Political polarisation – getting ready for war?

by Karl-Jürgen Müller

“The German disease to death” is the title of the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung” lead article by editor in chief Eric Gujer, published on 15 February 2020. Guyer’s diagnosis refers to the fact that all centre parties suffer from this disease, a kind of consumptiveness characterised by programmatic arbitrariness and departure from all former essential programmatic principles. He writes for instance: “The Christian Democrats (CDU) stand for everything as well as for the opposite.” And about the Alliance 90/The Greens (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen): “The Greens manage […] the feat to include  anti-Americanism and NATO in one single sentence”. The readers would now expect Gujer to recommend the parties to try and regain a truthful programmatic profile based on their former ethical principles. However, this is not what Gujer does. Instead he demands that the Chancellor Angela Merkel should ask for a vote of confidence in Parliament thus opening the way for new elections. For what reason the situation might improve after new elections, he does not say.

New elections do not guarantee improvement

At this point we may remind the reader of the German history. Heinrich Brüning, centre politician of the Weimar Republic and Reich Chancellor between 1930 and 1932 may have made many mistakes. His deflation policy was intended to bring the end of the Reparations, however, it primarily led to the impoverishment of major parts of the population.  Brüning was no democrat, he did not head a government composed by the majority of parliament’s party factions, instead he frankly based his policies mainly on emergency decrees by the President of the Reich. Unemployment figures soared during his reign and the social cohesion detoriated, NSDAP (German National Socialist Workers Party) and KPD (German Communist Party) had gained significant votes in the Empire Federal Elections of September 1932, there were  street fights between SA  and the brigades of SPD (Social Democrats) and KPD on a daily basis. However, Brüning was not a NAZI and in April 1932 he banned the SA. As a consequence the demands to step down became more frequent. We know what came next: NSDAP and KPD won the absolute majority of mandates in the Reichstag, after Brüning’s demission in the new elections in July 1932. Franz von Papen, Brüning’s successor prepared the way for the dictatorship with many small steps. (nihilation of the SA ban, coup against the government composed of SPD and centre (Zentrum) in Prussia, etc.) His successor, Kurt von Schleicher, installed after only few months, was able to govern only a few weeks, on 30 January 1933 followed Reich Chancellor  Adolf Hiter.
New elections after an incompetent government are no guarantee for an improvement by the government that follows. This is true particularly if a nation‘s political culture has become unbalanced and if there are no candidates or parties that could bring the hoped for improvement.

No repetition of history, however …

Let’s assume that a simple repetition of history is not planned nor possible. Nevertheless the question rises why and to what aim Germany has not come to political rest for quite some time now although the German population is doing well, at least materially in comparison to other European countries and the present situation cannot be equalled with the final stage of the Weimar Republic. Why does Germany sometimes seem a madhouse and why are there ever and again political stagings which confirm this impression? Why is there such a great polarisation of political decisions and why do so many media, even the alternative ones tone in at high volume?

Polarisation – no conducive contribution to political culture …

In this article I propose the thesis that those who promote the political polarisation in Germany – and there are such on all sides of the “fronts” – do not contribute to the advancement of Germany’s political culture that is essential for a liberal democracy but that they stamp out the very rudiments that still exist. The indignant and enraged German citizen, “Wutbürger” is no alternative to “the fight against right” that is no longer motivated by the constitution but merely by power politics. It actually leads to the removal of ever more political realms from the European states’ authority of decision, states that are only pro forma sovereign.
We must expect that rudeness is on the rise and that humaneness diminishes. Adolf Hitler had his “Hitlerjugend”  set on at one another and had them bludgeon each other. It was about drilling them to practice aggression and violence, about extinguishing the immune defense again war and destruction. The plan was to promote the massification of human beings...

… and maybe the readiness for war

There are many indications that it is all about making the Germans ready for war again. Listening to the speeches on this year’s Security Conference in Munich one noted that that again the NATO states’ course was set towards confrontation with Russia and and China and not at all towards détente.1 
The fact that the NATO states again displayed their chaotic political relations among each other at the event, cannot detract the attention from this fact. All NATO states advocated arms build-ups – and so did Germany.2 and France and they fuelled the enemy stereotypes against Russia and China. The controversial discussion about the future contribution of EU-Europe to the war preparations must not deceive us.
The main conference subject  as well as the one hundred pages analysis that was published even before the conference, render it blatantly obvious, what nightmare scenario motivates the  European NATO-states:  “Westlessness”3. All NATO states are willing to fight it. A new Cold War, or a Hot War as well? There is ever more intense rehearsing, very close to the Russian Western border (see box) and against China in the sees of the Pacific and Indian Ocean. Nobody would care, in case the NATO main basis on the European continent, which is Germany, would deny participation.

“We are witnessing barbarisation of international relations which degrades human habitat.“

Sergej Lawrow, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Russian Federation, at the Munich Security Conference, on 15 February 2020

The Germans do not want any war! But this shall no longer count

Last not least in order to conjure up that danger, the US-American PEW Institute rang the alarm bells in early February of this year4: NATO approval is plummeting. 21,000 Citizens of 16 NATO states as well as of Russia, Sweden and Ukraine, had been asked their opinion about NATO. Whereas 73% of the interviewed Germans judged the NATO positively in 2007, only 57% of them did so in 2019. More alarming even for the US-American researchers was the fact that only 34% of the Germans were willing to send German soldiers to the front in case of war with Russia – that is the lowest percentage among all NATO member states. The Germans were also asked with whom they would wish a closer cooperation in conflict, with the USA or with Russia – Only 39 % favoured  the USA, however, already 25% favoured Russia.

1   The speeches by the numerous US politicians from both big parties in Munich were denoting the trend, whereas the speeches of the Russian and Chinese ministers of the exterior denoted a real contrast: They pointed to the world tensions and they advocated a multilateral cooperation of all states on the basis of UN Charter and international law.
2  Hereto fit the obvious signals for a future black-and-green or green-and-black German government sent by the CDUminister president of North Rhine-Westfalia Armin Laschet who went on the stage together with the Green party president Annalena Baerbock. Laschet is candidate for the party presidency of CDU and CSU and future chancellor. The Greens who in their beginning were considered part of the peace movement, gave up their peace policy since Germany’s participation in the NATO war of aggression against Yugoslavia in 1999, which was particularly pushed by the then minister of the exterior Joschka Fischer and since then important forces in the party have ever more oriented themselves towards the neo-conservative trotzkyist hostility against Russia. Today the Green politicians are the top instigators against Russia and China as bogeymen. It raises severe concern when we include the extended meeting of Frau Baerbok and another president of the Greens Robert Habeck with the French President Emmanuel Macron into our considerations – following Macron’s invitation. The Munich speech of the German Federal President Frank-Walter Steinmeier, however, exhibited once again the “eternal dilemma” of the German Social Democrats: On the one hand they take part in the Russia-bashing, on the other hand there are remainders of the détente-political considerations from the sixties and the seventies to be detected.
3  Find the complete study under https://securityconference.org/assets/user_upload/MunichSecurityReport2020.pdf
4  Find a report on the study as well as the pdf version under www.pewresearch.org/global/2020/02/09/nato-seen-favorably-across-member-states/    from 9 February 2020

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