Two worthwhile articles about the actual political situation in Germany #berlinstation #richardarmitage

If you want to know what’s really (been) happening, I saw two useful things today in English:

  • An article by Timothy Garton Ash (important scholar of these topics) on sympathy for the AfD.
  • An article by Ronald Granieri on the collapse of coalition efforts, why this is disturbing for areas beyond Germany, Merkel’s prospects, what the FDP hoped to achieve, and whether it’s likely realistic. [disclosure: Granieri is a friend.]

~ by Servetus on November 20, 2017.

5 Responses to “Two worthwhile articles about the actual political situation in Germany #berlinstation #richardarmitage”

  1. Germany (like any other nation) always had its share of far-right people (NPD for ex.), only in West Germany they were more like an underground movement that didn’t get much public space and more public condemnation than anything else back then. Only after there reunification this changed. I remember in 1996 or 97 when I studied in Saxony that East Germany was a lot more ‘comfortable’ with far right movements and even elected NPD people into state government, the CDU Saxony also always had very conservative views. That was a culture shock for a West German kid like me. And although people try to deny it, I think it will take at least an other generation before there is ‘one’ Germany. It’s not at all that tension free, because there are (still) cultural differences – for my generation at least.

    As for the FDP – personally, I think they were not part of any larger government, especially on a national level for good reason – bad politics and no ‘attractive’ politicians. The new youthful attractive look was very visible during the election campaign and those b/w photos Mr Lindner chose. It had the Macron vibe going but in a slightly ridiculous way from my POV. But the biggest issue in the recent election was that thanks to years of GroKo (Grand Coalition) the SPD lost its profile. It started to crumble when Schroeder came into power and moved the focus from workers to businesses, although he was a kind of relief after years of Kohl (which were also depressing), and he (GS) was applauded for standing up against Bush and not following Desert Storm.

    My take is slightly different, I think the way the public consumes news and party programmes (the latter usually not at all) changed dramatically in recent years, and politics has not yet caught up – which is partly due to the fact they (i.e. the established old parties) all have been using the same PR agency for decades. Unfortunately, a lot of people are not as social media and internet news savvy as they like to believe in order to ensure that they don’t get caught up in lies and ‘fake’ news. Plus, most people can’t be bothered to actually get there head around how things work in the geopolitical landscape including lobbying / corporate influence on policies, not to mention how governments (national and/or EU) work. That is a huge problem – public ignorance.

    The AfD was founded as a Euro-sceptic party by (among others) the former and by then already retired (if only had took up gardening instead!) BDI chairman Olaf Henkel – I’m sure a previously die-hard CDU member. Within a comparatively short time, however, the party was overrun by a bunch of nationalists and failed business people. But for me like Pegida (people following a convicted criminal who fled to South Africa to escape justice only to be brought back on taxpayers expenses – oh the irony. Argh) words fail, the AfD is a symptom for a time of uncertainty. It is an angry mob of people who resist change. Not unusual in a way but not helpful either. I think the idea of people fearing they are culturally left behind is persuasive, because those folks are not poor. And East Germany still has to catch up with employment realities which the West dealt with in the 70s/80s. Moreover, Merkel has been in power for too long (like Kohl), and all parties failed to send the lift back down and raise the next generation of capable leaders. A fatigue with her politics and worry about the future make this a volatile mix of emotions more than facts. But Germany is in no way as chaotic as e.g. the Britsh government at the moment.

    I don’t really see Merkel in danger yet. Schulz is not the right person to take over, I’d love to see Gysi going independent and giving it a shot, but that is highly unlikely.

    I think we can also see this election as a result in the light of a changing demographic. The 65+ yo I met (previously ardent SPD voters) became more conservative and extremely worried about the way the world politically but also in terms of business changed. They are the generation that were the most comfortable in the West. Neither my grandparents nor I will be able to create the kind of wealth during a lifetime like my parents did, especially in terms of retirement. My parents find that prospect plus the number of foreigners (also it is just the figure not necessarily a negative experience itself) that scares them. It again comes back to media creating a kind of hysteria to sell papers in some cases. I think also that after those years of hanging their head in shame after WWII, a lot of people across generations want to feel national pride again, the AfD allows them to take pride – although in a rather offensive way in my opinion. Whereas I would happily identify as a (EU-)European, I am more reluctant to think of myself as a German, I’d rather be cosmopolitan. For me that has definitely something to do with the way I was taught history at school and at uni. But I also understand why there is now a growing desire in Germany to take pride in this modern Germany.

    Sorry – this was longer than planned…


    • These are both historians of high politics, so they’re looking at recent events in the grand sweep of the twentieth century, I think, which is slightly different than your perspective. I don’t think either of them would disagree that the Grand Coalition (whenever it occurs, but especially now) turns into a long-term problem for German politics (I know I don’t), although that is not the focus of these articles. My memory, though, is that the SPD was significantly challenged even before Schröder (e.g., during the leadership conflict between Schröder and LaFontaine). I also think Schröder’s post-office activities are not helping the party at all.

      To me, one of the significant things about the AfD is that it’s actually not an angry mob. It’s not the NPD, its picture of itself is not neo-Nazis or skinheads and only marginally Lutz Bachmann and Pegida, just in the sense that the Pegida demonstrations have made the public airing of that sentiment more noticeable. It sees itself as someone like Frauke Petry (AfD leadership contests notwithstanding). Pastor’s wife, mother of four children, says it’s not racist, describes itself as concerned about the future, etc., etc. It believes itself to be completely salonfähig. It presents its desires as rational, indeed commonsensical, and its supporters are well dressed, well spoken, and well educated (I do agree that ignorance plays a role, insofar as I am willing to bet that a lot of AfD voters don’t have any idea bout some of the crazy things that their parliamentary fraction’s representatives have said or subscribed to over the years.)

      re: government — I don’t have a good sense of what would happen if new elections were called. It’s inconceivable to me, however, that Schulz / the SPD could become the leading party in a coalition, let alone govern alone. I’m not a big fan of Gysi, or rather, I suspect that he has Dreck am Stecken and I think that’s why he’s not more prominent. He knows what would come out if anyone looked deeply into his background. However, I have to stress that it’s only a feeling and probably potentiated by the fact that most of my Jewish German friends can’t stand the man. I would be unable to vote for him until I was convinced that his Stasi past was clean. I wonder if Lindner’s insistence could actually chip off AfD voters — i.e., be the “move right” that the CDU/CSU tried without apparently much success. But I am doubtful.

      re: national pride, I think I’m going to do a separate post on that (I was thinking that before I saw 2.7 and now it seems unavoidable), so I’ll delay a conversation that for a bit.


  2. 🙂 So sorry about that!
    L’Europe risque de faire du surplace.


  3. […] a solid, centrist summary of what’s been happening in German parliamentary politics since the FDP collapsed negotiations for a Jamaica coalition. It starts with the re-election of Martin Schulz as the SPD party leader and the SPD’s […]


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