Thursday, March 26, 2009

ARE GERMAN AND SPD VOTERS STILL FIGHTING THE COLD WAR?

ARE GERMAN AND SPD VOTERS STILL FIGHTING THE COLD WAR?

Kevin Anthony Stoda, Wiesbaden, Germany


I had the good fortune to live in Germany in the 1980s during the era when first the Pershing missiles were planted in Central Europe, as the Historikerstreit took place, and as the end of the Wall in Berlin were shaking up modern German self-identities.

In that decade, I first lived on a farm in Rhineland Palatinate and later in the city of Wuppertal (1986-1990), where the economy was not particular good and employment chances for many university students not very good.

My long stay in Wuppertal marked also a career change for me from a teacher of history and the social studies to a teacher of languages, e.g. German, Spanish and English. The market for history and sociology teachers in both the USA and Germany have been rocky in recent decades.

Because I shifted my career to teaching foreign languages, I have since been able to mix my love for history and the social sciences with my growing love for both world and modern literature as I have taught and researched in Japan, the USA, Nicaragua, Mexico, Kuwait, and the UAE (1990-2008). This wide ranging work experience in countries with different levels of social consciousnesses in economic development has made my view of the political economics more realistic and supportive of social economic planet than has been the case of those who have lived solely in the USA where minimum standards have been left to the market.

Now my lifelong research into political economic and social development has taken me full-circle from my (1984-1992) experiences in Central Europe, i.e. especially in Germany. In this era my homeland’s dominant narration of the end of Communism and a new world order had begun to discolor many facts on the ground in the last decades of communism and in describing the rise of the European Union and NATO on the continent since that time.

This skewed narration was partially promoted by some European statesmen in order to help keep America strategically embedded in Europe, i.e. (a) through NATO’s continuation and (b) due to the absence of any other major counter-hegemonic alternative to Western Capitalist narration of the era.


GERMAN NARRATION OF POLITICAL ECONOMY CAPTURED

If the reality of German life over the past 20 years were really truly that of the neo-classical theorists, i.e. simply a sign of the righteousness and rightness of neo-classical liberal economic practices and theory, and if the American imprint in Europe was always so clear and crisp as stressed by many in the later Helmut Kohl era (or post-reunification era), especially by authors misusing the phrase “End of History”, one would never expect transatlantic troubles on any level.

However, the theories on which the last 20 years of economic development in central Europe are absolutely not explanatory and has left Germany today bereft of clear thinking and orientation. It is almost like the Neo-classical liberalism has continued to fight a Cold War while wearing all the blinders to reality on the ground.

Tarik Ahmi notes that part of the problem in Germany over the past 20 years in the areas of political economics and the socio-development of the former divided Germany has been the almost total dominance of a single ideology.

According to Tarik Ahmia, “Since the era of former Chancellor Helmut Kohl the German government wants nothing to do with hands-on growth policies. Even in fall 2008, as the German economy was being pummeled with full force by the crisis, the words ‘economic stimulus’ were taboo in the cabinet for months. This was thanks in no small part to the clique of economists that advise the federal government. Their speakers have been preaching to the public for years that growth can be ensured only when the state keeps its hands off the economy, when social benefits are slashed, the job market is deregulated and companies are unburdened.”

http://www.atlantic-times.com/archive_detail.php?recordID=1642

In short, unlike in the USA where some forms or alternative views of economics could be taught at most any university and different state government, such as California, Minnesota, and Northeastern states have practiced alternative procedures in the markets of health, environment and economic planning, Germany’s various national and state governments over the past 20 years (whether Socialist- or Christian Democratic) closed out all communication with non-neo-classical liberal theorists.

In short, if you were not among the faithful of the neo-classical theory, you were not working in government in Germany.

ARE some Germans STILL FIGHTING THE COLD WAR?

In January 2009, the first election of the year occurred in the German state of Hessen, where the financial powerhouse Frankfurt is located. By the end of this election cycle there will be several other state elections as well as national elections for the Bundestag.

In this past election in January 2009, the SPD (Social Democratic Party) was pummeled after having the year before agreed to build a government with the smaller THE LEFT (Links) Party. Let me explain, Hessen is in what was once West Germany. Currently, the majority of THE LEFT party are still in Eastern Germany.

In Hessen this past election, 25 % of the prior voters of the SPD, who were born and in many cases raised in the Cold War era, walked away from their party.

That means that these Hessen citizens do not want their local SPD to work with anyone who represents to any degree the ideas of the former East German Parties, who admittedly had run (or had mishandled) East Germany’s economic development for nigh 40 years, i.e. until 1990—when the Neo-Classical Liberals took over both sides of Germany.

In some ways, this would be similar to Americans who vote against the Democrats because the Democratic Party was once considered the party of (or are in memories of grand children associated with) the South during the U.S. Civil War (1860-1865).

I say this because in fact, the natural ally of the SPD is THE LEFT Party.

The fact is that Western members of THE LEFT party are often formerly dissatisfied Social Democrats, who left the party because it had embraced the values of Neo-classical theory in the 1990s and again earlier in this same decade.

In an economic crisis like this, the SPD needs to get back to its socialist economic roots and help clean up the mess of 20-plus years of Neo-classical liberalism in Central Europe.

The resistance to reclaiming the stronger and more helpful theories that brought the Social Democrats to power in the 1960s (and in some states earlier) is essential for Germany today.

If the Social Democrats don’t seek to build a greater coalition of like-minded voters and if voters don’t move beyond their Cold-War era thinking about Socialism and Communism in economic development theory, Germany’s economy will not get out of its doldrums.

A shake up is needed in Germany in 2009—not continued status quo.

Alternative economic planning is needed and only by working with the Green party and THE LEFT will the SPD succeed in autumn 2009 elections.

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