I am so at home in Dublin, more than any other city, that I feel it has always been familiar to me. It took me years to see through its soft charm to its bitter prickly kernel - which I quite like too.

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Out of the Ashes

Franz Walter
Auf der Höhe der Zeit: Soziale Demokratie und Fortschritt im 21. Jahrhundert (Up to Date: Social Democracy and Progress in the 21st Century), by Matthias Platzeck, Peer Steinbrück and Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Vorwärts Buch, 344 pp, €14.80, ISBN: 978-3866026292 In spite of a fair modicum of electoral success in recent years the main formation of the German left, the Social Democratic Party, exists in a state of some ideological confusion. Since the last general election it has found itself in coalition with the main formation of the right, the Christian Democrats, together with its Bavarian allies, the Christian Social Union. Such successes as this government has been able to achieve have boosted the popularity of its right-wing constituent while the social democrats are floundering in the polls and also facing a formidable challenge at state (Land) level from the hard left Die Linke. In this context, a renewed struggle between the traditional left and right wings of the SPD has begun. Yet neither, Franz Walter suggests, may have a satisfactory answer to the party’s problems. Some weeks before the German Social Democratic Party’s (SPD) Hamburg conference in late October 2007, frequent mention of the name Eduard Bernstein could suddenly be heard again in party circles: the three modernisers much feted by the German media, Matthias Platzeck, minister-president of the state of Brandenburg, minister for finance Peer Steinbrück and foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier, caused a furore with a book that they presented with great fanfare as a manifesto for a modernised social democracy. Their historical role model was the revisionist theorist Eduard Bernstein, who was born in Berlin in 1850 and died there 82 years later on December 18th, 1932 – exactly 75 years earlier. And yet this recourse to the reformist socialist Bernstein was scarcely a subversive or sensational act. The SPD’s “Godesberg Programme” of 1959, in which the party bade farewell to the class struggle, Marxism and the project of building a socialist society, had already been classified as a victory for Bernstein’s ideas. However, through their recourse to Bernstein, the representatives of the “pragmatic” wing of the SPD aimed to inject significant further impetus into the movement away from traditional social democratic ways of thinking, the parting of ways with the classical labour movement and the defeat of the oppositionist mentality which had become deeply rooted in the party over the decades. Oppositionism had been for a long time the…



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