“Say what is” – the short sentence of the great social democrat Ferdinand Lassalle, an institution. He is something like the unspoken motto of life of one of his comrades, whom many today also call an institution: Franz Müntefering, shortly called “Münte”. “I can only do short sentences” is a small, large sentence by him, and that is his equivalent to Lassalle. “Opposition is crap” is another sentence – and it has become a program for the SPD; Certainly in Müntefering’s great times, but also beyond. As you can see.

Müntefering turns 80 years old. The trained industrial clerk, born in Neheim in the Sauerland region, is the politician who has shaped the SPD most in the past decades without the party really understanding. He was a minister, in North Rhine-Westphalia as well as in the federal government, was responsible for transport, building, work and social affairs, was vice chancellor in the Merkel 1 cabinet, in other words after Gerhard Schröder, was twice SPD chairman, was federal executive director and general secretary, parliamentary group leader and parliamentary group leader in the Bundestag. Everything was never very long, except for the time in the city council of Sundern, where he is now an honorary citizen, but always points the way.

In 1998, with Oskar Lafontaine, he paved the way for Gerhard Schröder to the chancellery. And Angela Merkel wouldn’t be Chancellor today without him. Schröder wanted to prevent them. Müntefering thought otherwise.

Franz Müntefering, Münte: If you think you know him, you certainly don’t know him. Because it is not as approachable as it looks. He just sounds like a buddy. Schröder once wished that Müntefering would become his friend. As far as is known, this has not happened. Loyalty and solidarity are compulsory for comrades; Friendship is free. Müntefering can be freestyle, but above all he is a master of taking responsibility. With Sigmar Gabriel, for example, he did it.

Michelle Müntefering is Minister of State in the Foreign Office

Only one did it: Andrea Nahles. When he, at the time party leader, was unable to assert his candidate for North Rhine-Westphalia as general secretary, when the party left over Nahles failed, he left. The one called the principled, the other principled.

In any case it was sad for him; because Müntefering was serious that the SPD chair was the most beautiful post after that of the Pope. He knows his way around there, the former chief administrator. That is why Müntefering has returned to the post of party leader, at the request of today’s Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier. That was after the Rhineland-Palatinate Kurt Beck was bullied away. Successor Nahles then got to know the toughness of the office.

The name Müntefering is still represented in major politics. Yes, he is still fit, is on a voluntary basis in important positions. But his wife Michelle is Minister of State in the Foreign Office, and over time the name Müntefering thinks of her more and more. Only on this 16th probably not. Franz Müntefering is the focus. The comrades have not forgotten him. They had great times.

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