Schmidt's travails: revolts bubble up all around him
Excommunications of one of his won party's MPs and an antinuclear-power revolt in his own party in his hometown -- these are just two of the problems confronting Chancellor Helmut Schmidt.
They ar joined by violent youth demonstrations that are threatening to become a weekly occurence in West Germany, serious urban housing shortages, rebellion within the coalition against projected West German arms sales abroad, and a barely contained political crisis in West Berlin.
All in all, it is not one of Mr. Schmidt's mor triumphant moments.
The possible party excommunication -- hinted at if not quite recommended by the Social Democratic (SPD) presidium in a late-night session in Bonn Feb. 2 and 3 -- concerns Karl-Heinz Hansen, a maverick left-winger in a parliamentary political system that expects full discipline from party members.
Mr. Hansen rined himself in during the last legislative period, when the SPD and its junior coalition partner, the Free Democratic Party (FDP), had only a skimpy majority in the Bundestag. But with the chancellor holding a 45-seat majority since last fall's election, Hansen figurs he can speak his mind without toppling the government.
And speak it he did, in the alternative culture magazine Konkret. Schmidt was "anti-social-democratic" in approving submarine sales to Chile and wanting to sell tanks to Saudi Arabia, Hansen charged. Such a policy, he added, was "swinishness" (a strong perorative in German).
Hansen's local Dusseldorf SPD executive committee has summoned Hansen to explain himself Feb. 6, and it is widely expected that he will be dropped from party membership.
Schmidt can easily muster the votes to drum Hansen out of the party. That will hardly end his difficulties, however, for while Hansen may be alone in his deliberate enfant terrible style, his criticism exprsses the sentiments of an increasingly disgruntled left wing in the SPD, and especially of the Jusos, or Young Socialists.
The left-wingers -- who have long idealized the SPD almost more as a moral crusader than as a political compromiser -- have felt themselves gagged by party discipline and have become ever more miserable as the SPD has eased itself more and more into traditional political and diplomatic wheeling and dealing.
The left wing expressed its veiws most chohesively at a party caucus at the end of January, when 24 MPs issued a call for cuts in defense spending and an increase in spending to combat world hunger. Unhappily for Schmidt, there is widespread sympathy for aspects of the left-wing resistance within the mainstream of the party. The best proof of this was the Hamburg party vote of Feb. 2 against participation in the planned Brokdorf nuclear power plant.
In that port city where Schmidt started his carreer and still has his home, the party organization vetoed more nuclear power. It was a slap in the face for Schmidt, who has termed further development of nuclear energy "indispensable."
Outside the police-protected Hamburg conference hall antinuclear demonstrators smashed windows and plundered some shops on the city's main shopping street. Significantly, the protest march by an estimated 12,000 (though certainly not the violence by a few hundred) was organized by the Jusos.
The final decision on Brokdorf will be given by the hamburg Senate (cabinet), but no observer thinks that the SPD- led Senate will defy its mayor and the party vote. Brokdorf, which has suddenly become the symbol for all nuclear power in West Germany, would have increased Hamburg's present 30 percent reliance on nuclear power to 70 percent. Nuclear power currently provides 3.6 percent of West Germany's energy needs, but its expansion has been halted for years by environmentalists' suits in the courts.
Fully as troubling for Schmidt is the feeling inside his own coalition against his desired expansion of West German arms sales abroad. Before this, West German policy has been against arms sales to "areas of tension." Now Schimidt and his FDP Foreign Minister Hans-Dietrich Genscher apparently want to sellthose submarines to Chile and tanks to Saudi Arabia. This prospect has shocked not only the left wing, but also a number of mainstream Social Democrats and Free Democrats.
At the end of January an FDP caucus rejected a policy of approving arms sales that advance German intersts and promote regional stability, whether or not that region is an "area of tension."
And even Genscher's own Foreign ministry State Minister Hildegard Hamm-Brucher is said to have remarked that with its history, Germany could never sell weapons to Israel's enemies and still "look itself in the eye in the mirror."