While it's no secret that some Social Democrats disagree with Chancellor Gerhard Schröder's policies, a chain letter of insurgency that surfaced Thursday hit too far below the belt for many from the SPD.
The letter demanded his dismissal
A letter calling for Chancellor Schröder to stand down or be dismissed over his economic and social polices that was circulated electronically in SPD circles has caused uproar among the party leaders.
"The party leadership rejects the slanderous defamation contained in this letter," SPD general secretary Klaus-Uwe Benneter (photo) said in a statement. "The paper is disgraceful."
The letter called for a U-turn on Schröder's package of welfare and labor market reforms known as Agenda 2010. "Schröder has to go -- whether he wants to or not," the letter read, appealing to party members to sign up to an initiative to replace the chancellor.
It also accused Schröder of breaking with the mandate from his 2002 re-election campaign, and said the party leadership had allowed itself to become isolated from grassroots members.
The only contact person mentioned in the letter was the Cologne-based SPD member Eva Gürster. She was not available for comment. According to Cologne party members, the letter first made an appearance at the beginning of July, but failed to make an impact.
Unpopular reform policies
Schröder has come under increasing pressure to ease the pace of reforms that leftists within the SPD have criticized for being socially unjust. Schröder has repeatedly insisted that he will push forward with the unpopular measures, a decision Benneter defended in the wake of the letter.
"These policies are demanding, but step by step, they're taking us in the right direction," Benneter said. He added that this latest criticism came from embittered party members who were unable to win support at party congresses that backed Schröder.
"Someone who has failed to get their point across at party meetings should not try to act as a troublemaker and defame the work of the government and the party. They set themselves outside our community," he said.