Provisions for protection against COVID-19 in the sights of political and economic objectives

The renewed polarisation provokes thoughtfulness

by Karl-Jürgen Müller

“We notice that the debate on the pandemic is more and more degenerating into political polarisation; this poses a serious problem. Here, once more, one may well ask: cui bono?”

Right at the outset in his book “Krieg. Durch fremde Hände” (War. By others’ hands), Russian politician and writer of books Nikolai Starikov asks the question: “What is at the core of world politics?” (Translation of all quotes by Current Concerns). Immediately he also gives an answer: “The control over resources; a control that one would like to exercise oneself and prevent one’s opponent from exercising. At all times, in all forms of society, on all continents and within [all] geographical borders, this is all that matters. This is what politicians fight for, this is what diplomats and the military, engineers and intelligence agents work for.” Further down he elucidates: “The competition between states and blocs of states –that is the true core of world politics. The purpose of the actions of top politicians is to dominate the planet by controlling resources and expanding their sphere of influence to the maximum. The struggle for securing the top position and for the expansion of influence takes place between states and blocs of states in all spheres of existence. Economy, culture, military, ideology – all these are fields in which every victory immediately leads to an advantage in this sweeping rat race.“ And he says once again on page 61 of the book: „The struggle between states and civilisations is [the] meaning of history. All human history is about the desire of the one to defeat the other.”

Is political life nothing but a power struggle?

Nikolai Starikov is an author who writes things that others only think. Do they not? Do not many people think that life as a whole, but above all political life, is a constant power struggle, in which it is always a question of being on top or down below, about victory or defeat? All politicians’ speeches about law and humanity, about human dignity and equality are basically just one of the many ways they use for concealing their true intentions – the pursuit of resources, which are basically defined as scarce, and the power needed to secure ownership.
It is therefore hardly surprising that, even in times of corona, which have now been ongoing for a few months, there are people who do not see that anything is different, who treat all statements of “powerful people” with the greatest mistrust, and who want to prove with all their arts of argumentation that these “powerful people” are not even this time concerned with the protection of health and life, but with quite different aims: Power expansion of the party oligarchy, disenfranchisement of the citizens, impoverishment of the masses, redistribution from bottom to top, from the middle class to the big corporations, a fascist dictatorship to secure the rule of finance capital etc., etc., etc.,...

Corona pandemic under the
wheel of political polarisation?

Six weeks ago, when practically all the countries of the world – not least because of the experiences made by China – were gradually adopting their far-reaching measures to contain the corona pandemic, such voices carried little weight. The alarming images and reports from Wuhan, Bergamo, Madrid and New York, for example, were a source of great consternation. Politicians declared protecting health and life to be a priority, and this corresponded to a deep inner need of almost all people.
However, since economic interests have been more strongly affected, the voices painting an economic collapse on the wall have gained significantly in weight and understandable concerns from the general public have become louder, the government measures taken to date to contain the corona pandemic have also come under the wheel of political polarisation.
In fact, there are increasing voices that expressly welcome the politicisation and polarisation of the issue. “Now actions must become political again“ was the headline of the “Neue Zürcher Zeitung“ on 24 April 2020, for example.
Certainly it is right to constantly review the measures taken to date to contain the corona pandemic and to readjust them again and again, and that is what those responsible are doing, unless the impression given is deceptive. For example, on 29 April and 30 April, the Federal Council made a new readjustment for Switzerland, and so did the Federal Government and the heads of state governments in Germany. But a number of “critics” seem to want more. And it seems that there is once again an alliance of influential economic interests and of the circles mentioned above, both of whom are fundamentally “critical” of our states. So it is not a question of left or right. As an alliance, these forces have a politically significant weight. You can see it in Switzerland, Austria and also in Germany.

What concept of man?

Here it must now be noted that the worldview and the image of man of the above quoted Nikolaj Starikov can also lead astray. On the surface, his theses seem to be correct, for the history of state power politics, especially in foreign policy, can be viewed in this light. This needs no further explanation. But on closer inspection they are not correct after all, because they exclude the social nature of man, of every human being. How thin is the ice of one’s own well-being if it does not also include the general well-being, the bonum commune? Where does a policy lead that follows Starikov’s theses alone? He calls upon his own country, Russia to “enter the international political arena with a sober mind” in an inevitable fight (against the USA and its allies) which he regards as inevitable. To what end? “To prevail.” (Emphasis by the editors) The spiral of violence and counter-violence, of ever new wars, ever new human catastrophes, will certainly not be able to be ended like this. Theses like Starikov’s are the reflection of a problem of mankind. But does mankind wants to stop there for all eternity?
Even 75 years after the end of the Second World War our world is still far away from being a peaceful world. So there are reasons enough to think about all this.
The individual psychologist Alfred Adler recognised the problem 100 years ago and adressed it1; in theory and practice he also developed solutions by giving priority to prevention, early on, in the growing up of the human being – and these findings apply until today, even though they still receive too little attention.
In addition: A look at the history of mankind shows that – instead of all still highly problematic points and all setbacks – real progress has been achieved in the political conditions: in the general legal development, in the course of constitutional development of states and, through international law, also in international relations.

Perhaps this time the chancellor is right

Also the German Chancellor Angela Merkel in her government statement on the Corona-Pandemic before the German Bundestag on April 23rd said things that you should not shrugg of straightaway as an expression of power politics.
A week earlier, the heads of government of the federal states together with the Chancellor took decisions to loosen the existing „Shutdown“ („Lockdown“).The Chancellor has now told the Bundestag: „I go along with the resolutions, the federal and state governments decided on Wednesday last week with full conviction. But their implementation since then has given me cause for concern. It seems very brisk in parts, not to say too brisk. [...] Let us not squander what we have achieved and risk a setback! It would be a pity if we were punished by hasty hope in the end. Let us all remain wise and cautious on the way to the next phase of the pandemic. This is a long haul, and we must not run out of vigor and air too soon.“ (Translation Current Concerns)
It is understandable that most people would like to see the restrictions associated with measures against the corona pandemic lifted. It is also true that it must be possible to verify the sense and appropriateness of every restriction in a comprehensible manner - from the point of view of protecting health and life, but also in a broader sense, for example legally. It is also correct and important to correct when civil liberties have been disproportionately restricted.
But can that justify calling into question the previous measures for the containment of the corona pandemic so radically, how this is partly done?

A breach of law and of the constitution is not allowed

In this context, it is important to emphasise that all measures to combat the corona pandemic must be within the law. Therefore, the use of the term “state of exception” in the context of the Corona pandemic is misleading ... and moreover, it leads in a completely wrong direction when associated with the probably best-known theoretician of the concept of state of exception, the German expert for constitutional law and temporary supporter of the National Socialists Carl Schmitt. The corona pandemic is not a “state of exception” in the sense of a situation beyond the constitutional order. Constitutions of free democratic constitutional states are not just created for “fair-weather”. They should also apply to exceptional situations. Breaches of the constitution by the state and its organs are not acceptable even in such an exceptional situation. This is a challenge for every country concerned.
Article 2, paragraph 2 of the German constitution formulates the “right to life and physical integrity” to be valid for everyone living in Germany. This is the direct result of the concept of the inviolability of human dignity and its worthiness of protection and furthermore, of the commitment to inalienable human rights; for life is fundamental if we want to exercise human rights. Protection of health and life has constitutional status.

What does freedom mean?

Article 2, paragraph 1 of the German constitution also recognises the “right to free development of his personality” for everyone living in Germany. This does not mean, however, that everyone can do what he or she wants. The Federal Constitutional Court pointed out on a very early stage that this right is to be understood within the framework of the social nature of the human being. Accordingly, the same sentence that formulates this fundamental right continues as follows: “...insofar as he does not violate the rights of others or offend against the constitutional order or the moral law”.
All rights and freedoms are subject to restrictions, including those rights that are now temporarily restricted by governmental measures to contain the corona pandemic. However, it is also true that “the substance of a fundamental right must never be compromised”.
Since the implementation of measures to contain the corona epidemic in Germany, which restrict a number of fundamental rights, there has been a controversy on the constitutionality of the measures adopted.2 In detail, the challenging issues must be thoroughly discussed by jurisprudence – if possible in such a way that these discussions are understandable to all citizens – and judged by the competent courts. Final rulings by the Federal Constitutional Court on these issues have not been issued, yet. The court has rejected previous applications for interim measures for the most part3, two applications concerning freedom of association (demonstrations and church services) have so far been granted (as of 29 April 2020).

The primacy of law also applies to the international community

The primacy of law also applies to the international community. Here, it is important to respect existing international law, as formulated above all in the Charter of the United Nations and in the two binding International Covenants on Civil and Political Rights and on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. The right of peoples to self-determination and the principle of non-interference in the internal affairs of a state also applies in times of the corona pandemic. The WHO cannot decree a single concept to all states and to all peoples. Concepts suitable for free democratic social welfare state based on the constitutional rule of law may not be equally suitable for all states. What is appropriate must be decided on the spot, and it is to be hoped that the peoples will not be bothered with top-down programmes, but that governments, parliaments and peoples together seek viable ways forward.

But we as citizens …

But we as citizens of countries like Switzerland, Austria or Germany are also called upon to examine ourselves. How seriously do we still take the dangers posed by the corona virus? Do we strictly comply with basic protective regulations such as distance rules and hygiene recommendations? …
But we may ask ourselves further questions. Are there patterns of thinking and behaviour in our own lives that have contributed to the worldwide spread of the virus? Does it really make sense to keep on living as we did before the pandemic? …
We notice that the debate on the pandemic is more and more degenerating into political polarisation; this poses a serious problem. Here, once more, one may well ask: cui bono?    •

1  cf. “Corona – Ethics, reason ... and psychology”; in: Current Concerns No. 7 from 13 April 2020, p. 13
2  Anyone who enters the terms “German constitution” and “Corona” into a search engine can get an idea of this controversy.
3  A press release of the Federal Constitutional Court of 8 April 2020 (“Unsuccessful emergency applications in connection with the COVID-19 pandemic”, press release No. 23/2020) on a court decision from 7 April 2020 states: The consequences of the state protective measures are “serious, but not unacceptable to the extent required. It does not appear unbearable to temporarily postpone them [the civil liberties claimed] in order to allow the greatest possible protection of life and health, which the state is in principle obliged to do under the constitution. Compared with the dangers to life and limb, the restrictions on personal freedom [subject to a time limit] are less severe”. (Translation Current Concerns)


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