The German left’s defence of Europe

Published on openEconomy, by Dionyssis G. Dimitrakopoulos, 12 January 2011.

While Angela Merkel opts for a narrow definition of the German interest, the opposition champions a return to European collectivism based on leftist values.

Much of recent public commentary on the crisis in the eurozone has dealt with Germany and “the Germans” as a monolithic and internally undifferentiated entity. This is an important matter because part of Angela Merkel’s opposition to alternative ideas has been couched in the notion that they would not be supported by the Bundestag. But treating Germany and the Germans – especially their political elite – as a monolithic entity is inaccurate and unhelpful. It is inaccurate because what the German government should do is, in fact, contested within Germany. 

Indeed, there is a coherent critique and a set of proposals articulated by the SPD, the Greens and – despite its past differences on European policy  – Die Linke, i.e. the German centre-left and left parties, while senior current and past officeholders from the ranks of Angela Merkel’s own party have also voiced their dissent. These are much more in tune with the policies of successive post-war German governments than with the policy pursued by the current coalition government of the Christian Democrats and Free Democrats. Finally, the caricature of an undifferentiated German political class is also unhelpful both because (a) it prevents reformists in other parts of Europe from seeking allies within Germany and – as a consequence – from devising a credible alternative platform, and (b) it ignores a new reality: the debate is no longer purely about having more or less ‘Europe’ (i.e. integration); rather, it explicitly relates to values that distinguish the Left from the Right and thus no longer deprives citizens from the primary lenses through which they understand political reality … //

… Finally, the introduction of eurobonds – an idea that finds support even amongst some of the CDU’s senior politicians – should go hand in hand with the empowerment of institutions to establish tighter controls over fiscal and economic stability, alongside common minimum standards on wage and welfare policies, as well as capital and corporate taxation. This package would put an end to beggar-thy-neighbour policies and harmful tax competition (relentlessly practiced by countries such as Ireland, as several German opposition leaders rightly point out) amongst members of the eurozone and deal with the EMU’s birth defects.

It would be simplistic to depict these proposals as merely pro-European (or indeed, as a reflection of complete agreement between these parties on domestic matters). However, drawing on internationalism, solidarity, the need to re-assert the pre-eminence of politics over markets (i.e. core common principles of Europe’s Left) and a hard-headed, explicit acknowledgment that being pro-European is also in Germany’s interests, the SPD, the Greens and Die Linke demonstrate that after the doom and gloom that followed the Left’s defeat in the European elections of 2009 and the German elections of the same year, there is an alternative. (full text).

Comments are closed.