The Majority as a Sect VII


The parliamentary elections for the Bundestag will be this fall. The political coordinate system is already quite crumbled, no matter if it will yet again be enough for a fourth term in office for Merkel or if Martin Schulz will succeed as blue-collar-chancellor from Würselen. If you are looking for the reasons why it is crumbling may not seek for it where they are complaining the loudest – in the political operations. In a monthly series, that will be continued up to the parliamentary elections Felix Klopotek will analyze the “politics of the center”, in which rise and fall of the political morality will solidify exemplarily.

»Republic is not a lot, socialism is the goal!«

The series »The Majority as a Sect« will run until September and the author made a bet with himself that the SPD would never be the object of a lengthy consideration. But then Martin Schulz came along. The history of the SPD has actually been told in its entirety. Angela Merkel has inherited it, the policies of waiting out and numbing, their art of small steps and the fixation on factual issues is all that is left from the social democratic politics after the party wore itself out in the neoliberal intrigues between 1998 and 2005. The gutting of this party is evident if you consider that another party, the CDU, has invested their inheritance profitably. Martin Schulz will also not be able to change that. The hype surrounding him is a result of Angela Merkel’s weakness. In the long run that is not enough to establish independent policies.

The case Schulz is therefore a case Merkel: The chancellor managed to split the constituency in principle into to camps after her first term the latest: a stable, incidentally not that big, core of Merkel fans was swimming in the sea of Merkel-neutrals – and didn’t drown. There weren’t any Merkel haters, those who weren’t for her were at least somehow content. In the way that Merkel pursued politics almost all voters – the political preference didn’t make a difference – recognized the ideal level of their lifestyle. Merkel became a role model, on which her unassailability is based. Merkel does not represent policies, but a lifestyle. She lost this exemplary function. The reason for this is the »summer of migration« one and a half years ago. Even back then she pursued her politics of small steps, the waiting out and numbing of the public, the dissolution of conflicts into factual issues, but on a geopolitical stage on which her instruments made a completely different impact. Opening the borders might have gone after a cool, pragmatic calculation – everything that followed couldn’t be calculated anymore, for years to come. But Merkel stuck with her pragmatism what other options did she have? This pragmatism appeared more and more liberal, more and more humanistic, in short: more and more like a real worldview. She provided a surface for friction, involuntarily, and the consequence was that for the first time substantial Merkel opponents became visible and were heard, they took the aura of unassailability from her.

The SPD realized this not a moment too soon and presents with Martin Schulz a top politician who still seems unspent, because he has never been active on a federal political level, and stages himself as an outsider of the local politics who speaks directly to the masses across all institutions. He also turns something else to account: Schulz, anything but a left-wing politician, did also take part in the big Greece bashing two years ago, his aim was also to break the Greece left-wing government through negotiations and to protect the German interests all over Europe. Many did not forget this, Schulz certainly stands for a nationalist agenda. But unlike finance minister Schäuble he asks himself why Germany has to stick with the strict austerity measures that were put in place by the social democratic-neoliberal Agenda 2010. Schulz holds out the prospect of vague redistribution and a less repressive organisation of the job market – which, by the way, judging by his few and sparse statements, will not apply for long-term unemployed and recipients of Hartz-IV.
There is once again something to distribute, which is the joyful message of Martin Schulz. That is already enough to change to mood and make Merkel look uncreative. Mind you: The mood, since it is questionable if a trend will derive from the popularity of the new leader of the SPD, or even a movement will develop from it – the Saarland state election has already revealed the limits of the hype. Would Schulz in the course of his redistribution plans prefer a red-red-green government. »R2G«, would that not just be a course correction, but – in the eye of the public – a radical change in policy? Exceedingly few voters want such a long-lasting and deep break from Merkel’s pragmatism. Martin Schulz neither, by the way.

And thus the newly chosen blue-collar emperor stepped rather clueless in front of the audience after the disillusioning Saarland election. »Republic is not a lot, socialism is the goal!«, this was the expectation which a big part of the social democratic constituents brought to the attention of the party (in the later years of the Weimar Republic it became the battle cry of the young socialists) after 1918, the half revolution – which not least because of the social democracy remained just half of a revolution. We won the republic – but when will the second, important step follow? It never followed. It was not a betrayal, but it is the logic of the party to pass off the political-societal minimum as what is maximally achievable.

There was actually once a blue-collar emperor in German lands, he was Ferdinand Lassalle (1825-1864), a flamboyant guy whose biography and work are indefinitely more interesting than his weird, overachieving writings. Shortly before his completely brainless death, he let himself be challenged for a duel, he was the president of the General German Workers’ Association and in this function the founder of the modern social democracy. In the wasteland of the German counterrevolution after 1848 he was one of the first to agitate the workers again – and the way in which he did it is exemplary up until today, he was able to marvellously get het up about the »damned frugality« of the proletariat:
»You German workers are strange people! For the French or English workers one would have to argue the case for how to ease their sorry plight, but for you one has to prove first that you are in a sorry plight. As long as you have a piece of lousy sausage and a glass of beer you do not even realize and don’t even know that you are missing something.«
Some things never change.

Lassalle’s dream certainly was to negotiate on the construction of a social republic with Bismarck personally. Even back then the blue-collar emperor was a highly ironic term. Martin Schulz (could it be any different?) is immune to this historical irony. New to his demeanor is up to now the extent of self-deception, at one point he will set the inebriated party up for the disenchantment. So far victorious social democrats had to regularly explain to their voters why they would not be able to fulfill their electoral promises and programmatic pledges after all, over the decades they turned into virtuosos of disenchantment, that was their contribution to the integration of the working class into capitalism. Schulz is far from this – sad – level.

That is why the case of the SPD will now be closed again.
Translation by Denise Oemcke 

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