The Reality of the German Left


Monday, June 10, 2019

With American politicians such as Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders floating the idea of “democratic socialism” and a new political dynamic inside the Democratic Party, I’d like to give you an insight of the European left, specifically the left of my home country, Germany.

In Germany, the strongest advocate for “democratic socialism” is the Left Party. This far-left party, formerly known as the “Socialist Unity Party” (SED), once ruled over the communist state of East Germany where it implemented “really existing socialism,” until almost 30 years ago when a peaceful revolution paved the way for free elections and the reunification of Germany.

As mentioned, this party, however, did not cease to exist like the Nazi Party after WWII, rather it renamed and rebranded itself, first as the “Party of Democratic Socialism” and later, after fusion with a small left-wing party, as “The Left” party.

The same party that, for almost 40 years, oppressed the people of East Germany is today considered by many as an acceptable party in political discourse, being part of various left-wing coalition governments in several states, with a Left Party politician serving as head of government of the state of Thuringia in Eastern Germany. Besides “democratic socialism,” its party platform also supports a pro-Russia foreign policy as well as covering for other socialist or Russian-supported dictatorships like Venezuela, Cuba, and Iran.

The Left Party is one of three relevant major left-wing parties in Germany, where parties have traditionally been categorized as either workers’ parties, left-wing parties appealing to the urban working class, or “civil parties,” centrist or right-wing parties appealing to the suburban middle-class or rural areas. The Green Party, which has just surpassed the old social-democratic party, SPD, as the biggest left-wing party in the European Parliament elections, is now trying to establish a centrist image of itself despite still holding almost the same left-wing positions.

The Greens already have significant political power in Germany as a coalition partner with left-wing and center-right parties. Because state governments have to cast their votes in the German Federal Council (which represents the German state governments) as a single bloc, abstaining votes, often resulting from different opinions inside the coalitions, are considered a ‘Nay’ vote. The Green Party can effectively block all legislation which requires Federal Council approval.

While policies like the “Green New Deal” are considered extreme by many moderates and conservatives in the US, similar “green” policies are becoming increasingly mainstream in Germany. An example of this trend is the so-called “energy transition” in Germany which is also supported by the biggest center-right party, the CDU and puts an end to nuclear energy by 2022 as well as heavily subsidizes renewable energy sources with an extra energy tax that has led to a significant surge in electricity prices. Besides nuclear power, coal is also an important energy source in Germany, becoming the latest target of the Green party, which wants to prohibit coal power as soon as possible. Together with nuclear power, coal power currently accounts for 43% of the electricity generation in Germany.

Like in the United States, “social justice” is a rallying cry for the German Left, and some have taken things even further than their American counterparts. For example, in Berlin, politicians of the Green Party, as well as the Left Party, have now shown their support for a popular initiative by left-wing activists to confiscate the property of big real estate companies with as little compensation as constitutionally possible. If approved by a majority of voters, this measure would amount to a full-scale nationalization of the major real estate companies in the state.

Radical left-wing positions, in general, are much more likely to be accepted in German political debate than in the US, with big-government solutions often considered mainstream approaches.

Sebastian Thormann is studying Information Systems at the University of Passau, Germany. He is interested in US and German politics as well as economics. His other hobbies include coding, skiing, and playing the piano.

The views expressed in this article are the opinion of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Lone Conservative staff.

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About Sebastian Thormann

Sebastian Thormann is studying Information Systems at the University of Passau, Germany. He is interested in US and German politics as well as economics. His other hobbies include coding, skiing, and playing the piano.

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