Socialists unite against Kohl

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The Independent Online
Germany's Social Democrats ended their biannual conference on a high note yesterday by endorsing a modernist blueprint for the economy.

United at last by their desire to regain power after 16 years, delegates in Hanover were urged to harness the forces unleashed by globalisation. "We can decide whether we want to be the hammer or the anvil in the process of globalisation," said Gerhard Schroder, the SDP leader deemed to have the best chance to unseat Helmut Kohl.

His speech and the manifesto for innovation that he was proposing, sought to distance the party from the dream world projected on the conference's first day by Oskar Lafontaine, champion of the left.

"I want us to stress the great opportunities of globalisation and to use them, not paralyse ourselves with constant lamenting," Mr Schroder declared bluntly. "Too much of politics in Germany is based on fear."

Mr Schroder urged German workers to stay in competition, even if it involved cutting wages. The "German model", he went on, was ripe for renewal.

Chancellor Kohl, he said, would like to claim the political middle ground. The party should not oblige him. "Our course is clear," Mr Schroder said. "We are going forward".

In yachting terms, that is true. After Mr Lafontaine's left turn on Tuesday, Mr Schroder's shift to the right yesterday regained the original course. The bitter divisions evident in the last congress two years ago were no longer visible this week. Forward they go, at least until next March or April, when a candidate to fight Mr Kohl must be chosen.