It was a surprise, to say the least. On Sunday, the elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen – the biggest German Federal Land with about 10 million inhabitants – brought a most unusal result. Over the past fifty years, this only happened once before: good old aunty SPD lost big time.
Now, let me explain. The SPD is a lefty-liberal party, comparable in some ways to the Labour Party in Britain or the Democrats in the US. Furthermore, it is, or claims to be, the oldest, still existing political party in Germany. With its predecessor organisations being called slightly different, its roots run back to 1863. And no matter, how they called themselves, generally speaking, the SPD was and is (or should be) the left- minded, poor man’s and worker’s party. During WWII also the anti-Nazi party, with many party members imprisoned in concentration camps and murdered.
And now they are free falling. Over the long reign of Mrs. Merkel (who is heading the other big party in Germany, the CDU), the SPD was almost always the junior partner in the coalition government. Which is not a great position to be in for any political party in the first place. But this is the third election in a row this spring with really poor results for the SPD. And Nordrhein-Westfalen, NRW for short, is an outright shock, with the SPD governing this federal state since the beginning of time, always winning any election there, no matter what.
What heightens the surprise, is, that old Aunty SPD was hyped just a couple of weeks back. When Mr. Sigmar Gabriel (Foreign Minister), who lead the party in the past, stepped down to allow Mr. Martin Schulz (former President of the European Union’s Parliament) to lead the campaign 2017 for the SPD. Martin Schulz was elected SPD candidate for Federal Chancellorship in Germany with a breathtaking 100% of the delegates votes at the last SPD convention (leading to some jokes, see below). People were entering or re-entering the SPD in droves, at some places there was even a shortage on membership books.
Most of the media were starting to consider, that Mrs. Merkel could actually lose the election this autumn to Mr. Schulz. Which is a big thought to think in Germany, whith Mrs. Merkel being an institution by now (for good reason, too; and with policies, that are leaning much more to the left than any other CDU leader’s before. Which makes it even harder for the SPD to compete).
So, the much needed good news were much appreciated over at Willy Brandt house start of this year. It got the old party in a kind of frenzy. But it seems, the fun was short lived.
I personally never trusted the recent hype. In parts, because I don’t like Mr. Schulz much. I get the impression, he is very much bla bla and very little: ok, let’s do this (or that). Which saddens me, because I honestly believe, Germany needs a worker’s party. It hasn’t had one for decades, whether the SPD was governing or junior partner in a government.
Worse, even: their policies were devastating at times, concerning workers rights. Oh, of course, Mr. Schröder’s Agenda 2010 brought back jobs. But the Agenda made it possible for businesses and industries to create the kind of job, one needs two of to survive. With the companies laughing all their way to the bank ever since. Devaluating the worth of human labour like no other country ever did before. It’s a disgrace, really. And I fear, it will now finish off this grand old party.
4 thoughts on “Aunty SPD”
Thanks for the reminder that many countries besides the USA struggle with leadership, jobs, poverty, etc. With our fixation on hating/ousting Trump, it’s easy to get tunnel vision. 🙂
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It’s interesting to hear your concerns about the loss of workers’ rights – in the USA they are practically non-existent. The Republicans are hell bent on wiping out what remains of the unions, and for a long time the Democrats were only lukewarm in the defense of workers – they actually did a lot of damage with their trade deals. These days the Democrats seem to be coming back to their roots, time will tell if it is too little too late.
You are right. And it is a shame, that happens. It is still much better here than in the US, I believe (what with health insurance for everybody, a minimum of 24 days paid holidays for every full time employee, paid leave at childbirth or if kids are sick and so on) but still, I don’t think there was such a plunge in real income elsewhere. From 2000 to 2010 the overall income in Germany sank (-4,5), whereas elsewhere in Europe it gained to up to 23% (some Skandinavian countries). And folks do notice now. Because low wages means even lower pension or unemplyoment pay.
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And it seems Macron wants to do the same in France – not that he wasn’t a vast improvement on the alternative.
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