SPD party conference: Five theses for the meeting of the Chancellor’s party

SPD federal party conference
Clear announcements to Scholz, but no reckoning: Five theses for the meeting of the Chancellor’s party

Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD)

© Jonas Walzberg/ / Picture Alliance

The Social Democrats meet in Berlin for self-assurance. To be expected: three days of pure SPD – and a chancellor who could find himself in need of explanation.

Thesis 1: Scholz doesn’t have to fear a revolt, but he does have to fear clear words from his party

What will Olaf Scholz say? Status now: Not what his party wants to hear from him. On Saturday morning, the Chancellor will speak at the SPD federal party conference in Berlin. Contrary to what his comrades had hoped, Scholz has not yet managed to present a solution for the 2024 budget. SPD circles say that the 2024 budget can no longer be passed this year. “Although we did everything we could for it,” wrote SPD parliamentary group manager Katja Mast starinformation on Thursday in a message to MPs.

This increases the pressure on Scholz. If the Chancellor cannot even announce a political consensus with the coalition partners, Scholz will at least have to explain himself to the 600 delegates. If he also promises cuts in social benefits – a red flag for the SPD – things will get really uncomfortable. Problematic applications could significantly limit Scholz’s room for maneuver in negotiations. As a result, the tough talks with the Greens and FDP would become even tougher.

Scholz does not have to fear a palace revolution, but the stumbling Chancellor’s party cannot afford a duped chancellor. For the comrades, Scholz is simply too big to fail. However, he must create clarity and show his party a way out of its misery that goes beyond his previous empty words of confidence. Otherwise, the rumblings in the SPD will find an outlet – possibly in the debate following his speech. At the very least, there are clear warnings from the grassroots against a clear-cutting of the welfare state.

Thesis 2: The party leaders have to tremble – the Chancellor doesn’t

Both promised a departure, both now have to justify what has become of it: Saskia Esken and Lars Klingbeil are standing for re-election as dual leadership on Friday. The “social democratic decade” that the co-chairs proclaimed two years ago will come to an abrupt end given the current poll numbers: the SPD became the strongest force in the 2021 federal election with 25.7 percent, today it only has 17 percent at best – far behind the AfD and very far behind the Union.

The constant crisis management, even within the rowdy traffic lights, and the reluctance to enter into conflict with one’s own chancellor have taken a toll on the party’s profile. General Secretary Kevin Kühnert, who is also running for re-election, says: There is “a great need in the SPD to move from reacting to acting.” They want to set topics again. That’s what Esken and Klingbeil want with their lead proposal. A higher burden for top earners, for example, should make red hearts beat faster. But: The fact that the comrades long for self-assurance and want more social democracy in the “progress coalition” is also due to them. The party leadership has so far avoided confrontation with the government’s course. The (dis)satisfaction with its leadership will be reflected in the election results.

Thesis 3: The secret star of the party conference could be called Rolf Mützenich

After Scholz’s pale government statement on the budget crisis, SPD parliamentary group leader Rolf Mützenich also took the floor – and made up for what the Chancellor had previously missed: a clear announcement, both internally (to the SPD parliamentary group) and externally (the coalition partners). . A murmur of recognition and relief went through the ranks of the SPD parliamentary group when its chairman defined the SPD’s position: The debt rule in the Basic Law needs “fundamental corrections,” said Mützenich, and the “indiscriminately seized political size” should not be used as a “monstrance.” be brought here. Shortly after the Karlsruhe verdict, Mützenich ventured out of cover. While Scholz was still quietly sounding out the situation, the SPD parliamentary group leader went on the attack – in interviews and speeches. And possibly at the party conference on Saturday lunchtime.

Thesis 4: Rich people shouldn’t come to the party conference (and the FDP shouldn’t either)

What does the SPD stand for? This will be discussed in detail from Friday to Sunday. Without taking into account the sensitivities of the coalition partners. Higher taxes for the rich, an increase in the minimum wage, the reform of the debt brake – if you follow the proposals, the SPD will write a lot of goals into its program that are practically impossible to achieve with its coalition partner the FDP. A farewell to the traffic lights? “We are positioning ourselves as the SPD,” said co-party leader Klingbeil star-Interview without going into detail about the discrepancy between the party and government course. The message between the lines: The party is no longer interested in the role of mediator and moderator.

Thesis 5: Two key topics will cause a lot of controversy: migration and the debt brake

The SPD faces a tough debate, particularly regarding migration policy. Chancellor Scholz’s slogan of wanting to deport people “finally” and “on a large scale” had caused some serious irritation among many socialists. The party leadership is now apparently trying to address the discontent: As the “Tagesspiegel” reported, the SPD leadership wants to submit a motion on Saturday that distances itself from the government’s course. Many aspects of critical applications from the base are to be taken up, for example on sea rescue or family reunification. The discussion about the debt brake is likely to be no less controversial. The SPD leadership is striving for reform, but it doesn’t go far enough for the party’s younger generation. “We as Jusos want to go one step further and completely remove the debt brake from the Basic Law,” announced Juso boss Philipp Türmer in the “Süddeutsche Zeitung”. This will also be reflected in applications.

The SPD will determine its position and make sure of its principles. But one thing is equally certain: it won’t be a cozy party conference.

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