Willy Wimmer, former undersecretary in the German Ministry of Defense and, from 1976 to 2009, that is for 33 years, uninterruptedly directly elected member of the German Parliament for the CDU, has talked about the situation in Germany and in his party in an interview with RT-Deutsch*. Germany had “surrendered responsibility in central areas to Brussels”, was moving “at full speed towards a new authoritarian state”, “interest groups, not only economic ones, had seized control, bypassing the citizens and determining our life without asking”. And his party? “For years it seemed like the CDU was reigned top-down by its party leader according to the principles of ‘democratic centralism’”. “Democratic Centralism” was the structural principle of the former [East German] SED: the party leadership gave its directions top-down which had to be followed by all party members.
A look at the formation of a government in Baden-Württemberg after the state elections of 13 March 2016, which were lost by the CDU, is fully confirming Willy Wimmer’s thesis. The CDU had ruled this state for decades, sometimes backed by a clear absolute majority of the voters. The more painful it was for the party when in 2011 a coalition of “Bündnis 90/Die Grünen” and SPD were taking over the government, electing a green Minister-President, Winfried Kretschmann. This setback was to be corrected in 2016. But the CDU of the state was suffering too much from the nation-wide rejection of its government politics in Berlin causing it to lose so many voters that it came out only as second strongest party in the new “Landtag”. Also the CDU’s top candidate Guido Wolf’s rather gentle distancing from the chancellor’s migration politics did not help.
Guido Wolf who as top candidate initially intended to lead the coalition negotiations with “Bündnis 90/Die Grünen”, was quickly marginalised, at the chancellor’s behest, and replaced by the party’s state leader, the son-in-law of Federal Minister of Finance Wolfgang Schäuble and confidant of Angela Merkel, Thomas Strobl. Before the elections, Strobl had been Guido Wolf’s opponent in the party elections for the top candidate in the election campaign but had been defeated in a voting of all party members of the state.
Now Strobl took the reins for the CDU in the coalition negotiations, directing the filling of the ministerial posts virtually by himself. In result: the conservatives in the CDU of Baden-Württemberg and the critics of the green-red politics of the past five years were left out in the cold or, like Guido Wolf, received only less important posts.
This became particularly clear in the filling of the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs which is also responsible for schools. Different from other state associations – which had made their peace with the dubious school reforms of the past years, giving up their party’s foundations – the CDU in Baden-Württemberg had clearly criticised the education politics of the red-green government. In the election campaign they wrote: “the ‘Gemeinschaftsschule’ has failed – Green-Red has failed. Education politics is the heart of state politics. Those who fail there should be voted out of office. Next to the problems in the ‘Gymnasium’ and in the ‘Realschule’, the quality issues with the ‘Gemeinschaftsschule’ are putting Green-Red in a poor light.”
This was first of all the position of the spokesman on education of the CDU faction in the “Landtag” and former undersecretary in the Ministry of Education and Cultural Affairs, Georg Wacker. While he was permitted to lead the coalition negotiations on school and education for the CDU, he was bypassed when the positions were filled. The new Minister of Education and Cultural Affairs is the CDU politician Susanne Eisenmann, a supporter of green education politics and its central project “Gemeinschaftsschule”. Wacker was not even appointed undersecretary. This office went to Volker Schebesta. And on 10 May, the “Stuttgarter Zeitung” wrote, not without reason: “[…] that Volker Schebesta will be undersecretary for the new Minister of Education and not Georg Wacker who held the post from 2006 to 2011, is surprising. In this decision Eisenmann, who has, just like Schebesta, a pragmatic view of the ‘Gemeinschaftsschule’ concept, obviously has had a big say.”
The great “displeasure in the CDU faction” (“Stuttgarter Zeitung”, 10 May) on the line of action taken by Angela Merkel’s emissary became obvious in a test vote in the faction and then also in the election of the new (old) Minister-President the following day. However: this kind of protest is “sat out”; what is criticised by conservative circles like the “Berliner Kreis” is to be implemented also in Baden-Württemberg: the abandonment of basic party values.
What is happening in the CDU is not only a party-internal tragedy. Angela Merkel’s dealing with the CDU finds its correspondences in the SPD and also in the FDP. Ultimately we are observing an attack on the role of democratic parties in a liberal and democratic state of law.
Not by chance the German history of parties is starting with the revolution of 1848/49. The formation of political parties was a first step, directed against absolutism and towards a democratisation of political life. 1848 was the birth year of Christian-conservative, liberal and socialist parties in Germany. In the beginning, the Christian-conservative, the dominating part of the liberals and the Marxist wing of the socialists were opposing a true sovereignty of the people. But foundations were laid – 100 years later, after World War II, CDU and CSU, in the Christian-conservative tradition, the FDP in the tradition of the liberals and the SPD in the tradition of the democratic socialists acknowledged the principle of peoples’ sovereignty by their cooperation in writing the West German “Grundgesetz”.
If all this is no longer valid but, as Angela Merkel’s policy suggests, is actively dismantled, this should concern every citizen. The goal of this, as Willy Wimmer has diagnosed, is a new authoritarian state and a politics in the interest of a few, bypassing the citizens. These “interests” are directed against the large majority of the citizens. What this will mean, with respect to domestic and foreign policy, is up to everybody to imagine. •
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