On Sunday 28th October there is a state election in the German state of Hessen. The Greens are expected to do well, as was the case over two weeks ago in Bavaria. They are being hailed as Germany´s leftist response to the ultra-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). Unfortunately it is not so. Progressive in enviromental and immigration policies, it is otherwise a neo-liberal party. For the EU there is no respite in sight with regard to German hegemony.
It is less than two years since Germany last got itself over-excited. The occasion was the nomination of Martin Schulz as the Social Democratic party´s candidate for the chancellorship. Here was a progressive breakthrough, the corporate media swooned, a new hope to shatter the conservative, austerity driven, neo-liberal regime of Angela Merkel and her Christian Union parties. Schulz and the Social Democrats shot up in the polls, overtaking Merkel and her acolytes. The media was “euphoric” – the positive superlative their weapon of choice in their reference to Schulz. There was just one problem; as far as the eye could see no-one was in the least interested, unless they were a member of the Social Democrats.
The election result confirmed this observation. The Social Democrats had their worst defeat since the creation of the Federal Republic. So what went wrong? Have the Germans become hysterical, labile citizens? Or was it the media and pollsters portraying Germany as vibrant democracy lurking in the political cemetery that Germany had become.
Once again Germany is in a similar over-excited state. This time it is the Green Party that is enjoying a resurgence, a new hope to shatter the conservative, austerity driven, neo-liberal reign of Angela Merkel. In the Bavarian state election two weeks ago they had their best result ever, obtaining 17.5 percent of the vote. In the Hessian state election this Sunday, it could be 20 percent or more. The media is again euphoric. Are we really seeing a leftist revival?
There are some aspects of this development which call for optimism. It could be that Germans are taking global warming more seriously and see the Greens as the party of the environment. It could also be the clear pro-refugee and immigrant policy that the party has adopted that has convinced citizens to cast their vote for the Greens. Interestingly, one Green official has admitted that they themselves have no idea why this surge is occurring.
Bizarrely, this trend is being hailed in the media, especially internationally, as the German centre-left’s answer to the ultra-right Alternative for Germany (AfD). If there is one aspect that explains the Greens´ current success, it is the fact that it has moved so far to the right that the party has become acceptable to rightist Christian Union voters.
For political opportunists it is tempting to ignore history. It was the Greens, together with the Social Democrats led by Gerhard Schröder, who introduced brutal neo-liberalism to Germany. Moreover, the Greens, the party of disarmament and peace, also voted for German military intervention in the ill-fated Afghan war. Since this right turn they have never looked back. So it is no wonder that the Greens have been most successful in the Christian Union heartlands of Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg. The German leftist party, Die Linken, is hardly a blip on the political radar screen in those states.
It doesn’t pay to look too closely at Green policy when postulating a leftist surge. During the whole of the panic over diesel emissions, the Greens have not used their political power in state and local governments to ban this blatant poisoning of German citizens, apparently fearing a political backlash from car owners. And if you look at their policy on refugees, much of it includes forcing other EU governments to accept more refugees and immigrants – exactly what the current government is trying to achieve. The Greens are playing a very dangerous game. Instead of acting to address the causes of voter discontent – widening inequality – they propose giving the EU the power to determine refugee and immigration policy so that “stupid racist Germans” will be forced to accept the supremacy of EU law: “A new EU asylum authority, which together with the Member States ensures rapid registration, humane initial accommodation and subsequent, rapid and fair distribution, and which enforces common European asylum rules on all Member States.”
The Left adopted this fatal strategy decades ago, believing that the EU would be a bulwark against neo-liberalism. Its hope that an undemocratic EU diktat can be harnessed for progressive causes has up to now proven to be a grave error, as the EU´s current refugee and immigrant policy confirms.
There is not much to add to the demise of the Social Democrats – Germany has enough corrupt neo-liberal parties. In the state election in Hessen they will probably lose a third of their voters, if not more. Despite all attempts to resuscitate the party, it will simply pass into political irrelevance. Currently their sole policy is to remain in government for the rest of this legislative period.
Not that the Christian Union is faring much better. Having shed 20 percent of its voters in Bavaria two weeks ago, the same or worse is to be expected in Hessen. This also is no surprise. The drawn out, inexorable political demise of Angela Merkel has dragged down her party. Merkel´s “liberal” lustre faded long ago. The “environment” chancellor has been exposed as a humbug and mercenary opportunist. The fact that Germany cannot even fulfil its Paris pledge because of its subservience to coal corporations, or automobile producers during and after the diesel scandal, has put paid to that claim. Inequality is rising. Merkel is and always was, the chancellor of the corporations.
Her party´s attempt to appear consequential in the case of the murdered Saudi journalist Jamal Kashoggi cannot be taken seriously by Germans. Although in its coalition programme with the Social Democrats of seven months ago there were supposed to be no more weapons exports to Saudi Arabia, Germany has apparently approved a further 416 million euros in arms deliveries to the bin Salman government in the past nine months – because of exceptions. Even if Germany were to announce an immediate halt to weapons deliveries to the Saudis, it is likely to end as these things always do: in a couple of years it would emerge that arms had been delivered “illegally” by German companies. No heads would roll. For the Germans, rules and promises are something for everyone else to follow, not Germany. Lie, cheat, cover up, bribes, and corruption. That pretty well defines the Christian Union today.
What of the others? The party of selaze, the neo-liberal Free Democrat FDP, has missed its chance. Christian Lindner – too clever by half – having rejected a coalition with Merkel´s Union parties and the Greens, believed he could copy the Austrian People´s Party and represent his followers as Germany´s crypto-fascists in Armani suits. Unfortunately the right spectrum in Germany is so jam-packed with the Christian Union, Social Democrats, Greens, and the AfD , that Lindner had nothing new to offer – except some posh suits. The AfD appears to be stuck in a rut – 10 -20 % in western German states, 20 -30% in the former East German states – as other parties are invading their turf. The centre-left party, Die Linken, are doing what Leftists do best, fighting among themselves. German corporate media, which comes down hard on anything left, is lapping it up.
This is not good news for the EU. All the German neo-liberal parties take German hegemony in the EU for granted. Probably the most important first step is for Germany to commit itself to democracy in Europe. On Monday morning, when you open your newspaper or go to the internet, you will probably read about a leftist surge in the state election in Hessen. The EU and corporate press are desperately looking for a new figure of hope to exonerate the EU`s failures: once it was Merkel, then Schulz, then Macron. Now we shall have the German Greens. And even if the despised Groko (the coalition of Christian Union and Social Democrats collapses, do not expect much change.
Don´t repeat the mistake of the Germans and get too excited. The EU is going nowhere – except maybe towards dissolution.