Dear Sigmar Gabriel,
I’ve been a member of the SPD since the age of 13. As you’ll know, that is not supposed to happen: You have to be 14 to sign up. But I was so impatient for Helmut Kohl’s conservative government to come to an end, and admired the history of social democracy so much, that I begged the comrades in Munich until they said: “You could always make a little mistake and write that you were born in 1981 rather than in 1982.”
Since then I’ve often had my disagreements with the SPD. But I never regretted being a member. Until now.
After a long process of alienation from the party, the last days and weeks have made me lose all hope that the party, in its current shape and with its current leadership, is going to stand up for the grand traditions of social democracy.
The SPD is lacking a true political vision. You have been pursuing some important short-term goals, like the introduction of a minimum wage. But you have no plan for how to make a comprehensive welfare state sustainable for the future. And you are committed to liberal values that are dear to my heart. But, as your reluctance to force a real political debate about same-sex marriage once again demonstrated, you don’t dare to fight for these values even when a majority of Germans would support you.
More than anything else, though, my alienation from—and, yes, my anger at—the party is rooted in the fact that you have forgotten one of the oldest and most foundational principles of social democracy: the promise to fight for all human beings, regardless of whether they happen to be German—or Syrian or Ukrainian or Greek.
My conscience will not stand for making the lives of immigrants even worse. Germany already treats refugees and asylum seekers in an intolerable way. People without papers are turned away from German hospitals, even if they are seriously ill. For months on end, asylum seekers are not allowed to leave a small radius around their randomly assigned shelters. As though all of that weren’t bad enough, you just voted for new legislation that classifies refugees desperate enough to hand their savings over to dangerous smugglers as criminals—or simply locks them up. At a time when prospective homes for refugees are going up in flames all over Germany, you are making life worse for immigrants, not standing up for our principles. The innumerable comrades who had to find refuge in other countries because they steadfastly fought racism and fascism during the SPD’s darkest, and most noble, hours would be ashamed.