Germany is the most left-wing country in Europe. In last Sunday’s elections, the parties of the left gained more than 51.1 per cent of the votes: 34.3 per cent for the Social-Democrats, 8.1 per cent for the Greens (sometimes described as “water melons”: green on the outside and red on the inside) and 8.7 per cent for the (former) communists of the Left Party. As in the previous elections of the past decade, the East-West ballot divide is striking.
Fifteen years after German reunification voters in the former East Germany still poll differently to the those in the west. German unemployment went up in the seven years of Chancellor Schroeder’s red-green coalition to almost 12 per cent. Yet in the east, where unemployment is twice as high as in the west, the Social Democrats (SPD) remained the biggest party with almost 30 per cent of the vote, while the Left Party got almost 25.9 per cent (compared to just 7.2 per cent in the west). The Greens won 4.4 per cent in the east. Over 60 per cent of the East-Germans, the so-called “Ossies,” voted for parties of the left. For the third consecutive time since 1998 they tipped the balance of power in the whole of Germany to the left.
After German reunification in 1990 the West-Germans made two foolish decisions. First they failed to follow the example set after the Second World War when the country was “denazified:” the collaborators of the Nazi regime were punished and not allowed to stand for election. If Germany had been similarly “decommified” after the collapse of the so-called “German Democratic Republic” (GDR), many outspoken anti-Western politicians could not have entered the SPD. Indeed, the “post-communists” are found not only in the Left Party, but also in the SPD. Today, especially the Social-Democratic politicians from the east, such as Rolf Schwanitz (the infamous state secretary who campaigned with pictures of the coffins of American soldiers) and Wolfgang Thierse (the president of the German Parliament), are thoroughly marxist anti-American hardliners. This is not surprising. Both men were lecturers in social sciences at universities in the GDR, positions which only those supporting the regime were allowed to hold. Thierse also worked for the East-German ministry of Culture and for the GDR Academy of Sciences. Imagine anyone who had held a similar position in Nazi Germany rising to the presidency of the Bundestag within a decade after the collapse of the murderous totalitarian regime he used to serve!
Even more foolish, however, was the decision of the West-Germans to bail out the Ossies and put them in the position of “rent-seekers.” Rent-seeking is a term used in public choice theory to define “the resource-wasting activities of individuals in seeking transfers of wealth through the aegis of the state.” As Newsweek wrote (in an article about rural depopulation) last July:
“Eastern Germany is a case study unto itself. Taxpayers have sunk more than 100 billion euro into rural areas, without even a blip in the speed of decline. The countryside is full of subsidized white elephants, from a bankrupt zeppelin factory in Brandenburg to a never-used Formula 1 speedway.”
At first, in the elections of 1990 and 1994, the Ossies were not aware of it but they soon discovered, like the Walloons in Belgium who live off subsidies from the Flemish in the north of the country, that their position of voters in the whole of Germany made it possible for them to install a political regime which would enable them to become perpetual rent-seekers by forcing the West Germans to keep paying for them. The Ossies became accustomed to a flow of government money (at the rate of 100 billion euro per year). Whilst they were draining the west, instead of blaming their predicaments on their former communist masters who had bankrupted the country and squandered its wealth, they began to blame it on their Western cousins for not sending enough money. Comparing themselves to the west, where capitalism led to prosperity, they complain “that they have not fared well after the German reunification.” They blame the west for not being able to make up for half a century of communism within one decade after reunification. Instead of rolling up their own sleeves, as all the other Central and Eastern European nations are doing (because they have no other choice), they hold out their lethargic hands and clamour for more subsidies. At the same time they vote in such a way that social reforms in the whole of Germany, west and east, are made impossible, thereby preventing the west’s ability to introduce sound economic liberalisation reforms that could generate more wealth for all of them.
The immorality of this attitude is lost on the Ossies, because half a century of communism indoctrination have led to a loss of morality in the country. During the past election campaign when one perceptive politician drew attention to the moral wasteland in the east, the GDR apologist Wolfgang Thierse shouted him down: “I will not accept simple explanations and personal reproaches using the slogan ‘The GDR is the root of all evil.’”
Hopefully the conservatives in the west of Germany will draw lessons from this. During the election campaign Edmund Stoiber, the Prime Minister of Bavaria and the leader of the CSU, the Bavarian Christian-Democrats who have always been a tad more conservative than the Christian-Democrats in the rest of the country (CDU), told his supporters: “I do not accept that the east will again decide who will be Germany's chancellor. The frustrated should not be allowed to determine Germany’s fate.” Stoiber was sharply rebuked by Thierse, who said that the Bavarian leader was treating the East Germans as “second class citizens.” Stoiber admitted that “the strong must sometimes carry the weak a bit. That's the way it is” but added: “I do not want the election to be decided in the east yet again.”
Some suggest today that Stoiber’s comments “damaged the party's chances of convincing an already skeptical eastern electorate” and “did nothing to improve the chances of a clear win for the conservatives.” Stoiber was right, however. Politicians should not pander to an immoral electorate. It is important for the rest of Europe that Stoiber and the conservatives in the west draw their conclusions from last Sunday’s elections. In the Christian-Democrat stronghold of Bavaria the CSU polled 49.3 per cent of the votes, which together with the free-market Liberals would give a clear majority of 58.8 per cent. Still, the CSU fell below 50 per cent for the first time in decades. The Christian-Democrats had hoped that by putting forward Angela Merkel, herself an Ossie, as their candidate for Chancellor, they would attract votes in the east. The opposite seems to have happened. Merkel did not bring in any Ossie votes and cost them votes in the west.
Germany is in deep trouble today. The east is pulling the country down, not just by devouring its resources but by hampering its wealth creation through the imposition of leftist policies on the whole nation. If the Bavarians begin to realise that the only choice left to them is between drowning with the whole of Germany or Bavarian independence, the Belgian scenario will become Germany’s too: it is socialism that is causing countries to fall apart.
Of the 600,000 Germans of Turkish origin 94 per cent voted for the parties of the left. They make up more than one per cent of the German electorate. The same rent-seeking mentality, visible among the Ossies, applies here too.