Germany: Triumph of Middle Class Common Sense

Or: full speed towards disaster

First thoughts on the electoral victory of the ruling oligarchy.

Appalling victory

From a social revolutionary point of view, Merkel’s sweeping electoral success is abominable. It follows, however, a political-cultural pattern of the German middle classes whose culture dominates the broad masses and therefore also the electorate. It was all about to continue the alleged German Wirtschaftswunder (economic miracle) contrasting with the catastrophe the south is suffering of. The middle classes seek stability and want to avoid taking risk for the weaker eurozone states. But ultimately they do accept measures to prevent the euro crisis from erupting again. Further haircuts for Greece will be unpopular but they trust Merkel to do what is necessary and nothing more. On the surface the petty bourgeois has reason to believe what Merkel has been claiming: she is guaranteeing Germany’s success in a dark global environment.

One might interpret the increased consensus for the German oligarchy (which Merkel is the main representative of) as the inverse movement to what is happening in Europe’s south. There the traditional elites become more and more isolated and their political system draws close to collapse.


The oligarchy and their media and ideological apparatus cry “populism” when central dogmas of (neo)liberal rule are questioned. As a matter of fact the accusation of populism is applicable first of all to Merkel herself as she is lulling the petty bourgeoisie in its complacency:

• They blame the peripheral countries for the economic crisis. They are said to have lived beyond their means while now Germany reaps the harvest of its performance. Not the slightest trace of the idea that German policy bears substantial responsibility for the troubles and the impoverishment of the south, let alone a word about the fact that at least the German upper classes massively benefited from that situation.

• Increased social stratification, dumping wages and export orientation are marketed as a model to be followed by the rest of Europe. A permanent current-account surplus is celebrated as an economic virtue not as a symptom of imbalance and crisis let alone as unpaid, retained wages.

• German stability is worshiped. But the momentums of crisis within the eurozone are accumulated also thanks to the treatment imposed by Berlin on the south. While the common currency does not offer any adjustment mechanism for the grave imbalances, a dominant Germany imposes her unilateral interests also against their capitalist homologues in other countries. Sooner or later this will lead to the break-up of the eurozone.

The German ruling class is leading Europe into a social abyss while posing as the saviour. But one should not forget an important fact: Merkel’s dream world not only needs to be narrated and sold. On the other side there must be somebody who wants to believe it as well. The German middle classes (workers in no way excluded) stick to it by all means, even if some of them voted for social democrats, greens or liberals – their narratives are substantially the same. What will happen if this apparent dream turns into a nightmare?

Demise of the ideology of pure capitalism

In 2009, only one year after the collapse of Lehman Brothers and the billions of state intervention handed out to save the system (essentially gifts to financial capital), the FDP with is crude and ostentatious neo-liberalism gained a huge electoral score. As if the upper classes wanted to tell to the world: and now even more unfettered capitalism! We insist on the right to enrich ourselves and the state got the damned duty to serve us doing so! But soon this stopped to sell well. Too large the economic troubles; too much of cynicism in calling to further cut the tax contribution of the rich. Meanwhile Merkel, while serving the establishment, knows how to please the vast middle classes. The FDP gradually turned into a mere majority provider for Merkel serving her also to keep away her own conservative wing which potentially endangers her broad popular consensus. Merkel’s populism prevailed as people chose the original and not a replica.

Questioning the euro

The Alternative for Germany (AfD) takes the quirks of the Swabian housewife seriously while Merkel only plays with assumptions of middle-class common sense. According to the AfD, Germany should refuse to take any risk for the European south, as Merkel eventually did when faced with imminent collapse of several countries. The consequences flowing from such a refusal are neither pronounced nor properly thought through. But they pledge to be ready to face them. No word, however, on the fact that German capital has been able to make huge profits thanks to the euro. No idea that it is not the debt which caused the crisis but the imbalances and the lack of a mechanism to adjust to the different pace of productivity growth which contributed to aggravate the general global crisis.

Nonetheless, the electoral success of the AfD is positive, as it is a sign of opposition to the euro regime, though remaining within a liberalist pattern. But there are not only the middle-class voters stemming from the FDP & Co. It is not by accident that the AfD rallied also significant votes from the Linke (left), mainly in Eastern Germany. These constituencies are unsatisfied with the Linke which in one way or another supports the local governments implementing the oligarchic regime’s recipes. They seek a radical alternative to the euro regime.

The line of insulation against the AfD called for by the left in general is affirmative to the ruling system. It suggests that the centre around Merkel’s CDU (together with the SPD and the Greens) is the lesser evil for the toiling masses. This is crazy. Mobilising against the euro weakens the elites and their project even if it emanates from a type of inner opposition. If the left does not positively respond to this, does not dare to raise the slogan to dissolve the eurozone, it is pushing potentially anti-systemic, radical social protest to the right.

Space for a real social democracy

Here we are not referring to the SPD which paved the way to Merkelism by implementing the Agenda 2010 (Hartz IV cheap labour market etc.), but to the Linke. Its relative self-affirmation is positive, even seen from a social revolutionary perspective. Certainly, the leadership around Gysi is set to enter the system assuming governmental office as they have been doing on the level of many federal states, not only in the east. To become accepted also on the federal (i.e. national) level, they had been pledging allegiance to the two central dogmas of the oligarchy one being international and one domestic as tokens of the system: Israel and the euro. Fortunately the elites (and parts of the middle classes) are stupid enough to stick to their old anti-communism which saves the party from self-destruction as a social opposition. But is will not take another decade to overcome these prejudices. Soon essential parts of the political system will understand the benefit they can extract co-opting the Linke.

The Linke will not be able to offer an anti-systemic answer to the crisis which would require as a symbol the rejection of the euro. It is not that Gysi & Co do not dare to do so, they simply do not want to. They evoke the danger of nationalism as if Merkelism would not be based on national egoism. Not only that the southern economies need to leave Procrustes’ bed to survive. The subaltern masses for the time being do only have a change to return to politics, to defend their interests in the national theatre struggling to take control of the state. If one asks the poor of Greece, Italy or Spain to wait until the Linke and the German masses topple Merkel, they will have died of hunger before it will happen.

Wilhelm (Willi) Langthaler is a Global March to Jerusalem organiser in Austria and spokesman for the far Leftist Anti-Imperialist Coordination (AIK) – mainly active in Austria and Italy – which courted controversy with its 2003 "10 Euros for the Iraqi resistance" campaign. Read other articles by Wilhelm, or visit Wilhelm's website.