The major political change that is occurring in Germany cannot be comprehended by the German political class or the European corporate media because the consequences are so horrifying for them. We are seeing the harbingers of the collapse of liberal democracy in Germany, something BRAVE NEW EUROPE since its inception has been tracking throughout the EU. As it realises that power is slipping from its hands due to democratic forces there follows “militarised liberal democracy” as we are witnessing in Spain and France, whereby the old regime can only maintain its control with naked aggression. It will be interesting to follow how the German government responds to the massive protests against coal mining in the Northwest of Germany from 19 to the 24 June, when exactly the generation that has turned its back on the German political class will gather to block the open pit mines.
I have included some quotes from João Batalha, a young Portuguese author BRAVE NEW EUROPE supports, but whose outstanding articles concerning Portugal go mostly unnoticed (for example here).
Mathew D. Rose is an Investigative Journalist specialised in Organised Political Crime and an editor of BRAVE NEW EUROPE.
Photo by David Shirreff
German politics is in the midst of a major transformation. This began long before the surprise electoral success of the Greens in the EU election in May. What we are witnessing is the demise of the post-war German political establishment, which has served its people so poorly for the past 30 years. Thirty years is a generation, and it is the upcoming generation that has given the process its recent fillip.
One must understand that the German political establishment consists of one neo-liberal, nationalist party with seven factions. One of those factions may be a bit more social, another superficially concerned about the environment, yet another may endorse taxing the rich. But if you look at practical German politics – what really happens – you will hardly find any differences. The federal state of Baden-Württemberg has a Green government in coalition with Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (its previous coalition partner was the Social Democrats). There are no political headlines coming from there, not even a surprise environmental policy. The federal state of Thuringia has a centre-left coalition led by the Left party (Links), together with the Greens, and Social Democrats. Ditto. The same would be true in Berlin, where a similar coalition exists, except that it is under political pressure from its citizens, who are not only demanding a rent freeze, but also organising a referendum for the expropriation of apartment buildings from large property corporations.
With this lack of an alternative, what many Germans do is simply not vote. Others – quite a number – vote against the current parties in government by selecting another party – any party – that is not in government. These are the so-called protest voters. They were highly visible in the recent EU elections, supporting “The Party” (Die Partei) whose two main candidates were comedians parodying the political system. Not only did they win 2.4 percent of the vote nationally and therewith two seats in the EU parliament (nearly securing a third), but 9 percent of their support came from first-time voters. Altogether 13.6 percent of the votes went to such non-establishment parties, accounting for nine of Germany’s 96 seats in the coming EU parliament. So what is happening and why?
The German political establishment has lost its credibility among a now decisive number of German citizens or as João Batalha describes this malaise: “Politics has become an insider’s game, where access and influence rank higher than reason or public interest, or any notion of the common good”. Once one has lost this credibility, it is virtually impossible to recover it, and in Germany for decades none of the established political parties even bothered trying, except maybe at a local level. The cake has always been there for them, they have eaten it, and had it for the next year, for years on end. This is a political class living on entitlement.
If you speak privately to German politicians of the established parties, their greatest problem is not climate change, inequality, or a deteriorating infrastructure – no not even the Russians. The true enemy of the German political class are the German voters who keep demanding change and will not leave them alone. As Batalha observes, “Most of our politicians are unprepared for this situation – they’ve grown up in a stable, elitist, technocratic polity and now find themselves in something more like the Wild West, filled with anger, emotion and agitation”.
This is not a crisis of centrist parties, it is the loss of trust in a highly corrupt political class.
The decline is probably most dramatically visible in the Social Democratic Party (SPD). This party, which used to enjoy around 40 percent of the vote, received just 20 percent in the 2017 German parliamentary election, 15 percent in the recent EU elections, and is now polling at round 12 percent. This is the party of tax reductions for the rich, austerity for the rest, and stalwart supporters of coal and big cars.
Like the other parties, the SPD has become a party of functionaries, feeding on the fat of the land, not only ignoring German citizens, but also its own party members. It is a party of systemic corruption, corporate greed, and state capture. The motive behind its decision to rejoin Merkel in 2018 was to cash in on the well paid ministerial offices. The usual argument for a grand coalition is to close ranks in a national emergency, but this was the third in four legislative periods. While German media proclaimed it as a patriotic act, it was in fact, and has turned out to be, a political death pact. The SPD nomenclatura, most of whom are nearing retirement age, are cashing in on the political system one more time, and whatever comes after – the destruction of the party, a climate disaster – does not matter.
We are now seeing the rightist conservative Christian Union of Chancellor Merkel following the same trajectory. Traditionally even stronger than the SPD, in the 2017 parliamentary election, despite being led by Merkel, they had their worst result ever: 33 percent. In the EU elections this slipped to under 29 percent, and the Union is currently polling at 24 percent. The party had assumed that with “Mutti” Merkel power would remain in their hands. But Merkel’s hubris and her systematic cover-up of major policy errors with an even worse solution – though winning applause in the national and international mainstream media –have compounded Germany’s and Europe’s problems. Where would European far-right political parties and Turkey’s dictatorial president Erdogan be without her, not to mention the ten-year stagnation in the euro zone?
The moment that truly captured the current political situation in Germany is perhaps a 55-minute diatribe by the German vlogger Rezo entitled “The Destruction of the CDU” posted just before the EU election. It has been viewed 15 million times. It is a well-structured, detailed analysis of the destructive policies of not only Merkel’s Union, but also the SPD and ultra-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), especially their disregard for young voters. The writing was on the wall as Germany recently pushed through new internet copyright laws promoting the interests of European media corporations such as Bertelsmann and Springer at the cost of internet free speech. Many young Germans took to the streets in protest, but were simply ignored. Apparently that and the climate crisis have given this generation a political voice. The amazing thing about the film was the inability of German political parties to answer its factual arguments – something they are no longer used to. Even German mainstream media appeared helpless.
German political parties have believed that they hold the information monopoly for Germany. State television and radio, which are in reality propaganda outlets for the established political parties, and mainstream media, which have a vested interest in the parties, are anything but critical. What the politicians have missed is that in the meantime the average age of viewers of state television is over sixty, while newspapers and magazines are not much lower, not to mention having lost most of their readership. The younger generation obtains their information via internet, including social media. The established parties have never taken this seriously. Why then? There was no one else to vote for. Merkel’s successor as head of the CDU, the doomed-to-failure Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, has merely suggested that there should be new laws for the internet, to prevent such embarrassing vlogs..
The other establishment parties, the Liberals (FDP), the party of corruption, and the Left Party (Links), the faux left, are not going anywhere either. They receive between five and ten percent of the vote, depending on which way the protest vote goes.
And the Greens. One should not forget that in the German parliamentary election on 27 September 2017 – not even two years ago – the Greens were lucky to receive 8.9 percent of the vote. They came in fifth place, far behind the AfD. Now the Greens are polling round 27 percent. So what have they done in the past twenty months? Nothing really. The party had elected a couple of young new faces to lead it, which in fact could result in change, but they too will have to deal with the functionaries of their party machine. Still, the Greens are anything but a radical party and have no difficulty entering a coalition with the Christian Union or the Liberals, both opposed to meaningful policy with regard to climate change. Still, nomen est omen, and Green is green. Interestingly, the only party which seriously addressed climate change was Yanis Varoufakis’s “Demokratie in Europa” with it well substantiated Green New Deal. It received 0,3% of the vote.
That is where things could become difficult for the Greens. Many of their new voters expect radical action with regard to the climate crisis. This is a nation where around one million jobs depend on domestic combustion-driven car, accounting for approximately 5 percent of its gross domestic product. Car companies make massive donations to the political parties (including the Greens). Unions have rabidly protected the car industry, as well as coal mining and burning coal to produce electricity, Genetically Modified Foods, nuclear energy. No speed limit on the German motorway is just as emotional a point for most Germans as the right to carry a gun is to Americans.
The positions that the Greens espouse, and what they actually do, are worlds apart. What is left is value-signalling instead of a really coherent, transformation policy for Germany and the EU. This will have to change if the Greens do not wish to fall back where they were 20 months ago. The young voters want radical policies and they want them now.
While the young are turning to the Greens, older German voters are casting their votes for the far right AfD. Especially in the former East Germany voters have apparently run out of patience. There the far-right AfD is gaining ground rapidly. In the EU elections they had the best results of any party in the eastern states of Brandenburg and Saxony, considered impregnable bastions for Merkel’s CDU and the Social Democrats respectively. In the whole of Germany the AfD is polling level with the Social Democrats.
The Germans are rapidly turning their backs on their political establishment, seeking change, which never seems to come. As João Batalha so astutely observes: “I fear ours are becoming procedural democracies, where citizens are afforded their fundamental rights to complain, to organize, to protest, even to vote out the Government – they are just not afforded the right to make changes.”