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France, Germany

Merkel and the Social Democrats – a view from France

By François Delapierre

The European right has its model: Germany. Angela Merkel emerged reinforced out of Sunday’s elections. After two terms, she achieved great strides forward for the CDU- CSU coalition. The paradox is that this is a non-exportable German exception. Moreover, austerity policies imposed by the Chancellor have created her own Conservative colleagues great difficulties. In Spain and Greece, Merkel ‘s political friends are in trouble and ranting against the intransigence of their mentor. As for Sarkozy, he got fired after one term. Only mediocrates beyond the sanction of universal suffrage can continue to praise the “German model” without paying the price, by pretending to forget that the export economy is by definition not a model because it cannot be generalised.

For almost two centuries, Germany was, to the contrary, the country of reference for social democracy. The SPD, which this year celebrated its 150th anniversary in the presence of Merkel and Holland, is indeed the first Social Democratic Party, the most powerful and organised. And now it is in shreds. Sunday it did barely better than its lowest ebb in 2009. Such a roasting cannot be explained solely by the “personal equation” of chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück. It confirms the impasse of the social democratic project.

Peer Steinbrück pretended to apply the old strategy of negotiating social compromises with capital. He was so close to dominant capitalists, financiers, they paid him handsomely for his lectures. The SPD also continued to pay for the neoliberal policies driven by Schröder. The former chancellor pushed up the retirement age to 67 and encouraged the explosion of poverty through his labour market reforms. While Holland paid tribute to him during the 150 years celebrations the SPD, although refusing to disown Schroder, nevertheless tried to hide him under the carpet.

Unable to form a majority, even relative, to take the lead, the SPD had no choice but to form an alternative coalition. Again the party’s social democratic orientation constituted an obstacle. The dogma of growth as the prerequisite for social progress led the SPD ideologically away from those environmentalists who had not swallowed green capitalism. Rallying behind policies dictated by finance makes it impossible to agree with Die Linke. As soon as the initial projections showed a majority SPD- Left Party- Greens, Steinbrueck also rejected this scenario, repeating a position expressed during the campaign. And in the end paving the way to Merkel.

French President Francois Holland also ruled out any alternative majority by knighting in an official statement Sunday the outgoing Chancellor. Hollande’s policies – labour and pension reforms and its Atlanticism – have already made ​​him the heir of Schröder. He shares the ability to divide the left and a blindness to the environmental emergency we face. Green issues are reduced to a celebration of corporate competitiveness. On behalf of the “German model”, Holland kisses green capitalism. The grand coalition between Merkel and the German Social Democrats would therefore not be an aberration. It already exists across the border here in France.

Front de Gauche, France ‪

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Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or email [email protected]


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