AfD took 13 percent of the vote, and will get 94 seats in the Bundestag, the German parliament, making it the third largest party. Merkel’s CDU vote declined from 41 to 33 percent.
Liberal media pundits and politicians falsely claim the AfD is a fascist party. “For the first time since the end of the Second World War, real Nazis will sit in the German parliament,” former SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel said.
And, as in the case of President Donald Trump, they claim the AfD vote shows workers in Germany are becoming more bigoted and reactionary.
Despite its dominant position against its competitors in the EU, Germany is not immune to the political turmoil occurring in other capitalist countries. As the broader economic, social and moral crisis battering working people continues to unfold, millions of workers, looking for a way out, have voted against the parties that have shared power as the crisis deepens.
Alexandra Heil, a 43-year-old worker on disability benefits, told the Washington Post, that she wasn’t sure about the AfD because “they are somewhat Hitler-like, and I don’t want that.” But she went ahead and voted for them because she “just wanted something to change,” and was pleased to see the establishment politicians “all wetting their pants a bit” at the result.
Across Germany the official unemployment rate has fallen, but those figures obscure the reality for many working people. There are consistently high numbers of workers classified as long-term unemployed. Workers in so-called mini jobs that pay less than $540 a month have risen from 2.2 million in 2003 to 7.8 million in 2016.
The government’s disdain for workers and their problems was graphically displayed when CDU General Secretary Peter Tauber had to apologize in July after contemptuously stating that those who just studied hard wouldn’t get stuck in mini jobs.
Over a million Germans have turned to food banks to get enough to eat, and the numbers are rising. When a cleaner from Bochrum challenged Merkel about why growing numbers of pensioners can’t afford to make ends meet, Merkel told her she couldn’t “change our pension system at the moment,” and suggested she just buy a private pension. The cleaner responded that on her wages she couldn’t afford it.
Some pundits claim the growing “fascist threat” is innate in the genes of the German people, as New York Times columnist Roger Cohen indicated in an article titled “The Return of the German Volk.” He says people who voted for AfD are “violent” and “rightist, nativist, nationalist,” just plain “reactionary.”
But fascist outfits don’t evolve out of bourgeois parties or through electoral politics. They are forged in combat in response to rising working-class struggles and social movements. History shows the bosses reluctantly turn to the fascists when the social crisis of their system is deepest, ceding some power in order to drive working-class struggles off the streets, and crush the unions and workers’ parties that lead them.
The election results showed the response by millions of workers and others to the impact in Germany of the same worldwide carnage that drove millions in the U.S. to elect Donald Trump. And to register through the ballot box their opposition to what is being done to them by parties at the center of bourgeois politics in the interests of Germany’s propertied owners.
AfD grows where crisis is deepest
AfD picked up its highest percentage of votes in eastern parts of Germany, where workers face the deepest depression-like conditions. The Berlin wall was torn down over 25 years ago by the struggles of the peoples of East Germany against the Stalinist regime there. In the wake of German reunification, Berlin announced a “Solidarity Pact” which was supposed to bring basic living conditions in the east up to the levels of the rest of the country.
But unemployment in the east remains higher, wages and pensions lower, public services poorer and overall living conditions worse. Between 1990 and 2015 fully 15 percent of the population of Germany’s five eastern states left the region.
The AfD campaigned on a platform of German withdrawal from the euro, restrictions on temporary agency work, opposition to the deployment of German troops abroad and greater restrictions on immigration than proposed by Merkel.
The gains made by German bosses in raising productivity while holding down real wages and dealing blows to workers’ jobs, pensions and living conditions have helped Berlin maintain its supremacy in the European Union. The EU functions to advance the interests of German capitalists against their weaker competitors. Germany’s gross domestic product per head has risen 20 percent relative to that of Italy in the last decade, while Greece’s GDP declined more than 20 percent, with devastating consequences for working people there.
The EU was born with a fatal contradiction. The capitalist rulers of each European nation-state seek to defend their industry, banks, profits and power against their EU “partners.” And as the worldwide capitalist crisis of production and trade progresses, the tensions increase and get sharper. And everywhere workers and farmers bear the brunt.
Front page (for this issue) | Home | Text-version home