The spiral of insecurity
Ukraine It is said that Vladimir Putin is the prisoner of his historical myths. But this is also true for the countries of the West
by Jakob Augstein
[This article published in March 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.freitag.de/autoren/jaugstein/ukraine-krieg-die-spirale-der-unsicherheit.]
Disgust for the attacker and pity for the victims: these are the two strong feelings currently shaping public action and thinking
Germany once had a chancellor who was famous for thinking things through “from the end.” For her successor, the motto is apparently more like: the journey is the destination. That fits a time when politics often seems like the continuation of Twitter by other means. Russia has launched a criminal war against Ukraine. The West has decided to respond with military support and unprecedented sanctions. Anyone who takes sides in this way makes himself a party to the conflict, intervenes in the war himself – and thus also shares responsibility for the course and end of the war. There is much speculation about Vladimir Putin’s war aims. But the West should also be clear about its own goals. So does Chancellor Olaf Scholz have an idea of how this war should end and what should happen afterwards?
Disgust for the attacker and pity for the victims: these are the two strong feelings that are currently shaping public action and thinking. Even if it is difficult under these circumstances, it should be noted: The Western response to Putin’s war was a choice, not a necessity. Ukraine is not a member of NATO, yet the West perceives the attack on that country as an attack on itself – and responds accordingly.
When Putin called the economic sanctions against Russia an “act of war,” it was not a rhetorical exaggeration. War has long since been waged not only with bombs. The idea of what constitutes a means of war has changed. Even the so-called cyberattacks do not have to claim victims of life and limb in order to be classified as an act of war. How much more must this apply to the economic measures that will make life even more difficult for people in every last corner of Russia? This is a paradox: as we know, the conflict over Ukraine was sparked, among other things, by whether the country would one day be accepted into NATO. Now we find out: the protection of Article 5 is also granted to non-members in selected cases.
It’s always the others who wage war. This is a widespread misunderstanding in the West, which can also be seen in the reception of the Russian attack. It took the Germans years to admit to themselves that they waged war in Afghanistan. Now they balk at the realization that they entered the war against Russia alongside Ukraine. But in matters of war, repression and forgetfulness prevail. That is why we are again ignoring the lessons that can be learned from Vietnam to Afghanistan: It is much easier to start or wage a war than to end it. That’s true for Putin. But it’s also true for us.
For example, it could be difficult to recapture all the enthusiasm for the military and the heroic that has spilled out of the net into reality and is now driving the mills of a new politics. After all, the scenario of hearts – unconditional withdrawal of Russian troops, restoration of the status quo ante, reparations paid by the aggressor – is the only one that will certainly not come to pass. By the attack alone, Putin has ensured that Ukraine and the West will have to make him any of the concessions that they have until then declared quite out of the question. Perhaps Ukraine will have to give up Crimea; perhaps it will have to commit never to join NATO; perhaps it will have to agree to demilitarization under OSCE supervision.
And then, for example, the German chancellor would have to explain to the public, which has become accustomed to calling Putin in the same breath as Hitler, that these agreements are the best that could be achieved for Ukraine and that, incidentally, economic relations with Russia will now be normalized again and, of necessity, talks will also have to be resumed with the Russian president. Or does Scholz want to “cancel” Putin forever?
The war in Ukraine has a history. It did not fall from the sky and did not rise from hell. In 2008, the NATO summit in Bucharest ended with a promise to Ukraine and Georgia to admit both to the Western defense alliance. As a result, Russia invaded Georgia that same year. In 2014, the EU offered Ukraine an association agreement and the pro-Russia government (elected after all) was deposed. Russia responded by occupying Crimea. What Russia and the West set in motion then is what political scientists call a “spiral of insecurity.” It occurs when a country chooses a certain policy to promote its own security interests and in the process violates those of another country – which then reacts accordingly, and on and on.
Exiting such a spiral is difficult. The first step is to acknowledge one’s own involvement. It is said that Putin is the prisoner of his historical myths. But this is also true for the countries of the West. Their myth is that of their own blamelessness.
Lukas Hermsmeier on the Leftist Slide in the USA: Hostile Territory for Amazon
Interview Lukas Hermsmeier observes the young leftist slide in the USA and explains why trade union work can be revolutionary and how to get at Amazon
[This interview published in March 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.freitag.de/autoren/konstantin-nowotny/lukas-hermsmeier-ueber-den-linksrutsch-in-den-usa.]
Occupy Wall Street 2011 – They wanted revolution
Is there a serious slide to the left in the U.S.? Author and journalist Lukas Hermsmeier has been observing the scene for years. Occupy Wall Street hasn’t really petered out at all, he says. His book Uprising about the new, young left in America has just been published.
der Freitag: Dear Lukas, at the beginning a transparency note: You live in the USA, more precisely in New York City – where we met. Your book says that as a journalist you should be sparing with anecdotes, so I’ll tell mine right now: During my time in New York, I had a roommate who was a lawyer and active in the election campaign for Hillary Clinton and the Democrats …
Lukas Hermsmeier: … so we are in 2016?
Exactly. How that campaign turned out is well known. But one day we were talking about where I stood politically. And I had dared to say, “I’m a leftist.” He found that amusing, and then almost got upset that that wasn’t a rational political position at all. So what does it mean to be leftist in the U.S. – and how does that differ from “being liberal,” for example, as many Democrats would describe themselves?
What you experienced there in 2016 was for a long time exactly what the few leftists in the U.S. experienced. When they said they were “left,” the person opposite often couldn’t do anything with it. One advance is that most today associate something with it, certain movements and demands. In the introduction to my book, I write that I don’t want to define being leftist myself, but let people define it. There are those who understand being left very much about economic issues, who are committed to our successively overcoming capitalism. For others, the feminist struggle is in the foreground, and for still others, the anti-racist struggle, which has recently formed mainly around police violence and the penal institutions. The difference with liberal politics is the strong conviction that there must be a systemic change and that there is no belief that things can be solved only through small reforms or technocratically.
Overcoming capitalism, abolishing racism, attacking patriarchy – these are, after all, relatively radical demands for a country that has enough to do with introducing a nationwide minimum wage. I quote: “What is called socialism in the USA would just about pass for social democracy in Europe. (…) Occasionally, there is a tone of condescension mixed in.” What do you mean by that?
In recent years, I’ve noticed that the young socialist movement in the U.S. is occasionally viewed with condescension from Europe, along the lines of: you dress like socialists, but in the end you’re just SPD-level. This is only superficially true. My impression, after many conversations with socialists in the USA, is rather that: They think much bigger, only they know that the great socialist vision of the fight against property, of a completely different economy and so on, has to be connected with real political demands. When a candidate of the Democratic Socialists of America (DSA), the largest socialist organization in the U.S., sits in parliament, he is confronted with the political conditions there.
The DSA appear relatively often in your book. You write, for example, how the organization was able to increase its membership from 10,000 to about 100,000 in just a few years. You also point out that the majority of the younger generation in particular voted for the socialist Bernie Sanders in the last elections. Is there really such a thing as a young slide to the left in the U.S.?
With Bernie Sanders it was young voters, with Black Lives Matter, also in the climate movement, in all areas it is very noticeable. You have to realize that there is a generation in the U.S. – to which we both also belong – that only knows this country in crisis mode: September 11, then the financial and economic crisis, Trump, the climate catastrophe. This generation is characterized by the fact that structurally little works. Many young people in the U.S. are turning this into a demand: what Obama, Clinton or Biden are offering is not enough; we need completely different policies. The young slide to the left is a direct response to this omnipresence of crises.
About the person
Lukas Hermsmeier is a journalist and author living in New York City. He writes about U.S. politics and culture for Zeit Online, Tagesspiegel and taz, among others. His book Uprising. America’s New Left (320 p., 22 euros) was recently published by Klett-Cotta.
Something substantial is coming out of the left-wing movements, that’s one of the theses of your book. And one principle plays an important role in this, which is “organizing.” What is meant by that?
Organizing is best understood as a different approach to politics. This approach consists of turning people into political actors. And it does so in a way that goes beyond going to the polls every four years. Organizers make sure that people come together in companies, in citizens’ councils or other constellations and then develop political demands and talk about how they can be implemented – for example, through strikes, petitions or by sending someone from their own ranks to parliament.
Bringing people together, finding majorities – that all sounds frighteningly like trade unions to me. That’s not a revolutionary concept.
That’s true, although trade union work can also be revolutionary.
It used to be designed that way, yes …
The fatal thing is that unions today function hierarchically and bureaucratically. I don’t think unions as such are a deterrent, it’s just the way unions are often run that’s a deterrent. But to go back to your question: What does organizing mean? It means people getting together on a regular basis and thinking: What do we want to change here in our city, in our neighborhood? Sometimes that’s tearing down the jail, sometimes it’s asking for resources to be moved from the police to health care or housing. Organizing means a never-ending engagement with politics. What’s missing from that is often time.
Let’s look at the problem of time with a concrete example from your book. The Occupy Wall Street movement plays a big role in your book. I quote: “September 17, 2011, actually became an event, a defining one, in fact. It was the beginning of a protest movement that spread from New York to over 1,500 cities worldwide. It was the initial moment of a young, left-wing generation, the kickoff of a resistant era.” First of all, so-so, the prelude to a resistant era, at the end of which one of the most right-wing presidents in a long time was elected? And second, how can something like this even come about when most people spend most of their day working?
The people who gathered at Occupy in 2011 were, to a large extent, not professional activists at all. It was a heterogeneous and spontaneous mass of people. There was no program at the beginning, and there was no program at the end, because people resisted it; after all, they wanted the revolution. People say that nothing came of Occupy, and I’m trying to counter that a little bit: Occupy became many movements, people were politicized by it. The petering out didn’t happen at all.
One of these movements after Occupy was a resistance movement against Amazon in the New York borough of Queens. What happened there exactly?
In 2018, Amazon announced it was going to open its second headquarters in Queens. It was portrayed by political leaders in New York as a groundbreaking, progressive, transformative project – but people in Queens perceived that differently and then expressed it in a very impressive way. They heard decades before about new projects and luxury buildings related to this promise, and they always just noted: Rents are getting more expensive, my neighbor has to move. With this announcement that Amazon was moving to Queens, a protest quickly developed, resulting in meetings, citizen councils, strikes and occupations. It didn’t take more than three months for Amazon to say, as a result of this resistance, “Then we don’t want to be here. Amazon knew they were in hostile territory here.
You write: “Gentrification is what they call it, a term that often resonates with fatalism. Just happens, like the Hudson River flows and New York cabs are yellow.” There is currently a similar project in Berlin. My colleague Benjamin Knödler recently mentioned this in “Freitag” (8/2022) in an article about land prices, he writes: “A square meter at Mercedes-Benz-Platz, where an Amazon Tower is currently being built, costs just under 14,000 euros today.” And now you want to tell me that you can stop such a Goliath with a little door-knocking and demonstrating, right?
Yes, and in one week it will be stopped. No, joke, but: The people I talked to at this Amazon protest, even before it was stopped, said: We don’t think we can stop the whole thing now, but at least we can influence the process, make it all a bit more socially acceptable. They themselves were surprised that their protest was so successful. That’s at least a nice lesson.
In your book, you also talk about the limits that such movements can reach. If you think about the Occupy slogan of the “99 percent,” that means the working people against the rich one percent. Finding someone to join me in opposing rising rents is relatively easy. But maybe this person also gets the idea that there are far too many migrants living in the neighborhood. Is this someone with whom I can fight together, or someone I would rather exclude?
That is one of the central questions. It depends a bit on what we are talking about, if we are talking about a neo-Nazi, then excluding is a good option. A few weeks ago I talked to someone who was active in Deutsche Wohnen & Co. Expropriate was active. He collected a lot of signatures in the eastern districts of Berlin and often came across avowed AfD voters. If he had withdrawn directly from this information, he would have achieved less. In this respect, it is definitely a matter of bringing together people who are politically quite different through very concrete demands and initiatives. If Deutsche Wohnen Enteignen had only joined forces with left-wingers, the project would have failed.
Controversy over John Mearsheimer: He saw the Ukraine war coming
NATO eastward expansion realist or idea man for Vladimir Putin? A dispute has erupted over the theories of U.S. political scientist John Mearsheimer in the Ukraine war. What’s the truth of the accusations against him?
by Adam Tooze
[This article published in March 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.freitag.de/autoren/the-guardian/wladimir-putin-die-nato-und-der-krieg.]
“Why is Ukraine the West’s fault?” That’s the provocative title of a talk Professor John J. Mearsheimer – a famous exponent of the so-called realist school of international relations – gave at a University of Chicago alumni gathering in 2015. The recording has already been viewed more than 18 million times on Youtube. And in 2022, Mearsheimer continues to advance this thesis, most explosively on March 1, for example, in a somewhat unfortunate telephone interview with the New Yorker. In light of the Russian invasion, his provocation draws sheer fury. This begs the question: what is this “realism” he espouses?
On the one hand, Mearsheimer is disarmingly candid. The 2008 push to admit Ukraine and Georgia to NATO was a terrible mistake. The overthrow of Viktor Yanukovych’s Moscow-backed regime, welcomed and encouraged by the West, has pushed Russia even more into an enemy position. The West, he said, must realize that it is itself partly responsible for the emergence of an incendiary situation by extending the old anti-Soviet alliance into what remains of Russia’s sphere of influence. The highly controversial conclusion to be drawn from this situational picture is that Putin’s violent attempt to beat back this advance should surprise no one.
It was already offensive in 2015 – and even more so today, in light of Putin’s wholly unapologetic breach of international law. On Feb. 28, when a tweet from the Russian Foreign Ministry referred to Mearsheimer, Anne Applebaum lashed out: “Here you have it,” wrote the renowned and liberal-minded historian of the post-Soviet era: “One wonders to what extent the Russians have their narrative from Mearsheimer and co. After all, Moscow has to say that its invasions of Chechnya, Georgia, Syria, and now Ukraine were the fault of the West, and not based on greed and imperialism. American scholars have provided that narrative.” In response, outrage made waves. Students at the University of Chicago even launched an open letter: it should be clarified whether Professor Mearsheimer was not secretly on a Kremlin payroll?
An Example of “Great Power Realism”
At the heart of the scandal is Mearsheimer’s refusal to see anything in Putin’s aggression other than a typical great power action. Unlike Applebaum, he has little to do with Russian or Ukrainian history or the present. He simply interprets the events as an example of his favorite theory of international relations, “offensive” or “great power realism”: Russia is a great power, according to this theory, and protects its security interests by establishing and defending spheres of influence. The U.S. does the same – for example, in the form of the Monroe Doctrine, or more contemporary the Carter Doctrine, which delineates the space of American interests all the way to the Persian Gulf. If necessary, these zones are defended with all force. And anyone who does not understand this has no idea of the real logic of International Relations.
Mearsheimer probably just shakes his head wearily at Applebaum’s rhetorical attack. And, of course, Putin certainly doesn’t need coaxing from academic America to understand Russia as a great power. Great powers use moral and immoral methods – instrumentalizing voices from foreign universities is certainly their least sin. For Mearsheimer, international relations revolve around geography, economics, and military power. To the extent that ideas have any influence at all, the most that can be hoped for in this perspective is that public opinion and the decisive elites of these great powers will respect each other’s spheres of influence and not allow unnecessary confrontations to occur. “Realism” here means: Clarity about the basic structure behind events-and a resigned acceptance of their supposedly inevitable logic.
In the 2000s, from this standpoint, Mearsheimer also criticized what he saw as an excessive influence of the Israeli lobby on U.S. policy: This influence clouds the insight of American policy makers into the real interests of the United States in the Middle East. And in the current situation, he urges us to finally abandon the idea that NATO’s eastward expansion is an unstoppable historical trend or a crusade worth fighting for.
Unquestionably, there is little room for Ukraine’s sovereignty in this perspective. The scope of this country is therefore forever and fatefully marked by the fact that it lies within the Russian zone of influence. But as bitter as this may sound: Those who fail to take note of Russia’s de facto power potential and interests risk an even worse outcome: Ukraine risks being shattered. Mearsheimer does not deny Russia’s aggression, he simply takes it for granted. His polemic targets the EU and NATO, which he says have led the country down this dangerously slippery slope: On the one hand, Ukrainian politics could hardly resist the Western wave of possible EU association and NATO membership, but this inevitably exposed it to the concentrated wrath of Moscow.
Of empires and spaces
But what is actually the origin of this captivating but also gloomy world view? If one were to ask Mearsheimer, he would most likely say that it is an ancient insight that can already be found in the writings of the ancient Greek historian Thucydides. But this is actually a tradition invented after the fact. In fact, the political science discipline of International Relations only emerged in the Cold War United States.
Anyone who wants to know more about it should pick up Matthew Specter’s just-published book, The Atlantic Realists. In it, Specter presents a much more plausible origin story of “realist” ideas. They do not begin in nebulous antiquity, nor in the age of Otto von Bismarck’s proverbial “realpolitik,” in which there was a relatively settled balance between the great powers – but in the age of imperialism. It was in the late 19th century, when the “distribution” of the world seemed complete and Social Darwinism came into vogue, that this vision of a world defined by the struggle of superior states for space on a limited planet emerged.
Specter draws a straight line that leads from the political geographers and sea power theorists of the late 19th century, such as Friedrich Ratzel in Germany or Alfred Mahan in the United States, through the German geopoliticians of the interwar period-for example, Karl Haushofer and Carl Schmitt-to the classics of American “realism,” for example, Hans Morgenthau. Similar to Mearsheimer, Schmitt, for example, the Nazi jurist and theorist of “Großraum,” thought in terms of a world order based on the division of the planet between large blocs, each of which would be dominated by a superior power. Characteristic of this worldview is a rigid moral relativism that rejects any notion of universal values – and is built less on any philosophical notions than on the taken-for-granted competition of these power blocs themselves. In a style similar to Mearsheimer’s today, Haushofer and Schmitt thereby viewed the German “Großraum” as the equivalent of the British Empire and the Monroe Doctrine, which de facto declared the American double continent to be the sphere of influence of the United States. Advocates of the “Greater East Asian Sphere of Prosperity” also sounded this way when they claimed a Japanese-dominated “Greater Area” in the late 1930s that would encompass the Korean Peninsula, significant parts of China, and Vietnam, Laos, Thailand, Malaysia, Indonesia, and Bali.
This history of ideas is also so little known because it is so scandalous for liberalism. It is not compatible with the ideals of universal human rights to simply accept the claims of the powers and make them the starting point of political thought. Accordingly, German geopoliticians like Haushofer were ostracized by the Allied press during World War II – and some later found themselves in the Nuremberg dock. This must have seemed confusing to them, since they had always referred to the rise of the United States in the 19th century as an object lesson. This was now embarrassing, of course – and Specter shows in a series of eye-opening chapters how American “realism” subsequently came to embrace a new history that made those imperialist roots disappear behind a more abstract theory.
Matthew Specter is a German scholar. He had previously written about Jürgen Habermas, the philosopher in the tradition of the Frankfurt School. Especially for an American audience, it is now a real intellectual coup to associate the sort of “realism” in International Relations with such dark roots that is taught in American universities to this day.
However, Specter’s derivation of “realism” also entails a narrowing. If Mearsheimer is a typical representative of great-power realism, he is thinking less in terms of the imperialist fantasies that led to the First World War. Rather, he is part of a tradition that, with the benefit of hindsight, wondered how the war could have come about and what had gone wrong in the July crisis of 1914.
The German-American line of tradition on which Specter focuses is thus noteworthy, but at this point it is also only a partial aspect. Historians such as Edward Hallett Carr and a philosopher such as Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson also played a role in this debate in Britain – as did leftist historians of international relations in the United States, for example Charles Beard. To this day, there is an affinity between the likes of Mearsheimer and the foreign policy left, which values “realism” for, after all, bluntly stating the brutal logic of powers.
It must be acknowledged: Mearsheimer’s optics actually provide some insight into what is going on. Although no one is saying it out loud, his diagnosis of the crisis and war in Ukraine is shared de facto by a large majority of the foreign policy establishment in the United States. The promise of Ukraine’s NATO admission, pushed through by President George W. Bush and his administration in 2008, was indeed an act of hubris. And now the West will not let Ukraine go – but neither will it intervene directly militarily. The anger at Mearsheimer also reflects liberal frustration at realizing the limits of what the West can do – and there are very good reasons for those limits. NATO has always sought to avoid direct confrontation with Russia. The United States has made it clear to Vladimir Putin that it will not intervene militarily. Even the emergency weapons deliveries threaten to blur this line. A “no-fly zone” would be life-threatening.
Nevertheless, even after what has been said so far, it would be perverse to declare an intellectual victory for Mearsheimer’s “realism.” He is undoubtedly right about the background to the tensions that have been mounting in recent years. But that does not explain the war. After all, the German emperor’s decision to issue a blank check to the Austrians in July 1914 cannot be dismissed with a mere reference to the imperialism of the time. The “realist” model is exceedingly unspecific and also fails to capture the qualitative shift that accompanies the opening of armed conflict. Certainly, the Prussian general Carl von Clausewitz said that war is the continuation of politics by other means. But the winged word still does not answer why anyone – great power or not – resorts to such a radical and dangerous means.
In Moscow, no serious voice in the security establishment – which is united behind a Russian great power policy – believed that Putin would actually go to war. And this was not because these people did not have an eye for the logic of power, but precisely because they understood it all so well. They saw no good reason to accept the risks, damages and imponderables of open war. And its course so far seems to prove them right.
Human morality and international legalism constitute one weighty reason for being against wars. But the other is that war, at least in the past 100 years, has simply not delivered good results. Beyond the wars of national liberation, it is difficult to find even one war of aggression that has produced the desired results, even in the sense of those who started it. A “realism” that overlooks this and ignores the conclusions that have been drawn in politics for the most part from this historical lesson does not deserve its name.
More realistic than “realism
This does not mean, of course, that war will somehow disappear from the face of the world in the near future. But anyone who imagines its future as a continuous loop of revved-up militarism à la 1914 excludes any common learning from history. Moreover, these ideas are counterfactual, especially in the age of nuclear weapons: In his chapters on the postwar period, for example, Specter shows in great detail how transatlantic “realism” took an overly cautious position on the means of war after Vietnam and under the auspices of nuclear buildup. In this respect, Mearsheimer’s “offensive” realism – which is a phenomenon of the post-1990 period – then again well deserves its name.
Given the horrors of every war, including the present one, one might be tempted to see Mearsheimer’s cool-headed analysis of the logic of great-power conflict as actually legitimizing Vladimir Putin’s attack. In fact, however, Mearsheimer is more likely to be a secret weapon of the West: if Putin has indeed gone to war in his interests in what could become a new Afghanistan, it is hard to avoid this conclusion.
To understand how the Kremlin’s fateful and criminal decision to invade was made, we need not platitudes about the security dilemmas of great powers, but some kind of forensic examination of the decision-making processes and underlying intelligence. And we also need to come to understand why Ukraine, which looks so defenseless on paper, has been able to mount a surprisingly effective resistance, at least so far.
The bottom line, for the time being, is that a truly realistic view of world politics is not limited to reaching for a well-worn toolbox of timeless truths. Nor is it enough to pretend to be hard-nosed and immune to morally overshooting liberalism. Once you take it, realism is an endless challenge. It involves keeping up, literally hour by hour, with the permanent change of a complex world. A world in which we are irredeemably entangled, which we can influence and change to some degree, but which constantly challenges our ways of perceiving – and also what we determine to be our interests.
True realism is the endless task of rationally determining our political goals and the ways to achieve them. To resort to the means of war as a result of this should be condemned as clearly as such a step deserves. Such a decision should not be normalized as a “logical” and ultimately obvious response to any given set of circumstances. Whoever is involved in political decision-making, or whoever makes public and scholarly statements about it, must be judged by this imperative.
Adam Tooze is a professor of history at Columbia University in New York. This article first appeared in the New Statesman
Two central goals of sanctions against Russia
Ukraine War One should not expect economic sanctions to immediately end Putin’s war on Ukraine. Why they are important nonetheless
by Julia Grauvogel
[This article published in March 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.freitag.de/autoren/der-freitag/wie-eine-expertin-die-sanktionen-gegen-russland-beurteilt.]
The West has announced further sanctions against Russia. These include new tariffs on Russian products in addition to the export ban on luxury goods and the import ban on iron and steel. The latest measures further tighten already massive restrictions on energy, finance and transportation. For an economy as large as Russia, the current sanctions, which also include an exclusion of some banks from SWIFT, are unprecedented. They were imposed on the country in a very short period of time, as they were decided against Iran over a period of several years.
Nevertheless, the sanctions have so far not brought about any relenting on Russia’s part. Regardless of their severity, sanctions are unsuitable for stopping wars immediately, as they are no match for military force in terms of the speed of their impact. Nor is a short-term change in Putin’s behavior the primary intention of the current measures. Rather, the international community is pursuing two central goals with its sanctions:
First, the sanctions demonstrate that Russia’s blatant violation of key norms of international law is being punished. The willingness of European countries to accept their own economic losses makes this signal credible. The cooperation in implementing the measures far beyond the circle of “classic” Western sanctioning stations also demonstrates unity – and should deter future imitators of Russia.
Second, sanctions may increase pressure on the Kremlin in the medium term by limiting Putin’s ability to finance the war. Although the Russian regime had “priced in” sanctions on an invasion of Ukraine, the scale was unexpected given much milder measures after the annexation of Crimea. Sanctions against the central bank in particular hit Russia hard, as a large part of its systematically built-up foreign reserves were held in euros. If Europe were to impose comprehensive oil and gas sanctions, there would be an additional revenue shortfall of several hundred million euros per day.
Putin calls sanctions a “declaration of war”
At the same time, one should not have exaggerated expectations of sanctions. In particular, the idea of turning the population against the rulers through extensive economic pressure has only limited chances of success in an autocracy. In the meantime, countless companies such as McDonald’s and Ikea have declared that they will voluntarily end their business dealings with Russia. This primarily affects the younger urban middle class, which could be the nucleus of broad protests against Putin, but in light of the recent wave of arrests at demonstrations against the war, many are shying away from open criticism of the regime. It is unclear whether individual sanctions – i.e., travel restrictions and asset freezes on more than 860 people on EU sanctions lists – will increase elite pressure on Putin. However, the oligarchs’ dependence on Putin is stronger than the other way around.
Putin, as in the past, is trying to discredit Western sanctions as an attack on the people as a whole. This rhetoric includes Putin’s statement that the latest sanctions are “a declaration of war” by the West. However, several studies show that the annexation of Crimea in 2014 led to a surge in Putin’s popularity-not the regime’s subsequent efforts to exploit the West’s sanctions for domestic political purposes.
Clearly stating the limits and purpose of sanctions will increase the willingness of its population to share the costs of the measures over a longer period of time. Even a partial failure should be considered with regard to possible exit scenarios.
Julia Grauvogel works at the German Institute for Global and Area Studies
That is the goal of some. The masses have others. Everyone wants to make their mark as an angel of peace, a helper in need. We have a group dynamic like rarely. Anyone who does not explicitly speak out against Russians, Russia, Putin is ostracized. That was one of the goals for the people at large.
This can be built upon with various measures that are suddenly supported by everyone. Even parts of the “pacifists” are in favor of arms deliveries and armament. One rubs the eyes how well the war propaganda worked.
Selenskyi and his ambassador work daily on the opinion with lies and reproaches. Maybe years from now you will wonder how you got taken for a ride.
Myself | Community
5 days ago
Yes, the dumbing down of the people is well advanced. But forever this cheap story (NATO good – Russia evil) will not carry, and the anger of the people will be great. At the latest when they have hardly anything left to eat.
Albatross | Community
That’s what ad agencies are for, directing the anger. After all, Putin is already personally to blame for the high gasoline prices, gas prices, wheat and sunflower oil prices, increased raw material costs and what do I know everything else.
Hardly anyone still thinks about the increased prices before the war or the speculators who are currently driving the prices. After all, Russia is still supplying gas, oil and raw materials. The West, after all, has tipped NS2 or ordered too little gas. The “scrapping” of NS2 was almost decided before the war. Biden has forbidden it, now we also have the reason to follow. Biden has always known it. Russia is an unreliable supplier and gas is its weapon.
This war is going differently than expected
by Jürgen Todenhöfer
[This article published on 3/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=82278.]
This is an article by former CDU member of the Bundestag Jürgen Todenhöfer. Direct from Kiev. Not every woman and man will share all facets of his view of things. For example, we cannot verify the details mentioned about “war successes” and war damages. In any case, however, it is an interesting contribution to the discussion. Albrecht Müller.
The Russian army has not been making any real progress in Ukraine for days. The main reasons for Russia’s failures are:
their arrogant strategy; they have not taken Ukraine seriously militarily;
their outdated material and
the troops’ low motivation: “Why are we actually fighting this war? Why is nothing working?”
The reasons for Ukraine’s successes are:
Their high motivation. They are fighting for their lives, for their freedom, carried by the applause of large parts of the world public.
They have weapons, some of them highly superior, supplied by their allies in the West.
And they are successful. They destroyed over 500 Russian tanks, brought down over 100 aircraft. Over 15,000 Russian soldiers were taken out, according to the Ukrainian Defense Ministry. Their own losses are reportedly one-tenth of that (as of March 24). All of this is quite surprising.
Moscow has been playing hard to get. Even those who, like me, appreciate and respect Russia have to admit that. Anything else would be double standards. The reasons for war given by Moscow are sufficient for diplomatic or economic actions, but not for war, not for slaying people.
Yes, NATO has shamelessly deceived Russia, yes, the West has systematically treated the country unfairly. But that is not a reason for war under any law in the world. Russia could have “jostled back” – any cold war would have been better than this grotesque hot war.
That the U.S. and its allies have committed a thousand times more murders since 9/11 alone than Russia is now committing in Ukraine interests few in the West. Hypocrisy has always been a specialty of American foreign policy. In Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan alone, 3.9 million people have died as a result of America’s wars. But all the U.S. wars in violation of international law do not make Russia’s Ukraine war one bit better.
According to the UN, 977 civilians have died in Ukraine so far. (As of March 22) Among them 121 children. Even assuming a high number of unreported cases and that there would be three times as many civilian deaths by now, it shows that the West’s claim that Russia wants to “wipe out” the entire Ukrainian people is deliberately false. Russia wants to annex Ukraine. This is also unacceptable, but something quite different. When the mayor of Kiev, Vitali Klitschko, says in a video message:
“This is genocide. They are destroying the civilian population, they are destroying our country,” “We can’t count the bodies,” he is flatly and deliberately telling the untruth.
At least at the moment, after 4 weeks of war. This war can still bring many nasty surprises, which I explicitly do not exclude. Tomorrow everything can look different.
Therefore once again: There is no excuse for this war. It is illegal under international law. Every single civilian killed is a tragedy. No matter if 900 or 900,000. This war must be stopped. An immediate ceasefire is the least we can do.
But even in these hours of anger, we must look to the future. At least if we really want sustainable peace. For that, we need Russia. Without Russia, there will never be lasting peace in Europe.
It is therefore now more than ever in the vital interest of all Europeans to find a just peace order in which Russia respects its neighbors, but in which the United States also respects Russia. Nobody needs Russia’s war in Ukraine, we all need Russia. Rule of law and democracy.
In the long term, not only Ukraine, but also Russia belongs in the EU and NATO. This long-term vision will be realized or Europe will disintegrate.
I therefore call for an early European peace conference, like the CSCE, which defused the East-West conflict in the 1970s. America must also participate here. We should finally do more for peace than for war. The Basic Law requires our politicians to serve peace and not war.
Addendum Albrecht Müller to the comment about the CSCE, the former CDU member of the Bundestag may forgive me: the CSCE, the Conference on Security and Cooperation in Europe, took place in 1975. That was 6 years after Willy Brandt’s government declaration with the key phrase “We want to be a nation of good neighbors” and 5 years after the conclusion of the Moscow Treaty between the Soviet Union and the Federal Republic of Germany on August 12, 1970. The defusing of the East-West conflict did not begin with the CSCE, but with the East and treaty policy that began in 1966 and was fought by the CDU/CSU. I know that this does not belong to the topic of the war in Ukraine. But the historical truth about the former East-West conflict and the beginning of the policy of détente is also somewhat relevant for the deliberation of today’s conflict.
Gas for Rubles – Russia reacts rationally to sanctions and the West plays again with wrong cards
by Jens Berger
[This article published on 3/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Gas für Rubel – Russland reagiert rational auf die Sanktionen und der Westen spielt abermals mit falschen Karten.]
Russian President Vladimir Putin announced yesterday that Russia will soon settle its energy exports to “unfriendly countries” only in rubles. The Russian Central Bank is to prepare a payment system for this within a week. The excitement in Germany is great and apparently there is a great deal of confusion in politics and the media, leading to even greater misinterpretations. Russia’s move was to be expected and is a direct reaction to the West’s sanctions against the Russian Central Bank. Depending on how Russia designs the new payment system, this innovation could end up raising energy prices more than anything else. But the West is likely to have “priced this in” if it does not act completely haphazardly. However, it cannot be ruled out that the “ruble constraint” will now be used as a pretext for an energy import embargo that would hurt Germany in particular.
Before taking a closer look at the topic, a short excursion into the basics of international trade and foreign exchange transactions is necessary. Because apparently, even the members of the German government’s Scientific Advisory Council often don’t understand the differences here. In long-term supply contracts, the price to be paid is usually regulated by a price adjustment clause. Such clauses consist of various factors – in the case of domestic water supply contracts, for example, these are the costs of energy and labor, which are determined in certain publications of the Federal Statistical Office. In the case of international supply contracts, currency fluctuations in particular play a role here. The exchange rates to which the supply contracts for German-Russian gas transactions refer when setting prices are not known to the public. However, it can be assumed that in the interests of both sides, a basket of currencies was chosen as the basis for price adjustments, consisting primarily of the euro and the US dollar. Both currencies are stable in value and are particularly important for energy transactions. For both currencies there are very liquid markets on the financial markets for forward and price hedging transactions, so-called “hedging”.
However, the currencies used in the price adjustment clauses and which, as the nominal currency, determine the amount to be paid, have nothing whatsoever to do with the transaction currency in which the transactions are ultimately settled – economists refer to this as “settlement”. It is up to the buyer (e.g. EON) and the seller (e.g. Gazprom) to regulate this individually. The transaction currency is a purely technical factor. If EON and Gazprom were to agree – which would be nonsensical, of course – to pay for gas supplies in Hungarian forints, EON would convert the invoice amount from euros to forints on the day of the transfer, transfer it to Gazprom, and Gazprom would then convert the forints back into rubles. A kind of zero-sum game. And this transaction currency is what Putin’s announcement is about, not, say, the reference currencies that set the price of gas. This distinction is important. The core of the contracts remains untouched. Accordingly, nothing needs to be renegotiated here, as some media are now murmuring.
Russia currently sells its energy exports to Germany primarily in euros, the transaction currency. Until recently, this was convenient for both parties. EON did not have to spend any money on currency transactions, and Gazprom keeps a large part of its accounts in euros anyway, so it only has to exchange its own costs – which are mainly incurred in rubles – from euros into rubles on the formerly quite liquid foreign exchange market. Due to the EU sanctions, however, this is no longer easily possible, as a large part of the Russian banking sector, including the Russian Central Bank, has been cut off from the euro market. In other words, Gazprom’s revenues currently go into a “euro blocked account” to which the Group has de facto no access. The Group can continue to pay its bills in rubles through the credit window of the Russian Central Bank. It is not illiquid, but the sanctions have dried up the foreign exchange market for the ruble. Since almost no one can or wants to exchange euros for rubles, the ruble has come under devaluation pressure. This in turn makes Russia’s imports more expensive and ultimately leads to inflation. But that is, after all, one of the goals of the sanctions imposed by the U.S. and the EU. In this respect, it is perfectly normal and understandable that Russia is looking for a way to prevent this devaluation. And a “settlement” of energy exports in rubles is a very good way to do that.
Let’s turn to the German economists and politicians. They don’t seem to have really understood the basic problem. Jens Südekum, who is a member of the German government’s Scientific Advisory Council, is quoted by the media as saying that this is “an escalation of the economic war.” The West, he says, is being forced to “undermine its own sanctions and take rubles from the Russian Central Bank.” This is nonsense, of course, but this nonsense shows once again how little German economists understand about central banking and currency. It is true that the Russian central bank is sanctioned by the EU and the USA. However, this does not apply at all to other currency areas such as Switzerland or China. So if EON wants to settle its bill with Gazprom in rubles, it can do so quite conveniently via its Swiss account, which it surely has anyway. EON then exchanges euros for Swiss francs and exchanges them for rubles to settle the bill. This would also be possible in Chinese renminbi and countless smaller currencies. However, only the liquid Swiss franc and the equally liquid renminbi make sense here, since foreign exchange transactions in nine-digit euro amounts per day would otherwise have a considerable impact on the markets of smaller illiquid currencies.
The advantage for Russia is obvious. By switching to the transaction currency ruble, an artificial demand for the ruble is created, which contributes significantly to supporting the ruble’s exchange rate – especially since the reverse way of exchanging rubles for euros, dollars, pounds or yen is blocked by the sanctions. In the end, Gazprom will receive the purchase sum in rubles in a Russian account, which can also be disposed of, and for EON this conversion is “merely” associated with more effort and higher transaction costs. The price of gas imports will therefore continue to rise. However, since this is “only” a conversion of the transaction currency, the price adjustment clauses remain unaffected.
For Russia, this move is important and correct. To illustrate this, a look at the exchange rates from the ruble to the euro and renminbi will help.
Euro to ruble
Renminbi/Yuan in rubles
The start of the war and the sanctions were followed by a massive devaluation of the ruble. At its peak, customers in Russia would have had to pay twice as much for imports from China as they did just a few months ago. The impact on inflation would have been huge. However, Russia’s initial measures (interest rate hike, compulsory exchange) have already helped to significantly increase the value of the ruble again and it can be assumed that the “ruble compulsion” will strengthen the ruble exchange rate in the long term.
However, this is exactly what the U.S. and the EU do not want. Therefore, it is not surprising that such misinformation and misinterpretations are now being published. It can even be assumed that the “ruble constraint” is now being used as a pretext for entering into an energy import embargo. This is mendacious. As long as importers like EON can cope with the new regulation, there is no pretext for any “reactions” on the part of the federal government. And why should the importers have problems? Gas may be getting a bit more expensive, but it’s coming and it’s coming reliably. Smaller price increases can be cushioned by a price increase anyway. And one should never forget that this inflation is homemade and that Russia is reacting as it must if it does not want to commit economic suicide and make its citizens pay dearly for the West’s sanctions through inflation.
In the end, however, the Germans could once again be the big losers. Because if the German government uses the “ruble squeeze” as a pretext for an energy import embargo, prices will explode for us and we will pay the price for the sanctions in the form of inflation. The Russians know that, too. Whether German newspaper readers know it or not remains to be seen.
Will Humans Be the Next ‘Freedom Fries’?
by Ray McGovern
[This article published on 3/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=82252.]
‘Will Humans Be the Next ‘Freedom Fries’?” asks Ray McGovern on March 24, 2022 Here’s the original. And below, the translation procured by Thilo Haase. Ray McGovern thinks Olaf Scholz should know this. – For some time I have been thinking about what a nuclear strike might look like and why it should come about. McGovern’s text gives some pertinent clues. Albrecht Müller
U.S. experts and strategists seem unaware of how close we all are to being fried in a nuclear strike by Russia. (Fair warning: if you’re just looking for another reason to demonize Putin instead of understanding where he’s coming from, save yourself the time and read no further.)
The point is this: The Russians have good reason to be on high alert. Their early warning radar system is so inadequate that there are situations (even those involving innocent missile launches) in which Russian President Putin would have only a few minutes – if that – to decide whether to launch nuclear missiles to destroy the rest of the world – if he suspects Russia is under nuclear attack.
“If that”? Yes, the time between launch and target is now so short that it is very likely that the authority to launch nuclear weapons now rests “on the ground,” so to speak, with subordinate commanders. Anyone who has read Daniel Ellsberg’s Doomsday Machine knows how the U.S. actually delegated this authority in the days of the first Cold War. I, for one, was shocked to learn this. Worse, today the subordinate commanders may be computers without a mission.
Russia, of course, will not admit that its early warning system is far inferior to the U.S. global satellite-based system. But that is the case. The consequences could not be more serious.
This came to mind today when former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev declared that the Kremlin would never allow Russia to be destroyed. He warned, however, that the world could face a dystopian crisis that would end in what he called a “great nuclear explosion” if Washington achieved its destructive goals.
President Putin spoke out on this issue four years ago, shortly after unveiling Russia’s new nuclear arsenal, including hypersonic missiles and other advanced weapons. On the subject of nuclear war, Putin said in an interview, “Certainly it would be a global catastrophe for humanity, a catastrophe for the whole world.” He added that “as a citizen of Russia and as the head of the Russian state, I have to ask myself: Why would we want a world without Russia?”
Use it or lose it
Putin went on to say that despite the disastrous consequences, Russia is compelled to defend itself with all available means when its existence is at stake:
“A decision on the use of nuclear weapons can be made only if our ballistic missile warning system not only detects a launch but also predicts that the warheads would hit Russian territory. This is called a retaliatory strike.”
Here’s the kicker. If a radar “detects” and “predicts,” we’re all toast – or become french fries. While Russia now has sophisticated weapons that can knock out any conventional anti-ballistic missile (ABM) defense, it lags behind the U.S. in early warning capability.
Think about it. Which should you be more afraid of: being intentionally fried or being accidentally fried? Macabre. Aren’t these choices incredibly stupid for rational people? However, if I were forced to choose, I would be much more upset about being accidentally fried. Please read the following and ask yourself if an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine is necessary or if those who want to risk war with Russia should be beheaded.
Russia: limited early warning coverage.
With its satellite-based Global Situational Awareness warning system, the United States is able to immediately detect the launch and location of a ballistic missile anywhere in the world, including at sea. Russia does not have this global capability. If this technical inadequacy is not taken into account (and there are indications that the Pentagon is not paying attention to it), we could all suddenly be very dead – or “mostly dead” (to quote Billy Christal in The Princess Bride). Ted Postol detailed this at a virtual salon hosted by the Committee for the Republic on March 17.
Postol, a retired MIT professor of physics and senior Pentagon advisor, provided a brief case study, which I summarize below:
On January 25, 1995, Russian generals focused on a missile launched from Norway and detected by their automated alert radar. Could this be the opening salvo of a large-scale nuclear attack, including sea-launched ballistic missiles? Since Russia is unable to detect missile launches from submarines at sea, the generals could not rule out the possibility that Russia had already been attacked by nuclear-armed Trident submarines.
The salvation in 1995 was that the same generals had reliable information that U.S. intercontinental ballistic missiles were not about to attack. At least as important, in 1995 relations between Russia and the United States were relatively balanced. And now? Not so much anymore.
Postol added the following to illustrate Russia’s increased concern about its early warning deficit: The U.S. has now increased the total killing power of its ballistic missile force by a factor of two to three. This is exactly the kind of capability that a nuclear-armed state would build if it wanted the ability to fight and “win” a nuclear war through a disarming first strike.
The missile from Norway? Scientists had launched it to study the Northern Lights, but apparently no one had thought to inform the Russians.
What else can be done but ask the Norwegians to give the Russians a heads up next time? Washington can stop straining relations even more over Ukraine. The Pentagon may boast of its impressive offensive strategic capabilities, but it has no way to protect us from a Russian nuclear attack. And if there is a false alarm like there was in 1995, this time without the “saving grace” of a reasonable bilateral relationship with Russia, we could all end up as human fries. We should take no comfort in knowing that this will happen to most Russians as well.
Remarks on the war in Ukraine
by Alfred Spieler
[This article published on 3/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.isw-muenchen.de/2022/03/bemerkungen-zum-krieg-in-der-ukraine/.]
An early end to this war is urgently needed to prevent more people from dying, being injured and/or traumatized, or having to flee head over heels. Already the (according to the OSCE) approximately 14,000 deaths since 2014 in the Donbass, of which about three quarters are civilian victims, are too much, but are still deliberately ignored in the West because they are part of the causes of this war, for which the USA and NATO bear a considerable share of the responsibility.
This war must end as soon as possible because it threatens peace throughout Europe and, in the worst case, threatens to degenerate into a global conflict.
The longer the war lasts, the greater this danger becomes. The peace movement’s demand “Lay down your arms – No to war!” therefore deserves full support.
One can only hope that Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine will not become a second Afghanistan. An associated destabilization of the internal situation in Russia would be fatal not only for the population, but also for the prospects of normalizing relations with Russia and for peace in Europe.
Basically, we are witnessing a proxy Russia-NATO war in which Ukrainian and Russian lives are the victims. One cannot ignore the fact that the U.S. has pumped Ukraine full of weapons for over two billion dollars, thousands of military personnel from NATO countries were or are present there, and now the EU and the Federal Republic are also contributing to the further escalation of the conflict with their military “aid.” NATO, which was “brain-dead” (Emmanuel Macron) only a short time ago, has achieved a strategic success because it succeeded in sweeping all of Russia’s demands regarding its security interests off the table and instead driving it into a military confrontation.
Undermining of international law
The Russian military intervention in Ukraine is a massive violation of international law, which has been undermined with impunity, especially after 1990 by NATO wars (Yugoslavia, Iraq, Libya) – with at least 600,000 deaths in Iraq alone. However, this cannot legitimize Russian military intervention in Ukraine, even by invoking the right of self-defense under Article 51 of the UN Charter (as argued by President Putin on Feb. 24, 2022), despite all understanding of legitimate Russian security interests. The danger that international law will be increasingly devalued and replaced by a “law of the fist” is obvious.
It is downright paradoxical that Russia, of all countries, which in recent years has repeatedly insisted on compliance with the UN Charter, is now waging a preventive war in violation of international law. President Putin explained that Russia did not want to find itself again in a situation in which, like the Soviet Union in 1941, its existence would be fundamentally challenged by a lightning-like invasion and it would have had to accept millions of victims. The memory of the trauma of the fascist German invasion, which is still felt in Russia, has a real and undeniable significance here, which should be respected by the German side in particular.
Instead, Russia is all too often accused of having an exaggerated security interest.
Russia’s attempt to justify its military action against Ukraine with a “historical right” is, however, dubious. Even in leadership circles of the Ukrainian opposition platform “For Life,” President Putin’s thesis of “one people” of Russians and Ukrainians has been clearly and publicly rejected. The desire and the right to self-determination play an important role here, but so do massive economic interests of Ukrainian oligarchs who do not want to be hemmed in by the Russian side (though not by the Western side either from the point of view of fighting corruption).
In this respect, Great Russian nationalism and especially Ukrainian nationalism, which is to a large extent consciously based on the traditions of the fascist Bandera criminals, are obstacles to a peace settlement and to a normalization of Russia-Ukraine bilateral relations. Overcoming the tragedy of the war between the two largest and most important republics of the former USSR will therefore require difficult compromises and a political will to find solutions that currently seem beyond short-term horizons.
The calculus of war
It is utterly nonsensical to assume that Russia’s military intervention in Ukraine was not done after weighing all the consequences for Russia. Certainly, the dangers of deploying U.S. mobile missile systems on the Ukrainian-Russian border, which can be equipped with both conventional and nuclear warheads and which reduce the warning time for an attack on Moscow to four to five minutes, in the event that Ukraine joins NATO in 2023, play a very decisive role. And the U.S. bioreactors in Ukraine are not as harmless as they are portrayed in Western media, especially since such facilities are not only prohibited by law on U.S. territory, but in Ukraine and other former Soviet republics they are under the control of the Pentagon, yet inaccessible to independent monitoring bodies.
But were the consequences of the Russian attack on Ukraine to be assessed realistically at all? Doesn’t Russia follow the motto “Better an end with horror than horror without an end” here? A starting position that may prevent decision-makers in Moscow from stopping “halfway” and thus risking defeat. And where does that lead?
Having modernized its military force with completely new types of weapons systems, Russia has been in the process since 2018 of focusing on an extensive program to modernize economic and social infrastructure, fight the still high levels of poverty, improve living conditions for families, and develop the healthcare system. An elaborate expansion of transport infrastructure has also been set in motion, as well as much-needed improvements in environmental protection and nature conservation, including the reduction of climate-damaging emissions. This process, which had already suffered setbacks as a result of the Corona pandemic, is now being seriously damaged. The immediate costs of the war and, in particular, the massive Western sanctions, which not only strike Russia to the heart but are apparently intended to drive it off the world stage as a serious competitor for years to come as part of a new economic war, may set Russia’s modernization back by years. Instead of realizing the ambition of transforming capitalist Russia into a modern welfare state along Western lines, preconditions for a neoliberal turn and further domestic hardening will come within reach. What this means for Russia’s stability can be imagined if one remembers the disastrous situation the country was in during the 1990s – and that in the largest country on earth with a nuclear weapons potential that belongs to be eliminated in a treaty-regulated process, just like that of all other nuclear-armed states in the world.
The consequences include not only the human suffering, the economic, social and societal effects for Russia and Ukraine, but also the imponderables for further developments in Europe. Instead of a European security structure with Russia, a climate of confrontation looms for years to come, in which Russia will be assigned the role of a leper pariah and the trees will not grow to the sky in Ukraine either. The division of Europe, which is in the U.S. interest, will finally be shifted to the eastern border of the NATO area between the Baltic Sea and the Black Sea, possibly with new members of NATO (Finland, Sweden) and almost certainly with an unprecedented militarization of Europe.
The declared Russian war aims of “demilitarization” and “denazification” must be critically questioned. At the moment, Ukraine’s military infrastructure is largely destroyed and nuclear facilities (Chernobyl, Zaporozhye) are occupied, but this is only a snapshot – arms corporations in the USA, Germany, France and Great Britain can hope for new profits. It is hardly foreseeable whether Ukraine will become neutral. At the moment, the possibility of renouncing NATO membership, which has been raised by the Ukrainian president, seems to be more of a tactical move that is not planned for the long term but is due to Ukraine’s difficult military situation.
And how is the intended “denazification” to be implemented? The example of denazification in Germany after 1945, which is repeatedly cited by the Russian government, is hardly likely to be transferable. For at that time there was a common contractual basis for this among the Allies of the anti-Hitler coalition through the Potsdam Agreement. We are a long way from that. Critical voices in Russia point out that large parts of the population in the areas taken by the Russian military are not reacting in a friendly manner. Years of anti-Russian propaganda, nationalist sentiment and persecution of the opposition have left deep scars that will not disappear overnight.
Moreover, the more than two million refugees and the destruction of Ukrainian cities (including the Donbass) show that the horror of war cannot be ignored. Not even by banning the use of the term war – as is currently the case in Russia – but by officially speaking of a “special military-technical measure”.
Upper water for the “hawks” in Germany
In Germany, the Russian military intervention gives the “hawks” an upper hand again. This applies not only to Chancellor Scholz’s proclaimed 100 billion euro rearmament program, the commitment to at least two percent of GDP in annual “defense spending,” but also to the reorientation in foreign policy – away from orientations toward détente and military restraint toward a new militaristic power policy worldwide – as well as targeted media control in favor of narratives that correspond to this course and are intended to suppress critical discourse. This course is accompanied by restrictions on fundamental rights, discrimination and defamation. Those who fail to recognize that the Ukraine war is strengthening a tendency toward authoritarianism in our country underestimate the dangers for the future.
The upper water of the “hawks” is also evident in the media. Not only through the spread of “fake-news” as recently with the alleged Russian attack on a maternity clinic in Mariupol (coyly adding the note “information cannot be independently verified”) and a “shitstorm” on all statements that deviate from the narrative of the West, but also through the climate against almost everything Russian that is co-distributed by the media.
Scandalous are the actions of public officials against world-class Russian artists such as the conductor Valery Gergiev in Munich and by cultural managers against the singer Anna Netrebko, who have been driven out of the cultural scene in a manner reminiscent of the darkest German times. Scandalous the Russophobia that unsettles a majority of immigrants from the former Soviet Union and Russian citizens living in the Federal Republic, even as they criticize and condemn President Putin’s actions. Scandalous the acts of violence up to an arson attack on a Berlin school under Russian leadership, which was immediately condemned by the governing mayor of Berlin. Scandalous, too, the activities and calls to break off relations between cities, universities, cultural institutions, etc. that had grown over many years. And finally, scandalous are the campaign-like attempts to sideline people who have been committed for years to good neighborly relations between Germans and the peoples of Russia and to cooperation that is in the interest of both countries. Very few statements from German politics stand out from such often inane attempts to create a climate that seriously damages the values of democracy that are always upheld.
Highest recognition for assistance at the municipal level
In contrast to this is the commitment in the humanitarian field for the refugees from Ukraine, which is largely carried out by voluntary and private initiatives. However, on-site assistance for refugees arriving here, especially women, children and families, requires greater support from the federal government. What is being done here at the municipal level in cities such as Berlin, Frankfurt/Oder, Hamburg, Munich and many others is unprecedented and deserves the highest recognition.
Those who want to stop the war must not stop at demanding its immediate end, but must also ensure that not all bridges to Russia are burned. Otherwise, the necessary conditions for a peaceful future in Europe will be lacking. The fact remains that a stable peace in Europe will only be possible in the long term with Russia.
Dr. rer. pol, project work social policy, guest author
Russia’s war shakes the world economy
by Joachim Bischoff
Political-Economic Consequences of Economic Warfare
[This article published on 3/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Russlands Krieg erschüttert die Weltwirtschaft.
Russlands Krieg erschüttert die Weltwirtschaft
24. März 2022 Joachim Bischoff: Politisch-ökonomische Folgen des Wirtschaftskriegs Russlands Krieg erschüttert…
The OECD (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development of Industrialized Countries) rightly states, “The most important consequence of the war in Ukraine is the human lives lost and the humanitarian crisis associated with the large number of people besieged and displaced. However, there are also numerous significant economic implications.”
The Russian invasion is also a major humanitarian crisis affecting millions of people in other parts of the world, and a severe economic shock of uncertain duration and magnitude, with a hunger or food crisis looming in many other countries. Before the war, the global recovery from the pandemic was expected to continue in 2022 and 2023, supported by continued progress in global vaccination efforts, supportive macroeconomic policies in major economies, and favorable financial conditions.
The December 2021 OECD Economic Outlook projected global GDP growth of 4.5% in 2022 and 3.2% in 2023, with most countries recovering quickly after the Omicron disruptions to societal reproduction. At the same time, higher food and energy prices, supply constraints related to the pandemic, and a rapid recovery in demand starting in the mid-2020s led to an acceleration and widening of inflation in most OECD economies, particularly the United States, Latin America, and many other countries in Central and Eastern Europe.
Impact on economic performance
The Russian invasion of Ukraine, the ongoing war, and also the “tough” sanctions imposed by the West will put significant downward pressure on economic growth in the global economy. In case of prolonged military operations or intensification of the “economic war”, a global economic recession is imminent. Even before the Ukraine war, the state of the global economy was not dazzling. The recovery in global accumulation expected as recently as the beginning of the year had already been slowed by the still-ongoing COVID pandemic and discontinuity in supply chains. With the war, a worsened constellation emerges: the OECD expects reduced growth and predicts that global inflation of 4.2% will shoot up by another 2.47% worldwide.
The Russia-Ukraine war is affecting the economy in the euro zone primarily through higher energy prices, but also higher food prices. The repercussions due to the loss of supplies of artificial fertilizers and agricultural products (wheat, corn) on many countries in other continents are devastating. In addition, there is the impact of the largest refugee movement in Europe since World War II. Given the dramatic destruction and human suffering in Ukraine, it is nonetheless essential to try to assess the impact on global economic performance, despite the uncertainty of the data.
The economies directly affected by the war – Ukraine and Russia – are being pushed into contraction. For Ukraine, even in the event of a ceasefire, a brutal destruction of the life process is on the horizon.
Ukraine – the poorhouse of Europe
The invasion of Ukraine hits one of the weakest economies in Europe and the post-Soviet area. Ukraine, once the flagship of the tsarist empire and the Soviet regime, is now only a shadow of its former self.
In 1990, the per capita GDP of the then Socialist Republic of Ukraine within the USSR was $16,428.5. While this was 24% less than that of the Russian Federation and 31% less than the average for the Europe and Central Asia region, it was 70% above the world average.
Thirty years later, in 2020, the same Ukrainian GDP per capita was only $12,375.9, a 25% decrease. Meanwhile, the Russian level increased by 23%, the Europe-Central Asia level by 42%, and the world level by 67%. Thus, Ukraine has been further impoverished and has undergone a massive decline. Its per capita GDP level is now 31% below the world average.
GDP per capita trends since 1990 in the world and in some Eastern European countries.
Ukraine has lost almost eight million inhabitants between 1990 and 2020, from 51.9 million to 44.1 million. Even now, with no end to the war in sight, experts estimate that war-related flight is around 25%.
Economic performance was already depressingly low before the war. The reason: The transformation process toward a capitalist economy that began in 1990 remained stuck in an economy of political clientelism. The takeover of companies by oligarchs led to kleptocratic structures. According to the World Bank, investment declined. Modernization of industrial plants never really took place, wealth distribution was distorted, and Ukraine logically lost ground on world markets.
This development provided the social breeding ground for the Maidan revolution of 2014. After the political upheaval, February 21, 2014, was marked by diplomacy and mediation in the face of another rebellion in the eastern provinces: The foreign ministers of Germany and Poland, Frank-Walter Steinmeier and Radoslaw Sikorski, had managed to get Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych to sign an agreement with the opposition to settle the crisis and open a pacification of the civil war.
In Kiev or Lviv, the Maidan victory was celebrated as a victory for freedom. But in the east, a war was raging for self-government of the Russian part of the population, backed by Moscow. It claimed over ten thousand victims, created immeasurable suffering, and continues to hold the entire country in its shackles to this day. The worsening crisis with Russia led to the country’s de facto decision to move closer to the EU.
The regime of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) ensured an expansion of dollar loans. At the same time, the IMF’s conditionality did little to roll back the deformities of crony capitalism. In addition, the conflict in the Donbass region escalated, ultimately massively weakening Ukraine’s growth by depriving it of the resources of Crimea, which was annexed by Russia, and the two occupied territories in the Donbass. A British institute’s estimate concludes that cumulative losses between 2014 and 2020 amount to $280 billion.
After the Maidan, the civil war in the Donbass and the conflict with Russia, Ukraine was able to avoid total bankruptcy only by not having to pay its debts to Russia and by using the IMF. Since 2014, loans from the IMF and other Western countries (FRG) have stabilized the economy and the system of government. While the IMF has not really succeeded in enforcing an active fight against corruption, this influence has had the effect of enshrining the independence of the central bank NBU in the constitution and thus making the monetary and foreign exchange system work.
A downside of this stability policy is the reduction in social spending. Between 2014 and 2020, it fell from 20% to 13% of GDP, and spending on public salaries stagnated. With an already very weakened social sector, these measures were bound to further depress the Ukrainian economy. With unemployment at 10% and an impoverished population, even before Russia’s military intervention, social renewal and modernization of the economy were extremely difficult to get off the ground. After the now foreseeable extent of the destruction of the public and private capitalist infrastructure as well as the loss of population, the country will have to start from scratch, as it were, and would be dependent on massive development aid from the West.
Possibly the biggest problem is the continuing movement of refugees. Migration researcher Knaus believes it is possible that ten million people will flee Ukraine, thus reducing the population of 44 million by another quarter. A larger part will come to Germany. What is certain, however, is that “the flight movement we are now seeing will be historic and unique in terms of numbers.” Knaus expects the largest flight movement in Europe since the Second World War. Already, he said, as many people have fled Ukraine in one week as came to Greece in all of 2015.
Russia’s invasion is the cause of a massive humanitarian and economic crisis in Ukraine, IMF chief Gregorieva said. A severe recession in Ukraine is inevitable, in the IMF’s view. “Even if hostilities stop immediately, reconstruction and economic recovery will come at a massive cost,” Gregorieva said-the IMF is already propping up Ukraine’s currency and economy with billions of dollars.
Russia also faces severe recession
The consequences of the war are by no means limited to Ukraine. Russia, due to the harsh sanctions, is also sliding into a severe recession, including high inflation and “sharply declining” living standards for the majority of Russians. The West has responded to the war in Ukraine with unprecedented sanctions. The big surprise was that transactions with the Russian Central Bank were banned and the bank’s assets were frozen in the EU and the US. Russia has foreign currency reserves of $630 billion. Moscow cannot now access a large portion of them. This is effectively the opening of a momentous economic war.
Russian oligarch Oleg Deripaska sees the Russian economic crisis as a difficult road ahead: “It will be like the 1998 crisis, but three times worse and will last 3 years.” U.S. bank JP Morgan is a bit more precise in its assessment: it expects Russia’s economy to contract by 35% in the second quarter of 2022 and 7% in 2022, with the economy suffering a decline in economic output comparable to the 1998 crisis. Economists Felbermayr and Braml point out that “Germany is also waging an economic war against Russia,” although it is not yet fully aware of it. “Perhaps Russia – like Germany in the 20th century – will have to collapse twice in a short time economically, but above all morally, before it renounces imperialism and recognizes the benefits of a rules-based and liberal peace order.”
Nonetheless, “A collapse is not to be expected. There will be a recession, the Russian economy will shrink by ten, 13 or 15 percent. But we have to remember that Russia’s total exports are only 28 percent of Russia’s gross national product. So it is not the entire national economy that will be affected. The slump will be followed by a period of adjustment and conversion, and then there will be a recovery. In the long run, growth will be much slower because of inefficiencies.”
According to IMF chief Georgieva, Ukraine and Russia’s neighbors also face declining trade revenues, a lack of remittances from compatriots working in Russia, and costs from hosting refugees.
The other regions
The consequences for many other countries come from increases in commodity and food prices and decreases in the value of money. The International Monetary Fund is on the verge of revising its world economic outlook significantly downward. It sees three chains of effects at work: price increases for food and energy fuel inflation. Falling purchasing power is causing overall economic demand to shrink. Neighboring countries in the war zone are severely affected. Their international supply chains are broken, trade is disrupted and, according to the Monetary Fund, less money is flowing through foreign remittances. Moreover, neighboring countries must cope with large numbers of refugees.
In many countries in Africa in particular, the loss of wheat exports threatens a significant shortage in the food supply and thus a hunger crisis. The IMF fears “massive” economic consequences, not least outside the euro zone. Georgieva predicts a “real shock” for the African continent in particular: 42 of 54 countries there are energy importers, which at the same time often hardly have the funds for state energy subsidies. States dependent on grain imports from Russia and Ukraine, such as Egypt, face “dramatic problems,” Georgieva said. She also reiterated that some states, including Egypt, are having to forgo important income from business with Russian tourists because of sanctions on payments.
Asia is not spared either. More expensive food and energy are also foreseeable there. Georgieva now considers the Chinese leadership’s target of 5.5% economic growth “difficult to achieve.” And India, which is preparing to become the world’s most populous country, will probably also have to fight harder against rising inflation. Often enough, that goes hand in hand with rising unemployment.
In South America, rising prices are likely to be a particularly big problem, according to Georgieva: The countries there are still struggling with the consequences of the pandemic, and inflation is particularly high at the same time. Whether higher food prices will help exporters there is uncertain, according to Georgieva. The global supply of fertilizer is also in danger because Russian exports are not coming in and gas, the basic ingredient for fertilizer production, is becoming much more expensive.
The IMF chief only hinted at whether there might be bottom-line beneficiaries of the current escalation. It is likely to be the states that export many energy sources and where food imports play a rather minor role – i.e. at most a handful of the 193 UN states.
Ukraine-Russia crisis and the financial system
The rumors about an imminent state bankruptcy of Russia with drastic repercussions for the international financial system are rejected by many experts. The outbreak of a systemic crisis for the financial system due to a Russian default is therefore considered unlikely. This has also been pointed out by IMF chief Georgieva. The exposure of banks to Russian securities is considered low and, moreover, also known. By contrast, the problem with the collapse of the U.S. investment bank Lehman Brothers in September 2008, at the height of the financial crisis, was that it was not known exactly who had the huge risks on their books.
More expensive energy and commodity imports are coming up against a global economy already suffering the consequences of the pandemic, high inflation and empty public coffers. Now, the IMF chief predicted, the renewed rise in prices would lead to lower purchasing power and thus to declining economic output and more poverty.
And then there is the capital that usually flees to safe – i.e. wealthy – havens during crises. Financing government loans and private investment in poorer countries makes that more difficult, Georgieva warned.
The current omicron wave in the pandemic that has been raging for two years is winding down. Quite a few states are rolling back enacted mobility restrictions. In 2022, the transition to an epidemic stage of viral disease could be reached.
Less positive is the envisioned return to the common accumulation mode. The hoped-for rapid return to economic dynamism is not in sight. Growth rates are lower and price increases remain at a high level. In view of the economic consequences of the war, weaker expected growth in China and the USA, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) will have to further downgrade its forecast for the development of the global economy.
Consequences for Germany
Energy prices are a significant factor in the inflation rate. It is already becoming apparent that the Russian invasion of Ukraine will slow down the recovery of the global economy from the consequences of the Corona crisis. Despite Russia’s comparatively low economic output, commodities and agricultural products are having a significant negative impact on the international economy.
The Russian invasion of Ukraine and the sanctions imposed by the West could roughly halve economic growth in Germany in 2022. According to the Ifo Institute, the consequences of the Ukraine war will significantly slow down the German economy in 2022, while also driving inflation extremely high. “We only expect growth of between 2.2 and 3.1 percent this year,” Ifo’s head of economic research Timo Wollmershäuser said of the new forecast. Previously, the Ifo Institute had still expected gross domestic product (GDP) to rise by 3.7 percent. “The Russian attack is dampening the economy via significantly higher commodity prices, the sanctions, increasing supply bottlenecks for raw materials and intermediate products, and increased economic uncertainty.” Inflation is thus likely to rise faster than expected. The Ifo Institute projects 5.1% to 6.1% for 2022 instead of the 3.3% expected in December.
The German government has previously assumed a GDP increase of 3.6%. While the International Monetary Fund (IMF) announced it would soon lower its forecast for the global economy because of the war, German machinery manufacturers already capped their estimate as a result. “Instead of an originally expected growth of seven percent in real terms, we are now only expecting a production increase of four percent for the current year,” said the president of the VDMA industry association, Karl Haeusgen. He added that the war would have a significant impact on the mechanical and plant engineering sector and would once again exacerbate the supply bottlenecks that have not yet been overcome. According to the VDMA survey, 85% of nearly 550 companies questioned considered the war to be a serious or noticeable risk to their business.
Quite in line with the accumulation movement in the global economy, the U.S. reproduction process is also registering a significant increase in economic growth. The U.S. economy grew at its fastest pace in decades last quarter, reaching an annualized rate of 6.9%, the highest level in nearly 40 years. This acceleration in accumulation was also the result of enormous government support packages. Most recently, after long delays, the second anti-crisis program was also approved by the budget law with a spending volume of around 1.5 trillion. (1.36 trillion euros), including $13.6 billion for humanitarian and military aid to Ukraine.
However, despite the trillion-dollar aid programs, it does not look like a sustained boom, the “Roaring Twenties” of the 21st century. After a short recovery, the accumulation rates of the capitalist countries are falling back into a downward trend. Some economists speak of a trend toward secular (Larry Summers and Robert Gordon) stagnation: they point to the small increases in average productivity growth. The “low-hanging fruit” of technological progress, as it is called in American, has all been harvested. The epoch from 1870 to 1970, with its multiplication of wealth, is seen as a historical exception. The capitalist system has driven social prosperity with new bursts of innovation and advances in productivity, but growth rates are nevertheless flattening out because r effort and commitment to these productivity gains are becoming ever higher.
As early as 1938, the American economist Alvin Hansen argued that if the population grows more slowly and production requires less capital, demand for consumer and capital goods will fall. Full employment would therefore no longer be achieved. Hansen was hugely mistaken because he did not foresee the post-World War II economic dynamics in the final stages of the Great Depression.
Summers insists that Hansen’s arguments were shelved too soon. He sees Japan, probably Europe, and possibly the United States in a situation of underinvestment to take advantage of the supply of savings capital.
Typically, such market imbalances can exist only temporarily. Price regulates supply and demand. The price for saving and investing, however, is the interest rate, or more precisely, the real interest rate adjusted for inflation. It would have to fall in order to bring savings supply and investment into theoretical equilibrium – and thus the economy to full employment.
In this chain of arguments, government credit and monetary policy lose their persuasive power. Not unexpectedly, Summers calls for extended debt-financed investment programs by the government to bring the economy out of sustained slow growth. However, the high rates of price increases, as we also see in the U.S., pose further challenges to this strategy of combating the flattening trend of accumulation and growth.
The current development in the U.S. is an illustration of this accumulation dynamic of the capitalist metropolises. With enormous resource deployment of government fiscal policy, supported by an offensive credit policy of the Federal Reserve, the economy in the U.S. has been prevented from slipping into a crisis mode. With historically high levels of intervention, the accumulation process has been pushed back into accelerated gear at the end of the Corona pandemic – despite the filibustering and obstructionism of the Republican congressional minority. The U.S. accumulation dynamics shine with high growth rates, but the high demonetization and the loss of purchasing power are unpleasant side effects and at the same time the regression to low growth rates is indicated.
The fact is that the U.S. inflation rate rose again to 7.9% in February at a high level, reaching another 40-year high. Due to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, it is very likely to remain very high in the near future because all the related turbulence on the energy and commodity markets is not yet included in the data.
To be sure, the U.S. economy remains in good shape – at the end of 2021, GDP was up 7% on an annualized basis, and the unemployment rate also fell to 3.8%. But the outlook is more uncertain than ever before against the backdrop of the Ukraine war.
Summers has always stressed that his argument is not about fatalism, but about policies to stimulate aggregate demand through fiscal expansion. To ensure full employment, we must not limit ourselves to interest rate policies to support sustained and adequate aggregate demand. As is now evident, the trend toward low growth rates will return at the end of the pandemic.
U.S. inflation remains above the 2% target at just under 8%, there are an unusually large number of job openings in the labor market, and the U.S. economy is performing comparatively robustly despite all the geopolitical turmoil – and now the Fed has responded by raising the federal funds rate by 0.25 for the first time since the start of the Corona pandemic. It held out the prospect of a series of further increases this year, as well as a reduction in the Fed’s balance sheet soon, to prevent the economy from overheating and to bring inflation down.
“The U.S. economy is so strong right now that no recession is likely in the months ahead,” Fed President Jerome Powell said. The central bank is explicitly committed to the goal of price stability and is prepared to use any means to achieve it, he said. This is because the economic costs of a high inflation rate are too high, and without stable price expectations, it is impossible to achieve sustainable growth.
According to Powell, the U.S. economy is no longer dependent on the extraordinarily generous monetary policy framework after the dynamic recovery of recent months, and consequently the aim is to scale it back. This development even goes somewhat further than what investors in the financial markets have been expecting so far, the central bank chief further explained, referring to the recent tightening of various indices that track financial conditions.
Rising interest rates are meant to curb inflation by dampening demand. Once borrowing becomes more expensive, fewer people will be able to afford real estate, cars, etc., and companies will invest less in production facilities and new machinery. The political tact is to get the “monetary policy withdrawal” right. If it comes too quickly or is too severe, the economy risks sliding into recession. There is no question that this risk has grown considerably in times of the Ukraine war. With this maneuver, the impetus of the U.S. economy on the global economy is also declining. And even the PRC is dropping out as a strong stimulus provider.
Tough sanctions against Russia, ongoing Corona infections, high commodity prices, and food supply shortages are creating uncertainty across Asia – especially for China’s economy.
Growth in China weakened in the fourth quarter of 2021. In 2022, growth is now expected to be 4.8% instead of 5.5%. China’s Premier Li Keqiang recently told delegates at the National People’s Congress that China’s economy should grow by “around” 5.5% in the current year. Many experts believe that this target is not achievable unless the government resorts to old, outdated instruments such as massive state-funded investment programs.
Economic growth in the People’s Republic of China
Li spreads optimism. “China is capable of dealing with short-term economic fluctuations.” The country coped well with the economic impact of Covid-19, which led to the positive development of asset prices in 2020. However, 2021 was an extremely difficult one for markets as the People’s Bank of China tightened monetary policy and the education and internet sectors became more regulated. Growth was further dampened during the year as the zero-covid strategy slowed consumption, over-indebted real estate companies struggled to pay their debts, and the country faced energy supply shortages. In addition, the Chinese government announced a shift in policy priorities away from growth at all costs toward more widespread prosperity.
High commodity prices in particular, but also sanctions imposed by the West, are likely to leave skid marks on the economy. Chinese economists are nervous about possible supply bottlenecks for fertilizers and foodstuffs. Both Russia and Ukraine are major wheat producers. At the same time, the situation in Chinese agriculture is already tense. Currently, China is 80% self-sufficient in food. The government would like to increase the quota to 95% in the medium term.
“Sanctions are affecting global finances, energy supply, transportation, as well as supply chain stability, and slowing down the global economy, which is already suffering from the pandemic,” China’s leader Xi Jinping said warningly in a recent video call with Emmanuel Macron and Olaf Scholz, the heads of government of France and Germany.
In addition to the ongoing Corona pandemic, the repercussions of the war between Russia and Ukraine cannot be ignored for the weakened growth dynamics of the PRC. As a consequence, the PRC is likely to lose significantly in importance as an engine and accumulation center for the global economy.
Ukraine, but also some EU countries, are pushing for a further intensification of the economic war against Russia, especially for an EU import ban on energy from Russia. They argue that President Putin is using the revenues – several hundred million euros every day – to finance his war. The German traffic light government still opposes this demand for an intensification of the economic war. There is equally clear opposition to this escalation logic from academia and civil society.
Economist Monika Schnitzer also strongly warns against an import ban on Russian gas. “I am very concerned that a gas embargo would result not only in massive economic dislocation, but also in social dislocation.” The member of the Council of Economic Experts explains that the update of the annual report on March 30 will also contain significant corrections.
In November, the Council of Economic Experts had forecast economic growth of 4.6% and inflation of 2.6% for 2022. “In fact, you can hardly believe your eyes when you look at the November figures today. At that time, there was no real sign of the Omikron variant of the pandemic. Now the second variant of Omikron will bring the next wave. Add to that the war, which was preceded by a spike in energy prices – as we now see in retrospect – fueled by Russia. All of that will dampen the economy. […] It is also obvious that inflation will be much higher: certainly above 4 percent. But I wouldn’t rule out 5 and even 6 percent either.”
 OECD, Economic and Social Impacts and Policy Implications of the War in Ukraine, 3/17/2022.
 See Adam Tooze, “We Are Waging Economic War on Russia. Europe’s and the U.S.’ unprecedented sanctions against Russia mark a turning point, the financial system is being turned into a weapon of war, says economic historian Adam Tooze, interview with “Der Standard”, 5.3.2022. Also Martin Braml and Gabriel Felbermayr, The Logic of Economic War, in: Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), 18.3.2022.
 Press release, 23.3.2022.
 See Tooze, op. cit.
 Braml/Felbermayr, op. cit.
 Tooze, op. cit.
 Cf. Winand von Petersdorff, Der Krieg bedroht die Weltwirtschaft, in: FAZ, 17.3. 2022.
 Ifo Economic Forecast Spring 2022: Consequences of the Russian-Ukrainian War Dampen German Economy, March 23, 2022.
 Neue Zürcher Zeitung (NZZ), March 21, 2022.
#DerAppell: No high armament in the Basic Law!
[This appeal published on 3/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.marx21.de/derappell-keine-hochruestung-ins-grundgesetz/.]
marx21 asks all readers to sign and spread the appeal against armament. Click here to sign. We document the text of the appeal below
On February 24, Russia under President Vladimir Putin invaded Ukraine. Already this war has claimed thousands of victims and cost hundreds of thousands their homes.
There is no justification for this war. Putin bears full responsibility for the dead and the people on the run. Putin’s justifications for the war are lies and propaganda. We are very worried about the future of peace and security in Europe and the world. This fear unites us with the hundreds of thousands of people who, after the war began, took to the streets in Cologne, Berlin, Munich, Frankfurt, Hamburg and hundreds of other cities alone, expressing their outrage at Putin’s war, their solidarity with the Ukrainian people, their fear of further escalation and their desire for peace and security. Together with them, we demonstrated against Putin’s war and for peace.
Acquiring conventional weapons such as fighter jets and weaponized drones as a deterrent under nuclear military blocs is pointless.
These demonstrations were the largest peace demonstrations since the protests against the Iraq war in 2003. On the very same day that people took to the streets in Berlin to protest the war, the German government, with the support of the CDU/CSU, presented a package of measures that would see the largest rearmament of Germany since the end of World War II. A massive rearmament of the Bundeswehr will not help the people in Ukraine. The new weapons to be acquired will not support the Ukrainians in their struggle and right to self-defense. Already now the “defense expenditures” of all 30 NATO countries exceed the Russian ones by almost twenty times. Acquiring conventional weapons such as fighter planes and weaponized drones as a deterrent under nuclear military blocs is pointless. NATO countries, including Germany, began to significantly increase their arms spending before 2014, long before the Ukraine conflict occurred. Parts of the rearmament plans can already be found in the coalition agreement, well before the first warnings of an imminent Russian invasion. However, this war and the horrific images of the deaths and destruction in Ukraine cannot justify a radical change of course in German foreign policy and the highest increase in German arms spending since World War II – even through an amendment to the Basic Law.
To decide on such a 180-degree turnaround in German foreign policy, with correspondingly dramatic consequences for domestic policy as well – for the welfare state, for liberality and humanity – without any broad social debate, without any parliamentary debate, and even without any internal party debate at all, would be a scandal in terms of democratic policy.
In addition to the previous 49 billion in armaments spending in the 2022 budget, 100 billion is to be set aside this year as a special fund that will be available to the Bundeswehr over several years. This sum corresponds to the spending of several federal ministries, including such important departments as health (16.03 billion), education and research (19.36 billion), interior, construction and home affairs (18.52 billion), family, seniors, women and youth (12.16 billion), economy and energy (9.81 billion), environment (2.7 billion), cooperation and development (10.8 billion) and food and agriculture (6.98 billion). In the future, 2% of GDP is to be spent on armaments on a permanent basis. This would increase spending to well over 70 billion euros a year. At the same time, the German government wants to adhere to the “debt brake,” which in the long term raises the question of our democratic priorities and brings with it the danger of massive cuts in the social, cultural and public sectors. In the name of democracy, we reject the idea of making this political course setting additionally binding on future governments by anchoring it in the Basic Law. Security and social justice, not armaments, are the mandate of the Basic Law.
The arms buildup planned for decades will not end the deaths in Ukraine and will not make our world more peaceful or safer.
Instead of decisions made virtually overnight and in the smallest of circles, we call for broad democratic discussion of a comprehensive security concept that includes security from military attacks as well as pandemic and ecological aspects and is based on the concept of the unity of security and common development.
We are confronted with war and endless suffering, with flight, with poverty and social insecurity, with a global pandemic that has shown how our health systems are on edge, with a public infrastructure whose decades-long neglect is now costing us dearly, with a cultural scene that is running on fumes, and with a climate catastrophe that does not stop at national borders and requires immense investments in future technologies and social cushioning. The arms buildup planned for decades will not end the deaths in Ukraine, will not make our world more peaceful and will not make it safer. We cannot afford it in the name of the future.
The privatization of world politics
The repressive surveillance state knows no stopping and secures itself with appropriate contracts under the guise of health protection.
By Christine Wicht
[This article published on 3/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/die-privatisierung-der-weltpolitik.]
It is largely taking place under the radar of public attention, and yet it may affect all of our lives more than most issues that are currently quasi-“officially” important. On Dec. 1, 2021, the 194 members of the World Health Organization (WHO) agreed to negotiate an international convention to strengthen pandemic prevention that would be binding under international law. A draft is expected to be ready as early as August 2022, shown to the WHO General Assembly in 2023, and adopted in 2024 (1). As a result, international political organizations such as the UN will be closely intertwined with transnational corporations. However, it is not the control of the private sphere by the sphere of politics that this change is likely to serve – conversely, treaties such as the Global Compact will act as a gateway for corporate interests. We can all still help to stop this disastrous development.
The pandemic industry positions itself globally – totalitarian measures to protect health
On the surface, this agreement is being pushed with the argument that it will allow all countries to expand their health systems and strengthen their resilience to future pandemics. The real goal, however, is to give the WHO broad authority to issue directives to member states. The WHO is the United Nations specialized agency for health, based in Geneva, and is in close commercial contact with pharmaceutical companies. With this agreement, the WHO could enforce vaccination obligations and other restrictive measures or emergency regulations, such as travel restrictions or contact bans, at the national and international level, bypassing national parliaments.
Several organizations, such as the scientific initiative “Health for Austria,” warn that the planned WHO “pandemic treaty” would ultimately undermine democracy and give the international organization incredible power. “So if this planned treaty comes into force, the WHO could not only declare a pandemic on the basis of a moderately dangerous virus and impose strict measures on the entire world. It could also impose mandatory vaccination on all member states for any infectious disease.”
Vaccine manufacturers – some of whom also finance the WHO – probably wouldn’t mind … The WHO lacks democratic legitimacy and is anything but independent: For the most part, it is financed by donations from foundations such as the Bill & Melina Gates Foundation and from companies in the pharmaceutical industry. (2).
The Global Compact, proposed by Kofi Annan at the World Economic Forum in Davos on January 31, 1999, and launched in 2000, sought to establish cooperation between the United Nations and transnational corporations with the aim of involving them more closely in the work of the United Nations – with the aim of achieving progress worldwide within the framework of this partnership in accordance with the declared principles of the treaty.
However, the Global Compact is increasingly turning out not to be an instrument of political influence on the part of the United Nations, but precisely the other way around, the United Nations is exposing itself to the danger of a creeping structural change as a result of this partnership:
Until now, the UN has been a (political) organization of the governments of nation states with the function of balancing transnational, worldwide interests and contributing to peace in the world. In this way, the UN exercises control over the peaceful coexistence of peoples, the worldwide protection of the environment and the observance of human rights that is superior to that of the individual states, at least as long as the nation states recognize the binding nature of the UN’s political guidelines or the international community politically sanctions violations.
With the Global Compact, on the other hand, transnational corporations – i.e., non-political but economic institutions – become partners of the UN. This gives the transnational corporations – parallel to and alongside the member states – a different weight at the international level. Some of the power of states is shifted in favor of the influence of business. Thus, not only is there closer contact between the UN and private companies, but global contact has now become, in a sense, a (political) playing field for transnational corporations.
With the Global Compact, the United Nations has not only become a gateway for corporations, but this leads to a privatization of world politics.
The basic idea of the United Nations has thus been reduced to absurdity. Rapidly advancing globalization has become inseparable from the dominance and influence of private corporations and their lobbying associations on broad policy areas. In cooperation with political decision-makers and advisors, business representatives exert considerable influence on supranational laws and treaties under international law – such as in the World Trade Organization (WTO), but also in the European Union (EU) – which easily enable borderless expansion, relocation of production and circumvention of the standards of their countries of origin.
Due to the increasing influence of corporations, a downward ecological and social spiral has developed, which companies take advantage of and profit from considerably. This development is associated with a creeping de-democratization of national policy-making, and the interests of citizens lag far behind those of globally active business. The World Health Organization has become a supranational organization dominated by economic interests and acting in a non-transparent manner far removed from democratic control.
Incidentally, the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation also holds shares in Coca-Cola and McDonald’s. How does that fit in with its support of the World Health Organization? If these philanthropists really cared about the health of humanity, they wouldn’t be investing in soft drinks and fast food. Bill Gates is also pushing the cultivation of genetically modified seeds, which is also not necessarily beneficial to health. It seems that he is more interested in directing world politics in his interests than in subordinating himself to the democratic will of the people.
It is to be feared that in the future the entire world will be kept in a permanent pandemic state by the WHO.
Such a permanent pandemic mode is already emerging in Austria and Germany. In Austria, compulsory vaccination against coronavirus was suspended for three months for the time being on March 9, 2022, because it was “not proportionate” in view of the prevailing omicron variant, according to the justification of the constitutional minister. This policy resembles the mill game, in which the opponent prepares a mill into which he only needs to place a stone – and the trap is quickly snapped shut. In this way, citizens are given the impression that compulsory vaccination has been abandoned, but reactivation is possible at any time.
In Germany, the legal basis for the Corona exemption will be lifted on March 20, but by means of a so-called hotspot regulation for the states, “certain basic measures” will continue to apply, Health Minister Karl Lauterbach announced. “Opening everything, of course, is not provided for.” The regulation allows the states to enforce restrictive measures for hotspots through state parliamentary resolutions, which can cover only a district, a city or even an entire state. This gives the states far-reaching powers, and leaves the federal parliament out of the loop.
With this hotspot regulation, the federal government has already anticipated the WHO agreement: The state of panic and emergency can be reactivated at any time and continued at will.
Surveillance and control will also be enshrined in the planned pandemic WHO agreement
Member states will be required to establish vaccination registries, health databases and the like to adequately address the “public health threat.” All data should be able to be collected and exchanged globally. The “technical framework” that member states need for the digital vaccination certificates is the so-called smart health card. This “smart” health card is to store all health data and medical records in addition to the machine-readable QR codes of the vaccination certificates, thus ensuring comprehensive monitoring of all health-related data and possibly other data as well. (3) This will establish the electronic health card on a global scale.
The contract for this lucrative business in Germany was awarded to the Telekom subsidiary T-Systems, which plays a major role in digital vaccination recording and has already developed the Corona warning app together with SAP to curb Corona infection chains – and at a wickedly high tax-funded cost, for which the then Minister of Health Jens Spahn was responsible. In the end, the German Corona warning app as a local tracing app turned out to be extremely overpriced by European standards at 130 million euros. (4) This is a senseless waste of our tax money without public debate.
What does mandatory vaccination have to do with tax identification numbers?
In order to also record the vaccination status of people who do not use a smartphone, a government database is being knitted together that is needed to implement a general vaccination requirement.
To make this database possible, the idea of using tax identification number data came up. This additional use has already been approved by the Bundestag on January 28, 2021, with the so-called Register Modernization Act. The law anchors the online access of relevant data of the administrative registers through the personal tax identification number. This ensures “that basic data of natural persons are checked for inconsistencies, reliably maintained, updated and made available by a body responsible for this purpose.” For unambiguous assignment in these registers, the tax identification number is to be used as a “uniform, non-speaking identification feature.” “For transparency, a “data cockpit” will be established to provide a simple and timely overview of data transfers made between authorities” (6). With this form of comprehensive data collection and exchange, a perfect totalitarian surveillance and control system is created.
What is frightening is that all these drastic intrusions into our private lives on a national and global level, which have already been almost perfected, are hardly debated in public. The mainstream media meticulously list all the infected numbers as well as the occupancy of intensive care units, hammering into our heads every day the necessity of vaccination without addressing the fact that vaccination does not protect against infection and its side effects are not disclosed and named. On the contrary, those who report side effects are discredited.
The fear generated before the virus by means of continuous sprinkling of the mainstream media has put the majority of people into a state of shock and into a submissive obedience mode, so that even the most absurd measures, such as blocking off children’s playgrounds, banning the use of park benches or going out at night – as if the virus were nocturnal – were accepted and followed without much protest.
Aldous Huxley predicted this in his book Brave New World as follows:
“The perfect dictatorship will have the appearance of a democracy, will seem like a prison without walls, where the prisoners do not even dream of breaking out.”
Nevertheless, it is to be hoped that popular protest against this surveillance and control madness and against compulsory vaccination will grow to prevent these dystopian measures. In this sense, it is very welcome that the police union has recently spoken out against a job-related compulsory vaccination for police officers and employees in public order offices. (6)
In Canada, compulsory occupational vaccination was quietly withdrawn because of the threat of a collapse in hospital care due to a shortage of doctors and nurses.
The scandal of vaccine side effects – cartel of silence
While there is little coverage of vaccine health side effects in the mainstream media, much information about them can be found on the European Medicines Agency (EMA) website and in alternative media. With his letter in February 2022 to the Paul Ehrlich Institute and other addressees – GKV-Spitzenverband, Bundesärztekammer, Kassenärztliche Bundesvereinigung, Ständige Impfkommission, BKK Dachverband – the board member of the Pro Vita company health insurance fund (BKK), Andreas Schöfbeck, has ventured far. In the letter, Schöfbeck points the Paul Ehrlich Institute to data “that give reason to believe that there is a very substantial under-reporting of suspected cases of vaccine side effects following Corona vaccinations.” (7) In response, Andreas Schöfbeck was terminated without notice on March 1. This termination is certainly intended to deter others from disrupting the circles of the unscrupulous silence cartel of the pharmaceutical industry, RKI and other associated organizations by asking critical questions or providing information about vaccination side effects.
Although the Paul Ehrlich Institute and the umbrella organization of the BKK have promised to analyze their data on sickness records and sick notes for vaccination side effects, it is to be feared that the side effects will be swept under the carpet so as not to jeopardize the lucrative vaccination business and the introduction of total digital surveillance.
Author Milosz Matuschek has summed up the current situation very aptly:
“We are now entering the strange stage in which politics and the media are still promoting the supposedly ‘side-effect-free’ vaccinations, while the roller of reappraisal with reports of casualties and deaths is coming ever closer. This is the time when one can basically only wait and wonder how long it will take for the penny to drop with those involved.” (8)
Profits from Corona vaccine greater than drug trafficking
The non-governmental organization Oxfam draws attention to the fact that the three pharmaceutical companies Pfizer, BioNTech and Moderna earn about 1,000 US dollars profit every second with their vaccines – that is almost 100 million per day. What is little known, however, is that they have received more than eight billion U.S. dollars in public funding for mRNA research and the construction of production facilities. That’s taxpayer money. Strictly speaking, the research results thus obtained belong in government hands, because the research was funded by the citizens. (9)
Health is not a commodity
In view of these huge profit margins, it is understandable that this miraculously bubbling source of money for corporations should not be allowed to dry up and should continue to flow indefinitely. In order to build up sustainable health systems with a preventive health care system that focuses on people instead of pharma-centric apparatus medicine, such exorbitant profits would have to be skimmed off through taxes and used to provide services for the general public, such as hospitals. Equipped with such financial means, critical scientists and physicians, who have pointed out numerous problematic aspects of the fight against the coronavirus in the last two years, could carry out appropriate studies. It is scandalous that corresponding efforts have been obstructed and also prevented. It is equally scandalous that many of these courageous scientists and doctors have been defamed and muzzled in an unbelievable way, and have even lost their professional livelihood.
It was a mistake to put research in the hands of industry. It is imperative that sufficient funding be made available for necessary interdisciplinary research. Under no circumstances should this money be raised through third-party funding, which might then come generously from the pharmaceutical industry.
This would be a fool’s errand, and independent research would be reduced to absurdity.
Resistance is a democratic duty
Even if critics of the repressive Corona measures were very quickly put in the political right corner and defamed as conspiracy theorists, anti-Semites, covidiots and the like, this did not suppress criticism and resistance against these measures and especially against compulsory vaccination. In 70 pages, a group of 81 scientists has elaborated a thesis stating that compulsory corona vaccination is unconstitutional. The letter’s authors conclude, “Mandatory vaccination is neither appropriate, necessary, nor reasonable to effectively reduce serious illness and prevent significant health care overuse, and not reasonable because of high risk potential.”
In addition, they emphasize, “The reported side effects compared to other vaccines are enormous.” Their conclusion: “Mandatory vaccination is not necessary, not appropriate, and therefore unconstitutional.” (10) Hopefully, Members of Parliament will take the time to consider the numerous scientific references to the many problems associated with mandatory vaccination and reject it in the Bundestag.
Even though the war in Ukraine is currently the focus of media attention, the controversies surrounding the Corona measures and the surveillance mechanisms associated with mandatory vaccination must not be sidelined in the public’s attention.
On the contrary, resistance to them must grow if we still want to save the remnant of democracy. This requires networking among the various groups and organizations, including at the European and global levels. And above all, citizens must exercise their democratic rights. Every single EU citizen can easily make a contribution to this. The European Commission itself is even calling on EU citizens to voice their opinion on the planned extension of the COVID certificate. Concerns and objections are to be expressed in a free field. Simply explained here.
EU Regulation 2021/953, which regulates “the issuance, verification and recognition of interoperable certificates attesting to COVID-19 vaccination and testing and recovery from COVID-19 infection,” is planned to be extended for another year. EU citizens are now invited to comment on this plan. Participation in this consultation is the officially provided official channel for objections or criticism of a project of the EU Commission.
Please use this democratic right of influence. This is still possible until April 8, 2022. The democratic instrument of citizen consultation can only be an effective means for a European identity and the legitimacy of European policy if it is publicized and used.
Only if the EU Commission takes citizens’ concerns seriously and takes their objections into account in EU legislation can they slowly develop trust in the European institutions.
Although we live in a democracy, more and more central political issues are being negotiated behind closed doors and subsequently incorporated into national legislation. Technocratic civil servants, under the strong influence of lobbyists, continue to draft treaties, shielded from the public and without any public discussion. It is therefore all the more important that EU citizens exert more influence on Brussels politics and make use of the few democratic opportunities that are available to them.
This is particularly important because political decision-makers in this country like to wash their hands of controversial decisions and point to Brussels when unpopular measures are pending. EU citizens are often confronted with political decisions that have been taken against the majority opinion of the population. In this case, EU citizens are even explicitly asked to express their opinion on the project. In view of the enormous democratic deficits in the EU construct, this call is an advantageous opportunity to democratically argue against and reject the planned extension of the EU’s digital COVID certificate.
Please take a few minutes to participate in this important democratic opinion poll.
Another way to exert democratic influence would be to write a letter directly to your member(s) of the Bundestag, as demonstrated by the former LKA President of Thuringia, Uwe G. Kranz.
Sources and Notes:
(5) https://www.bundestag.de/dokumente/textarchiv/2021/kw04-de-registermodernisierung-818730, https://dserver.bundestag.de/btd/19/242/1924226.pdf
Christine Wicht is a business economist and lives as a freelance author in Munich.
The simulated morality
Hypocrisy, double standards and mendacity make the self-proclaimed values West more and more ridiculous and untrustworthy.
15.03.2022 by Mathias Tretschog
The genetic scissors in the head
The disposable citizen
The vaccination campaign suggested that the state should be allowed to control the bodies of its citizens – paving the way for the reinstatement of military service.
by Nicolas Riedl
[This article published on 3/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/der-verfugbare-burger.]
The “shot” is to become mandatory. Perhaps even in a double sense. On the one hand, this refers to the gene injection known as “vaccination”, which is supposed to protect against a Covid 19 disease, and on the other hand, it refers to what comes out of a gun. The service of the same is now being discussed animatedly in the leading media debate room. Putin’s attack on Ukraine, which violated international law, caused the topic of reinstating compulsory military service to boil up. The media are already working to make conscription acceptable again. The two years of the new normal have paved the way for this. The penetrating vaccination campaign created a new perception that it was self-evident that the state should be allowed to access one’s own body. In view of the ever worsening war situation, which makes a case of defense for Germany more and more likely, “man” cannot avoid dealing with this issue. But we are not powerless. Since 2011, not only has conscription disappeared from the general consciousness, but so have the options for refusing it. However, these still exist.
Germans want a return to conscription! At least, this impression is conveyed by the mass media. For this one avails oneself again of one of the most tried and tested, since still functioning methods of the opinion making: a survey. According to it 47 per cent favor a re-establishment of the military service obligation and only 34 per cent would reject this.
This is the result of the AfD-affiliated Insa opinion research institute. In the above-linked Zeit article, however, it is deliberately concealed how these figures were collected and how many and which people were surveyed. And it is also omitted which party the Insa opinion research institute is affiliated with. The AfD has always called for the reinstatement of compulsory military service, as can be read most recently on page 68 of its most recent election program. Is it any wonder that Insa comes to the above conclusion?
Ironically, Zeit 2019 itself still referred to the fact that this “opinion research institute in the post-factual environment” is rather a “dwarf” in the industry comparison of opinion research institutes. Why, then, does one refer to Insa on such a sensitive topic, when this institute is only of limited relevance anyway and then, of all things, is close to the AfD, which is in favor of conscription? These are all purely rhetorical questions, of course, because it is crystal clear that a survey result was delivered to order here.
The intention is to create in the public consciousness what Albrecht Müller in “Believe little; Question everything; Think for yourself” calls the “bandwagon effect” in this survey manipulation context. When the media recipient reads or hears that a supposed majority is for or against something, this evokes a subconscious pressure to conform, so that one assumes that a thing is right or wrong because a majority is for or against it (1). People decide for or against a thing even if it contradicts their intuition, but the environment is in favor of this thing. We know this at the latest since the conformity experiments of Solomon Asch.
So if the claim is now repeated mantra-like in the public debate space that a majority of Germans are in favor of reinstating compulsory military service, it is highly likely that many recipients of the leading media will change their minds and join the majority. After all, one wants to belong.
Your body, my choice
The road to the reintroduction of compulsory military service was not paved by Germany’s reaction to Putin’s invasion of Ukraine, which violated international law. The previous two years have significantly changed the relationship of citizens to their bodies. If until 2020 the principle of “My body, my choice” still applied, for example in feminist discourses, the German citizen is now denied the right to decide for himself about the last territory of his own, his own body. Presenter Christian Ehring mocked people who insist on their right to self-determination in the compulsorily fee-financed format “Extra 3,” intended as “funny.” With a theatrical voice and swollen chest, he shouted into the camera: “My body, my body, my body…. is more important than the general public”. Ergo his message: Whoever exercises his right of self-determination over his own body is an egoist who doesn’t give a damn about the common good. The fact that this assertion – contrary to Ehring’s proclamation – is not based on any scientific evidence whatsoever – let’s forget it!
The state of bodily self-determination in this country was also made clear by the quick-witted SPD member of the Bundestag Helge Lindh when he announced that “individual bodily integrity is a vulgar idea of freedom”. May future violent criminals now refer to this statement?
In short: the state, the coldest of all monsters according to Nietzsche, demands the bodies, the incorporated citizens.
Biopolitics, the form of rule in which the life, the body of the individual becomes the focus of the state’s power calculation, is becoming increasingly visible (2). With Michel Foucault, we manage to build an analytical bridge between compulsory “vaccination” and compulsory military service when he writes in “Surveillance and Punishment”:
“In the second half of the eighteenth century, the soldier has become something that is fabricated. From a shapeless dough, from an unfit body, one makes the machine of which one has need; step by step one has trimmed the posture until a calculated compulsion pervades and masters every part of the body, holds the entire body together and makes it available, and secretly asserts itself even into the automaticity of habits. (…) In the course of the classical age, a discovery of the body as object and target of power took place. The signs of that great attention paid to the body at that time are easy to find. The attention was paid to the body, which was manipulated, formed and trained, which obeyed, responded, became agile and whose powers increased.
Thus, a politics of constraints is formed that work on the body, calculating and manipulating its elements, its gestures, its behaviors. The human body enters into a machinery of power that penetrates, dissects, and reassembles it. A ‘political anatomy’ that is also a ‘mechanics of power’ is emerging. It defines how to take control of the bodies of others, not only to make them do what you ask, but to make them work the way you want: with techniques, with speed, with effectiveness that you determine. In this way, discipline produces subdued and trained bodies, docile and docile bodies. The discipline increases the forces of the body (…) and weakens the same forces (to make them politically docile). In a word, it divides the power of the body, it makes of it, on the one hand, a ‘capacity,’ a ‘fitness,’ which it seeks to increase; and, on the other hand, it poles the energy, the power, which could result from it, into a relation of strict submission” (3).
It becomes clear here how the biopolitical subdivisions of conscription and “vaccination” duty are mutually intertwined. Bodies are to be made usable, both for service at arms and for the intentions behind the “vaccination” duty, which are still hidden. In both subjects, the state seeks to shape the bodies of individuals in its favor. Let’s just think of the equalization, the standardization of physical gestures and textures in both fields: The soldier’s hair is shorn short, he must meticulously rehearse steps, hand movements and gestures, so that, for example, during the parade march the individual people resemble each other one to one and merge into a mass, a block of people.
The “old” form of biopolitics – state access to the body for military purposes – has lain dormant like a silent volcano since the suspension of compulsory basic military service from 2011 to 2020. In this fast-moving decade, it was rapidly forgotten how the state accessed the bodies of its citizens in the period before 2011. One aspect in particular stands out: In its five decades of compulsory military service, muster was an integral part. It applied to everyone, whether one refused military service or not. Every German man was obliged to go to muster and have his body and mind checked for fitness for military service.
It was during this process that the state’s grip on the body became most tangibly visible. Whether they wanted to or not, men had to show their bodies to the state in the form of the medical examiner at the district military replacement office, to be exposed, humiliated and evaluated.
This was not only a blatant violation of individual freedom – the freedom not to have to do what one does not want to, according to Rousseau – but also a form of dehumanization. Young men were no longer seen as whole human beings, but were divided into various classes of fitness, reduced to their bodies, and collectively viewed as disposable mass that could be burned in battle.
Now, while biopolitics receded into the background in the 2010s, the greedy claw of statism re-emerged with the Corona regime. In a hitherto unprecedented way, the new normal to this day involves changing bodies so that “a calculated compulsion permeates every part of the body.” Thus, already at the beginning of the new normality, the state intervened in the physicality of the citizens. It decreed where bodies were – not – to be, what distance they had to keep from others, new greetings emerged, faces had to be masked, and arrows and distance-commanding markings on the ground regulated walking as if people were cars (4).
Over time, a physical automatism set in, so that certain gestures and movements became second nature. When entering indoor spaces, the reach automatically goes to the mask, hands are disinfected as quickly as possible, and so on. And this becomes even clearer in the case of “vaccination”, which must correctly be called a gene injection, since it manipulates gene expression (5). In this case, the state is not just accessing bodies, but intervening in them, wanting to change them from the inside out.
If people have been conditioned over the past two years to accept that the state is allowed to reach inside their bodies as a matter of course, it is not far off that young citizens will accept it as just as a matter of course that the state accesses their bodies in the context of compulsory military service.
Conscription in 2022
The military, the Bundeswehr has been so distant since 2011 and somehow distant and close at the same time since 2015. While in the former period camouflage almost completely disappeared from the public space – analog as well as digital – sprouted in the media landscape as well as in the public space from the mid-2010s the now countless Bundeswehr campaigns that were supposed to inspire young people to serve in the armed forces again. The youth editorial team reported on this here and also here. Since 2020, soldiers have been able to use the train free of charge, which means that the passenger cabins, in view of the numerous uniformed personnel on trains, give other passengers the impression that they have landed in a military convoy. In both analog and digital terms, the military is penetrating the public’s consciousness ever more obtrusively.
A reinstatement of compulsory military service – as Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer called for back in the summer of 2019 – has taken up a frightening amount of space in the public debate space in the wake of Russia’s illegal attack on Ukraine. Equally frightening in the debate narrative are the parallels to the discussion about mandatory “vaccination.” At the beginning, in April 2020, this issue was fed into the public discourse space. However, the tenor at the outset was that it was not coming. Even those who most vehemently defend the duty today categorically ruled it out. The tenor in the debate is the same, both in the leading media and on Twitter, for example. Most commentators are opposed to this duty, only a few hardliners are happy about it.
In the debate about compulsory “vaccination,” we saw how quickly a 180-degree turn can occur. As an argument for the turnaround, the argument is then put forward that the circumstances had changed and that back then, when the opposite viewpoint was still held, one would have had to deal with a different starting position. But now that the parameters have changed, the old position must be thrown overboard. These changed parameters are then in the “pandemic” new virus mutations. And in the case of the Ukraine war, one could then argue that Russia would now behave in such a different way that a reinstatement of conscription would become without alternative.
The first 20 articles of the Basic Law, which the democracy movement has defended against erosion over the past two years, contain – unfortunately – the basis for reinstating conscription. We take from Article 12a:
“(1) Men may be required to serve in the armed forces, in the Federal Border Guard or in a civil defense unit from the age of eighteen.
(2) Those who, for reasons of conscience, refuse military service with weapons (see also Article 4, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law, note Nicolas Riedl) may be required to perform alternative service. The duration of the alternative service may not exceed the duration of military service. The details shall be regulated by a law which must not interfere with the freedom of conscience and must also provide for a possibility of alternative service unrelated to the units of the armed forces and the Federal Border Guard.”
According to Paragraph 2 of the German Conscription Act, it applies in cases of tension as well as in cases of defense. With ongoing arms deliveries from Germany to Ukraine and other acts of provocation in Eastern Europe, it is not far before Moscow sees these actions as less indirect than direct declarations of war. If even one of the – Eastern European – NATO allies were attacked, this would result in the alliance’s fall, which means nothing other than that the remaining NATO partners would have to rush to the attacked member’s “aid.” Germany, as a model NATO member, would then very quickly find itself in either a case of tension or a case of defense. In view of this parliament, there is no need to hope for the failure to achieve the necessary two-thirds majority that would be required in the Bundestag to declare these cases. In short, one has to deal with the case of ‘man’ being called up for military service.
I do not give my body!
Thankfully, as already indicated, Article 4, Paragraph 3 of the Basic Law stipulates that no one may be forced to serve in the armed forces against his conscience. This incompatibility with one’s own conscience can self-explanatory not simply be certified by implied behavior, for example by the fact that one regularly goes to peace demonstrations or still has his old ticket from the Pax Terra Musica peace festival. No, this requires a detailed application for conscientious objection, i.e. at least four pages long. In this application, the person who refuses must explain in detail and credibly why it is incompatible with his conscience to go to war and to end up in situations in which it is unavoidable to shoot at other people with weapons.
It is of course questionable to what extent the dramatic softening of the Basic Law means that Article 4, Paragraph 3 still applies, or whether it has not already recently degenerated into wastepaper. But formally one is not completely powerless. This article deals in detail with applications for conscientious objection.
Of all things, the mentally and physically deplorable condition of the younger generation can give one hope in this context. Because – to be quite honest – a much larger proportion of young people than in 2011 are probably not fit for service at all. Shortened attention spans and poor concentration due to TikTok consumption, unhealthy diets, and the hype surrounding designer drugs – which are being consumed at an ever earlier age – have probably done the rest, so that a large proportion are no longer capable of serving at all. In addition it comes that straight under the woken students the armed forces stand very badly in the course. The problems of the Bundeswehr with right-wing extremism are criticized, as are the patriarchal structures in the federal government. The equal opportunity campaigns of the career centers can’t do much about that.
Moreover, for all the climate activists, military service should theoretically be a no-go. After all, shooting, bombing and driving tanks is not very CO2-neutral and the military is known to be the biggest “polluter” of all time. It’s just that, unfortunately, double standards and cognitive dissonance are constant companions of climate youth.
Nonetheless, the state of the current generation provides a certain buffer that stands in the way of a timely general mobilization. Of course, through clever marketing – as the Bundeswehr has already been doing for almost 10 years – new cult norms and new narratives, the generation can in the long run be turned around in such a way that being a soldier seems desirable to them. It is precisely from the emerging vacuum of meaning in the lockdown period, which many feel, that a new urge for meaningfulness, a purpose, a mission that gives meaning to life could emerge.
Will the democracy and peace movement perhaps be able to fill this vacuum with meaning? A meaning that no longer feeds the necrophile but the biophile?
Sources and Notes:
(1) Müller, Albrecht: “Believe little; Question everything; Think for yourself,” Frankfurt am Main, 2019, page 46.
(2) Agamben, Giorgio: “Homo sacer – Die souveräne Macht und das nackte Leben,” Frankfurt am Main, 2019, Suhrkamp, page 127.
Lemke, Thomas: “An Analytics of Biopolitics. Reflections on the History and Present of a
Contested Concept,” Behemoth, 2008 A Journal of Civilization, pp. 79-82.
(3) See Foucault, Michel: “Surveillance and Punishment,” Frankfurt am Main, 2021, pp. 173-177.
(4) Klein, Gabriele; Liebsch, Katharina: “Herds and Control: Bodies in Corona Times,” in Keitel, Christian; Volkmer, Michael; Werner, Karin: “The Corona Society: Analyses of the Situation and Perspectives for the Future,” Bielefeld, 2020, pp. 57 ff.
Alkenmeyer, Thomas; Bröskamp, Bernd: “Body – Corona – Constellation; The world as a (body-)sociological real laboratory”, in the same page 70 ff.
Arvay, Clemens G.: “Corona vaccines: salvation or risk? Mode of action, protection and
Nicolas Riedl, born in 1993, is a student of political science, theater and media studies in Erlangen. He got to know almost every type of school in the German education system from the inside and also the interpersonal coldness of the working world during a commercial apprenticeship. The media and Ukraine crisis in 2014 was a caesura for his world view and perception. Since then, he has been dealing in depth and self-critically with political, socio-economic, ecological as well as psychological topics and found his way back to his passion of writing through the Rubicon. As far as his technical skills allow, he produces films and music videos. He is a member of the Rubicon Youth Editorial Board and writes for the Young Feathers column.
In the penal colony
In its manifestations, as absurd as they are oppressive, the Corona Crisis recalls the literary world of Franz Kafka.
by Ralph Zedler
[This article published on 3/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/in-der-strafkolonie.]
Without having done anything evil, one morning we were disenfranchised, forcibly masked, locked in our homes. The attitude towards life of the one who is harassed for no reason, who runs desperately and in vain against an overpowering apparatus of authorities, whose world is transformed overnight into something dark and grotesque – we know it from the work of a great writer: Franz Kafka. “Do not spend time looking for an obstacle. Perhaps there is none,” Franz Kafka noted in his diary on September 16, 1920. The author dedicates his essay to this Kafkaesque tension between hopelessness and hope, resignation and ways out of the crisis by means of many pithy quotes from Kafka and thus attempts to draw a mood picture of the last two years.
Do you know this as well? Do you also regularly ask yourself the question: Where is the door? Where is the exit? Do you also feel this scenario, in which we have all been held captive for more than two years now, like a prison from which you are desperately trying to break out?
“The lie is made the world order” (1).
For two years we have all been vegetating in a rotten building of lies that has been elevated to the center of the world. And in the cellar of this building of lies there is a dungeon. There seems to be no way out of it.
Every now and then the guards come by and wave the key, but they don’t unlock the door. They leave us to our fate in this stinking, rotting dungeon and exhaust themselves in promises: only two hard weeks, only two more hard months, only four more exhausting weeks, only until Christmas, only until Easter, only until May, only until summer, only until the next conference of ministers, only until March 20, 2022.
We have been enduring this cruel stalling tactic for two years now. And there is no real end in sight. Uprooted like Josef K. “The Trial” or Surveyor K. in “The Castle” by Franz Kafka, we lurch from lockdown to lockdown and from relaxation to relaxation and back again.
We shimmy from promise to promise and from hope to hope. And in the end, everything always ends in disappointment. In between, we are given small breaks to relax, euphemistic names like “Lockdown light” or “Freedom Day”, but at the same time the next spectre is painted on the wall so that no real relaxation can take hold of us.
# Oracle and pardon
We are still in the first quarter of the year 2022 and our politicians are already talking about the fact that there will be another tightening in the fall. So they know that already now. There is no need for figures, data and facts, there is no need for dangerous viruses or new mutants. Everything seems to be already decided. The development over summer doesn’t matter at all, because what is to come in autumn and winter is already decided now anyway.
Our life has felt like a penal colony for the past two years, it resembles a prison sentence that has to be served, but no one knows its length. Nobody knows whether there will be a pardon. One does not even know who to turn to in order to apply for the same. There are too few enlightened lawyers, judges are largely in line with the government, the rule of law blindly follows the executive instead of controlling it. And we inmates are virtually helpless in the face of this scenario.
“The shackles of tortured humanity are made of chancery paper” (2).
Our living situation has seemed thoroughly Kafkaesque for the past two years. And this obtuse bureaucracy, together with this state apparatus that has gradually empowered itself, is another frightening component in this bizarre spectacle.
Authorities that indulge in complacent and authoritarian orders and are virtually unavailable to citizens and their concerns and fears have a paralyzing and threatening effect on us.
Almost every politician we approach or write to ducks away. Offices and institutions do not answer letters, or if they do, then only with the usual empty phrases, or they reveal themselves to be masters of delegation by referring to their lack of competence and thus to others. As if walled in, the highly paid civil servants sit in their offices, do their job by the book, refer to paragraphs and regulations, whose sense and nonsense and contradictions they naturally do not question. The authoritarian state shows all its power and shines in its old glory.
Critically inquiring citizens are no longer simply a nuisance, no, they are now considered a danger to internal security and the existing system. The administration not only manages us, but now primarily manages itself. With a few exceptions, mayors are not interested in citizen dialogue.
Kafka once wrote:
“You have to charm if you want to get something substantial” (3).
But even our peaceful and humane charm seems to bounce off these dehumanized bureaucrats.
Authoritarian arbitrariness or obfuscation
The famous first sentence from Kafka’s “Trial” has inevitably come to mind for some time:
“Someone must have slandered Josef K., for without his doing anything wrong, he was arrested one morning.”
While we used to know arbitrary arrests and house searches only from hearsay, and the latter seem quite justified in the case of serious criminals such as human traffickers, drug cartels or child porn rings, we are immensely disturbed by the arbitrary actions taken against hitherto blameless citizens over the past two years. Doctors are being searched for allegedly false mask certificates (4). Or judges, who for once have pronounced a verdict in the name of the people and not in the name of the government, have all their files and computers confiscated (5).
International luminaries of medicine are driven into emigration (6), doctors are threatened with losing their license to practice (7) or even their entire existence (8). Is this arbitrary action by the authorities or systematic extermination? That is the question. What is being played here? Is it just about intimidation or is it about destroying the existence of individuals who are critical of the government? Is it to divert attention from one’s own failures or is it to make an example of those declared delinquents? Is this already dictatorship or just a constitutional state that has completely lost its way and is supporting a government line to the death because no one has the courage to publicly admit their error?
“Nothing but an expectation, eternal helplessness” (9).
Our complete life situation creates powerlessness and helplessness in us. As critical and usually sensitive beings, we have been running around for two years startled by attempt after attempt to end this misery or at least to escape from it.
We try everything possible, and we have tried what is legally possible – sometimes countless times: we protest publicly in the streets. We rebel against measures in stores. We write letters to newspapers, politicians and authorities.
We look for allies, we found aid organizations, associations and parties like the grassroots. We open chat groups and closed channels on Telegram. We network. We read books, some literarily gifted among us even write some. We read countless articles every day, listen to songs with critical lyrics, listen to Taylor and Björn Banane. We paste posters and stickers. We hand out flyers to passersby and drop them in mailboxes. We conduct car parades. We talk among ourselves and with each other – and unfortunately sometimes also about each other.
“The fact that I do not shrink from any humiliation can just as well mean hopelessness as give hope “* (10).
We seek to talk to the outside world. Often with complete strangers. Either we meet like-minded people or we come up against a wall of rejection, often even blind hatred. We endure being confronted with prejudices and pre-judgements. The most vicious and slanderous terms are unpacked to discredit us. We have to put up with being called “fascists” and “Nazis”, “aluhutträger” and “Covidiot” still sound harmless, “Schwurbler” is almost funny. We stoically put up with all this because we stand for freedom, which is the highest good for us.
We discuss and argue among ourselves about the best strategy, about the most effective form of protest, of resistance. We organize demonstrations, we are beaten up on them by alleged “friends and helpers”. Our demonstrations are sometimes arbitrarily and coldly banned or at least severely obstructed. The constitutionally guaranteed assembly law is suspended or we are dictated unfulfillable conditions. Everything is done from the highest authority to make the protest as difficult as possible for us.
However, all our actions lead nowhere – with the exception of small successes. Many of us have the feeling that we keep running into a wall – a wall of indifference, ignorance and political complacency. There seems to be no hope.
Franz Kafka once said to Max Brod:
“Hope, infinite hope – only not for us” (11).
Claustrophobically the whole thing comes across, or to say it with Kafka:
*”Don’t despair, not even about the fact that you don’t despair. When everything seems to be over, new forces come, which means that you are alive. If they do not come, then everything is over here, but for good” (12).
The only thing that strengthens us from the very beginning is self-encouragement. By telling each other over and over again how many we are by now, how many awakened people there are, and how many see through what is going on, we ground ourselves. Maybe we are just placating ourselves. In any case, this strengthens our community, even if doubts come up again and again at regular intervals. According to surveys, 4 percent of us have already been on demonstrations, 11 other percent can imagine it, and 7 percent are at least thinking about it (13). That gives us hope.
We are waiting for the big wave. A wave that washes people into the streets and the detritus of corruption, lobbying and now open discrimination into the orcus of oblivion.
“Hiding places are innumerable, rescue only one, but possibilities of rescue again as many as hiding places” (14).
Where is the door out of this nightmare? Where is the exit? Where is the exit to freedom?
Is it the masks? No, because these seem to remain with us as a symbol of submission and of being formally a slave at all costs.
Is it the distance? The distance has become literal. The division of society is the consequence of this distance imposed on us. Those who keep their distance separate themselves, and at some point they lose their connection. The consequence is a split-off existence.
Are the gene experimental injections, falsely called vaccination, the way out of this prison? Definitely not. Because the incidences are, although 70 percent of the population is now injected, all the while ten, twelve and several times as high as when there were no vaccines at all. Although former Chancellor Angela Merkel said right at the beginning that the pandemic would only be over when everyone in the world had been vaccinated, it is now clear to all alert minds that this is not the case and never will be.
Will the sum of all these measures lead us out of the dungeon? No, we are not dealing with Gestalt therapy, where the final product is more than the sum of its parts. The addition of unsuitable measures does not lead to success, even in sum.
“Evil cannot be paid for in installments – and tried ceaselessly” (15).
Is it obedience? Apparently not. Because an estimated 80 percent of Germans, sometimes in anticipatory obedience, submit to all kinds of bullshit measures and still don’t get their freedom back. They play along with the perfidious game, the perfidiousness of which many even see through and still go along with it. They still naively believe in what they learned in school: that obedience is rewarded. But in this horror scenario, even obedience is not rewarded; it is only pushed and pushed from above until it has mutated into a re-education program. Obedience – applied long enough – becomes drill.
Is the way out to emigrate? Some people will already have flirted with the idea, and some will already have taken this step. But given that this crisis is a global one and affects at least all the states where there is a certain standard of living and prosperity, it is difficult to find a suitable place where this diabolical agenda will not be executed. After all, we don’t just want to change prisons – to be transferred, so to speak – but we want our unconditional freedom back!
“In a world of lies, the lie is not even eradicated by its opposite, but by a world of truth” (16).
Does the way out lie in enlightenment, in a relentless, large-scale truth movement? No, this train also seems to have sailed. One of the main strategies of propaganda – repeating the lie until it becomes the truth – has been used so successfully that there seems to be no way out. Although we all live in prison, only a few seem to perceive and suffer from their bondage. The majority, on the other hand, seem to have come to terms with their lack of freedom, willingly wearing the slave mask, stockpiling test kits at home and reflexively avoiding oncoming passers-by even on the open road in order to keep a safe distance.
Escaping into the private sphere is more in vogue than ever. Sofa, television, beer and chips replace pubs, cinemas, clubs and socializing. People hole up at home and sink into indifference and lethargy in front of the sprinkling TV.
“There is a goal, but no way; what we call way is hesitation” (17).
Accordingly, the exit can only lie in disobedience, in civil disobedience and in protest, which we must take to the streets peacefully but loudly and decisively. Otherwise it will never end, otherwise we will remain in the basement of this building of lies for the rest of our lives. If we behave very well from the perspective of the authorities and continue to play along, we may eventually be let out into the courtyard for a free walk and or get to see the first floor of the building of lies by the hour, but we will never find the exit. This is the path we should take, and as soon as possible, because: *”The longer you hesitate in front of the door, the stranger you become” *(18).
Besides, new abominations are already planned against us in the background. Again and again something of it seeps through to us: If compulsory vaccination does not come now, it will come in the fall. If it doesn’t come during this pandemic, which on top of that was never a pandemic, it will come during the next one. But when will the next pandemic come? Is it perhaps already in preparation? Bill Gates seems to know. Will the next virus be many times more deadly than the current one? Will the burden sharing planned for 2024 lead to large-scale expropriation? Will people be systematically impoverished by horrendous energy prices? Wild speculations are opened door and gate – only not our freedom!
But as Franz Kafka said: “From the true opponent drives boundless courage into you” (19).
Sources and notes:
(1) Franz Kafka: The Trial, novel, Verlag Die Schmiede, Berlin 1925, 9th chapter, page 388.
(2) Gustav Janouch: Gespräche mit Kafka, Frankfurt am Main 1951, page 71.
(3) Letter to Oskar Pollak, January 27, 1904, in: Franz Kafka: Briefe 1902-1924. S. Fischer Verlag. Licensed edition for Europe by Schocken Books New York 1958, page 27.
(9) Franz Kafka. Diary entry of March 15, 1914.
(12) Franz Kafka: diary entry of July 21, 1913.
(14) Franz Kafka, Reflections on Sin, Suffering, Hope and the True Path. In: Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer, edited by Max Brod, Hans Joachim Schoeps, Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, Berlin 1931, page 229.
(15) Kafka, Oktavhefte. Drittes Heft, 1916.
(16) Kafka, Oktavhefte. Fourth issue, 1916
(17) Franz Kafka, Reflections on Sin, Suffering, Hope and the True Path. In: Beim Bau der Chinesischen Mauer, edited by Max Brod, Hans Joachim Schoeps, Gustav Kiepenheuer Verlag, Berlin 1931, page 229.
(18) Franz Kafka: Heimkehr (1920), published posthumously in 1936.
Ralph Zedler, born in 1970, studied musicology, pedagogy and general linguistics at the University of Cologne after graduating from high school. As a pianist, he studied song interpretation at the Cologne University of Music. At the same time, he worked as a music critic for the Trierischer Volksfreund newspaper. From 1999 to 2011 he was employed as a repetiteur at the Mecklenburg State Theater in Schwerin. In 2013 his monograph on the American soprano Arleen Auger was published by Dohr-Verlag and in the following years three CDs with opera fantasies for the label MDG. Today he is engaged at the Volkstheater Rostock.
The Breath of Words
A writer roots himself in the spiritual and draws from it the strength to withstand even the storms of everyday material life.
by Peter Fahr
[This article published on 3/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Der Atem der Worte.]
What does it mean to write? What does the real have to do with the imaginary? What are visions? What is a beautiful sentence? Does writing have to have meaning? What does writing demand of the writer? – The poet and writer Peter Fahr answers with aphoristic conciseness.
In the beginning was the word … Thinking, speaking, writing develop from the word. Without word no play – without play no spirit. Wordplay is everything thought, spoken, written.
The word is anchor and foundation, lighthouse and signpost. The word is old and makes everything new. The word conjures up nothingness and wants everything. The word is everything.
When you begin to speak, the Word is in the future. When you end it, it slips into the past. Is language ever present?
Language is always translation and interpretation, a makeshift compromise between speaker and listener, writer and reader.
Language is spiritual home, it gives identity and dignity to the speakers. Its effect on listeners can be uplifting or destructive. Language triggers something, is decisive, decisive. It can be vital or lethal. That is why it depends on love and poetry. Language without love and poetry is not reasonable.
Rimbaud says, “I is another.” – I reply, “I is the other.”
The beast is not tamed by morality, but by beauty.
Reality is not enough
Writers are people who cannot forget, who must not forget. They are filled with an immense, nameless nostalgia. Curiously, they look at the world as if through the glass of a shop window. In the appearance of the existing, their gaze encounters the past. They raise their hands to wipe their eyes, irritated by the dazzling simultaneity of the different states of being.
Everything is mysterious and incomprehensible to them. But suddenly they are seized by the desire for clear words and complete sentences. With the serious expression of precocious children they play the game that every art should be. In writing they banish the tragedy of the real, in writing they conjure up the sublimity of the possible.
By coming face to face with reality as a human being, I realize as an artist that art is not reality. Art is a design of life, not life itself. Art is creation, invented reality, the prudent act of despair of the dissatisfied.
He who denies the unreal and approves only of the possible is truly impossible.
Writing, I connect the real with the imaginary – I build bridges in the air.
My aerial roots in the spiritual provide me with the necessary strength to weather the storms of life. Without this source of almost inexhaustible energy, I would not be able to withstand the energy-sapping shaking and tugging of the winds. The spiritual guarantees my survival.
The German impostor and gusher Karl May wrote the most poignant adventure novels about the North American Indians without having been to America even once. It is the poet’s prerogative to be an impostor.
Why does writing have to have meaning? When I breathe, do I ask myself if it makes sense? I breathe, so I write.
Memory and vision
Your character is the quarry of your art. Trust your character, your essence. Believe in your intuition, even if the existing refutes it. Go your way, even if doubts confuse you. Be confident, even if many things speak against it. Cheerful perseverance lets you realize your visions.
The gaze sees the reality and shows the present, the vision sees the possibility and shows the future. The look exposes the seeing, the vision the seen. The gaze is necessary, the vision turning distress.
Memory is the heartbeat, vision the breath of every narrative.
What is experienced for the first time is new, exciting, mysterious, necessary. Only repetition makes memory possible. Only when I carry lived life in my consciousness do I gain the necessary distance from reality, the necessary relativization of myself, without which there can be no literature.
The written examination of the day, of the hour, of the moment facilitates my passage through time. The path of the spiritual man is full of obstacles and so I lean on this confrontation with the world as on a stick. While walking, I meet other people who cross my path or travel a distance with me, I get to know them and consider our fate. I observe – the others and myself -, consider and draw conclusions that are already discarded a few steps further on. By writing, I realize anew every day what contemporaneity means: to face the questions that life has in store for me.
By processing the impulses he receives from the outside world in writing, the writer curtails his interpersonal understanding. He internalizes the impressions and neutralizes them instead of responding to them with immediate expression. He does not answer, he names. Naming means demystifying, de-romanticizing, disenchanting. People, things and conditions that are named lose their mystery. The loving person, on the other hand, is content to surrender to the inexplicable. His simple insight is: Whoever names love destroys it.
J. D. Salinger demanded that there must be fire between words. I see it differently. Between the words there must be devotion, between the words there must be heart blood.
Follow the track
Leisure is the mother, frivolity the father of inspiration.
Observation, inspiration and transpiration enable creation.
A creative spirit is always on the way, it is not sedentary. Having reached a set goal, it pushes on to the next one. The pulse of his creative power is the restlessness, the dissatisfaction, the insufficiency.
Such a spirit exposes itself again and again to the unknown and threatening in order to discover new territory mentally. He experiences the loneliness of his search like a purification. A creative spirit never gives up because it cannot give up.
The writer does not invent the story, he discovers it. He follows its trail – and if he is artist enough, humble and devoted enough, then he manages to immerse himself in it and to recognize its laws, to understand and record its development and resolution.
I do not start from something, but I am led to something. I do not refer to substances, they take possession of me. The writer is his own reader: writing is reading.
I write. I am written.
The aspiration to write, as Edith Piaf sang – without pose, truthful, clear and strong, in expression simple and sincere, in content profound and poignant in effect.
What Brecht and others were still allowed to aspire to is today consigned to ridicule. The claim to influence the course of the world by means of books is laughed at. Dead ends are opening up everywhere, including in literature. And how do we get out of the literary cul-de-sac? This question haunts the minds of writers. Those who can answer it for themselves continue to write.
Spirit and humanity
Writers make an important contribution to the social success of the human experiment. Their works crystallize not only knowledge, but also the sentiments and wisdom of generations. Literature defies transience. It contains an essential part of the wealth of cultural experience that society needs in order to face the challenges of the present and to create perspectives for the future.
As a writer, I tell myself: He who has no knife cannot cut bread. Nevertheless, I am not ready to make a murderer’s pit out of my heart. Since I want to understand, I cannot avoid making judgments. To judge means: to recognize and to separate. To love means: to recognize and to connect. To understand means: to judge and to love.
The revolution of the writer is his rebellion.
What is a good writer? Pepper in the eyes of the dormouse.
From former French President Mitterrand comes the saying, “The word is humble.” A tragic saying because it comes from a powerful man. I carry the burden of modesty on my shoulders like the weight of irresponsibility. Only do not remain silent, I implore myself. It is not enough to know the truth, one must speak it. The silence of the lambs is a lie. The word is there to be heard.
Hemingway’s demand for the true sentence – I try to fulfill it. The true sentence is the beautiful sentence.
A necessary literary response to the suicidal society with its drastic environmental destruction is a simple, clear language. The commitment to an archaic language is a commitment to spirit and humanity.
The highest culture of the mind is worth nothing without a culture of the heart.
Peter Fahr’s latest publication is the essay collection “Der Atem der Worte”, Edition Königstuhl – with many essays also known from “Rubikon” as well as this one, among others.
Peter Fahr, born in 1958, studied German and art history. After his first book publications and highly acclaimed poster campaigns with aphorisms, he wrote radio plays. He then published books with essays critical of the times and political poetry. A collection of love poems was followed by children’s picture books, a short story, the autobiography “Alles ist nicht alles” and the collected poems “Selten nur”. Peter Fahr’s literary work has won several awards. For more information, visit www.peterfahr.ch.
The pogrom mood
In the moral campaign against Russia, the marginalization started by Corona reaches a new climax.
15.03.2022 by Felix Feistel
Maintaining the landscape