Mathew D. Rose – Some Thoughts for the Labour Left from Germany

There is probably no group more afraid of radical change than the Left.

Mathew D. Rose is an Investigative Journalist specialised in Organised Political Crime in Germany and an editor of BRAVE NEW EUROPE

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It is impressive with which tenacity the Labour Left is refusing to accept reality. The facts have come out how the neo-liberal Blairites sacrificed a Labour election victory in 2017 to prevent a Labour Left government – not only the party’s headquarter, but many parliamentary candidates who did not support Corbyn while campaigning, and defamed him surreptitiously. We also know they did everything they could to achieve the same in this year’s general election: forcing the party to support a second Brexit referendum, the fraudulent anti-Semitism campaign against Corbyn, some setting up a new party in the hopes of creating a crisis, and really any dirty trick they thought possibly viable. Now we are witnessing how it is purging the party of progressive policies, thinkers, and its figurehead, Jeremy Corbyn himself. These people simply have no scruples. Yet amazingly many on the Labour Left are still calling for remaining in the party and reforming it.

The problem is that the Social Democratic Right in Europe has not been interested in democracy, equality, climate change, justice, peace, or anything else one associates with the Left for decades. It is about one thing, and one thing only: personal greed. And the party is the vehicle that enables that. And if you look at Europe, you will see that with the exception of Scandinavia, where the Social Democratic parties ameliorate neo-liberalism, with no intention of rolling it back, this is true of all the Social Democratic parties. It explains why they are disappearing. These people will squeeze the last Pound/Euro out of the party before leading it into oblivion.

With the success of Corbyn I had assumed that Britain might be the exception and was willing to accept that I might be wrong. That assumption now lies in my intellectual waste bin.

To see what is awaiting the Labour Party Left one only needs to examine the development of the German Social Democratic Party (SPD), which I refer to as a “Zombie Party”. It is dead, but does not admit it, for the reason I mentioned above: there is still treasure to be mined.

Once a year I go back to the statistics just to see where the SPD is right now. This was a party that at the beginning of the millennium was either the strongest party or second strongest in the national and state parliaments. A look at the current polls tell a different story: In the Bundestag election next year the SPD is hoping to come in third. It would be of no surprise if they come in fourth. In the 16 federal states they lead in only two, and are second in a further six – in other words only half of the states. In the other eight they range from place three to five (in one state). It should be added that the tendency is sinking, which is not much of surprise for a party whose members are over 60 years old, as were 45% of its voters at the previous Bundestag election in 2017 (a further 29% were 45-60 years of age). In fact in that election of the seven major political parties in Germany the SPD was the weakest among voters under 45 .

The SPD has used the Covid crisis to try to secure its voters by trading off financial rescue packages for corporations, while permitting massive layoffs, to its coalition partner, Merkel’s Christian Democrats. In return the SPD received the furlough scheme, which benefits its clientele of unionised workers. Everyone else was ignored as they probably do not vote for the coalition parties. Both programmes have been extended until after the upcoming Bundestag election. After a brief surge, the polls have seen the return of the SPD’s decline.

Much like the Labour Party now, the SPD Left thought they could reform the party. What looked initially like a success has turned into a fiasco. At the end of 2019 the SPD decided they needed a new leadership to salvage the party’s fortunes. This time the election process was going to be “really democratic”. Instead of the usual party delegates, all members could participate in the election. It was about men – as usual – but due to political posturing these male candidates co-opted women to form “leadership duo’s”. The clear favourite of the party nomenclature was Germany’s conservative neo-liberal finance minister Olaf Scholz and a woman who no one had heard of. For the party grandees it was clear that Scholz would win, then lead the party as candidate for the chancellorship in the 2021 elections.

Surprisingly a purportedly “leftist” duo, led by the “progressive neo-liberal” former finance minister of North-Rhein Westphalia, Germany’s largest state, Norbert Walter-Borjans and a woman who no one had heard of won the leadership contest. This was hailed as a true revolution in the party, a real progressive turn around. The pair had campaigned on ending the grand coalition with Merkel. This was a Brexit moment for the SPD. The people had spoken and demanded change. Boyens had a photo shoot as he took the underground to his new office in the party headquarters in Berlin – a man of the people who did not travel in a party limousine, well at least not on that day.

To make a long story short, Boyens was received with a two finger greeting by the party’s grandees, has been completely ignored, and the SPD is still in the grand coalition. The crowning glory of the story is that the “leftist” party leadership of the SPD, Bojens and the woman no one heard of, declared Scholz as SPD candidate for the chancellorship in the 2021 election. The very man who members did not want as their party leader. This time no chances were taken by asking the party’s membership for their opinion. Liberal Democratic democracy as practised in Europe these days. The people can vote for whatever they want, but the political class and the entitled decide what they get. It was the same with Brexit, just for very special circumstances it went wrong and the will of the people has been realised.

What is the goal of the SPD today? To remain in the grand coalition. One must remember that grand coalitions used to be considered a last resort in a crisis – an emergency measure. They have now become the new normal, although the SPD could well be replaced by the Greens, who will probably surpass the SPD in the next election. But being in government is the key to serious bung.

The snout in the trough of corruption and well paid positions are what keeps the SPD going. Even the SPD chancellor candidate Scholz is currently involved in two parliamentary investigations, one due to his role in the Wirecard scandal, the other concerning his relationship and protection of a bank up to its ears in the Cum Ex scheme that has resulted in billions of euros in losses for the state. But where then does a finance specialist go for his bung if not to financial institutions?

The SPD is full of such holders of public office who game the system legally (for example a well paid job from a company that they had just provided with a favourable contract or law) and illegally. These are the people who run the party and determine policy. They have real financial skin in the game, not political ambitions to create a better society or protect the citizenry or environment. The sad fact is that voters knows this, but many do not care because most of the other political parties in Germany are no different. The recent increase in voter participation in Germany is due to the appearance of the far-right AfD, which many blindly vote for in the hope of change. Any change. This is your future in the Labour Party.

One only has to look at Labour politicians past and present to discover the same process, read “Rotten Boroughs” in Private Eye, or analyse who has been given building permits in London and under what conditions. This is where the socialist revolution of the Labour Party should have begun, cleaning up its Blairite corruption and rot. But then who is more afraid of change than progressives?

Today we are in a truly rare situation: simultaneously we are in the midst of an out of control pandemic, an economic depression, and an environmental meltdown. If this is not the moment for radical change, when is? Admittedly the Labour Left has discredited itself in the previous general election by not standing up to the Blairite neo-liberals, which also cost them the election. With regard to their Brexit policy, you simply cannot ignore the will of the people – we do live in a democracy. Yes, you can temper it, you can convince them, but not tell them they are too stupid to know what they voted for and claiming in the next Brexit referendum they will see things differently – which as we all witnessed in the election this year, they did not. I am not sure if you can win back credibility once you have lost it.

And if the Labour Party loses the next general election or wins it and continues its neo-liberal policies and war-mongering, there is no real difference for the Labour Left as one sees with the German SPD. “Saving” the Labour Party in this manner means killing democracy.

To quote an American general at Omaha Beach who rallied his demoralised troops pinned down on the beach by massive German fire with the cry: “Gentlemen, we are being killed on the beaches. Let us go inland and be killed.” Shortly afterwards they were in Paris.

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2 Comments

  1. Great article Matthew.I will send this around to others.In UK we do have The Socialist Workers Party.My husband has just become a member.He was an active paid campaigner in International Socialists in 6Os and 70s.He wrote articles then.In despair now about current UK Labour Party and the Blair legacy as you have described.

  2. Thanks Matt!
    Not much I’d would strongly disagree with in the analysis of what’s happened, but my question remains:
    WHAT IS THE PATH TO POWER?

    The Corbyn / Sanders model of (re)taking established mainstream parties from the left certainly failed in both instances, but it nonetheless seems the nearest we have got in recent years.

    If you think another strategy is more promising, what would it look like?

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