The news out of Germany today is that Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats won this weekend's German national elections. On the surface, this is not good news for the Left... But wait!
Germany's new Left Party got 11.9% of the vote. This is up from the roughly 7.5% the Left Party received in the European Parliament elections of this past May. Indeed, the Left Party has eclipsed the German Green Party, which received 10.7% of the vote.
The real losers in this weekend's election seems to be Germany's main center-left opposition party, that old sclerotic Social Democratic Party. For the past four years the Social Democrats have joined in a coalition government with Angela Merkel's Christian Democrats, where time and time again the Social Democrats worked in conjunction with their senior coalition partner in imposing social austerity cuts on Germany's poor and unemployed. Over the weekend the Social Democrats paid the price, receiving only 16% of the vote. The Social Democrats' performance is the worst since the end of the Third Reich.
Germany might well be in the process of developing a real Left alternative as the Left Party grows. This same trend, although more advanced seems to be occurring in France too, with the recently aligned Left Front (French Communist Party and the left socialists' new party, the Left Party) and the new Anti-Capitalist Party.
In France and Germany, the growth of these new left parties comes out of the compromises and failures of the traditional "left" opposition in both countries, these being the Social Democrats in Germany and the Socialist Party in France. Underlining this process is Germany's Left Party, which is made up out of the remnants of the old East German Socialist Unity Party, and West German dissident trade unionists who have since bolted the Social Democratic Party.
Developments in Europe seem to be well worth watching. If there is a trend right now, it might be that principled opposition to capitalism gets one farther than further compromising and tweeking the edges of an unquestioned capitalism. Time will tell...