Tuesday, August 14, 2007
Germany moving left posted by Richard SeymourA recent news article in Die Zeit revealed that Germans are moving to the left:
These are the results from a study carried out by TNS, and they tell a strange mixture of tales. As you can gather from the image above, there is a sizeable swing to the Left. Only 11% of voters identify themselves as being right-wing, while 34% of voters place themselves on the left. The votes from the centre splits in several different directions, obviously, but it's significant that the Left Party picks up a substantial portion of voters who consider themselves centrists. Further, not only do more voters identify themselves as being left-wing, but if you go to the report (or do a Babelfish translation of the story), you find that voters for right-wing parties favour the left's programme. For example, 68% of voters for the right-wing FDP support a mininum wage, while 57% support reducing the pension age, 82% support free childcare (slightly more than Linke supporters), and most oppose privatisation as well. All of these positions are popular with most voters, but their acceptance by supporters of an aggressively free-market party signals how broadly as well as deeply these ideas are held. A plurality of voters think the unions are too weak, and on this point the distribution of support is more traditional, but still a quarter of FDP supporters, and a third of CDU supporters agree with the prevailing view. Another issue with a more predictable distribution of views is on nuclear power: 38% want to abolish it entirely, but this rises to 65% among the SPD supporters, 86% among the Greens and roughly an even split among Left Party supporters.
The article concludes that "the key demands of the Left Party fall on fertile ground, even outside its milieu". Die Zeit discusses all of these findings with a certain amount of horror, describing them as the result of the impact of neoliberalism on German society (in the usual condescending language in which people are depicted as frightened by a changing world). That is unquestionably the driving force behind this. However, the results also extend into foreign policy matters, where most German voters oppose their government's participation in the occupation of Afghanistan. The strongest opponents of the occupation are naturally Linke supporters, but - not completely surprisingly - the strong supporters of the occupation are Green voters, 47% of whom do so, more than the 42% of CDU voters who favour it.
It is no wonder that the Left Party has come from nowhere to regularly receiving over ten percent of the vote in national opinion polls, putting it ahead of the much more established Green Party. The latest poll puts them on 13%. Incidentally, the presentation of that poll is quite misleading: it says "most Germans continue to support the conservative parties in the governing coalition". In fact, "most Germans" do not: 36% of voters support the conservatives, 11% support the FDP and the remainder - most in fact - support the SPD, Left Party and the Greens. But this is how consent is manufactured, is it not? As Chomsky puts it: "Not only are citizens excluded from political power, they are also kept in a state of ignorance as to the true state of public opinion."