On February 12, Berlin goes to the polls — again. We are repeating the elections of September 2021, with the exact same candidates. The political déjà vu makes all six of these terrible parties even less appealing.
The CDU used to be such a boring party. Back when Angela Merkel was in power, (for 160 years, if I’m remembering correctly), her Christian Democratic Union was all about staying in the background. Now Olaf Scholz is filling the role of a political robot who promises that nothing will fundamentally changed.
The CDU remains the party of unabashed self-enrichment
So the CDU under its new leader Friedrich Merz, that balding Blackrock gremlin, has reinvented itself as the party of Trumpian culture war. Merz knows what’s threatening the German way of life: asterisks and colons intended to make the German language gender-neutral.
In Berlin, CDU candidate Kai Wagner is blowing into the same horn, as the Germans say. Trying to milk the fake right-wing scandal about supposed violence on Silvester, Wagner demanded to know the first names of people arrested that night. This was an attempt to blame the mini-riots on people with Migrationshintergrund, even if said people had German passports. Meanwhile, the CDU remains the party of unabashed self-enrichment. This isn’t just about conservative lawmakers taking millions in shady deals for medical masks. The party’s éminence grise, Wolfgang Schäuble, even admitted to taking illegal donations from weapons dealers — and he never even took a hit.
Maybe the conservatives aren’t even passionate about their racism — it’s all just a cynical distraction while they stuff their pockets.
This party that claims to represent the “little guy” takes lots of money from billionaires
With the Alternative for Germany, in contrast, no one doubts that their racism is sincere. The AfD and the CDU are locked in a fierce competition for far-right voters, with the AfD focussing on “law and order” demands. They want to lock up climate activists who glue themselves to freeways (Klima-Kleber in den Knast! translating roughly to: Climate gluers go to jail!), ignoring the fact that the CDU is already putting plenty of climate activists into prison.
Just like the CDU, they like to blame all of society’s problems on “clans.” There is one kind of criminality the AfD never talks about, though: This party that claims to represent the “little guy” takes lots of money from billionaires. The far-right firebrands never talk about their patrons’ tax evasion schemes or campaign finance violations. No, they are only worried about mafiosi that don’t have German-sounding last names.
The FDP has just one policy focus, and that is making their gas-guzzling roadsters go vroom.
You have to hand it to the Free Democratic Party: with their yellow-and-pink posters, they manage to make policies from the 1950s seem vaguely modern. The FDP has just one policy focus, and that is making their gas-guzzling roadsters go vroom. The party, which controls the Federal Transportation Ministry, is working hard to tear down a big swath of Friedrichshain and build an Autobahn. With just 5% of votes nationally, they have been remarkably successful at preventing a speed limit.
The party has long been known as the representative of Three A: Ärtze, Anwälte, and Apotheker (doctors, lawyers, and pharmacists). As commies say, this is the petty bourgeoisie — picture any smug business student you met at university, but armed with state power. Don’t be fooled by their talk about getting the Berlin bureaucracy to speak English — this is a party of neoliberal sociopaths straight out of American Psycho.
What about the Social Democrats? They are running a surprisingly social campaign, with a focus on the €29 ticket. The SPD has been in power in (West) Berlin for most of the last century, with only a few interruptions, and their endlessly corrupt dealings with realty developers have earned them the nickname “Betonfraktion” (concrete faction).
Giffey herself says that she can’t represent the majority of Berlin voters
Watching the evening news, it’s hard to tell if Andreas Geisel, the Senator for Urban Development, sees himself as a public servant or as a lobbyist for billionaire realty developers. The former workers’ party takes hefty checks from speculators — and Mayor Franziska Giffey responds with a signed thank-you note telling them “If you have questions or comments, you can reach me directly.” I don’t think renters have the mayor’s ear!
A year and a half ago, 59.1% of Berlin voters called for the expropriation of big landlords. Giffey, whose party only got 21.4%, immediately worked to sabotage the result. Now she has said very openly that she “cannot reconcile it with my conscience to promote expropriations.”
You don’t need to take my word for it — Giffey herself says that she can’t represent the majority of Berlin voters. Makes you wonder — how can this be called a democracy, when the views of representatives and represented just can’t be brought into line?
The Greens are the only major party in Germany talking about the climate catastrophe. Their candidate, Bettina Jarasch, is at the top of some polls, meaning she could very well replace Giffey.
their policies are all about guaranteeing profits for German fossil capital
But if you’ve read anything about the Greens recently, it’s how the party had Greta Thunberg arrested so they could demolish a village and dig up 280 million tons of lignite coal. This is all in the service of RWE, Europe’s biggest CO2 emitter. A Green Party politician will soon be taking over as RWE’s chief lobbyist.
So while the Greens claim to understand the threat of climate change, their policies are all about guaranteeing profits for German fossil capital. This has to do with their social base: The Greens are competing with the FDP for the wealthiest voters, and in a dramatic shift, the a party founded 40 years ago by pacifists is now Germany’s most militaristic party. It’s a testament to the power of marketing: if you put “Green” on the box, it seems like many people don’t pay attention to what’s inside.
And now we’ve reached the end of the list, at least of the six parties currently in Berlin’s parliament. So should we vote for DIE LINKE? A number of their campaign posters sound great, especially: “Affordable rents. Implement the referendum.” There’s just one catch: DIE LINKE is currently part of Berlin’s government coalition. Their votes put Giffey in office, with the explicit intention of stopping the referendum.
“leftist” senators were personally responsible for privatising almost 200,000 apartments in the mid-2000s
This is not a new problem: for most of the last 20 years, DIE LINKE (and its predecessor the PDS) has been part of the Senate. Their campaign slogans often sound fine. But then “leftist” senators were personally responsible for privatising almost 200,000 apartments in the mid-2000s — this party is directly responsible for the housing crisis, despite all their slogans to the contrary. DIE LINKE politicians were similarly responsible for massive cuts to public sector wages. If you look at the districts, DIE LINKE has the same kind of corrupt dealings with realty speculators that the SPD is famous for.
There are some DIE LINKE politicians I like (looking at you, Ferat Kocak) but all their great statements don’t mean anything if they’re the left wing of a neoliberal and racist government. I really want to vote for a socialist party in Berlin. But as Rosa Luxemburg wrote, the role of a socialist party, “in bourgeois society, is essentially that of an opposition party. It can only enter on scene as a government party on the ruins of bourgeois society.” DIE LINKE is not and has never been an opposition party — they are Regierungssozialisten, or government socialists.
So on February 12, I plan to write an anticapitalist slogan on my ballot, and campaign to build a party of socialist opposition. This city needs one.