by Dagmar Henn
What is the state of this republic? In former times, the German left observed every development critically; listening to them you could feel the country’s pulse and had a distinct view on bourgeois democracy. Meanwhile they seem to have lost that ability and are satisfied, as long as their headlined sound nice.
Sometimes you need to abstract from the mere content and scrutinize the form of an event to understand the objectives behind it or to conclude what it stands for. Something that seems to be reasonable at first view can in fact mean something completely different.
An example: In 1962, when Hamburg was hit by a severe flood, Helmut Schmid (the later chancellor), then senator for interior affairs, used the Bundeswehr (German army), to prevent further floodings. You could say this made sense. It´s hard to argue against that kind of the army’s use.
But there was another side to it. The Bundeswehr was founded in 1956, against fierce resistance from large parts of the population; most citizens of the FRG wanted a neutral country without any army, and even less they wanted an army directed by former Wehrmacht-officers who now served in NATO-troups. One of the means to break this resistance was banning the communist party, and even some years before its youth organisation. It gets clear how serious this conflict was when you know that one of the two cases west German police shot at marches was against remilitarisation – on May 11 1952 21-years old Munich worker Philipp Müller got shot (into the back) at a manifestation in Essen, two further participants got seriously injured.
For this new army, that was established against the population’s will, this operation during the Hamburg flood was enormously successful PR. At the same time the consecutive legalisation of a use of the army in case of catastrophes opened the door for further thoughts about using the army inside the country, which finally led to the emergency laws that caused the student uprising in 1968.
This ‘humanitarian’ decision therefore had completely different consequences on the level of politics, and they could well have been the reason for Helmut Schmidt´s decision, as he was a supporter of remilitarisation and sufficiently intelligent to intend such a „collateral effect“.
This is the background you need to keep in mind when looking at the ‘refugee-crisis’ of the last weeks.
Angela Merkel, so far the facts, has – probably – declared that the Dublin conventions are temporarily invalid for Germany. As the Dublin convention is a mulitlateral contract, this isn´t nice, but possible. But she would have needed the vote of her ministry confirming her position within the next 48 hours. This obviously didn´t happen (it is unclear whether she didn´t try to or if she missed the majority). Only if this confirmation took place, there would have been a legal base for the executive´s actions, in this case by the frontier police. So we are talking about an administration acting without a legal base.
Now you can say that´s not a big deal, it´s for a humanitarian case. But as the Hamburg example shows, this type of actions always have two qualities, even if they are motivated by humanitarian reasons (which I don´t believe), but the specific quality of the breach of law breeds its inherent consequences.
Let´s say it this way round – an executive that acts without a legal base or that executes illegal orders will do this not just in this specific case, but in others too. A government that doesn´t adhere to its own rules when taking decisions of considerable impact either wants to create a permanent state of emergency or isn´t capable any longer to govern. (Let´s keep silent about a parliament that is so inhibited by a „culture of welcome“ that it doesn´t even try to stir up against it).
Again, we don´t talk about content, we talk about form. It should be taken into consideration like with the Hamburg deployment of the Bundeswehr.
Now it is questionable whether there was really a humanitarian intent. Even if you ignore that the cuts in the payments to UNHCR, which still cares for most of the Syrian refugees, weren´t taken back yet; that there is no support at all for those European countries that are really overtaxed with the refugee´s transit (in a very material sense; those tiny splinters of states into which Yugoslavia was shattered can´t even finance food and shelter for so many people); there still is the fact that finance promised by the federation for housing the refugees that arrived in Germany doesn´t flow yet and that the government seems to think everything could be organised on a voluntary level. Even humanitarian actions have to be planned, and if you think how most people can be supported in the best possible way, you wouldn’t conclude that this should necessarily happen in Germany. There are good reasons why UNHCR doesn´t organise mass transports for refugees, none of them is xenophobia, but rather an efficient use of the available means and the basic thought that any refugee would prefer to live in his own country.
Besides the extralegal quality of Merkel`s decision there are attempts to cut deeply into other European countries´sovereignty. When Merkel says Austria shouldn´t construct a fence then she voices an opinion I would even share, were she an ordinary citizen. But being chancellor she has to respect the fact that it´s the decision of Austrian, not German politics. The same applies to similar comments regarding Hungary (which took in proportionally more refugees than Germany, by the way). The simple act of setting aside the Dublin convention so easily shows Merkels idea of Europe. Exactly this convention was pushed through by the German government. It would have been a simple question of respect for the sovereignty of all the countries along the refugees’ transit to coordinate a solution with them before such a decision takes place. There doesn´t seem to be any need for that for the German government; if they say “up” today and “down” tomorrow, the rest of Europe has to jump smiling. „Down“ in this case would be the sudden reactivation of the Dublin convention, which would force the refugees that Merkel invited upon neighbour countries.
The final wisdom of the European meetings was sending police units into countries like Slovenia. Sure, more than one country along the transit route is so small (and so poor) that its whole police force wouldn´t be sufficient to guard one German premier league match. But to send police units into another country is a deep cut into its sovereignty; what is sold as support is actually an attack against an independent interior policy. And the emergency that is caused by the walking multitudes is used as leverage to submit internal affairs to Berlin´s command, after economical and foreign policy have already been decided there. As Merkel is firmly convinced that everything in Europe should be decided in Berlin, she drops her comments in this regard so casually.
You don´t have to think three times who took care that the recent Portuguese elections were just a gymnastic exercise. In Europe you have to vote all over again until the result pleases Berlin, or the respective governments get wrapped into forced contracts as tightly that the only thing they can still do is call the time.
It´s always the same scheme those actions follow, in interior matters as much as towards the European neighbours – a created emergency gets used to cancel existing laws. Recently German parliament voted for a serious degradation of asylum laws; it never would have been possible with so little protest, if all the usual suspects weren´t so busy with charity activities. The next step of degradation will be met with similar silence. Because the federal government neither reacts with a real emergency planning (no staff established to deal with the matter) and until today doesn´t even let the necessary money flow that it is obliged to give states and local authorities – which mostly find themselves financially in a tight spot and don´t have any control over border regulations or the sudden decisions of Mrs. Chancellor – are completely out of the political game. This is a shift within the whole balance of power in German politics. What Merkel did has potential of a coup. A coup that is directed against the leftovers of democratic structures, in Germany itself, but even far more in Europe.
That doesn´t mean she will be successful. Meanwhile the Greek government discovered that blackmailing works in two directions and menaced to pull down 25 kilometres of the fence at its border with Turkey, if it doesn´t receive support in caring for the refugees. They are not willing at all to participate in a crime which causes new victims every day. With that remark they refer to those thousands that die crossing the sea, a crossing that is enforced by exactly the fence that was constructed after EU demands and blocks the land route. Slovenia’s prime minister said the refugee crisis might break the EU if it isn´t resolved. This is one of two possible outcomes, the other one being complete submission to Berlin’s command.
But it is for a good cause…
No, neither an undermining of the German executives obligation to follow the law nor a further reduction of our neighbour countries’ sovereignty achieves anything good. If the step to lift the Dublin Convention was the result of a political movement, it would be cancelled, not just lifted temporarily. In a modern state political change takes the form of law. If it doesn´t, if politics move away from their legal base, then the whole political process shifts from the level of bourgeois democracy towards a rule of open force. Merkel’s ideas of „let´s open the borders for everybody“ are just based upon one thing, as Mao would have said, the barrels of the guns.
On which level politics take place isn´t a trivial question. And I can´t watch it with rapture, when the Berlin republic leaves the rules of bourgeois democracy further behind from day to day. I think it spooky when the Federal Police acts against valid laws. Not, because in this case refugees benefit from it. Because they might act against it in other cases too. It makes me restless when the German parliament doesn´t demand adherence to the political rules, doesn´t control the reaction to the refugee crisis, doesn´t reclaim about the absence of an emergency staff, all in all simply keeps shut up. Because that means that this parliament is just a spineless pack that can be pulled around on a string in whichever circumstance. How would such a parliament react to an „Ermächtigungsgesetz“ (the law that gave Hitler absolute power)? Well.
In any bourgeois democracy it is the parliaments central duty to prevent encroachments of the executive- German parliament plainly overlooked this main task.
That´s what the situation looks like even before you look at the sinister game played at the sidelines – to direct all and any outrage against the refugeees. And there are many reasons for indignation, listening f.e. to the leader of the employers’ organisation suggesting to raise the age for pensions to 85 – no joke). The refugees are just a tool that is abused; plastic explosive pushed into the right form so that the explosion happens at the intended spot.
In many cases the cards that are dealt are marked. One example: One sentence of the German writer Pirincci at a manifestation in Dresden was followed by a wave of outrage in German media. He said a sentence that included the words concentration camp. The sentence was presented in press as if he had requested concentration camps for the refugees, while he actually said that the government can´t put its opponents into them, yet. DPA, the biggest German news agency, corrected itself in this regard, but no newspaper picked it up. Now there have been many awful sentences in Pirincci’s speech, as he really is an awful racist, but whoever checks the one sentence that was quoted everywhere will find out fast that it was misrepresented. That might (or should, from the media´s point of view) have the effect that all his other sentences can pass as truth. In that way what seems to be a condemnation actually directs those that doubt this judgement into acceptable lanes. We talk about a type of propaganda that includes argument and objection at the same time and aims to eliminate any thought between those two. Exactly the same happens in politics in a game with Pegida/Antipegida, when a „culture of welcome“ is promoted officially, but administrative activity promotes racist positions. It is easy to see that we are talking about promotion; there has been a lot of coverage for 20 000 people marching with Pegida, but nearly none for 250 000 marching against TTIP….
I don´t think those new organisations, AfD or Pegida, shall turn into a new fascist mass movement. They are just hedges to lead back to the main stream. The really dangerous steps away from bourgeois democracy take place at the highest levels, by installation of a permanent emergency, by weakening the legal obligations as Merkel did.
You should remember that the economy isn´t as stable as it seems and the next big blow of this crisis already throws its shadows, and it won´t be containable by begging our neighbours as the last one. ZEIT recently published an article that can be read as a necrologue for Deutsche Bank, and Deutschlandfunk published a text in the same tone. Some weeks ago Zero Hedge commented the breakdown of Deutsche Bank’s profits with its usual sarcasm, Lehmann Brothers sounded just like that three months before they collapsed.
What if this prediction comes true? How would the German citizens react towards another round of „saving the banks“ or towards radical social cuts and a massive economic downturn? After they have been told for years that everything is o.k. with the banks? When they discover that it was a lie and the situation in Germany moves towards a misery that already can be seen in Greece, Spain, Portugal etc.? If it isn´t just TTIP that proves that the interests of banks and corporations alone dictate politics, but another bailing-in of the countries budget for the welfare of the banks? If it gets proven that all that stuff lying around in Germany´s „bad banks“ isn´t worth the paper it´s printed on?
That could, that should raise an enormous outrage.
In that case it comes in handy that the emergency has already been prepared and that quite different matters draw attention far from these events (and, for sure, there is a time limit for grabbing complete control over Europe too – the chance is gone, if Germany´s economic power gets damaged). It would be extremely useful to create chaos in handling the refugees; that´s the only way to ensure that all parts of a possible enmity are kept occupied. German left jumped into charity activities with such fervor that it´s out of the game for at least six months. If Deutsche Bank or something else broke down during this phase it is doubtful whether you could find anybody who at least spreads a leaflet about it. You can´t even find any serious political movement against German politics regarding Syria, though the situation would rather improve tomorrow, if all the energy that is wasted on the „culture of welcome“ was directed against it, to eliminate the reasons of flight at least that far. So Steinmeier was quite at ease when he commented at the Vienna talks, that it was not yet clear how Assad was going to disappear.
By the way, the media coverage of these talks where highly revealing; one sentence probably out of a news agency text was used by several papers: „The final declaration that was published after eight hours of talks states, due to Iranian and Russian pressure, that the Syrian people – and not eventual western interests – shall decide about the country´s future.“
A nice sentence, and so revealing. Obviously neither the western representatives in these talks considered it normal that the Syrian people should decide about Syria’s future, nor the journalists who copied this sentence into their texts (without stomach cramps). Normal is simply that „ Western interests“ decide. Or, als Portugal´s president Cavaco Silva said, when he rejected the formation of a government of the left: „As part of my constitutional rights it is my duty to do everything not to send wrong signals to financial institutions, investors and markets.“
True, compared to this noble duty it is just a pittance to bother about democracy.