Monday, May 23, 2005

A Transatlantic Turning Point?

The big news today in transatlantic matters is obviously the crushing defeat suffered by the German SPD in North Rhine Westphalia. The SPD’s “Locust” campaign did not save them in NRW. This is not to say that the theme "Kapitalismuskritik" - “critique of capitalism” - will now go away. On the contrary, at least all the early signs indicate that the SPD is committed to making "Kapitalismuskritik" - and thus so too the "Amerika-kritik" that is of a piece with the latter, whether it is openly stated as such or not - its battle horse also in the national election campaign.

The NRW results provide reason to doubt that this will be a winning strategy. Keep in mind, however, that if the SPD decides to go full-throttle on the "Kapitalismuskritik", it might be able to poach substantial numbers of voters in the eastern provinces from the post-Communist PDS. The latter has become a sort of refuge for the economic "losers" of German reunification. If the SPD can succeed in channeling their resentments toward an external "enemy" - the American capitalist "locusts" and "bloodsuckers" - the NRW results need not have sounded the death knell of the "red-green" coalition. Unfortunately, such a strategy has been known to work before in German history.

In any event, we will know by next year – or maybe even this one. In a startling move, the SPD has announced that it will push for early elections. To get them, Schröder must first lose a no-confidence vote in the German Bundestag, an institution in which the “red-green” coalition – despite the fact that it has now lost control of the last province or “Land” in which it formed the government – still holds a majority! Thus, Chancellor Schröder and SPD Party Chair Muntefering are, in effect, requesting a sort of fictive no-confidence vote, in order to enable early elections – a move the constitutionality of which is highly open to question.

Just in time for these important developments, Ulrich Speck, following in the footsteps of the great Barcepundit, has started an English-language version of his German-language Kosmoblog. Ulrich has some reflections on the repercussions of the SPD’s North Rhine Westphalia debacle here. And, of course, there is lots of coverage and an animated discussion of the NRW election results over on Medienkritik.