Sunday, March 7, 2010

IS article further demolishes mainstream interpretation of German politics

Months ago, I commented on the (predictable) distortion of the results of the German elections in outlets like the NYTimes. Despite the concrete details of the election (e.g. the fact that the right-wing CDU didn't increase their vote tally), the NYTimes spun it as a big win for Merkel and the Right in Germany.

This excellent article in the most recent edition of the British journal International Socialism, further exposes the NYTimes-style narrative as bogus. As the article aptly points out in its opening paragraphs, the CDU actually had a mediocre showing in the recent elections, and its victory owed only to the complete collapse of the "centre-left" Social Democratic party (SPD).

The election of 27 September brought to power a conservative-liberal government—the most right wing combination possible in German politics. But this does not represent a rightward shift in German society. The conservatives of the CDU and Christian Social Union of Bavaria (CSU) had their worst showing since the Second World War. The conservative-liberal camp actually lost a total of 300,000 votes.

The coalition came to power on the back of a collapsed social democracy. The losses of the centre-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) are dramatic. The support for the SPD has halved since 1998. This is a legacy of the so-called Agenda 2010 reforms—a general attack on the welfare state started by SPD chancellor Gerhard Schröder and furthered by his successors.

But you wouldn't know this if you read only the NYTimes. They would have led you to think that the election represented a sweeping victory for the Right, a general nod to neoliberalism, and a repudiation of socialism. Indeed, something closer to the opposite is true. The Left Party (Die Linke) had its strongest showing to date, and the majority of the population oppose many of the current government's policies. For instance:
The coalition of the CDU and the pro-business Free Democratic Party (FDP) won despite the majority of the population’s rejection of their core projects. For example, 77 percent of people are for a legally enshrined minimum wage, which the new government rejects. 61 percent want a shift away from nuclear energy, while the government wants to give nuclear bosses a longer running time for their plants. 55 percent are for an immediate military withdrawal from Afghanistan, but the government wants to send more troops.
To be sure, the Left faces many challenges in Germany, but it's important to poke holes in bullshit narratives about the "meteoric rise" of the Right in Germany.

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