Martin Schulz – is he really an alternative to Angela Merkel?

SPD Saar
Martin Schulz, February 2017


Finally, one would like to shout, Germany’s Social Democrats are owning up to their responsibilities. With Martin Schulz, the new top man from Brussels, the SPD – for the first time in 13 years – has re-established itself as a real alternative to the eternal chancellor and her Christian Union.

More equity in wages and taxes, a clear
edge against Trump, a democratic Europe in solidarity – Schulz strikes
the right tone and the citizens listen. Two surveys and an increasing
number of party members indicate how widespread the desire for a true
SPD is. This is a left-wing popular party, which boldly opposes the
menacing uneven distribution of wealth, influence and life chances. Much
to the dismay of those who redistribute from bottom to top and glorify
this as “modern economic policy”, as once Gerhard Schröder and his
entourage did.

If this were to happen, it would be an essential gain for democracy, even if Schulz and his party were to lose out.

Nothing is more dangerous to the
democratic constitution of a country than if vast scores of citizens
think that all established parties practice the same policy in favor of
the elites. Above all, it is this sentiment that drives voters to the
right-wing and neo-nationalist populists: it brought about the Brexit,
as well as a U.S. President Trump. And it is this mood that must be
avoided, and not only in Germany.

But is Martin Schulz the right man for
this task? Will he deliver what he now promises? Unfortunately, his
previous political practice arouses doubts.

As a member of the European Parliament
and President of Parliament, the new contender to the Chancellor’s
Office has not proved to be a champion of fiscal justice, solidarity and
democracy. Nevertheless, he likes to complain that it is not acceptable
“if the small bakery pays decently its taxes, but the global coffee
company parks its money in tax havens”.

But after revelations that corporations
evaded tax via sweetheart deals received in Luxembourg, Schulz preferred
to stick to his private grand coalition with Commission President
Jean-Claude Juncker and sabotaged the launch of an investigative
committee to protect the Luxembourg ex-Premier against inconvenient
questions and exposés.

His dealings with the pre-democratic constitution of the EU were also contradictory.

Schulz likes to demand that “the
Commission has to be rebuilt into a real European government, which is
subject to the control of the European Parliament”. However, he remained
idle when this Parliament was systematically degraded to a mere facade
within the framework of the crisis regime in the Eurozone.

Moreover, Troika technocrats from the
International Monetary Fund, the European Central Bank and the European
Commission have been acting as an intergovernmental institution beyond
all democratic control, enforcing massive wage decreases and abolishing
collective bargaining in open breach of the EU Treaty.
Worse even: Schulz, in spite of playing the
advocate of European cohesion, uncritically supports the course of
EU-wide budgetary cuts promoted by Germany’s Finance Minister Wolfgang
Schäuble. But this is one of the main causes for the division of Europe.

A recent comprehensive study by
economists from the universities of Michigan and Lausanne demonstrated
once more how counterproductive austerity policies were during the
economic crisis. Without the coercive measures imposed on the five
crisis countries of the Euro zone, their economic performance would now
be 17% higher, with almost the same level of public debt.

State expenditures are a major driving
force for economy as a whole and, therefore, tax revenues – a fact that
even traditionally neo-liberal experts from the OECD, the IMF and the EU
Commission have accepted. Only the Germans and their finance minister
hold naively to the belief that states budgets could be managed like a
private household. That is why they prefer to leave their infrastructure
rotten and nurture, due to the lack of internal demand, a grotesquely
high current account surplus of more than eight percent of the total
economic output, which inevitably produces deficits and indebtedness in
other countries.
Martin Schulz knows this.

But clearly, his will to educate voters
is less protruding than his fear of the headwind threatening anyone who
questions the dogmas of Schäuble and his many supporters. To fight,
though, against this destructive misbelief would be of essence to
overcome Europe’s identity crises.

“Making mistakes is not dishonorable,” is
a motto of the new chancellor hopeful for the SPD. It is only important
to correct them once they are recognized, he promises.

If Schulz were to apply this principle –
not only to the misguided social reforms of the Schröder era, but also
to his own European practice – then he could succeed in something great.
An election victory with this agenda would not only lead the German,
but also the whole European Social Democracy out of its valley of tears.
The Neo-Nationalists would have no chance anymore.