Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
DOUBLE YOUR DONATION!
We don’t run corporate ads. We don’t shake our readers down for money every month or every quarter like some other sites out there. We provide our site for free to all, but the bandwidth we pay to do so doesn’t come cheap. A generous donor is matching all donations of $100 or more! So please donate now to double your punch!
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Dangers and Divisions

In these weeks the world seems like a tightrope walker, teetering above Niagara Falls or, worse yet, the fiery crater of the Kilauea volcano.

A Donald-Bibi drama is being staged; each is playing his part on cue. Only days after Netanyahu’s press conference attack on Iran,  Trump tore up the US copy of the Iran nuclear agreement, only hours after that Israel launched its heaviest missile strike in Syria since 1973, with a reported 28 warplanes hitting Iranian sites south, north and east of Damascus, including a munition warehouse at the capital’s international airport.

Netanyahu called this a reprisal for Iranian military attacks against Israeli positions on the Golan Heights a day earlier: “Four rockets were intercepted by the Israeli aerial defense system, while 16 others fell short of their targets. No injuries or damage reported.”

Some observers noted that Israel has frequently been firing away inside Syria in recent months, and that international law and UN decisions view the Golan Heights as part of Syria, though occupied by Israel since 1967. But regardless of any such niceties, Netanyahu warned, “I repeat: Whoever hits us, we will hit back sevenfold. And whoever prepares to strike at us, we will act to strike at them beforehand. This is what we have done, and this is what we will continue to do.”

The danger of direct confrontation between two major world powers in Syria intensified. Both control thousands of atomic weapons, mostly with very thin triggers. The Middle East expert of the International Crisis Group in Brussels, Heiko Wimmen, said: “We are getting closer to the brink.” With the Donald-Bibi love-knot holding tight, both are hunting for chances to hoist war banners, evoke patriotic unity and thus keep their very shaky thrones. And now the Gaza shootings –and the Jerusalem embassy provocation! My thoughts return involuntarily to Kilauea – and Hiroshima.

What about Germany, the central pillar of an also shaky but still very important European Union? It can play a crucial role in this balancing act above the crater. Since its creation after 1945 it has always been a faithful associate – some say a vassal – of US big business interests; massive trading with entwined investment and military partnership have never been questioned. Big German auto-makers established themselves in the USA, most happily in right-to-work southern states with no union interference; the war criminal BASF firm continues to spread chemicals along the Gulf Coast, while Aldi and Lidl have spread their rivalry to the USA while Amazon is pushing out retailers and exploiting employees in Germany (and Poland) as energetically as McDonalds and Burger King have been doing for years. The Deutsche Bank is busy as ever on both sides of the Atlantic.

Powerful interests support lasting “trans-Atlantic ties” while Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen keeps plugging her campaign to meet Trump-NATO demands for soaring military spending. The German Bundeswehr is never modern enough for her, its firepower within Germany, Europe (at Russian borders) and in glory fields from Mali or Niger to Afghanistan and Syria never suffices for what she calls German “responsibility” as a world power. Barely hidden behind her snappy appeals for tanks, planes or drones are the grasping, gauntleted fists of Raytheon and Lockheed, Rheinmetall and Thyssen-Krupp. Syria and Iraq are largely ruined but the plains, mountains and cities of Iran beckon more temptingly than ever after the breach of the Iran treaty and Sheldon Adelson, the multibillionaire casino mogul of the Vegas Strip, Singapore and Macao and a power behind both Donald and Bibi, has been opposing treaties with Iran for years. In October 2013 he said “What are we gonna negotiate about?” and urged an atomic explosion on some desert in Iran: “Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran… So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.”

But in Germany other forces have been re-investing in Iran and yearn to normalize trade with Russia. Airbus planes for Tehran airlines, chemicals, machines, fruits and vegetables for Russia – all kinds of products were sold there until the US- commanded sanctions cut the stream to a brooklet. Will all of Trump’s tariff war measures, his scolding demands for more NATO rearmament, his climate control withdrawal and now, despite all pleas, the abrogation of the Iran Treaty, end up with European capitulation – or with new, unprecedented resistance? Many mixed signals – including Merkel’s occasionally surprising criticism of Trump policy – signal a tug-of-war in the paneled skyscrapers of Frankfurt, Munich and Hamburg where policies are cooked up.

Mike Pompeo, Trump’s new secretary of state, warned all too clearly: “The sanctions regime that is in place now is very clear on what the requirements are.” Richard Grenell, the new far-right US ambassador to Berlin, forgot any diplomacy he may have picked up and threatened in a tweet: “German companies doing business in Iran should wind down operations immediately.” The same embargo screws used for decades against anyone trading with Cuba, though defended in the UN only by Israel, could be very painful. But at first Western European leaders criticized Trump’s decision to scrap the nuclear deal and pledged to uphold their side of the agreement.

Trans-Atlantic glue is strong, however, and US trade is a very big stick. Despite all talk about Trump-Putin ties, US sanctions and hostility towards Russia and Iran have a good chance of prevailing. One German foreign minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, who had offered a few rays of hope for less one-sided obedience, was kicked upstairs to the largely ceremonial job of president. His successor, Sigmar Gabriel, after wavering hesitantly toward détente, was also ejected – not up but out altogether!

Heiko Maas, the new German foreign minister, like both of them a Social Democrat, has thus far displayed, along with a total lack of charisma or any other notable virtue, an inclination to move further rightward than even see-sawing Angela Merkel. His Moscow meeting, arranged only after he had jumped aboard every available anti-Russian wagon, was unsurprisingly a flop. He must still see fearsome red flags over Russia; despite the atlas, Washington seems closer to his Berlin office than Moscow. But unless all signatories hold together, including the latter two, the Iran treaty is lost, regardless of the consequences. And Theresa May is already slithering westward.

Resistance has not been a strong point of the Social Democrat Party since well before Heiko Maas. As part of the ruling coalition it offers no echoes of a one-time defiant past which really ended in 1914 when it supported World War I – and kept going from there. But with its poll figures dipping to a shocking all-time low of 17 or 18%, its members are very restless. At its April Congress, chairperson (and caucus chair) Andrea Nahles from the conservative leadership was elected so scantily – a long-time record of only 66.4% – that she could not squeeze out the semblance of a “victory” smile. A year earlier her predecessor, Martin Schulz, had received a 100% support vote.

Her one opponent, Simone Lange, the widely-unknown mayor of northern Flensburg (who grew up in the GDR), took positions well to the left of party officialdom. The treatment she got was much like that given Bernie Sanders. Totally ignored till the very end, denied the chance of a debate, permitted one short speech, she surprised everyone by getting one third of the votes (and overwhelming cheers from the non-voting audience). She warned of the consequences if the party kept to the right; once again one had to think of Washington, DC.

But the SPD was not the only party facing inner conflict. The LINKE (Left), heading toward a congress in Leipzig, is still torn, especially between those supporting co-chair Katja Kipping and those backing Sahra Wagenknecht, co-chair of the Left caucus in the Bundestag. While many attribute the conflict at least in part to personal rivalry between the two (but rarely to their two male partners), a maze of issues is at stake. The refugee arrivals theme is a main tool of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) and its fascistic allies, also some in Merkel’s so-called Christian Union parties, especially in Bavaria. It has shoved the country alarmingly to the right. The usually more leftist Wagenknecht has unexpectedly implied that Germany should accept no more from abroad than the central government is willing to assist, without overburdening towns and cities at the expense of local working people. She has also accepted the expulsion of those found to be criminal. Kipping, and many more in the party, insist on no upper limits or cuts in the party’s established humanitarian ethic, despite media pressures.

Also being debated is a call by Sahra and her husband Oskar LaFontaine (now active only in his little Saarland) for a broad movement, resembling that of Jean-Luc Mélenchon in France, to reach beyond the LINKE and include members of other parties, or no party, in an attempt to stem the fascist tide. Correctly or not, this idea’s opponents suspect an attempt to somehow circumvent and thus weaken the LINKE with a possible rival. But the party, stuck at 9-10% in the polls, has thus far hardly reached disappointed or worried voters and non-voters who turn to the AfD as the only “anti-establishment” party. Can some new movement, joining LINKE supporters with rebellious members of the SPD and the rightward-drifting Greens, turn the tide? We will know more during the Leipzig congress.

The basic LINKE dispute is between those working to improve life for the citizenry in one way or another, if possible as members of state governments, perhaps in four years in the national government, and those further left who, without neglecting such actions, reject the capitalist social system with its giant, growing gap between rich and poor and its constant attempts at economic and military expansion including conflicts. Such rejection means opposition to the leadership of all other parties, with no compromises on major questions like foreign deployment of the Bundeswehr. Is this old-fashioned, dogmatic, self-defeating? Or a necessity if the LINKE remains true to itself. Which path can best achieve the two main tasks; fighting the growing fascist threat and opposing any move towards war, away from that frightening tightrope act over craters in Syria, Iran, Ukraine or elsewhere. The Leipzig congress (June 8-10) may be a stormy one – and a crucial one.

 

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.

Weekend Edition
October 19, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Jason Hirthler
The Pieties of the Liberal Class
Jeffrey St. Clair
A Day in My Life at CounterPunch
Paul Street
“Male Energy,” Authoritarian Whiteness and Creeping Fascism in the Age of Trump
Nick Pemberton
Reflections on Chomsky’s Voting Strategy: Why The Democratic Party Can’t Be Saved
John Davis
The Last History of the United States
Yigal Bronner
The Road to Khan al-Akhmar
Robert Hunziker
The Negan Syndrome
Andrew Levine
Democrats Ahead: Progressives Beware
Rannie Amiri
There is No “Proxy War” in Yemen
David Rosen
America’s Lost Souls: the 21st Century Lumpen-Proletariat?
Joseph Natoli
The Age of Misrepresentations
Ron Jacobs
History Is Not Kind
John Laforge
White House Radiation: Weakened Regulations Would Save Industry Billions
Ramzy Baroud
The UN ‘Sheriff’: Nikki Haley Elevated Israel, Damaged US Standing
Robert Fantina
Trump, Human Rights and the Middle East
Anthony Pahnke – Jim Goodman
NAFTA 2.0 Will Help Corporations More Than Farmers
Jill Richardson
Identity Crisis: Elizabeth Warren’s Claims Cherokee Heritage
Sam Husseini
The Most Strategic Midterm Race: Elder Challenges Hoyer
Maria Foscarinis – John Tharp
The Criminalization of Homelessness
Robert Fisk
The Story of the Armenian Legion: a Dark Tale of Anger and Revenge
Jacques R. Pauwels
Dinner With Marx in the House of the Swan
Dave Lindorff
US ‘Outrage’ over Slaying of US Residents Depends on the Nation Responsible
Ricardo Vaz
How Many Yemenis is a DC Pundit Worth?
Elliot Sperber
Build More Gardens, Phase out Cars
Chris Gilbert
In the Wake of Nepal’s Incomplete Revolution: Dispatch by a Far-Flung Bolivarian 
Muhammad Othman
Let Us Bray
Gerry Brown
Are Chinese Municipal $6 Trillion (40 Trillion Yuan) Hidden Debts Posing Titanic Risks?
Rev. William Alberts
Judge Kavanaugh’s Defenders Doth Protest Too Much
Ralph Nader
Unmasking Phony Values Campaigns by the Corporatists
Victor Grossman
A Big Rally and a Bavarian Vote
James Bovard
Groped at the Airport: Congress Must End TSA’s Sexual Assaults on Women
Jeff Roby
Florida After Hurricane Michael: the Sad State of the Unheeded Planner
Wim Laven
Intentional or Incompetence—Voter Suppression Where We Live
Bradley Kaye
The Policy of Policing
Wim Laven
The Catholic Church Fails Sexual Abuse Victims
Kevin Cashman
One Year After Hurricane Maria: Employment in Puerto Rico is Down by 26,000
Dr. Hakim Young
Nonviolent Afghans Bring a Breath of Fresh Air
Karl Grossman
Irving Like vs. Big Nuke
Dan Corjescu
The New Politics of Climate Change
John Carter
The Plight of the Pyrenees: the Abandoned Guard Dogs of the West
Ted Rall
Brett Kavanaugh and the Politics of Emotion-Shaming
Graham Peebles
Sharing is Key to a New Economic and Democratic Order
Ed Rampell
The Advocates
Louis Proyect
The Education Business
David Yearsley
Shock-and-Awe Inside Oracle Arena
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail