5 MAY 1961, Page 5

Middle-Class Through and Through

From SARAH GAI:1 HAM VIENNA HE: neo-romantic melodrama in Algeria makes German politics seem even more stolid and pedestrian than usual at the moment. The he psychic malady of this century, nihilism, `'eerns to have jumped once again to a new h'ine. France; while Germany is middle-class through and through. The two big parties are lined up now for the election struggle. As like as two production lines, the only difference between them is that one alone has up to now held success in fee; the °IllY issue is, which will take the solid prize of Power and responsibility for the next four years. There is little doubt of the result; but even if the Social Democrats did win, it need make no difference to the state of the country, unless the steetinasters, bankers and successful salesmen allow their old fear of the 'Socialist' label to Panic them into trying to sabotage a different government instead of pragmatically making peace with it and using it. Leaving aside election promises, the coalition question is really the only political one in the election. Up to last week the Social Democrats hopes not quite given up vaguely formulated ur'Pes of a coalition with the Christian Demo- crats, the so-called*'Austrian pattern' which was given fresh impetus by the new coalition in Bel- !kir'''. Perhaps the Socialists wanted a coalition "n1 despair of ever swinging the vote towards themselves; or perhaps, even if they did, they lack confidence in their power to govern. Their lain drawback in the eyes of the electorate has been that they are a party against Adenauer rather than a party for something—except dogmas which nobody, not even themselves, be- lieved in. They lacked new ideas as long as the °Id party theorists were in command, and until the empiricist Willy Brandt took over their !eldership they lacked men, too, out of an old- fashioned fear of strong personalities. But at the r --DU Party congress at Cologne last week, that hope was finally scotched by the Chan- cellor; the Socialists can no longer hope for a coalition with the government party as long as Adenauer, now eighty-five, lives. The Christian Democrats have never had an absolute majority, but they have easily domin- ated a coalition with (mainly) the Free Demo- crats. Inside that coalition it does not matter that the little partners are to the Right; they do:what the Chancellor says in any case. But In fact the electorate is roughly divided into thirds. One-third goes to the smaller parties_ Mostly for special reasons, such as being originally from Eastern Germany and therefore awing a loyalty to politicians devoted to regional, and illusory, interests. The other third of the votes goes solidly to the Social Demo- crats. The Right-wing parties would not make a coalition with the Socialists unless they were clearly going to win; to win they must get a swing of around 10 per cent. or more of the split-up third of the voters. The only major issue which would swing such a large percentage in the otherwise stable West Germany is, probably, the question of the Oder-Neisse fron- tier of East Germany with Poland. Resentment among the dispossessed from the East would cause a considerable swing against Adenauer; it would not be a Vote for the Socialists, but they might gain enough from it to win.

If the Social Democrats did gain a slight majority—it could hardly be a big one in present circumstances—they would have to find one or more collaborators among the small parties. Because of their lack of experience and the historical memory of their perhaps unmerited failure in the Weimar Republic, they could not dominate their coalition with the authority of the old Chancellor; and this ability of a small coalition partner to put pressure on the major partner would cause a slight political (not social) unease in West Germany, probably resulting in a lack of confidence outside the country and a weakening of the Mark.

To those who have commercial or emotional grounds for wishing West Germany ill this might look superficially a good idea; in fact it would be an unmitigated misfortune for Western Europe. The Germans have good reasons for their almost pathological fear of a fall in their currency, and any momentary gain in foreign trade to Germany's rivals would soon be paid for in a series of weakening coalitions which would rapidly lose the grudging support of in- dustry and banking. Instead of a rich, stable but friendly rival, a weakened Germany might lose markets to her rivals, but would also lose the power to contain Communism and Russian imperialism. East Germany, already the world's sixth industrial unit, would climb the scale slowly as West Germany, now fourth, slid down.

This is speculation, but not far in the future— and not really very speculative. It is not, of course, known what was discussed between Chancellor Adenauer and President Kennedy in Washing- ton, but the Old Man is said to have looked even more rigid, his eyes even bleaker than usual, on his return. Not long before, Willy Brandt is said to have been greeted as 'of my generation' by the President; the. well-informed • Die Zeit reports that conversations between Adenauer and Kennedy could be summed up as not more than cool and businesslike. And it is also believed that the President leans slightly towards formal recognition of the Oder-Neisse line.

On the other hand, due almost entirely to Dr. Adenauer's tenacity, progress is being made —slowly and with a curious appearance of ad- vancing backwards—with the integration of Europe. However halting, that progress is real.

The Oder-Neisse frontier as a political question is not real. However much emotion it generates, its recognition or rejection is not a matter of practical politics, it is a matter of form.

Meantime, however, in the strangely soporific atmosphere—both climatic and political—of Bonn, which makes every decision a major effort, men plot the new course of German history, the struggle for succession and line-up of allegiance which is not too far distant. For not even Adenauer, it is assumed, can live for ever. But that is another, and an intricate, story.

'All the scrapin' we 'ad to do ler to be a teacher an' there 'e goes of to the boozer with 'is dad.'