Germany, Left Alone
Germany is squandering its political credibility to the former communists, while social democrats spearhead movement towards rapid decay of credibility for political class.
On January, 27 the German state of Hesse elected a new state parliament, with an outcome many had feared, and only few had wished for. In what Germans call a "structural majority" for the leftist political spectrum, the social democrats (SPD), the ecologist party (Grüne), and the former communist movement (Die Linke) would be able to replace the conservative government by conservative Roland Koch (CDU).
Koch had footed his campaign on a xenophobic, and got beaten badly by the voter, losing 12.0 per cent of the votes, compared to the last states legislature vote four years ago.
Koch's opponent, and would-be prime social democrat prime minister, Andrea Ypsilanti (SPD) found her party and herself faced with a difficult choice: Either to let Koch continue in a minority government, against the expressed will of an electorate majority, or be tolerated by the ex-communist movement "Die Linke".
How to turn former communists into... something more acceptable
"Die Linke" has been created in what can be called a PR-master-ploy under the auspices of gifted strategist and ex-SPD chairman, Oskar Lafontaine, from the still strong residuals of the pre-reunification ruling communist party in Eastern Germany (SED, which has changed name two times since 1989 to PDS, and Linkspartei, before rebaptizing to "Die Linke" - left movement). Initially, in West Germany the former communist movement had a weak standing, when, in 2004, a number of trade union members spearheaded a protest movement against the radical state welfare cutbacks, infamous as Hartz-IV. This movement took on the legal form of a political party, the WASG (Wahlalternative für Arbeit und Soziale Gerechtigkeit) in early 2005.
Initially, Lafontaine was not aboard the movement, but acceded to WASG in late 2005, just before the national General Elections, claiming that a unification between then-PDS and WASG was the only way to move forward. What followed, was a wave of cleansing within WASG, squeezing out pioneer members critical of the forced unification from WASG in what can at best be called mudslinging-campaigns reminiscent of early Stalinist methods, in part trying to stifle critics by threatening costly lawsuits to former WASG members who had dared to draw into question the commitment of leading party members (who had moved into parliament on a PDS-ticket in late 2005) to unconditional minimum social security payments to all Germans (known as "bedingungsloses Grundeinkommen").
In fact, even WASG members who had been acclaiming the all but forced WASG-PDS unification were later frozen out as staff members by the authoritarian methods of now "Linkspartei" members of parliament.
The main aim of the unification, however, had been achieved: The former communist party had drawn public legitimacy from what was successfully sold to a larger public as a "unification" between PDS and WASG by Lafontaine. In subsequent state elections, newly labelled "Die Linke" managed to move into 10 of 16 state parliaments, amongst them the West German states Bremen, Lower Saxony, Hesse, and Hamburg, as well as formerly divided capital Berlin, where the former communists are in a coalition government with social democrats (SPD), steering a bleeding edge neocon type of economics policy.
This weekend, "Die Linke's" short march towards social acceptability might have been halted by lone social democrat state MP in Hesse, Dagmar Metzger. She holds one of just two votes necessary for the election of a social democrat prime minister, and reminded her party of a pre-election commitment given that no SPD-candidate was to enter into the attempt of being elected, presiding over a minority green-social democrat minority government, tolerated by "Die Linke". Andrea Ypsilanti, the SPD candidate for prime minister, had shown early signals of giving in to the soft temptations of power, explicitly breaking pre-election promises.
The Shakespearean episode, however, could usher in a fall from grace for the German social democrats, far beyond the boundaries of the state of Hesse: As SPD chairman, Kurt Beck, had earlier given Ypsilanti the green lights for a minority government tolerated by the ex-communists, Metzger's stern refusal to enter into political bartering with "Die Linke" might be the last line of defense against making a neo-communist movement politically acceptable as a reservoir for protest voters - for the time being.
Said Metzger in a press conference: "[In 1961] My father had to leave behind my mother in the Eastern Part of Germany, since had believed [former SED party chairman] Ulbricht. A wall would not be built. The wall came, and we [my family] were separated for many years".