Bruce Sterling on Fri, 15 Jan 1999 21:29:35 +0100 (CET)

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<nettime> Viridian Note 00040: German Politics

     [orig. to Viridian List <>]

Key concepts: German politics, Joschka Fischer, German 
Green Party, Gerhard Schroeder

Attention Conservation Notice:  it's political biographies 
of German politicians written by a British Marxist 
postmodernist.  Life may be too short to try to understand 
these people.

Links: none

Entries in the Viridian "Fungal Typography" Contest:
Note:  The Pope-Emperor returned from the California book 
tour with a raging case of L.A. pneumonia.  Thanks to the 
modern miracle of antibiotics, I retained my place in our 
aging population. However, I find it necessary to extend 
the Fungal Typography Contest until January 31, 1999, so 
that the many new entries can be gloated over properly.  
The winner will be announced shortly after that date.

Source:  London Review of Books, 7 January 1999, pages 10-
16, "The German Question" by Perry Anderson.

Bruce S remarks:

Perry Anderson just spent a year as a fellow of the 
Wissenschaftskolleg in Berlin.  His most recent book is 
REVIEW in Britain, and is about as Marxist a guy as you 
are likely to find whose first language is English.  He's 
one of these *new* Marxists however, as his class analysis 
of contemporary German society is broken up with much 
eloquent complaining about how bad the new architecture is 
in Berlin.

Perry Anderson obviously pays a lot of sustained attention 
to the electoral minutiae of left-wing German politics.  
His profiles of Germany's new Prime Minister and Foreign 
Minister may help explain why these guys are provoking 
some head-scratching.

   "(((Prime Minister Gerhard))) Schroeder, whose father 
was killed on the Russian Front, comes from the debris of 
postwar German society.  His mother was a charwoman; his 
first job was behind the counter in an ironmonger's shop; 
his degree was eventually obtained at night school.  He 
became a leader of the Jusos, the SPD's (((Social 
Democratic Party))) youth organization in the early 70s, 
when it was a rebellious outfit well to the left of the 
Party, and took active part in mass demonstrations. (...)  
The aura of moderate pragmatism is quite recent.  But 
there is no lack of charm: sturdy good looks, attractive 
thick voice, mischievous smile. (...)

     "The Greens did not do particularly well in the 
September election, losing about 100,000 votes after a 
lacklustre campaign, distinguished mainly by sectarian 
attacks on the PDS (((the post-Communist "Democratic 
Socialist Party.")))  The Party, always somewhat erratic, 
has been losing direction in recent years, as some of its 
less attractive features have taken their toll == what 
might be called the bohemian versions of the Spiessburger 
smugness of the Bonn Republic, especially evident in 
attitudes to the East, where the Party is virtually non-
existent.  On some fiscal and social issues, its 
exclusively middle-class base, not insensible to the 
attraction of neo-liberal notions, can put it to the right 
of the SPD.  Even so, the Greens are likely to pull the 
Government in less conventional directions than Social 
Democracy, left to its own devices, would follow.

     "The figure of Joschka Fischer, the new Foreign 
Minister, indicates why this should be so. Son of another 
victim of the war, a labourer expelled from Bohemia in 
1946, he is an expressive survivor of the student 
radicalism of the late Sixties.  In those years, he led 
one of the most daring 'spontaneist' groups in Frankfurt, 
'Revolutionary Struggle,' fellow spirits of the better-
known 'Lotta Continua' in Italy.  With his comrades, he 
took a job on the assembly line in an Opel factory to 
rouse the working class to revolt.  When GM flushed them 
out, Fischer turned to the squatters' movement in 
Frankfurt, organizing a mobile strikeforce, the 
'Putztruppe,' to block police action against housing 
occupations, matching violence with violence where need 
be.  Eventually a demonstration against the death of 
Ulrike Meinhof in 1976 got out of hand and a policeman was 
nearly killed.  Fischer was arrested on suspicion of 
attempted murder, but released for lack of evidence.

    "Changing his mind about the legitimacy of civil 
violence, he spent some years driving a cab and dabbling 
in philosophy; then joined the Greens and quickly rose to 
the top as their most flexible and articulate leader.  
Witty, trenchant, unencumbered with doctrine, he was soon 
Minister for the Environment in a Red-Green coalition in 
Hessen, winning the admiration of the press for hard-
headed ambition and political realism, though the 
portfolio itself bored him.  As a Deputy in the Bundestag. 
he specialised in the tart put-down, cutting through 
official bombast. (...)

    "Fischer's career can be seen as in many ways 
emblematic.  He is the first chemically pure product of 
1968 to become a front-rank politician in Western Europe. 
(...) Germany is the one country where the question of 
what has ultimately become of the experience of '68 will 
be put to a direct test." 

Bruce Sterling (
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