The PDS triumph in east Berlin

Chris Burford cburford at
Wed Nov 1 00:22:45 MST 1995

Holidays are supposed purely to be for enjoyment and recuperation, but were
originally called holy days, in which there was a lot of that, but also
an opportunity to locate yourself in your social, psychological,
physical, and spiritual universe. So I was crazy enough to go on holiday
to Germany, the land in which Marxism first developed, and in which it was
so especially tested. And in particular to Berlin, where the fault lines
of the twentieth century criss cross the map over and over again.

I am not sure how good your access to foreign reporting is, but I thought
I would give some details of the triumph of the PDS in East Berlin, in
the municipal elections that have just been held.

In the eastern districts of the city the votes were as follows:

PDS 36.3%
CDU 23.6
SPD 20.2
Gn* 10.0

Gn* = Coalition of the Greens and the Budnis 90 civil rights movement
associated with the collapse of the DDR.

Implications are many and disputable. Perhaps our Berlin correspondents
will correct me, but with all the advantages and disadvantages of a visitor,
I would say:

1. The fact that a party with a marxist allegiance and a connection with
former state socialism, could attract such a high percentage of votes
(with all the qualifications about it being proportional representation
and a protest vote etc) is remarkable. The jury is still out on marxism.

2. It indicates that the evidence against the SED is not as damning as the
evidence was against the Nazi's after the end of the second world war.

3. It indicates the influence of the economic base and the problem of
integrating the East into the West. I was able to check the figures. The
inward investment from all sources from West to East is of the order
of billions not millions - roughly 150 billion marks per year. Yet the
economic and social position of the "Ossi's" leaves what by any standards
is a strong protest vote.

4. The "quarantine" in which the PDS was placed by other parties, who
refused coalitions, appeared to be breaking down. My German was not good
enough to understand the subtleties of the manoevring on which the German
political system, perhaps like all political systems, depends. However
there was deep questioning in the SPD about how it was being squeezed
while remaining in a big coalition with the CDU. As I left, several of
the districts in the East were expecting to elect PDS mayors.

5. The PDS has dealt with this quarantine with persistence, intelligence
and wit. Among the campaign items available on its elections stalls were
red socks, to meet the accusation from the CDU that the SPD were
untrustworthy because they might consider receiving support from the
Roten Socken!

6. One slogan was "We have no answers*"  and upside down, "* neither do
the others!". Whether they really have answers about reconstructing
socialism within a capitalist market remains to be seen, and much of
the discussion appears to be about party realignment and whether they
can break out of being a regional party, which is still very
difficult for them (they got at best 5% of the votes in the rather unusual
west Berlin district of Kreuzberg).

7. Nevertheless in five years the PDS
has been a strong focus of resistance to the capitalist colonisation of
the former East Germany. It not only has the youngest candidates of any
party, but there is also a lot of thoughtful reanalysis. I picked up
some papers, and will try I hope to report a position paper on the
United Nations. They have produced a discussion paper on Kautsky. Of
greater interest to me, I was told that they have not produced one
yet on Bernstein, but work is under way.

7. In short, the strong showing of the PDS is consistent with a pattern
of robust reasoned resistance to capitalism by reformed marxist parties
in many countries of eastern Europe.

Chris Burford, London.

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