Geometries of Assembly. Excerpt from a Speech, 1990

“Ladies and gentlemen, I am of the opinion that we will have to become accustomed to the fact that the view from the Round Table is now as permanent fixture in our political reality. It cannot be erased from the parliamentary universe, with its right wing, left wing, and centrist parties. I believe that the Round Table has given us a totally different perspective than the linear view we are accustomed to as a government committee in our current configuration. This perspective moves from right to centre to left, with everyone looking straight ahead at the seat coveted from all sides.

Some are attracted to this position, the left may reject it, the centre is neutral but also focused on the seat.  Thus this right-left perspective always brings with it a high degree of relativity. We have had many opportunities to learn just that. In the GDR, which was governed by a party that purported to be on the left, but whose rule was characterised by the most extreme tendencies of the right wing for as long as was possible.

The view from the Round Table couldn’t be more different […]. In this inverse configuration, no party can turn its back on another party, nor should it, for everyone is oriented around an invisible centre. This invisible centre can not be conquered, rather, it can only be reached via a collective decision involving everyone at the Round Table – and everyone in this constitutional task force.

The Round Table has taught us this unforgettable circular perspective by forcing consensus, and this is always a healing force, defined by a discourse independent of ideology that is focused on this centre and converges there time and again, as well as by the burden of proof placed on those who claim the right and the ability to make decisions.”

From: Wolfgang Ullmann, Verfassung und Parlament. Ein Beitrag zur Verfassungsdiskussion, Berlin 1992, S. 72f.

Trasnlated for this project by Moira Barrett. 

For the original German text see also: 

Zur Verfassung, Berliner Hefte zu Geschichte und Gegenwart der Stadt #5 (Elske Rosenfeld, Kerstin Meyer und Jörg Franzbecker)