Dec 212014
 

I am pleased to be able to inform you that the editors are happy with the revisions you made to your article and we can now proceed to publication.

I could not agree more. The revised article will appear in 2015, possibly rather late. Meanwhile, the author’s version of my piece on Germany’s Alternative party (which shows, amongst other things, that the AfD has positioned itself very close to the governing CSU (or vice versa?) is available here.

Dec 132014
 
Dec 112014
 
  • Still looking for a Christmas present? Now available in Paperback: Class Politics and the Radical Right – Routledge http://t.co/ilhCXBlczm #InstantClassic
  • Crooked Timber: Fly Air Gini http://t.co/s85aIzxA4u
  • Art Goldhammer on Sarko’s inevitable comeback: He’s baaaaaack! http://t.co/5Q9Eu0Rt5L
  • This has already happened as hinted at here: Trouble in (the Guardian’s) Paradise: anti-immigration party could bring Swedish government down http://t.co/B40ApmwCsq
  • This will help you to get into that festive spirit: The Blair-Brown Christmas letters http://t.co/rhLSQYlsKL
Dec 072014
 

Various news outlets reported this afternoon that there had been talks, perhaps even agreement between the (state) CDU and the (state) AfD to prevent Ramelow from being elected Minister-President. Obviously, nothing came out of this (neither party put a candidate on the slate), but still: Wither the blessing of the leadership, Merkel has created a cordon sanitaire between CDU and the AfD. Talks with the intention of forming a coalition, or at least gaining AfD support for a CDU minority government would be an act of open rebellion.30944764 fae8e73744 m Thuringia More on Thuringia: A CDU AfD Pact?Photo by Tjflex2 cc More on Thuringia: A CDU AfD Pact?

Dec 072014
 

On Friday, the state parliament at Erfurt voted in Bodo Ramelow as Minister-President of Thuringia. He is the first member of the Left party to hold such an office, backed by the first ‘red-red-green’ (Left/SPD/Greens) coalition ever. 25 years after the fall of the wall, that is still a highly controversial constellation. Ramelow has been trying to diffuse the issue for months, and kicked off his reign with an apology to the victims of the former socialist state party SED, the pre-predecessor of the Left. His election also marks the end of a 24-year-spell during which the state’s Christian Democrats held the top executive job in this state.

The real significance, of course, lies beyond the woods of Thuringia. Taking over the office of the Minister-President is perhaps the most important step in the long game of normalising the Left that began in the mid-1990s, when the PDS (the predecessor of the Left) tolerated a red-green minority government in Saxony-Anhalt. Normalising red-red-green coalitions, on the other hand, is even trickier business. The Greens merged in the 1990s with what remained of  the East German dissident movement, and this legacy makes any co-operation with the heirs of the former oppressors highly unpleasant. The SPD, on the other hand, has two swallow the fact that at least in Thuringia, they are no longer the strongest force within the left camp. Moreover, the SED was the result of a forced merger between the East German SPD and the east German communist partner, and the final ingredient in today’s Left was a group of SPD dissidents who broke away from the SPD ten years ago. That is a lot of shared history overshadowing the present.

From the SPD’s point of view, however, there is clearly a ray of sunshine to this story: The SPD is now part of 14 (out of 16) state governments and has 9 Minister-Presidents amongst their number, four more than the Christian Democrats. That certainly makes governing as Merkel’s junior partner in Berlin a little more bearable.

14874355380 3d78560965 m bodo ramelow Germany gets their first Minister President of the LeftPhoto by DIE LINKE. Thüringen cc Germany gets their first Minister President of the Left

Dec 052014
 
  • A modern guide to getting started with Data Science and Python http://t.co/pncihL61hj
  • PHD Comics: Research I Problems http://t.co/pJEwhaQqE
  • Not sure about this one, but it is interesting enough: French Politics: The Emerging Split in the Extreme Right http://t.co/PmsbosbpGE
  • So much to read, so little time: A very useful trove of free articles: Psychology of #Terrorism Research Collection: http://t.co/6xfnTQnvLO
  • Good stuff by old chums: The Rochester by-election highlights a pervasive ‘anti-politics’ mood in the UK | LSE blog http://t.co/8eXI45NO3Q
  • Perceptions and reality: Ten things we should know about attitudes to immigration in the UK http://t.co/TPV6xnZMQj

 

 

 

 

Nov 162014
 

Much merriment in the Eastern state of Thuringia: 25 years after the fall of the wall, the Greens and the SPD in the state parliament are poised to form a coalition with the Left (die Linke), which would give the Left its first minister president ever.

What’s the Matter with the Left?

Predictably, this is creating all sorts of backlash. On the surface, it is all about Thuringia, and about the Left’s uneasy relationship with the past. But on another level, it’s about the prospects of triple left (or red/red/green) coalitions in Western states and ultimately on the federal level.

2310190122 0e07743880 m ddr The Math of Post SocialismPhoto by pdxjmorris cc The Math of Post SocialismThe Left is one of the strangest creatures in German politics. It was formed in 2007 by a merger of the WASG – a group of SPD dissidents who rejected the welfare reforms/cuts (delete as appropriate) introduced by the Schröder government from 2002 on – and the PDS. The PDS in turn came about by renaming (twice) East Germany’s Socialist Unity Party (SED), the local equivalent of the Soviet Union’s communist party. Consequentially, the continuing role of the PDS after 1990 has been controversial. Right now, the Greens, the SPD and everybody’s hipster grandmother demand that the Left apologises for four decades of state socialist authoritarianism.

What is Left of the SED in the Left? (sorry, could not resist this one)

The other day, I heard Dietmar Bartsch on the radio, who played an instrumental role as one of the organisers of the WASG/PDS merger. Asked about the Left’s relationship with its state socialist past, Bartsch argued that the media and the Left’s political enemies had overplayed the issue: After all, only one per cent of the SED’s previous members were still enrolled in today’s Left. That sounds like a tiny fraction, right? Right, and this is because the figure (if it is correct) is misleading, to say the least. After all, the relevant question is not what became of the SED members, but rather how important the old guard still is today. So lets do the math.

In 1989, the SED had 2.3 million members, roughly 14 per cent of the GDR’s total population. After the wall came down and unification became a real prospect, they began to leave the sinking ship in their droves. Around the time of unification, less than 10 per cent of the original number remained, and over the ensuing couple of decades, many more left or simply passed away, as it were chiefly the elderly who had been loyal to the party.

2372055396 f498a95bab m DDR The Math of Post SocialismPhoto by pdxjmorris cc The Math of Post Socialism

Against this backdrop, Bartsch’s one per cent figure looks plausible, so let us assume that that many of the old SED stock still remain in the Left. That works out at 23,000. Is that a lot, or not? Over at the FU in Berlin, Oskar Niedermeyer has been compiling party membership figures since the dawn of time. In 2012 (the latest data available), the Left had about 68,000 members. So roughly one third of the current members of the Left were already members of the SED before the Iron Curtain lifted.

Obviously, this is indicative of a strong post-socialist streak within the party. That may or may not be a bad thing, but in my book, the politically relevant fact is that Bartsch built a smokescreen around this simple fact, and that the interviewer – a thoughtful and knowledgeable person – let him get away with it. The bottom line is of course that we need to promote basic statistical literacy: The probability of being a member of the Left, conditional on having been a member of the SED (p(Left|SED)) can be very different from the probability of having been a member of the SED, conditional on being a member of the Left (p(SED)|Left), unless both parties are of equal size. That is Bayes’ Rule for you, Dr Bartsch. Next.

 

Nov 102014
 

Google decided some time ago that their algorithms are so good that the old Humanities/Social Sciences/Hard Sciences button on Google Scholar did no longer earn its keep. As a Social Scientist trying to remember the exact title of that dear old Dalton 1984 piece, I could not agree less.

dalton 1984 Google Scholar Fail

Not my Dalton 1984