Is Ronald Reagan's reputation declining

Germany in the 70s / 80s

In the 1970s, German society was more politicized than ever before, as can be seen from the high voter turnout. Foreign policy continuity under changing governments contrasts with changes within the party, the emergence of the Green Party and the fight against terror of the RAF, whose attacks are shaking West German society.

Federal Chancellor Helmut Schmidt and his Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher at a press conference in 1978. Genscher remained Foreign Minister until 1992 under Schmidt's successor, Helmut Kohl. (& Copy picture-alliance / AP)

Pragmatic turn

His successor Helmut Schmidt, born in Hamburg in 1918, embodied a contrasting, emphatically pragmatic type of politician who had great competencies in the field of economic and financial policy as well as domestic and defense policy. At the same time, he was well versed in dealing with the party apparatus and maintained close ties to the leadership of the trade unions. Elected to the Bundestag in 1953, he was known as an eloquent debate speaker; 1961 Hamburg Senator for the Interior, he had earned merit in mastering the flood disaster a year later. During the time of the grand coalition, Schmidt led the social democratic parliamentary group, in the Brandt cabinet he held the office of defense minister, then economics and finance minister. New efforts were required in this area in particular. The unemployment rate had already doubled to 2.6 percent in 1974 and doubled again in the following year to 4.7 percent. It then slowly fell to 3.8 percent (1979 and 1980), only to rise sharply again as a result of the second oil crisis - to 7.5 percent in 1982.

Helmut Schmidt, who put his government declaration under the motto "Concentration and continuity", nevertheless made it clear from the beginning that he saw his chancellorship as a new beginning. For him, "concentration" meant channeling the flood of reform intentions through the criterion of their financial feasibility. Above all, unemployment should be fought vigorously. In his first government statement, Schmidt formulated programmatically: "In a time of growing global problems, we focus realism and sobriety on the essentials, on what is now necessary, and leave other things aside." The repeated reference to Immanuel Kant's ethics of duty and the rejection of socially utopian thinking formed the intellectual background of his politics, which he himself outlined as follows: "As I understand it, politics is pragmatic action for moral purposes." On the international stage, Schmidt soon acquired a good reputation as a knowledgeable statesman and "world economist" and personified the increased German self-confidence.

Party system

Even more clearly than in the 1960s, when the right-wing extremist NPD temporarily made its way into some state parliaments, party development in the 1970s was characterized by a concentration on just three parties at federal and state level. It became clear that at the beginning of the 1970s, social democracy had received its greatest support from the electorate. In the state elections from 1974 to 1976, the Union parties almost without exception achieved strong gains, while the SPD suffered - sometimes dramatic - losses and with its coalition partner in the federal government, the FDP, gains and losses were balanced. This trend was confirmed in the Bundestag election of October 1976, which again recorded a very high turnout of over 90 percent; In terms of voter turnout, the 1970s were the most politicized decade in the history of the Federal Republic.

The coalition was only just confirmed, although, unlike in Willy Brandt's reign, there was more frequent talk of an SPD / FDP than of a social-liberal coalition, because the liberals were now profiling themselves more strongly as an independent force. After the interruption four years earlier, the CDU / CSU was once again the strongest parliamentary group.

The rapid recovery and the impressive resurgence of the CDU / CSU were the result of various developments. On the one hand, the Union benefited from the Bonn crisis, which began soon after the 1972 federal election, as well as from the poor economic situation and rising unemployment. On the other hand, the CDU and the CSU succeeded in renewing themselves organizationally and programmatically. On June 12, 1973, Helmut Kohl, the young Prime Minister of Rhineland-Palatinate (born 1930), was elected party chairman unanimously and unanimously by the delegates of the CDU party congress in Bonn. With other representatives of his generation, including Kurt Biedenkopf as Secretary General (Heiner Geißler succeeded him in this office in March 1977), constitutional lawyer Roman Herzog as head of the Rhineland-Palatinate state representation in Bonn, which is important for the federal presence of the new party chairman, and Norbert Blüm as chairman of the CDU social committees (since June 1977), the "Kohlians", as they were soon dubbed in the press, were preparing to transform the CDU from a notables into a campaignable member party. The number of CDU members doubled from around 330,000 (1970) to around 690,000 (1980). The same development in membership growth - from 77,000 (1969) to 176,000 (1980) - took place in the CSU.

The new leadership around Helmut Kohl clearly defined the CDU as the "party of the center" (Kurt Biedenkopf in "Die Zeit" of March 16, 1973) and emphasized, not least in the field of foreign policy, the willingness to observe negotiated contracts. The tendency to take a tough opposition course observed at the beginning of the social-liberal coalition - not only in the field of foreign policy - was strictly rejected. This was linked to the hope of detaching the FDP from the alliance with social democracy in the long term. In this regard, the CDU achieved a strategic success in January 1976, in the middle of the federal legislative period, when the candidate of the CDU, Ernst Albrecht, was elected in a secret ballot when the Prime Minister was elected in Lower Saxony, although the previous SPD / FDP Coalition had a slim majority. When the FDP entered into a coalition with the CDU shortly afterwards in this federal state, the Liberals faced a crucial test that anticipated the disputes when the social-liberal coalition broke up six years later.

The number of members of the Social Democrats rose in the 1970s at about the same rate as in the previous decade - from around 820,000 (1970) to around 990,000 (1980). Even more than expressed in these numbers, the SPD has rejuvenated since the mid-1960s. At the same time, the party of traditional workers - the word of the "party of the student councils" got around - because of the new members the workers only made up a small percentage of the newcomers (1972 only a quarter).

The change in the membership structure was accompanied by violent political conflicts. The federal congresses of the Young Socialists became a forum for theoretical debates of left-wing socialist currents. On November 14, 1970, the federal executive board and party council of the SPD reaffirmed the inadmissibility of any action groups of social democrats and communists. In March 1971, the Social Democratic University Association (SHB), which formed a coalition with the Marxist Student Association Spartakus (MSB), which was closely related to the German Communist Party (DKP), in numerous general student committees (ASten) and in the student umbrella organization (VDS), the support of the SPD was withdrawn .

The criticism of the left wing of the SPD should be channeled above all through the establishment of a commission to work out a new long-term program. In their discussions, the lines of conflict shifted in part. In addition to the dispute about tax policy as an instrument of social redistribution of wealth, new issues arose which were connected with the emerging sensitivity to the "environment".

The party leadership in turn tried to profile the "Arbeitsgemeinschaft für Arbeiterfragen" (AfA), founded in 1971, as a right-wing opposite pole within the party. Overall, the social democracy, which once appeared as a closed party, was perceived by the public as an often divided party: here the young, unruly and academically educated part of the membership with left-wing and ecological ideas, there the pragmatic politics of the Federal Chancellor and his cabinet, the majority of the Bundestag faction and those responsible in the federal states and municipalities and finally the leadership of the trade unions.

After the federal election in 1976, however, the social-liberal coalition initially stabilized, while conflict material accumulated in the Union, which largely evaporated only after 1980. The state group of the CSU in the Bundestag decided at a closed meeting in Wildbad Kreuth am Tegernsee on November 19, 1976 to end the faction community with the CDU that had existed since the Bundestag was founded. Since the beginning of the year, an "Action Group Fourth Party" campaigned in press advertisements for a nationwide expansion of the CSU, which should exhaust the voter reservoir on the right of the CDU in order to increase the Union's overall chance of returning to power in Bonn. In dramatic crisis meetings, the CDU then threatened to take on the CSU in Bavaria in return.

Just eight days after the Kreuther decision, the state executive of the CSU declared that the party was set to Bavaria according to the statutes - the break had been avoided. Shortly afterwards, the Kreuther decision was formally repealed. The reason for the conflict lay in strategic differences between the CSU and CDU and in personal differences between the CSU chairman and Bavarian Prime Minister Franz Josef Strauss and the CDU chairman Helmut Kohl. Ultimately, it was about the alternative of profiling itself as a principally "anti-socialist" opposition or, as the party of the center, keeping the option of alienating disappointed voters from the social-liberal coalition and possibly forming a coalition with the FDP again in the future.

The results of the state elections in 1978 and 1979, which without exception resulted in the Union losing votes while the SPD mostly gained, gave the CSU in particular arguments for a new candidate in the upcoming federal election in 1980. In a voting vote of the CDU / CSU parliamentary group of the Bundestag, Franz Josef Strauss was chosen as a candidate with a clear majority against the Lower Saxony Prime Minister Ernst Albrecht.

After a highly polarized election campaign, the CDU and CSU achieved 44.5 percent of the vote, a result that was more than three percent worse than in the previous federal election with Helmut Kohl, candidate for chancellor. In the press, this was therefore described as the second winner of the election, as he was now considered confirmed within the party. From the parties of the governing coalition, the FDP had benefited more than ten percent (plus 2.7 percent) than the SPD, which, however, held its ground with 42.9 percent (plus 0.3 percent).

Just as the Brandt government gradually fell into a permanent crisis after its greatest triumph, the political horizon of the Schmidt government darkened soon after the confirmation of the SPD / FDP coalition.

Source text

Federal program of the Greens

We are the alternative to the traditional parties. We emerged from an amalgamation of green, colorful and alternative lists and parties. We feel connected to all those who work in the new democratic movement: the life, nature and environmental protection associations, the citizens 'initiatives, the workers' movement, Christian initiatives, the peace and human rights, the women's and third world movement . We see ourselves as part of the green movement around the world.

[...] The ecological world crisis is worsening from day to day: raw materials are becoming scarce, poison scandal follows poison scandal, animal species are being exterminated, plant species are becoming extinct, rivers and oceans are turning into sewers, humans are threatened in the midst of a late industrial era. and consumer society to wither spiritually and spiritually, we are burdening the following generations with an uncanny inheritance.

The destruction of the basis of life and work and the dismantling of democratic rights have reached such a threatening extent that a fundamental alternative for business, politics and society is required. Therefore a democratic citizens' movement arose spontaneously. Thousands of citizens' initiatives were formed and they take part in powerful demonstrations against the construction of nuclear power plants because the risks cannot be managed and because their radioactive waste cannot be dumped anywhere; they stand up against the devastation of nature, against the concretion of our landscape, against the consequences and causes of a throwaway society that has become hostile to life.

A complete upheaval in our short-term oriented economic purpose thinking is necessary. [...] Based on the laws of nature and especially on the knowledge that unlimited growth is not possible in a limited system, ecological politics means understanding ourselves and our environment as part of nature. [...]

Our policy is a policy of active partnership with nature and man. It works best in self-determined and self-sufficient, manageable economic and administrative units. [...] It is about a society that is democratic, in which the relationships between people and with nature are handled with increasing awareness. [...]

The federal program of the party Die Grünen (1981, excerpt), in: Irmgard Wilharm, Deutsche Geschichte 1962–1983, Volume 2, Frankfurt am Main 1985, p. 226 f.