Donnerstag, 7. Februar 2008

Naumann goes social ...

In 2003 I wrote an article for the European Social Forum dispelling the myth that Germany was all green and progressive. A Red-Green government I had personally elected - and re-elected - was doing well for renewables and on Iraq. But, sadly, it was also the most neoliberal government the country had ever seen. The government enforced reforms that hurt pensioners and the poor. The government actively intervened in the labour market and sped up the spread of insecure, low wage jobs (they have been on the rise ever since and reached a new peak in 2007). Corporate power over government was clear for all to see. The government did, for example, intervene heavily in Brussels for BASF to fight against progressive regulations on harmful chemicals. They also were the political wing of VW and other German car makers when it came to regulating cars. These issues persist today. Under a Merkel government, there is much talk of fighting climate change. But at the same time, the government viciously opposes stringent car emission standards for Europe. They do this for one simple reason: German car makers are out of touch. Their cars, however pretty, are too heavy and too big to be at all acceptable in a time of rapid, dangerous climate change. - What has changed though is the tune of a certain Mr. Naumann. Back in 2003, he was editing DIE ZEIT after serving the Schroeder government. Somehow he found the time to ridicule my analysis on He was incensed enough to imply that I was a deluded communist and sounded like Engels (whose intellectual powers, I am forced to point out, I certainly do not match). - In my view, he misunderstood many of my arguments. But so be it. More interesting is the fact, that Mr. Naumann - currently running to be Mayor of Hamburg for the Social Democrats - is today echoing many of my sentiments. In a recent Tagesspiegel interview, he bemoans the fact that some 80,000 people in Hamburg are working for poverty wages; that hotels are paying 3,50 an hour and get away with it; that 11,000 people have so called "1 EURO jobs" (which his Schroeder government created) but lack a future and decent work. He is also calling for a minimum wage now. This can only be an acknowledgement that Germans - though they are working just as hard (and harder) as in 2003 - no longer have "access to decent wages" - in part due to Schroeder's neoliberal reforms (the very ones Naumann used to defend). But let bygones be bygones. The truth is: I welcome Naumann's conversion. I want a minimum wage and I want him to be the next Mayor of Hamburg (given the awful alternative of four more years of Ole von Beust). I expect him to stop the coal plant at Moorburg to prove that he is not Vattenfall's poodle. I hope that he will get a chance to create the more social and inclusive Hamburg he now talks about. I do have to wonder though: Would Engels back Naumann too? ;-)

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