Edgar Moron, Chairman of the Nordrhein-Westphalen SPD (left-wing), has, along with the rest of his party, seen what can happen to complacent socialists who have been in power too long for anyone's good. Recent events in Schleswig-Holstein, where the SPD Prime Minister of the past 12 years, Heide Simonis, was finally ousted amid undignified scenes, have unnerved Moron and his fellow socialists.
The SPD has been the party of government in Nordrhein-Westphalen for decades. Along with its confreres on the national SPD-Green coalition government, it has presided over catastrophic economic decline and German inability to transform its outdated tax and employment regulations. The national unemployment figure of 5.2 million people is a fitting monument to its policies.
Nordrhein-Westphalen (NRW) will vote in May. The stage ought to be set for a long overdue transfer of power. But loyalty to the old socialist ways is still residually strong, across large swathes of Germany, and the old "Ruhrpott", with its shattered mining and manufacturing industries, is amongst them. No-one expects longstanding SPD loyalists in traditional working-class constituencies to switch to the centrist parties en masse. Even so, more than 5 million out of work is not the best basis for brazening it out. So the SPD are casting about for the best way to position themselves to avert too dramatic a swing against them. The current thinking appears to be - "The SPD can guarantee "social justice" in the face of globalisation and unemployment. The centrist CDU/CSU/FDP parties, by contrast, will favour the bosses and increased globalisation."
Moron, a reliable party hack, is now faithfully spouting the new line. Clearly he is relaxed about a return to a Germany with state-sponsored non-jobs in the state aparatus or factory jobs building the old communist car the Trabant. Market forces are by definition evil in the Moronic world-view.
But Moron's choice is a false one. Globalisation is a given. But so, in Europe, is "social justice". No-one looking at it dispassionately would seriously believe there's any chance of a reversion to 19th century proto-capitalism, no matter what Moron and his acolytes may insinuate. But not all voters look at it dispassionately, of course, and resentment and resistance against Atlanticist or Anglo-Saxon capitalism still plays a part in Germany as in France. Moron must hope that such sentiments will save his party.
It may seem that the opposition should have little trouble exposing the SPD's claim that the election will be a choice between the unrestricted market forces of globalisation on the one hand, and "social justice" on the other. What is "social justice", after all, when half the workforce is out of work? It is no more than the misuse of tax money to perpetuate outdated state-sponsored inefficiencies.
But Germans are rightly proud of the "Wirtschaftswunder" which brought prosperity to Germany from the 1950's and which furnished the economic powerhouse with a social security safety net. Today, that model looks tired, and it's saddled with excess bureaucracy, taxation levels, and employment practices way out of kilt with those of the more prosperous Western countries - let alone the new challenger economies of eastern Europe and the Far East.
Everyone is agreed that reform is needed in Germany. But none of the parties' current programmes is anything like radical enough to deliver. The SPD is offering more of the same, a surefire recipe for failure and worsening performance. The centrist parties are too timid to set out policies which may alienate the comfortable German consensus.
In that context, Moron's claim that the SPD will defend the welfare state is not as unintelligent as it seems. The question is whether the opposition politicians are effective enough to show voters that the choice Moron posits is a false one, and whether they can act on that realisation to produce policies to help dig Germany out of its current economic hole.
TheEdgar Moron MdL