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Germany: modernising the left by stealth

Padgett, S.A. (2003) Germany: modernising the left by stealth. Parliamentary Affairs, 56. pp. 38-57.

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Abstract

The structural crisis of the German economy faces the parties of the left with a three-fold challenge. Programmatically they have to reconcile liberalising economic reform with the principles of social justice and environmental sustainability that motivate left politics. This means an electoral reorientation away from traditional voting groups, towards more reform-minded constituencies. Endowing party leaderships with the strategic flexibility to execute these manoeuvres may entail relinquishing long cherished organisational principles. This article examines the readiness of left parties in Germany to embrace these reform agendas. Whilst eschewing a decisive breach with programmatic tradition, both the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and Alliance 90/the Greens are nevertheless absorbing the liberal agenda. Both parties display signs of gradual organisational metamorphosis. The electoral profile of the SPD is slowly but unmistakably shifting. Almost imperceptibly, it is concluded, the parties of the German left are undergoing a process of modernisation by stealth.