Communism seems on the verge of conquering Germany. Individual former Marxist-Leninists already occupy high positions in the Federal Republic of Germany. Now it looks increasingly likely that the Left Party, the successor of the East German Communist Party, might be in government in the foreseeable future.

Dieter Althaus, 50, a former high school teacher, is the Christian-Democrat prime minister of the German state of Thuringia. Last October the German media published a letter which Herr Althaus sent to the Communist leadership on 9 November 1989, ironically the very day when the Berlin Wall fell. In the letter he advocated that in preparation for their “youth consecration”, a secular coming of age ceremony for 14-year olds in Communist East Germany, the children should be indoctrinated more strictly with Marxist-Leninist ideology. His ardent Marxist-Leninist fervor did not prevent Herr Althaus from becoming the Christian-Democrat leader of his state.

Meanwhile, the German state of Hesse - adjacent to Thuringia, though it was part of “capitalist” West Germany - may soon get a left-wing minority government of Socialists and Greens with the support of the far-left Left Party, which polled 5% of the vote in the state elections earlier this year.

Before the elections Andrea Ypsilanti, the leader of the Hesse Socialist SPD, had promised that under no circumstance would she cooperate with the Left Party, which the German security services consider to be extremist and a threat to democracy. After the elections, however, Frau Ypsilanti changed her mind. In early November she got the approval of the national SPD leadership in Berlin to put together a minority government with the support of the Left Party. Fortunately, the refusal of four Hesse SPD state representatives to support the move thwarted these plans. As a result, the Hessians will be called to the voting booth again next January.

Nevertheless, the willingness of the SPD, which is a member of the government coalition on the federal level, to work with the Left Party bodes ill for the future. It indicates that, less than two decades after the collapse of the East German dictatorship, the political successors to the former dictators have become respected and accepted politicians.

Unlike the so-called “denazification” which took place in Germany after 1945, with prosecutions of Nazi criminals and collaborators and moral condemnations of civil servants who had remained silent, there was no “decommification” after 1989. On the contrary, many of the old regime’s fellow travelers simply turned their coats, rising to high positions in post-communist society.

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