While America is struggling with a controversy about debate culture, Germany has an entirely different, yet strangely familiar problem:
What happened? Gesine Lötzsch, co-chairwoman of the socialist Left Party (currently 4th strongest out of 5 parties in the parliament with 11.9% of the votes in 2009) said:
"The path to communism can only be found if we hit the road and try it out, whether in the opposition or in government."
She did so in an article for the far-left newspaper "Jungle World", where she also honored the communist revolutionaries Rosa Luxemburg and Karl Liebknecht, who attempted to erect a Soviet Republic in Germany in 1918/19.
Also, she had planned a debate panel together with a former terrorist of the communist terror group RAF ("Red Army Faction") that committed several robberies, kidnappings, murders and even hijacked a plane in 1970s' West Germany, which almost caused the resignation of a government, and with a member of the splinter party DKP (German Communist Party).
(I've read the article and my personal impression is that her rhetoric is more radical than the actual content, paying a lot of tribute to historic figureheads of far-left wingnuts, but what she says is rather prone to well-meaning interpretations in her favor that suggest she rather was after reconciling the far-left with parliamentarism, than vice versa. But still ...)
So what's the reaction?
Apparently, not even her own party is happy with her statements and many prominent members did a lot to distance themselves from her statements.
Thuringia Left Party party leader Bodo Ramelow said: "Millions of citizens have been killed in the name of communism. This must always be a part of the conversation, and must always be made clear".
Berlin Left Party member of parliament Stefan Liebich: "If you're going to sit down at a podium with a former RAF terrorist and the leader of the German Communist Party, then the least you should do is say very clearly that a lot of crimes were committed in the name of communism, from which we distance ourselves very explicitly", in an interview for a radio station.
Of course, the other four parties immediately jumped on Lötzsch and the Left Party and used this huge opportunity Lötzsch's interview has given: "Communism as a national objective clearly reveals the unconstitutional convictions of the leadership of the Left party," said a member of Merkel's conservative Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU), suggesting the Left Party should be observed by the Verfassungsschutz ("Office for Protection of the Constitution", a kind of "German NSA" which also observes neo-Nazis and potential terrorists).
Across all parties and the mainstream media, Lötzsch's comments were condemned and often used to attack her entire party.
Lötzsch, facing this mess she had created, backpedaled just a bit: "My political goal is democratic socialism, as I described it in this article: peaceful, democratic and free from exploitation for all people".
Considering the harsh reactions even from within her party, it's safe to say that even within the Left Party, many people are no longer fond of communism -- at any rate not among its voters, their numbers dropped in recent polls (down to 8% from ca. 12%).
The socialist Left Party was formed in 2007, when the successor of the former communist state party in East Germany, PDS, merged with a West German left-wing split-off from the center-left Social Democrats (SPD). In the last national election, it has won 11.9% of the votes in entire Germany, but regionally up to 30% in former East Germany.