FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Blue Sky and Pie in Hannover

I’ll begin with a happy report. The Hamburg group of “Fighters and Friends of the Spanish Republic 1936-1939” had its annual get-together in late May, again honoring those bravest of the brave men women who risked and often lost their lives fighting for democracy in Spain. Only a handful survive, none at all in the USA, Germany or Austria, but a video greeting from Gert Hoffmann in Vienna, who came to these meetings until shortly before his death, was especially moving.

A boat trip around the harbor and a visit to a seaman’s club hidden in the amazing labyrinth of piers and channels in the giant port facilities, with a fine worker’s choir and militant songs, offered chances for German and foreign participants to exchange ideas on past and present. There was a fascinating mix of accents of people from Wales, Scotland, Ireland, various regions of England and the USA and that of the good German translator. A group of Danes, a Dutch fellow, a Frenchman and two Russian women were also there. Most were children of volunteers in Spain, which made a ceremony at three monuments especially moving. One monstrous structure built by the Nazis in 1936 showed soldiers marching off to battle in World War I with the slogan ”Even if we die Germany must live”. All  attempts to get rid of it were in vain, but now, next to it, a smaller, modern structure honors men the Nazis executed because they refused to join in the killing and deserted. Next to it a large statue recalls the Nazi burning of the books in 1933 and the horrors that followed, up to the burning of Hamburg in 1943. Death prevented its great, defiantly leftist sculptor from Austria, Alfred Hrdlicka, from finishing it. For now a large banner concealed part of the Nazi monument and listed the names and ages of 25 Hamburg volunteers –  and where they had died in Spain.

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the founding of the International Brigades to help the Spanish people fight Franco’s fascist putsch. This is all too relevant today, with far-right movements gaining strength or control from Hungary, Austria and Poland to Honduras and Brazil while President Erdogan of Turkey moves ahead, crushing all opposition and attacking the Kurdish people in his own country and in war-torn Syria. Yet he still enjoys at least some mutual understanding with Angela Merkel and her government, who seem willing to make any compromise if it keeps refugees from the dangerous flight to Europe – and them from worse poll percentage losses. As in Spain, countries proudly calling themselves democracies may complain, but in the end choose a Franco, a Pinochet or an Erdogan over true representatives of the people.

Most alarming, I think, since Germany is the strongest, most central country in Europe, is the strength of its far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD), now getting 10 to 15% in the polls and i certain to win its first delegates to Berlin’s parliament in September and the German Bundestag in 2017.

Its lack of any public program except hating Muslims (and less publicly supporting gains for the wealthy at the cost of everyone else) hit a snag last week; in an interview, Vice-Chair Alexander Gauland, referring to dark-skinned Jérome Boateng, one of Germany’s most popular soccer-players, said: “People like him as a soccer player. But they don’t want a Boateng as neighbor.” What a blunder! The team (in a TV ad) and countless fans slammed Gauland who then retreated, mumbling that he had not known that Boateng, born in Berlin, with a German mother and a father from Ghana, was “both a German and a Christian”. “And I don’t follow soccer much”, Gauland stuttered. Countless fans twittered, many asking: “And what if he weren’t Christian or not born in Germany?” One of the less caustic comments was: “I know I wouldn’t want Gauland as a neighbor!”

But was it perhaps no real blunder but a bid for the haters’ votes? The AfD danger was one of three main themes at the party congress of DIE LINKE (Left party) in Magdeburg on May 28th-29th.  One, “For democracy and solidarity”, a response to the growing danger from the right, aimed at appealing to and hopefully recapturing protest voters whose insecurity and fears for the future often led them to reject every “establishment party”, including, for many of them, DIE LINKE as well. Some party candidates had even used slogans calling for the same policies as before, but carried out better. Such slogans, seeking respectability and acceptance, could hardly attract protest voters – and had indeed failed miserably to do so!

The second theme, therefore, was an offensive of and for working people, with or without regular, precarious or threatened jobs or faced with poverty-level pensions and higher costs for rent and  prescriptions. A study released by the government after an  inquiry by  a LINKE delegate showed that more than  15 percent of German children are hit by poverty; one and a half million have parents – or commonly a single parent – on the German equivalent of  welfare. As co-chair Bernd Riexinger stressed, the party must urgently strengthen its weak ties with the union movement, most of whose leaders are traditionally tied to the Social Democratic Party, even though it has repeatedly betrayed them with half-measures, compromises and worse, currently as coalition partner of Merkel’s right wing Christian Democrats and the even more conservative Christian Social Union in Bavaria.

Thirdly, the party must stress its opposition to the militarization of German foreign policy – now rationalized as a “war against terror” – and explain to voters how German leaders have been almost as guilty as those in  London, Paris and above all Washington in engaging in wrong battles while arming the worst offenders. The billions Germany’s Defense Department is demanding for ever more modern weapons and more regiments, some of them now maneuvering threateningly not far from St. Petersburg, almost exactly 75 years after German armies attacked and razed untold numbers of homes and factories, leading to the genocidal death of some 27 million Soviet people, mostly civilians, should rather be spent to helping and housing the million new arrivals, caused by new wars, and also those of German background who require affordable housing, education and utilities. Many delegates demanded that the dangerous demonization of Putin and Russia must be sharply opposed.

As usual DIE LINKE had faced internal disputes in recent months. The co-chair of its Bundestag caucus and leading theoretician, Sahra Wagenknecht, had spoken of limits to Germany’s ability to integrate new waves of immigrants. The idea was rejected by most of the party and got her an over-reaction or provocation when a man slipped up and smacked a chocolate pie in her face. She quickly recovered, changed clothes and gave another of her fiery, militant speeches. All agreed on expressing solidarity with striking workers in  France, those repressed in Egypt and Turkey and the Kurdish Rojava region in northern Syria, governed and defended equally by women and men. It was decided to join a “Blockupy” protest rally on September 2nd in Berlin and a  demonstration against racism the next day.

A constant dispute – should DIE LINKE join coalitions with the Social Democrats and Greens in a future federal government – stayed unresolved but largely irrelevant. Even together the three would not achieve a 50% majority. But the question remains on the state level, especially in Berlin in September.

More articles by:

Victor Grossman writes the Berlin Bulletin, which you can subscribe to for free by sending an email to: wechsler_grossman@yahoo.de.

April 19, 2018
Ramzy Baroud
Media Cover-up: Shielding Israel is a Matter of Policy
Vijay Prashad
Undermining Brazilian Democracy: the Curious Saga of Lula
Steve Fraser
Class Dismissed: Class Conflict in Red State America
John W. Whitehead
Crimes of a Monster: Your Tax Dollars at Work
Kenn Orphan
Whistling Past the Graveyard
Karl Grossman TJ Coles
Opening Pandora’s Box: Karl Grossman on Trump and the Weaponization of Space
Colin Todhunter
Behind Theresa May’s ‘Humanitarian Hysterics’: The Ideology of Empire and Conquest
Jesse Jackson
Syrian Strikes is One More step Toward a Lawless Presidency
Michael Welton
Confronting Militarism is Early Twentieth Century Canada: the Woman’s International League for Peace and Freedom
Alycee Lane
On David S. Buckel and Setting Ourselves on Fire
Jennifer Matsui
Our Overlords Reveal Their Top ‘To Do’s: Are YOU Next On Their Kill List?
George Ochenski
Jive Talkin’: On the Campaign Trail With Montana Republicans
Kary Love
Is It Time for A Nice, “Little” Nuclear War?
April 18, 2018
Alan Nasser
Could Student Loans Lead to Debt Prison? The Handwriting on the Wall
Susan Roberts
Uses for the Poor
Alvaro Huerta
I Am Not Your “Wetback”
Jonah Raskin
Napa County, California: the Clash of Oligarchy & Democracy
Robert Hunziker
America’s Dystopian Future
Geoffrey McDonald
“America First!” as Economic War
Jonathan Cook
Robert Fisk’s Douma Report Rips Away Excuses for Air Strike on Syria
Jeff Berg
WW III This Ain’t
Binoy Kampmark
Macron’s Syria Game
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
Katie Fite
Chaos in Urban Canyons – Air Force Efforts to Carve a Civilian Population War Game Range across Southern Idaho
Robby Sherwin
Facebook: This Is Where I Leave You
April 17, 2018
Paul Street
Eight Takeaways on Boss Tweet’s Latest Syrian Missile Spasm
Robert Fisk
The Search for the Truth in Douma
Eric Mann
The Historic 1968 Struggle Against Columbia University
Roy Eidelson
The 1%’s Mind Games: Psychology Gone Bad
John Steppling
The Sleep of Civilization
Patrick Cockburn
Syria Bombing Reveals Weakness of Theresa May
Dave Lindorff
No Indication in the US That the Country is at War Again
W. T. Whitney
Colombia and Cuba:  a Tale of Two Countries
Dean Baker
Why Isn’t the Median Wage for Black Workers Rising?
Linn Washington Jr.
Philadelphia’s Top Cop Defends Indefensible Prejudice in Starbucks Arrest Incident
C. L. Cook
Man in the Glass
Kary Love
“The Mob Boss Orders a Hit and a Pardon”
Lawrence Wittner
Which Nations Are the Happiest―and Why
Dr. Hakim
Where on Earth is the Just Economy that Works for All, Including Afghan Children?
April 16, 2018
Dave Lindorff
President Trump’s War Crime is Worse than the One He Accuses Assad of
Ron Jacobs
War is Just F**kin’ Wrong
John Laforge
Nuclear Keeps on Polluting, Long After Shutdown
Norman Solomon
Missile Attack on Syria Is a Salute to “Russiagate” Enthusiasts, Whether They Like It or Not
Uri Avnery
Eyeless in Gaza   
Barbara Nimri Aziz
Iraq Then, Syria Now
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail