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Social Democrats Still Pursuing Strategy of Tolerating Far Right

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The opposition Social Democratic Party is still pursuing a political strategy that its own officials have called “a terrible mistake” — tolerance of the reputedly neo-Nazi Republican Party.

West German newspapers uncovered Monday what they said was a secret SPD document recommending that the Socialists refrain from attacking the Republicans, whose leader, Franz Schoenhuber, is a former Waffen SS officer.

Instead, the SPD was advised to exploit rising fortunes of the far right at the expense of the ruling Christian Democratic Union, the conservative party headed by Chancellor Helmut Kohl, which has been losing votes to the Republicans.

Last month, the Munich-based Sueddeutsche Zeitung published the contents of an earlier SPD strategy paper suggesting it was in the party’s interest to enhance the Republicans in order to weaken the CDU.

It was quietly endorsed by SPD leader Hans-Jochen Vogel, the newspaper said.

The SPD admitted on July 16 that such a policy paper existed. The party’s chief in Lower Saxony, Gerhard Schroeder, called it a “terrible mistake.”

Anke Fuchs, the SPD director, agreed it was a “mistake” and insisted there was no way the party could have adopted such a cynical line.

The CDU waxed indignant at the time. Its secretary-general, Heiner Geissler, accused the SPD of a “massive attack on the democratic political culture in this country.”

He added that any party that attempts to gain by supporting the extreme right “cannot argue that it represents the political mainstream.”

But Geissler, who has held his party’s top post since 1977, has himself fallen victim to Chancellor Kohl’s tilt to the right.

He announced at a news conference here Monday that the chancellor informed him he would not be renominated when the CDU holds its national convention in Bremen next month.

Geissler, a moderate, is apparently being sacrificed in an attempt to regain CDU voters who defected to the Republicans.

The Republican Party polled about 7 percent of the popular vote this year in local elections and in national balloting for the European Parliament, largely at the expense of the CDU.

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