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Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Germany calling

Back grumping after sundry distractions (work, holiday, expiring computer, work...).

There's been an election in Germany, you know. Read all about it in the Grauniad! First, predictably enough, Jonathan Steele's eulogy to the glorious victory of the post-Stalinist Left Party (errh, they got 8.7% of the vote; and currently the folk who look after the archives of the Stasi secret police are trawling through the files to see how many of the new intake of MPs were collaborators - could be 7, could be 'only' 3 or 4).

'While former communist parties in most of eastern Europe have bought into the neoliberal agenda, the PDS, which grew out of East Germany's former ruling party, consistently refused.' says Comrade Steele. Well, bully for them. Actually, the fact that the east has been able to live off subsidies from the west has relieved them of the necessity to work out a coherent economic policy of any kind. And the pay-off for all those subsidies? Eastern Germany has higher unemployment than neo-liberal Poland.

And now this. Interesting approach to international affairs coverage: ring up your leftie mate who happens to hold a university chair in the country concerned, and invite him to pontificate on the economic situation. Never mind if it has sod all to do with his discipline.

I can only assume that 'crisis, what crisis?' sounds a lot more convincing in cosy Tübingen than it does in Berlin where unemployment is running at something like 20%. If Prof. Harvie switched on the news last night he will know that VW are considering whether to build their new model at their original Wolfsburg plant or in Portugal. As production costs in Portugal are a cool €1000 per car lower than in Germany, it's something of a no-brainer as matters stand. Of course, labour costs at Wolfsburg could be reduced - and it might even happen if the works council and the mighty IG Metall union will agree. But then what happens to the domestic demand on which the Observer's veteran Keynesian William Keegan sets so much store?

Nobody disputes that German manufacturing industry still has tremendous strengths. But it's clear to the overwhelming majority of commentators here that they are a rapidly dwindling asset so long as the country remains stuck in a 1970s corporatist time-warp.

I really like Prof. Harvie's reference to 'Saxony's success'. HELLO - this is the state where the neo-Nazi NPD got nearly 10% of the vote last year.

But at least the Guardian preserves a vestige of sanity thanks to the magisterial Timothy Garton Ash.

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