In Berlin, Parties and Controversies in Memory of the Wall

In Berlin, Parties and Controversies in Memory of the Wall

On Sunday, November 9, at the Brandenburg Gate, several artists performed `Heroes` with Peter Gabriel, a song composed by David Bowie during his Berlin stay.

The main draw of the festivities was be the interpretation of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony, Ode to Joy, anthem of the European Union, by an orchestra led by renowned chef Daniel Barenboim. In the last movement of this symphony, nearly 7,000 white balloons located on 15 kilometers of what was the Berlin Wall were released. By 21 hours everything was finished, marking twenty-five years since the fall of the Wall that had happened at exactly this hour.

This festival, after all, already had had some quirks before it even kicked in. It first took the statements of Mikhail Gorbachev. For not sending tanks against the people, in Poland in 1988 and in the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) in 1989, the last leader of the Soviet Union remains a hero in Germany. Invited to Berlin, he will be received Monday, November 10 by Chancellor Angela Merkel and awarder with a medal of “Seniors” section of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). This did not however prevent him from declaring on Thursday to be “absolutely convinced that today Putin protects the interests of Russia better than anyone else.” With the Ukrainian crisis in full swing, as the cease-fire between Kiev and pro-Russian rebel attack is very fragile, the comment sent a chill.

The second blunder is purely German. On Friday, President of the Bundestag, Norbert Lammert, invited the poet Wolf Biermann to sing before MPs. One way to pay tribute to this eternal rebel, 77, stripped of his citizenship in 1976 by the GDR authorities who had not allowed him going inside his home after a Cologne concert. Far from simply singing, Wolf Biermann took the opportunity to settle accounts with the Left Party, the party of the radical left activists consisting of the former SED, the single party in East Germany. Having qualified members of Die Linke as “children of the dragon”, the former dissident continued: “You are neither left nor right, but reactionary miserable remnants of something which, fortunately, was rooted.”

This attack comes precisely as the entire Republic debate the nature of Die Linke. In the state Thuringia, the former East Germany, the Social Democratic Party (SPD), after the last regional elections, decided to abandon the alliance it had formed with the CDU to create a coalition with the Greens and Die Linke. Since this party won 28% of the vote against 12% for the SPD, it is a representative of Die Linke, Bodo Ramelow, which should lead the future local government. This is the first time since reunification that Die Linke is headed by a regional executive.

Conservatives are outraged. The president, Joachim Gauck, a pastor who fought the communist regime, called the prospect “painful”: “People who have experienced the GDR and belong to my generation must make a big effort to accept it,” he said. His interference in politicking earned him both much praise and criticism.

So far, Angela Merkel skirted the issue. Coming originally from the east, the Chancellor found that normal that Die Linke wants power but severely criticized the SPD who chose to govern with the radical left rather than the CDU. The Social Democrats will find themselves “in a stressful situation,” she predicted. Similarly she criticized the Greens, who are willing to enter into this coalition, while many of their activists in this state region of the former GDR were opponents of the communist regime.

The Greens have put a condition before entering the left coalition: Die Linke explicitly recognizes that the GDR was a “state of lawlessness”. The debate has sparked a lively debate within the Left Party, but Bodo Ramelow had to comply. As for the Social Democrats, they consider you need to know when to turn the page. Since reunification, the SPD has already led several areas with the support of the heirs of SED.

In Thuringia, the coalition should come early in December. But as it would have only a majority of one in the regional executive branch, a last minute surprise is not excluded. Anyway, Germany has not quite finished settling accounts with the old past quarter of a century.

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