The crisis of European imperialism has infected the powerhouse of European monopoly capitalism as German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, who has been in power for 12 years and who won just 33% of the vote in the elections held on 24 September, failed to negotiate a coalition government that would rule over the German and the European working class for the next four years.
On November 20, the leaders of the right-wing Free Democratic Party (FDP) decided to abandon the negotiations and stormed out of the room. Thus, the hopes for a coalition government between four parties stalled, causing what many are now calling a political earthquake in Germany.
After eight weeks of negotiations between the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), Christian Social Union (CSU), the Green Party and the Free Democratic Party (FDP) for the formation of a new four-party coalition government (the first in the country’s history), commonly referred to as a ‘Jamaica Coalition’ after the colours of the respective party’s flags (black, yellow and green), have stalled, leaving a power vacuum in the country not seen since the end of the Second World War.
Apparently, the talks failed due to non-agreement on two issues. Firstly, the demand to abolish the clause that gave the right to immigrants for their families to join them in Germany.
The Second demand was to shut down some of the coal-fired power stations.
Hard-line liberals of the FDP are demanding an increase in cuts to public spending, more concessions for big businesses, more privatisation and an attack on pensions. In the past and even during the recent elections, the FDP has been heavily funded by big business and have been part of coalition governments for 46 years.
But the number one issue in the German elections was immigration. Hence, during the negotiations, which stalled on November 15, immigration was discussed for 12 of the 15 hours of coalition talks! Since 2015, the opening of the German borders to more than one million refugees fleeing war zones in Syria and Kurdistan, Germany’s right wing fascist Alternative for Germany (AfD) has been spreading xenophobic propaganda against Muslims, demanding the smashing of minarets, attacking mosques, etc. The AfD has exploited the prejudice against immigrants to force a shift in German politics further to the right. It is alarming to see that the AfD which only narrowly fell short of the 5% votes’ hurdle during the 2013 elections, has now become the third biggest party in Germany, with nearly 90 of its members in a 700 member parliament. It is the first time that a far-right party has entered parliament since the defeat of the Nazis.
It is not only in Germany where the ruling classes find themselves in total disarray. Countries such as Belgium and the Netherlands are facing deep divisions in the direction in which European capitalism must move forward. It took 598 days for the Belgian, and 209 days for the Dutch, ruling classes to come up with an agreement to form a coalition government. The recent elections in Austria that resulted in a big gain for the fascists and the crisis in Spain caused by the Catalan nationalists point at the seriousness of the current crisis of monopoly capitalism and European imperialism.
Since the financial crisis of 2008, the European Union has been struggling to bounce back from recession. The methods that each country has applied to counter the recession are uncannily similar. These include the bailing out of failing banks by public funds, introducing cuts to public services, attacking health care and housing, attacking social benefits and pensions and increasing public debt as they keep borrowing money to inject into the dying capitalist system. They are pushing the regular working class into the uncertainty of zero-hour contracts and forcing them to accept lower wages.
It is alarming to see that most of the votes secured by the AfD came from the deprived areas of Bavaria and the former East Germany. The promise of sharing and reaping the benefits of re-unification and the massive investments in, and uplift of, East German society after the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 never matured and East Germany ended up becoming a source of cheap labour for German capitalism. Shattered dreams and broken promises have pushed the East German electorate into voting for the fascist AfD. Many argue that this was a protest vote against Merkel’s failure to deliver. The big question for us is why did this protest vote not translate into voting for the social democratic left wing reformist Die Linke. In 2013 Die Linke got 8 percent of the constituency vote and in the 2017 elections Die Linke got 8 percent of the votes as well. This shows that it has got a stable left vote bank but has nothing new to offer to the wider electorate. One wonders why Die Linke has not been able to attract new voters. The answer may lie in the word ‘reformist’. They seem to have settled for a reformist role that at best promotes them as ‘better managers of capitalism’. The result of all this has been catastrophic.
Right across Europe, working people have suffered massive setbacks caused by the dictates of the European Central Bank. In the UK, 1.4 million people above the age of 16 are unemployed.
According to Shelter.org, 150 families are become homeless every day in the UK and one in every 200 people is homeless in Britain, with the total number of homeless people rising to more than 300,000! According to Share-International.org, 860,000 people are homeless in Germany! The Federal Working Group for Homelessness (BAG W) reported in November that the number of people living rough in Germany has reached one million! This translates into the fact that one in a hundred Germans is now homeless. Several German newspapers have reported that most of these people are homeless refugees.
Although the majority of the homeless are adult males, the number of women and children is on the rise as well. One of the major reasons for the increase in homelessness is the sell-off of local authority and cooperative housing stock to pay off city administrations’ debts. According to BAG (W), homelessness will increase by another 350,000 by the end of 2018! Today there are more than 14.5 million homeless people in Europe.
In Greece, one in five people is unemployed and with its economy effectively under the control of German imperialism, Greece has become heavily dependent on humiliating bailouts from the rest of the world. Spain is grappling with its worst crisis since it became a ‘democracy’ in 1978. And the Catalan bourgeoisie, who up until recently were facilitating the austerity imposed by Madrid on the Catalan working people, are now hiding behind Catalan nationalism and playing victim after the refusal of the Spanish ruling class to accept the result of the October 1 Catalan secession referendum.
Today in Europe the ruling classes are hanging onto power by a thread tied to the unstable economic period in the history of the twenty-first century. The heroic anti-austerity movement launched by the Greek working class was made to capitulate by Syriza to the economic prescriptions of the European Commission, the European Central Bank, the IMF (and the irony is that the IMF and the USA were actually arguing for a Keynesian approach to Greece!) This, in the final analysis, pushed the Greek economy further into debt.
This is sufficient evidence to remove even a shred of hope or trust in the hearts and minds of the European working classes regarding the ability of European social democracy to be able to solve the ongoing economic crisis or to even to be able to apply brakes to the continuous decline in the working and living conditions of the working class.
The current crisis in German politics is a manifestation of the inability of the German bourgeoisie to solve the economic and social crisis that has been created by the insoluble contradictions of capitalism. The German Federal Republic is heading for a right-wing government that is more likely to be more right wing than any other government since the Federal Republic was established in 1949. The new German government, whenever it is formed, will be forced by the circumstances of German imperialism to rule the country through more attacks on working people as well as to participate in more foreign military adventures in Mali and the Middle East on the pretext of maintaining domestic security and combating global terrorism. This truth will hold even if the center-left Social Democratic Party (SDP) joins Merkel as a coalition partner.
The good news is that despite the shift towards the right, the winds of a left current are filling the sails of popular resistance. More than 10,000 people took to the streets to show their dismay at the success of the AfD in the General Election in Germany. We have seen the result of such developments in the recent past as millions thronged to support Syriza in Greece, to no avail. Syriza capitulated at the first available opportunity. So this brings us to the final point.
Who controls the ship’s rudder as the sails of resistance are being filled with the winds of the left? This question should be put forward at every meeting of the extra-parliamentary left movement across Europe that gathers to oppose the attacks on the living conditions and the rights of the working class. We cannot afford to let the ship of resistance crash into the deceitful rocks of fascism that lie under the turbulent waters of European imperialism. Hence, an aggressive pan-European collective revolutionary action by the European working class must begin to organise itself.
The anti-reformism and anti-revisionism Marxist-Leninist revolutionary parties, grassroots organisations that have been fighting attacks on the living conditions of the masses and waging an uncompromising war against European imperialism, can provide a pan-European collective revolutionary leadership. This has to be a movement that aims to abolish the imperialist European Union and replace it with a Socialist Union of European nation states.
Amjad Ayub Mirza is the ICOR coordinator and moderator for Marxist-Leninist Tendency in Scotland.
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This post was written by Amjad Ayub Mirza