The electoral success of Alternative für Deutschland (1) has been presented in the French media as a breach of German exemplarity – embodied for the last twelve years in the placid countenance of Chancellor Merkel. A return of the Nazis to the Bundestag? Rubbish.
The AfD has marginalized the Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschland on the extreme Right. The xenophobic populist current has readily profited from the massive influx of migrants, widespread poverty and a racism that characterizes a non-negligible proportion of the German population. With its parliamentary representation little cohesive, the AfD will play the bogeyman which will bring out the good conscience of the governing class.
The danger of Germany is not the rebirth of Nazism but that of the Chancellor herself. Angela Merkel retains control of the situation even if the political game is a little more complicated by virtue of the weakening of the Social Democrats, which obliges her to negotiate with the liberals [the Free Democratic Party](2) and the Greens. However, nobody is deceived. With Wolfgang Schäuble until now, with a liberal Finance Minister to be installed, Germany will remain the dominant power in Western Europe and will continue to impose on the rest its so-called ‘model’.
Since 1991, successive French governments have pushed the inane imagery of the ‘Franco-German couple’, though they have been content to be had and to be reduced to vassalage by Berlin, and though they have consigned the European Union to become a ‘German production platform’ – to use the expression of economist Olivier Passet.(3) Passet recently noted that Germany has more than one quarter of the EU’s industry and 37% of the euro zone’s industry. This power has been acquired courtesy of the euro and the colonization of Central and Eastern Europe – countries assigned to sub-contracting status and which assure to Germany an effective weight of 40% in the industry of the EU.
Thanks to its economic domination, Germany imposes a model resolutely antisocial. The ‘exemplary’ Germany – characterized by its export orientation, its budget surplus, its low unemployment rate, its low indebtedness (a champion of the non-payment of its debts in the 20th Century) – is a country where [since 2005 under Merkel] the percentage of the population under the poverty threshold has grown by 54% in ten years, where the working poor has doubled in number in ten years, where the number of workers doing two jobs has increased by 80% in twelve years, and where the percentage of retirees under the poverty threshold has increased by 30% in ten years [Eurostat figures].
In France, the pro-Germany clan doesn’t want to see or couldn’t care less about the social regression in Germany. It wants to imitate Germany’s commercial success without understanding its specific conditions – monetary and neo-colonial – and without seeing that the German governing class wants above all to insist that German national interests prevail. For Berlin, the EU is a means. For the Parisienne caste, ‘Europe’ is an end to which it comes to sacrifice Alstom and for which it will sacrifice more and more of the middle and popular classes on the altar of ultraliberal ‘reforms’.
Emmanuel Macron believes in this ‘Europe’ that he wants to reforge in alienating our national sovereignty within a European sovereignty.(4) At Athens, at Paris, at Tallinn, he has delivered carefully written speeches, rich in blandishments intended to make us neglect the exchange: domestic reforms in the supposedly German mold to accompany the reform of the euro zone.(5) Angela Merkel has politely responded that the idea was interesting but the liberals [Free Democrats] have insisted that Germany could not finance the debts of the South. The other propositions of the French President are, for the most part, rejected by our other partners.
It’s a flop. After the Tallinn summit [29 September], the Élysée has stopped referring to the French ‘plan’. It resigns itself to waiting for the formation of a new German government as it had waited for the outcome of the German elections. Committed Germanophiles, Emmanuel Macron and Prime Minister Edouard Philippe will continue to collaborate with Germany, but on terms dictated by the Chancellor and her Finance Minister. But the former will continue to speak the same language at summit meetings as if the comedies of the moribund Union must be perpetuated without end.
Translated by Evan Jones
(1) The AfD won 94 seats, of a total of 709, in the 24 September elections for the Bundestag, its first representation at the federal level.
(2) The term ‘liberal’ has a different meaning to the conventional American usage. It refers to the economic prerogatives of capital and has no ‘progressive’ connotations.
(3) Olivier Passet, ‘Une Europe vassalisée sous plateforme allemande’, Xerfi Canal, 18 September 2017.
(4)There was a representative kerfuffle in early October when the France Insoumise Deputies led by Jean-Luc Mélenchon tabled an amendment (supported by the Front National) to remove the EU flag (as a divisive symbol) from the National Assembly, where it has paired with the French flag for the last ten years. Mélenchon referred to the flag’s inappropriate presence when the Assembly first met on 27 June. Macron instead wants to quickly sign an agreement that ensures that it cannot be removed from public buildings.
(5) President Macron is pushing for closer European coordination (regarding defense, immigration, banking oversight, tax policies for the IT giants) and closer European integration. On the latter, he wants a sizeable eurozone budget – not least to manage economic instability – and an accompanying Finance Minister. Macron has also argued for a separate fund that can finance public investment. A eurozone budget and a discretionary European fund at this stage have no chance of being accorded a favorable reception. In any case, any institutional changes would remain under German control and the relation of a eurozone budget with the 1992 austerity-necklace Maastricht Agreement has not been raised. Apparently, Pierre Moscovici has already put his hand up for the non-existent job. Mosco, Hollande’s Finance Minister 2012-14 and subsequently European Commissioner for Economic and Financial Affairs, is the ‘ideal’ candidate. Early in life a Trotskyist, he is representative of the Parti Socialiste nomenklatura who took the Parti Socialiste from being in effective command of all levels of the governmental apparatus in mid-2012 (Halimi, Counterpunch, 4 April 2017) to a rump Party five years later. It is also rather anomalous, indeed bizarre, that Macron should advance a European ‘pump priming’ facility when his domestic agenda entails the extinguishing of any positive public initiative whatsoever, including the dismantling of any institution capable of fostering it, in the supposed regeneration of the French economy.