Wednesday, July 06, 2005

German Left Reaches Out to Xenophobes (Again)

The Left in Germany has become distinctly xenophobic of late. Today's left-wing politicians, it seems, whilst not perhaps disliking foreigners on principle, nevertheless believe that scapegoating them is a sure-fire vote-winner.

The blog isn't so sure. Take Chairman Müntefering of the SPD, who memorably attacked international Jewish capitalists for causing Germany's decline and unemployment during the period now known as the "Müntefering Terror". It did his party no good at all in May's Nordrhein-Westphalen elections, as they were kicked out of office for the first time in 39 years. Some vote-catcher.

Now, the hard-left PDS-WASG formation, which is trying to cobble together a coalition made up of ex-communists, disaffected SPD voters, neo-Nazis and other malcontents, is keen to purloin Müntefering's xenophobic demagoguery. Their leader, Oskar Lafontaine, has been sounding off about how foreign workers are taking the jobs of decent Germans. In response to criticism that this makes him sound somewhat Nazi-like, he replied that "the Nazis weren't primarily xenophobic, but racist. That is a big difference." (Die Nazis waren nicht in erster Linie fremdenfeindlich, sondern rassistisch. Das ist ein grosser Unterschied.)

So in effect Lafontaine is telling foreigners that it isn't their race which offends him, but the fact that they are foreign. It's good he clarified that for us, and pointed out the often-overlooked, but gaping gulf between xenophobia and racism.

Whatever - clearly Lafontaine thinks baiting foreigners will win him votes.

We'll see. Current opinion polls show the WASG-PDS grouping at around 10% nationally, with a 30% support level in the ex-communist east. That's a respectable showing, but it won't grow on the back of xenophobia which, if anything, remains unrespectable in Germany.

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