Germany

There is greater instability in Germany than ever before in post-war history. Both big parties, the Social Democrats (SPD) and Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU) lost considerably. The virtual deadlock is caused by the fact that after a short and very polarised election campaign both camps failed to get anywhere near a majority of seats.

Yesterday’s German elections have produced what amounts to a hung parliament. There is a strong element of class polarisation in German society, which is reflected in these elections results. Of particular interest is the emergence of the Left Party, which did very well in the historic bastions of the PDS but also picked up a reasonable vote in what was the former “affluent” West.

Schröder has dissolved the Bundestag and has called early elections for September 18. Polls show a drastic fall in the SPD vote and the most likely outcome seems a victory of the right wing Christian Democrats. But on the left a new formation is emerging, the Left Alliance, made up of the PDS (former Communist Party of East Germany) and the WASG, a left split of disenchanted social democrats and trade unionists, and the former leader of the left of the SPD, Oskar Lafontaine, is preparing to be its main leader. The crisis of German capitalism is preparing the ground for greater instability and a polarization of German society.

The political situation in Germany is changing rapidly as one political earthquake has been followed by another over the last few days. In last Sunday’s regional elections, Chancellor Schröder’s Social Democratic Party lost its traditional stronghold in North Rhine Westphalia . The SPD saw their share of the vote fall to a level not seen since the mid-1950s.

In 1984 there was a militant mood at the May Day rallies as the print workers and engineering workers in Germany prepared for an offensive struggle to achieve a reduction of the workweek without loss of pay. On May Day 2005, 21 years later, a new round of defensive battles to defend the 35-hour week started in the German printing industry.

Germany has entered a new period of unrest and instability as the Schröder government is pursuing attack after attack - on the welfare state, the working class, the unemployed, the poor, the sick, old age pensioners. This is against the interests of the working class, the majority of the population and especially those who secured a narrow re-election of chancellor Gerhard Schröder's coalition just 14 months ago.

The wildcat strike at the Opel plant in Bochum, Germany lasted for six days. It reflected the growing militant mood of the German workers. The situation at Opel also highlights the serious difficulties German capitalism is facing. And yet suddenly after six days the workers voted to go back to work. What was behind this decision? Hans-Gerd Öfinger explains how the trade union officialdom did everything in their power to bring the strike to an end.

“Klassenkampf am Montag” – class struggle on Monday – that’s how the magazine Der Spiegel described the Monday demonstrations this summer against the government’s harsh measures of social counter-reform (the Hartz IV packet), which then spread to hundreds of cities across Germany. The packet of measures is known after the name of the chairman of the government commission, Peter Hartz, who also happens to be the head of human resources of the automobile giant Volkswagen.

This summer Germany was hit by a wave of “Monday” demonstrations against the severe austerity measures of the Schröder government. This reflects the growing polarisation within German society. There are moves to the left of the SPD, while on the extreme right the NPD is picking up votes. These are the first rumblings of the class struggle that is to come.

The vote for the German SPD in the recent European elections revealed a disastrous collapse. It is the price the party pays for pushing a Blairite agenda of cuts and attacks on the welfare state. The German workers do not want this. Large numbers abstained, rather than vote for the Christian Democrats, who also lost votes. On the left, the PDS recovered from its bad showing in 1999.

The German economy is the largest in Europe. Since the recession of 2001, the German government has been claiming an economic upswing is imminent. But are these predictions realistic? Christoph Mürdter analyses the real direction of the German economy.

The traditional Easter Marches of the peace movement took place over the past week in Germany. Demonstrators met and called for the withdrawal of German troops from Afghanistan, for Germany’s exit from NATO, and against the Agenda 2010. There were 12 speakers at the demonstration in Wiesbaden, one of which was Hans-Gerd Öffinger, vice regional Chairman of the trade union Ver.di, and editor of the Marxist journal Der Funke who spoke on the situation in Venezuela.

Unprecedented attacks on so-called "old fashioned" unions and "stubborn" and "hardline" union officials who allegedly are out to sabotage the "modernisation" and "flexibilisation" of the economy, have been stirred up by Germany's mass media in recent months. IG Metall, the world's biggest industrial union with a membership of 2.5 million, has been passing through a major crisis this summer.