I’m afraid that there’s more disturbing news from Germany (beyond the elections in the Saarland on which I commented on September 6), as the rather timid moves by the ruling Social Democrats toward trimming the welfare state have caused their supporters to support other, more extreme, forms of collectivism. They come in “right-wing” and “left-wing” flavors, but they’re all poisonous, hatefully anti-American, and dangerous to the future of Germany and of Europe.
According to the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (the first table shows the vote shares of the parties in Saxony and their losses and gains from the last elections; click on the arrow to go to the results for Brandenburg), the results are decidedly unpleasant for lovers of liberty. (For English readers, the BBC has less detailed coverage.)
In today’s elections for the state legislatures in Saxony, it looks like the results are big losses in Saxony for the (conservative) Christian Democratic Union (from 56.9% to 41%), minor losses for the (socialist) Social Democratic Party (from 10.7% to its worst ever election result of 9.9%), minor gains for the (communist) Party of Democratic Socialism (from 22.2% to 23.6%), sufficient gains for the (classical liberal) Free Democratic Party to gain representation in the legislature (from 1.1% to 5.8%), sufficient gains for the (leftist/ecological) Green Party to gain representation in the legislature (from 2.4% to 5.0%), and a very disturbing gain for the (nationalist, irredentist, and fascist-leaning) National Democratic Party that entitles it to representation in the legislature (from .9% to 9.3%). (That would translate into 57 seats for the conservatives, 13 for the socialists, 32 for the communists, 12 for the fascists, 6 for the greens, and 8 for the classical liberals.)
In Brandenburg, it looks like a bigger win for the communists and a minor win for the fascists, with the Christian Democratic Union going from 26.5% to 19.4%, the Social Democratic Party going from 39.3% to 32%, the Party of Democratic Socialism going from 23.3% to 28.1%, and the German People’s Union going from 5.3% to 6.1%. (The Greens and the Free Democrats failed to gain representation, as they went from 1.9% to 3.5% and from 1.9% to 3.3%, respectively; 5% is needed to clear the threshhold for representation.) (That would translate into 20 seats for the conservatives, 33 for the socialists, 29 for the communists, and 6 for the fascists.)
At least three things are noteworthy about the recent elections in Germany.
First is a trend toward punishing the socialists for recognizing the reality that the welfare state is simply unsustainable in Germany. It cannot fulfill the promises that politicians have made and it is seriously dragging down German productivity and the living standards that depend on that productivity.
The second is that the biggest drains are to more extreme and poisonous forms of collectivism, which are not so much ideological opponents as rival gangs of thugs, all motivated by the same magical desire to get something for nothing and obsessed with alleged conspiracies by Jews, Americans, financiers, and others to rob them of the glory and wealth that would be theirs if only those groups didn’t exist. (The Social Democrats and the Christian Democrats are remarkably similar in their theological attachment to the German welfare state. Indeed, a good deal of the criticism of tiny “cutbacks” has come from the conservatives.)
Third is that little attention has been paid in either the international press or the German press to this development, certainly in comparison to the hand-wringing about the American elections. (Medienkritik makes that point quite clearly.) On my last visit to Germany in the Hugendubel bookstore in Munich I saw tables loaded with anti-Bush books that present the U.S.A. as a terrible land of fascism and intolerance (and no less than 5 adulatory pro-Kerry books), but almost nothing on the rise of vicious communist and fascist parties in Germany. Politics in the U.S. may have its undesirable features, but extremist parties that call for exterminating minorities (whether racial, ethnic, or class-based) are not represented in any of the state legislatures or in the federal congress.
What will be interesting will be to read in Der Spiegel how the U.S.A. and George Bush are responsible for the election results in Saxony and Brandenburg. (Unsurprisingly, Der Spiegel led with the reduction of the CDU’s vote in Saxony and the necessity of a coalition with the FDP, rather than with the near destruction of the Social Democrats.)