Merkel’s ‘Grand Coalition’ – Germany’s crisis deepens!

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ANGELA MERKEL, the leader of Germany’s right-wing Christian Democratic Union (CDU), announced on Monday: ‘We have the basis for coalition talks. The CDU will occupy the chancellery.’

This was a declaration that she plans to become Germany’s Chancellor, heading a ‘Grand Coalition’ with the Social Democratic Party (SPD).

It was the result of three weeks of secret horse-trading between the leaders of the CDU and former Chancellor Gerhard Schroeder’s SPD, after the stalemate result in the September 18 general election.

The CDU gained only 226 seats and the SPD 222 and neither could command a majority in Parliament with support of their allies.

Merkel’s announcement does not mean that Germany has a government. There is a new stage in the governmental crisis.

Her Chancellorship is not assured and even if she gets enough votes in Parliament in mid-November, her problems are just beginning.

Merkel, who was portrayed as Germany’s Margaret Thatcher, the ‘Iron Lady’ who would take on the German working class, smashing job security and the ‘social staat’ (welfare state), is already a ‘lame duck’ leader.

She failed to win the election and the CDU will now engage in round-table negotiations with the SPD on a programme for their ‘Grand Coalition’ until November 12.

Nobody celebrated Merkel’s announcement. Frankfurt’s Dax 30 stock market only managed a 15-point rise to 5,022 in response to the news that Germany might have a government some time in November.

Even leading members of the CDU were not enthusiastic. Matthias Wissman, the CDU’s European Union (EU) spokesman said forlornly: ‘There is no alternative.’ One reason for the sombre mood at CDU HQ was that, in the 14-strong Cabinet, the SPD will get eight ministers and the CDU only six.

As far as the programme of the ‘Grand Coalition’ is concerned, this will be the subject of wheeling and dealing over taxation, employment law, healthcare, energy, state centralisation and foreign policy, until November 12.

The one thing on which both the CDU leadership and SPD Chairman, chief negotiator, and long-time ally of Schroeder, Franz Muntefering, are said to agree upon is the ‘Agenda 2010’ reform programme, under which employers can sack workers more easily.

But this is what millions voted against in the September 18 election!

They voted against Merkel’s CDU proposal to speed up the ‘reforms’ and reluctantly backed the SPD, or supported the new Left Party, which gained 54 seats in Parliament.

The powerful German working class shaped the election result and hit the ruling class, just as French and Dutch workers struck a blow against the bankers’ and monopolists’ EU earlier this year.

There is stagnation in the capitalist economy, huge unemployment (11.7 per cent) and attacks on workers’ rights and benefits.

Merkel and her proposed ‘Grand Coalition’ have no mandate to smash up German workers’ employment rights and the ‘social staat’.

Workers are on the move to defend their post-war gains, having engaged in many strikes and mass demonstrations over the past year against Schroeder’s ‘Agenda 2010’ and the Hartz IV attacks on benefits.

A section of the working class has already broken from the SPD by voting for the Left Party and a major split is emerging within the SPD itself. There is an opposition to the ‘Grand Coalition’ deal, which is expected to be vocal at a SPD conference next month.

In this situation, it is clear that workers and youth must build a new party in Germany, a section of the Trotskyist International Committee of the Fourth International, to organise to defend class gains and fight for a socialist future of full employment and a comprehensive welfare state.

This will require a struggle to clear out of the workers’ movement the right-wing leadership of the SPD, which is joining forces with the CDU in a ‘Grand Coalition’, and provide a revolutionary alternative to the Stalinist and reformist opportunists of the Left Party.