July 1, 2005
Prominent German Lefty Sounds Righty
[editor’s note: this post was “pasted” in — it appeared originally at the old Dawson’s Danube site, which is archived here.]
After Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) failed in one regional election after another, one of its “prominents”, Oscar LaFontaine, decided to pull left. He abandoned his party and has now created — for this year’s national election — a coalition with the
SED PDS, the successor party to the East German Communist Dictatorship. Now LaFontaine is on the campaign trail preparing for elections this autumn. A statement of his a few weeks ago at a rally in Chemnitz is a great example of how statists — be they left or right — inevitably start sounding like each other, especially in “emergencies”, which one might consider today’s German economy.
Specifically, LaFontaine said:
The State is obliged to protect its citizens. It is obliged to prevent family fathers and women from losing their jobs due to foreign workers taking low-paying jobs. [… weil Fremdarbeiter zu niedrigen Löhnen ihnen die Arbeitsplätze wegnehmen.]
Using the word Fremdarbeiter pejoratively usually marks you as a right-winger. But this comes from a prominent politician who has teamed-up with the far left. All sorts of foreigner interest groups are shocked and dismayed by the comment. But nobody should be surprised. The Euro Left is following basically the same logic when it works hard to be sure that the European Union does not pass any laws that significantly “liberalize” the service-sector, fearing it would mean that Czechs and Poles and other scary Easterners would be able to move into Germany (or France, etc.) and take smaller pay packets and fewer benefits while providing similar services that a German (or Frenchman, etc.) could provide. This is kind of what one might call Xenophobia is only slightly different from the right-wing version. I look at it this way:
People probably consider “right-wing” xenophobia to be based primarily on racial hatred; righties who use the economic argument (i.e., “they are stealing jobs”) are probably just rationalizing their hatred and using an excuse that they believe will motivate other people to their side.
This “left-wing” “xenophobia” is based on anger over people screwing up the lovely, utopian social state. For the social state utopia to function, there can’t be big gaps in personal income expectations between different sectors of the population. First of all, this means that the people who traditionally have had the higher expectations are more likely to become unemployed as they are replaced by people with lower expectations. Their unemployment is a further burden on the social state, which in turn is supported in large part by “contributions” based on percentages of income, payroll, etc.
Simply put: the extent to which LaFontaine is annoyed by Fremdarbeiter is the extent to which he believes they are upsetting the utopian balance of the well-functioning social state. His annoyance is actually probably less aimed at them personally as it is aimed at those who are willing to employ them at lower wages to increase profit.
Or, perhaps he is just a racist after all! Or he is cynically using the xenophobia angle to gain “disaffected” voters who would usually turn to the right-wing.
(In reviewing my paragraph up there about the Fremdarbeiter‘s willingness to work for lower wages and how this upsets the social state’s balance, I am not so convinced that I am right. Because that argument suggests that, thanks to the presence of Fremdarbeiter willing to work for cheaper wages, the cost of labor in Germany is decreasing. But is this really so? I don’t know.)