No, no, don't worry, it's not one of those irritating spams worming its way into my posts. No, my German heading translates, for those who haven't already guessed, as 'By the left, quick march!' And according to Christopher Caldwell of The Weekly Standard (a shrewd judge in my opinion) it is off to the Left that Madame Merkel is marching her government and her country. To be fair,she doesn't have much choice because she is forced to form a coalition with one (or more) of the other parties who gained seats in parliament, and they are all more, or less, Left-wing. It's either the SPD, roughly the equivalent of our Labour party; or the Greens, roughly the equivalent of men from Mars who took a terrible beating at the polls; or the latter-day communists. Her previous ally, the Free Democrat party which believes in the advantages of a free market economy, suffered an implosion and, like Monty Python's famous parrot, it 'has ceased to be'! The alternative to the Free Democrats, the anti-European Union AfD party undoubtedly stole voters from the Free Democrats but, alas, not enough to gain seats in the Parliament.
This leaves Madame Merkel with nowhere to go except Leftwards. She will be content with that, according to Mr. Caldwell's analysis, because deep down inside she has no core ideology:
For instance, Germany built a slew of nuclear power plants four decades ago, and
these provide much of its energy. For years there has been a battle between
Green environmentalists, who called for an “atom exit,” and others who feared
the economic consequences. It was mostly fought to a draw. But days after the
meltdown of Japan’s Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in the wake of a tsunami in
2011, Merkel announced that she was rallying her party to the Greens’ position.
And she was not through. This spring, the Social Democrats, along with the
post-Communist Left party, were calling for a national minimum wage. At any time in Germany’s postwar history, this would have received polite snickers from the CDU. But the party now supported it in principle, asking only that it be
introduced piecemeal. The Left and the Social Democrats also decided to back
nationwide rent controls. Germany’s relative prosperity is driving rents through
the roof, and rent control is, for now, polling well. You don’t have to ask what
All this, in my opinion, chimes with the German psyche. After all, it was under Bismarck (of all people!) that the first steps were taken to introduce national welfare policies, the first in Europe, I believe, certainly ahead of Britain. I try to avoid using national stereotypes too often but I have the impression that Germany is not a land in which individualism is considered a virtue. Thus, the soft, enveloping blanket of state provision of, well, everything, really, is not opposed, it is gratefully accepted.
However, according to Mr. Caldwell, this Leftwards drift might go very much further than anyone, including Madame Merkel, ever envisioned:
This overwhelming victory for Merkel is a Pyrrhic one. There are now
just four parties in the Bundestag. The three that are out of government—the
socialists, environmentalists, and Communists—all call themselves parties of the
left and form an obvious coalition-government-in-waiting. If they are not being
considered as a potential government right now, it is mostly because Steinbrück
[the losing leader of the SPD]promised during the campaign to rule out a pact with the Communists. This is SPD tradition, but it is far from clear that Steinbrück represents his party’s most advanced thinking on the matter. Steinbrück is a member of the Schröder-era left, the “Third Way” people who traveled to London to get tips from Tony Blair, the welfare-state reformers, the courters of businessmen and bankers. He was a Social Democrat of a very conservative kind, conservative enough to serve as finance minister during Merkel’s first term. It was a common complaint on the left that Steinbrück was a mismatch with his own party’s program.
He will be replaced at the top of the SPD by thinkers who are more amenable to looking left than looking right—like party chairman Sigmar Gabriel, perhaps—and who are more inclined towards a pact with the Communist Left. Like the United States after 2004, when a shaky-looking executive won a victory that was never as solid as it seemed, Germany may be sailing out of the calm before a big ideological storm.
And as we can see quite clearly 'over there', big ideological storms rapidly turn into monster shit storms!