This week’s Anne Will seemed set up as a trap for Die Linke. It seemed they were to be publicly humiliated for Gesine Lötzsch’s use of the ‘K’ word – Kommunismus. The trap would involve not just ex-’68er turned conservative (and appropriately named) Jan Fleischhauer but also a smug Bundeswirtschafstminister Rainer Brüderle, along with two individuals who claimed to have been beaten up by leftists, proof surely of communism’s black name.
But it actually turned out quite differently, more a trap for the conservatives, who were quickly outmanoeuvred by better arguments and then by a barrage of facts from political scientist Christoph Butterwegge. His taking a seat to Anne Will’s left was symbolic of an intellectual defeat of the conservative arguments.
Which arguments? Those which tried to smear communism by association were quickly disarmed by Lafontaine who also reminded his smugly Christian opponents of the communist aspects of early Christianity; Aelrun Goette beside him returned time and again to the hope which communism represented to an increasingly hopeless society. Losing ground the conservatives turned in desperation to the ‘unmistakable’ economic growth which ‘we’ are ‘enjoying’ and against which backround any discontent seems churlish. The camera turned to Butterwege who bombarded them with data which all pointed to one question – growth for whom? The facts do not bear out the idea of a general betterment in social and economic conditions; if there is indeed growth (the newspapers by their repetition of this mantra would certainly like us to believe so) then it has been only in the incomes of the richest few percentiles, while elsewhere poverty (for which the increasingly prevalent Ein-Euro-Job is emblematic) persists daily.
Though Butterwege didn’t say it, one implication of all this is that GDP should quickly be discarded as an economic measure. Regardless of the Green argument that it tells us nothing qualitative about what is growing or the effect growth has on the environment (though this is true) it also tells us nothing about whose life may be improving (or worsening). It is one of those violent abstractions which has real, pernicious effects when used as a lever of policy.