German election crisis for Merkel

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The economic and political crisis in the Eurozone countries is now firmly expressing itself in Germany, the dominant capitalist nation in Europe and the economic ‘powerhouse’ of the continent.

While the German chancellor, Angela Merkel, has been busy in the past week denouncing Greek and French workers for voting in their millions to reject the ‘austerity’ measures and demanding that regardless of these votes, they must toe the line and submit to the authority of the Eurozone bankers, it is clear that the German working class is now lining up alongside them.

This emerged at the elections that took place in the North Rhine-Westphalia state this weekend.

The results were a stunning defeat for Merkel’s Christian Democrats at the hands of a coalition of the  centre-left Social Democrats and Green party giving them a 10 seat majority in the state parliament.

North Rhine-Westphalia is a huge state of 18 million people, giving it a larger population than Greece, and its loss by Merkel’s ruling coalition is a massive political blow and one that follows on from a similar loss the week before in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein.

At the heart of both these election losses was the central issue of austerity and, in particular, the effect of the enormous debt crisis that is tearing European capitalism apart.

Central to this election was the demand by Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CD) that North Rhine-Westphalia needed to slash its 180 billion euros (£144 bn) state debt through massive cuts in expenditure.

Given that it is reckoned that in the majority of municipalities making up the state, over half the expenditure is on social services like housing and heating cuts on the scale demanded by the CDs would have devastated the unemployed and low-paid workers.

The existence of millions of extremely low paid workers is talked about by economists as the ‘dark secret’ at the heart of the German economy.

While the German government boasts that it has achieved the lowest unemployment for 20 years this has only been achieved at the expense of abolishing all employment rights and a massive low paid sector – a sector that grew three times as fast as any other employment sector in the past few years.

With no national minimum wage, pay for millions of workers can go well below one euro an hour, especially in the eastern parts of Germany, creating a mass of ‘working poor’.

The years of wage restraint agreed between the bosses and treacherous trade union leadership are rapidly coming to an end.

Last March saw an explosion of mass strike action that closed down schools, hospitals and public transport by public sector workers demanding that their leaders fight for pay increases of between six and seven per cent, while the votes in these state elections show conclusively that the powerful German working class is being driven by the crisis along the same revolutionary path as Greek workers.

Far from being immune to the crisis and an ‘economic role model for recovery’ as both Tories and Labour like to preach, Germany is as vulnerable as every other capitalist nation reeling under the impact of the world crisis.

Its economic ‘miracle’ is nothing but a mirage that is rapidly fading as its industrial base collapses, unable to find any markets in Europe for its products, and with its banks exposed to the mountains of debt that they created over the past decades.

The lesson from Germany is plain, the working class across Europe has been revolutionised by this crisis and is in open conflict with the bourgeoisie, a conflict that can only be resolved by the working class taking power through the European socialist revolution.