BBC: German hard left set to gain ground

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Jacob Richter
BBC: German hard left set to gain ground

Notwithstanding the bias of the BBC, I appreciate the creative campaign efforts of Die Linke:

[url]http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8272658.stm[/url]
Image: [url]http://newsimg.bbc.co.uk/media/images/46435000/jpg/_46435502_46434980.jp...

By Steve Rosenberg
BBC News, Goettingen

On a market square in western Germany, in front of 100 people, a German MP sings about life being just like a game of Monopoly.

The Bundestag bard is Diether Dehm, from Die Linke - the Left party. The monopoly game in his song is an ideological tussle between capitalism and the workforce. Mr Dehm tells me that his party is the only one in Germany to really care about the workers.

"I look at other parties and I see that their chiefs and representatives look like talking robots, without skin and without a heart," he tells me.

"And I think that the working movement is something that always comes from the left side of the body. And this is the heart."

The Left party is certainly taking heart from the opinion polls. The party, which combines disaffected Social Democrats from western Germany with former East German communists, is tipped to get more than 10% of the vote in Sunday's parliamentary election.

Real issues

When Mr Dehm puts his guitar down, on comes visiting candidate Sarah Wagenknecht to talk policy. In a fiery speech she denounces capitalism and privatisation; she calls for more state ownership and for a minimum wage for workers. The crowd applauds.

While Germany's larger parties have kept their election promises frustratingly vague - with slogans like "Confidence" (the Christian Democrat CDU) and "Our Country Can Do More" (the Social Democrat SPD), by contrast the Left has been far more specific.

"German Troops out of Afghanistan," says one poster on the square; "Tax Wealth," says another. "No to Nuclear Power," another. And there are leaflets entitled: "More money for Education, Less for the Banks."

"I think it's a very successful campaign to use these concrete slogans," says political commentator Michael Weidemann. "Many people who are not close to the Leftists might vote for them. Because they are the only party which acts this way."

Wealth gap

The Left's slogans certainly strike a chord with Wolfgang Echterhoff. On the outskirts of Bochum, he shows me the giant Nokia factory where he used to work. When the plant was relocated to Romania, Wolfgang was among 1,500 German workers who lost their jobs.

"Lots of my old work colleagues and my drinking mates are now supporting the Left party," Mr Echterhoff says.

"People are frightened that in Germany the gap between the rich and the poor is growing wider."

If the Left party now claims the political left, where does that leave Germany's centre-left Social Democrats? The SPD has always claimed that it is the voice of the workers and the party of social justice.

But that has become an increasingly hard sell. When the previous SPD Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder pushed through painful welfare reforms which slashed state benefits, many SPD members left the party in disgust. Some went over to Die Linke.

Since then, four years of grand coalition government - with the Social Democrats as junior partner - have weakened the SPD even further.

"It's especially bad for the SPD," believes Michael Weidemann. "They have already lost a lot of the voters to the Green Party in the 1970s and 1980s. And now there are a lot of traditional SPD voters who are vanishing. The SPD may not be big enough in the future to even lead a two-party coalition."

No willing partner

At a Left party information stand in the centre of Bochum, former SPD supporter Brunhilde Michaelis hands out leaflets, posters and balloons to passers-by. She believes the Left party has become what the SPD used to be, and what it should be.

"What does the SPD do for us people on the street? Nothing," Ms Michaelis complains.

"They work together with the CDU [the main governing party]. And the CDU has always been the party of the capitalists. The SPD loses its image. I think it's more the Left party - us - who are the real socialists."

Back at the Left party rally, musical MP Diether Dehm is performing one final song.

"Even if we are small and weak," he sings, "just like water, we can rip down the thickest walls." It's a rallying cry to those Germans who feel abandoned by society.

Mr Dehm's party will not win this weekend's German election. It is not about to enter national government, because none of the other main parties are prepared to share power with it.

But if it does well in the polls, that will increase the pressure on Germany's Social Democrats. The SPD may be forced to consider a future alliance with the Left, if it wants to be in power.

Frmrsldr

"Troops Out of Afghanistan", "Tax Wealth". What's not to like?Smile

Ken Burch

And c'mon..."German 'hard left'"?  these are left wing socialists, not the Red Army Fraction.

This election will prove, definitively, that it was a massive mistake for the SPD to tie itself to "Third Way" thinking and to embrace both a massive assault on the social wage and the imperialist power game that is the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.  Despite this, the SPD right(the idiots who are the ideological descendants of those who allied themselves with the Freikorps against Rosa Luxemburg)will argue that the party needs to move even FURTHER right, and will keep pushing for what is obviously their true goal-merger with the CDU.

Frmrsldr

Ken Burch wrote:

And c'mon..."German 'hard left'"?  these are left wing socialists, not the Red Army Fraction.

This election will prove, definitively, that it was a massive mistake for the SPD to tie itself to "Third Way" thinking and to embrace both a massive assault on the social wage and the imperialist power game that is the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.  Despite this, the SPD right(the idiots who are the ideological descendants of those who allied themselves with the Freikorps against Rosa Luxemburg)will argue that the party needs to move even FURTHER right, and will keep pushing for what is obviously their true goal-merger with the CDU.

Um, I think we're confusing Die Linke (the German Left Party) with the SPD. Die Linke is made up of some members of trade unions from former West Germany and some members/supporters of the German Communist Party from former East Germany.

Jacob Richter

He isn't confused.  His first line was in reference to Die Linke, while the second was about the SPD.

Jingles

Quote:
"German Troops out of Afghanistan," says one poster on the square; "Tax Wealth," says another. "No to Nuclear Power," another. And there are leaflets entitled: "More money for Education, Less for the Banks."

I wish we had a party like that here.

Ken Burch

Frmrsldr wrote:

Ken Burch wrote:

And c'mon..."German 'hard left'"?  these are left wing socialists, not the Red Army Fraction.

This election will prove, definitively, that it was a massive mistake for the SPD to tie itself to "Third Way" thinking and to embrace both a massive assault on the social wage and the imperialist power game that is the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan.  Despite this, the SPD right(the idiots who are the ideological descendants of those who allied themselves with the Freikorps against Rosa Luxemburg)will argue that the party needs to move even FURTHER right, and will keep pushing for what is obviously their true goal-merger with the CDU.

Um, I think we're confusing Die Linke (the German Left Party) with the SPD. Die Linke is made up of some members of trade unions from former West Germany and some members/supporters of the German Communist Party from former East Germany.

Correct.  In the first instance, I was criticizing the ludicrous labelling of Die Linke as "hard left"(which to the BBC apparently means being left-of-center in any way at ALL these days).  In the second I was commenting about why the SPD, the "moderate" social democrats, were doomed to a very poor showing this year(it will almost certainly be the first election since the 1900'sss in which they receive less than 30% of the vote)and attributing it to the stubborn, relentless conservatism of its leaders, leaders who lost the right to call themselves "social democrats" when they launched an attack on the social wage and the trade unions.

Fidel

Jingles wrote:

Quote:
"German Troops out of Afghanistan," says one poster on the square; "Tax Wealth," says another. "No to Nuclear Power," another. And there are leaflets entitled: "More money for Education, Less for the Banks."

I wish we had a party like that here.

We do for the most part.

The NDP is still calling for troop withdrawal, and they've been demanding to know why Canada's well-run banks needed a $75 billion dollar taxpayer funded bailout two weeks after the last election. In per capita terms, our bank bailout is equivalent to the US TARP bailout of Wall Street when it was $700 billion dollars old.

Nuclear power is expensive, dangerous and unreliable. Canada has more electric power generating capacity than we know what to do with. So we let the Yanks siphon a large part of it off for a song while planning to build more nukes and coal-fired generators in our own backyard, so as Michael Manley once said, so that America can be greener. No country has more nuke power stations than the Yanks do, and they still don't have enough power to expand the world's most wasteful and most unsustainable economy dependent on cheap fossil fuels and energy for which Canada is the largest supplier to the USA. These posters who trumpet carbon taxes don't really give a damn about the environment, just that it's their party blowing smoke up their derrieres about doing something more than they did during twelve years in power(which was to do less than nothing actually) to stem global warming by curbing GHG emissions.

In fact, the NDP has opposed all of the neoliberal policies in Ottawa over the last 30 years - the same ones that are now falling down around your ears.

Vansterdam Kid

Uh, they are the hard left.

First, they have internal caucuses such as the "anti-capitalist left" and the "communist platform" who advocate exactly what you would think they advocate. Secondly, call this red bating if you want but it's an undeniable fact, many of their members where also members of the SED (the Socialist Unity Party of East Germany) and they've had the occasional scandal relating to members being accused of having Stasi links, such as former PDS leader Gregor Gysi, who, while being cleared was still politically damaged by it. Thirdly, their credibility factor isn't helped with people like Sahra Wagenknecht making nutty claims equating the crimes of Stalinist states like East Germany to the crimes of capitalism. This in itself is what makes them toxic in much of western Germany and makes it so that the SPD can't credibly form a coalition with them on the national level at least not until they're able to form a few coalitions in western Germany and prove the world won't end and that they're realists. Germany has had a lot of problems with extremists in its past, so the Left Party needs to prove that it's a socially acceptable party that isn't out to destroy society before its let into government.

If you don't believe me, just take a look at what happened in the (western) state of Hesse. In the 2008 state elections the SPD managed to tie the CDU in popular vote and Andrea Ypsilanti attempted to form a minority coalition with the Greens and "unofficial" support from the Left despite promising that she would never seek the Left Party's support, which entered parliament for the first time. This split the SPD, the people of Hesse abandoned the SPD in droves for the Greens and the FDP, and in the 2009 elections the CDU and FDP formed a majority.

Now of course, due to the presence of disaffected western former Social Democrats, and more moderate members who've actually formed coalition governments (eg: in the Berlin parliament) they aren't all Stalinist communists but the fact of the matter is that many of them still have that stigma and until they ditch that they will continue to have a cordon sanitaire around them.

Of course none of this means they won't gain ground. But gaining ground doesn't mean they won't still be "hard left." What will change that perception is if they're included in any provincial government's (and we still don't know what's going to happen in Thuringia or Saarland.)

Fidel

[url=http://www.spiegel.de/international/germany/0,1518,634122,00.html]Majority of Eastern Germans Feel Life Better under Communism[/url] Spiegel July '09

 

Quote:
Glorification of the German Democratic Republic is on the rise two decades after the Berlin Wall fell. Young people and the better off are among those rebuffing criticism of East Germany as an "illegitimate state." In a new poll, more than half of former eastern Germans defend the GDR.

 

[url=[/url]">http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLcc19mt4eA][IMG]http://img.photobucket.c...

Ken Burch

 

 

Quote:
Thirdly, their credibility factor isn't helped with people like Sahra Wagenknecht making nutty claims equating the crimes of Stalinist states like East Germany to the crimes of capitalism.

 

A statement that isn't really all that outlandish, actually. Both capitalism and Stalinism(and I say this as an opponent of both)have a ton of blood on their hands. It's just that some pretend that capitalism is less bloody

because most of the blood it has spilled wasn't flowing in the veins of white people.

 

Just so you know, 90% of the membership of the SED resigned when the party transformed itself into the PDS. Most people who back Die Linke had nothing to do with enforcing the repression in the DDR and the party no longer deserves

to face any, er "stigma", over a past to which it has no living connection. Most of the people who were fond of the Stasi and the Wall ended up in the Republikaner or the other far-right neo-Nazi parties.

 

And, in the end, the SPD, a party that USED to disagree with the capitalist right, could have prevented the rise of Die Linke simply by defending its traditional core values. No "Anglo-Saxon economics", no Hartz IV, no Die Linke.

 

There'd be a case for voting SPD as the "cleaner" party if that party hadn't totally surrendered to the right on every issue that matters. But it no longer disagrees with the CDU on anything but trivial side issues. There really isn't any such thing

as a committed socialist anywhere near the leadership of the SPD. And the leadership of the German Greens have embraced the globalist thing too. They no longer have any genuine interest in social justice.

a lonely worker

And yet the CDU, CSU and FDP never get mentioned for their predecessor's support for passing the Enabling Act which allowed Hitler to become a dictator.

That "little" nugget got swept after the carpet real quick after the war was over (as well as Gladio and a bunch of other stuff).

As with all parties, Die Linke does have some dysfunctional people and is a bit more verticle than other new anti-capitalist parties but its a damn site better than depending on the SPD to somehow magically transform itself into a workers' party.

 

a lonely worker

Jingles wrote:

I wish we had a party like that here.

 

 

(sorry Fidel couldn't resist)

Ken Burch

a lonely worker wrote:

And yet the CDU, CSU and FDP never get mentioned for their predecessor's support for passing the Enabling Act which allowed Hitler to become a dictator.

That "little" nugget got swept after the carpet real quick after the war was over (as well as Gladio and a bunch of other stuff).

As with all parties, Die Linke does have some dysfunctional people and is a bit more verticle than other new anti-capitalist parties but its a damn site better than depending on the SPD to somehow magically transform itself into a workers' party.

 

Actually, the FDP and the CDU/CSU didn't exist before the war.  THe Catholic party whose supporters later helped the CIA found the CDU/CSU did throw their support to Hitler, but I don't know that the old liberal party that preceeded the FDP did so.

Jingles

I just looked at the NDP website. 

I wish we had a party like Die Linke in Canada even more now.

Jacob Richter

Die Linke pales in comparison to my proposal in my most recent post in the "socialist stigma" thread.

a lonely worker

Ken - All the rightwing / centrist parties (Centre, DNVP and BVP) in the Reichstag voted for the Enabling Act for a variety of reasons and deals. The only opponents were the KPD (Communists) and SPD (Social Democrats) who were the second and third largest parties in the Reichstag. Hitler clearly needed them out of the way so he had all the communists arrested after the fire and the Brown Shirts blocked around 40 SPD representatives from entering the Chamber thus ensuring his victory.

In one of the bravest speeches of all time the SPD's leader Otto Kels stood up and admidst jeers and screams said "We German Social Democrats pledge ourselves solemnly in this historic hour to the principles of humanity and justice. Of freedom and socialism. No enabling act can give you the power to destroy ideas which are eternal and indestructable."

Hitler jumped up and screamed "You are no longer needed! The star of Germany will rise and you will sink! Your death knell has sounded!" The vote was called and the first act passed was banning the KPD and SPD.

It really is an incredible story that should never be forgotten. After the war, all but the SPD and KPD changed their names to help the people forget (until the KPD was banned during the cold war in West Germany).

http://www.historyplace.com/worldwar2/timeline/enabling.htm

The sad part is, if the SPD always had principles like this instead of spending its time before this conspiring with the fascists to kill Luxemburg and other people that threatened their power, Germany and the world's history would be a very different today.

Unfortunately today's SPD still haven't learned this lesson and its telling that of all parties they said they would never work with are the KPD's successor: die Linke.

I understand that even today the SPD are still the leaders in the red baiting.

Scandinavian countires wouldn't have their system today if those cold war tactics prevailed there as their left block is traditionally comprised of a Labour, Socialist / Communist and Green coalition. This has kept the politicos from their natural drift to the mushy middle.

Until the SPD starts acting like a party of the left instead of cold warriors they will deserve every defeat and left wing challenge they get.

Your reply to the red baiting (it always comes back to Stalin) comment was excellent and its clear the Germans are seeing through the emptiness of capitalism's promised prosperity.

We have a long way to go here but the only forward is by rejecting incremental "pragmatic" capitalism and start talking about its abuses again. The Iron Curtain fell twenty years ago, so why hasn't capitalism delivered its promised utopia all the cons, libs and social democrats promised if we played by the rules of the system?

As interesting as the German election is, I find this month's elections in Greece and Portugal to be more promising for radical change as some parties on the left are unlike anything we're used to with collective leadership, assemblies and even an alliance of the Communists and Greens in Portugal going after the Social Democrats who are the main party of the right!

Many of these new left wing parties like The Reds in Denmark or the Coalition of the Radical Left in Greece are vehemently anti-capitalist and refreshingly anti-authoritarian. This rise of quasi Libertarian-Socialist parties working with traditionally more authoritarian Communist ones is a very interesting development. Its appearing to succeed in countries where they maintain separate party structures but co-operate or draw strength from each other.

Die Linke is trying to have both tendencies (and some others) into a "big tent" party. This usually leads to upheaval or the predictable rise of autocrats with priorities of power over principle. 

They are definitely a party to watch and I hope for the best but it will be a hell of a job to keep them together especially when the inevitable difficult political decisions will have to be made.

Most importantly in countries were true left parties are keeping all the others honest by directly challenging capitalism; the drift to the right is much more under attack as they are forced to react instead of setting the agenda with the usual "its the best we can do for now" most Canadians, Americans and Brits have heard from our so called progressive parties.

a lonely worker

Thanks Jacob will read your proposal on that thread.

Fidel

Okay then, if we can't have Danny Chavez and his Venezuelan or even German style MMP electoral system, then let's Die Linke anyway? WTF? Don't we have to pull ourselves from the sewer to the gutter at some point before we can aspire to greater things? I'm still voting NDP, because without advanced democracy(advanced as far as Canadians are concerned anyway) winning the battle of democracy will be that much more difficult here in the Northern "phony G8" Puerto Rico.

Ken Burch

We're all ok with you doing that, Fidel.  OK? 

Fidel

Apparently we like the idea of winning the battle of democracy just not the actual struggle that lies between here and where we'd prefer to be.

And so apparently East Germans say life was better under Soviet communism. I think there are hundreds of millions of people around the democratic capitalist thirdworld who would have been better off under Soviet communism. Over a billion chronically hungry people today - up from half a billion 25 years ago. It's busted, Jim.

Papal Bull

Fidel wrote:

Apparently we like the idea of winning the battle of democracy just not the actual struggle that lies between here and where we'd prefer to be.

And so apparently East Germans say life was better under Soviet communism. I think there are hundreds of millions of people around the democratic capitalist thirdworld who would have been better off under Soviet communism. Over a billion chronically hungry people today - up from half a billion 25 years ago. It's busted, Jim.

 

Yeah, GULAGS are pretty sweet. You get a job, and sometimes you get food. Hey, the guards will even horseplay with you!

 

Anyways, back on topic. I find it very interesting that DL is really upping the ante and marginalizing the Social Democrats in Germany. Shroeder's implementation of reforms really backfired and hurt his party, in fact, he isn' two shades different than Merkel. He ran on a left wing platform, got elected, ruled from the centre. Merkel ran on a radical reform agenda without a tinge of populism, got elected, was forced to form a Grand Coalition, and BAM! she is forced to rule from the centre. The German political system has its ups, certainly better representation for the populace, but it also seems prone to a lot of very interesting stability issues within the government. I have read articles in the Economist that see that as negative, which I find very interesting, because it encourages politicians of both the centre-right and centre-left to be far more pragmatic than they would in another system. This also allows the opposition parties and their ideas to have more currency in system. Ah, if only Canadian politicos would understand the value of pragmatism in the face of representative democracy, rather than ruling one way. :(

Centrist

Strangely enough, if Germany had a FPTP system like Canada, the CDU/CSU would win in a landslide based upon the projections for the constituencies.

[img]http://www.election.de/img/maps/btw09e_prognose_090926.gif[/img]

http://www.election.de/cgi-bin/content.pl?url=/img/poll/btw_wp_090926.html

 

Jacob Richter

That's weird.  How does the half-legislature based on PR mitigate this, then?

Fidel

Papal Bull wrote:

Fidel wrote:

Apparently we like the idea of winning the battle of democracy just not the actual struggle that lies between here and where we'd prefer to be.

And so apparently East Germans say life was better under Soviet communism. I think there are hundreds of millions of people around the democratic capitalist thirdworld who would have been better off under Soviet communism. Over a billion chronically hungry people today - up from half a billion 25 years ago. It's busted, Jim.

 

Yeah, GULAGS are pretty sweet. You get a job, and sometimes you get food. Hey, the guards will even horseplay with you!

 

[url=http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2008/12/10/us-world-s-leading-jailer-new-numb... is the leading gulag nation today[/url] And they've been torturing people around the world and perpetrating false flag terrorism since at least WW II.

 

Papal Bull

Cool. How does that justify the choices of the Soviet Union?

 

Really, Fidel, if you can give me an answer I'd be ecstatic. Perhaps we should start a new thread so as to not derail this?

Fidel

Papal Bull wrote:

Cool. How does that justify the choices of the Soviet Union?

Why do you think people in East Germany and other former Soviet republics are now saying they would prefer Soviet communism over bs capitalism? Do you think they might know what theyre talking about having lived both systems in their life times?

Quote:
Really, Fidel, if you can give me an answer I'd be ecstatic. Perhaps we should start a new thread so as to not derail this?

The left was popular in 1920's-early 30's Germany. Half a dozen socialist and communist parties were poised for electoral victory in the middle of what was a global crisis of capitalism. And then a group of the western elite decided that the odds should be flipped in their favour. And so where in the world has it become standard for centrist and even "pragmatic" political parties to campaign on the left and then goverrn on the right? Hitler was the biggest liar of the last century. And we have no shortage of squawking liars in politics today. I think East Germans shouldnt be written off so quicky and simply because theyve expressed a collective and critical opinion of the way it is. Capitalism based on middle class consumerism was a colossal cold war era lie, and the whole world knows it now.

Papal Bull

Fidel, have you ever spoken to someone who has been in the GULAG system? I have. She was raped, she was beaten. She had one of her finger nails torn off.

She had to escape by going across Kazakhstan and the other Central Asian countries to Iran before leaving.

Again, how do you justify this? I mean, you're really good at skirting issues. I just want a straight issue. How do you justify the GULAG system? How you justify forced labour and brutal internment conditions within the context of a 'worker's' state or even the 'dictatorship of the proletarian'?

That's what I'm asking. And that is what I would like answered, if you'd like to move to PM or perhaps another thread, I would be more than willing to take either of those options to stop this thread drift. Just say the word, broham.

Wilf Day

Jacob Richter wrote:

That's weird.  How does the half-legislature based on PR mitigate this, then?

The whole parliament is based on PR, in that the 50% list members are "top-up" or "compensatory," such that the total result reflects the popular vote for parties as determined by the party vote. (You have two votes: one for your local MP, and one for your choice of party.) 

Papal Bull

Wilf Day wrote:

Jacob Richter wrote:

That's weird.  How does the half-legislature based on PR mitigate this, then?

The whole parliament is based on PR, in that the 50% list members are "top-up" or "compensatory," such that the total result reflects the popular vote for parties as determined by the party vote. (You have two votes: one for your local MP, and one for your choice of party.) 

 

Wilf, do you know when this system came into play?

Cueball Cueball's picture

Papal Bull wrote:

Fidel, have you ever spoken to someone who has been in the GULAG system? I have. She was raped, she was beaten. She had one of her finger nails torn off.

I don't mean to undermine the terrible experiences of persons who suffered in the GULAG, but is it worth noting that men and women are raped, beaten and physically mutilated all the time in the US prison system, sometimes even by their guards? No one seems to think that harsh prison conditions in the US are particularly noteworthy, but there is a veritable industry of outrage at abuse in the Soviet prison system.

I have also personally spoken to persons who have been abused in these manners here in Canada.

I hear however, based on first hand reports that all round German prisons are the best. Smile

Papal Bull

Cueball wrote:

Papal Bull wrote:

Fidel, have you ever spoken to someone who has been in the GULAG system? I have. She was raped, she was beaten. She had one of her finger nails torn off.

I don't mean to undermine the terrible experiences of persons who suffered in the GULAG, but is it worth noting that men and women are raped, beaten and physically mutilated all the time in the US prison system, sometimes even by their guards? No one seems to think that harsh prison conditions in the US are particularly noteworthy, but there is a veritable industry of outrage at abuse in the Soviet prison system.

I have also personally spoken to persons who have been abused in these manners here in Canada.

I hear however, based on first hand reports that all round German prisons are the best. Smile

I in no way feel that critiquing the Soviet system diminishes from the terrible shit that the Americans have developed. I just want Fidel to justify, for once, the stuff that he says.

 

And I've heard great things about Norway! I know where I want to get arrested! Wink

Fidel

Papal Bull wrote:
 I just want Fidel to justify, for once, the stuff that he says.

Why ask little ol' me when it's all there in der Spiegel about what E. Germans think of Soviet communism versus the new liberal capitalism? We know, but you have some anecdotal evidence to the contrary to share with us, isnt that right? You have an urge to relay to us some Reader's Digest blurb about the former GDR. And now would be a good time to dust off your stack of Reader's Digests since that rag has filed for chapter bankruptcy. Even US cold war era propaganda rags aren't crazy about the new capitalism.

Quote:
And I've heard great things about Norway! I know where I want to get arrested!

Just don't get yourself arrested in the USSA. According to some accounts of the United States of torture and it's secret gulags in Eastern Europe, Middle East, Carribean etc, your mama may never hear from you again.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Fair enough, and I agree. My point is that harsh prison conditions and abuse are pretty much the norm. I am not quite sure that GULAG was exceptional for prisons of its day. How do they rate against the chain gangs of the US at the time?

Many don't seem to think that such things taint the political viability or morality of latter day Democratic politicians, such as Barak Obama, simply because they helped maintain an abusive prison system back in the 30's. By the same token, why not hold Barack Obama responsible for the Democratic Parties support for slavery in the 1850's and 60's?

It is absurd of course. But somehow, when one mentions any former communists of the East Block, one ends up talking about Stalin and the Gulag.

Are Communists, socialists and others who had relationships and dealings within the Soviet system or their puppet states during the 70's and 80's somehow responsible for the GULAG, which was officially closed by 1960, anyway. It seems to me that it was the later day communists who shut all that crap down.

Ken Burch

Quote:
Why do you think people in East Germany and other former Soviet republics are now saying they would prefer Soviet communism over bs capitalism?

Because of the full employment economy and the decent social benefit system, not because of the Stasi, Fidel.   The area that made up the DDR had been the base of the socialist movement in Germany since it was created.  The way the USSR handled that situation illustrated the ludicrous paranoia that drove Stalin. 

He should have just trusted the people of Eastern Europe.

Cueball Cueball's picture

So I see. Now we should start talking about how Barack Obama's party opposed abolition of slavery. Ken, Stalin was dead by the time all these people Die Linke were born. And not all of these people are Communists anyway.

Obviously many German's aren't making the same associations as you are Ken otherwise why would Die Linke be so popular? You think German's are so unaware of this history or something?

Fidel

Ken Burch wrote:

Quote:
Why do you think people in East Germany and other former Soviet republics are now saying they would prefer Soviet communism over bs capitalism?

Because of the full employment economy and the decent social benefit system, not because of the Stasi, Fidel.   The area that made up the DDR had been the base of the socialist movement in Germany since it was created.  The way the USSR handled that situation illustrated the ludicrous paranoia that drove Stalin. 

Fair enough, But, what drove the paranoia? Was it the fact that the Soviets came to the realization that their former WW II allies had reconstructed Himmler's SS to spy on them? How many USAF and NATO pilots were shot down over Korea and even Russian air space during the cold war? Was the incinerations of Nagasaki and Hiroshima merely a fireworks display meant to impress Stalin and Soviets?

Was it overreaction by North Koreans to turn inward after 3 million of them were murdered from 1950-53, and then threatened over dozen times with nuclear annihilation at the hands of the US military? I think the Soviets and Koreans believed they were actually dealing with unpredictable and dangerous megalomaniacal psychopaths myself.

Quote:
He should have just trusted the people of Eastern Europe.

[url=http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Chalmers_Johnson/Imperialisms_TSOE.htm... Johnson[/url] wrote  about the end of the cold war:

 

Quote:
 The American leadership did not have either the information or the imagination to grasp what was happening. Totally mesmerized by academic "realist" thought, it missed one of the grandest developments of modern history and drew almost totally wrong conclusions from it. At one point after the Berlin Wall had come down, the US. ambassador to the Soviet Union actually suggested that the Soviets might have to intervene militarily in Eastern Europe to preserve the region's "stability"

A lack of imagination and information has led to this colder war attempt to create a unipolar world. Ken, every time US hawks test new nukes or sink a bunch of money into weapons grade plutonium manufacture, 40 other countries scramble to get their hands on a big bomb. Why do they want to continue militarizing everything in site and maintain so many nuclear weapons? Why cant they imagine trading freely for Russia's natural resources instead of attempting to bribe members of the Duma as was the case in 2003? Ken, why couldnt they just let Russians have their revolution in 1917? Why?

Papal Bull

Fidel wrote:
Why cant they imagine trading freely for Russia's natural resources instead of attempting to bribe members of the Duma as was the case in 2003?

 

Because the Russian Duma is super corrupt and bribes have been, are, and probably will be for a long time a fact of life in a lot of E. Europe/Cent. Asia/Causcasus region?

Cueball Cueball's picture

Yes. Over there in E. Europe/Cent. Asia/Caucasus. People there are particularly corrupt. I guess the fact that the people doing the bribing are primarily agents of western based oil firms from "here" does not enter into the register as "corrupt", only what "they" "over there" are doing does.

Papal Bull

Haha, oh Cueball, sometimes you're adoreable. Look, just like you I have a lot of contacts in that region of the world. Mind you, you have a habit of placing words in people's mouths. I'd be 100% sure that big Western and Eastern firms from all over the world bribe there way into the business structure there. But what the heck do you think goes on in a place like Svederlovsk? You think that the rank and file citizen doesn't have to bribe their way out of some situations? Corruption is a way of life in a system that was broken in the 1990s and went through a period of absolute decay. Or perhaps Russia is some idyllic fantasy land where the evil Yanqui's have been pushed out and only do evil - like kidnap children for Satanic rituals?

Fidel

Papal Bull wrote:

Fidel wrote:
Why cant they imagine trading freely for Russia's natural resources instead of attempting to bribe members of the Duma as was the case in 2003?

Because the Russian Duma is super corrupt and bribes have been, are, and probably will be for a long time a fact of life in a lot of E. Europe/Cent. Asia/Causcasus region?

How corrupt are they? They wanted to change the tax regime on natural resource exports. The crooked oil and gas deals were made with Exxon-Mobil, BP etc during the early 1990's. But then something happened. While the prospects for world peace diminished with shock and awe over Baghdad, the Russians realized they could raise more revenues for their oil and gas exports through perfectly legal free market mechanisms. Deals struck with western energy companies for oil and gas development off Sahkalin Island were about as corrupt as the Exxon-Mobil, BP etc shananigans in Iraq today with "production sharing agreements" Remember Cheney and Bush and the gladio gang telling the world that Iraqi oil was never the motive for bombing Iraq(It was). And so now Khordokovsky sits in prison, and his partners in crime in Europe, Middle East, and Houston, Texas can only wring their hands over a deal gone bad. Other Russian oligarchs have fled the country and salted billions of dollars in state wealth in private banks for shady business types. Now our propaganda rags mention corruption in Russia and "backsliding on democracy" What a laugh.

Russia's oil  stabilization fund is now worth somewhere over $140 billion USD, a fund which was created in just 2004. That's worth more than CPP and Alberta's Heritage Fund combined. And that country experienced a wave of corruption in the 1990's What does that say about our stooges in energy-rich Canada? Someone said about revelations of super-corruption on Wall Street and their revoliving door access to the White House after 25 years of neoliberal mess down there, that: ~ Only a street rebellion could restore law and order today.

Ken Burch

Cueball wrote:

So I see. Now we should start talking about how Barack Obama's party opposed abolition of slavery. Ken, Stalin was dead by the time all these people Die Linke were born. And not all of these people are Communists anyway.

Obviously many German's aren't making the same associations as you are Ken otherwise why would Die Linke be so popular? You think German's are so unaware of this history or something?

I've been SUPPORTING Die Linke in this thread.  There's no conflict between that and saying what happened under Stalin was wrong.   Both need to be said.  And I agree that almost nobody in Die Linke had anything to do with the crimes of the DDR leadership.

All I was saying in response to Fidel's post was that we need to be clear on what people are and are not likely to be nostalgic about concerning the DDR.  Is there any harm in that?  It was about making it clear that the "Ossies" don't want the Stasi or the Wall back.

 

Wilf Day

The sexy Steini Girl causes a stir. The Steini Girl is just the latest in a series of gimmicks that the Germans have copied from the American presidential elections.

Papal Bull wrote:
 Wilf, do you know when this system came into play?

The German MMP system, as we name it, evolved from 1946 to 1948. The only change is that the initial version had a one-vote ballot, which changed to the two-vote ballot around 1953. (In Germany it's called "personalized proportional representation" to distinguish it from the straight PR system they had in previous decades.)

Ken Burch

Quote:
A lack of imagination and information has led to this colder war attempt to create a unipolar world. Ken, every time US hawks test new nukes or sink a bunch of money into weapons grade plutonium manufacture, 40 other countries scramble to get their hands on a big bomb. Why do they want to continue militarizing everything in site and maintain so many nuclear weapons? Why cant they imagine trading freely for Russia's natural resources instead of attempting to bribe members of the Duma as was the case in 2003? Ken, why couldnt they just let Russians have their revolution in 1917? Why?

 

All true.  And you will never hear ME defending anything the U.S. did in the Cold War.  Can we all agree that it isn't "giving aid and comfort to the enemies of socialism" to note that most of what the USSR's leadership did in the name of security ended up, in its OWN way,  creating a profoundly antisocialist regime and also ended up giving aid and comfort to the capitalists. 

If the USSR had combined security with a serious postwar attempt to actually revive the values of socialism(let the workers finally take control of the means of production, let all the voices of the people contribute their ideas to building the project, honor creativity by letting the artist and the writer create what THEY wished to create, all of which would only have been seen as  an achievement of the Revolution)the USSR would still exist today.  They died out because they put "defending the leading role of the party" and preserving the "socialist state" ahead of doing much of anything that the Revolution was supposed to be about.

Die Linke has nothing to do with the Stalinist past and I hope all socialists in Germany vote for it tomorrow, since nothing resembling socialism survives within the SPD and the German Greens have followed their right-wing Canadian counterparts in surrerndering to the market and the generals.  THere is NO conflict about saying that and at the same time saying "nothing that Stalin did should ever be done again".  Why would anyone on the left resist saying that, anyway?

Fidel

Ken I can see we're still miles apart on the why's.  On the one hand you're relentless in acknowledging that the US military and NATO did some dirties on the Soviets after the war. And they've basically renegged on Reagan's promise to Gorbachev not to pursue NATO expansion into Eastern Europe. But on the other hand, you seem to be asking what any of that had to do with raising an iron curtain?  And we're talking about the same layer of buffer countries which the Soviets liberated from the Nazis. Why does NATO seem to want to pick up where Adolf Hitler and the Nazis left off? Someone has to ask what value could there be in continuing to maintain nuclear missiles and high tech weaponry in Europe if not to protect Europeans from a cold war threat that doesnt exist anymore? 700-1000 military bases around the world and the only superpower with nukes on foreign soil and roaming the seven seas. Who's paranoid now? And weaponization of space? What in hell is going on in this post-cold war era, is what I'd like to know as well as tens of millions of others, we can be sure. The hawks arent paranoid, imo. Not at all. Theyre bent on full spectrum world domination - the same as they accused the Soviets of. The whole thing was one continuous lie and still is.

Wilf Day

Projections:

Forsa Sept. 25: 299 right (CDU 210, FDP 89), 299 left (SPD 159, Linke 76, Green 64)

FG Wahlen Sept. 18: 309 right (CDU 227, FDP 82), 289 left (SPD 157, Linke 69, Green 63)

Infratest-dimap Sept. 17: 305 right (CDU 218, FDP 87), 293 left (SPD 162, Linke 69, Green 62)

I wonder if the rise of Die Linke will generate a higher turnout? That in turn may stop Merkel from getting a right majority.

The American media miss the problem that stops a red-red-green coalition. It's not the ex-communists in the east. They are pragmatists who can work with the SPD in Berlin and elsewhere. It's the personal animosity against Oskar Lafontaine, who has split the labour movement's solidarity and the social democrat solidarity. They hate him the way Canadian New Democrats hate Bob Rae, for different reasons but the same emotion.

Ken Burch

Wilf Day wrote:

 

I wonder if the rise of Die Linke will generate a higher turnout? That in turn may stop Merkel from getting a right majority.

The American media miss the problem that stops a red-red-green coalition. It's not the ex-communists in the east. They are pragmatists who can work with the SPD in Berlin and elsewhere. It's the personal animosity against Oskar Lafontaine, who has split the labour movement's solidarity and the social democrat solidarity. They hate him the way Canadian New Democrats hate Bob Rae, for different reasons but the same emotion.

 

1) Turnout is an interesting question:

I've been following the election on Deutcshe Welle's English-language page.  They were quoting a lot of German press reports on how uninterested the German public appears to be in this election.  I wonder it that's intentional-if they're trying to create a "this election is boring and unimportant" meme in order to intentionally drive turnout down, because they sense that a higher turnout endangers the prospect of creating a CDU-FDP "pure right" coalition.  Wouldn't be at all surprising.

 

2) Well, if those people really hated Lafontaine that much for "breaking solidarity", why haven't they been pushing the SPD to respond by coopting Lafontaine's issues?  The SPD loyalty to Schroeder's "Anglo-Saxon economics" and the Hartz IV assault on the social wage, and his subservience to Nato militarism is staggering.  They knew what they had to do to stop Lafontaine from having an impact.  Yet they've refused, unto what looks more and more like political death, to do anything at all that would have eroded his appeal.  Do they have some masochistic attraction to electoral futility?

Fidel

Ken Burch wrote:
Die Linke has nothing to do with the Stalinist past and I hope all socialists in Germany vote for it tomorrow, since nothing resembling socialism survives within the SPD and the German Greens have followed their right-wing Canadian counterparts in surrerndering to the market and the generals.  THere is NO conflict about saying that and at the same time saying "nothing that Stalin did should ever be done again".  Why would anyone on the left resist saying that, anyway?

I could agree with that on condition that there is never another incident like the Russian "civil" war, or western agression against the Russian revolution part two, or another terrible, terrible cold war. I think most Americans have had it etched in their minds how important national security is since signing of the National Security Act in 1947. And I'll repeat again why I think someone like Stalin is still revered today in Russia. There were somewhere between 35 and 45,000,00 reasons why Soviets raised an iron curtain and did not feign democracy all those years. The Sovs were wicked serious about declaring never again since that day when Meliton Kantaria hoisted the hammer and sickle above the reichstag in April 1945. For decades, very few lobbied for or even expected an apology from the Sovs. What Charles Gatti said about the buffer countries, like Hungary, was that the Sovs actually did desire to negotiate neutrality for certain countries and would have preferred that to military occupations. But the west was uninterested in winding down the cold war rhetoric. US hawks were more relieved than anything when Soviet tanks rolled into Hungary. They worked very hard at maintaining a perceived threat that didn't exist.

Cueball Cueball's picture

Papal Bull wrote:

 But what the heck do you think goes on in a place like Svederlovsk?

What the heck do you think goes on in a place like Brampton or El Paso?

Ken Burch

Or perhaps it indicates a greater degree of internal democracy in Die Linke than those who dismiss it as a DDR nostalgia club would have expected.

Wilf Day

Preliminary exit poll results are expected around 1600 GMT (1:00PM EDT.)

Surveys showed that around one quarter of Germans were still undecided as they head to the ballot box.

Ken Burch wrote:
The SPD knew what they had to do to stop Lafontaine from having an impact. Yet they've refused, unto what looks more and more like political death, to do anything at all that would have eroded his appeal. Do they have some masochistic attraction to electoral futility?

They likely fear their own right wing. In Hesse it sabotaged a red-red-green alliance. And in Bavaria, with their open-list system, at the last election at least one left-wing SPD member, in the region of Middle Franconia (which includes Nuremberg), who criticised the party's drift to the right, lost his seat when some SPD voters disagreed with him. He was a two-term incumbent, caucus critic for higher education. I only looked at that one region; there are six others in Bavaria.

Let's look at the Left Party list in the largest western province, Nordrhein-Westfalen:

1. Ulla Lötzer, 59. She was elected as a PDS member of the Bundestag back in 1998, when Lafontaine was still in the SPD, long before he founded the WASG which then merged with the PDS to form the Left Party. At that time the PDS got only 1.2% of the vote in Nordrhein-Westfalen; she was one of only two PDS MPs from that province. In short: an old lefty who had worked as a data processor.

2. Ulla Jelpke, 58. Elected as a Green member of Hamburg legislature from 1981 to 1989, and was a "Fundi." In 1989 joined PDS and was elected to the Bundestag in 1990 for the PDS from Nordrhein-Westfalen when it won only 0.3% of the vote there; she was the sole MP. Certainly a veteran.

3. Inge Höger, 58. A trade unionist, from 1993 to 2005 she was chair of the Women's Committee of the Confederation of German Trade Unions; in January 2005 was a founding member of the North Rhine-Westphalia WASG. Elected to Bundestag in 2005.

4. Paul Schäfer, 60. From 1970 to 1988 a member of the Communist Party, from 1993 to 1999 a member of the SPD, from 2000 member of the PDS, elected MP in 2005. Not one of Lafontaine's people.

5. Sahra Wagenknecht, 40, an east German parachuted into North Rhine-Westphalia in 1998, but not elected then. She had been a member of the communist SED in early 1989, and was elected to the new party's National Committee in 1991. She also joined the PDS's Communist Platform, an orthodox Marxist faction. In the 1999 European elections, she was elected as a PDS representative to the European Parliament. She has criticized the Left Party's participation in coalition governments (Berlin), and has been quoted as stating that the Berlin Wall was a "necessary evil."

6. Andrej Hunko, 45, a first-time candidate; a supporter of the left-wing current inside Die Linke – the Antikapitalistische Linke. Began as a member of the Socialist Workers' Group (Sozialistische Arbeitergruppe, SAG), which was founded in the 1970s by West German supporters of the British "International Socialists" (IS). They joined the WASG in 2005, but had not been in the SPD.

So only one of the top six is one of Lafontaine's people; this in the largest western state. Odd.

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