On the way to his trial, Thilo Sarrazin had to pass the statue of Willy Brandt, the former chancellor, who still shapes his party’s self-image. But according to the will of the SPD leadership, the former Berlin finance senator should no longer be a member of the Willy Brandts party. The party’s Federal Arbitration Commission came to the conclusion on Friday that the SPD may exclude today’s best-selling author Sarrazin.
“The party exclusion is thus effective,” said the commission after the negotiations lasting several hours. “With this decision, Sarrazin is no longer a member of the SPD.”
The commission had ruled that the party exclusion “to protect the reputation and credibility of the SPD” was lawful, since Sarrazin “violated the principles and order of the party significantly and thereby harmed it”. The statements and demands propagated in his book “Hostile Takeover” were “so significantly different from the principles and basic values of social democracy” that the permanent separation from the party member was necessary, the commission judged.
At the same time, the SPD arbitral tribunal accused him of “degrading people, especially Muslims”. With an appearance together with politicians of the right-wing populist FPÖ in Vienna, Sarrazin also violated the principle of intra-party solidarity.
Sarrazin wants to take legal action against the expulsion
Sarrazin told Tagesspiegel after the decision: “I think the verdict had already been made and was only implemented today.” He accused the SPD general secretary Lars Klingbeil of acting “extremely polemically” during the trial. He was clearly not concerned with factual finding of evidence. Sarrazin announced that he would appeal to the Berlin Regional Court against the party exclusion as soon as the written reason for the judgment was available. “The accusations against me are honorary, I have no other choice.”
Klingbeil welcomed the decision. “The chapter Thilo Sarrazin is over for us,” said the SPD general secretary. “In the future, he will no longer be able to spread his racist, anti-Muslim theses under the guise of SPD membership.” This was an important and good day for the SPD.
The party has been trying to get rid of its member Sarrazin for a decade. The SPD leadership in Berlin and in the federal government has already suffered a severe defeat twice.
In October 2009 the SPD district association Spandau and the local association Alt-Pankow initiated a party order procedure. The initiators were today’s SPD parliamentary group leader Read Saleh and his close confidante, the group manager Torsten Schneider. The occasion was an interview in the magazine “Lettre International”, the trial failed a year later before the SPD regional arbitration court. The People’s Party SPD must endure Sarrazin’s provocative statements, the verdict.
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But in 2010 Sarrazin published the book “Germany abolishes itself”, in which he dealt with immigration from Islamic countries. The former finance senator and Bundesbank executive board was accused of racism in a broad public debate about his theses. Now the leadership of the federal party intervened and started a new party order procedure, which was, however, already stopped at the district association level.
The party leadership made a new attempt after two unsuccessful attempts at exclusion
Despite these two defeats, the SPD federal board decided in 2018 to initiate a third trial against Sarrazin. In the meantime, Sarrazin had written another book entitled “Hostile Takeover”, in which he dealt with Islam and immigration to Europe and Germany. SPD general secretary Lars Klingbeil already said in January that there was no place in the party for agitating against minorities. Sarrazin also spoke at a hearing in the Bundestag in 2018 at the invitation of the AfD and had performed in Austria at an event organized by an FPÖ-related organization.
In the first and second instance, the SPD district arbitration court in Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf and the state arbitration court decided to exclude the party. Sarrazin was accused of “anti-Muslim and cultural racist statements”. He had caused serious damage to the SPD and violated the principles of social democracy. But Sarrazin did not want to accept his expulsion and appealed. Now the federal arbitration commission of the SPD had to deal with the Sarrazin case for the first time.
The Federal Arbitration Commission is the highest arbitral tribunal of the party, its seven members are independent and are not bound by instructions from the party leadership. The chairman of the commission, Thorsten Jobs, is familiar with complicated legal issues. He is a judge at the Higher Administrative Court in Potsdam. One of the deputy chairs is Roland Rixecker, the President of the Saarland Constitutional Court. In addition to the complainant Sarrazin, the SPD general secretary Lars Klingbeil and two representatives of the district association Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf appeared at the hearing.
According to information from the public hearing before the Federal Arbitration Court, Sarrazin tried above all to alleviate the allegation that he had violated the principles of the SPD considerably in his book “Hostile Takeover”. In the verdict of the state arbitration commission of January this year, he was assumed that he had not declared the Hamburg SPD’s current Hamburg program binding for himself. That was wrong, he did not even mention the current program and said that he stood by the basic values of the 1959 Godesberg program – freedom, justice and solidarity.
According to Sarrazin at the trial, nothing has changed about these principles to date, and his last book is also in full accordance with the Hamburg program. In a 14-page defense, he tried to prove this in detail. He accused the SPD party executive and its experts of providing his “scientific hypotheses” about the cultural character of the Islamic world through the religion of Islam with the “negative moral prejudice of anti-Muslim, cultural racism”. In the book “Hostile takeover”, no factual error could be proven to him. Sarrazin called the party executives’ claim that his sources were untrustworthy “outrageous and presumptuous”.
Sarrazin’s party book is allegedly not to be found
The Sarrazin case for the SPD is far from over: Even before the decision was made, Sarrazin told Tagesspiegel that he would try the ordinary courts up to the Federal Constitutional Court to remain a member of the SPD.
This means that the dispute can drag on for years.
Incidentally, Sarrazin has not yet handed in his party book, as the State Arbitration Commission announced. The reason given was that it must have been lost over time. Despite an intensive search, he could not find it.