Can a social democracy work?

Social democracy: SPD? Can go!

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Read on one side

Let us assume that everything would still be good for the SPD in the longer term. Let us assume that in the new era now proclaimed by its new leaders, it finds (back) to strong positions, stable majorities, good coalitions and a policy that is respected all over the country. She even had real leaders.

That would of course be a disaster. Or: It would be a sign that the society in which a social democratic party could regain strength is in a blatant error about what is haunted around in vulgar Marxist language as the main and secondary contradiction. Or better: You would be in a blatant error about what the main and secondary contradictions are today.

Of course, this is not about the internal SPD criticism of an alleged too much identity politics. The fact that Sigmar Gabriel recently complained that social democrats had weakened the SPD as a workers' party by "overhanding issues such as gay rights, equality rights, migration" only shows how great the error is with regard to main and secondary contradictions in the social democratic environment, or at least with Sigmar Gabriel. The fact that two contradictions of the present are played off against each other - regardless of their significance - is a sign of unworldliness.

If one goes back to the origins of the concept, also known as the "basic contradiction", one learns that for Marx and Engels this basic contradiction lay in the twisted relationship between labor and capital in industrialized societies - very briefly: in the injustice that the owner of the means of production does Determine the monetary value of work. All other social imbalances are then, as was the case with feminists in particular, that were pounded on the head in the late 20th century, only further symptoms of a fundamental misalignment of the whole. In short: when the worker in the factory is no longer exploited, he is nicer to his wife in the evening, with whom he stands side by side on the assembly line in a socialist society anyway. And that is why women should rather get involved in the class struggle under capitalism than for specific women's rights.

The compromise and consensus machine social democracy may once have been a voice of compromise in these discussions. But today it has a problem: the basic contradiction of (pre-) apocalyptic society is of course no longer that between wage labor and capital, but that between globalized civilization and the finiteness of its natural resources. The condition for all further action is ecological stability. To put it briefly and catastrophically: The balancing of interests in an affluent society can be forgotten anyway once the global struggle for survival has been unleashed. This affects the basic pension and LGBTIQ rights equally.

What it means in this context when the SPD programmatically gains strength could be seen in the weeks before the membership decision on the new leadership, and it is also evident in the strong emphasis on the social question at the recent party congress. According to the logic of party democracy, the unique selling point was emphasized compared to the particularly close political competition. Social justice (SPD) became the discursive counterpart of climate protection (Greens). For a party that has gained its historical greatness as a mediator around the fundamental contradiction of the 19th and 20th centuries, this is consistent and logical.

For today's political discussion, however, it is fatal when climate and social affairs are negotiated as categories on an equal footing. It may be hard to believe, but now at the latest, with the daily growing inaccessibility of the Paris goals, climate policy has the same meaning as armaments in the middle of a world war.

When established political reporters with a trained eye on the arithmetic of the Federal Republic warn against the marginalization or self-marginalization of the SPD, all that can really be said is: Okay, boomers! And to point out that a primarily social party in times of the climate crisis can only make anti-social and destabilizing politics in the long term.