Magazine article The Nation

Dm Uber Alles

Magazine article The Nation

Dm Uber Alles

Article excerpt

One hundred years ago to the day, so Willy Brandt told the dispirited Social Democrats on the evening of March 18, Bismarck had been forced from the German chancellorship. He had failed to solve the question of the Social Democrats; others would suffer his fate. A feeble cheer greeted Brandt's words of reassurance, but the facts are bleak. The conservative Alliance for Germany, backed heavily by West German money, won 48 percent of the vote in the German Democratic Republic's first free elections. It was in effect a referendum on instant reunification, with West German Chancellor Helmut Kohl presenting himself as a second, if rather more jovial, Bismarck. The Social Democrats ran very far behind, at just 22 percent, and were routed in their traditional heartland of Saxony and Thuringia. The reformed Communists, now the Party of Democratic Socialism, took 16 percent.

Revulsion at forty-five years of police socialism and the promise of a golden future under the West German mark moved the electorate to see Kohl as a fatherly dispenser of largesse. Anxieties about unemployment, the loss of social benefits and intolerable increases in the price of food and rent all worked against the parties that favored a slower pace of reunification. Apparently, large numbers of East Germans have no sense of pride in their recent revolution and no solidarity among themselves. Indeed, they gave less than 3 percent of the vote to the intellectuals who had defied the state and begun the revolution - when those who later cheered Kohl were diligently keeping their mouths shut. The fact that the G.D.R.'S Christian Democrats had been allied with the Communists did not prevent Kohl from denouncing the Social Democrats as Reds. The Europe-wide disgust with socialism has now devastated the Continent's strongest social democratic party, and Kohl can look forward to the December election in West Germany with confidence. …

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