More Collectivist Extremism in Germany

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.)

4 Responses to “More Collectivist Extremism in Germany”

  1. Toby Heinrich

    I am a little confused, Tom, that you called the FDP “classical liberal”. I understand the contrast between the American “liberals” and Europe where “liberal” has retained its meaning. However, I would not go as far to call the FDP “classical liberal” – for that, I think they are still way too much leaning towards the state on many issues, and are still strongly serving a
    certain group of voters (lawyers, phycians, pharmacists, tax accountants etc.). The German philosopher has recently made the funny, yet somewhat sad-but-true remark that, up until recently, that all of the major German parties offered only “different interpretations of the socialist state”.
    CDU’s “theological attachment” to the welfare state has undergone severe shocks with ideas put forward by party-leader Angela Merkel, Friedrich Merz and the new President, Horst Koehler.

    And I am interested in that question about your languages, too.
    – Toby

  2. Toby Heinrich

    “The German philosopher” I refered to is Peter Sloterdijk. I forgot to name him.
    The quote above is just a vague translater, as well as my memory serves me about it.

    – Toby

  3. Tom G. Palmer

    Toby is right to be skeptical about using the term classical liberal to apply to the Free Democratic Party in Germany. It may be more accurate to say that for many years the FDP has been the closest thing to a classical liberal party in Germany. (Within the FDP you can find some real libertarians, too. But a few such voices are popping up here and there in the other parties, as well.) Certainly their campaign slogans are generally more liberal than those of other parties (“More Society, Less State,” etc.), although I’ll concede that their performance when in office has typically been less than inspiring.

    I hope that Angela Merkur and others manage to shake the CDU/CSU out of the orientation it’s had for many years. I was disturbed in the last elections when some CDU/CSU politicians went out of their way to criticize the SDP for undercutting the social state by not being generous enough with state redistribution. Movement in the direction of supporting an enterprise society would be welcome. (In general, I would defer to Toby’s knowledge of German politics; still, I do wonder whether the CDU is merely holding back and hoping that the pro-welfare state backlash among SDP-oriented voters will result in gains for them, or whether they will do the right thing and step up to call for bigger reductions in state power. We’ll see.)

    Regarding my language skills, they are very modest. I speak English reasonably well (and can communicate adequately with Canadians, Australians, Kiwis, and some others). My French on the other hand, is….well….truly beautiful. I know that because whenever I speak French I see grown men and women weep publicly , which I recognize immediately to be tears of pure joy at hearing the language of Moliere and Racine spoken so well. Years ago I tried to master Hungarian (very hard and mostly forgotten, sajnos), Albanian (it still comes back occasionally, but not much), and Russian (which I would truly like to speak; my teacher was a Ukrainian opera coach who insisted on pronunciation and projection, when all I wanted to do was to understand the spoken language, to croak out something understandable to Russians, and to read, so I gave up). My German is adequate but not elegant or very sophisticated. (I’ve always wanted to learn Icelandic, as well, to be able to read the sagas in the original language. Someday, maybe. Ok, I’ll be honest: I’ll die before I ever have the opportunity to do those things.) I studied some Latin and was at one time able with some difficulty to read Greek. In other words, I have less language skill than an average European hotel clerk.