Still another German state election has been held, resulting in still another major setback for Germany’s establishment zombie parties.
Mathew D. Rose is an Investigative Journalist specialised in Organised Political Crime in Germany and an editor of BRAVE NEW EUROPE.
Let us begin with the gory details before moving on to the analysis. In Sunday’s state election in Thuringia – earlier part of the “socialist” German Democratic Republic in the East – the nation’s two zombie parties, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD) lost a third of their votes compared with five years ago. The CDU came in third (21.8%) behind the far-right, radical neo-liberal Alternative for Germany (AfD) with 23.4 percent (more than doubling its vote). The SPD has fallen to 8.4 percent, which is approaching political oblivion.
What must be especially galling to Germany’s political establishment is that democracy is thriving. Voter participation leaped from 53% to almost 65%. But even worse, the traditional political parties from West Germany together could only muster 40 percent of the vote, as the Leftist Party (Links Partei – successor of the old “Communist Party”) received a sensational 31 percent. The Left Party owes much of its success to voters over 60. In fact it was the only demographic group where it did better than the far right AfD. Here the difference was remarkable: 40 versus 16 percent. This most likely has to do with the strong anti-fascist tradition of the GDR in which they grew up. The only aberrations in the Thuringian election were the self-employed and civil servants, many from the West, who voted for the Christian Democrats and Liberals (FDP) – who approximate the AfD, only with university degrees and wearing expensive suits.
Just to put this into a broader perspective. On September 1 there were two other elections, in the former East German states of Saxony and Brandenburg. In Saxony the CDU won with 32%, although hemorrhaging a fifth of its voters, while the SPD did not even tally 8%, having lost over a third of its voters. The AfD was second with 27.5 percent (almost tripling its votes). The Links Party, once very strong there, lost almost half of its voters
In Brandenburg the SPD won with 26%, a fifth of its voters abandoning the party, while the AfD was a strong second with 23.5 percent (almost doubling its votes). The CDU was a weak third here too, shedding a third of its voters. As in Saxony the Left Party lost almost half of its voters.
Altogether the AfD has massively increased its votes in all three states, while the other parties were able to win in one state each, although, with the exception of the Left Party in Thuringia, suffering a major loss of voters.
The reasons for this development are both economic and cultural. The five former states of the GDR, three of which are mentioned above, have become the Mezzogiorno of Germany. It is poorer, the wages are lower, and there is a constant emigration of young people to Western Germany and other places in search of work. Those in Eastern Germany are also poorly paid. For example the metal workers union, IG Metall, has once again failed to obtain the same 35-hour work week for German workers in its branch in the East as has existed in the Western part of the nation since 1996. Wages in Western Germany are on average around 25 percent higher than in the East. Thus it is no wonder that despite Germany’s increase in population since reunification in 1990, four of the five former GDR states have seen a population decline of between 15 and 20 percent. The exception is Brandenburg, which surrounds Berlin, and draws thousands from the capital in search of cheaper rents. According to a study by the IFO Institute there are currently as many people living in the area that made up the GDR (this includes the Eastern part of Berlin) as in 1905. This explains the anecdotal example that in many shops in the countryside in Eastern Germany, where shelves were once filled with nappies for babies, these have disappeared and been replaced with nappies for incontinent senior citizens.
Then there is the cultural element. It is difficult to imagine, but when the GDR became part of the Federal Republic, East Germans lost much of their identity: their nation, their currency, their laws, their factories, their media, most of the brand marks they had grown up with, not to mention many lost their jobs. The names of cities and streets that offended the Western political class were changed. Thus it is no wonder that many former GDR citizens see reunification not as an integration of two equal nations, but having been subjugated by West German victors. The resentment is great, especially as expectations continue to be disappointed – austerity is just as prevalent in the East as in the West and the glitzy consumer world has lost some of its shine. In the opinion of most East Germans they are treated as second class citizens and see themselves not as Germans, but East Germans, a minority in their own country.
As Thuringia proved, this discontent spans much of East German society. The Leftist Party and the rightist AfD are seen by many East Germans as “our political parties.” The others, the “West German parties” are often full of carpetbaggers from the West. However the lead candidates of the Left Party and far right AfD in Thuringia, Bodo Ramelow and Björn Höcke, are from the West. This may seem contradictory, but the East Germans do not let themselves become too bogged down with details in their resentment.
But maybe what East Germans are seeking is something that Aleks Szerbiack wrote (here) concerning the success of the conservative PIS party in Poland:
The ‘re-distribution of prestige’: whereby many ordinary Poles who previously felt themselves to be second-class citizens started to regain a sense of dignity and that, as they saw it, their government finally cared about the less well-off and was trying to restore an elementary sense of justice and moral order.
In mainstream media reporting this East-West conflict is played down. Instead the election in Thuringia is referred to as a defeat for the “Democratic Centre”. Interestingly this is something one hears often in corporate media with regard to the European Union when the EU political elite loses elections.
Which brings us to what may be the greatest irony of this election. Since reunification the Christian Democrats have labeled the Left Party as communists and Stalinists whose sole political goal is to subvert democracy and reintroduce socialism. It makes the smear campaigns in Britain against Jeremy Corbyn appear amateurish. The truth is the politicians of the Left Party are as staid and conservative – and not much less neo-liberal – as German politicians of the other parties.
Throughout Germany the Christian Democrats, dragged down through the inept leadership of Angela Merkel, are losing voters in droves (see here). In Thuringia they have now been out of government for five years, facing the possibility of another five years after being in office for the 24 previous years in what was once considered their Eastern stronghold. That would mean ten years of having hardly any jobs, contracts, and favours to distribute among friends, family and supporters (political and financial). Such corruption has always been the basis of modern Liberal Democracy. Without it, the future can be very bleak.
Suddenly we are seeing corporate media call for the Christian Democrats to undergo the sacrifice of joining in a coalition with the Left Party in the service of responsible democracy and the German people. The problem will be the members of the Christian Democrat Party who actually believe the rubbish they have been spreading about the Left Party for almost three decades. These members have never understood modern liberal democracy: values are all fine and good, but nowadays politics is all about personal enrichment while in government.
As it is, the German Christian Democrats being a zombie party will probably end up continuing to mindlessly roam among us until they finally do not reach the 5 percent hurdle necessary to enter parliament. The SPD is already well on its way.