Socialist Worker

Challenges opened up by German ‘grand coalition’

Issue No. 1972

The formation of a “grand coalition” government of the social democrats and Tories in Germany is a sign of the crisis gripping Europe’s elites.

The coalition is committed to undermining the welfare state and employment rights, even though a majority of voters in last month’s general election in Germany rejected neo-liberalism.

At the same time, bosses in Germany fear that the coalition will not move sharply enough in attacking workers and workplace organisation.

The most likely scenario is a weak and divided government provoking bitter working class anger, yet also failing to restore the fortunes of big business in Germany.

That ought to propel the rise of the new Left Party, which emerged with the biggest gains in the general election. But further advance won’t simply fall into the lap of the radical left.

There was a grand coalition in Germany in the late 1960s, which was also a time of growing radicalisation. The biggest beneficiaries, however, were the “old Labour” wing of the social democratic party, which went on to crush the hopes placed in it.

A grand coalition in the crisis-ridden late 1920s did fuel the growth of the Communist left, but also, more dramatically, of Hitler’s Nazi party, which went on to seize power in 1933.

In last month’s election the far right was marginalised and the old Labour wing of social democracy still shows little sign of life.

But further breakthroughs by the radical left depend on its capacity to deepen the movements against neo-liberalism, war and racism, and win tens of thousands of activists to an uncompromising anti-capitalist position.

Above all that means winning leadership of the coming revolts against the government. That challenge, and learning from the failures of the 1920s and 1960s, are not only a matter for the Left Party in Germany. They are central to the future of the emerging radical left across Europe.


Free market failure

The market is failing to put a roof over the head of a growing number of people. The boom in the housing market has led to a fall in the number of couples under the age of 30 who can afford to buy a home. Some 1.25 million households earn too little to afford a mortgage but too much to qualify for housing benefit.

This has created a “yawning gap” in the housing market, according to a new report by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation.

In the last year the government has handed £954 million to private companies to carry out repairs on privatised council homes. Meanwhile it is pushing ahead with the sell-off of council housing.

Thatcher’s Birthday

In good company

Thursday was Margaret Thatcher’s 80th birthday. She was celebrating with her closest friends, those who glory in her days of attacking trade unions, standing foursquare with US imperialism and denigrating the basic principles that the British labour movement stands for.

It was therefore no surprise that, after the queen, the first name on the guest list was someone who has profited so much from Thatcher’s brutal tradition and stands in awe of it—Tony Blair.

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What We Think
Sat 15 Oct 2005, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1972
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