Lessons from the new German left for the Austrian situation 

What does the emergence of a new left in Germany signify, which may lead to a common bid of WASG and PDS at the Bundestagswahl in autumn? Does it hold a lesson for the Austrian political spectrum?

The WASG, a left-wing split-off of the SPD, so far seems to be a moderately successful rallying ground for voters who have been frustrated by the red-green coalition in Germany and its resolve to address the country's economic woes with economic liberalisation. At the regional elections in Nordrhein-Westfalen the WASG won 2.2% of the vote, compared to 0.9% for the PDS. A common list [DE] of the two in the federal elections this autumn would have a good chance of clearing the 5% hurdle due to the strength of the PDS in the east.

In Austria, socialdemocrats and Greens are in opposition. As the right-wing Austrian government has implemented economic policies not unsimilar to the ones of the German left-wing government, it has been relatively unproblematic for SPÖ and Greens to communicate with some ambiguity about economic policy: although they deny it, both parties have two wings on these issues, a relatively liberal and a state-interventionist one, which sometimes communicate mutually inconsistent messages. In this status quo there does not seem to be space for a new political party along the lines of the WASG in Austria as long SPÖ and Greens are in opposition. Unreformed Keynesians find space in the SPÖ, attac-activists are engaged within the Greens - in Germany, these are the core constituencies of the WASG.

It is likely that after the next elections in Austria at least one of these parties will assume a role in a government coalition, which will then proceed with policies of the rather liberal kind. If the coalition will actually be a red-green one between the two parties, then the German situation holds a lesson: SPÖ and Greens will have to watch their left wings. It can be stipulated that the situation would turn out to be more threatening for the Greens, just as seems to be the case in Germany now. The socialdemocratic party is broad and heterogeneous by tradition, whereas the small Green party loses its core appeal of being "different" as soon as it enters any government role, and then, after initial euphoria, relies for long-term success on maintaining a stable core of unique political positions that are highly valued by the electorate. The German Greens have been both lucky and unlucky in this respect with the dominant role of their hugely popular foreign minister Joschka Fischer. Personal popularity however has the tendency of wearing off after a while and leaving nothing but a stale taste in the voter's mouth. A robust political programme that credibly addresses key topics such as employment and growth - in addition to transparency and personal freedoms - is a necessary additional resource.


It appears to me as the Greens have trimmed their left wings already anyway --> last assembly of Vienna Greens.
On the other hand the Greens lack any credibility in their economic program as well, a polite way to say that I cannot make out if they have one at all that reaches further than a couple of phrases.
The Social Democrats lack credibility in their economic program as well.
Why is it that even the left sees no other way to compete internationally than by lowering taxes and cutting employee's rights because everybody else is doing so. They should learn the lesson from Germany that being a cigar-smoking socialist who buddies up with industry captains does not lead one to the road of success. Looking at the economic data I am sad that I cannot resort to the phrase Tu felix Austria anymore.

I'm certainly not an advocate of cigar-smoking, or of merry hunting excursions in the mountains for that matter. Radical attention to the poor in a largely liberal economic framework could however work without those. What sustainable economic alternative to liberalism under an efficient state-regulator do you have in mind?

A theory that can resolve the problem of inequality without spurning the innovative principles of capitalism. This theory will have to include a chapter on how to overcome predatory behaviour that leads to unhealthy excesses on the economic level, IMHO.
Liberalism and efficient state-regulation are ideal in theory, but contradict themselves in practice as this will end only in corruption on a massive scale. It always has.
Looking at Austria with one eye only as I am preoccupied with the foreseeable demise of the USA I still can say that the next election will be very difficult for me. If I could, I would vote for Lafontaine as he is the only intellectual counterweight to the unfettered capitalism Austria is sliding into too.
I am advocating economic education in the first place as I can see there is lack of it in our school system (Geographie und WIrtschaftskunde, LOL) below the university level. Then people can work out for themselves which direction the political debate should take.
As long as we stand at the point where industry representatives can say they are apolitical and only concerned about their return on equity (i.e. profits) without raising criticism - as this is the most political statement one can make (on the conservative side) - we have a long way to come to a serious debate.
But a political system that effectively excludes some 8 % of the population from the workforce - and blames them for their 'failure' - is standing on the brink anyway, as soon as we close in on Germany's unemployment rates. Given the high dependence on Germany's economy (suppliers) developments will reach Austria with 12 to 24 months delay.
Only questions: Who is Austria's Oscar? And why are we only getting new parties in the right part of the spectrum?
Anyway, I am highly interested in such a debate and I see more and more people entering it.
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