This Sunday the German SPD will hold its party Congress in Bonn to decide whether or not to enter into coalition negotiations with the Christian-Democrats. The location will only be six km away from Bad Godesberg where this party updated its programme in 1959 in order to be able – through a reformist approach - to win political power and contribute to progressive change in Germany. In 1959, peace, technological change and the East-West divide were the political background of these changes. Finally Willy Brandt became Chancellor in 1972 with the slogan “Dare more democracy” and his election was also a result of the political and cultural changes in the Western German Republic brought about by civic and student movements.
History does not repeat itself, although nearly 60 years later the question of peace – with the role that it could and should play in Europe – as well as technological change, notably digitalisation, form the background to our societies at a time when the European project is no longer the common goal nor the common denominator. At this very moment the pre-negotiation document makes the clear commitment to a Europe of solidarity a top priority. It is not a breakthrough, but could be the roadmap for a change of attitude in this country at the heart of Europe. How can it happen that this achievement is not at stake in the debate over whether or not to enter into negotiations? How can it be that this window of opportunity is not being seized on, that disappointments and narrow tactical issues are the main drivers for refusal? Is it so difficult not to fall into the trap between party first or country first and understand the serious historical dimension of the choice to be made?
Isn’t is also an expression of increasing mistrust in the (party) elite and the (party) establishment? Where is the “daring” approach of Willy Brandt at a time when democracy and social progress are no longer secured in Europe? It is understandable that not only the French, but many European progressives would like to see the influence of Progressives in a coming German government. Or will egoism and the fear factor prevail?
Courage is needed not to fall into the trap. Dare more democracy and dare more Europe to rebuild trust in the political capacity to develop alternatives and to rebuild the Franco-German motor to move Europe ahead. The decision to be taken this Sunday in Bonn is more than an internal party affair as there can be political stand-by - “le politique a peur du vide”. Hopefully the road from Bad Godesberg will not end six km more north from Bonn! Think European!