Roland Dürre
Sunday January 29th, 2017

Painful Experience as a Democrat.

One of the reasons is probably the “oligarchy of the parties” (according to Karl Jaspers) that has taken (almost) all Europe into custody. More and more, we now “enjoy” the results of this development that has been getting stronger and stronger over the last few decades.

Besides, it really annoys me that the powers that are generally called lobbyists now have an overwhelming influence in society and politics. Lobbyism has become part of the system and rules and harms the common interest – often quite apparently at will. I witness all the time that the thus generated real (and often non-transparent) power structures ruthlessly sweep away the efforts and success of groups and individuals. The damage done to both humans and our future is willingly ignored, because more often than not, the only thing that counts for the powerful is money and power.

In addition, there is a historic (birth) defect. In most of the democracies I know, they (almost) always – directly or indirectly – vote for a boss. The elections determine who will be in power. It might be a caste or an individual. But I do not wish to hand power to a system or even to individual persons. Because it is not what modern times call for.

A short time ago, Niels Pflaeging twittered a question:
“All #leadership must be shared!“
Is #leadership a collective and social phenomenon that is always present in social groups?“

In these sentences, I would probably have replaced the word #power by the word #leadership. But regardless: I rather like the first sentence and believe that the second sentence is outdated. Maybe it was true in former times, but such an image is not fitting for a world where sympathy, considerateness, democracy, freedom, equality, friendliness (towards fellow humans) reign instead of enmity, respect, participation, appreciation …

Enterprises and all other social systems do not need strong leaders. And this opinion of mine is older than the election of Trump for president. I do not like powerful persons, no matter if you call them president or chancellor. In my opinion, centres of power and power fights are less than optimal. They are something I personally find offensive, I am fed up with them. But on the other hand, behavioural patterns such as the “Mother Theresa” concept (total sacrifice for others) look suspicious to me. The same is true for persons who sacrifice themselves as martyrs for social, political or other goals.

Not only in political systems, I would wish to see coordinators who organize and build networks at the top. Social consensus about central topics must be worked out together and we (as the rulers – Souverän) must be given the opportunity to finally vote on alternatives and decisions that have been well prepared.

This might be our future. Today, however, I remain in the still unpleasant present in this respect and will describe the “pain I feel as a democrat” that actually even increased over the last few weeks. I was going to write a few satires in the “first person”, introducing some politicians. The first was going to be the SPD top politician Sigmar Gabriel. It was to read more or less like this:

“My name is Sigmar Gabriel. I am 57 years old and, until recently, I was Federal Minister for Economic Affairs. To this day, I do not know how I ever managed to get that job. After all, the only thing I did through all my life was teaching adults in union-loving enterprises and, above all, be a political functionary. And this CV made me Minister of Economic Affairs of the powerful FRG! And Vice-Chancellor! Well, it is surprising, but then, apparently, the success speaks in my favour, doesn’t it? Now they say I cannot lead the SPD into the electoral campaign as their top candidate. In fact, my party, those ungrateful villains, downgraded me because, allegedly, the people in Germany do not perceive me too positively. Regardless of the fact that I was a huge success and the German economy is booming as never before. And, basically, we have no unemployment, either. But then, I know about intrigues and power play. And everybody knows you cannot win them all. However, that is fine by me – Germany has become too small for me, anyway. Besides, you have better chances of a career in Europe, just look at comrade Schulz, the rogue. Consequently, I am now going to save the world and do a stunt as Minister of State of the FRG. After all, that is a nice job for a thorough-bred politician like me. Besides, I have wished for some time now to work a little less – after all, I am again going to be a father (which is no small achievement at my age). Being Minister of State is something I can do with one hand bound behind my back and I always wanted to do a little world-travelling, anyway. I am sure it will be a good experience for my baby if it cries and I can be away from home… “

This is where I will terminate my satiric remarks, because I feel it is not nice and rather cruel to write these kinds of things in the name of another person, even if, in cabaret, it is a commonly used form of satire. Writing like this will not alleviate my pain, because there are many reasons for those. Today, I will only tell you about my SPD pains. They are only a small part of my democratic ache. Basically, I understand less and less what happens at the SPD.

Let us start with the Federal President. When I was in grammar school, they taught us that the fathers of our constitution wanted the Federal President to come from among the people and that he/she should ideally not be a politician. It seems that – as so often at school – I misunderstood something. Article 55 of our constitution says:

(1) The Federal President may not be a member of the government or of a legislative body of the Federation or of a Land.
(2) The Federal President may not hold any other salaried office, or engage in any trade or profession, or belong to the management or supervisory board of any enterprise conducted for profit.

Well, those sentences are written in the present, aren’t they? That means my teacher was wrong and Mr. Frank-Walter Steinmeier can actually transfer directly from being a minister to Schloss Bellevue and Villa Hammerschmidt.

I have never met Walter Steinmeier. Regardless, primarily due to how he conducts himself and acts, I hold him in high respect. But he, too, spent his working life in the ivory tower of politics and that was also where his career was. He was very successful and as a reward, he got the ministerial posting to a high political office. It is quite possible that many persons considered him the last famous SPD person to have been highly regarded by all.

Now, they just go ahead and make him Federal President through (secret) party agreements. They continue to pull the strings. The post of Minister of State that thus becomes vacant is simply given to the not so well-loved Minister of Economic Affairs. His prodecessor – Brigitte Zypries – is an interim candidate  and even calls herself interim minister (Übergangskandidatin). All these things happen in times that cannot really be called politically easy. Is this in the best interest of the German population?

Because the people do not love him, the new Minister of State Sigmar Gabriel was no longer accepted as head of the party and also not made candidate for chancellor. In other words: he had to go. In front of the microphones, he says that, becoming a father, he wants to work a little less in the future. And on the very day after his inauguration, he flies to Paris where he meets obsolescent persons. No matter if you are well-loved or not, standing in the political limelight is even nicer if it is abroad.

But that is not all. The new SPD hope is a man who came to my attention mainly because he is politically unremarkable, but also because he is a very active “master at pulling strings”. He has been living the good life in the European Parliament ever since 1994. Before that time and partly also during that time, he was the major of Würselen (Nordrhein-Westfalen). In 2012, thanks to proportionality and secret agreements, he managed to become the Präsident des Europäischen Parlaments.

Since he seemed so unremarkable to me, I looked him up in Wikipedia. Now I would kindly ask all those who think about voting for SPD to look up the curriculum vitae (Lebenslauf) of Martin Schulz in Wikipedia. You can learn how, simply by being party member and representing their policy, you can make a career with just a few small tricks. It is a good example for the fact that in the SPD internal policy is more important for a career than being active in favour of social democracy.

For me Herr Schulz is a “Gabriel square“. Again, it gets painful: for me, Europe is so much more than just the EURO and the EU. To me, the new SPD top man looks like a symbol and metaphor for the poor state of the EU. An EU that is dominated by nations and economic interests and boycotted by small countries. There is no consensus about values, it is politically disrupted, mega bureaucratic and over-regulated. Basically, all nations want out, but they lack the courage. The EU that many see as something we cannot do without is a threat to a humane and democratic Europe of regions. But perhaps the EU and the SPD have something in common: they both seem to have forgotten the people of Europe.

Now they want Martin Schulz to save the SPD. A party we would badly need as general hope for a new democracy. I personally doubt that he, with his methods, can save the SPD. However, I am fairly convinced that he will not give new life to the idea of social democracy.

Neither is it any help for me that the USA now have Trump, which gives them totally different problems. Which means that my pain will not get any less acute.

(Translated by EG)

2 Kommentare zu “Painful Experience as a Democrat.”

  1. six (Sunday January 29th, 2017)

    Roland, eine großartige Analyse des IST-Zustands. Wo aber ist der SOLL-Vorschlag? Wir alle hier sind Menschen des öffentlichen Lebens und deshalb aufgerufen, wie ein Wunsch-Politiker zu denken. Wie würden wir handeln, wenn wir das öffentliche Leben gestalten dürften? Kann Macht ein total anderes Wesen annehmen, als es das jetzt tut? Ist ein “Piraten”-Leben des ständigen Verhandelns geeignet, das tägliche Leben zu gestalten? Brauchen wir also überhaupt keine Macht mehr? 45 Jahre nachdem ich Marx zum ersten Mal gelesen habe, stelle ich fest: Analyse führt zur Paralyse.

  2. Chris Wood (Sunday February 12th, 2017)

    Dear Roland,

    I am not at all happy about your criticism of Martin Schulz and SPD. It looks like polemic. Opinion polls show that many Germans disagree with you.
    My family and I have generally been interested in international politics rather than local. 2016, with ISIS, Brexit and Trump has accentuated this. I have kept in touch with the German scene, more than with England, but my knowledge of Schulz comes, like yours, mostly from Wikipedia.
    Anyway, Schulz turned early to politics, which seems to be at the heart of your criticism. Just before reading your posting, I had decided that it is seriously wrong that so many intelligent educated people take little or no active interest in politics. This explains how Brexit and Trump could happen. (ISIS is different). (The word “idiot” was originally Greek, meaning anybody uninterested in politics). Trump (building speculator), Farage (finance dealer), and Assad (optician) have surely shown us how dangerous political amateurs can be. Do I detect a little envy in your writing, because Schulz has become more famous even than you? If you concede this, I will admit that my black humour about Rupert Lay was probably stimulated by your seeing him as a better philosopher than I am.
    In national elections, I only ever voted Liberal. It was easier to see what was wrong with Labour and Tories. About 1970, too late for student revolution, I did get involved. Seeing how Tory managers and the Labour government were ruining the British computer industry, I tried to encourage trade-union action in my company. I was even on strike for half a day! As an operating system developer, I thought that people who understood the potential of computers should be involved in the decisions. The trade union people were interested in computer operators, whose strikes could quickly cause problems. Strikes by software developers would not be noticed for months. Much later, I noticed that trade-unionists rarely show interest in the poor of the World, or even in the unemployed. This ruined my hope that some political party favoured more equality.
    Of the two main UK computer firms, ICT and EE, mine was more successful and software oriented, the other had better hardware. The merger driven by the Labour government left EE people running things. The ICT software boss, (Peter Hunt), refused to be the new (ICL) software chief, because he could not be a director. The new software chief was a pleasant intelligent retired army officer!!!
    After this, I canvassed a bit for Peter Hain, (Liberal), whose charming parents had had to leave South Africa. He was later minister for sport and then for Northern Ireland, (but Blair stole the credit).
    Schulz grew up in a large family, with a protestant father and a catholic mother. He attended a catholic school and did not get his Abitur. His dream of becoming a professional footballer was spoilt by knee injuries. He was an alcoholic, but has overcome it. Perhaps these early difficulties gave him a view of life for losers, and turned him to socialism rather than the “Christian” Union. He is clever enough to speak five European languages fluently. (He was also a better footballer than Schroeder). By all accounts, he has strengthened the European Parliament, which is fairly democratic. (As with Brexit, I could not vote for it)! I assume he is more pro EU than most German politicians, (and so am I). Recently, I have liked the way he says clearly what he thinks. He is even right about needing a “hard” Brexit. I hope the EU can be saved from falling apart. He was suitably critical of Trump, without burning the bridges.
    “Bild” is campaigning against Schulz by pointing out that, three years ago, he wanted more support for Greece. Despite low interest rates. the situation has hardly changed. Perhaps with more investment things would have got better. German voters are presumably unwilling to help Greece more. But the cost would not be high. Greece accounts for only about 3% of the EU economy. I expect England’s support for the rest of the UK would be enough for Greece. I expect now Schulz must change his opinion about this. Of course, the Greeks are not entirely free of blame.
    Roland, I agree more with your opinion of Gabriel. (Most Germans prefer Schulz). Gabriel, as Industry Minister should have supported brown coal less. He did not prevent the diesel swindle, that has polluted the atmosphere, and spoilt the reputation of German industry. Maybe he could not prevent Merkel’s mistakes with nuclear power and refugees, and Dobrint’s silly car toll. I am sure he had no chance to improve the tax system. It speaks well for Gabriel, that most small improvements by the coalition have an SPD flavour. Yet, as Foreign Minister, he seems to have made a good start.
    The stuff above may suggest that I am a staunch Socialist, but I am not. Unlike Naomi Klein, I have little hope that socialism will save mankind. From Darwin I have learnt that life is a struggle, and that homo sapiens is part of this. The ancients saw mankind as even more than the ultimate masterpiece of evolution, and based philosophy and religions on this view. For practical purposes, I base my ethics on human happiness, Christ’s parables, and his Sermon on the Mount. The nicest life for all people would be based on universal democracy, socialism, and market economy. But. as the Earth’s resources run down, bad religions, greed and corruption are destroying this dream. The richest nations are not happy to let the poorer ones catch up. Donald Trump calls himself a Christian, (in spite of “Blessed are the Humble”), while trying to take jobs away from the poor Mexicans. Different sects of Islam are at each other’s throats. Even the Buddhists try to kill Moslem minorities. The World’s finance giants use tricks to save on taxes, and use the money to lobby for even less regulation. After all, the poor taxpayers will pay the bill when the system collapses again. The dictators running most of the World’s countries are too scared to think of stepping down. If they consider losing power, they try to become very rich first.
    Fake news? I notice that reports on the radio are not very reliable. I heard recently that Chinese exports in the last year have increased 7%, and imports 16%. These impressive statistics were supposed to come from the customs people. So, I assume the statistics refer only to Chinese trade with Germany. Most fake news is probably unintentional.

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