD 0.3%, in 1994 Republicans 1.9%, 1998 the DVU 1.8%, and in 2005 the NPD 1.6 (+1.2 points).

For a time it had seemed that they could grow much bigger, especially in the depressed East amongst disenfranchised and disillusioned young men.

The failure of the fascists to break out of their marginality, has many reasons. But compared to the rest of Europe their failure to make any progress seems surprising. It is difficult to say at this point in time but threre is a good possibility that the rise of Die Linke may be acting as an effective block.

the fact that Die Linke took an extraordinary 25% of the vote of the unemployed seems to suggest this might be the case.

What next?

The election represents a very good result for the Die Linke, and a disaster for the SPD.

How this will pan out is difficult to say but the opportunities are great.

Die Linke is growing and spreading across the country. Putting done deeper roots in the working class and drawing in new forces, especially the young should help to stabilize what is still a quite heterogeneous formation.

After all success is a powerful centripetal force.

But hard times will also be more difficult now that the SPD is in opposition and is no longer in the grip of the Grand Coalition government with the CDU.

However the SPD is likely too continue to be in the grip of neo-liberalism. Every experience in Europe has shown following defeat by the right, social democratic parties have only moved further in that direction.

the reason for the defeat of the SPD is not that Die Linke took votes from them, it is that the SPD inspired no one. With this great step forward for the left there is a god chance that the politics of a real socialism can bring hope where there is now despair.

For a full list of the election results try the returning officers’ website click here

Portugal aslo had a general election at the weekend. For an article on that try the Tendance Cootsey blog, click here

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Germany’s election and Die Linke on the Web

lipglossAhead of Germany’s elections tomorrow a survey of articles available on the web on the rise of Die Linke (The Left) seems to be in order.

The British media is not known for its interest in the politics of other countries, other than the United States.

The lack of coverage of elections in Germany (Europe’s largest economy and most populous nation, worlds largest exporter) compared to the wall to wall coverage of the US presidential elections is instructive.

What happens in Germany is important from any point of view. For the left it has an added importance.

The meteoric rise of Die Linke and the profound effect it is having on the countries politics should be of utmost interest to the rest of the continent’s left.

Though there is plenty in German, this is a language that is little spoken in this country (and as an article in Tuesday’s Education Guardian pointed out, the study of which is in decline

Material in English on Die Linke is in short supply.

The Guardian has run a series of articles on the elections this week including a couple on Die Linke: Die Linke is riding a wave, but for how long? by Jan-Werner Mueller and Die Linke party wins German votes by standing out from crowd by Kate Connolly in Erfurt (yes of the eponymous Programme) and Berlin

For some background on the main developments in Germany society and politics over the last two decades since the fall of the wall you could do much worse than to read Perry Anderson’s article “A New Germany” in the New Left Review.

The breakthrough by Die Linke in state (Länder) elections elections in the West of the country is the cause of much of the breathless expectations of the results of the die Linke tomorrow. For details of those results you could look at these pages: Saarland, Saxony, Thuringia

marx21For a some perspectives form the German revolutionary left you could try an article by Stefan Bornost on the these elections. He is the editor of Marx21, a magazine produced by comrades who were formerly Linksruck, German affiliate of the International Socialist Tendency (linked to the Socialist Workers Party in Britain), in last week’s Sociaslist Worker Breakthrough for German left

Previously he has written in the Internatioanl Socailism Journal on the situation there Germany: the rise of the left” in Issue: 108 (2005) or Germany’s political earthquake” in Issue: 116 (2007)

He also did an interview for the ISJ “Germany’s strategy debate” in Issue: 111(2006) along with long time member of the IST in Germany, Volkhard Mosler and a younger comrade Christine Buchholz, who is standing for the Bundestag in tomorrow’s elections. She also has a rather nice website.

Another perspective comes from Andrej Hunko. You can watch a video of him speaking at Socialist Resistance’s day school on Broad Parties in London last year. He is also a candidate in the election tomorrow and has a campaign website. He was previously a member of a predecessor of Linksruck, the SAG.

The Fourth International has two sections in Germany, the RSB (Revolutionary Socialist League) and the ISL (International Socialist Left)

avanti-titel-2009-09The RSB decided not to join Die Linke. Some perspectives on why they did this can be read in the article by one of their comrades B.B. Herbst form 2005

Build the extra-parliamentary opposition or join the Left Party?

at the International Viewpoint site

The FI’s other section in Germany, the ISL, decided to join Die Linke.

soz0909For their perspectives you could read a couple of articles by Manuel Kellner Crisis of the SPD and the New “Left Party” or Die Linke”, a new party between hope and adaptation (2007)

And of course there is the Die Linke site itself, which also has an English language section

You can also download a rather nice PDF (in English) on the history and politics of the party here or a rather dryer 16-page Party Programme.

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