What a daring idea. While Germany is in the middle of an energy crisis with mass inflation, the SPD decides to fight for a 25-hour week – with full wages – in the future. A plan that brings the Social Democrats one thing above all: malice. By Mathias Brodkorb
Sometimes in politics you don’t need the best arguments, you just need to have enough staying power. You could see that at the weekend at the SPD debate convention. Shortly before the end, when only half of the delegates were still present, the Jusos inflicted a sensitive defeat on Federal Labor Minister Hubertus Heil (SPD).
The SPD is now officially in favor of introducing a 25-hour week – with full wage compensation, of course. Not even the Left Party is going that far. The content for the time being with 30 hours.
A few years ago, the SPD even changed its statutes to create this “small party congress”. He should clarify “all political and organizational questions” between the actual party congresses. It consists of 150 comrades who are chosen by the regional associations in a secret ballot.
What is special about the body: the party executive, representatives of the parliamentary group or the prime ministers of the federal states only belong to the body in an advisory capacity. It’s a truly grassroots body. “The spirits that I summoned…”, some top comrades may now be thinking.
Hubertus Heil did everything he could to motivate the young socialists a bit in a committed speech. Almost nostalgically, he swore that the SPD would always remain the “party of work” even in times of change.
Not only the increase in the minimum wage, but also the introduction of citizen income is good evidence of this. This obviously pleased the delegates, among whom there could hardly have been a real worker. And a little later they simply took Hubertus Heil at his word.
Because there is actually a certain problem with citizen income: the abolition or suspension of sanctions, the increase in standard rates, the improved crediting of additional earnings narrows the gap to the rest of the working population – and not widens it.
It is precisely this reason that makes opposition leader Friedrich Merz (CDU) so skeptical: “The citizen who is initially responsible for himself is increasingly becoming a pension recipient with the citizen’s allowance. It is not personal responsibility that is in the foreground, but a paternalistic state that first takes and then gives part of it back.” This could also be a problem, especially for a “party of labour”.
This imbalance can of course be solved in two ways: As Merz demands, you can simply leave a number of improvements as they are. Or you can do it the other way around and just give everyone else a shot too. And so everyone could just go up like in an elevator.
Jessica Rosenthal, SPD member of parliament and national chair of the party’s youth organization, is considered the main initiator of the application that has now been approved. And she goes a long way historically to make it plausible: “If you look at the labor movement, there is one constant that we have achieved, and that is the reduction in working hours.” In the course of history, working hours are been halved – and we must continue on this path “now”.
Really”? In the midst of an energy crisis with mass inflation, on the brink of mass bankruptcies and a protracted recession, while all of Germany fears deindustrialization? Is now really the right time for the Chancellor Party to start such debates?
In any case, none of this is a problem for Rosenthal, especially not an economic one. From their point of view, a reduction in individual working hours by almost 40 percent with the same wages can easily be financed from the productivity boosts resulting from digitization.
This saves so much working time and thus costs that none of this is a problem. The fact that we now live in a globalized economy with intense competition does not seem to have gotten around to every corner of the SPD.
And fundamentally, the facts are of course different. Certainly, for about two decades, manic productivity boosts as a result of digitization have been conjured up. But they simply cannot be proven empirically.
The opposite is the case: While Germany was still recording annual productivity growth of around 6 percent in the 1960s, it halved between 1980 and 2000 and has since averaged only around 1 percent, with a downward trend.
But the problem now is that you can only consume what has been generated. On the one hand, economic growth can be a consequence of productivity growth. But if that doesn’t happen, there is only one other way to achieve the ultimate goal: more working hours. Increasing labor productivity or more use of living labor are the sources of the generated prosperity.
Since there have been no productivity boosts in all Western industrialized countries for decades now, the strategy of reducing working hours with wage compensation is also reaching its limits.
This fact is exacerbated by the fact that we no longer have an oversupply of labor as we did in Marx’s day. The opposite is the case, and for demographic reasons Germany is only at the beginning of the misery that will unfold completely in the current decade.
In such a situation, a reduction in individual working hours by almost 40 percent would not contribute to the solution, but to the creation of problems.
The loss of prosperity and resulting social tensions would be epic. One is therefore almost a little reminded of Friedrich Nietzsche’s “Thus Spoke Zarathustra”: “But I say: what falls, one should also push!”
Hubertus Heil will of course studiously ignore the decision. He’s just too crazy for that. Its initiators have therefore only achieved one thing: Against all historical odds, the leaders of the SPD have managed to close the ranks and end the self-mutilation in recent years.
The newly achieved unity of the SPD was not only one of the main reasons for the SPD’s election victory. So far, it has also been the basis for being able to govern “undisturbed” in difficult times.
This new paint has now received a proper scratch. So Jessica Rosenthal and her followers have only achieved one thing: they have damaged the credibility of their leadership and provided the opposition with sufficient material for malice. All too often the Chancellor’s Party will not be able to afford such slip-ups.
About the author: Mathias Brodkorb was Finance Minister of the state of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and is a member of the SPD.
The original of this article “With the dream of a 25-hour week, the SPD ignores the danger of epic losses in prosperity” comes from Cicero Online.