Thu Nov 27th, 2008 at 03:25:01 AM EST
The circus among the German Social Democrats (SPD) around prominent reformist Wolfgang Clement has ended with his resignation from the party. It has ended in one of the worse ways possible.
|Wolfgang Clement speaking at the INSM. Source: 96dpi / creativecommons.org|
Wolfgang Clement was a former minister of the economy in Schröder's second government, and a former state Minister President. He fell in disrepute among many in the SPD after he publicly warned against electing Andrea Ypsilanti in the German state of Hesse. Party members soon started filing applications to request his expulsion from the party. An expulsion procedure was eventually launched, and although the local SPD arbitration court decided to leave him with a reprimand, the State arbitration court - in his own state, North Rhine-Westphalia - decided to expel Clement from the party.
The party base wanted Clement to go, but the centrist federal leadership decided to make highly publicised efforts to reach out. And so this Monday we got the unfortunate news that the national arbitration court let Clement stay on as a party member, and gave him a reprimand.
Now the centrists have belatedly found out what they have been dealing with. It turns out that Clement had only been fighting his expulsion in order to keep the honour to himself, and publicly lecture the SPD one last time.
Promoted with slight edit by DoDo
Clement, you see, enjoys being a scold. Especially when it gets him on TV or in the newspapers. He's like Joe Lieberman. Except that he no longer has a vested interest, like a plum committee chairmanship. And the SPD is like the US Democratic Party, always asking for more, except that Wolfgang Clement was of no real use to them anymore. Clement's letter of resignation bleeds 'I haven't left the party, the party left me'.
|Clements Erklärung im Wortlaut: "Bedauere sehr, den Schritt tun zu müssen" - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten - Politik||Clements declaration in full wording: "very much regret having to take this step" - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News - Politics|
Einst war er Superminister im Kabinett Schröder, nun kehrt er seiner Partei den Rücken: Ex-Wirtschaftsminister Wolfgang Clement ist nach einer Rüge der Bundesschiedskommission aus der SPD ausgetreten. SPIEGEL ONLINE dokumentiert den Wortlaut seiner Erklärung.
Once he was superminister in the Schröder cabinet, now he turns his back on his party: former minister of economic affairs Wolfgang Clement has stepped out of the SPD after the reprimand from the federal arbitration court. SPIEGEL ONLINE documents the wording of his declaration.
| "Hiermit erkläre ich mit Wirkung vom heutigen Tag meinen Austritt aus der Sozialdemokratischen Partei Deutschlands.||"With this I declare effective today my resignation from the social democratic party of Germany.|
| Die Gründe dafür sind||The reasons for that are|
- erstens die Entscheidung der Bundesschiedskommission, die meint, die Wahrnehmung des Grundrechts auf Meinungsfreiheit mit einer öffentlichen Rüge drangsalieren zu sollen,
- zweitens die Tatsache, dass die SPD-Parteiführung zugleich keinen klaren Trennungsstrich zur PDS/Linken zieht, sondern sogar - in den Ländern - zu einer Zusammenarbeit mit dieser Partei ermuntert, obgleich deren Stasi-Verstrickung offenkundig ist, und
- drittens eine Wirtschaftspolitik treiben lässt, die - wie der IGBCE-Vorsitzende Hubertus Schmoldt soeben wieder warnend hervorgehoben hat - auf eine De-Industrialisierung unseres Landes hinausläuft.
- first of all the decision of the federal arbitration court, which thinks it has to harass the observation of the Constitutional right of freedom of opinion with a public reprimand
- secondly the fact that the SPD party leadership simultaneously does not draw a clear line of separation with the PDS/Left but even - in the States - encourages cooperation with this party although its entanglement with the Stasi [former East German secret police - nanne] is manifest and
- thirdly lets an economic policy be conducted which - as IGBCE Director [the mineworkers union - nanne] Hubertus Schmoldt recently called to attention again - will result in a deindustrialisation of our country.
| Ich bedauere sehr, diesen Schritt, zu dem ich mich nach gründlicher Abwägung entschlossen habe, tun zu müssen. ||I very much regret having to take this step, to which I have made up my mind after thorough consideration|
| An den weiteren Diskussionen und Auseinandersetzungen um die hier angesprochenen Fragen werde ich mich - nunmehr als Sozialdemokrat ohne Parteibuch - nach Kräften beteiligen."||I will participate in further discussions and arguments around the issues addressed herein - now as a social democrat without a party book - according to strength.|
As you might guess, Clement has decided to tie his fate to the coal industry, which I noted in this comment
, back in January. This is no new development. Under the Schröder government, the environment and economy ministries were perpetually fighting over the extent of emission reductions and control over the energy portfolio. I once thought that this was mainly due to the different orientation of the bureaucracies, which I still think to be an important factor (the differences continue to this day), but I must say that the way Clement has developed into a total flunky for coal makes me think he had quite a bit of influence, too.
|Wahlkampf: Clement warnt vor Wahl von Andrea Ypsilanti - Nachrichten Politik - WELT ONLINE||Campaign: Clement warns against electing Andrea Ypsilanti - News on Politics - WELT ONLINE|
|Clement ist 2005 aus der Politik ausgeschieden. Seitdem arbeitet er für Unternehmen, unter anderem im Aufsichtsrat der RWE-Kraftwerkstochter RWE Power AG. Sein Verhältnis zur SPD ist zunehmend distanziert. Vor Weihnachten hatte er die SPD davor gewarnt, sich weiter an die Linkspartei anzunähern. Einen solchen Schritt würde er nicht mitmachen. Die kaum verblümte Warnung eines prominenten SPD-Mitgliedes vor einer Stimmabgabe für die SPD ist dennoch ungewöhnlich.|| Clement left politics in 2005. Since then, he has worked for corporations, amongst others in the supervisory board of the RWE Power Plant daughter RWE Power AG. His relationship with the SPD is growing increasingly distant. Before Christmas he had warned the SPD not to make a further move towards the Left Party. He would not follow such a move. The barely hidden warning of a prominent SPD member just prior to an election for the SPD is nonetheless unusual.|
The coal industry is dying but not quite dead yet in Germany, a sad occassion that has much to do with the SPD's nostalgia for things that no longer are and will never be again. The industry has also been getting more and more labour efficient, to the point where it is hard to see why exactly a social democratic party should be propping it up. Here's a graph to help you out, thanks to DoDo for the data:
|Energy Employment in Germany. Sources: wind-energie.de / solarwirtschaft.de / kohlenstatistik.de|
Note: numbers for coal/lignite are only for extraction, and exclude power station operation (which should add about a third) and construction; wind and solar are (conservative) estimates
The SPIEGEL is now saying that the exit of Clement from the SPD is looking bad on Müntefering. Münte has made no secret of his desire to keep Clement in the party. On Clement's leave he stated that he had asked Clement to stay, and even made a call to Clement after he had received his letter of resignation to see if nothing could be worked out. Müntefering now says that he 'regrets' Clement's decision.
In a way, Münte is out there taking the fire in the press, because he can take it. However, the SPD's likely Kanzlerkandidat Frank-Walter Steinmeier was also prominent in making overtures to Clement. I said that this would come back to bite him, so this is yet another 'I told you so' moment.
Take note that Clement also directs fire against Steinmeier et al in Berlin [for mishandling the Hesse issue]. Some gratitude. Here's Steinmeier, back in August.
| Parteiausschluss: Steinmeier verteidigt Clement - Politik - SPIEGEL ONLINE - Nachrichten||Party expulsion: Steinmeier defends Clement - Politics - SPIEGEL ONLINE - News|
|Rückhalt für Wolfgang Clement: SPD-Vize Steinmeier stellt sich im SPIEGEL-Interview energisch hinter den früheren Wirtschaftsminister, der aus der Partei ausgeschlossen werden soll. Clement sei ein Querdenker, aber kein Querulant, sagt Steinmeier.||Backing for Wolfgang Clement: in an interview with SPIEGEL [then] SPD vice party leader Steinmeier puts himself energetically behind the former minister of economy, who would be expelled from the party. Clement is a lateral thinker, but not a troublemaker, Steinmeier says.|
A complete Fehleinschätzung. Clement is a smug, self-serving man who basks in the media attention he gets for sticking it to his own party. Someday Steinmeier will get his share of trouble with him, too.
The FDP is now asking Clement to join. Perhaps he should. He's already talking the lingo. The curious part of the story is the amount of trouble the reformist part of the party went through to keep Clement aboard when he's clearly damaging the party and is at least rhetorically much further right than either Steinmeier or Müntefering. My speculation would be that they are trying to cultivate or at least maintain a heavy right flank to be able to position themselves more successfully in the centre.
The good part of this story is that the European Parliament elections are still quite remote and the general election in Germany is even further down. The SPD still has a chance to redefine itself and close ranks.