Sometimes historical events occur and no one really notices. The decision of the German social democrats to once again enter a grand coalition heralds the end of a political party with a history of over 150 years.
But no one really cares, anyway. With its pact with neo-liberalism it lost its soul.
– Mathew D. Rose
As I participated in my first political demonstration in Germany in 1979 – against nuclear energy – the chant I learned was “Wer hat uns verraten? Die Sozialdemokraten” (Who betrayed us? The Social Democrats). This harks back to 1914 as the then left-wing Social Democratic Party (SPD) voted to support Germany’s entry into the first world war. Betraying its voters is what the SPD has been doing ever since – except maybe during the chancellorship of Willy Brandt (1969 to 1974).
While the SPD portrays itself as a centre-left party, at least when elections occur, it is rabidly neo-liberal. The SPD has been in decline since Gerhard Schröder was elected chancellor in 1998 and, together with the Greens, smashed the social market economy. Like Tony Blair and Bill Clinton he realised that neo-liberalism was the ideology to bet on. He was – and will probably remain – the last Social Democratic chancellor of Germany. Schröder and many of his fellow cabinet and junior ministers from the SPD and the Greens went on to become well-paid lobbyists for international corporations. Schröder himself works for Nord Stream (a German Russian gas pipeline company) and Rosneft (a state-owned Russian oil company).
The party has lost its political credibility, as Germans increasingly view it simply as a collection of self-seeking, corrupt politicians working against their interests. In the recent national election it had its worst result in post-war Germany, just scraping together 20 percent of the vote – something it will probably never achieve again.
Although the party is still strong in some parliaments of Germany’s 16 federal states, it is only the third or fourth largest parliamentary group in a quarter of those state parliaments. This trend will increase in the coming years if surveys are to be believed. On the national level the SPD, according to the polls, is in a duel with the ultra-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), for second place. The AfD, like populist parties everywhere, claims that Germany’s political class are thoroughly corrupt, and interested only in filling their own pockets, not in the welfare of the nation. That has been confirmed by the composition of the newest version of the grand coalition as put together by Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the SPD. …