Tag Archives: Merkel

Germany after the 2013 election, a prognosis

In September 2013, chancellor Angela Merkel and with her the ‘conservative’ CDU-party will win the German parliamentary election and continue the existing coalition with the self-proclaimed ‘liberal’ FDP party. If votes are particularly hung, Merkel will enter into a great coalition with the ‘labour’-SPD and their ill-fated Mr Steinbrück. Whatever happens, it will not make any difference at all. The big German parties, in this media controlled reality the only ones with any chance in politics, are in their basic ideas and ideals very similar, with differences more of a cosmetic kind, much the same as it is in the United States.

After the election, many changes that in their essence have been prepared for many years will more clearly materialise. As a consequence, some other things will dematerialise. For one, the value of the Euro in relation to other European currencies will, under the weight of immense debts, slowly start to slide, while in addition the general income of the people, under growing pressure from cheap former-eastern-block workers, will fall further. Thus, people will be even poorer when it comes to their actual purchasing power, especially anywhere outside the Euro-zone. To compensate this, the quality of products and services will have to and will fall.

Secondly, privatisation and euphemistically named public-private-partnerships will increase significantly. This will be particularly true in those sectors which so far have mostly retained state backing: Motorways and other major roads, bridges and tunnels, trains and tracks, hospitals and schools, prisons and security not essential to core state facilities, public parks and woods. The money for this will still be collected by the state, but it will be handed on to companies that promise to do the same work for less money while still retaining a profit and having to borrow at higher interest rates. Interesting concept, and one I have never understood.

While it is fair to say that the general German citizen, politician and non-politician alike, is brainwashed by media and sheepishly does what told, the amount of state and lobbyist propaganda will have to increase. When it comes to their gut, even conformed people are not stupid. I am not talking about Big Brother shouting down from the walls. That would be communism, which we luckily do not have in Germany. Here, we have capitalism, which is great, but unfortunately we have an increasingly unbalanced capitalism, which is not so great, and its extreme form really seems not very different from communism, at least when it comes to the view of the individual as little more than a cog-wheel in the system.

To keep the peace, people will more than ever have to be fed cheap bread and games via television and internet, and will have to be convinced that there is no alternative to what is happening. We know this concept well, as we have been witnessing it for the last twenty years. If none the less unrest starts to grow, as can be seen in many parts of Southern Europe, there is also a danger of a stricter, more dictatorial regime that is already on the horizon. It will however not be obviously suppressive for many years to come. The foundation on a European level has never the less been laid with the treaty of Lisbon, signed by politicians who had not read it. On the whole, dedemocratization will continue as more and more responsibilities are transferred to not directly elected ex-bankers in high-up European political structures.

Returning to Mrs Merkel, the paradox thing is that many Germans, always prone to be discontent, are growing even more discontent with many things, with a less relaxed quality of life and the intensification of work-life, with less and less buying power earned, with unaffordable housing property, with the uncontrolled influx of immigrants from anywhere East or Southeast in a continuously expanding European union, with constant lorry congestion on all major roads, with the general feeling that the political class is totally detached from the people and mostly following the lobbyists. And, while these sentiments are pretty obvious if you do not listen to the media, but instead to what the people are saying, the Germans apparently still like their chancellor Mrs Merkel. Who actually is in charge of most of this, believe it or not.

But that is the magic of propaganda. People have been taught not to make the connection between their reigning politicians and what is happening to themselves. Instead, they have come to believe as told, that it is the markets, the ‘financial crisis’, globalisation, the others, the unemployed, the nameless super-rich in other countries. But not here. Not them. Not those they have voted for in this best of democracies. In fact, when the average German really feels listened to, he or she has learned that this is populism, and thus merely a manipulative tool employed by vain politicians.

Angela Merkel is perceived as not being vain or materialist. That in fact may be true. But it misses the crucial point. Angela Merkel’s primary interest is the conservation of her own power. To that, most political analysts across the spectrum would agree. The problem is, a character driven by self-preservation is not particularly philanthropic. Politicians in general probably are not philanthropic, but it still helps those reigned if that trait is not too far down on the agenda of those reigning. But all this is too abstract for most, and they generally believe the political spin spread by private media about mother ‘Mutti’ Merkel, that modest, intelligent physicist with a clerical background. It works.

By the way, about three years after the 2013 election, private media will start to softly wave goodbye to Mrs Merkel, and public media will hop onto the bandwagon. Then, party colleague Ursula von der Leyen, whose name stems from her husband’s Dutch ‘van’ but has been converted into a more elitist ‘von’, something of the shiny and authoritarian kind that the Germans love, will take over from Angela Merkel. Mrs von der Leyen already has the backing of one of the most influential women in German politics, Liz Mohn, family head of one the world’s biggest media houses, Bertelsmann. That should help. It worked before, with Mrs Merkel.

Left and right the same can also be a feature, though usually only outside politics.

Left and right the same can also be a feature, though usually only outside politics.

On Thatcher, Blair, Schröder and Merkel

I had promised myself not to get too political on this blog, but the recent demise of Lady Thatcher has me wanting to just get a few thoughts off my mind, to whom it may concern.

While many Germans know the name of Margaret Thatcher and her being described as ‘the Iron Lady’, this is about as far as the general grasp of English politics of the last 30 years goes for most. Today, Mrs Merkel, several generations of politicians behind Mrs Thatcher, enjoys a similar standing in the rest of Europe or even the world. Not totally undeserved, I think. But the picture goes deeper, and it has a twist.

When Mrs Thatcher of the Conservative Party came to be Prime Minister, the power of the British labour unions was incredibly strong, you could say overpowering. At the same time, the economy was not doing especially well. So Thatcher killed the unions, privatised everything and introduced neoliberalism into the UK. Everyone was forthwith responsible for their own well-being. Which sounded great, and worked fine for those enterprising enough or already having something to call their own, and perhaps for those who bought and sold their council houses at the right time, but that is another story. Then came John Major, again Conservative, whom I guess no one will remember, and then Tony Blair, Labour, and both basically continued what Thatcher had started. Though Blair made it sound nicer and somehow more enlightening, not least by calling his party New Labour.

In Germany, before chancellor Gerhard Schröder came to power to succeed an ageing Helmut Kohl of the German Conservative Party CDU, things looked a bit different. Germany was basically doing fine. The Germans weren’t liked in the world, but they were respected. Back then, Germany was more of a welfare state than most countries. Thing was, there were some big clouds on the horizon. Most of all, the debts of German reunification were mounting up.

In addition, the great and uncontrolled flow of immigrants in the 50s, 60s and 70s, mostly from Turkey, and at the time basically demanded by a thriving German industry of the post-war era, did for some reason not plan on going home. Around the same time, and this perhaps accelerated by the arrival of private television, an increasing number of people had got used to comfortably using the welfare system to their own good. More than anyone, the people at the top of the food chain in Germany did not like this, as it was the taxes they weren’t paying that were being spent on a growing precariat. And their prayers were answered with the advent of Gerhard Schröder of the German Labour Party SPD, which wasn’t called New Labour, but could have been.

Following Schröder’s Agenda 2010, low wage employment was created. The industry thanked him, and with lots of advertising it helped convince many of the middle class and most of the petit bourgeois that all this was good and right. At the same time, the long beforehand planned expansion of the European Union towards the East brought in millions of cheap workers and made using cheap labour directly in other European countries a trifle. Meanwhile, the introduction of the Euro forced true wages down and made exports more profitable. The industry thanked again. Back then, it wasn’t clear to the broader public that with losing the Deutschmark, you had also lost the right to print your own money.  Next, the rules on banking were relaxed with the help of such people as Jörg Asmussen. Now it was the banks that thanked. Then, some pension schemes were privatised, and the insurance companies thanked, making such people as Carsten Maschmeyer to semi-billionaires. Around that time, Maschmeyer’s friend chancellor Schröder lost the next election to Merkel of the German Conservative Party CDU. On election night he appeared on TV, almost behaving like a coke-head, so agitated was he at the loss of power. And so the era Merkel started.

Angela Merkel was raised and socialised in the former German Democratic Republic, the DDR, mostly characterised by not being especially democratic. She apparently was in some junior role responsible for a job titled ‘agitation and propaganda’, whatever that means. Not that people can’t change. In fact, changing, adapting and always turning with the wind is probably one of Merkel’s most defining characteristics. After ending the end of atomic power that the red-green government under Schröder had initiated, she once again ended the ending of the end after the reactor accident of Fukishima in Japan. Talk about being populist. Having studied physics and coming from a clerical background, these characteristics however were and are instead emphasised in the same media that helped her become chancellor.

And then, with the reactions to the so-called financial crisis changing the face of society all around the world, Merkel proclaimed the need for a market-conform democracy. I don’t know what that is, but it makes me shiver. Today, for some reason probably having to do with Germany agreeing to pay all future debts of Europe, all eyes are on Merkel, either as mother, godmother or stepmother. I wonder which turns out to be true.

Spreading your wings to catch the sun only works till it gets dark

Spreading your wings to catch the sun only works till it gets dark