Germany is being run by zombie parties, led by a chancellor who is oblivious to the political reality of her nation, Europe, and the world.
Mathew D. Rose is an Investigative Journalist specialised in Organised Political Crime and an editor of BRAVE NEW EUROPE.
Purportedly striking up the German national anthem at a meeting of the grand coalition (Christian Democratic Union, Christian Social Union, and the Social Democrats)
Photo courtesy of MrAceman441, Wikimedia Commons.
The era of Angela Merkel is coming to an end. In November she will celebrating her fourteenth anniversary as German chancellor. Besides the rest of the German political elite, corporate leaders, and media, few others will be celebrating. Ms Merkel, endearingly referred to as “Mutti” (Mummy) by her people and colleagues, was once hailed in mainstream media as the “de-facto leader of the European Union” and “the most powerful woman in the world”. Before her disastrous speech concerning the climate crisis at the UN in September, Ms Merkel jumped at the chance to have her picture taken with Greta Thunberg, sitting herself next to the young activist in a waiting area. Anything that might give her some sort of credibility or shine.
This is the politician who wanted to be known as the “Climate Chancellor”, but has worked systematically to hinder any sort of change. Her only real action in this direction was to begin phasing out nuclear reactors in Germany after the disaster in Fukushima, which she only did to avoid losing an election in her party’s former stronghold of Baden-Württemberg. The voters there did not take her seriously, voting her Christian Democrats out and the Greens in. Her party there has never recovered.
As far as the climate crisis, the protesting youth, and Thunberg are concerned, a half year before her UN photo shoot with Thunberg one encountered another Angela Merkel, the real Angela Merkel, at the Munich Security Conference. There she expressed her scepticism about the young Swedish climate activist and the sudden activism of German youth. Merkel explained that there must be “external influences” behind such a movement, which in Germany means Russia. “But”, Merkel continued, “that suddenly all German children – after years without any external influence – come up with the idea that you have to protest, one can’t imagine that”. Like most of Germany’s political elite, Merkel has long lost touch with reality moving about in her netherworld of EU politicians, corporate lobbyists, and sycophantic journalists.
Merkel, as well as her Social Democrat and Liberal allies have always had the interests of corporations and the rich as their lodestar. The car and energy industries (and banking) have been especially close to Merkel’s and her party’s heart, for which they have been generously remunerated.
Be it diesel cheating, watering down effective EU fuel economy standards for cars, supporting the use of pernicious biofuels, defending using lignite and coal in German power plants (Merkel: “coal will remain a pillar of German energy supply for a prolonged time span”), and sabotaging the EU system of CO2 certificates, you name it, the Climate Chancellor was there in the service of corporate interests, driving on the climate disaster.
This was reinforced last month when Merkel presented her government’s “Climate Policy Package”. Lobbyists and business might be hailing the homeopathic doses of policy as monumental, the broad consensus among Germans is abject disappointment. The promise of the Climate Chancellor in 2007 to have reduced CO2 emissions by 40% by 2020 is not even close to being achieved, and these new measures will do little to reach this goal. True to her neo-liberal mantra, as the highly respected Deutsche Institut für Wirtschaftsforschung (DIW) has discovered, the financial burden of this programme will weigh much heavier on the poor than on the well-off. As usual Merkel lets big business determine policy and converts it into law.
As so often, Merkel permits big business to determine policy and converts this into law. Alone in this week Germany has watered down EU fishing quotas that were relevant for German fishers as well as blocked a proposal by the European Investment Bank to stop financing fossil fuel projects as of November. Furthermore her Christian Union and its coalition partner, the Social Democrats defeated a bill to introduce a speed limit for Germany’s motorways – Germany is the only EU nation without one – of 130 kilometres per hour. This would have resulted in a substantive reduction of Germany’s CO2 emissions without any major investment, even saving consumers money. Not only did its car manufacturers say no, but many Germans, mostly men, equate no speed limit with liberty just as fanatically as many Americans do with carrying guns.
Merkel has been the champion of neo-liberalism in Europe and her legacy of failure is impressive. She has sewn discontent in the EU to the point that it is threatened with dissolution, resulting not only in the Brexit vote, but also in the creation of a reactionary, anti-democratic movement. To counter this destructive policy, she has pandered to these rightist elements, further undermining democracy in Europe. She has used Germany’s financial might following the Great Financial Crisis sacrificing an economic recovery in Europe in order to facilitate one in Germany – even forcing nations like Greece into penury. She has promoted inequality in Germany and throughout the union and protected tax policies that provide corporations with billions of extra profit. She pushed through EU laws that opened the doors to diesel cheating devices and has since done everything to avoid legal and real financial consequences for those companies involved. She has made a mess of the situation in the Ukraine and damaged both the EU and Russia with her cold-war tactics, including a trade embargo that has accomplished nothing. First, without consulting other EU nations, she abandoned immigration laws in order to undermine Germany’s new minimum wage, later to give EU billions to Turkey’s autocratic president Erdogan – again without consulting other EU leaders – to solve her domestic refugee crisis. The list goes on and on.
Faced with a German and EU recession, Germany has begun battening down the hatches. One of the most important measures was to put a German in charge of EU. This could no longer be left to Gallic alcoholics. After the hopeless (but obedient German party stalwart) Manfred Weber was rejected by the EU parliament, Ms von der Leyen was put forward, another hopeless but obedient German party stalwart. It did not matter which German candidate the EU accepted, as long as it was one Merkel selected and was German. The EU parliament demonstrated its fealty. Germany’s programme is clear, as the economic and political situation in the EU deteriorates, the Germans want to increase the power and federalisation of the EU, quashing the last remnants of democracy in the member nations. Germany is very comfortable with the police brutality in France and Catalonia, the murder of the journalist Daphne Caruana Galizia in Malta, and illiberal governments in Eastern Europe. One of the most important phrases in German is “There must be order” (Ordnung muss sein) In the EU there never was any democracy, so no danger there.
However in Germany Mummy has become a political liability. She has no satisfactory political solutions and has lost most of her credibility. She has become a matron aunt who everyone is required to treat with respect, always invited to family events, but no one can wait for her to leave. In the recent state elections she hardly did any campaigning, because when she appears publicly in the East of Germany, she is mostly booed. Mummy has morphed into “The Mummy” in the chamber of horrors called German mainstream politics. The parties that constitute the current government, Merkel’s Christian Union and the Social Democrats, have become zombie parties, haemorrhaging truly impressive numbers of voters in almost every election. But both parties have a major problem. They no longer have any credible leaders to replace Ms Merkel. Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer, who replaced Merkel as leader of the Christian Democrat party is the epitome of lacklustre mediocrity. Still, there is no one better. The Social Democrats, who are sinking into political irrelevance, and the Liberals, labour under the same predicament.
The reason lies in the fact that German political parties have remained stuck in a number of political and economic mindsets. Most influential German politicians were politically socialised during the Cold War and have never moved on. They were raised as mercantilists, who assume globalism means German turbo-mercantilism feeding their pathological obsession with massive export surpluses. They still – although among the last – cling to the hard money dogma of the Bundesbank. They robustly embrace neo-liberal policies that has left Germany’s infrastructure and education system in tatters, bred an ultra-right political party, which in the meantime has surpassed the Social Democrats, and resulted, according to a new study, in a record level of inequality. The German political class has never entered the 21st century. They are incapable of responding to new situations and these are coming fast, one after the other. The proverbial chickens are coming home to roost in Germany.
This is reflected in German society, which of course has the political class they deserve. They have kept Merkel in office these fourteen year. One has to ask what sort of citizens are the Germans? They like to describe themselves as “mündige Bürger” (mature citizens), but what other West-Europeans label their leaders as Mummy? “Mummy Thatcher”, “Mummy May”? Before Merkel the Germans had “Papa Kohl” (“Papa Mitterand”, “Papa Orban”?). The Germans have an infantile deference to authority, no doubt about that. Political leaders are there to protect them – in return for political subservience and passivity – from the evils and threats in and surrounding Germany, be it their own capitalist class, Slavic hordes trying to overrun the fatherland, the lazy, corrupt Southern Europeans, dying to get hold of German treasure, refugees from further afield looking for “the good life” at the expense of German taxpayers, or the anglo-saxons imposing their uncouth democracy to gain trade advantages over hardworking, efficient Germany. There are the occasional moments of political intoxication, such as the Social Democrat/Green coalition under Gerhard Schröder, Germany’s Tony Blair, where Armani suits, red wine, and cigars became de rigueur for anyone who joined in on the hedonistic neo-liberal orgy – and earned well. Without a doubt, the Germans want to be “good”. They only want the best for Europe and the world. The only problem is, that this translates into what is best for Germany.
The tragedy for Europe is that Germany, as EU hegemon, is burdening the whole of the union with its morbid last-century policies in the hope of cementing its dominance. If you ask the Germans what the EU needs, they would probably reply: “A strict German mummy or papa”.