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Turn of the times and Negotiations instead of truce


“Public opinion continues to cling to pragmatism and pacifism. Skepticism toward military means has even increased since the beginning of the war.” For example, in a May poll, 49 percent thought, “The most important thing is to end the war as soon as possible, even if that means Ukraine ceding control of territory to Russia.”

“Turn of the times” plus

by Herbert Bertsch
[This article posted on 1/18/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.linksnet.de/artikel/48518.]

“The great words…are not for us. Who speaks of victories? Surviving is everything.”
Rainer Maria Rilke “Requiem” (1908)

As is well known, the Society for the German Language (GfdS) has chosen the term “Zeitenwende” as the word of the year 2022. The Tagesschau had so informed and explained: The term stands in connection with the Russian war of aggression against the Ukraine and was “taken up and coined” among other things by Federal Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD), (thus not invented). His core sentence: “The Russian invasion of Ukraine marks a turning point. It threatens our entire postwar order.”

An emotional turnaround had occurred among the German population, he said, combined with concerns about continued welfare, up to and including the threat of nuclear war. To this was added Scholzen’s state promise that everything necessary would be done to cushion the blow if the consequences of war and sanctions policy were henceforth to be dealt with; there was again talk of “underhooking” as a desired reaction. After that the information about the effective decision of the rulers: Germany will provide the war party Ukraine with any demanded – increasingly also military – support, without limitation of volume and duration. So, in addition, the transfer of future decisions to a foreign, albeit friendly power. Surprisingly, against the proclamation of the turn of the times and its solemn approval by the majority of the members of the Bundestag, there were hardly any effective inquiries in the published opinion, let alone an open discussion, whether such actions correspond to the constitutional regulations on the use of power in a democracy.

Rarely also the uncovering of contexts, as Claudia Weber, Professor of European Contemporary History at the European University Viadrina in Frankfurt (Oder) already did on March 6, 2022: “The war in Ukraine is currently almost inflationary described as a turning point in time (Olaf Scholz) or as the beginning of another world, in which the Europeans awoke quasi overnight (Annalena Baerbock). To speak of a turning point in time is a big word. A turning point reconfigures the identity- and orientation-forming relationship between past, present and future, when […] the space of experience and the horizon of expectation begin to diverge. […] The former German Chancellor Angelika Merkel, incidentally, already spoke during the annexation of Crimea by Russia in violation of international law in her government statement on March 13, 2014 in the Bundestag that this violation of the territorial unity and state sovereignty of Ukraine [was] a conflict like in the 19th or 20th century’ a conflict that we thought had been overcome. […] But […] obviously it is not overcome.” What this meant, or could have meant, as a warning and a lesson for those directly involved and for the contributing states was either not recognized or deliberately disregarded: Thus, this never-finished “national question” continued to drag itself through history: first in the Soviet Union, then during its hand-waving dissolution, and permanently also as a result of external influences and impacts.

Formulated as a question, the contemporary historian Weber saw the facts as follows: “If the turning point of the present time therefore began at least eight years ago, it may be asked what has happened or not happened in the meantime in such a way that a long overdue observation can still be sold as a fundamental realization”, which was by no means “without alternative”.

Ukraine was one of the significant Soviet republics, with rights and obligations in the overall system as well as in its own social life like other parts of the Soviet Union; but integrated in a special way in terms of personnel: Nikita Khrushchev was part of it as a result of his functions in Ukraine; Leonid Brezhnev had grown up in Ukraine; the liaison of five general secretaries to the United States was Georgi A. Arbatov, director of the America-Canada Institute created for that purpose in 1967 (linked to the IPW of the GDR both contractually and personally), born in Kherson in 1923, died in Moscow in 2010. His best-known work is “The Soviet Point of View on the Western Policy of the USSR” from 1981 – and would be useful at present in Moscow as well as in Kiev and Washington.

Soviet and international world policy was made in the Crimea: Roosevelt, Stalin, and Churchill completed the middle of three meetings here in February 1945 at which decisions were made on the defeat of Germany, postwar Europe, the creation of the United Nations, and the surrender of Japan. In 1971, German Chancellor Willy Brandt opened the round of numerous Western statesmen at Brezhnev’s summer residence as a consequence of the “new Ostpolitik”. In 1974, President Richard Nixon was a guest here: according to his memoirs, his life was in danger because he had temporarily entrusted himself to the host’s driving skills. Annually, the party and state leaders of the socialist brother states came, first together, later individually, for extensive audiences and recreation to the permanent center of the Soviet party and state leadership during the summer months.

When President Roosevelt partially yielded to the Soviet Union’s insistence on balancing the balance of power at the founding of the United Nations, Ukraine and Belarus were selected for additional Soviet positions at the United Nations in recognition of their special achievements and sacrifices in the Patriotic War, but also as an expression of special confidence in them by the CPSU and the Soviet Union, so decided by Stalin. In this way Ukraine and Belarus with assumed membership of the UN belong since October 24, 1945, today admittedly with highly different voting behavior. But the similarities belong to the whole history.

“The war in Ukraine and Putin’s criminal annexation policy are bitter reality. But reality is also the danger that this war will be fed with words and with weapons until it bursts. Then Hiroshima will be everywhere. That would not be the turn of the times announced by Chancellor Scholz, that would be the end of the times for Europe,” Heribert Prantl recently lamented in a television commentary. President Volodymyr Selenskyj’s New Year’s tweet: “Thank you for the turn of the times, Chancellor! May we make it complete in the year with our joint victory.” Sometimes it is said that you have to talk to Putin in spite of everything, maybe to Selenskyj as well. In both cases, in any case, not only according to their instructions.

In the closing apotheosis of his government declaration on the turn of the times, the chancellor drew on this finding: “We are united these days: we know about the strength of free democracies.” As chance would have it, on July 20, 2022, Campus Verlag published a book with the rather sybilline title: “Drivers of the Authoritarian Path of Developments at the Beginning of the 21st Century”; an anthology edited by Günter Frankenberg and Wilhelm Heitmeyer. Although with high, sometimes inflated standards for theoretical discussions, another 13 scholars are also politically practical in their efforts to address this concern: “Since the crises of the last two decades, Western societies have increasingly and more clearly registered authoritarian temptations, to which different parts of the population have given in. At the same time, authoritarian movements, parties and regimes have gained political and cultural influence worldwide. Finally, authoritarian activities-even beyond the bounds of the legal-can be detected in state institutions.”

It is easy to conclude that the latter must include the Russia complex and its “politics by other means.” Publishers and editors solve the understandable demand on the Russian war of aggression as a major crisis, as do other authors, editors and proofreaders, by means of updated prefaces or epilogues to establish a context. It is likely to be and become more difficult with exams and with training texts, including material for general education schools. These are side effects of another “turn of the times,” recalling the incorporation of the GDR educational system and the sufferings of former GDR teachers at the hands of state requirements in conflict with their own experiences.

Apparently, the authors share as an initial finding the fact that “democracy” is continuously in retreat; currently, only 45.7 percent of the world’s population is covered by this social system. In this publication – not dealt with states but as generally effective principles – it is examined what contradictions can be endured for the unity of as many members of a society as possible; how long and by what means can democratic communities be regulated? And as the main question: What effects do crises have on the development toward authoritarianism? Are they “drivers” or retarding elements, which is essential for the exercise of power in Germany as well. The pandemic is the focus of the study as a current major crisis. The findings on this are useful for both theory and practical policy. Perhaps some of our leaders will find here aid to the realization that incantation and hope are too little for a durable democracy in the long run; especially at a turning point in time.


Negotiations instead of truce

Even if the Ukrainian army has recently been able to achieve partial successes, it is still far from a military victory. Solidarity with Ukraine therefore means first and foremost working to stop the killing.
By Peter Wahl
[This article posted in September 2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://zeitschrift-luxemburg.de/artikel/verhandlungen-statt-siegfrieden/.]

After more than six months of war in Ukraine, voices in favor of negotiations are growing. But among the most important actors in power politics, the signs seem to point to a continuation for an uncertain time. Washington and its European entourage are once again increasing arms deliveries to Kiev, the economic war is taking on ever more drastic forms, and in the major media, offers of negotiations are considered not only unrealistic but even immoral. If they appear at all in Tagesschau or FAZ & TAZ, they are insulted as lumpenpacifism and smothered with Nazi comparisons. “Defeatists” wanted to “conjure up a truce by Putin’s grace,” said the FAZ on September 5 (p. 9), a true propaganda soundbite of blood and iron. The moral discrediting of criticism of the official course is intended to intimidate and is not completely ineffective. It is even felt as far as parts of the social left and the peace movement.

However, the consensus orchestrated between the political class and the media for the continuation of the war does not seem to be working very well among the population. A study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation concludes that the so-called turn of the times “is not transforming Germany into a completely different country, because public opinion continues to cling to pragmatism and pacifism. Skepticism toward military means has even increased since the beginning of the war.” For example, in a May poll, 49 percent thought, “The most important thing is to end the war as soon as possible, even if that means Ukraine ceding control of territory to Russia.” Only 19 percent think “Russia should be punished for its aggression, even if it means killing and displacing more Ukrainians*.”

Also, according to a FORSA poll from late August, 77 percent of Germans want the West to start negotiations. Only 32 percent support the delivery of heavy weapons, while 62 percent oppose it. For all the skepticism about polls, there is at least a strong minority that does not support the official course. And this while the weather is still quite mild and the toxic mix of war, energy crisis, inflation, corona and social crisis is still barely noticeable.

All of this shows that the call for immediate negotiations is by no means as doomed as it is proclaimed to be on the media home front. There is significant potential that can be transformed into political pressure by the peace movement and also by 4.9 percent parties. To do so, of course, one must also offensively confront the bellicose narrative as well as make the persuasive power of the diplomatic alternative vividly visible.

The Death of Others

The moral view of this war certainly has advantages for its users, because it simplifies things a great deal. Morality does not analyze, but judges and condemns. In doing so, one has to work with only two variables: Good and Evil. Complex problems, whose understanding and solution require a certain intellectual effort and capacity for differentiation, then suddenly appear quite simple. An analysis of the structural and historical contexts out of which war arose ? actually a matter of course for enlightened and, even more so, socially critical thinking ? , is then superfluous.

But morality also has a big disadvantage: it is indivisible. Anyone who repeatedly invades other countries, as Germany did in 1999 in conjunction with NATO against Yugoslavia, or Ukraine, which in 2003 provided the sixth largest troop contingent (of 36) in George W. Bush’s coalition of the willing in the war against Iraq, becomes morally untrustworthy if he sees evil only in the others. Morality then becomes double standards.

This is not about questioning morality in principle. As a normative orientation, as a compass for the direction of practical action, it is not only legitimate but necessary. However, it cannot be transferred seamlessly into everyday practice, and certainly not into the complicated contexts of international relations.

Max Weber tried to solve the problem by distinguishing between ethics of conscience and ethics of responsibility. How useful this is remains to be seen. But for the war in Ukraine, the supporters of military solutions can be granted neither one nor the other. For their war goal – be it a military victory for Ukraine, or even the military enforcement of a strong negotiating position – is neither moral nor responsible.

For it is morally unacceptable to send an incalculable number of people to their deaths for an incalculable period of time. Baerbock & Co. cannot avoid the question of whether to accept ten thousand, fifty thousand, a hundred thousand or more dead soldiers and civilians in order to achieve their war goal. Only to fail to achieve it in the end.

The death of others, which leaders, kings, rulers have always thought they had the right to claim, is morally reprehensible. Conversely, this is where the most important moral legitimacy for credible peace policy lies. In a value-based foreign policy worthy of the name, peace comes first, just as it is the central concept of international law. The same applies to human rights. In the UN Declaration of Human Rights of 1948, it is no coincidence that the right to life is at the top of all rights.

Solidarity with Ukraine therefore means first and foremost working to stop the killing. But also out of moral responsibility towards third parties, especially towards poor countries, an early stop of the war is necessary. Economic war accepts as collateral damage the increase of poverty, hunger and death in the global South and the worsening of chaos in the world economy. The responsibility for this lies with those who have this weapon at their disposal. Finally, war absorbs the political and material resources needed to combat climate change, species extinction, and other environmental problems.


But surely negotiations are completely unrealistic, at least until one of the warring parties is exhausted. That the ruling propaganda wraps its interests in a new TINA principle ? there is no alternative to arms deliveries and sanctions – is normal. But for the Left, 50 percent of whose program consists of utopian visions of the future and 45 percent of currently unattainable individual demands, this should not be a reason to see the course of history as a mechanical gear train whose course one would have to fatalistically adapt to. At the very least, one should be a sand in the gears, not a left-wing lubricant for NATO.

First of all, it should be noted that the supporters of arms deliveries work with completely unrealistic speculations. Russia has occupied a territory of about 100,000 square kilometers since February 24. This is almost equal to the area of the Netherlands, Belgium and Switzerland combined. Add Crimea, which Kiev wants to take back, and that’s territory the size of England. To conquer all this militarily against an opponent who is far from exhausted, and although attack usually requires three times more resources than defense, is pure illusion.

The major offensive announced by Selensky to retake the major city of Kherson in the south has then also mutated into a tactical range operation in the Kharkiv region in the east. This is territory outside the Lugansk region in the Donbass, and its conquest is therefore not part of the core of Russian war aims. This is not the first time Russian troops have withdrawn. The withdrawal from the Kiev region in the early stages of the war or from Snake Island in the Black Sea in July are earlier examples. This has not changed the overall strategic situation. However, such limited partial successes are then overestimated as evidence of Ukrainian chances of victory and generate deceptive hopes, as the frontline coverage in our media these days demonstrates. It serves to maintain fighting morale on the home front and justify the demand for delivery of modern battle tanks. In the end, this would lead to military escalation, increase the blood toll and make negotiations even more difficult.

Moreover, the claim that neither side wants to negotiate is so incorrect. Moscow has signaled time and again that it would be willing to negotiate, as Foreign Minister Lavrov did again on September 11 – in stark contrast to Selensky. Even if one thinks that these are only words in a propaganda war, a government with a will for peace would have to try to test them for their seriousness. After all, Moscow was ready to negotiate in the grain deal, as it was in the agreement with the International Atomic Energy Agency on the Zaporozhye nuclear power plant.

But no one in the EU seems to have the courage to take a diplomatic initiative. It is significant that while Macron and Scholz still sometimes talk to Putin on the phone, Joe Biden has not picked up the phone once since the war began. In Moscow, it is rightly assumed that Paris and Berlin have no say in the matter. For one effect of this war is that the dream of the EU’s strategic autonomy is over for the time being.

We have long since been dealing with a “proxy war with NATO,” as Hal Brands, a fellow at the U.S. State Department, writes. His readable article is entitled Why Superpower Crises Are a Good Thing. In it, the opportunities that war presents for Washington are highlighted. Indeed, the proxy dimension is now the dominant driver of war. And the high command of the Western camp sits in Washington. However, internationalization means that the complexity of the conflict and the associated risks are orders of magnitude greater. This also renders obsolete the argument that we should not tell Ukraine what to do from the outside. There is no outside anymore.

However, the balance of power in this war cannot be reduced to the military one. Even though the sanctions are certainly causing damage to the Russian economy and the IMF is forecasting an 8.5 percent shrinkage in GDP, at the same time Ukraine’s GDP is predicted to shrink by 35 percent. The social consequences for the population are already dramatic and will take on even more drastic forms during the winter months – with corresponding effects on the military situation and the political mood. In the long run, the leadership’s usual phrases of heroism and certain final victory in such situations do not sate the mood.

Peace policy alternatives as a politically productive force

It is true that those who call for negotiations do not (yet) have any influence on military and economic developments. But that does not mean that they are completely powerless. Their terrain is influencing the climate of opinion in our country. Making negotiations a strong alternative to war in the domestic political debate is a politically productive force that can be used to generate pressure from below, from society. Power relations are not static; they can be changed through intervention from below. One way to do this is to draw on war fatigue, which has always been an ally of peace forces. For example, the Vietnam War ended not because of U.S. military weakness but because of a loss of domestic political support.

But the alternatives in the narrower sense of security and peace policy must also be made vivid, even if they are not immediately feasible. As with other issues, demonstrating alternatives is a productive force that generates motivation and political commitment. The first task is to break the monopoly of opinion held by the military narrative.

In the multitude of proposals now available for ending the Ukrainian war, the following points crystallize as the core:

first, a cease-fire must be reached;
This will require mediators. The UN and neutral states could be considered for this, possibly in combination;
the cease-fire could be the starting point for the creation of a demilitarized zone in which UN blue helmets would be stationed;
Ukraine needs security guarantees. These could be provided by guarantor powers, preferably those that are not parties to the conflict, such as India, Turkey, or South Africa, but possibly mixed with partners from both sides;
for Russian interests, it is central that Ukraine does not become a U.S./NATO military bridgehead on Russia’s doorstep;
for the resolution of territorial issues, referendums could be held under international supervision after a few years. The Saarland, which was under French administration for ten years after the war, could be a model. In 1955, 67.7 percent of Saarlanders voted to join the Federal Republic. The defeated minority must have the option to move to the other country, flanked by social support;
as a positive incentive, an international reconstruction program must be set up for all regions affected by the war, including those under Russian control;
sanctions are to be dismantled step by step;
as a further incentive for Russia, negotiations on strategic arms control will be launched;
as a longer-term perspective, a conference on a pan-European security architecture will begin.

The agenda of a peace conference would look like this or something similar. It would be difficult and face setbacks. And, of course, all sides would have to swallow toads and give up maximum positions. That is part of the nature of compromise. But this is what morally upright and at the same time realistic politics looks like.

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Russia’s war against Ukraine and What are the war aims?


Russia’s war against Ukraine and What are the war aims?
by Peter Becker and Gen. Erich Vad

Erich Vad is an ex-brigade general. From 2006 to 2013, he was the military policy advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He is one of the rare voices who spoke out publicly against arms deliveries to Ukraine early on, without political strategy or diplomatic efforts. Even now he speaks an uncomfortable truth.

This is a military escalation. We are going down a slippery slope.

On Russia’s War Against Ukraine
by Peter Becker
[This excerpt posted on 1/15/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.nachdenkseiten.de/?p=92409.]

6. the war was provoked! Evaluation of the processes

We consider the following processes:

The advantages of the U.S. since the beginning of the war: they implement long-term political goals, which they have long worked towards, without any fuss:
They achieve the profound divisiveness of Russia and Germany by removing Ukraine from the Eurasian bloc;
their wars and interventions in violation of international law are suddenly forgotten.
The U.S. tools are many and have been used since the end of the Cold War:
The financial support of the nearly bankrupt Ukraine;
the unprovoked NATO expansion to the East;
the charter of the U.S.-Ukrainian partnership;
the intervention in Ukrainian domestic politics with the support of the Western-oriented presidential candidate Yushchenko with the help of the “Revolutionary Ltd.”
Overthrow of President Yanukovych, who was restored to power, through direct support of the processes on the Maidan, even the “Right Sector” is accepted;
Joint maneuvers, arming of the Ukrainian army;
Incitement against Russia through unsubstantiated allegations of Russia’s support for separatists in the Donbass;
NATO deployment beginning with the Partnership for Peace in 1994.

In all actions, the U.S. knew they were directed against Russia’s interests. Putin, after all, protested many times. Nevertheless, the actions continued.

A fine example is Putin’s speech at the Munich Security Conference. Putin addressed

NATO expansion, saying it was a “provocative factor.” So the U.S. had to continue it;
so-called light U.S. outpost bases of 5,000 troops each were being built in Bulgaria and Romania, which Putin classified as a violation of the CFE Treaty, while Russia “strictly adhered to the treaty.” So NATO had to continue its deployments in other countries as well;
“We are also concerned about plans to build a missile defense system in Europe.” So the U.S. just had to implement its plans, which it did.

The U.S. just had to take Putin at his word to provoke him further. Biden also knew exactly how to irritate Putin: He called him a “murderer,” had Russian diplomats expelled, and even placed a U.S. banker in the Ukrainian government. He could not have demonstrated U.S. influence over the government in Kiev more clearly.

Obama, too, had already pejoratively called Russia a “regional power.” And Biden succeeded: Putin responded with his offer of a treaty aimed at easing tensions. And Biden – wisely – did not accept it. Thus, war became inevitable, which was also correctly predicted by the U.S. intelligence services.

7 The sanctions probably miss their target

There are numerous indications of this:

The seizure of Russian dollar reserves will boomerang. This is because Russia is a member of OPEC. The latter has cut oil production and thus increased the demand for oil – and the price. The higher price more than compensates for the loss of dollar reserves.
Saudi Arabia and Russia have grown closer. This is the result of Western attacks on the Kashoggi murder, for which Saudi Crown Prince (and Saudi Arabia’s secret ruler) Salman is arguably responsible.
Already, the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is moving toward West Asia, with Iran joining it and Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Qatar, Bahrain, Kuwait, and Egypt gaining dialogue partner status and Turkey seeking full membership. The SCO summit in Samarkand laid out a roadmap for gradually increasing the share of national currencies in mutual payments, underscoring the seriousness of this intention.
The end of dollar domination could be the result: oil is conventionally paid for in dollars (“petrodollars”). As a result, all countries that have a need for oil must maintain high dollar reserves. In return, the U.S. had to commit itself to granting all countries free access to the dollar.

However, this pledge has proven false since the dollar has been weaponized and the U.S. has absurdly attempted to appropriate other countries’ dollar reserves. Not surprisingly, Putin has pointed to the need to create an alternative reserve currency to the dollar, and this is resonating with world opinion.

This is supported by the fact that the White House, rather than reconsidering, is considering new forms of punishment for Saudi Arabia and Russia. While it is difficult to “punish” Russia, since the U.S. has exhausted all options, Biden probably thinks the U.S. has Saudi Arabia by the throat: as an arms supplier and custodian of massive Saudi reserves and investments.

8. the secret war of the USA against the EU

The EU is suffering from Russia’s war against Ukraine:

Capping Russian gas supplies to EU states is driving up energy costs and fueling inflation.
Member states are forced to increase their spending on the military instead of using it for social purposes.
The entire economy is affected as a result.
The EU subscribes to a logic of war instead of a logic of peace.
In the global struggle for hegemony, the position of the EU is weakened, that of the USA strengthened.

9 A fitting quote on this

“Coal-fired power plants, considered a “scandal” just twelve months ago, are being reopened in Europe with the blessing of environment ministers. European politicians court autocrats and dictators around the world in the hope of being allowed to buy a bit of gas or oil, which is then transported to Europe using polluting oil tankers and bulk carriers. Shale gas and shale oil, just of the devil, are big in fashion. And all this to boycott Vladimir Putin, who as president of Russia has always been willing to provide us with more environmentally friendly gas and oil for little money?” (Guy Mettan: Europe betrays its values, in: Zeit-Fragen No. 22 v. 18.10.2022).


What are the war aims?
Interview with Erich Vad:
[This interview posted on 1/15/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, Erich Vad: Was sind die Kriegsziele?.]

Erich Vad ist Ex-Brigade-General. Von 2006 bis 2013 war er der militärpolitische Berater von Bundeskanzlerin Ang…
Erich Vad is an ex-brigade general. From 2006 to 2013, he was the military policy advisor to German Chancellor Angela Merkel. He is one of the rare voices who spoke out publicly against arms deliveries to Ukraine early on, without political strategy or diplomatic efforts. Even now he speaks an uncomfortable truth.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and Brigadier General Erich Vad in Kunduz in 2010.

Mr. Vad, what do you say about the delivery of the 40 Marder to Ukraine just announced by Chancellor Scholz?
This is a military escalation, also in the perception of the Russians – even if the more than 40-year-old Marder is not a wonder weapon. We are going down a slippery slope. This could develop a momentum of its own that we can no longer control. Of course it was and is right to support Ukraine and of course Putin’s invasion is not in conformity with international law – but now the consequences must finally be considered!

And what could be the consequences?
Does one want to achieve readiness for negotiations with the deliveries of the tanks? Do they want to reconquer the Donbass or the Crimea? Or does one want to defeat Russia completely? There is no realistic end-state definition. And without an overall political and strategic concept, arms deliveries are pure militarism.

What does that mean?
We have a military stalemate that we cannot resolve militarily. That, by the way, is also the opinion of U.S. Chief of Staff Mark Milley. He has said that a military victory for Ukraine is not to be expected and that negotiations are the only possible way. Anything else means the senseless wear and tear of human lives.

General Milley’s statement caused much anger in Washington and was also heavily criticized publicly.
He spoke an uncomfortable truth. A truth, by the way, that was almost not published in the German media. The interview with Milley by CNN did not appear anywhere bigger, while he is the Chief of Staff of our Western leading power. What is being conducted in Ukraine is a war of attrition. And one with now close to 200,000 soldiers killed and wounded on both sides, with 50,000 civilian dead, and with millions of refugees. Milley has thus drawn a parallel with World War I that could not be more apt. In World War I, the so-called ‘Blood Mill of Verdun’ alone, designed as a battle of attrition, resulted in the deaths of nearly a million young French and Germans. They fell for nothing at that time. So the refusal of the warring parties to negotiate led to millions of additional deaths. This strategy did not work militarily then – and will not do so now.

You, too, have been attacked for calling for negotiations.
Yes, so has the Inspector General of the Bundeswehr, General Eberhard Zorn, who, like me, has warned against overestimating the Ukrainians’ regionally limited offensives during the summer months. Military experts – who know what goes on among the intelligence services, what it looks like on the ground and what war really means – are largely excluded from the discourse. They don’t fit in with the media’s opinion-making. To a large extent, we are witnessing a media conformity that I have never seen before in the Federal Republic of Germany. This is pure opinion mongering. And not on behalf of the state, as is known from totalitarian regimes, but out of pure self-empowerment.

They are attacked by the media on a broad front, from BILD to FAZ and Spiegel, and thus also the 500,000 people who signed the Open Letter to the Chancellor initiated by Alice Schwarzer.
That’s right. Fortunately, Alice Schwarzer has her own independent media to be able to open this discourse at all. It probably wouldn’t have worked in the leading media. The majority of the population has been against further arms deliveries for a long time, and according to the latest polls. But none of this is being reported. There is no longer any fair, open discourse on the war in Ukraine, and I find that very disturbing. It shows me how right Helmut Schmidt was. He said in a conversation with Chancellor Merkel: Germany is and remains a nation at risk.

Foreign Minister Annalena Baerbock in Kharkiv. – Xander Heinl/IMAGO

What do you think of the foreign minister’s policy?
Military operations must always be coupled with an attempt to bring about political solutions. The one-dimensionality of the current foreign policy is hard to bear. It is very much focused on weapons. But the main task of foreign policy is and remains diplomacy, reconciliation of interests, understanding and conflict resolution. That’s what I miss here. I’m glad that we finally have a female foreign minister in Germany, but it’s not enough just to engage in war rhetoric and walk around Kiev or the Donbass wearing a helmet and flak jacket. That is not enough.

Yet Baerbock is a member of the Greens, the former peace party.
I don’t understand the mutation of the Greens from a pacifist party to a war party. I myself don’t know any Green who has even done military service. Anton Hofreiter is for me the best example of this double standard. Antje Vollmer, on the other hand, whom I would count among the ‘original’ Greens, calls a spade a spade. And the fact that a single party has so much political influence that it can maneuver us into a war, that’s quite alarming.

If Chancellor Scholz had taken you over from his predecessor and you were still the chancellor’s military adviser, what would you have advised him to do in February 2022?
I would have advised him to support Ukraine militarily, but in a measured and prudent manner, in order to avoid slippery slope effects into a war party. And I would have advised him to influence our most important political ally, the United States. Because the key to a solution to the war lies in Washington and Moscow. I have liked the course the chancellor has taken in recent months. But the Greens, the FDP and the bourgeois opposition – flanked by largely unanimous media accompaniment – are exerting such pressure that the chancellor can hardly absorb it.

And what if the leopard is also delivered?
Then the question arises again as to what should happen with the tank deliveries in the first place. To take over Crimea or the Donbass, the Marder and Leopard are not enough. In eastern Ukraine, in the Bachmut area, the Russians are clearly on the march. They will probably have completely conquered the Donbass before long. Just consider the numerical superiority of the Russians over Ukraine alone. Russia can mobilize up to two million reservists. The West can send 100 martens and 100 leopards, they will not change the overall military situation. And the all-important question is how to get through such a conflict with a belligerent nuclear power – by the way, the strongest nuclear power in the world! – without going into a third world war. And exactly this does not go into the heads of the politicians and the journalists here in Germany!

The argument is, Putin does not want to negotiate and that one must put him in his place, so that he does not rage further in Europe.
It is true that one must signal to the Russians: This far and no further! Such a war of aggression must not be allowed to set a precedent. That’s why it’s right for NATO to increase its military presence in the east and for Germany to join in. But Putin’s refusal to negotiate is untrustworthy. Both the Russians and the Ukrainians were prepared to reach a peace agreement at the beginning of the war at the end of March, beginning of April 2022. Then nothing came of it. After all, it was also during the war that the grain agreement was finally negotiated by the Russians and Ukrainians with the involvement of the United Nations.

Now the dying continues.
You can continue to wear down the Russians, which in turn means hundreds of thousands of deaths, but on both sides. And it means further destruction of Ukraine. What will be left of this country? It will be razed to the ground. In the end, that is no longer an option for Ukraine either. The key to resolving the conflict does not lie in Kiev, it does not lie in Berlin, Brussels or Paris, it lies in Washington and Moscow. It is ridiculous to say that Ukraine must decide this.

With this interpretation one is quickly considered a conspiracy theorist in Germany…
I myself am a convinced transatlanticist. I’ll tell you honestly, when in doubt, I’d rather live under an American hegemony than under a Russian or Chinese one. This war was initially just a domestic Ukrainian dispute. It started back in 2014, between the Russian-speaking ethnic groups and the Ukrainians themselves. So it has been a civil war. Now, after Russia’s invasion, it has become an interstate war between Ukraine and Russia. It is also a struggle for the independence of Ukraine and its territorial integrity. That is all true. But it is not the whole truth. It is also a proxy war between the U.S. and Russia, and there are very concrete geopolitical interests at stake in the Black Sea region.

What are those?
The Black Sea region is as important to the Russians and their Black Sea fleet as the Caribbean or the Panama region is to the United States. As important as the South China Sea and Taiwan for China. As important as Turkey’s protection zone, which they established against the Kurds in violation of international law. Against this background and for strategic reasons, the Russians cannot get out of it either. Apart from the fact that in a referendum in Crimea, the population would certainly decide in favor of Russia.

So how should this continue?
If the Russians were forced by massive Western intervention to withdraw from the Black Sea region, then before they step off the world stage, they would certainly turn to nuclear weapons. I find naive the belief that a nuclear strike by Russia would never happen. Along the lines of, ‘They’re just bluffing.’

But what could be the solution?
One should simply ask the people in the region, i.e. in the Donbass and Crimea, who they want to belong to. One would have to restore the territorial integrity of Ukraine, with certain Western guarantees. And the Russians need such a security guarantee as well. So no NATO membership for Ukraine. Since the Bucharest summit in 2008, it’s been clear that that’s the red line for the Russians.

And what do you think Germany can do?
We have to dose our military support in such a way that we don’t slide into a Third World War. None of those who went to war with great enthusiasm in 1914 thought afterwards that it was the right thing to do. If the goal is an independent Ukraine, we must also ask ourselves in perspective what a European order involving Russia should look like. After all, Russia will not simply disappear from the map. We must avoid driving the Russians into the arms of the Chinese and thus shifting the multipolar order to our disadvantage. We also need Russia as the leading power of a multi-ethnic state to avoid flare-ups of fighting and war. And frankly, I don’t see Ukraine becoming a member of the EU, much less NATO. We have high corruption and rule by oligarchs in Ukraine just as we have in Russia. What we in Turkey – rightly – denounce in terms of the rule of law, we also have that problem in Ukraine.

What do you think, Mr. Vad, what awaits us in 2023?
There needs to be a broader front for peace building in Washington. And this senseless actionism in German politics must finally come to an end. Otherwise, we’ll wake up one morning and find ourselves in the middle of World War III.

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How foreign policy elites are losing all contact with their citizens and Davos 2023


In addition to the destruction of two countries, trillions of squandered dollars, a massive refugee crisis, a new generation of U.S. war veterans in need of lifelong assistance, and countless dead as well as wounded, these “elites” are largely responsible for the distrust of Washington that has eaten culture and politics in this country to the core. Trust in American institutions is dwindling.

USA: How foreign policy elites are losing all contact with their citizens
by Kelley Beaucar Vlahos
[This article posted on 1/13/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, USA: Wie die Außenpolitik-Eliten jeden Kontakt zu ihren Bürgern verlieren.]

Foreign Policy Talk with Anne Applebaum, Christine Amanpour, Eliot Cohen on CNN. Image: CNN screenshot

Americans’ approval of a continuation of the Ukraine war is crumbling. But the establishment in Washington declares their opinion irrelevant. Not for the first time, as a look at Vietnam, Afghanistan and Iraq shows.

What does Washington really think of public opinion in the United States?

For years, the policy establishment, the so-called Beltway insiders in Washington, have been desperately trying to disprove the notion that their representatives are actually elites: out of touch with what ordinary Americans want and need, while acting as slaves to conventional foreign policy doctrine and dogma.

But it’s wartime again, and that’s when the masks come off. It began with a stream of articles by political analysts Eliot Cohen and Anne Applebaum in the wake of the Russian invasion, demanding that Americans see the war in Ukraine as our fight, a fight for democracy and the liberal world order. If Americans are not ready for that, they say, there is something wrong with them, they have failed morally.
Kelley Beaucar Vlahos is senior advisor at the Quincy Institute and editorial director of Responsible Statecraft.

This heavy-handed action fits the tactics of the neoconservatives, as they have tried the same thing in the global “war on terror,” contributing in large measure to the Iraq war lasting nearly a decade and the one in Afghanistan lasting a full 20 years.

In addition to the destruction of two countries, trillions of squandered dollars, a massive refugee crisis, a new generation of U.S. war veterans in need of lifelong assistance, and countless dead as well as wounded, these “elites” are largely responsible for the distrust of Washington that has eaten culture and politics in this country to the core.

Poll after poll shows that trust in American institutions, including the once vaunted military, is dwindling. That’s what a war based on lies, distortions and rhetorical bullying will do to an already tense and divided society.

Add to that the financial collapse of 2008, which the U.S. government met with an unprecedented bank bailout while homeowners and workers struggled to survive. This sets the stage for major populist movements – on both the left and the right.

The rise of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump has been fueled in part by lingering skepticism about ongoing wars and elites at the forefront of U.S. foreign policy. These policies are increasingly perceived as self-serving and disconnected from American interests.

One would think that the elites would have learned their lesson.

But the war in Ukraine has revived ignorance. Once again, the views and needs of the American public are being sidelined while citizens are being patronized. A commentary by Gian Gentile and Raphael S. Cohen, the last deputy director of the Army Research Division of the Rand Corporation and the Air Force Strategy and Doctrine Program, respectively, says it all.

The article, entitled “The Myth of America’s Ukraine Fatigue,” is clearly aimed at the Beltway establishment in Washington. It propagates at the same time that one should not care about polls or even public opinion in the United States. Ukraine’s (and indeed Washington’s) long war will continue no matter what the hoi polloi, the common people, think or feel, the message goes.

In war, from a purely political point of view, it is usually safer for politicians to stay the course. Perhaps this is why democracies in armed conflict are quite good at fighting even longer. From ancient Athens during the Peloponnesian War to the present day, democracies have not generally been the fickle, shriveled violets that their opponents like to portray them. In the United States, the wars in Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan were all ultimately extremely unpopular. Yet the United States fought for three years in Korea, for nearly nine years in Iraq (before withdrawing after the initial pullout), and for nearly 20 years in both Vietnam and Afghanistan. In all of these campaigns, far more American blood and assets were invested than the U.S. involvement in Ukraine has required to date.

The authors refer to a number of recent polls that show that Americans’ unconditional support for Ukraine against the Russian invasion is reaching its limits and, in some cases, weakening.

Americans increasingly opposed to long war and in favor of negotiations

Cohen and Gentile now say that Americans support Ukrainian sovereignty and the fight for it. That is absolutely true. But what the authors fail to mention is that the polls suggest that the public is concerned about a protracted war that could lead to more deaths and a direct U.S. confrontation with the Russians.

U.S. citizens are also relatively unenthusiastic about supporting Ukraine “for as long as it takes.” And they are more and more interested in negotiations to end the war as early as possible, even if that ultimately means concessions for both sides.

Instead of recognizing the nuances and giving credit to the Americans for considering the implications of another long war (whether or not the U.S. is directly involved on the ground), the authors blame the media, which they say is playing up the negative messages of the polls. They also point out that-referring to Vietnam and our recent wars-conflicts will continue (and rightly so, in their view) no matter what public opinion is.

With respect to past conflicts, and assuming that current trends continue, it could be years before declining support among the American public actually leads to a change in policy ,

… according to the authors. In doing so, Cohen and Gentile (much like their counterparts in the Iraq and Afghanistan war eras) belittle those who “reinforce the narrative of Ukraine fatigue.” They package the “bad-mouthers” into manageable categories: 1) “America First” Republicans who prefer to focus on domestic issues, 2) “reflexive” antiwar activists on the left, and 3) those who “may genuinely sympathize with Russian arguments” that Americans are growing weary of war.

Meanwhile, “some Americans may genuinely believe they are paying a higher price for the conflict than is actually the case, but that is based primarily on perceptions rather than facts.”

That’s right. That’s exactly what Fred Kagan, the American Enterprise Institute neoconservative who helped craft the Iraq war plan, said in 2008 in a long article for National Review magazine titled “Why Iraq matters: Talking back to anti-war party talking points,” using the following silly platitude:

Americans have a right to be weary of the conflict and to want to see it through. But before we prefer the wrong but comfortable path to the right but rocky one, we should examine more closely the two core assumptions underlying current antiwar arguments: that we are losing this war because we cannot win it at any acceptable cost, and that it is better to lose than to keep trying to win.

The irony is that Colonel Gian Gentile was one of the few brave people in active military service at the time who openly opposed Fred Kagan’s “troop surge” and counterinsurgency delusions that were prevalent at the time. He was a fierce critic of Washington’s over-the-top war PR and selective distortion of history. It is surprising that Gentile now simplifies the impact of public opinion on the current wars – implying that they are relatively unimportant – while making extremely weak arguments for “business as usual.”

Leaders of the free world need to remind their publics of what is at stake in Ukraine – not just for European and global security, but for democracy in general.

… Gentile exclaims in his recent opinion piece co-authored with Cohen.

And this from a historian who, in his 2013 book “America’s Deadly Embrace of Counter-Insurgency,” not only tackled the myths of Iraq and Afghanistan, but also picked apart the slogans of U.S. counterinsurgency in Vietnam and the British military’s “success” in Malaya (1948-60).

Gentile’s commentary on the “myth of Ukraine fatigue” is elitist thinking that reads like a pep talk for the Washington establishment in light of recent polls. For everyone else, it shows that the same people who didn’t want ordinary Americans thinking about foreign policy during the Iraq War are still in charge, whether they call themselves “elites” or not.

The article appears in cooperation with the U.S. magazine Responsible Statecraft.


An “uncertain and turbulent decade”
by the editors of Sozialismus.de
The WEF’s Global Risk Report 2023
[This article posted os 1/12/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, Ein »unsicheres und turbulentes Jahrzehnt«.]

From January 16 to 20, the World Economic Forum (WEF) in Davos will once again be the international meeting place for economic and political elites. It was founded in 1971 by Klaus Schwab, an economics professor at the University of Geneva, with the aim of discussing modern management concepts.

Only since 1994 have politicians also attended the meeting, with German Chancellor Olaf Scholz (SPD) also scheduled to participate this year. Since 2015, the WEF has officially had the status of an international organization.

However, over time its importance for global elites has declined. At the same time, the dominance of Western capital-oriented leaders has also been lost as cross-system dialogue has become increasingly fragile. The financial crisis, Donald Trump’s tenure as U.S. president, the U.S.-China trade war and, finally, Russia’s invasion of Ukraine have undermined the goal of an integrated and globalized world.

Just before the Davos meeting, the WEF presents an annual study on the international situation. In this year’s Global Risk Report 2023, the WEF paints a grim panorama of risks and dangers. The report is based on an analysis of responses from 1,200 scientists, politicians and risk managers.

“The first years of this decade have heralded a particularly disruptive period in human history. The return to a ‘new normal’ after the COVID-19 pandemic was quickly interrupted by the outbreak of war in Ukraine, which ushered in a new set of food and energy crises – and triggered problems that decades of progress had sought to solve.”

As 2023 begins, he said, the world faces a set of risks that are both entirely new, “and feel eerily familiar. We have seen a return of ‘older’ risks – inflation, cost-of-living crises, trade wars, capital outflows from emerging markets, widespread social unrest, geopolitical confrontations, and the specter of nuclear war – that few of this generation’s business leaders and public policymakers have experienced. These are compounded by comparatively new developments in the global risk landscape, including unsustainable levels of debt, a new era of low growth, low global investment, and deglobalization, a decline in human development after decades of progress, rapid and unchecked development of dual-use (civilian and military) technologies, and the growing pressure of climate change impacts and ambitions in an ever-shrinking window of opportunity to transition to a 1.5°C world. Together, these are converging to shape a unique, uncertain, and turbulent decade.”

In the next two years, he said, the cost-of-living crisis will dominate, followed by natural disasters and extreme weather events, and geo-economic confrontations. In the medium term, climate change and environmental hazards rank at the top. These long-known risks are exacerbated by exploding debt, low growth and de-globalization.

The chances that the world can limit global warming to 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial times are considered slim. “Climate change is an existential threat to the planet, and the window to achieve net zero is closing,” more needs to be done, if not to prevent future global warming, at least to adapt to climate change.

Risk of a “poly-crisis”

Over the next ten years, respondents see six environmental threats among the top ten risks, including prominently the threat of a dramatic loss of biodiversity, the extinction of animal and plant species. In addition, there is a shortage of natural resources. There is a risk that all the factors will come together to form a “poly-crisis” around the year 2030.

All in all, the new “Global Risk Report” paints a very gloomy picture. The ideological drifting apart of different cultures will also fuel conflicts between countries and increase the risk of armed conflicts. This could make economic warfare the norm, with increasing clashes between global powers.

Growing demands on public and private sector resources from other crises will reduce the pace and scale of mitigation efforts over the next two years, as will insufficient progress on adaptation support needed for communities and countries increasingly affected by climate change impacts.

As current crises divert resources away from medium- to longer-term risks, stresses on natural ecosystems will increase given their still underappreciated role in the global economy and the health of the planet. This is because loss of nature and climate change are inextricably linked – failure in one area will impact the other.

The consequence feared by respondents is that instead of promoting trade and cooperation among nations, an escalating cycle of mistrust and decoupling of markets is emerging. The more geopolitics dominates the economy, the more inefficient production becomes. Technology will exacerbate inequalities, it said, while risks from cyberattacks will become a permanent problem.

The report stressed that while climate and environmental risks are already clearly visible and tangible, the world is inadequately prepared for them. The lack of progress on climate goals makes it clear how deep the gap has become between what needs to be done and what is currently politically feasible.

Those who will suffer most, he said, are the world’s poorest: “The knock-on effects will be felt most acutely by the weakest sections of society and already fragile states, contributing to rising poverty, hunger, violent protests, political instability and even the collapse of states.”

Trade wars instead of globalization

The World Risk Report also concludes that trade wars could become the norm in the future, “with increasing clashes between global powers and state intervention in markets over the next two years.” The rapid development of technological innovations also plays a role in this, they said, as societies’ increasing reliance on technological connectivity makes them vulnerable to attack, especially with regard to critical infrastructure.

The authors of the report therefore call on the heads of state and government to take collective action. The scenarios presented should help to understand and anticipate the uncertain interactions. Action could then be taken to contain the negative impact of the “poly-crises” before they have their full effect.

But there is still a window, he said, to create a more secure future through more effective preparedness. This would require pushing back on the erosion of trust in multilateral processes to improve the collective capacity to prevent and respond to emerging transnational crises. This would strengthen the guardrails that already exist to manage risk.

Beyond that, further measures would need to be taken to mitigate risk. As worsening economic prospects bring tougher trade-offs for governments facing competing social, environmental, and security concerns, investments must focus on solutions that address multiple risks simultaneously.

Some of the risks described in this year’s report are on the verge of a tipping point, it argues. Therefore, it makes the case for acting collectively, decisively, and with a long-term perspective to shape a path toward a more positive, inclusive, and stable world. It remains to be seen how many participants and fellow discussants in Davos will then adopt this vote in their economic and political actions.

No one should rely on the state to defeat the radical right. A commentary on the situation in Brazil
[This article posted on 1/13/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.marx21.de/brasilien-kein-verlass-auf-den-staat/.]

Thousands of supporters:inside of former Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro stormed Congress, the Supreme Court and the Palácio do Planalto, the seat of government, on Sunday. At midnight (Central European Time), Brazilian police said they had removed most of the mob. But the threat from Bolsonaro’s forces is not over and will not be eliminated by elections and parliamentary maneuvers.

Brazil: following in the footsteps of Donald Trump

Organized fascists were at the center of the anti-democratic coup attempt. On television, they could be seen tearing down roadblocks and pushing back the few police officers. Although the police used pepper spray and stun grenades, they could not stop the attackers.

Following the script of Donald Trump’s supporters, they too lied that recently elected President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva had only won through electoral fraud and was bent on installing a communist regime.

A planned attack

Bolsonaro, who is currently in the United States, has never accepted his electoral defeat. So did the core of his supporters. After the elections, there were protests orchestrated by radical right-wing networks and organizations against Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva’s election victory. Tens of thousands of supporters demanded that the military intervene. In some cities, such as Belo Horizonte and Recife, demonstrators marched in front of military barracks and blocked highways with burning barricades. At the time, Bolsonaro called on his supporters to be vigilant, claiming to still be “the supreme head of the armed forces”: “I am sure that one of my duties guaranteed by the Constitution is to be the supreme head of the armed forces. The armed forces are fundamental in every country in the world. I have always said during these four years that the armed forces are the last obstacle to socialism,” he asserted.

Lula’s reaction

Lula called those behind the storming of Congress “fanatical fascists” who represented “everything abominable” in politics. He announced, “All the vandals will be found and punished. We will also find out who financed them.” He said, “These fanatics have done something that has never been done in this country.” Lula condemned parts of the police force. “The police did nothing at all. They just let the protesters in,” he said.

Dangerous compromises

But it is with these state forces and the elites who support them that Lula has compromised and tried to appease. His first cabinet included nine members of the right-wing Brazilian Democratic Movement (MDB), the Brazilian Union and the Social Democratic Party (PSD). The MDB was instrumental in the 2016 ouster of President Dilma Rousseff, which Lula’s Workers’ Party (PT) called a coup. The Brazilian Union emerged from a merger of the party that elected Bolsonaro in 2018 and the party of the former military dictatorship.

In contrast to Lula’s withdrawal, his opponents:inside continued to organize and then mobilize. After Lula’s election victory, Bolsonaro supporters:in set up camps in several cities in Brazil – many of them in front of military barracks. They pleaded for the military to intervene. Brazil was ruled by a U.S.-backed military dictatorship for two decades, from 1964 to 1985 (Read the marx21 article here: Who will stop Bolsonaro? – Brazil and the fascist danger).

No trust in the state

More than 60 million people voted for Lula, including overwhelming majorities of wage earners and their families. But Lula still relies on state forces rather than his own electorate:inside to deal with the radical right. The left and workers should not have confidence in state forces, which can defect to the coup plotters at any time. Instead, workers must organize independently, take to the streets and launch a general strike to demand serious action against the leaders:inside the radical right. There must be no amnesty for Bolsonaro and his henchmen.

Reactions of the USA

The imperialist governments and sections of the capitalist:inside have not openly supported Lula’s ouster. U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken tweeted Sunday evening, “We condemn today’s attacks on the Brazilian presidency, Congress and Supreme Court. The use of force against democratic institutions is unacceptable in any case. We join Lula in demanding an immediate end to these actions.”

They calculate that a Lula government is currently the best environment for their economic trade relations. But the U.S. government and bosses will switch sides if they believe Lula will not stop the resistance of workers:inside.

Organize resistance

A coup victory would be a disaster for Brazil’s workers and poor. It would also give an enormous boost to the radical right everywhere.
The surest garnet against the mobilizations of the radical right is the self-organization of the many. In the past, the labor movement in Brazil has demonstrated this capacity for resistance. It is this strength that will matter in the coming months.

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What are the chances for peace in Ukraine?


There must be another way to peace. But there can only be if we stop believing that only weapons or the annexation of foreign territories can bring peace; if we accept that the world does not belong only to the West, that there will be no single world power, the USA, and that the expansion of NATO does not contribute to stability in Europe.

What are the chances for peace in Ukraine?
by Michael von der Schulenburg
[This article posted on 1/7/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, Wie stehen die Chancen um einen Frieden in der Ukraine?.]

Peace in Ukraine depends on Russia and the United States. For them it is about geostrategic goals. What can persuade Washington to agree to a peace settlement with Russia.

Not the war, but what led to the war must be solved

The war in Ukraine is the result of a U.S. attempt to build a security order in Europe after the end of the Cold War through NATO, which it dominates, and to the exclusion of Russia. In the process, concerns about Europe’s security hardly played a role for the United States.

It was and is almost exclusively about the geostrategic goal of the U.S. to maintain its position, gained after the end of the Cold War, as the sole dominant global superpower. The accession of Ukraine and Georgia to NATO would be the crowning achievement of this eastward expansion of NATO, which has been underway since 1994.

Through such a NATO expansion, the U.S. would gain military control of Russia’s entire southwestern border and thus be able to oust the country from the strategically so important Black Sea and from its traditional spheres of influence in Central Asia. Thus, nuclear power Russia would be largely eliminated as an unwelcome strategic competitor.

The U.S., a country located more than 8,000 kilometers from Ukraine on another continent, could exert pressure on the entire Asian region, including China, through forward military bases in Ukraine and influence the trade and economic relations between Asia and Europe, which have gained greatly in importance.

Thus, the U.S. is pursuing its own power-political goals and not altruistic humanitarian goals in Ukraine. Ukraine has become a theater of war for geopolitical interests only because of its strategic location between Europe and Asia. In a peace settlement, therefore, the actual Ukrainian interests are likely to play only a subordinate role, despite all public expressions of solidarity.
Michael von der Schulenburg

There can only be real peace in Ukraine and thus also in Europe if it becomes possible to establish a new security structure in Europe that is largely independent of NATO, in order to create a common European house without dividing lines, as called for in the OSCE Paris Charter of 1990. This would only be possible with a European security structure that includes Russia. However, the current prospects for this are extremely poor.

Ukraine, although repeatedly advanced by the West, is certainly not in a position to conduct independent peace negotiations with Russia. It does not control any of the geopolitical interests of the U.S. and Russia (and to some extent China) that are being fought out in this war. Moreover, Ukraine is far too dependent on Western, especially U.S., financial and military support to take an independent position.
Who can negotiate peace with Russia?

Only the U.S. would be able to do so; the European Union is too divided and weak to take a step toward a negotiated peace with Russia. How much this war is a war of the USA was recently shown by the visit of President Volodymyr Selenskyj to Washington; Selenskyj simply flew over Europe.

The USA and the war for power

U.S. geopolitical interest in Ukraine dates back to the period after the dissolution of the Warsaw Pact and the collapse of the Soviet Union in late 1991. This also ended any attempt in Europe to create a balancing security structure that would include Russia, the now significantly weakened successor state to the Soviet Union. The hope of the Paris Charter for a common, peaceful Europe was thus dead.

The collapse of the Soviet Union was seen as the victory of a superior Western as well as liberal democratic system; the world would now turn into a democracy led by the United States. If until then the USA had only been the leading nation of Western states, it would now become the leading power of the whole world.

This goal seemed realistic at the time, since Russia had sunk into the chaos of the Yeltsin years and China, like India, was economically and militarily irrelevant. NATO, which is not mentioned at all in the Paris Charter, now had the sole task of becoming the military protagonist of a world dominated by the USA. Ukraine was already assigned a central role at that time.

As early as 1997, NATO signed a strategic partnership agreement with Ukraine. What initially sounded quite innocent, however, led to NATO membership becoming the goal of all subsequent U.S. presidents.

Despite all of Russia’s protests and threats, this goal was pursued with increasing aggressiveness. This culminated in 2014 with the U.S.-organized and $5 billion-financed violent (and illegal under international law) overthrow of democratically elected Ukrainian President Viktor Yanukovych and the installation of a pro-Western government under Petro Poroshenko. The stage was thus set for Ukraine’s incorporation into NATO.

Russia responded by annexing Crimea and supporting the independence of the Donbass. Whereupon the West began a massive military buildup of the Ukrainian army. Thus, a kind of latent war between the U.S. and Russia for influence in Ukraine had begun.

After the announcement at the NATO summit in June 2021 that Ukraine’s membership would now go ahead, the situation escalated and led to Russia’s military intervention. All of this was and is solely about NATO expansion, and there will be no peace until this is resolved diplomatically.

This also explains why the U.S. vehemently opposes any peace settlement that includes neutrality for Ukraine. As recently as December 2021, the U.S. refused to negotiate Ukraine’s NATO accession with Russia, and in March 2022, NATO torpedoed Ukrainian-Russian peace talks that envisioned a neutral Ukraine.

Even now, the U.S. is rejecting peace talks with Russia on Ukraine’s future status. Is the U.S. thus accepting the suffering of the Ukrainian people and the successive destruction of Ukraine for its geostrategic goals?

The European Union, the war and impotence

The war in Ukraine is a disgrace for Europe and especially for the EU. Despite the fact that this is a war being fought on the European continent between two European states, and despite the fact that this conflict had been brewing for the past 30 years with ever-increasing tensions, the EU did nothing to find a diplomatic solution to prevent the war. The EU degraded itself to a willing follower of the USA and became a complicit party in this war.

Europe will now have to bear the consequences, by slipping into political irrelevance, by losing access to raw materials, by blocking the land bridge to the lucrative markets of Asia, and ultimately by devaluing its economic base and making billions in transfer payments to Ukraine over the coming years.

Previous attempts by European states to mediate in the Ukraine conflict have regularly failed due to European disunity and U.S. resistance. An attempt by the foreign ministers of Germany, France, and Poland to mediate the 2014 Maidan Square riots was ignored; the violent overthrow of the pro-Russian president occurred just hours later.

“Fuck the EU” was Victoria Nuland’s response; she is now U.S. Deputy Secretary of State. Even the Minsk I and Minsk II agreements, negotiated by Germany and France, were never implemented; it was impossible for the EU to exert pressure.

The powerlessness of the EU became clear once again when the Nord Stream pipelines 1 and 2 were blown up. The war in Ukraine is also an economic war of the USA against a Europe that is too much oriented towards the East, especially towards Russia and China.

The tragedy for Ukraine is that this has created a situation in which it cannot negotiate peace itself, in which the EU is too weak and disunited to negotiate peace, and the U.S. believes itself to be in such a strong position that it has no reason to seek a negotiated peace with Russia.
Nevertheless, what could motivate the U.S. to seek a negotiated peace with Russia?

But that could change. The U.S. strategy to force Russia to surrender in Ukraine is built on the belief of its superior weapons systems, its better military intelligence, and ultimately its much stronger economic power. However, this strategy has three weaknesses that could lead to U.S. compliance:

Ukraine, not Russia, could break first

In the Ukraine war, the U.S. and other NATO countries are supplying the weapons and ammunition, but the Ukrainians are paying with their blood. It is a typical proxy war, the success of which will depend on the extent to which Ukraine can sustain it. Although Russia has also been hit hard by this war, it seems more likely that Ukraine will break first. And this is not just because of the military situation.

The war is taking place exclusively on Ukrainian soil. That means that not only Russian weapons, but also all weapons supplied by the West are helping to destroy the country. Meanwhile, this destruction has reached catastrophic proportions.

Even before the war, Ukraine was one of the poorest countries in Europe. Living conditions for the vast majority of Ukrainians without electricity and water must be indescribably harsh, especially now in winter. There is hardly any functioning economy left and the country has lost vital access to the Sea of Azov and the Black Sea.

The West’s financial support for the now almost bankrupt Ukrainian state will probably never be able to cover its financial needs. For example, the EU has promised to pay 1.5 billion euros a month for 2023, while the Ukrainian government had requested between five and nine billion a month.

The rifts between the western and eastern parts of the country, between Ukrainians loyal to Ukraine and those loyal to Russia, must have become even deeper today, perhaps even unbridgeable. This war has always had aspects of a civil war, with Donbass militias from eastern Ukraine fighting Azov brigades from western Ukraine.

This is now compounded by legal restrictions on Russian language and culture in the public sphere, the closure of Russian-language television and radio stations, the banning of all Russian-speaking political parties, police searches of over 300 Russian Orthodox monasteries, the announcement of the banning of the Russian Orthodox Church, and ultimately the assassinations of suspected collaborators.

Ukraine suffers from a highly unstable population structure. Since its independence in 1991, the population has declined by 20 percent, a trend that has certainly been exacerbated by this war. According to UN figures, some eight million Ukrainians have fled the country since the outbreak of the war, another number that could increase as a result of a harsh winter. In addition, there are about seven million internally displaced persons in Ukraine, and another six to seven million Ukrainians now live in Russian-controlled areas.

Under these conditions, a situation could arise in which further Western arms deliveries could do little. Perhaps for this reason, the highest-ranking U.S. general, Marc Milley, has come out in favor of immediate peace negotiations, in contradiction to President Biden’s stated policy of holding out. The U.S. may one day feel compelled to pull the ripcord to prevent a collapse of the Ukrainian state.

U.S. conflict with China intensifies

China, not Russia, is increasingly seen in the U.S. as the great adversary of the future. As the conflict between the U.S. and China grows in ferocity and danger, the war in Ukraine could drag on for a long time without bringing a military decision.

This may lead to a situation where the U.S. concludes that it cannot afford a conflict with Russia and China at the same time. The U.S. decision in this case could amount to ending the expensive but unpromising conflict with Russia.

Public opinion in Western countries is increasingly turning against the war

In almost all Western countries, including the U.S., popular support for further arms deliveries is declining, albeit slowly. In many countries, there is already a majority in favor of a diplomatic solution. The economic impact will most likely exacerbate this trend.

With a continuing war, the currently very one-sided reporting in most Western media is also likely to change. Reports on the high cost of this war and on the billions in monthly transfer payments to Ukraine will increase. This will also bring critical reports about uncontrollable corruption, the illegal resale of weapons and the lack of transparency about the use of the transfer payments into the public eye.

Even before the war, Ukraine was one of the most corrupt countries in Europe, a circumstance that is likely to worsen in times of war. And there could increasingly be reports of Ukrainian war crimes as well – in a war, no side stays clean. Public opinion in the West could change and increasingly reject the constant demands of the Ukrainian government. This would then make a war unwinnable.

The peace dilemma

The arguments listed here are purely power-political considerations, as major powers commonly do. Understanding this would be important. But they also show the whole perversion of this war and the dilemma that every peace movement faces. For no one should hope that it will take the destruction of Ukraine to negotiate peace, and no one should wish for an aggravation of the conflict with China, which increases the risk of another war, in order to finally reach a peace agreement in Ukraine.

It would also be disastrous for the suffering people of Ukraine should public opinion in the West turn against Ukraine. They will need Western support for a very long time to come – even and especially in peacetime.

There must be another way to peace. But there can only be if we stop believing that only weapons or the annexation of foreign territories can bring peace; if we accept that the world does not belong only to the West, that there will be no single world power, the USA, and that the expansion of NATO does not contribute to stability in Europe.

Since states fail here, only a strengthening peace movement from Lisbon to Vladivostok can achieve something. But this peace movement does not exist – at least not yet.

Michael von der Schulenburg, former Deputy Secretary General of the United Nations, worked for the UN and OSCE for over 34 years. This included long-term assignments in Haiti, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, and Sierra Leone, as well as shorter assignments in Syria, the Balkans, Somalia, the Sahel, and Central Asia. In 2017, he published the book On Building Peace: Rescuing the Nation-state and Saving the United Nations.

This text is a revised version for Telepolis of a speech he gave at the Kassler Friedensratschlag on Dec. 11, 2022.


Three scenarios: Where the Ukraine war could lead in 2023
by Anatol Lieven
[This article posted on 1/12/2013 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.telepolis.de/features/Drei-Szenarien-Wohin-der-Ukraine-Krieg-im-Jahr-2023-fuehren-koennte-7456227.html?seite=all.]

Ukrainian soldiers in the trenches.

Military gains and losses will determine how the conflict unfolds. The most likely three scenarios are associated with problems and dangers. What to watch out for.

As in any war, the most important factor in the future course of the Ukraine conflict will ultimately be what happens on the battlefield. There are essentially three possibilities, each of which would entail a number of potential consequences: a Ukrainian breakthrough, a Russian breakthrough, and a stalemate roughly equivalent to the current military front lines.

Given the increasing numbers of Russian forces entrenched along shortened front lines with massive artillery support, it will be a major challenge for the Ukrainian army to achieve a breakthrough. Nonetheless, the Ukrainians have amazed the world so many times since the Russian invasion began that further victories cannot be ruled out.

Anatol Lieven is senior research fellow for Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.

Should Ukrainian forces succeed in breaking through to the Sea of Azov as well as isolating Crimea or retaking much of the separatist region in eastern Donbass that Russia has supported since 2014, it is likely that Russia would threaten and possibly carry out a drastic escalation in response.

This could begin with symbolic bombing (with conventional missiles) of NATO air bases or supply lines in Poland or Romania. In any case, the Kremlin would thereby aim to increase the possibility of a slide into nuclear war between Russia and the United States.

Such a Russian attack would most likely result in a limited U.S. military response commensurate with the attack (e.g., bombing a Russian base in the occupied part of Ukraine). However, given the threat of nuclear war, influential voices in the United States and Europe would also likely call for a cease-fire in Ukraine.

Their argument would be that Kiev has won a sufficient victory in which it has recaptured almost all of the territory it lost since the Russian invasion in February 2022 (though not most of the territory occupied by Russia and its allies there since 2014). It would be easier for the West to propose a cease-fire if another Russian defeat led to the fall of President Putin, as that would then be seen as a major Western and Ukrainian success.

In such a scenario, however, with Ukraine on the path to complete victory, cease-fire efforts would face fierce opposition from the Ukrainian government, certain NATO members, including Poland and the Baltic states, and key segments of the U.S. political establishment and media. The outcome of such a crisis escalation is therefore impossible to predict. However, the risk of an escalation into an all-out war between NATO and Russia would be extremely high.

Military developments in the Ukraine war

Course of the front on February 26, 2022

A Russian offensive leading to a victorious breakthrough does not seem to be planned at the moment, apart from limited advances to capture the town of Bachmut in the western Donbass. All indications are that Russian forces want to secure their existing lines to prevent further Ukrainian successes such as the recapture of the eastern part of Kharkiv region and the city of Kherson.

However, if the Ukrainian army suffers heavy losses in failed offensives over the next few months and depletes its ammunition supplies and armored vehicles, then a successful Russian counteroffensive may well be possible.
The pitfalls of a cease-fire without real peace negotiations

According to Western intelligence estimates, Ukrainian and Russian casualties are roughly equal-with Russia having three and a half times the population of Ukraine. In the early months of the war, Russia’s numerical advantage was eroded by the Putin regime’s unwillingness (for domestic political reasons) to send conscripts into the field and mobilize reservists. This shortfall is now being addressed by the conscription of 300,000 additional soldiers (albeit of very questionable quality).

Russia also produces far more artillery shells than Ukraine manufactures or receives from the West. However, it is not clear to what extent increased U.S. production can make up for this shortfall in the coming months.

However, given the record to date and the continuing constraints in terms of troop strength, tanks, and ammunition, there is no realistic chance that a Russian breakthrough could lead to the capture of Kiev. It is not even remotely likely that Russia could take Kharkiv. Russia’s withdrawal from the Kherson region to the eastern left bank of the Dnieper River makes an offensive against the Ukrainian Black Sea ports of Mykolaiv and Odessa virtually impossible.

However, if Russia were to capture the entire Donbass region and reinforce the land bridge to Crimea, it is very likely that Putin would then claim that the main Russian objectives (set at the beginning of the invasion) had been achieved. Moscow could then offer a cease-fire and peace talks without preconditions.

Such a Russian offer would at the same time open up deep rifts within the West, on the one hand, and between Western countries and Ukraine, on the other. For with the possibility of a Ukrainian victory now remote and the prospect of a never-ending war, many in the West would argue that a cease-fire is the best offer Ukraine could ever receive.

This line of argument would be strengthened by the fact that only a stable cease-fire would end Russia’s destruction of Ukraine’s infrastructure and allow Ukraine and its partners to begin the long and very costly process of rebuilding Ukraine’s economy to further Kiev’s hopes of joining the European Union.

This may also resonate with some pragmatic Ukrainians who believe that a cease-fire and associated economic growth could allow Ukraine to bolster its military to resume the war at a later date-something that is very difficult to do right now because of Russia’s attacks on the Ukrainian economy.

Those in Ukraine and the West who oppose a Russian-proposed cease-fire would naturally argue that it would allow Moscow to build up its own forces for a future new war. However, this argument would lose traction if Russia publicly declared that they had achieved their war aims.

If neither side achieves a breakthrough, there is the prospect of an indefinite and bloody stalemate. It would exist along the current battle lines and in many ways would be reminiscent of the Western Front in World War I. The question would then be how long it would take – and how many people would have to die – before both sides were exhausted and decided that there was no point in continuing the fight.

The stage would then be set for an unstable cease-fire of the kind that has prevailed between India and Pakistan in Kashmir for most of the last 75 years. It would ultimately be a version of the 2015-2022 ceasefire in the Donbass at an elevated level. Such a ceasefire would be accompanied by peace negotiations, but also by periodic explosions of violence and possibly major phases of war.

Certainly, a cease-fire would be better than the current massive bloodshed in Ukraine. But unless it is backed by successful negotiations aimed at reaching an agreement or trying to minimize armed tensions, it further contains a number of negative elements: the potential for new wars, not only in Ukraine but also between Russia and other former Soviet states; the difficulty of rebuilding Ukraine, and moving forward on the road to the European Union; the impossibility for the West to even begin to restore its cooperative relationship with Russia; and the likelihood that Russia, China, and Iran will cooperate more.

The article by Anatol Lieven is published in cooperation with the U.S. magazine Responsible Statecraft and can be found there in the original English. Translation by David Goeßmann.

Anatol Lieven is Senior Research Fellow for Russia and Europe at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft. Previously, he was a professor at Georgetown University in Qatar and at the Department of War Studies at King’s College London. He is a member of the advisory committee of the South Asia Division of the British Foreign and Commonwealth Office. Lieven is the author of several books on Russia and its neighboring countries, including “Baltic Revolution: Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania and the Path to Independence” and “Ukraine and Russia: A Fraternal Rivalry.”


Call for the dissolution of NATO? Now? Is it permissible to do so?
by Harald Neuber
[This article posted on 1/4/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, Die Auflösung der Nato fordern? Jetzt? Darf man das?]

Ukraine? No. Novi Sad on the Danube during Nato attacks in 1999.(Image source).

Topics of the day: Showdown in the Rhenish coalfield. In Berlin, Russian assets are to be collected. And in journalism, one must not shy away from controversy.

Dear readers,

1. the North Rhine-Westphalian town of Lützerath is being cleared.

2. Russian assets are confiscated for Ukraine.

3. Telepolis to criticize NATO. Debate breadth and journalism.

But in turn.
Clear Rhenish villages

Telepolis author Wolfgang Pomrehn today looks at the battle for the depopulated village of Lützerath in the Rhenish coalfield. He says that the police have begun to “build up preparatory measures for the upcoming evacuation and deconstruction of Lützerath.” Barricades had been cleared from the access road. Pomrehn continued:

The alliance “All villages remain” also expresses doubts about the legality of the general order of the district of Heinsberg for the eviction of Lützerath. This is based on a possibly unconstitutional federal law, it says in a press release. Specifically, the issue is paragraph 48 of the Act on the Reduction and Termination of Coal-fired Power Generation, which stipulates the necessity of the Garzweiler II open pit mine in terms of energy policy and the energy industry.

Seizing Russian money

The end of the war in Ukraine is still a long way off, but Western countries have been discussing the reconstruction of the devastated country for some time, Telepolis author Bernd Müller writes today: “As the financial service Bloomberg reported on Tuesday, the German government is open to using frozen Russian assets for this purpose – if the legal issues are clarified and the allies follow suit.

But positions within the German government diverge significantly, according to the report, with talk of “internal tensions.” The reason for this is that the issue is complex, and the Greens in particular are pushing with particular zeal for a tough approach to Russia – apparently without giving much thought to the consequences.

Turning the world economy upside down

A recent analysis by U.S. investment bank Morgan Stanley, “India’s Impending Economic Boom,” has been enthusiastically received on the subcontinent – especially by the U.S.-oriented business elite, writes Telepolis author Uwe Kerkow.

The Times of India reported that India’s gross national income could more than double from the current $3.5 trillion to $7.5 trillion before the end of the decade. This would make India the third largest economy in the world – after the USA and China and ahead of Japan and Germany.

However, for this to happen, the Indian economy would have to continue to grow uninterruptedly at least at the current rapid pace (6.9 percent). Over the last ten years, economic growth has averaged 5.5 percent, which is still very solid.

Why we stand by a Nato-critical article

In the midst of Russia’s war against Ukraine, calling for the dissolution of NATO – is it permissible? A commentary to that effect by British activist Kate Hudson prompted some reader letters at Telepolis at the end of December. One reader, for example, saw a “poorly founded opinion”; he attested to Ms. Hudson being “catastrophically wrong” and taking positions close to those of the AfD.

We have noted these reactions with interest. However, they are not new. Since the beginning of the Russian attack on Ukraine, peace policy positions have had a hard time. At the same time, criticism of Western actors who contributed to the escalation is by no means coming only from illusionary small groups, but from established diplomats and security policy makers. But they often can’t venture out of hiding until they are emeritus or out of office. Here is an example, followed this week on Telepolis by another article by former German OSCE diplomat Michael von der Schulenburg.

In any case, Hudson referred to the genesis of the conflict and countered the widely held view that NATO provides something of a counterweight to Russia and other bad guys. She explained how the concept of “out-of-area” operations contributed to this on 1999. She elaborated how NATO, as a nuclear military alliance, has contributed precisely not to nuclear disarmament, but to the armament of fomenting global conflicts without need. The author outlined how the North Atlantic Treaty Organization is fueling the next conflicts with China.

Two observations seem important at this point. First, the reference to “AfD positions” is typically German. What, for instance, should Hudson and U.S. representatives have to do with German right-wing oppositionists? The comparison rather reveals a limited German horizon of experience, understanding and interpretation. A blanket devaluation with deliberate suppression of any arguments. In Corona times, this was called “gibberish”. The main thing is not to deal with arguments.

On the other hand, the media and political debate about the Ukraine war is far more open and pluralistic in the Anglo-American world than in Germany. Hudson’s positions are also widely shared in the U.S. political mainstream, noted Telepolis editor David Goeßmann, who reviewed the text.

The assessment, he said, is shared by leading diplomats and foreign policy makers, for example. Former U.S. envoy to the Soviet Union Jack F. Matlock Jr. and former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger warned against NATO expansion and the inclusion of Ukraine.

George Kennan’s reaction (he was an influential U.S. diplomat, his name is associated with Marshall Plan and containment policies, among others) to the U.S. Senate’s ratification of NATO’s eastward expansion in 1998, which extended to Russia’s borders, was, “I think this is the beginning of a new Cold War (…) I think the Russians are going to begin to be quite hostile (…) I think it’s a tragic mistake. There was no reason for the enlargement (…). Of course, there will be a damaging reaction from Russia, and then [the NATO enlargementists] will say we’ve always told you that the Russians are like that – but that’s just wrong.”
David Goessmann on the debate

Many notable analysts in the United States, he said, had repeatedly warned Washington forcefully that it was reckless and unnecessarily provocative to ignore the security concerns raised by Russia, including current CIA Director William Burns and his predecessor Stansfield Turner, even hawks like Paul Nitze, in fact almost the entire diplomatic corps in the United States that knows about Russia.

Journalistically, the text, which first appeared in our partner magazine “World Trends,” was scrutinized on the basis of usual questions: Does the author make a clean argument? Yes, obviously. Is her position relevant? Yes, because Hudson is secretary general of the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament (UK) and a board member of the International Peace Bureau. Is she justifying the Russian war? No, she writes unequivocally that Russia started the war.

Sure, Hudson’s position is controversial. One could also offer government-funded lobbyists like former Green Party politician Ralf Fücks space for a de facto column without disclosing his conflicts of interest, as a major German news magazine does. That would be less controversial. But also less journalistic.

Related Article:

Kate Hudson: When, if not now: Why NATO should be disbanded
Bernhard Gulka: A new era for Russia
Harald Neuber: “Putin and Lavrov should have gone to the UN”.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

Negotiated Solution – No Alternative!


NATO intervention seems unlikely so far, after U.S. President Biden ruled out direct military intervention even in the run-up to the war…Nevertheless, a further escalation of the war cannot be ruled out. At present, the powerless left has only the option of fighting for peace and of educational work: of emphasizing the survival necessity of a post-capitalist system transformation… (TKonicz)

Negotiated solution – No alternative!
by Wolfgang Herzberg
[This article posted on 1/5/2023 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.ossietzky.net/artikel/verhandlungsloesung-alternativlos/.]

As a descendant of Jewish-German survivors and a political author of many years’ standing, whose family members lost their lives in the genocide of the Nazi regime or were scattered all over the world, but whose parents also – after the Second World War – returned to Berlin out of a deep sense of political responsibility, Wolfgang Herzberg is one of the most important authors of his time. World War II, out of deeply felt political responsibility, returned to Berlin to help build an anti-fascist and peaceful Germany, I ask myself, against the background of these existential family experiences, the following fundamental questions about the war over Ukraine, which I would also like to address to the public and all those politically responsible:

Can the enormous military, economic and financial means that have so far been brought to bear by NATO to end the Russian campaign in Ukraine actually bring about a “values-based foreign policy” (Baerbock) and thus an end to this most dangerous war on European soil since 1945? Or will it achieve exactly the opposite? Does it really defend “our European peace order,” “international law,” the “free democratic order of values,” or are these noble goals not rather destroyed and reduced to absurdity by a wrong choice of means?

For what we hear every hour in the form of extraordinarily disturbing news from the media and from leading politicians on all sides speaks a steadily increasing, dangerous language of war and leads to the ever further escalation of this terrible conflict. Could it be, not only I ask myself, that this logic of war is also based on the continuation of a wrong, because precisely not “value-based policy” of the West, but means the failure of this policy all along the line? Does anyone really believe that more and more state-of-the-art weapons, no matter how tough sanctions and huge financial injections could produce peace? Current developments, most recently the Russian partial mobilization, the accession of eastern Ukraine to Russia, the attack on the pipelines, show abundantly clearly that this is precisely not the case. I firmly believe that only a policy of diplomatic negotiated solutions can lead to peace. This is the intuitive view of many people I have spoken to in recent months. But so far, these warning voices have hardly penetrated a broad political public. Such discourse, at eye level, is not wanted and is pushed to the sidelines. This is a dangerous ostrich policy.

On the other hand, we are drifting into an ever faster spiral of war. A negotiated solution capable of compromise, which in my view is the only alternative, seems to be unwanted, especially by NATO and the Ukrainian rulers. They rather count on a capitulation of Russia, on an illusory victory peace against Russia, which has been allied with China for a long time, a Russia which once could not be brought to its knees and defeated neither by the Swedes or the Huns, by Napoleon, by World War I, nor by the wars of intervention, let alone by World War II. Russia and China together represent the largest, industrially and militarily highly developed and most populous territorial countries on earth. For the time being, I am merely stating these geopolitical connections on a factual basis, irrespective of who really caused the escalation of this global conflict. For the answer is by no means as simple as the “West” would have us believe.

Could it be that the warring party of the West is again betting on the completely wrong military card, after the recent failure in the Afghanistan war? Are these the right lessons to learn from this grandiose disaster, where supposedly the enforcement of human rights was also at stake? Where even hundreds of modernly equipped army contingents from all over the world fought for two decades with heavy losses, only to be defeated in the end by the much weaker Taliban free fighters?

I therefore ask urgently: What kind of “values-based policy” is this that accepts thousands upon thousands of deaths on all sides? On what “values” is a policy based, in the execution of which more and more war destruction is being wrought – in areas that are supposed to be liberated from it? What kind of “value-based policy” is this, which creates more and more misery for refugees and streams of refugees on all sides, and thus also drives many votes to nationalists and racists worldwide? What kind of “value-based policy” is this, through which a global energy crisis and world hunger crisis is in reality getting worse and worse, the catastrophic consequences of which are also to be “cushioned” in the West with a hectically reacting, social symbol policy after the fact by billions of new debts? On what “values” is a policy based, as a result of which global supply chains collapse and inflation rates for all living costs explode?

Does anyone seriously believe that more and more people in the West are not asking such probing questions as well, when this supposedly “values-based” policy is making them worse and worse off every day and eroding their hard-earned living conditions?

No, this supposedly “value-based policy” is not a goal-oriented peace strategy at all. It is the opposite of it. It is therefore doomed to fail again in Ukraine and worldwide, indeed, it even carries the danger of a 3rd world war, of unprecedented nuclear proportions.

I therefore ask: What is the basis for the misjudgements of this global conflict, especially also by the Western world, with the rulers in the USA at the top? Or does anyone seriously believe that only the rulers in Russia and China have to ask themselves these questions?

Hadn’t the policy of détente of Willy Brandt and Egon Bahr, the “New Ostpolitik”, which finally focused on “change through rapprochement”, once helpfully begun to dismantle the walls of the “Cold War” step by step through tough negotiations, through the CSCE process, through disarmament agreements, finally through the treaties between the two German states? That was a “value-based”, a successful policy of détente and peace, which finally also led to the end of the German division and seemed to end the bloc confrontation after World War II. Wasn’t the life’s work of the late Michael Gorbachev recently praised hypocritically, according to whose foreign policy vision a “Common House of Europe” was to be created with fewer and fewer weapons?

Could it be that the Nato eastward expansions, which took place contrary to the promises of the West to Gorbachev, as well as the gradual Nato armament of Eastern Europe, including Ukraine, symbolized the actual “turn of the times”, which was reintroduced in 1990 against the successful peace and détente policy by the USA, as a continuation of the methods of the “Cold War”? Could it be that the alleged “values- and human rights-based foreign policy” of the West, led by the USA, after 1990, starting with the Yugoslav war and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, actually represented a continuation of the peace-endangering armament and confrontation policy after 1945 – the attempt to impose an interest-led, Western foreign policy and a regime-change policy in order to finally install an alleged “democratic capitalism” worldwide? Was this the right response to Gorbachev’s accommodating foreign policy? It was apparently intended thereafter to finally create a Western world order in which capitalist globalization, “economic liberalism” and NATO’s global military strategy were given absolute priority over welfare-state influence through independent national politics. Is this not a neo-colonial understanding of values and society, in which economic growth and profit maximization primarily for wealthy minorities, is ascribed hegemonic priority and the repression of social, national and ethnic polarization and exploitation has become secondary?

Do the political leaders really believe that such an anachronistic, neo-colonial and imperial understanding of politics, which has been based on countless genocides, ethnic cleansing and enslavement for many centuries, is also compatible with a Christian worldview and could, for instance, be the model for a diverse and multipolar world of tomorrow? In view of the fact that over 80 percent of humanity does not live in the Western industrialized countries? It would be a world increasingly determined by social dislocation, ecological crises, exploitation and lack of democracy.

Is it not clear to the political leaders of the West that if they continue this violent foreign and domestic policy, they are in the process of destroying the value-based UN Charter created after 1945 as well as the entire post-war order of the United Nations, which had finally drawn the right conclusions in international law from the murderous basic experiences of World War I and World War II, with the express aim of securing world peace and international cooperation?

Is it not clear to them that from the letter and spirit of the peace and values order of the UN Charter and UN resolutions no claim to leadership of the USA and the Western world or of any nation, not even Russia or China, can be derived when it says in the preamble:

“We, the peoples of the United Nations – determined to save future generations from the scourge of war, which twice in our lifetime has brought untold suffering to mankind.”

And further, Art.2 (1) therefore expressly states against any claim to leadership whatsoever:

“The Organization is founded on the principle of the sovereign equality of all its members.”

And in Art.13 (b), a values-based peace, security and cooperation policy is defined as follows:

“…to promote international cooperation in the economic, social, cultural, educational and health fields and to contribute to the realization of human rights and fundamental freedoms for all without distinction as to race, sex, language or religion.” I ask again: could Western wars after 1990 really enforce these UN values worldwide, or did they not thereby finally sink into apocalyptic chaos?

The political leaders of the Western world and the entire world public can now no longer avoid the burning question of the present and the future: Does not the unilateral NATO partisanship and war support for the Ukrainian rulers in reality violate the existential vital interests of the people both in the West and in Russia and Ukraine, and thus the “principle of sovereign equality of all its members”? Humanity, as before World War 1 and World War 2, is again at a crossroads in its history, and once again Walter Benjamin’s sentence acquires an oppressive topicality: “That it goes on like this is the catastrophe!”

I ask, moreover, whether it is compatible with the substantive terms of NATO’s treaty, as a “defense alliance,” that it has been instrumental as a belligerent for non-NATO member Ukraine both in bringing the current Ukrainian government to power and in its waging of the war today. Where is the call for an international court of justice that could independently judge this NATO strategy in legal terms? After all, the Ukrainian regime obviously rejected a federal solution with Russia, which had a centuries-long, albeit contradictory, economic, interethnic, intercultural, and interreligious history intimately connected with Ukraine.

At the same time, I wonder whether this violent foreign policy is compatible with the Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, if not even unconstitutional, because Chancellor Scholz swore to the German voters and to no other people when he took office that he wanted to “avert harm from the German people.” Wouldn’t a legal clarification of this breach of oath before the Federal Constitutional Court be imperative here?

And lastly, I wonder whether a German government, whose predecessors killed millions and millions of people in the 1st and 2nd world wars, should be allowed to continue its work. World War millions and millions of dead Russians and Ukrainians as well as death and destruction with many other peoples with to answer for had, not least the genocide at the European Jews, to which also parts of my family belonged, that this today’s traffic light government has not just therefore the damned duty and guilt, to stand up for a negotiated and compromise solution without any alternative, instead of continuing to pour oil on the fire of this most dangerous global conflict since 1945, just in order to distinguish itself as a loyal vassal of the United States and the Western alliance in a misconceived show of solidarity.

Especially in Germany, the politically responsible people should decisively contribute to the fact that the peace-political and anti-fascist basic values of the United Nations, probably the most valuable diplomatic heritage of mankind since the end of the 1st and 2nd World War, which is in accordance with the oath of Buchenwald: “Never again fascism – never again war!”, will not be destroyed again by the wrong means of a mutual war policy.

I say all this at the same time in the full awareness that our Earth is known to be a unique planet. That in the infinite vastness of the universe we have found so far nothing comparable in wonderful nature, in creative, highly developed life in the universe. And I ask myself again and again, how responsibly do I myself, do we deal with our present world? What kind of irrational, anti-democratic, authoritarian master-man ideology would it be, if allegedly only the western world held the basic recipe for a humane future of the whole earth in its hands, in order to enforce it then also with warlike means? How can it be that in such an infinitely diverse world there should only be a warlike way out of the endangerment of our entire creation and not a peaceful and federal coexistence of many opinions and different social systems, which could fertilize, transform and approach each other in the future, just as the UN Charter prescribes?

Therefore my unmistakable message is once again: Only by an alternative-less negotiated solution, in the here and now, there can be a peace way to common security and cooperation in this crisis-ridden world in the future, a global war around Ukraine and also elsewhere can still be averted!

The author has just published: Jewish & Left. Memories 1921-2021. on the cultural heritage of the GDR, Berlin 2022, 500 p., 24 €.


Attack on Ukraine: Struggle for World Order
The rupture in German-Russian relations and the return of war as a continuation of imperialist geopolitics in Europe
by Tomasz Konicz
[This article posted on 2/24/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, EXIT! Krise und Kritik der Warengesellschaft.]

Shock and awe – this is the denominator of the massive Russian attack on Ukraine, in which dozens of targets have been shelled in a very short period of time in order to paralyze Ukrainian forces and prevent coordinated resistance to the Russian army’s advance in the east of the country (so far, Russian ground forces have been active only east of the Dnieper River). The large-scale nationwide assault, in which Ukraine’s command structures, depots, and air force were attacked and partially destroyed, is similar to the U.S. approach in the last Iraq war, when the U.S. Air Force also relied on an overwhelming assault against the military infrastructure of the ailing Iraqi regime.

The start of the war over Ukraine should teach the U.S. and the EU a lesson. By emulating the U.S. attack on Iraq, the Kremlin wants to prove that Russia is militarily on the very imperialist par with the West that Washington, Berlin and Brussels want to deny Moscow geopolitically. The imperial Russian sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space, which the economically declining Moscow no longer wanted to be granted – it is now literally being bombed back by the nuclear power Russia, while the West has to watch impotently, if it does not want to risk a nuclear doomsday. The Kremlin thus makes it clear that it will defend to the utmost its imperial position as a great power1 that wants to dispose of its “spheres of influence” just like the USA and Germany.

Germany and Russia: close economic relations

The political and economic fallout from the war will be massive, especially for Berlin, as the Federal Republic continues to maintain close economic relations with Russia – although these have passed their zenith after the pro-Western overthrow in Kiev in 2014, including the subsequent Ukrainian civil war. The German-Russian trade balance peaked at a volume of 80 billion euros in 2012, only to fall to 48 billion euros in 2016 in the wake of the sanctions. Last year saw a slight recovery to just under 60 billion. Germany mainly exports high-tech products such as machinery and cars, while Russia exports raw materials and in particular fossil fuels with a slight trade surplus. Around 55 percent of the natural gas imported into Germany comes from Russian deposits. Germany is still Russia’s most important European trading partner – globally, the FRG was overtaken by China as a trading partner only a few years ago.

A major setback for Berlin’s energy policy ambitions is the cancellation of the controversial Nord Stream 2 pipeline, the commissioning of which would have made the Federal Republic a central European energy hub. Instead, Germany’s consumers and industry must prepare for rapidly rising energy prices. According to former Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, they are likely to reach $2,000 per 1,000 cubic meters of gas soon. This economic fallout, which is now imminent, may have been the most important reason for Berlin’s hesitant attitude toward Moscow. In Washington, in the U.S. press, Berlin’s refusal to supply weapons to Ukraine or to abandon the pipeline project in the North Sea was sharply criticized for weeks.

Now that even the Tagesschau considers the course of German Russia policy, characterized by “dialogue,” to have “failed,” a fundamental reorientation of Berlin is likely to take place. Thus, for the time being, Berlin’s strategy of a mainly economic penetration of the post-Soviet space has failed because of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, ultimately because of Moscow’s military means. German think tanks like to substantiate this German path to geopolitical power deployment with the term geoeconomics as a complex strategy in which “trade, technology, finance, or energy policies are instrumentalized as means to achieve strategic goals. “2 Greece had to experience how such a geoeconomic conflict is played out in the course of the debt crisis in the summer of 2015, when the country, maltreated by then German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble, was driven to the brink of economic collapse.3

German Geopolitics and Inner-Western Differences

But there is actually no single German policy on Russia; it has always been an expression of the shifting power constellation between Western-oriented forces within the German functional elites (often derided as Atlanticists) and the forces teased as “Putinversteher,” who advocated a Eurasian orientation toward Russia, China, and so on.

There is no complete overlap between the political spectrum and the respective geopolitical preference, as Eurasians and Atlantists can be found in varying proportions in almost all Bundestag parties – even if the SPD, the Left Party and, above all, the AfD have a particularly high proportion of “Putinverstehern”. Atlantists, on the other hand, are mainly to be found among the Greens. It is simply a question of the geopolitical orientation of the FRG as the dominant European superpower, within the framework of which its own global ambitions are to be realized: for example, the expansion of the German sphere of influence in eastern and southeastern Europe, which in the course of EU enlargement has long since been transformed into the extended workbench of the German export industry.

Against the background of this loose and changing faction formation within German functional elites, a double strategy emerged vis-à-vis Russia, which the German geostrategist Wolfgang Ischinger described as “congagement,” a neologism made up of the English words for containment and engagement. Economic cooperation, in which Russia in fact assumes the peripheral position of a supplier of energy and raw materials, was accompanied, with varying emphases, by German efforts to minimize Russia’s geopolitical influence in Eastern Europe and the post-Soviet space. The phase of tumultuous economic and political expansion in the 1990s-when Berlin supported the breakup of Czechoslovakia, the breakup of Yugoslavia, and the eastward expansion of the EU and NATO-was followed by the phase of cooperation with Putin’s rise to power, which ended only in 2014 with the crisis in Ukraine.

In the wake of the pro-Western upheaval in Kiev, however, it also became clear that Berlin operates as an independent geopolitical actor and does not allow Washington to dictate its policy. In 2013, there was still agreement on the effort to remove Ukraine from the planned Russian economic union. At the time, Germany, through the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, built up the Klitschko party UDAR, which was aiming for a change of power through new elections and quickly came into conflict with more radical, U.S.-sponsored forces during the fighting around the Maidan. U.S. diplomat Victoria Nuland’s famous “Fuck the EU,” published as a recording of a telephone conversation at the height of the crisis, reflects precisely these intra-Western differences, which also explain Germany’s current reticence.

Oceania vs. Eurasia

Washington has since sought to drive a wedge between Berlin and Moscow through additional escalation to prevent the formation of a grand Eurasian alliance, while Berlin has sought rather to embrace Moscow to death and turn it into a periphery as part of a strategy of change through economic rapprochement. The declining empire in Washington sees China, together with a Eurasian alliance (keyword: New Silk Road), as the central threat to its eroding hegemony. The U.S. intervention in Kiev is therefore aimed at consolidating its own “oceanic” alliance, which extends as far as possible across the Atlantic and the Pacific and is ultimately directed against China.

Oceania vs. Eurasia – this is the denominator of the current global hegemonic struggle, with the imperialist camps striving to expand the borders of their spheres of influence. The U.S., for example, is trying to re-establish a firm foothold in its sphere of influence over the German-dominated EU, which has increasingly sought to act as an independent actor since the Trump era.

The increasing autonomy of action of the late capitalist states also comes to bear in the Eastern European countries, which are economically dependent on the Federal Republic but at the same time tended to pact with the U.S. (especially Poland and the Baltic countries) when it came to torpedoing further rapprochement between Berlin and Moscow. The old Central Eastern European fear of a renewed division of the region between Berlin and Moscow, revived by the Nord Stream pipeline, provided the U.S. with a good lever of power in the economic “backyard” of the FRG to push this agenda.

Ultimately, the increasing military confrontations in the semiperiphery of the world system, including Turkey’s imperial ambitions, are precisely due to U.S. imperial descent. Washington can no longer sustain the claim it made in the 1990s to be the “world’s policeman,” largely monopolizing the use of military means globally in bloody world order wars. Regional powers are pushing into the emerging power vacuum to enforce their imperialist ambitions by military means if necessary.

Shaky world order and crisis of capital

This is, in a nutshell, the much-touted “multipolar world order” in the socio-ecological crisis of capital. The decline of the U.S. has in fact resulted in the emergence of several small “offspring U.S.A.” that want to project the crisis-related increasing social (and, in perspective, ecological) distortions outward by military means: from Turkey’s war adventures in Syria, the South Caucasus and Libya, to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, to the eventual showdown between Beijing and Washington over Taiwan.

The economic crisis, much like the 1930s, is breathing down the necks of shattered state apparatuses. The need to pass on the consequences of the crisis to others is growing steadily. In the course of its economic expansion, the Federal Republic literally managed to export the consequences of the crisis, such as debt or unemployment, by means of high trade surpluses – at the expense of the deficits of the importing countries of the German export offensives. The eurozone sovereign debt crisis of the last decade is a case in point.

In this context, it is not least the mercilessly over-indebted United States that is de facto forced to fight for the hegemonic position, since it must hold the dollar as the world currency. Without the greenback as the measure of value of all commodity things, which Washington until recently could print at will to finance the extreme U.S. budget deficit, the U.S. would degenerate into a gigantic, nuclear-armed debt state. The U.S. functional elites have therefore long since developed a similar paranoia of Russian influence due to the social disruption at home as exists in the Kremlin regarding Western-funded “colorful revolutions.”

But in the end it is precisely the socio-ecological world crisis of capital, concretely in the form of increasing inflation, which obstructs Washington itself this option of “deficit spending” with which the internal contradictions could be whitewashed.

Danger of a large-scale war

War as a means of politics will thus gain in attractiveness for the late capitalist functional elites. It forms a catalyst of the economic and, in perspective, also of the ecological crisis process: The resulting social upheavals find in it a violent medium of external discharge, which ultimately executes the self-destructive tendency of capital – up to the threat of a major nuclear war. In the case of Ukraine, one can still hope that the nuclear power plants in the country constitute the only nuclear danger: NATO intervention seems unlikely so far, after U.S. President Biden ruled out direct military intervention even in the run-up to the war.

Nevertheless, a further escalation of the war cannot be ruled out. At present, the powerless left has only the option of fighting for peace and of educational work: of emphasizing the survival necessity of a post-capitalist system transformation in order to prevent the barbaric collapse by means of a repeated large-scale war.

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Cacophony of Corporatism, Subsidies and Inheritance Tax


Cacophony of Corporatism, Subsidies & Inheritance Tax
by T Regenauer, A Landgraf & V Grossmann

History is written by the winners. The Orwellian “memory hole” has long been a reality and could soon lead to subsequent generations no longer being able to develop any awareness at all of what it means to lead a free and dignified life.

Cacophony of Corporatism

The anthem of the new normal is a melange of neo-speak, propaganda slogans, and anti-democratic authoritarian rhetoric. Part 2/2.

by Tom-Oliver Regenauer

[This article posted on 12/21/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/kakofonie-des-korporatismus-2.]

A harsh tone – that’s the soundtrack of the “turn of the times.” A somber dissonance that hangs over the land like a standing wave. Over all of civilization. An arrangement of destructive disruptive frequencies that carries from cropped debate spaces to the last corners of the ailing civil society sounding board to maltreat the foundations of humanism, enlightenment and sovereign autonomy. Concerted, amplified disruptions whose normative transformation processes no one has been able to escape since the proclamation of the supposed pandemic of the century. Not that this discord associated with an enervating tinnitus, this cacophony of apocalyptic arias is a novelty – the crescendo can be reconstructed over decades, if one follows the trail of money – but many became aware of it only with the establishment of the encroaching COVID infection regime in March 2020, when the deafening silence of Justice and the Fourth Estate could no longer be ignored and tyranny had arrived at home.

Inevitably, the question arises as to how such grotesque conditions could be cemented and why nothing has changed over generations. When should the many have intervened to put a stop to the technocratic neo-feudalism of today dictated by the few?

500 years before Christ, when Solon reformed Attic democracy to make representative rule respectable? Although even in ancient Greece this was little more than a cost-benefit analysis by Athenian elites who wanted to preserve status and power from looming revolutions.

A few centuries later, to break the dominance of clergy, high nobility, hereditary monarchy and colonialism? In the 17th century, when the English royal family granted special rights to rich merchants to form the British East India Company, which was henceforth allowed to enact corporate laws, control the Indian as well as the Pacific Oceans, and enforce Anglo-Saxon economic imperialism with all its brutality?

In the middle of the 18th century, when banking dynasties of unprecedented influence and wealth emerged in Europe, which, out of greed for profit, continue to play politics, economics and society off against each other to the present day, which they document with proudly swollen chests in family archives, for example with regard to the Battle of Waterloo or the censoring Balfour Declaration?

Should Cecil Rhodes have been stopped, the racist colonialist, most powerful man of his time and founder of De Beers, to whom the British colony “Rhodesia” owes its name? After all, his plans for establishing an Anglo-American-dominated world order via round-table groups and a Ponzi central banking scheme, which have been handed down in his will, seem to have borne fruit to date. Renowned historian Caroll Quigley, who taught as a professor at the elite Harvard and Princeton universities, wrote about these mafia-like machinations in his works Tragedy and Hope and The Anglo-American Establishment:

“This junta took control of American political, financial, and cultural life in the first two decades of the twentieth century. (…) This system was to be controlled in a feudalistic way by the central banks of the world, acting in concert (…). The apex of the system was to be the Bank for International Settlements in Basel, a private bank owned and controlled by the central banks of the world, themselves private enterprises. (…) On this originally financial basis (…) a power structure emerged between London and New York in the 20th century that penetrated deeply into university life, the press, and the practice of foreign policy.”

Could the cognitive devolution, the invisible prison to which the habitat of Homo sapiens has since advanced, have been counteracted in 1919, when Howard Scott founded the technocracy movement in New York, which set out to be able to control the planet via the energy consumption of all its systems – which, according to the ideology of the technocrats, includes humans? After all, this is the core goal of the climate apocalyptics, who have been ammunitioned by the Club of Rome since 1972 and who nowadays presume to want to restrict the individual mobility of mankind via CO? tracking.

Perhaps Huxley’s “Brave New World” was already a de facto reality when Richard Nixon visited Mao Zedong in 1972, whose rise to “paramount leader” was financed by the elite U.S. university Yale – and whom the cadre school refers to as “alumnus” in its in-house Yale Daily News post to this day. For what Nixon and Kissinger offered the mass murderer was not an economic “opening to the West” but the technocratic model of rule. Even before the first trade agreement with Beijing was concluded, U.S. corporations began building the appropriate infrastructure in the Middle Kingdom to make China a pilot project for the glass society of the future.

“Inventions for people are suppressed, inventions against them are promoted,” Bertolt Brecht already mused. In 1998, the Washington Post took up the issue when it became known that U.S. companies were illegally transferring secret space technology to the People’s Republic. The following year, the U.S. Foreign Trade Administration delivered a detailed study on the security risks of clandestine technology transfers and the astronomical sums that U.S. corporations and international oligarchy shifted to China. Spearheading these activities was the Rockefeller dynasty, which also spearheaded the creation of the United Nations (UN), the World Health Organization (WHO), and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Even the filet property on New York’s East River, where the UN headquarters stands today, was a “donation” from the banking family.

The Rockefeller empire stretched its tentacles toward China far ahead of any political envoys. The German-born family, whose roots date back to 1590, has been conspicuously committed to the “democratic dictatorship of the people” since the beginning of the 20th century. This is evidenced by archives of the Rockefeller Brothers Fund. As early as 1917, the industrial magnate John D. Rockefeller, who of course also had excellent connections to Yale, donated a school to China. He first made a name for himself in the world’s third-largest country at precisely the time when the Communist Party was founded. Accordingly, the impeccably reputed scientific publication The Lancet states in a May 11, 2013 article that no one has had more influence in the field of “global health” over the past 100 years than the Rockefeller Foundation. The same, meanwhile, is true of many industries. The archive of the discreetly operating foundation, which goes back to 1910, shows the immense spheres of influence it has acquired within a century.

“Some believe we are part of a secret compound working against the best interests of the United States; they characterize my family and me as internationalists and claim that we have conspired with others worldwide to establish a globally integrated, political-economic structure (…). If that is the charge, I plead guilty, and I am proud of it” (David Rockefeller, Memoirs – Memoirs of a World Banker, 2002).

Accordingly, should excessive wealth simply have been prevented? Or could the illiberal present still have been foiled in 1930, when the Bank for International Settlements (BIS), residing in Basel on extraterritorial territory, was founded by a network of international high finance strategizing across generations? Or in 1944, when the same clique conceived the current fiat financial system at Bretton Woods, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank were created, and unleashed “economic hit men” set out to monetarily subjugate the world? Since then, the international banking cartel has unmistakably demonstrated its deterministic negotiating agenda. That this course will change little, au contraire, is suggested by various activities of the BIS. For example, Project Helvetia, a proof of concept in the area of central bank digital currency (CBDC), or Project Viridis, a platform for climate-related risk management to be used by financial authorities in the future.

Be that as it may, no one has yet countered the aforementioned developments with sufficient force. So the human family probably has the governments it deserves, as Joseph de Maistre put it. Quod erat demonstrandum. What used to be called clergy, nobility, aristocracy or feudalism still exists. In the form of capital accumulation, non-transparent participation structures, technocracy and corporatist global governance, disguised in philanthropic camouflage. Modern pseudo-democracy is a Trojan horse. A Potemkin village. Fantasy – like the vision of free, humane living in smart cities, where predictive software finally relieves Homo demens of the burden of informed decision-making. Yes, the opponent of freely organized civil societies known as the Deep State may currently be the ostensible actor – the Beelzebub – bureaucrats, the judiciary and the executive the henchmen, the World Economic Forum the PR and project management department. But there is every reason to believe that the long-term planning, the “roadmap” of geopolitical tyranny continues to be defined by circles that do not care about political currents. By circles that do not think in electoral cycles.

In the face of these circumstances, freedomism and actionism challenge each other fruitlessly when supranational technocratic corporatism is to be stopped by means of representative democracy at the national level. No parliament, no party, and no opposition movement will significantly change the system with tools it provides. If democratic processes or elections could do that, they would be banned. Thus, the hypothesis that “history teaches men that history teaches men nothing” (Mahatma Gandhi) is substantiated at the outset. They allow themselves to be duped. Although the seizure of power by fascist triumvirates in Europe, the historical correlate to the present, was less than a century ago, nonchalant forgetfulness of history is rampant. “Reason is the ability to think objectively,” Erich Fromm noted – but many fellow human beings seem to have given that up. It is all the more urgent to find out how the “spiritus liber” can wriggle out of the clutches of a model of domination when it can no longer be escaped by simply crossing a national border, when freedom no longer simply waits behind a wall in the West.

When collectivism usurps the individual, ideology eliminates reason, double standards replace ethics, and humanism is assassinated by do-gooderism, new solutions and forms of organization are needed. One must escape the system not spatially, but mentally – by boycotting predictive thought patterns and life designs. By following irrefutable convictions instead of cognitive dissonances in the intellectual basement. By living digital abolitionism. Detox – not revisionism. As a hasardeur of one’s own plot. “One should not want to foresee the future, but make it possible,” Antoine de Saint-Exupéry demanded. This should be the focus of resistance in the grip of the “turn of the times” – on establishing alternatives to fiat money, facade democracy, socialism, communism or fascism. For the bottom line is that all of these concepts stand for one and the same thing: tyranny.

They are “equal brothers with unequal caps,” Hannah Arendt stated. Wherever the journey leads – in the direction of grassroots democracy on the Swiss model, to a society based on private law, to a lean minimal and welfare state, to decentralized anarchy or agorism – it must under all circumstances lead to the “autonomy of the sovereign individual” (Friedrich Nietzsche). Not into the utopia of the few, which promises dystopia to the many. That is a categorical imperative.

Because history is written by the winners. And in times of total digitalization, the civilizational kamikaze course to the periphery of a Third World War harbors unprecedented risks. After all, the Orwellian “memory hole” has long been a reality and could soon lead to subsequent generations no longer being able to develop any awareness at all of what it means to lead a free and dignified life. “Big Brother” makes them successively forget what it is worth loving and suffering for. But freedom was never granted, it was always fought for.

Editorial Note: This article first appeared under the title “Cacophony of Corporatism Part 1 of 2.” in TUMULT Magazine – Quarterly for Consensus Disruption, Winter Issue 2022/2023.

Tom-Oliver Regenauer was born in 1978. After completing a business education, he worked in various industries and roles, including as an operations manager, corporate and management consultant, and international project manager with assignments in more than 20 countries. Since the mid-1990s, he has also been active as a music producer and lyricist and runs an independent record label. The German-born author has lived in Switzerland since 2009. His most recent publication was “The Elephant in the Room: The Second Year ‘New Normal’ Independently Commented.” For more information, visit regenauer.press.


On the myth of the economically harmful inheritance tax

by Volker Grossmann | Published on December 12, 2022

[This article posted on 12/12/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.netzwerk-steuergerechtigkeit.de/vom-mythos-der-wirtschaftlich-schaedlichen-erbschaftssteuer/?cn-reloaded=1,]

Guest article: Prof. Dr. Volker Grossmann* (University of Fribourg / Switzerland; CESifo, Munich; IZA, Bonn)

The current inheritance and gift taxation system in Germany does not exploit the potential of reducing wealth concentration, even though it could make the majority of society better off. The current system mainly privileges recipients of large inheritances without any economic justification. In particular, the most extensive equalization of business assets and other assets could be implemented with accompanying measures that protect the substance of productive family businesses.

1 High inheritances, wealth concentration and lack of equal opportunities

Wealth is distributed very unequally among the inhabitants of the Federal Republic of Germany. For example, about 30% of net wealth falls to the richest hundredth of the population, while the poorer half of the population owns only about 3% (WID, 2022). Inheritances play a major role in this. For example, the share of inherited wealth in total wealth in Germany has risen from around 20% to a good 50% since the 1970s. More recently, annual inheritances amounted to a good 10% of net national income (Brülhart et al., 2018), about 300 to 400 billion euros annually. Inheritances are similarly concentrated as wealth. For example, one-tenth of the recipients receive almost 50% of the transferred assets, while the bottom half of the recipients receive only a total of 7% of the inheritances (Baresel et al., 2021, fig. 1). Moreover, the higher the household net income, the more frequent the receipt of inheritance or gift (Baresel et al., 2021, fig. 3). This is an expression of the fact that social origin shapes economic opportunities to a large extent at the individual level, not least with regard to education.

John Stuart Mill – arguably the best-known exponent of liberal economics – saw inheritances in conflict with the overall social interest as early as the mid-19th century and advocated substantial inheritance taxation (Mill, 1848; Ekelund & Walker, 1996). However, the fact that high inheritances undermine both equality of opportunity and incentives for heirs to perform, and thus run counter to the core tenet of liberalism, is regrettably no longer a consideration in self-proclaimed (economic) liberal circles today. In view of rising inheritances and the high proportion of wealth acquired without benefits in Germany, this insight is more important than it has been for a long time. Thus, in economically unequal societies, where individual well-being is largely dependent on the parental home, there are undesirable political consequences in the form of (right-wing) populism (Guriev & Papaioannou, 2022) and low social cohesion (Vergolini, 2011). Examples include xenophobia, skepticism about science, low trust in state institutions, and conspiracy theories of various kinds. Targeted campaigns by state and non-state actors to reinforce these tendencies fall on fertile ground, especially in a society characterized by high wealth concentration and fears of social decline. A more equal society, on the other hand, would strengthen the acceptance of democratic values and state institutions.

Although it is precisely the high inheritances that are problematic in terms of distribution policy, the current inheritance tax legislation in Germany contains many exemptions that tend to favor heirs of very high wealth. The reason for this, and at the same time the linchpin in the long-running debate on inheritance tax, is the treatment of business transfers. To be sure, this debate is understandable for several reasons. From an individual point of view, an entrepreneur wants to pass on his business to a successor generation and, moreover, successful businesses are socially desirable. However, it should be noted that high wealth inequality is also associated with the creation and inheritance of successful businesses. Moreover, as a result of tax privileges for business heirs, inheritance and gift tax in Germany has generated an annual average of just 0.87% of tax revenue (€5.9 billion) over the past decade (from 2011 to 2020) (own calculation based on BMF data, 2022).

Thus, the central challenge is to reform the inheritance tax system in such a way that wealth inequality is reduced and, at the same time, jobs and entrepreneurial success in family businesses are not jeopardized. To achieve the first sub-goal, it would be necessary to treat transfers of businesses largely in the same way as other assets. This article explains why it is a myth that this would conflict with achieving the second sub-goal of not endangering the substance of productive family businesses.

Section 2 sets out what privileges exist in current inheritance and gift tax law for the transfer of business ownership and the reasons given for this. Section 3 discusses the current inheritance tax system in Germany in light of the literature on welfare-optimal taxation. In particular, it addresses the questions of how high inheritance and gift tax rates should be and why the privileged treatment of business assets is problematic from an economic perspective. Section 4 presents a catalog of measures that would allow the most far-reaching equal treatment of asset types in inheritance and gift tax law and thus reduce wealth inequality without jeopardizing investment and jobs. Section 5 contains concluding remarks.

2 Exemption rules for business assets and their rationale

In the case of inheritance, after taking into account an exemption amount depending on the degree of kinship, the heir pays a tax that depends on the inherited assets as a percentage. Deviating from this basic principle, (exemption) regulations are in force that favor heirs of business assets. The justification often given for the preferential treatment of business assets is that the taxable heirs could draw on liquid assets of the business or even consider selling real capital (machinery, company buildings) in order to pay the tax liability. In these cases, the equity of the transferred companies would decrease and the creditworthiness of the company would suffer, which in turn would make investments more difficult. Alternatively, heirs could pay the tax due through personal borrowing. However, there would be implications for the creditworthiness of the company if company capital had to be used as collateral.

For these reasons, the legislator saw fit to currently grant the so-called Regelverschonung of 85% for inherited business assets of up to EUR 26 million, if the business is continued for at least five years and (from 15 employees) the minimum wage total of 400% is maintained within these five years. In addition, there is the possibility of so-called option relief of even 100%, if the business is continued for at least seven years and the minimum wage sum of 700% is not fallen short of. If the inherited business assets exceed EUR 26 million (so-called large acquisitions), the exemption percentages are gradually reduced, with the full reduction being achieved at around EUR 90 million in business assets. However, in the case of large acquisitions, the legislation provides for the possibility of a so-called exemption needs test. Accordingly, the heir can apply for a tax waiver if he or she cannot pay the tax from the remaining private assets. In this case, only 50% of the non-business assets must be used to pay the tax. In addition, the tax can be waived for an unlimited amount. In practice, the exemption rules mean that heirs are hardly taxed at all, even in the case of substantial transfers of business assets. In addition, it is possible to circumvent the payroll regulations if, for example, temporary workers are used prior to the transfer of the business in the event of employee fluctuations, who are then transferred to regular employment after the transfer of the business. Likewise, there are incentives to temporarily spin off company capital to foreign subsidiaries prior to the transfer of the company in order to be able to cut jobs in the end without losing the privileged treatment in taxation.

3 Optimal Taxation in the Light of Literature

Mill (1848) already stated that leaving an inheritance can be an important motive for saving or for business investment, but did not consider this as a serious argument against substantial inheritance taxation. Indeed, from the perspective of the empirical literature, the impact of an increase in inheritance tax rates on capital accumulation is very small (Piketty & Saez, 2013). Piketty & Saez (2013) calculate (focusing on the U.S. and France) the individual optimal tax rates according to inheritance received, taking into account such effects. In doing so, they assume that inheritance and gift tax revenues are redistributed equally across the population on a lump-sum basis. They conclude that with an allowance of 1 million euros, inheritance tax rates of 40-70% would be optimal for about 85% of the population. These would be far above the usual marginal tax rates in Germany of currently 7-30% in (inheritance) tax class I, which apply from exemption amounts of 500,000 euros for spouses or registered partners, 400,000 euros for children and stepchildren, 200,000 euros for grandchildren and 100,000 euros for parents and grandparents. The highest tax rate only applies to an inheritance of 26 million euros.

Only the recipients of the highest 5-10% of inheritances would lose out from taxation according to Piketty & Saez (2013). Sufficient allowances are crucial for this, which make sense for administrative reasons alone (costs of tax collection).

Grossmann & Strulik (2010) use a macroeconomic model to specifically address the question of how exemption rules for corporate heirs affect investment and jobs. On the one hand, they assume that the quality of corporate governance declines in some of the transferred firms. This is fed by empirical evidence that the average productivity and profitability of firms decline after the transfer of ownership or after the withdrawal of the firm founder from management (Pérez-González, 2006; Villalonga, B. and R. Amit, 2006; Damiani et al., 2018). On the other hand, the study takes into account possible loss of substance in companies if they are not continued due to lack of taxation exemption. The result shows that the current exemption practice in Germany is not only unnecessary, but is even associated with lower wages and lower gross domestic product per capita. This seems surprising at first, but it is easy to see why. The privileged tax treatment of business transfers leads to a situation in which even less entrepreneurially talented company heirs continue to run businesses, thus contributing to the fact that innovative new start-ups by more talented entrepreneurs are sometimes discouraged. In this light, the current exemption practice is therefore essentially patronage policy for company heirs and, from a macroeconomic perspective, counterproductive in the truest sense of the word.

However, Grossmann & Strulik (2010) implicitly assume that it does not matter to firms whether investments are financed with equity or debt. Similarly, they neglect the possibility that any borrowing by corporate heirs to pay taxes could undermine corporate creditworthiness. Thus, flanking measures might be necessary if the current tax exemption rules are abolished.

4 Accompanying measures to the current tax exemption rules

In a simulation study, Thiemann et al. (2021) calculated that abolishing the existing tax privileges in Germany’s inheritance and gift tax would raise annual tax revenues by around EUR 9-13 billion. However, if tax rates were moderately reduced at the same time, the additional revenue would be significantly lower or non-existent. The often-heard demand that a broadening of the tax base should go hand in hand with a reduction in tax rates is thus not conducive to a more performance-oriented tax system. So what could and should be done instead to avoid the undesirable side effects of broadening the tax base on family farms?

First, tax payment could be accompanied by generous deferral options, so that the heirs of successful (and worthy of protection) businesses in particular could pay the tax liability from future earnings. Whether investments are then nevertheless reduced by taxation depends on the interest on loans in the case of debt financing. Similarly, a corporate heir will want to finance the tax payment by borrowing only if the rate of return on equity exceeds the rate of interest on the loan.

Therefore, beyond deferral options, second, government institutions such as the Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW) could offer taxable business heirs concessional loans for a certain window of time (e.g., for 5-10 years) for both tax payment and investment financing.

Moreover, as Bach (2022) points out, third, the state could step in as a partner in the firm in case of liquidity problems of the taxable heir, if so desired. In this way, the equity capital would be preserved and the creditworthiness vis-à-vis banks or other lenders would not change. The company could therefore remain active and jobs untouched.

In the case of inherited company shares in the form of stock, it can still be stated that a sale of the shares to pay inheritance tax would only result in a change in the ownership structure, but not in a reduction of the company’s equity. Nevertheless, the aforementioned proposals could also apply to stock corporations if the testator or donor held a significant direct interest in the company and the company heirs so desire. Thus, the choice of the corporate form would not be influenced by tax law.

5 Concluding remarks

The German Federal Constitutional Court (BVerfG) has stated that only compelling, macroeconomic considerations can justify unequal treatment of assets under inheritance and gift tax law. Thus, in December 2014, the BVerfG rejected the exemptions that were legally enshrined at the time on the grounds that they violated the principle of equal treatment enshrined in the German Basic Law (Article 3 GG) and demanded a new regulation. This was enacted in 2016. However, the basic features of the tax exemption practice have not changed significantly. In view of the even potentially negative effects of the Verschonungsregelungen on the overall economy, the question of their constitutional compatibility thus remains. In the event of a renewed lawsuit, it would be important to demonstrate that the substance of productive family businesses would be preserved by the aforementioned alternative measures and that it does not make sense from a macroeconomic perspective to promote the continuation of unproductive businesses through tax privileges.

On a political level, it would be equally important to emphasize that the general population does not benefit from tax privileges for corporate heirs (but may even be harmed) and is not affected by the inheritance and gift tax even after a reform because of the allowances. Thus, the lack of popularity of the tax among the population seems to be explained essentially by two misconceptions. On the one hand, by the myth of economically harmful inheritance taxation, which is perpetuated by massive lobbying by business associations. And on the other hand, by the fear that transferred residential real estate will lead to a noticeable tax burden. However, this fear is largely unfounded. For example, there is a complete tax exemption for spouses, partners and children if they occupy the residential property themselves (limited to a living space of 200 square meters for children). If this does not apply, in practice there will still be no significant taxes due to the exemption amounts, except for very valuable properties. However, it would be worth considering increasing the allowances for inheritance and gift tax in view of the recent increases in the value of real estate and inflation.

Of course, to increase the acceptance of a tax reform, there should also be a discussion about the use of the additional tax revenue that would be generated by reducing tax privileges for business assets or even a general increase in inheritance and gift tax rates. Thus, in the debate on reforming the inheritance and gift tax system, one could propose measures that specifically promote equal opportunities in education. Together with better education about allowances, special rules and the economically dubious tax privileges in the case of business transfers, a broader, social consensus could thus be achieved to tax major heirs significantly higher than is currently the case. This would be an important step toward performance-based taxation.

* Volker Grossmann studied economics at the University of Bonn and the University of California at Berkeley (USA) from 1991-1996 and received his PhD from the University of Regensburg in 2000. After a post-doctoral period 2000-2005 at the University of Zurich, he was appointed to the University of Fribourg/Switzerland, where he holds the Chair of Macroeconomics.


Whoever subsidizes wins

U.S. and EU at odds over industrial subsidies

The U.S. is planning billion-dollar subsidies for the electric car industry and renewable energy production, among other things, but large portions of the government aid are to benefit only domestic companies. The EU sees itself disadvantaged by this and is discussing countermeasures.

by Anton Landgraf

[This article posted on 12/15/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, Wer subventioniert, gewinnt.]

Wer subventioniert, gewinnt

Anton Landgraf

Anton Landgraf: USA und EU streiten sich über Industriesubventionen

When Joe Biden won the U.S. presidential election two years ago against then-incumbent Donald Trump, relief was felt across Europe. Most EU countries were hoping for an improvement in transatlantic relations. Not so much of that can be felt at present. For all the antipathy between Republicans and Democrats, there are still a few cross-party commonalities in the U.S., especially when it comes to economic relations: U.S. economic interests are a priority for both. While Biden’s rhetoric is less confrontational than Trump’s, his policies are no less decisive. Not only is he continuing the so-called trade war against China initiated under Donald Trump, but the economic policy conflict has also flared up again with the EU states.

The reason is a new law of the U.S. government, which bears the harmless name Inflation Reduction Act (IRA) and is supposed to lead to a climate-friendly and sustainable economy. The IRA was passed in August 2022 with Democratic votes in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. At the time, many EU policymakers praised the package as an important contribution to addressing the climate crisis.

“Anyone who thinks we’re going to let Germany go broke as an industrial location has done the math without German industry.” Federal Minister of Economics Robert Habeck

Companies in the energy, transport and hydrogen sectors in particular are likely to benefit from the announced aid of 0 billion if they convert their production accordingly. Among other things, electric cars, batteries and renewable energy projects are to be subsidized. A social package worth billion is intended to finance, among other things, cheaper medicines for senior citizens and subsidies for health insurance.

The catch from the EU’s point of view is that many of the subsidized products and the goods needed to manufacture them have to be produced in the USA. While the protectionist conditions are primarily aimed at excluding Chinese imports, they also affect Europe. For example, 7 billion of the total package alone is conditional on the purchase of electric cars only being subsidized if their batteries are produced in the US. If the batteries were manufactured in Asia, which is the case with many European electric cars, their purchase in the USA cannot be subsidized. This is another reason why German corporations are now investing more in Canada; there is a free trade agreement between the USA and Canada (USMCA), and there is also an agreement between the EU and Canada to reduce trade barriers (Ceta).

But this development is just beginning. In the present, there is great indignation in the EU. German Economy Minister Robert Habeck (Greens) called for a “robust response” and his French counterpart Bruno Le Maire demanded “a coordinated, united and strong response vis-à-vis the U.S.” in Handelsblatt. EU Internal Market Commissioner Thierry Breton even threatened to file a complaint with the World Trade Organization (WTO). “The IRA can distort competition, it can jeopardize supply chains and it can lead to a foreclosure of markets,” warned EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen.

For Germany, much is at stake in the conflict. The U.S. is the most important export country; last year alone, German companies shipped goods there worth around 121 billion euros. China and European countries follow at a greater distance. Conversely, Germany imported US goods worth 71 billion US dollars in the same period. The glaring German trade surplus has been causing displeasure in Washington for some time. Four years ago, President Trump railed against Germany’s extensive exports and threatened high import tariffs on cars.

The German economy has been focused on exports for decades and has repeatedly achieved record results, often at the expense of other countries. There, trade deficits are rising, debt is increasing, and entire industries are going under because they are being outcompeted.

Representatives of the EU and the U.S. want to seek a solution to the conflict in a joint “task force,” but so far it does not look as if the U.S. government will accommodate the wishes of the EU’s industry, and thus of Germany in particular.

Just last week, a meeting of the Transatlantic Trade and Technology Council on the campus of the University of Maryland near Washington, D.C., ended with virtually no results. “The talks on the Inflation Reduction Act were disappointing from the perspective of German industry,” Siegfried Russwurm, president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), said in a press release issued by the association. The BDI would like to see U.S. guidelines that do not put European companies at a disadvantage. EU representatives want to see an existing exemption for Canada and Mexico extended to European electric cars.

Meanwhile, the EU Commission and EU governments are strenuously considering how they might respond if no agreement is reached. In return, France wants to provide more support to EU companies and have a “Buy European Act” with comprehensive subsidies introduced in the EU area. EU Commission President Ursula von der Leyen last week floated the idea of a “European sovereignty fund” that could be financed by loans taken out by the EU, i.e. with joint debt. A suggestion that German Finance Minister Christian Linder immediately rejected. EU rules restricting state industrial subsidies in individual countries are also to be further relaxed – although in the absence of a community fund, this would enable richer EU states to give their own locations an advantage over other EU states through higher subsidies.

German Economics Minister Robert Habeck also announced decisive action. “Anyone who believes that we are letting Germany go bust as an industrial location has reckoned without German industry,” he said at the “Industry Conference 2022” hosted by his ministry in Berlin at the end of November. Habeck is considering subsidizing German and European companies more heavily. Specifically, he is proposing a “European program for the promotion of transformation technologies,” according to an internal Economics Ministry paper quoted by Handelsblatt late last week. But Habeck has a hunch that Germany can hardly win a subsidy race at the moment, especially since the so-called debt brake must be adhered to. He now wants to relax the strict EU state aid law, which is supposed to prevent subsidies that distort competition. This would allow existing funds from different subsidy pots to be reallocated in a more targeted way.

“A trade war would not be in Europe’s interest,” warned Gabriel Felbermayr, former president of the Kiel Institute for the World Economy, on Deutschlandfunk radio. Finance Minister Lindner pointed out that the German economy is closely linked to the U.S. market. Germany could therefore have no interest in a trade war, he said, but must use economic diplomacy.

The restraint is probably due above all to the fact that the EU is currently in a weak position. The Eastern European EU states in particular do not want to get involved in a long-term trade conflict. Latvian EU Trade Commissioner Valdis Dombrovskis, for example, recently warned “of the danger of conflating the Inflation Reduction Act with our broader relationship with the United States,” referring to Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine, in which U.S. support is crucial.

The EU also does not have the resources to sustain a protracted trade dispute with the United States. Many EU countries are having to spend huge sums in response to ongoing energy shortages, and there is no end in sight to high prices. In the USA, on the other hand, companies are benefiting from significantly lower energy costs. As it stands, the U.S. government is currently sitting on the longer end of the stick in the trade conflict.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

The Battle for Social Democracy and Unfettered Capitalism


Two opposing schools of thought face each other at the sickbed: neoliberalism and social democracy. But didn’t the death-bells of neoliberalism ring in the course of the financial market crisis? Were not neoliberals unmasked as charlatans who first caused the whole mess with their deregulation medicine? 

Decisive Battle for Social Democracy

by Marc Saxer
[This article posted on 6/19/2019 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://sagwas.net.]

The ideological waves are running very high in the agony of the Euro-crisis. The physicians at the sickbed of the European patient diagnose different sicknesses and disagree about the right medicine – bloodletting or infusion.

Have Europeans lived above their means for years – or lent their savings to the sick bank uncle (the same uncle who now demands ridiculous interests)?

Two opposing schools of thought face each other at the sickbed: neoliberalism and social democracy. But didn’t the death-bells of neoliberalism ring in the course of the financial market crisis? Were not neoliberals unmasked as charlatans who first caused the whole mess with their deregulation medicine? 

Today, neoliberals can hardly contain their joy. Wasn’t it an extraordinary stroke of luck that the Euro-crisis began in Greece? Despite decades of subsidies, Greece never succeeded in controlling corruption, clientelism and tax fraud.

Dawdling, social hammocks and state debts are mixed up in an unsavory concoction. The abstract financial crisis became a moral lesson about diligent northern peoples and lazy idlers in the South…

In Germany, the simple-minded reasoning of the “Schwabian housewife” fell on very fruitful soil because the trauma of hyper-inflation slumbers eternally in each of us. To banish this spirit, drastic cures are now prescribed that are as suited for treating the resignation or submission of political economies as medieval bloodletting.

However, the long-term prognosis for European patients is even more dubious. To get back on their feet, they cannot live above their means anymore. That the Euro-crisis began in heavily indebted Greece was a happy coincidence. A glance at Spain and Ireland shows state indebtedness first skyrocketed as a consequence of the bank bailouts. A sober comparison with the United States and Japan confirms that the European state indebtedness on average is not unusual. Such nuances do not fit the picture of neoliberal ideologues.

The fog banks prepare the ground for the amazing return of neoliberalism. Failure was successfully disguised by putting the blame for the financial crisis on the states that bailed out the financial markets three years ago in accepting new debts on a gigantic scale.

In the course of the American debt crisis in 2011, the insidious advice was that a solution is only conceivable when both sides are finally ready ready to bring their sacred cows into the slaughter house of austerity. We lived beyond our means for decades. In the long run, no one can outwit gravity. This explanation now spills over the great pond to Europe.

One does not have to be a psychic or clairvoyant to foresee the consequences. The social states will be dismantled again if this explanation of the Euro-crisis prevails. Southern European welfare states will be the first to drop their deadwood to elude the stranglehold of the financial markets. The pressure to follow the path of frugal virtue is also increasing in the Protestant North. The location preachers will growl we simply cannot afford the social state anymore if we do not want to be overrun by the global competition.

Thus, the knives are sharpened and social democracy is on the chopping block not only in Greece. Not only the American presidential election will decide whether social democrats succeed today in enforcing their explanation of the crisis. Whether the drastic austerity cure or Keynesian growth stimuli are offered will decide the fate of the European community. How the crisis is interpreted will decide whether social democracy will realize its social-political vision in the next decades.


Karl Polanyi – Unfettered Capitalism

by Rainer Hank
[This article posted on 12/26/2010 is trqanslated from the German on the Internet, http://www.faz.net.]

Karl Polanyi condemned profit greed and deregulated markets. Today’s capitalism critics are his disciples – and don’t know it.

Since the financial crisis in the early 21st century, the impression has spread in middle-class German circles that “unfettered capitalism” is responsible for the world coming out of joint. Even positive friends of the market warn that capitalism and the economy must be embedded in society again.

The ancestors of the idea that the economy needs social embedding hardly know him. Karl Polanyi (1886-1964) was one of the most mysterious thinkers of the 21st century. “That the market system dug its own grave and destroyed the social institutions on which it was based was a dilemma,” Polanyi wrote, in his epochal 1944 book “The Great Transformation” written under the experience of the Great Depression and the Second World War.

No thinker resisted the insight represented by Adam Smith (1723-1790) that the market was the dominant institution of modern societies as passionately as Polanyi. For Polanyi, markets are always a threat for society from which grows the greatest danger when they are allowed to work according to their own laws independent of a regulatory state embedding. This “Great
Transformation” that led to a destructive autonomization of the markets occurred in England from the beginning of the 19th century and later in Germany.

The disaster began in that land, labor and money (fictitious commodities for Polanyi) were treated like very normal raw materials or goods (potatoes, clothing or coal). That human labor is regarded as a commodity and covered with a price was a scandal for Karl Marx and the early socialists. However, Polanyi, certainly influenced by Marx, argued more systemically than morally. He called land, labor and money “virtual resources” that have their home in social life. Labor is only the name for a humanactivity. Land is another word for nature and money is a metaphor for purchasing power in a society. Land, labor and money belong in the realm of all-encompassing life, not to the field of particular markets and tradable goods.

His father’s business crashed

In the early 19th century, a first wave of economization occurred in which land, labor and money were torn out of their social life world and forcibly subjected to the laws of supply and demand. The price that people had to pay for this was the moral destruction of the social foundations of life. “Vices, perversion, criminality and hunger” are consequences that spread in the social world and dehumanize. 

Polanyi knows his subject. He experienced capitalism’s history of disappointment in the boom years of the economic miracle of the industrial expansion in Vienna and Budapest. His father, a successful railroad entrepreneur, was part of the emancipated Jewish bourgeoisie… Karl and his brothers and sisters were converted to Calvinist Protestantism. His mother, a Russian,
managed one of Budapest’s prominent salons.

Polanyi witnessed the collapse of his father’s business in 1900 as a traumatic experience since he was dependent on his support. “Nineteenth century civilization has collapsed,” the first sentence of the “Great Transformation” can be understood on the background of his personal humiliation. Polanyi joined the communists, studied this and that, and journeyed to England as a political writer. He was an essayist, pamphleteer, brilliant stylist and cultivated historian. In a 1925 letter to a friend, he wrote he felt the deep need to organize society “like the inner life of a family.”

What was “disembedded” can be “embedded” again… Polanyi vigorously denied that free markets were the natural beginning of history. Later, the regulatory intervention of the state came into fashion. He insisted the liberal market order was itself a result of a political intervention that tore down the protective mercantile fences. With a romantic imagination, he dreamt of the original state of humanity as a paradise of exchanging goods based on voluntary giving where people were not devoured by greed. There was no market in the paradise of redistribution and housekeeping.

Polanyi was not so naive to think the pre-economic original state can be restored. The hope for a world where the economy would again serve society and be subordinated to society was enough for him. That money (the financial markets) labor (the labor markets) and land (the real estate markets) should be withdrawn from the market and regulated by the state goes without saying. That would be a second “Great Transformation” that would correct the mad world and embed the economy in society.

For Polanyi who understood himself as a socialist, the “social market economy” was certainly not the fulfillment of his hope. However, he shared its orientation “connecting the principle of freedom on the market with social balance” (Alfred Mueller-Armack). The tension between stable social integration and self-regulating markets is part of the basic cyclical fluctuations of human life. If social integration spreads, a society threatens to lose its dynamic of prosperity generation. If the pendulum strikes too strongly in the other direction, inequality and uncertainty threaten to destabilize society paralyzing economic activity.

Many of today’s capitalism critics adopt Polanyi’s orientation. The criticism of “economism,” “pure capitalism” and the admonition to moderation that are heard daily has its origin here. When German chancellor Merkel says we need a “market-conforming democracy,” Polanyi’s friends today demand a “democracy-conforming market.”

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

Utopias and Dystopias as Places of Mental Retreat and Cooperation with China


Joe Biden and his foreign policy team are in many ways still entrenched in the Cold War era, and his administration has generally taken a far more antagonistic stance toward China than Obama. It is not surprising, then, that the progress Kerry made with his Chinese interlocutors in Glasgow largely fizzled out as tensions over Taiwan grew more intense.

Utopias and Dystopias as Places of Mental Retreat
by Dieter Funke

[This article posted in December 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, Zeitschrift Wort und Antwort – Leseprobe 1 der archivierten Ausgabe 4/2020.]

With the loss of familiar daily routines during the Corona crisis, many people suddenly became aware of the stabilizing functions of the unquestioning and ritualized actions of everyday life: They create a sense of the world’s permanence and reliability, they provide the certainty of the always-on and thereby protect against emerging fears of the unavailable and the uncertain. It was only in the interruption of everyday courses of action that many became aware of the value of these rituals as well as the unavailability of security, health, and the future.

Utopias: Reactions to loss

This experience of psychological, social, and economic uncertainty leads to the heart of what utopias are all about: Namely, to offer hope that things will go back to the way they were. But this longing also leads to making the lost state appear in a rosy light. The reason probably lies in the human tendency to idealize what is absent, which means as much as the elimination and suppression of reality in its conflicting and failing sides. This is already expressed in the term “utopia” (ou-topos), which means “not place” or “no place”. Utopia thus consists in a wishful “placeless” fantasy detached from reality. In order to understand the dynamics of these utopian fantasies and their meaning for the mental and spiritual-religious life, a look at the probably most well-known utopian conception helps, namely that of the lost paradise. This ideal state of the Garden of Eden described in the second creation account of Genesis can be understood as a “nostalgic myth of separation”. In human history, this happened as a response to the experience of having fallen out of the ring of time and the circle of nature through the so-called Neolithic Revolution, the sedentarization of mankind in the period from 5,000 to 1,800 BC.

Utopias as timeless and placeless states

Being bound to time and space is the basic prerequisite for understanding oneself as an individual being – psychologically as “I”. Only through this spatiotemporal limitation is the early childhood fantasy of being immortal and omnipotent interrupted. This fantasy of placelessness and timelessness is rooted in the prenatal state as a fetus, as expressed in images and conceptions of the original paradise at the beginning of the incarnation. This prenatal state forms a self-contained, timeless world in which to seek the sources of longing for comfort, security, and harmony. This state is rooted in the unbroken supply of the fetus by the maternal organism and thus in the absence of lack and tension. This prenatal unit of supply with the mother forms the foundation from which the need for unlimitedness and omnipotence emerges. However, already in the early phase this longing shows two sides: The positive narcissism of wholeness and perfection, in which later abilities such as confidence and hope are rooted, is opposed to the destructive narcissism. Destructive because grandiose fantasies of omnipotence and rage against disturbing reality are rooted in it. With birth, the infant is forced to step out of its world of the womb, which is free of bodily tensions, and thus compelled to acknowledge the givenness of failure. Initially, the mother, by her presence, ensures that the infant’s natal crash does not lead to disaster. A loving and empathetic relationship of the mother to her infant allows the infant to survive the abrupt loss of prenatal paradise reasonably unscathed. The mother is endowed by the infant (in fantasy) with such qualities that correspond to the life in her before birth, so that one can speak of an ideal image of the mother as the core of the paradisiacal utopia.

The loss of original perfection and wholeness represents on the one hand the birth of the individual, but on the other hand it is connected with the task of coping with the loss of paradisiacal perfection. The ability to bear this loss presupposes a reasonably functional ego. Those who have been at the mercy of all too strong experiences of lack of resonance, attachment and recognition, or traumatic experiences of loss and fear overload, lack the healthy mechanisms of coping with these experiences of lack and the fears associated with them. To ward off these fears and the suffering associated with them, the individual resorts to utopian fantasies which, as ideals, form a counter-image to the painful and sorrowful reality. As the most important characteristic of such utopian states, the psychoanalyst Heinz Weiss has named the timelessness just mentioned. The fantasy of the absence of time serves as a defense against the fear of finiteness, limitedness and mortality.

An example from therapeutic practice: An analyst suffers from his fear of getting involved in a partnership, because for him this is connected with exclusion from other relationships, an idea of limitation which is unbearable for him. Working through this fear of commitment allows him to experience the underlying narcissistic mortification of the experience of limitation in his own life. He would rather endure the never-satisfied longing for a love relationship than suffer the mortification of excluding other possibilities of relationship. It is impossible for him to bear this mortification of limitation because in his childhood he experienced too little security and attachment through a self-centered, resonance-incompetent mother, an emotionally absent father and traumatic loss of home through migration, which would have enabled him to learn to bear limitations. In the patient mentioned here, the fantasy of the limitlessness of one’s life, and thus the defense against the certainty of death, serves to protect against the catastrophic revival of the trauma of loss and powerlessness. The denial of time, which always presupposes the integration of death as a limitation of one’s own lifetime, has a protective function in many people, including this patient: instead, he takes refuge in the fantasy of being able to enjoy life with all its advantages in an ideal place in the South in the future, including a partner. The idea of such a utopian place makes him hope that working through his current difficulties will be worthwhile. In addition to its defensive function in terms of limitation, this utopia also establishes hope and confidence in him. It helps him to engage with the limited life in the present and to hold the disappointment about it in abeyance with the fantasy of a better life.

In the religious-spiritual realm, this productive utopia expresses itself in the belief in a loving God who leads everything to the better, or in the image of a new world that makes the travails of life in limitation, failure, and suffering bearable. […]


What if the U.S. and China cooperate – and solve the biggest crisis?
by Michael T. Klare
[This article posted on 12/19/2022 is translated from the German on the Internet, https://www.heise.de/tp/features/Was-waere-wenn-die-USA-und-China-kooperieren-und-die-groesste-Krise-loesen-7397320.html?seite=all.]

Chinese President Xi Jinping greets the hand of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden on Dec. 4, 2013.

Periodically, there are tensions between Washington and Beijing. This has also repeatedly put the climate diplomacy of the great powers on hold. With fatal consequences. A peace roadmap that puts cooperation over disaster.

When President Joe Biden and his Chinese counterpart Xi Jinping arrived for the summit on the Indonesian resort island of Bali on Nov. 14, relations between the two countries were in an unfathomable downward spiral, and tensions over the Taiwan issue were approaching boiling point.

At best, diplomats hoped for a modest reduction in tensions, which, to the relief of many, did occur. A political breakthrough was not expected, however, and it was not achieved. In one important area, however, there was at least a glimmer of hope: the world’s two largest greenhouse gas emitters agreed to resume their stalled negotiations on joint efforts to address the climate crisis.
Michael T. Klare is professor emeritus of peace and world security studies and senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association.

These talks have been in a constant state of back-and-forth since President Barack Obama initiated them ahead of the December 2015 Paris climate summit, where delegates were expected to vote on a landmark measure to prevent global temperatures from rising more than 1.5 degrees Celsius (the amount scientists believe the planet can withstand without catastrophic consequences).

U.S.-China consultations continued after the adoption of the Paris climate agreement, but were suspended in 2017 by President Donald Trump, who denies climate change. They were resumed by Biden in 2021. After then-House Speaker Nancy Pelosi visited Taiwan on Aug. 2, which was seen in Beijing as support for pro-independence activists on the island, disgruntled Chinese leaders suspended the talks again in retaliation. But thanks to Biden’s intensive lobbying in Bali, President Xi agreed to turn the interaction switch back on.

Behind this modest gesture lies a much more significant question: what if the two countries not only talked to each other, but also worked together to commit to radically reducing global carbon emissions? What wonders would then be conceivable? To find answers to this momentous question, one must look at the recent history of U.S.-China climate cooperation.

The promise of cooperation

In November 2014, Presidents Obama and Xi met in Beijing and signed a declaration committing to joint action to ensure the success of the upcoming Paris climate summit, following extensive diplomatic groundwork. They affirm:

The United States of America and the People’s Republic of China must play a critical role in addressing global climate change. The seriousness of the challenge calls on both sides to work together constructively for the common good.

Obama then directed Secretary of State John Kerry to work with Chinese officials to persuade the other participants in this summit – officially the 21st Conference of the Parties to the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (COP21) – to agree on a firm commitment to meet the 1.5-degree limit. This joint effort, according to many observers, helped persuade reluctant participants such as India and Russia to sign the Paris climate agreement. At the summit’s closing session, Obama stated:

With our historic joint announcement with China last year, we showed that it is possible to overcome the old divides that have for so long impeded global progress. That achievement has encouraged dozens of other nations to set ambitious climate goals of their own.

Obama also pointed out that any significant global progress along the way would depend on continued cooperation between the two countries.

No nation, not even one as powerful as ours, can solve this challenge alone.

Trump and the dangers of non-cooperation

This era of cooperation did not last long. Donald Trump, an ardent supporter of fossil fuels, made no secret of his distaste for the Paris climate agreement. Shortly after taking office, he signaled his intention to withdraw from the agreement. In 2017, in announcing his fatal decision, he said:

It’s time to put Youngstown, Ohio, Detroit, Michigan, and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, along with many other places in our great country, above Paris, France.

With the absence of the U.S., implementation of the Paris Agreement has been slow. Many countries that had been pressured by the U.S. and China to agree to emission reduction timetables began to back out of those commitments in line with Trump’s America.

China, the largest greenhouse gas emitter and a leader in the use of the dirtiest of fossil fuels, coal, also felt far less pressure to meet its commitments, even on a rapidly warming planet.

No one knows what would have happened if Trump had not been elected and U.S.-China talks had not been suspended, but in the absence of such cooperation, the continued rise in carbon dioxide emissions and temperature across the planet occurred.

According to CO.2.Earth, CO2 emissions increased from 35.5 billion tons in 2016 to 36.4 in 2021, an increase of 2.5 percent. Since these emissions are the largest contributor to the greenhouse effect that drives global warming, it should come as no surprise that the last seven years have also been the warmest on record, with much of the world experiencing record-breaking heat waves, wildfires, droughts and crop failures.

We can expect such disasters to become more frequent and severe unless U.S.-China climate cooperation resumes.

The eternal back and forth

Overcoming this frightening trend was one of Joe Biden’s key campaign promises, and in the face of strong Republican opposition, he has indeed sought to undo at least some of the damage done by Trump.

It was a symbolic act when, on his first day in office, he rejoined the Paris climate agreement and directed his Cabinet to accelerate the transition to clean energy. In August, he made a major breakthrough when Congress passed the Inflation Reduction Act (IRA), which provides $369 billion in loans, grants and tax credits for green energy initiatives.

Biden also sought to revive Washington’s global climate change diplomacy and stalled talks with China by appointing John Kerry as his special envoy for climate action. Kerry, in turn, resumed relations with his Chinese counterparts from his days as Secretary of State.

At COP26 in Glasgow, Scotland, he convinced China to join the U.S. in adopting the Glasgow Declaration, which pledged to strengthen efforts to mitigate climate change.

However, Joe Biden and his foreign policy team are in many ways still entrenched in the Cold War era, and his administration has generally taken a far more antagonistic stance toward China than Obama. It is not surprising, then, that the progress Kerry made with his Chinese interlocutors in Glasgow largely fizzled out as tensions over Taiwan grew more intense.

Biden, for example, was the first president to declare four times that U.S. forces would defend the island off China’s coast in a crisis should it be attacked by Beijing, jettisoning Washington’s longstanding position of “strategic ambiguity” on the Taiwan issue. In response, Chinese leaders increasingly vehemently asserted that the island belonged to China.

The Chinese responded to Nancy Pelosi’s Taiwan visit in early August by launching ballistic missiles around the island and angrily ended bilateral talks on climate change. Now, thanks to Biden’s initiative in Bali, the door appears to be open again for the two countries to work together to limit global greenhouse gas emissions.

At a time when evidence of the planet’s warming is increasingly devastating – from a mega-drought in the U.S. to extreme heat in China – the question is: What might meaningful new cooperation entail?

Recommit to the centrality of the climate

In 2015, few leaders doubted the broad threat of climate change or the need to use international diplomacy to address the crisis. In Paris, Obama declared that “the growing threat of climate change could define the contours of this century more dramatically than any other.” What should give us hope, he continued, …

is the fact that nations are feeling a sense of urgency about the challenge and a growing realization is taking root that it is within our power to do something about it.

Since then, unfortunately, other challenges such as the rise of Cold War-style tensions with China, the Covid 19 pandemic, and Russia’s brutal invasion of Ukraine have defined the contours of this century.

Even as the consequences of the planet’s overheating become increasingly apparent in 2022, few world leaders would claim that it is “within our power” to overcome the climate threat. So the first (and perhaps most valuable) outcome of renewed U.S.-China climate cooperation might simply be to put climate change back at the top of the world’s agenda and prove that the major powers can successfully address the problem together.

Such an effort could begin, for example, with a climate summit between Washington and Beijing, led by Presidents Biden and Xi and attended by high-level delegations from around the world. American and Chinese scientists could recite the latest bad news about the likely trajectory of global warming while setting specific targets for significant reductions in fossil fuel use.

That, in turn, could lead to the formation of multilateral working groups, led by U.S. and Chinese agencies and institutions, that would meet regularly to implement the best strategies for mitigating the approaching catastrophe.

Following the example set by Obama and Xi at COP21 in Paris, Biden and Xi would agree to play a key role at the next Conference of the Parties, COP28, scheduled for December 2023 in the United Arab Emirates. After the inconclusive outcome of COP27, held in Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt, strong leadership is needed to achieve something much better at COP28.

Among the goals the two governments would need to pursue, the top priority is full implementation of the 2015 Paris Agreement, with its commitment to limit temperature increases to no more than 1.5 degrees, followed by far greater efforts by rich nations to help developing countries suffering the effects of climate change.

However, there is no way that China and the U.S. will be able to make a significant international impact on climate efforts unless both countries – the former currently the leading emitter of greenhouse gases and the latter the historical leader – make far greater efforts to reduce their carbon emissions and shift to renewable energy sources.

The Inflation Reduction Act will allow the White House to move forward with many new initiatives in this direction, while China is installing additional wind and solar energy facilities faster than any other country.

However, both countries still rely on fossil fuels for a significant portion of their energy – China, for example, continues to be the largest user of coal, burning more of it than the rest of the world combined – and so both will need to agree on more aggressive measures to reduce their carbon emissions in order to convince other nations to do the same.

A China-U.S. fund for the clean energy transition.

Also at the top of the list for revitalized U.S.-China cooperation should be a joint effort to fund the global transition from fossil fuels to renewable energy. Although the cost of deploying renewable energy, particularly wind and solar, has fallen dramatically in recent years, it is still significant, even for rich countries. For many developing countries, it remains a prohibitively expensive option to date.

The issue therefore became a major theme at COP27 in Egypt, where representatives of the Global South complained that, despite earlier promises, wealthy countries, which are largely responsible for overheating the planet, are not doing enough (or, in many cases, anything) to help them bear the costs of the increasingly devastating impacts of climate change and decarbonization of their countries.

Many of these complaints relate to the green climate fund established at COP16 in Cancún. Developed countries agreed to contribute $100 billion a year to this fund by 2020 to help developing countries pay the costs of switching to renewable energy.

Although that amount is now widely seen as woefully inadequate for such a transition – “all indications are that we need trillions, not billions,” noted Baysa Naran, a manager at the Climate Policy Initiative research center – the fund has never even come close to meeting the $100 billion goal, a fact that has embittered many in the Global South as climate change strikes ever more terribly there with unprecedented flooding and extreme heat waves.

As the U.S. and China worked together on the climate issue at COP26 in Glasgow, it seemed possible that the green climate fund might actually be filled with money. In their November 2021 Glasgow Declaration, John Kerry and his Chinese counterpart Xie Zhenhua affirmed that …

both countries recognize the importance of the commitment made by developed countries to jointly mobilize $100 billion per year by 2020 and annually through 2025 to meet the needs of developing countries [and] stress the importance of achieving this goal as soon as possible.

Unfortunately, not much came of this announcement in the months that followed, as U.S.-China relations continued to deteriorate. Now, after Biden’s meeting with Xi and the resumption of their talks on climate change, it is at least possible to envision increased bilateral efforts to advance – and even go well beyond – the $100 billion goal (although we can expect fierce opposition from the new Republican majority in the House of Representatives).

I would also propose that, to accelerate the transition to green energy, a China-U.S. fund be established – an institution that would provide grants and loans jointly by the two countries, with the primary purpose of financing renewable energy projects in the developing world.

Decisions on funding commitments would be made by a board of directors, half of which would be from the two countries, and whose staff would be made up of experts from around the world. The goal would be: to supplement the green climate fund with hundreds of billions of additional dollars annually to accelerate the global energy transition.

The path to peace and the survival of peoples

U.S. and Chinese leaders recognize that global warming poses an extraordinary threat to the survival of their nations and that enormous efforts will be required in the coming years to minimize the climate threat while preparing for its most severe impacts.

The climate crisis is the existential challenge of our time,

… states the Biden Administration’s October 2022 National Security Strategy (NSS).

Without immediate global action to reduce emissions, scientists tell us, we will soon exceed 1.5 degrees of warming, leading to more extreme heat and weather events, rising sea levels, and catastrophic loss of biodiversity.

Despite this all-too-accurate assessment, the NSS portrays competition with China as an even greater threat to U.S. security-without citing the same dangerous consequences-and proposes a massive mobilization of the nation’s economic, technological, and military resources to ensure American dominance in the Asia-Pacific region for decades to come.

This strategy, of course, will require trillions of dollars in military spending, meaning insufficient resources to deal with the climate crisis and exposing the country to an ever-increasing risk of war – possibly even nuclear war – with China.

Given these dangers, the best outcome of revitalized U.S.-China climate cooperation or green diplomacy might be to build trust between the leaders of the two countries, allowing for a reduction in tensions and military spending. Indeed, such an approach represents the only practical strategy to save us from the catastrophic consequences of both U.S.-China conflict and unchecked climate change.

This article is published in cooperation with the U.S. magazine TomDispatch. The English original can be found here.

Michael T. Klare is professor emeritus of peace and world security studies at Hampshire College and senior visiting fellow at the Arms Control Association. He is the author of 15 books, the most recent of which is “All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change.” He is a co-founder of the Committee for a Sensible U.S.-China Policy.

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

Rethinking the State and Rent Madness


The right to housing for everyone must be understood as a public challenge and presupposes the de-commodification of the housing supply, a democratization of urban policy, and breach with the real estate exploitation coalition. 

Rethinking the State

by Hartmut Reiners
[This article posted on 6/3/2019 is translated abridged from the German on the Internet, https://makroskop.eu.]

Debates on the purpose and goal of state regulations of the economy have been underway for years. That the capitalist market economy cannot function without practical regulations should be clear.

The young chairperson of the SPD, Kevin Kuhnest, caused a sensation with his demand for socializing corporations owned by families like BMW to combat inequalities of income and wealth. This idea should not be a taboo anymore. Associations to the centrally planned economy and even to the wall death were triggered.

With such killer arguments, debates about an alternative economic- and social policy can be easily strangled when phrases like socialization, overcoming capitalism or building socialism are repeated…

Private Wealth and Public Poverty

Leftist policy means supporting the primacy of politics and protecting the political economy from the suicidal peculiarities of capitalism with governmental regulations. This includes public safety, the housing economy, public transportation, education, culture and protection from general life risks like old age, sickness and unemployment and not only the financial markets,
competition and income distribution. These are all existential tasks for the reproductions of the economy and not mere kindnesses. 

Securing the economic and social infrastructure can obviously be transferred to private institutions. State enterprises can become stock corporations listed on the stock exchanges. The consequences of such a policy are: growing old age poverty, degenerate schools , trains notoriously not on time and enormous gaps in looking after persons needing care. We witness a growing private wealth distributed extremely unequally and an increasing public poverty. The Keynesian John Kenneth Galbraith warned of this at the beginnings of the 1960s.

The fiscal policy of “zero deficit” with the motto “save until it hurts” has fatal consequences for economic development and the lives of citizens. It is legal and economic madness to transform these maxims into the Basic Law. The capitalist market economy cannot function without a public transportation infrastructure, a comprehensive education system and nationwide health and social services. When hipsters pretending to be post-modern leftists reduce state functions
to arbitrary authority, prohibitions and restrictions, they are just as ignorant as neoliberals with their mantra of social state’s unaffordability.

Is the Social State Unaffordable?

The tenacious myth of the all-round superiority of private enterprise flits around public opinion despite market failure in massive areas of the infrastructure. Aging, invalidity, unemployment, sickness and need of care are general life-risks of modern societies… What was privatized?

Unemployment insurance is not a business field of the insurance sector on account of the incalculable risks of the labor market. This is true when benefits as in most European social systems are tied to the amount earned in the past gainful economy. In a privatization of the risk of unemployment, state assistance must satisfy the subsistence level…

Social policy becomes security policy for the well-to-do classes and is degraded to a soup kitchen charity. This policy leads to growing criminality and a flourishing private security and prison industry (as in the US) financed out of taxes…

Privatization in health insurance is a costly wrong way. The costs of private health insurance for medical treatments are 50% higher than those of legal health insurance in Germany. Add to that the exorbitant administrative expenses. Private health insurance in Germany employs 60,000 for the 9 million insured. Health insurance for state employees employs only 15,000
for the same number of insured. So much for the claim that privatization reduces bureaucratic costs!

Our social security has a high political-economic effectiveness. It is economically superior to the private enterprise alternatives. There are no sound reasons to assume the social state is unaffordable. Rather, its privatization is expensive for us.

Must the state be redefined?

The state and its tasks must be redefined on the background of the hegemony of the neoliberal TINA-ideology (“There is no alternative!”). The idea of the political regulation of capitalist market systems is not really new. It was already postulated by economists like Schumpeter, Kalecki and Polanyi with different accents and not only 90 years ago by Keynes… This “technical production necessity” of social policy and the political control of the economy have fallen into oblivion but have not disappeared.

One of the paradoxes of modern civil society is that the general consciousness for its economic necessity fades in building fringe benefit systems. The social state expands individual independence and reduces general existential anxieties. At the same time, the illusion is nourished that it could be replaced by “I-companies.”

The political left must recognize this contradiction and declare concretely again and again why the social state and state regulations of the economy are economic imperatives and not ridiculous restrictions of individual freedoms. This is arduous but is without alternative.


Rent Madness

Economic and political contexts o the housing crisis

by Andrej Holm
[This article posted on 6/7/2019 is translated abridged from the German on the Internet, http://linksnet.de/artikel/47734.]

Berlin is the focal point in the development of real estate- and rent prices. On one side, the higher rents are quite exorbitant. On the other side, the protest movements are very active and publically effective. Andrej Holm has observed and analyzed rent development and housing policy for many years. To reverse the crisis-laden development, he urges a break with the
real estate exploitation coalition.
The renter protests in Berlin and other cities have put the housing question back on the political agenda. Demonstrations, nationwide networks and a growing number of independent renter-groups have seen the protest against higher rents and repression grow into a permanent mobilization. A day hardly passes in big cities when new conflicts over housing supply
are not reported. The times when anxiety over higher rents and the loss of apartments could be ignored as “regrettable isolated cases” are over. The discovery that this is really a problem is clear in expert- and political party debates.

Escalated Inequality in Strained Housing Markets

Rents in big cities have risen explosively in the last decade. The common rents in the five largest German cities rose an average 15% in the 2008-2018 period as in Berlin (+32%) and Hamburg (+23%)…

For many renters, the rent development in the cities has uncoupled from the development of their incomes. Four of ten households in Germany’s big cities pay more than 30% of their income for their rent. With higher rents, the money at the end of the month is not enough for a decent life.

Under the conditions of increased rents, the market conditions worsen the social inequality in society. Households with higher incomes live in more beautiful apartments and find their way in the housing search. The size of the money purse decides over the quality and condition of housing. The rent burden for households below the statistical subsistence level (less than 60% of the median income) is at 40% while households with incomes over 140% of the median income pay an average 17%. Social inequalities intensify when those with little must pay more…

Displacement as a Business Model

In many cities, the displacement of renters has become a business model. Higher base rents are subject to clear limits through laws governing tenancy. In strained housing markets, base rents can increase a maximum 15% within three years. The change of renters is the fastest way to higher profits. Modernization investments or the sale of housing units also promise fast profits… Nearly every fourth housing change in Berlin is classified as displacement.

Housing Supply between Market and State Failure

David Madden and Peter Marcuse summarized these developments in their historical outline on housing policy in the US and Western Europe. “There is a constant conflict between housing as a home and housing as real estate. Profit expectations and the social functions of housing run in opposite directions since reasonable rents usually lessen profits.

In big German cities, there are five million households who have low incomes or must even live below the subsistence level… Given the historical experiences of a limited supply of private apartments and a “social blindness of the market,” it is astonishing that the new construction myth still defines current debates on housing policy. The mantra “build, build, build” is taken up by the housing economy and large parts of the general public because it gives a seemingly simple explanation for today’s housing crisis with the simple supply-demand argument…

The state is sought when no substantial contribution fort social housing can be expected from the free enterprise side. However, the housing policy of the last decades must be described as a consistent withdrawal from public responsibility for social housing with view to the dissolution of housing cooperatives, the extensive privatizations, the inadequate construction of living space and the priority for subject-assistance.

Annulment of housing cooperatives

In West Germany, the cooperative housing sector was abolished in 1989 so no institutionalized framework existed for non-profit housing. Since then, even local community housing construction firms could not offer protection from rent hikes, displacement and privatization.

Under the guise of tax reform, 4 million apartments were changed de facto overnight into tradable market commodities. Until then, cooperative housing was subject to a clear profit limitation and had to be oriented in a cost-rent principle so the rent level depended on actual expenditures and not on profit expectations. All the profits had to be reinvested to advance non-profit cooperatives so the non-profit firms – unlike commercial suppliers – were forced to permanently expand their stock. No sumptuous profits in new construction were possible.


The privatizations in the 1990s and 2000s were possible with the abolition of non-profit status since apartments subject to a profit restriction are not attractive for investors. Between 1997 and 2009, the Federal German government, states and local communities sold nearly 1 million public apartments to institutional investors. In addition, 1.2 million public and cooperative apartments in East Germany were privatized… That a growing number of the 900,000 apartments are traded on the exchange is a direct effect of the privatization orgies in the last 20 years.

Home building promotion with limited social effects

In the immediate post-war time, housing policy in the old Germany since the 1950s promoted social housing and supplied “broad sectors” of the population with apartments. Altogether nearly 7.1 million public housing units existed up to 2000 – including 4.2 million rental apartments. With the 2001 Living Space Promotion law, the incentive programs developed into instruments for the socially marginalized and the volumes were substantially reduced… The Austrian housing researcher Christian Donner correctly describes the German system as a “promotion of rental housing investments with limited social utilization.” Only 1.2 million units
of social housing are still available now despite the demanded 4.3 million rental apartments because fewer and fewer apartments were subsidized in that time period.


Public expenditures in so-called subject-assistance continuously rose while spending for housing subsidization stagnates at a level between 1 and 2 billion euros per year. In the last years, over 15 billion euros were spent per year as housing subsidies or accommodation costs. The Federal German government records this as expenditures for the “social security of housing” but the payments are an economic stimulus. The rents in every fifth rental apartment are financed by the state. If the payments flowing indirectly to the owners were described as subsidies, they would be the largest economic stimulus in the federal German budget

Right to Housing instead of Real Estate Exploitation Coalition

The business with apartments is embedded in political contexts and the constellation of organized interests and cannot only be explained from the economic principles of a capitalist urbanization. Nationwide and local “Alliances for Housing” or groups of experts are usually dominated by those professionally involved with urban development and hou9sing and develop a common interest in the city’s exploitation of the land. From a social science perspective, the concept of urban growth coalitions is emphasized by real estate exploitation coalitions who define problems, propose solutions and develop and convert general programs. Social and
ecological aspects regularly fall by the wayside when housing questions are defined by those who want to earn their money by developing real estate.

So it is not surprising that the associations of the construction- and housing economy explain the absent new building – in marvelous harmony – as the cause of today’s housing crisis and urge a mix of simplified approval processes, accelerated land allocation and fiscal investment incentives. Every intervention like rent brakes, proposals on housing cooperatives or protection from rent hikes by resident protectorates were rejected in the past years with a “that doesn’t build any new housing!” By successful framing, the branch translated the social questions of a business model into a quantity question of housing production.

That the debates shifted and the housing question is seen as a crisis of social housing supply is ultimately due to many renter-initiatives and base projects. Independent of the necessity of new construction, initiatives in growing cities have shown that reasonably priced apartments are lacking in cities. When seemingly radical demands and a rent increase moratorium or the expropriation of mammoth real estate companies are raised in reaction to skyrocketing rents and displacement worries, this shows years of studying Marx are not needed in cities like Berlin to recognize that private business interests oppose social housing. The right to housing for everyone must be understood as a public challenge and presupposes the de-commodification of the housing supply, a democratization of urban policy, and breach with the real estate exploitation coalition. 

Posted in 2011 | Leave a comment

Reflection on the Political Crisis and Right-wing Populism


Reflections on the Political Crisis and Right-wing Populism
by Frank Deppe and Dieter Boris, 2019

Reflections on the character of the political crisis

by Frank Deppe

[This article posted in March 2019 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.zeitschrift-marxistische-erneuerung.de/article/3444.ueberlegungen-zum-charakter-der-politischen-krise.html.]

“Time is out of joint: shame and grief,

That I came to the world to set it up!”

(William Shakespeare, Hamlet, 1602,

1st act, 5th scene, translation: Erich Fried)

On the eve of the World Economic Forum in Davos, a Global Risks Report 2019 was published. It is dedicated to the dangers the world will face in the coming year. The range of such risks is broad: from natural disasters, diseases, cyber attacks to the threat of war, trade wars and economic and financial crises. “The greatest risk to humanity… currently lies in ‘geopolitical and geo-economic tensions between the major powers in the world’ … At the same time, ‘macroeconomic risks’ are increasing,” he said. Economic growth is declining worldwide. Financial markets were showing increasing volatility and the global debt burden, at a massive 225 percent of world economic output, was considerably higher than before the ‘global financial crisis’ of 2007 to 2009. In the face of increasing tensions, it was even unclear whether common solutions could be found in the event of the outbreak of a new global crisis.”[1]

The Davos Forum was founded nearly 50 years ago – as a meeting place and discussion forum for a global elite of politicians, top executives of transnational corporations and banks, and prominent academics. The participants of the forum – according to the official mission – want to participate in “improving the state of the world” (“committed to improving the state of the world)”. “Davos” sees itself as an informal forum of “global governance” whose importance is considered by some participants to be higher than that of the United Nations (UN), for example. The public and non-public dialogue between the rich and powerful of this world is supposed to be part of a global management that promotes good business, but also “orderly relations”, including the reduction of borders and tensions, of conflicts between states or between power blocs.

Perplexed elites

The escalation of global risks and open crises, however, suggests that this goal is increasingly being missed. This year – for different reasons – the political leaders of major states were not present – Donald Trump (USA), Emmanuel Macron (France), Vladimir Putin (Russia), Xi Jingping (China) and Theresa May (UK). The idea and conception of the forum – namely, to launch or support the political management of global problems through transnational consensus among key players in business and politics – seem clearly damaged. The discrepancy between the description of risks and crises on the one hand and the awareness of the lack of problem-solving competence of the political and economic “elites” of the West creates a rather pessimistic parting mood in Davos.[2] The Süddeutsche Zeitung headlines after a few days (Jan. 26, 2019): “Perplexed in Davos. At the World Economic Forum, people openly discuss the negative consequences of globalization, but the powerful admit: there is a lack of ideas on how to eliminate inequality.”

As recently as 2012/13, liberal managers of the Great Financial and Economic Crisis of 2007 – 2009 had cheered that they had the crisis “under control,” that a crash of the entire system had been prevented, and that the rise in mass unemployment had also been limited (unlike after 1929). The U.S. took care of rescuing the financial system; China provided a huge boost to investment and growth to revive the global economy. Economic historian Adam Tooze, in his comprehensive study of ten years of financial crisis, suggests that “the jubilation of liberal crisis managers … was premature… meanwhile, we must be prepared for the fact that the crisis … is not yet over. What we are now dealing with is not a repetition but a mutation and metastasis … the financial and economic crisis of 2007 to 2012 is morphing into a full-scale political and geopolitical crisis of the post-Cold War world order between 2013 and 2017.”[3] Tooze points to “longer-term problems of a modern capitalist democracy,” “growing inequality and disenfranchisement,” and the massive side effects of fighting the crisis that have since become apparent.

Colin Crouch’s[4] post-democratic diagnosis of the times from the years before the Great Crisis has now become radicalized. The tendency toward “authoritarian capitalism,”[5] the “death of democracies,”[6] and the looming of fascist dangers[7] have long since become topics of political and academic debate. The naive optimism that celebrated the new wave of democratization in the world after 1991 (“end of history,” Fukuyama) has given way to the hangover of a new crisis consciousness. Stefan Kornelius laments in the Süddeutsche Zeitung (9/26/2018) about the “farewell of the USA”: with Trump, they have turned into an “inward-looking, destructive and isolationist superpower … the world trade system… is on the verge of collapse with hardly calculable consequences for prosperity and thus social stability in large parts of the world.” Heitmeyer summarizes the “authoritarian temptations”: “An increasingly authoritarian capitalism intensifies social disintegration processes in Western societies, generates destructive pressure on liberal democracies, and promotes authoritarian movements, parties, and regimes.”[8]

Economic and political crises

In the theoretical history of Marxism, the concept of crisis plays a central role. Not infrequently, and often justifiably, Marxists have been reproached for tending to inflate the concept of crisis. Not every contradiction is already a crisis! And also the lack of morality on the part of the rulers (“greed of the rich” etc.) reflects rather the state of normality in the system of profit-making than that of an economic or political-moral crisis. In this context, the question of the connection between economic and political crises has been raised again and again. Marx dealt with both the periodic business cycles and the structural determinants of accumulation crises (overaccumulation of capital, underconsumption, tendential fall of the rate of profit). However, he also emphasized the “counteracting causes” as well as the “cleansing function” of economic crises, which enable the continuation of accumulation or a new upswing. Schumpeter followed this up with his thesis of “creative destruction.” Marx and Engels also recognized a long-term historical tendency of capital accumulation driven by the development of productive forces, the tendency toward the centralization of capital (monopolization), but also by global competition and the effects of class struggle on the power relations of the classes. This tendency necessitates political, i.e. state, intervention to safeguard capital valorization and to “tame” the class conflict in sociopolitical terms.

After the defeat of the 1848 revolutions, Marx and Engels were still convinced that a new economic crisis would also “produce” a new period of revolutionary struggles. However, they later no longer advocated this direct link between the economic and political crisis. They were aware that after 1871 (“Paris Commune”) a new epoch of capitalist development, nation-building and organization of the workers’ movement had begun. Engels stated in 1895: “The time of surprise, of revolutions carried out by small conscious minorities at the head of unconscious masses, is over.”[9] Nevertheless, Marxist theorists and politicians have repeatedly invoked – especially in periods of economic crises – the connection between the collapse of production, the rise of misery and mass unemployment, and a political crisis in which class struggles radicalize to the point of a “revolutionary crisis,” i.e., open struggle for state power. The imperialism analyses from the beginning of the 20th centuryhave worked out the connection between monopolization and the cross-border expansion of capital, rearmament and the approaching danger of war. The First World War, in fact, turned out to be a hitherto completely unknown intensification of the political crisis, the “primordial catastrophe” of the 20th century. Between 1929 and 1933, the Communist International diagnosed a “death crisis of capitalism,” to which it responded through fascist dictatorship and the preparation of another war. The strategy of a “revolutionary rush to power” derived from this failed, and not only in Germany in 1933.

In the 20th century, Marxist economists – against the background of the “long waves” of the business cycle – distinguished between periods with expansive or stagnant underlying tendencies, between “major” and “minor crises.” In the Great Crises, as a result of class struggles and wars, the relationship between accumulation and state regulation of the entire process of reproduction and the stability of society as a whole were each redefined.

In 1920, Lenin, in writing on the critique of “left radicalism,” had spoken of a “fundamental law of revolution” “that has been confirmed by all revolutions and especially by all three Russian revolutions of the 20th century.” Revolutionary situations do not arise as a result of a cyclical economic crisis, but in it reactions to multiple – longer-term – crisis processes are condensed – from the impoverishment of broad masses of people, to the experience of political despotism and oppression, to the consequences of wars. He was aware that the catastrophe of the world war (including its economic consequences) formed an essential political precondition for the escalation into revolutionary crisis situations in various countries. For Lenin, the transition from economic to political crisis was connected with the emergence of a revolutionary situation in which the struggle for state power takes center stage. “For revolution it is not enough that the exploited and oppressed masses become aware of the impossibility of continuing to live in the old way and demand a change; for revolution it is necessary that the exploiters can no longer rule in the old way. Only when the ‘lower classes’ do not want the old and the ‘upper classes’ can no longer in the old way, only then can the revolution triumph. In other words, this truth can be expressed thus: The revolution is impossible without an all-national crisis (encompassing exploited as well as exploiters). Consequently, for revolution it is necessary: first, that the majority of workers (or at any rate the majority of class-conscious, thinking, politically active workers) fully grasp the necessity of the overthrow and are ready to go to their deaths for its sake; second, that the ruling classes undergo a crisis of government which draws even the most backward masses into politics, … renders the government powerless, and makes it possible for revolutionaries to overthrow this government quickly. “[10] Lenin’s thesis of the “primacy of politics over economics” refers, of course, to the level of political practice in which theoretical insights and strategic conclusions must be communicated. This, for Lenin, is the central task and role of the political organization, the party.

Great crises as crises of hegemony

After 1928, in prison, Antonio Gramsci dealt with the experience of two crises: the post-war revolutionary crisis (1917-1923), which ended with the victory of fascism in Italy, and the world economic crisis after 1929, which ended with the victory of fascism in Germany. He opposes deterministic and economistic interpretations of crisis. Every crisis is embedded in complex historical-political contexts. “It will be necessary to fight anyone who wants to give a single definition of these events or, what is the same thing, find a single cause or origin. It is a process with multiple manifestations…”[11] The crisis always offers the opportunity for the reorganization of the “ruling bloc” or for a “passive revolution,” that is, for economic, social upheavals in order to re-stabilize the rule of capital or the bourgeoisie. The “ruling bloc” thus responds a) to the contradictions of capital accumulation that produced the crisis, and b) to the relationship of forces of the classes expressed in the social and political struggles to overcome the crisis. In this sense, the Great Crises constitute turning points in the history of bourgeois-capitalist society. What can be learned from Gramsci is that there is no mechanism that directly transforms the economic structural crisis of capitalism into a revolutionary crisis.

The hegemony of a class presupposes that it is (economically) dominant and (politically) leading. It must (within the framework of a democratic constitution) also base the legitimacy of its rule on the consensus of subaltern classes or class fractions. In the process, class compromises must be made. “The interests and tendencies of the groupings over which hegemony is to be exercised (are) taken into account.” From this “a certain balance of compromise is formed, that is, that the leading group makes sacrifices of a corporate-economic kind, but there is no doubt that such sacrifices and such compromise cannot concern the essential, for if hegemony is political-ethical, it cannot but be economic as well, cannot but have its material basis in the decisive function which the leading group exercises in the decisive core area of economic activity.”[12]

Gramsci then speaks of an “authority crisis” or an “interregnum”. “When the ruling class has lost the consensus, i.e. is no longer ‘leading’ but solely ‘ruling,’ holder of pure coercive power, this means precisely that the great masses have moved away from traditional ideologies, no longer believe in what they believed in before, etc. The crisis consists precisely in the fact that the old is dying and the new cannot come into the world: in this interregnum the most diverse symptoms of illness occur.”[13] The “death of the old ideologies,” he adds, at the same time opens favorable conditions for the “unheard-of spread of historical materialism.” Elsewhere, he refers to the crisis of authority (“organic crisis”) as a “crisis of hegemony or crisis of the state in its totality.” In the face of the “mortal danger” (that would be the proletarian revolution), all parties and groups of the (old) ruling bloc unite “under a single leadership”, “the only one considered capable of solving an existentially dominant problem and averting a mortal danger.”[14] In this context, Gramsci refers to Marx’s “18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte”, that is, to the connection between Bonapartism and fascism.

Manifestations of the “organic crisis

Marx and Gramsci – at different times (1852/1934) – analyzed political crises in the system of bourgeois rule. The economically ruling class, the bourgeoisie, which had advocated the declaration of human rights and parliamentary-representative democracy under the sign of liberalism, submits to a dictator who – by coup d’état – suspends parliamentary institutions, suppresses the left and organizes popular consent through plebiscites. Bonaparte relied on adventurers, the socially declassed, and the parcel peasants, small farmers who had emerged after 1789 from the dissolution of aristocratic large estates, but who were predominantly poverty-stricken until 1850. In the “18. Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte,” Marx writes: “By denouncing what it formerly celebrated as ‘liberal’ now as ‘socialist,’ the bourgeoisie admits that its own interest dictates that it be subjected to the danger of self-government, that in order to establish tranquility in the country, above all its bourgeois parliament must be quieted, in order to preserve its social power intact, its political power broken; that the private bourgeois can only continue to exploit the other classes and to enjoy unclouded property, family, religion, and order, on condition that their class be condemned to equal political nullity with the other classes; that, in order to save their purse, the crown must be cut off from it, and the sword which was to protect it must at the same time be hung as a sword of Damocles over its own head. “[15]

The turn to Bonapartism or authoritarianism is not a direct response to an economic crisis. It is also only a mediated response to the danger of proletarian revolution; for – according to Marx – the working class and its left, communist wing had already been defeated in June 1848. In Gramsci’s remarks on the character of Italian fascism, however, its front position against socialism and communism at home and against the Soviet Union or against the CI naturally plays an essential role. Nevertheless, Gramsci is more interested in the question of whether and how the victory of fascism in Italy after World War I – then also as a reaction to the Russian October Revolution of 1917 – was favored by the hegemonic weakness of the bourgeoisie in the last instance, which had persisted since the founding of the state (1870). No stable hegemonic constellation emerged from the Risorgimento – according to Gramsci – under the political leadership of the Italian bourgeoisie. This resulted in extreme political instability as well as the inability of governments to resolve the country’s problems and contradictions (North-South antagonism: industrialization versus quasi-feudal agrarian relations in the South; as well as the class antagonism between the working class and the bourgeoisie). In addition, there was the foreign policy of a sub-imperialist power with colonial “catch-up” needs. These were features of a constellation of rule whose contradictions intensified during the World War. In the subsequent “two red years” (the council movement in the north, the “biennio rosso”) and finally with the victory of fascism by 1922, a political crisis of hegemony manifested itself among the bourgeoisie, which willingly submitted to Mussolini’s dictatorship in order to secure its economic domination and to profit from the fascist state’s suppression of the socialist/communist workers’ movement.

The “Bonapartist constellation” can thus be understood as a response to an “organic crisis” in which economic domination and political leadership (along with the mobilization of consensus “from below”) by the bourgeoisie (and by the ideological state apparatuses) are increasingly falling apart. Consensus is being replaced by repression, democracy by dictatorship, pluralism by the cult of leadership and völkisch identities. But how does the “organic crisis” appear as a political crisis on the surface? Its most general expression is political instability, disorder: as a result of elections, no clear majorities emerge to form governments, the “people’s parties” of the “old order” of a “stable (democratic) center” lose prestige and voters, the “political class” (and its associated media sector) falls into disrepute. In the minds of growing segments of the people, confidence in their competence to solve pressing social and political problems is waning. Cases of corruption, as well as the self-alimentation of the political class by the state finances, reinforce the loss of legitimacy of the “bloc in power” and the disdain on the part of the subalterns, who are now also called upon by the upsurge of left-wing and right-wing populist movements and parties. The political right propagates the leader model as an alternative to the party state and parliamentarism.[16] Carl Schmitt (1888 – 1985), whom the New Right still reveres today, had already argued in this sense in his 1923 critique of parliamentarism that the “myth of the nation” – personified by a “leader” (Duce) acclaimed by the people – was superior to the “relative rationalism of parliamentary thinking” in a time of crises. [17] The social and political left, on the other hand, in addition to defending human rights, will advocate a program of social democracy critical of capitalism, calling for interventions in market freedoms as well as property relations in the interest of the “many”[18] and addressing the exit from fossil fuel dependence and growth coercion.

Market freedoms and democracy

The crisis of democratic representation was already recognized at the beginning of the 21st century as a consequence of the weakening of nation-state institutions in the course of the globalization process. The tendency toward “authoritarian capitalism” results, among other things, from a “new constitutionalism” that subjects the actions of nation-states to the constraints of global competition (location competition). Market-oriented democracy,” as called for by the German chancellor, is based on the premise that there is no alternative to adapting politics to the demands of global competition. In the field of domestic policy, therefore, the competitiveness of the respective location (the company, the region, as well as the state as a whole) must be secured and optimized. Individuals are also subjected to this competitive discipline (at school and university, at work, and even in social relationships). The internalization of such constraints characterizes not only the type of “labor entrepreneur,” but also a TV culture in which superstars, models, and winners of quiz shows are incessantly produced.[19] A Social Darwinist like Donald Trump congratulated the winner on his TV show as an “American Hero” and shouted to the rest, “You are Fired!” This makes the policy of neoliberalism appear to have no alternative, both internally and externally (“There is No Alternative”). According to Stephen Gill, by the end of the old century neoliberalism had already turned into “disciplining neoliberalism,” which is no longer hegemonic (in Gramsci’s sense), but is increasingly associated with a “politics of domination.”[20] The “classics” of neoliberalism are the “classics” of neoliberalism.

The “classics” of neoliberal thought – from Vilfredo Pareto to F.A. Hayek – were already convinced that the expansion of market freedoms must necessarily lead to the restriction of “popular sovereignty.” They feared that the lower classes – supported by a strong socialist or communist labor movement – will use the right to vote to enable state policies that socialize private ownership of the means of production or even make regulatory interventions in property relations, in the distribution of wealth (through tax policy), in the power of disposal of capital at the enterprise level (through economic democracy), in the risk areas of unemployment, illness and old age, etc. The crises of capitalism – in 1929ff, in the 1970s and in the present – were and are therefore still assessed by the disciples of these “classics” as the consequence of political – especially socio-political – interventions in the freedom of the markets. Against such dangers, one would then also have to be prepared to change the constitution (by restricting the right to vote or by declaring a state of emergency) or to support a dictatorship whose further task would be to break the power of the trade unions.

The weakening of nation-state regulation through globalization processes was often interpreted – by liberals as well as left-wing anti-statists – as progress during the upswing phase of the neoliberal hegemonic cycle until the end of the 20th century. “Global governance” would be ensured by international organizations, NGOs and free trade agreements, but also by the expansion of supranational competences, e.g. of the European Union. The power structures of the “American Empire” were mostly ignored.[21] Toni Negri’s followers welcomed the loss of sovereignty of the nation-state, imagining themselves already on the road to communism. They also did not face the question of what role states and global institutions would play in the system of transnational institutions in the event of world economic and political crises. From the beginning, the reason for this ignorance was that they had not recognized the global system (empire) as a system of political and economic power relations and imbalances, that is, of power hierarchies between states. The maxim “globalization (plus cosmopolitanism and abolition of border regimes) is good – nation-state (with nationalism) is reactionary” is therefore at an extremely low level of scientific and political knowledge. It does not go beyond mere moral outrage in the face of the recent reactionary renaissance of nationalism and racism.

Loss of control and crisis of representation

The crisis of representation (as a crisis of legitimacy), however, is in turn reinforced by the “loss of control” (Heitmeyer): on the one hand, a “loss of control of the ruling polity”[22], on the other hand, at the level of individuals. These feel – often independently of their concrete socio-economic situation – fear and powerlessness with regard to the – current and future – shaping of their working and living conditions.[23] Dieter Sauer et al. note in their “Arbeitsweltliche Spurensuche” (search for traces in the working world) on the influence of “right-wing populism” in the trade unions that among wage-earners the “effects of the increasing pressure to perform” in companies “reinforce resigned attitudes” to “defend themselves against it”. They are “dominated by fears of relegation and the future, by loss of control and experiences of devaluation.” Together with “disenchantments with politics,” this opens the “gateway for right-wing populism.”[24]

The crisis of representation is thus closely related to a social crisis that goes hand in hand with the divisions between top and bottom, with social insecurity about the future, with feelings of powerlessness in the face of “globalization,” and with the perception of the risks of the economic-ecological pincer crisis, as well as with the weakness of the social and political left. Even before 2008, many people’s mistrust was focused on transnational projects that were touted as progress within the framework of the EU (single market, euro) or within the framework of international organizations (IMF, World Bank, “Washington Consensus,” etc.) in the design of new free trade agreements. The eastward expansion of the EU as well as the introduction of the euro met with massive criticism within many member states. There were already complaints of a split between educated middle classes, the “elites,” and the “people.” Among the “little people,” fear of social decline was increasingly combined with a negative assessment of a policy of cross-border liberalism and its consequences (for example, on the labor markets). There were massive protests against the EU’s so-called “Bolkestein Directive,” which was supposed to liberalize the European labor market for services – especially from trade unions, which knew about the effects of low-wage competition (undermining national, collectively agreed regulations) from the EU’s Eastern European member states.[25] Since then, right-wing nationalism has tried to take advantage of these sentiments.

The erosion of the hegemony of the (economically) ruling class, the bourgeoisie, results in the last instance from the fact that the latter – as an expression of the loss of control – does not have a majority-capable “state project” as crisis management, with which both coherence within its own class and the integration of various class fractions (including representatives of the working class) into the “integral state” or “ruling bloc” can be guaranteed. In the post-World War II Fordist formation of capitalism, the class compromise of welfare-state regulated capitalism was one such project designed to respond to the interwar crises and systemic competition. Conservative, liberal and socialist forces competed for the concrete shape of the project. As a result of elections, governments were formed which, in the Federal Republic, were led by the CDU/CSU – shifted to the right – or by the SPD – shifted to the left. The neoliberal “counterrevolution” since the end of the 1970s was also a project that mobilized majorities and was able to incorporate various class factions in the “bloc in power.” The new social democracy of Tony Blair and Gerhard Schröder adopted and modified the project, which was to realize global competitiveness and the dismantling of state regulation at home. The projects of European integration and transatlantic security policy (in the Cold War era), were also supported over a long period of time by broad support from the major parties and their electorates. They were widely equated with the “prosperity” and “security of the West.” The fact that negative attitudes and evaluations in these policy areas in particular had been on the rise since the beginning of the century was an early indicator that central areas of prevailing politics could no longer count on unbroken approval.

The Crisis of Globalization and Rising Inequalities

Wolfgang Streeck was quick to point out that with the transition to a period of “interregnum,” the “experts in the repair shops of capitalism…have, it seems, never been more divided than they are today, not only about the therapy, but also about the diagnosis…The three trends, now decades old, that mark the gradual decay of contemporary capitalism as a social system capable of reproduction continue unabated and are beginning to spiral downward together. Declining growth, rising inequality, and rising overall debt-where low growth increases income inequality just as it conversely, in the form of increasing concentration of social wealth among the top ‘one percent,’ stands in the way of higher growth; economic stagnation makes debt reduction just as difficult as high debt stands in the way of the additional borrowing required for new growth, even at the lowest interest rates; and with ever-higher debt pyramids, the risk of a renewed financial system collapse continually increases. “[26]

The cycle of hegemony opened in the last quarter of the 20th century in the Great Transformation and with the triumph of neoliberal policies and ideology[27] has passed into a constellation of “reflexive globalization”. The expansive phase up to the end of the century was characterized by enormous growth and dissolution of boundaries, internationalization of production and financial markets, opening of new markets (as a consequence of the collapse of real socialism and the opening of China), as well as by the beginning of a (digital) revolution of productive forces, a recomposition of the working class, and the dismantling of the Fordist welfare regime. “Reflexive globalization,” on the other hand, means that the internal contradictions of this expansion are having more and more of an impact on the very metropolises of capital from which these processes emanate. The consequence of the wars waged by the West since 1991 are part of this, as are the consequences of the growth of industrial civilization, which is partly responsible for the destruction of nature as well as for climate change, but also for the misery in the world. The increase in refugee and migration movements in the world has just as much of an impact on the metropolises as the crisis potentials on the global financial markets and the efforts of numerous governments to arm and modernize their armies. In this way, they aim to improve their position of power in the face of intensified international competition. Military threat potentials are intended to support national interests in international and bilateral conflicts.

The second dimension of the “organic crisis” underlying the rise of right-wing populism and nationalism is reproduced by “uneven development” in capitalism. In the capital metropolises themselves, the policies of neoliberal globalization have driven an enormous strengthening of transnational corporations and finance capital, and at the same time the division between rich and poor, between the top “1%” and the rest of the “99%”[28]. As a result of the flexibilization and internationalization of labor markets, a growing sector of precarity (with temporary employment and low wages) has established itself in the capital metropolises, encompassing almost a third of the workforce and giving rise to the phenomenon of “full-employment poverty.”[29]

The decline of the “West” – led by the U.S. – and the rise of the “East” – led by China – produce new power conflicts and increase the risk of military confrontations. In the “ruling bloc,” therefore, the willingness to accept violent and authoritarian solutions for the state’s ability to act will increase. At the same time, the uneven socioeconomic development between different states – on the global level, but also within the West or the European Union (EU) – intensifies both the competitive pressure and the tendency toward national isolation. In the EU, this tendency has clearly intensified since the 1990s, since the eastward enlargement, the realization of the internal market and the introduction of the euro. The establishment of authoritarian regimes in Hungary and Poland, for example, was also a reaction to the fact that, via the EU, exports of goods and capital from the “rich” states (above all Germany and Austria) inhibit the development of a national bourgeoisie, while at the same time forcing the export of cheap labor to the rich countries. When, as a result of the crisis of 2007/8, unemployment increased and poverty as well as public and private debt increased once again[30], the ground was prepared for the successes of a nationalist policy that prioritizes national economic promotion and social policy as well as the isolation from a common refugee and asylum policy of the EU.

In dealing with these constellations of contradictions, a new – social and political – line of conflict has solidified, which both divides the “ruling bloc” and, at the level of civil society, triggers sometimes fierce controversies and confrontations as a contrast between “cosmopolitanism and populist nationalism”[31]. Nancy Fraser has sharpened – also for the left debate – this line of conflict. The political crisis of neoliberalism is reflected in the fact that the electoral successes of right-wing populists, as well as those of the political left (e.g. Sanders or Corbyn), include rejections of “economic- and finance-driven globalization, neoliberalism, and the political establishments that promoted both.” These voters supported a No vote to the “lethal combination of austerity policies, free trade, exploitative credit and debt practices, and precarious, low-paid employment.”[32] According to Fraser, this “mutiny of the electorate” is directed primarily against a “progressive neoliberalism” that is a “state project” of the “ruling bloc” of the New Labour era (from Clinton to Tony Blair to Gerhard Schröder, Felipe Gonzales et al. ) was supported by a broad alliance of social and political forces: “an alliance between, on the one hand, tone-setting currents of the new social movements (feminism, anti-racism, multiculturalism, and the advocates of LGTBQ rights) and, on the other hand, commercial, often service-based sectors of high symbolic value (Wall Street, Silicon Valley, Hollywood).”[33] Via the New Social Democracy in government, parts of the trade unions were also integrated into this bloc. The left – according to Fraser – should think about “how we can overcome the political economy of financialized capitalism by reinvigorating Sanders’ catchphrase of ‘democratic socialism’ …”[34].

Challenges to crisis management

What constellations of contradictions constitute the core of the “organic crisis” and reinforce loss of control and perplexity at the level of political crisis management?

Tooze states at the end of his major study, “Since 2007, the scale of the financial crisis has placed extreme strain on the relationship between democratic policymaking and the demands of capitalist system governance.” This “manifests itself in a ‘crisis of political parties.'” They are paying the price for their “inability” to “constructively and effectively confront the crises and pressures.”[35] The fear of a new global economic and financial crisis is accompanied by the fear that the global crisis management of the years after 2008 via the “Dollar Wall Street regime” and the FED is not repeatable and would be deliberately blocked by Donald Trump with the “America First” policy. The answers of the experts as well as the relevant political actors to these dangers show helplessness! There is no “project” of a global answer and crisis solution which could establish the hegemony of the bourgeoisie (in the sense of Gramsci).

The “economic-ecological pincer crisis” demands national as well as transnational efforts to stop the destruction of the environment, natural resources and climate change. Angela Merkel pleaded in Davos for states to “act together and strengthen the ‘multilateral order’ in the face of global problems – climate change, pollution, refugees, financial crises.” But it also left us perplexed because it had nothing to say about the practical implementation of this order.[36] The alternative ideas of left economists, growth critics, and global ecology movements are marginalized by governments that pursue the “national interest” first and foremost in the interests of the ruling economic class. The cost of rearmament and the military exceeds the resources spent on protecting the environment and combating the climate crisis. The power of international organizations and multilateral (institutionally secured) agreements is waning in the face of crises and conflicts related to the struggle for the new world order.

Responses to the accelerating productive power revolution (“Industry 4.0) are highly controversial. Utopias of a society freed from the burden of heavy physical labor, in which working hours can be significantly reduced, are confronted with negative forecasts and scenarios. These predict an increase in unemployment due to redundancies in the industrial sector (especially the automotive industry) and thus an increase in poverty and misery. At the same time, competition between states to appropriate the benefits and profits of the technological revolution, which also permeates the military sector, will increase. Domestically, there is a need for a policy of reducing working hours while at the same time developing new training and career prospects in services – care, health care, science and culture. The terms “digitalization” and “Industry 4.0” dominate the political discourse; they mark a “state project” in the interest of the economic ruling class – above all to ensure global competitiveness – that will intensify social divisions within as well as competition and power struggles between states.

Inequality between classes and between states or regions has been exacerbated by the management of the Great Crisis after 2008. Thus, the pressure of migration – as a reaction both to the consequences of wars, but also to environmental damage and water shortages, to poverty, dictatorships and “failed states” – has also increased on the rich metropolises of the North. There, new social and cultural problems are emerging, but also new political-ideological divisions regarding how to deal with migration. The responses to these problems by the “ruling bloc” – sealing off on the one hand, increasing competitiveness on the other, and a flanking social policy that increases the pressure to prove oneself in deregulated labor markets with rising precarious employment – flank social polarization, but also social decline processes (especially in the middle classes). The rise of right-wing populism, which wants to reduce and stop immigration, is among other things a reaction to this development. However, dissatisfaction with the prevailing politics is increasing, as is the willingness to protest and resist, including the willingness to strike.[37] The “yellow vests” movement in France of 2018/19 is perceived as the failure of a young president who only recently had himself celebrated as a “revolutionary” who wanted to radically change the crisis of the economy, politics and society in France – in the sense of a neoliberal reform program. A national assembly of the “Yellow Vests” drafted a call at the end of January 2019, stating their goals: “Since November 17, from the smallest village, from rural areas to the largest city, we have risen up against this deeply violent, unjust and intolerable society. We will not let this continue! We are rebelling against the high cost of living, insecurity and poverty. We want to live in dignity for our loved ones, our families and our children. 26 billionaires own as much as half of humanity, this is unacceptable. Let’s share the wealth instead of the misery! Let’s put an end to social inequality! We demand an immediate increase in wages, minimum social standards, allowances and pensions, an unconditional right to housing and health, education and free public services for all.”[38]

Alternatives of left politics advocate redistribution in income and wealth, the restoration of a strong public sector, a significant increase in investment for a functioning infrastructure, in health, care and education. All of these measures require interventions in property and wealth relations and measures to regulate markets – combined with measures for a new international economic and financial order and multilateral regimes to address global problems. Such an alternative can be the starting point for socialist politics in the 21st century.[39] However, in order to prevent this, the political forces associated with the economic ruling class must increasingly move to restrict democratic rights and use methods of violence to secure their rule.

Hegemonic shifts and the EU

All these fields or subfields of the “multiple crisis” are superimposed, overdetermined by the profound changes in the field of world order. After the end of system competition, the USA saw itself as the only world leader and therefore also as the “world policeman”. Germany, as a “sub-imperialist” power that was simultaneously expanding its supremacy in the European Union (EU), was well able to come to terms with this strategy. The U.S. world policeman role failed with the military response to “Nine-Eleven-2001.” At the latest with the Great Crisis of 2008 onwards, the awareness of the decline of the “West” and the US leadership role increased. The rise of China, the shift of the weights of the world economy from the Atlantic to the Pacific or to the “South” had, of course, already been registered since the end of the last century. However, the consequences of the crisis in the West – the election of Donald Trump and the crisis of the EU – have enormously increased the perplexity and the awareness of the loss of control. It is not the global economic and military power of the U.S., but its hegemonic leadership role (combined with the provision of public goods) that is being called into question by Donald Trump’s “America First” policy itself. In this context, as Ulrich Menzel points out, the “old leading power” faces a “hegemonic dilemma”: “Should it maintain its leadership role, should it continue to provide international public goods despite its declining capacity, tolerate the free-riding of the catching-up laggards and thereby promote its own decline? Or should it take up the emerging conflict of hegemony in the sense of limiting, even abrogating, its role as a supplier of international public goods and focusing its dwindling resources only on its own development?”[40]

The Chinese Communist Party’s program for the 21st century, presented by its leader Xi Jinping at the last party congress (October 2017), aims to overcome poverty at home, but also proclaims the vision of a “new world order” that is not subject to the hegemony of the West.[41] China offers precisely the countries of the South models of economic and political cooperation that can advance their development and independence. At the same time, the “Silk Road” project opens up prospects for economic development as well as closer economic integration of the Euro-Asian region (including Europe and Russia) through the expansion of transport routes and economic interdependence. Together with its military efforts, the People’s Republic of China therefore embodies the classic type of emerging, challenging great power that will question the role of the old leading power (the U.S.) or the old leading powers (the West).[42] Political uncertainty and perplexity in the West also relates to the question of whether there will inevitably have to be an “elimination struggle” in the course of the century. Here, too, the strategic options within the “ruling bloc” are divided: on the one side are the (more liberal) supporters of cooperation (and free trade) – on the other the (conservative) hardliners and “hawks” who rely on the power of military superiority. The prevention of such a violent “elimination struggle” has become one of the central issues of peace and foreign policy in the 21st century!

In this context, the state of the EU conveys the chilling image of a deep political crisis, the overcoming of which is not in sight. At the turn of the millennium (2000), the Lisbon Summit was still celebrating the successes of integration policy after the end of the East-West conflict: Single market, eastward enlargement, economic and monetary union, introduction of the euro. The Union – so the heads of state proclaimed – was on its way to becoming a “global player,” a world power in a newly forming world order. Nothing has remained of this mood. In the euro crisis – brought to a head in the Greek crisis, then in Brexit – supranational elements of a European economic and financial regime have indeed been expanded since 2011. To this end, the ECB assumed an important role as crisis manager. However, it saw its task primarily in “rescuing” the European banking system, which is closely interconnected with the “dollar Wall Street regime” (Peter Gowan). Nevertheless, in the course of the crises since 2008, both centrifugal forces, disintegration tendencies, and, ultimately, nationalist discourses and activities have increased enormously. In the refugee crisis since 2015, it became dramatically clear how “in the sign of diverging national interests and intensified distributional struggles” politics became increasingly renationalized.[43] Germany’s economic supremacy was expanded. The coercive austerity regime imposed by the German government on Greece and other debtor states has severely damaged German leadership, and overall the legitimacy of the “Europe” project – as a project of prosperity, democracy and peace. Adam Tooze refers to the eurozone as “a German prison.”[44]

Brexit is seen by more than a few actors as the beginning of a disintegration of the EU in its current composition and constitution. Former Foreign Minister Joseph Fischer fears the consequences of renationalization: the “states of Europe … (will) finally abdicate from the world stage in an order of sovereign states …. Europe would be torn between transatlantism and Eurasia and become easy prey for the non-European great and world powers of the 21st century – and, if worst came to worst, even the theater of their global hegemonic struggles.”[45] For the hyper-realist Herfried Münkler in the “Courts of Power,” Europe – under German or Franco-German leadership – must “secure its vital interests independently of the United States” after Trump’s election and face the “challenges on its borders.” These lie in the east (Russia), in the southeast (from the Balkans to the Middle East) and in northern Africa (Maghreb). The “EU is no longer the security ward of the United States… It must develop and maintain, independently of the United States, all the capabilities needed to protect its space while ensuring that it can seize opportunities to have a voice in world politics.” The Machiavellian strategist, of course, forgets to address the question of how the EU’s political crises are to be overcome so that the EU – as a collective actor alongside the great powers – could have an influence on world politics.[46]

A socialist project against nationalist


The reflections on the political crisis support the thesis of the change of epoch or the transition into a crisis-like period of “interregnum”. This is characterized in particular by the fact that the economic ruling class and its factions – at the level of nation states as well as in the system of “global governance” – are increasingly losing the ability to control economic and political challenges, crises and contradiction complexes. Nor do they have a hegemonic state project that, in the bloc in power, enables coalitions with other classes and class fractions – at the same time international alliances with the capacity for global crisis management. The often invoked perplexity of politics reflects this fundamental dilemma. Yet the crisis consciousness of the time is not determined by economic collapses: the world economy has developed dynamically in the 10 years following the 2008 crisis.[47] The economic system of global capitalism, based on global corporations, financial markets (with the U.S. dollar as the decisive anchor currency), and the power of the American state, has been expanded even further. [48] The downsides of economic prosperity appear in the long-term decline of the U.S. share of global GDP, but especially in the “decline of society … with particularly mediocre scores in environmental quality, nutrition and basic health care, and access to basic knowledge.”[49] The U.S. has been a major contributor to this decline. However, numerous countries have taken much longer than the U.S., Germany and some states in the north of the EU to recover economically from the consequences of the crisis. Italy is already reported to have fallen back into recession by early 2019.

The production of wealth on a global scale has accelerated enormously. The “digital revolution” is changing not only communication systems, but also the systems of production, work and mass culture. Potentials for “good life” and “good work” are opening up everywhere; at the same time, divisions are widening between the bottom and the top, between poverty and wealth, between the greed and extravagance of the rich and the misery of the marginalized. The policy of “muddling through” does little to mask those pessimistic forecasts that fear the “interregnum” as a transition to a new “age of catastrophes.”[50] That the “jeunesse dorée” of the ruling class (and its aggregated cultural industries, which include the world of fashion and sports) lives and celebrates by the motto “After us, the deluge” reminds some of pre-revolutionary periods in European history. The enjoyment of wealth by the rulers with a simultaneous loss of social and political hegemonic capacity – in the sense of loss of control and helplessness – characterizes a culture of decadence. Machiavelli wrote – in Florence – in the early 16th century against this tendency – by the way little successfully; because the foundation of an Italian state took place only well 350 years later! The so-called fin-de-siècle crisis at the end of the 19th century was thematized by intellectuals who – such as Friedrich Nietzsche – advocated an anti-bourgeois radicalism in view of the “flourishing” of capitalism, a decadent bourgeoisie (“coupon cutters”) and the upsurge of the socialist workers’ movement in Europe. They despised a bourgeois class that increased and enjoyed its wealth but seemed no longer able to meet the great challenges posed by socialism.[51]

Today, völkisch-nationalist ideologues seek to hark back to these schools of thought (from Nietzsche and Sorel to Carl Schmitt). They despise the decadence of a “bourgeois class” that has lost its ability to respond successfully to the challenges and crises of the present – in other words, to cope with a necessary “state of exception” – in globalization, but also because of the concessions made to the working class in the post-fascist period of Fordism and system competition. The left cannot limit itself to focusing its response to these challenges on the “red-red-green” project within the parliamentary-representative order. According to Gramsci, the “interregnum” constitutes a crisis-like transitional period in which “the old dies, and the new cannot come into the world.” The left, in its various departments – social movements, trade unions, political organization – must learn to accompany the struggle against the wave of right-wing populism (with its authoritarian “state projects”) with a clear socialist option, that is, with the programmatic of a socialist project. This raises many new and open questions, the answers to which are being struggled for not only in practical politics and in the struggles that are being fought out today all over the world in the crises and conflicts of the capitalist empire. It also requires intensive theoretical work and scientific knowledge. The socialist project must be carried by a “bloc of social, political and cultural – including intellectual – forces” pursuing a “new class politics.” In the struggle against exploitation, inequality, political oppression, and alienation, the “axes of conflict of ethnicity/nationality, gender, and ecological sustainability” must intertwine with classical issues in the field of distribution such as the necessary socialization of private property.”[52]

[1] Jörg Kronauer, Dangers to Humanity. Risk report of the World Economic Forum presented, in Junge Welt, January 17, 2019, p. 3.


Right-wing populism – backgrounds, characteristics and changes in form

Reflections on different explanatory approaches

by Dieter Boris

[This article posted on December 2019 is translated from the German on the Internet, Rechtspopulismus – Hintergründe, Ausprägungen und Formveränderungen (Boris) – Z. ZEITSCHRIFT MARXISTISCHE ERNEUERUNG.]


The emergence of right-wing populist currents, parties and even governments or government participation in recent years is undoubtedly one of the dominant development trends of the present. Despite the sometimes considerable country specifics of right-wing populism (RP), there are also commonalities, which are obvious due to the temporal parallelism and similar causes or complexes of causes of this phenomenon. To grasp this phenomenon conceptually-analytically and to reflect, systematize and weigh up the most important previous theoretical explanations for it seems worthwhile and important.


As was to be expected, the emphases in the explanatory attempts are quite diverse[1]: political economy, socio-structurally oriented approaches, political science-influenced as well as culturalist and socio-psychological approaches or emphases occur, sometimes in distinction to each other (sometimes even understood as mutually exclusive), sometimes also lined up additively next to each other or complementarily related to each other (e.g., Rippl/Seipel 2018). More rarely, the different dimensions are put in a certain order or even causally related to each other and a certain weighting of individual levels of reality is considered. The differing “layers of time,” e.g., short-term or long-term, would also have to be included in such a consideration, as would, of course, the fact that political developments are by no means merely the product of “objective processes” or “subjective reactions,” but that these ultimately emerge from corresponding interactions, struggles of groups, factions, or classes.


The wealth of approaches indicated will not be presented here in detail, but only briefly sketched.

Economically oriented attempts at explanation usually start from elements and effects of neoliberal globalization: the relocation of jobs, combined with redundancy or downgrading in wage income, flexibilization and intensification of work intensity, spreading of the income structure, polarization of total income and wealth, accumulation of speculative financial crises, generally the loosening of “meritocratic” principles (linking of performance and pay), accelerated devaluation of knowledge and qualifications as a result of technical and digital progress – all this has led to uncertainty and feelings of powerlessness among a considerable number of workers. The general weakening of trade union and collective resistance (through “tariff evasion,” individualization, precarization, etc.) accompanied this downgrading and was hardly able to prevent it.

Explanations of social structures that frequently link up with these fundamental tendencies often refer to the “transnationalization of social space” or the transnationalization of hitherto (“container-like”) “national” social structures. This usually means that an increasing number of positions in the social structure of a developed country are proving to be transnationally “mobile,” i.e., that these position holders temporarily fulfill their activities in different countries, and as a result (have to) develop a new habitus.

This is perceived as the basis of a developing cleavage line (“cleavage”) between cosmopolitan, neoliberal, tolerant milieus and a communitarian-nationalist, more protectionist milieu. Some see this cleavage and conflict line as being present at all levels of the social hierarchy: at the top, in the middle, and also at the bottom; with people of migrant background, transnational commuters, precarious workers being thought of at the bottom, while personnel from economic management, science, politics, the entertainment industry, sports, etc. are thought of at the top or upper middle class. Some approaches to social structural analysis also point to erosion tendencies of the “social middle” as a result of polarization in terms of income, education, housing options, urban-rural divide, etc. Tendencies to dismantle welfare-state safeguards would have given rise to actual or feared “declassification experiences/perceptions” that have fostered attitudes critical of globalization.

1 The predominantly political science approach focuses on the “anti-establishment” or “anti-elite discourse” prevalent in the RP. This criticizes the independence of politically and economically dominant groups/parties that make decisions against majority interests without sufficient legitimacy (key words: bank bailouts, EU bailouts of highly indebted countries, opening borders to all refugees, etc.). This is discussed as a “representation crisis” of the parliamentary system or even of the entire political system, by some also treated under the keyword “post-democracy”. So this is another level that inspires dissatisfaction, feelings of powerlessness and corresponding feelings of anger.

2 In culturally influenced attempts at explanation, the focus is on an accelerated change in values, a change in lifestyles and sociopolitical ideas, and conservative resistance to these tendencies. The intensified striving for equality of the sexes, which has helped to shape everyday life, the increased participation of women in working life and to some extent also in politics, the introduction of “gender studies” at most universities have shaken firmly entrenched world views – especially in the male sphere – and in some cases provoked defensive reactions (instead of learning processes). The legal and increasing social recognition of different sexual orientations, with corresponding consequences for marriage, adoption, etc., pose a further threat to certain circles’ ideas of order. Not infrequently, these conservative-reactive (or reactionary) orientations are accompanied by a revaluation of the local/regional, of “own” traditions, of “home” in a special sense, which is brought into position against an all too euphoric, undercomplex and harmonizing view of “multicultural conditions,” of growing immigration (especially from other cultural circles).

3 Another position sees in particular the failure of the left (in the broadest sense) as an essential enabling condition for the emergence and spread of FP. The weakening of unions through globalization and the widespread adoption of neoliberal patterns of thought by social democratic parties has made their (once) broad base of workers even more helpless and disoriented. Unless there was a withdrawal from political activities in general (or from electoral participation), not a few workers were also open to or susceptible to (apparently) system-critical, radical options from the right. The social and intellectual distance of politicians on the left from their former base led them to focus in part on small-scale anti-discrimination policies in the cultural and sociopolitical sphere – which were compatible with neoliberal ideas – while “overlooking” or talking down crucial social problems that were spreading as a result of globalization. There is talk in this context of a primacy of so-called “identity politics” and a “progressive neoliberalism” (Nancy Fraser).[2]

4 Another variant of the RP interpretation/explanation is content with the reference to cumulating crises that produced negative effects and made visible that the control and containment possibilities of the functioning governments (mostly from so-called “people’s parties” or coalitions of them) were far from sufficient to solve these problems: worldwide banking crisis due to uncontrolled overspeculation, then EU debt crisis, bailouts via austerity policies, influx of refugees, fundamentalist threat scenarios, etc., were, according to this position, a significant breeding ground for corresponding RP promising remedies.[3]


Before discussing these approaches, a methodological preliminary consideration and caution is in order. Quite a few authors on the topic of RP know from the outset what constitutes RP at its core and design their surveys of AfD voters, for example, or of non-voters in such a way that it is only possible to determine to what extent the presumed RP attitude is true, possibly still why and how one arrived at it. In most accounts, the “typical populist worldview” is seen as an expression of “nostalgia,” of “romanticizing backwardness,” stupidity and irrationalism, combining elite criticism with completely outdated notions of a “homogeneous people.” The following remark by a team of researchers at the WZB, for example, can be seen as characteristic of this view: “That the party (the AfD, DB) continues to rely on anti-elite and crisis rhetoric in its communication and that its electorate dreams, at least in part, of a return to an unprecedented golden past seems certain.” (Giebler et al. 2019:22)

1. such a frequently encountered choice of words (which already documents partisanship) as well as the associated extreme positions assigned to the RP are unscientific and counterproductive for any gain of knowledge for several reasons. What is taken as “populism” as a basis (already conceptually), these “researchers” get out again by corresponding “questioning”; a circle, which means the opposite of knowledge increase. Those who exclude from the outset that there is not also a certain logic, partly justification behind the statements/positions of the right-wing populists, can make it easy for themselves and simply dismiss these statements as an expression of aberrant irrationalism, as undiscountable nostalgia, romanticization and hopeless backward-looking or backwoodsism. With this judgment, a moral and intellectual disqualification can then take place in the second stage; an argument with “crazy” or “amoral” people is superfluous, seems to be pointless. This confirms precisely the perception on the part of right-wing populists that the reaction of the liberal public and leading politicians to them is merely “elitist know-it-allism” or “do-gooderism,” etc., which straddles itself as the sole saint-making authority and thus attempts to deflect attention from the problems addressed.

2 Thus, anyone who a priori does not look for reasons or objective determinants of typical statements of right-wing populists, does not try to decipher the “rational class-political core” (Dörre)[4], must inevitably fail in the analysis of the RP. 3.

3 The “rational core” of typical statements and topoi of right-wing populists can be seen in the fact that negative phenomena and tendencies in the current economy and politics are in principle accurately perceived, but their real causes are usually not analyzed in more detail or are accounted for in a wrong way or in an extremely simplified way. The proposals to combat these tendencies are correspondingly misguided. The criticized tendencies of neoliberal globalization, the independence of the economic and political establishment, etc. are reinterpreted in such a way that the structural mechanisms (exploitation/ polarization, precarization, etc.) are not identified as consequences and necessary implications of internal power relations, but are either simply personalized or reinterpreted as the result of an internal-external relationship (e.g., “evil foreign capital,” U.S. dominance or U.S. imperialism, migrants, etc.).

4 Part of this methodologically questionable approach to RP, which Philip Manow has rightly characterized as a combination of “theory deficit and morality surplus,” is the fact that in the public debate certain subject areas and topoi are increasingly left to the right-wing populists because they are considered “right-wing” or objectionable topics. These include, for example: Criticism of globalization, criticism of the ruling class or bloc (whether you call them “elites” or “establishment”), striving for as much national-sovereign control of economic life as possible (as long as we don’t have a “world state” or “EU state,” from both of which we seem to be far away), control of migration (as a counter to the neoliberal concept of unrestricted immigration for the purpose of supplying cheap labor), defense of the welfare state, which, by the way, depends on the aforementioned aspects as well as on a certain political-social homogeneity of the territorial population, which by no means has to be complete “ethno-cultural homogeneity”[5], criticism of media, one-sided and/or ideological reporting[6] ( one can also express this differently than with the loaded word “lying press”), etc. – As a result of the fact that these (and perhaps other) fields of politics and public discussion – formerly clearly “left-wing topics” – have been increasingly occupied by the RP, they are considered disreputable per se and are avoided by the left or occupied with highly abstract slogans (“social rights for all”, or: “migration is a human right”, all can migrate at any time, etc.). An up-to-date analysis of the development of these problem areas is largely dispensed with. In this way, right-wing populist figures of thought are once again reinforced and made into a quasi-general instance of truth for their addressees. Bernhard Schlink recently put this in a nutshell: “The topics that he (i.e. the mainstream, DB) did not discuss and that were usurped by the right are now right-wing topics, and as right-wing topics the mainstream can no longer discuss them… The narrowing of the mainstream, the lack of communication between it and the right and the AfD had and has its price. It has not made the right and the AfD weaker, but stronger.” (FAZ v. August 1, 2019)


1. it is true that – as indicated in point 3 – “right-wing populism can largely be grasped as a multi-causal movement against the decomposition of social and cultural securities that national welfare state capitalism had promised and partially realized and global market capitalism is now continuously denying” (Urban 2018: 184). Nevertheless, it is necessary to ask about connections, weightings, the sequence as well as the perspective development in this multicausal diversity.

2. there should be no doubt that neoliberal globalization has exacerbated social inequality, constantly restructuring the world of work in ways that (like social polarization) have significantly fostered insecurity and future uncertainty and anxiety. This does not yet answer questions about who the AfD’s social base mainly is, to what extent globalization and modernization losers in particular (at what levels?) meet here, or whether other social milieus are also present to a relevant extent. Despite the ongoing academic discussion[7], the multi-causality of the RP phenomenon also seems to translate into the heterogeneous social structure of its voters and sympathizers. The following statement seems to me to be true in tendency: “It is true that the data indicate that the unemployed, workers, and people with low educational resources vote for right-wing populist parties with above-average frequency…and that this also applies to trade union members in Germany…However, this does not imply arithmetically – and this is often overlooked – that the majority of supporters of right-wing parties come from these groups. As important as the search for the reasons why socially deprived people and people threatened by the precariat do not (any longer) see their political home in the political left is, this search for causes must not lose sight of the fact that right-wing populism is successful precisely because it mobilizes across classes, i.e. it does not appeal to an ‘alliance of different, culturally declassed groups’… but has an impact right into established self-employed and civil servant milieus…” (van Dyk/Graefe 2018: 337).

3 The “emptying of democracy,” which the genuine democracy of the right-wing populists is opposed to, can be interpreted as a consequence or concomitant of the subordination of politics to market mechanisms. “Market-compliant democracy” is inevitably transforming into a “post-democracy” (Colin Crouch), in which formal mechanisms (elections, parliamentary votes, etc.) continue to take place, but their real significance is enormously relativized by the fact that, at the same time or in advance, authoritative decisions are made elsewhere. “Representatives of parties aligned to the point of indistinguishability unsuspectingly pass laws whose texts have been formulated by interest groups of big business. Deputies as voting machines bow to alleged constraints in outwardly unchanged but hollowed-out institutions of parliamentarism. ‘The majority of citizens,’ Crouch writes, ‘play a passive, silent, even apathetic role in this, responding only to the signals they are given.’ In the shadow of this political staging, real politics is made behind closed doors: by elected governments and elites who primarily represent the interests of business.'” (Bratanovic 2016).

4 If one adds to this the fact that increasingly elements of political, national sovereignty are being transferred to transnational entities (e.g. EU et al.), and that this has been carried out consciously and deliberately by national political elites, the talk of the “irresponsible establishment” becomes more than mere right-wing populist propaganda. Political programs directed against supranational authorities also seem to gain in plausibility and credibility in view of the disenfranchisement of citizens that they further promote. 5.

The fact that, conversely, the “true democracy” proposed by the RP would certainly not be any better or more democratic than the liberal version, and that the independence is primarily due to the – unrecognized – constraints of capital utilization, is another matter. A central question would be why the “shift” of causation factors away from the anonymous constraints of capitalist accumulation and toward personalizing conspiracy theories with ethnic-nationalist undertones – can work so relatively easily and successfully, while a decidedly “leftist” argumentation/agitation, on the other hand, remains comparatively resonantly poor.

6 If it is clear that the social declassifications brought about by neoliberal globalization – at various levels – and the by no means unrealistic fears of future declassifications have contributed to the insecurity of growing sections of the population, and that this feeling of powerlessness has been deepened by the almost complete inaction of official politics in this regard, the question remains how “culturalist” interpretations of the RP are to be classified or weighted here. As indicated above, this is to be understood as a change in values in the broadest sense (concerning equal relations between the sexes, sexual orientation, linguistic expression, religious tolerance, different educational styles, etc.).

7 The importance of gender-specific components/causal factors in the strengthening of the RP seems to be indisputable, but the specialists in this field are apparently not entirely clear about their weight.[8] B. Sauer sees the insecurity of men also as a result of a tendency to change the distribution of roles between women and men (which also implies a certain devaluation of the male role as sole breadwinner of the family, higher participation of women in the employment process, better levels of education, more political participation, etc.). Conversely, there is a new model of minoritarian hyper-masculinity expressed in the role of banker, stockbroker, etc., he said. “In the neoliberal discourse of uncertainty, right-wing populist invocations of gender or, better, anti-gender … offer points of contact for a re-establishment of traditional gender constellations and hierarchies. This discursive offer is prescribed, as it were, as a cure for a degraded and marginalized masculinity.” (Sauer 2018: 319). Moreover, the supposedly necessary protection of women in the majority society against migrant (especially Islamic) men also contributes in the revalorization of masculinity.

8 In this respect, it is no surprise if the AfD was clearly disproportionately male in the last elections (it is probably similar with the Trump electorate) and it probably registered the largest gains especially among male workers between 35 and 59 years of age (Becker/Dörre/Reif-Spirek 2018:10, and Heitmeyer 2018: 131). “In the 2017 federal election, 16.3 percent of men voted for the AfD, while only 9.2 percent of women did. Almost two-thirds of AfD voters are thus male, with no differences in the distribution between the East and the West (Decker 2018). Certainly, the “fight against threatened masculinity,” i.e., a culturalist moment, has played a significant role here; although, of course, other factors such as feelings of threat and powerlessness in the world of work, increased competition with migrants, e.g., in the search for housing, infrastructure spending, etc. – as further motivating factors in the electoral decision – should not be forgotten.

9 The explanatory variant of the RP, according to which it is the result of the failure of the left, rarely occurs in this exclusivity, but with other elements and “framings” it represents an important perspective. Not least, the writings of Arlie Hochschild, Didier Eribon, and Nancy Fraser, which have been quickly translated in this country, have spurred this strand of discussion, albeit with different emphases. Indeed, the basic question of the RP is why the moments of crisis and insecurity generated by bourgeois-conservative neoliberalism could not be appropriately used by the left opposed to it to strengthen its own following, but rather by a radical right from which no serious anti-capitalist measures can be expected. How, then, a “shift” of the weights within the defenders of the capitalist order could take place without the order itself apparently losing more support and legitimacy.

10 One could agree with this version in two partial aspects, the weight of which should not be underestimated. On the one hand, the adoption of neoliberal models of thought (in economic and social policy) by the social democratic parties, and perhaps also within the rest of the left, became effective in such a way that a consistent opposition policy against the ruling line could no longer be seriously conceived and realiter tackled. Another variant of leftist adaptation to neoliberal policies is described by Nancy Fraser as “progressive neoliberalism.” By this she means that leftists increasingly renounced class-political objectives and the fight against social inequality in general in favor of sometimes small-scale anti-discrimination measures, and at the same time significantly moderated or completely discontinued their criticism of neoliberal economic and social policies.[9]

11. Another aspect (or implication) of this approach should be mentioned. The unreflective and unrestricted closing of ranks of significant parts of the left with the bourgeois parties in the face of the right-wing populist threat leads, as Andreas Nölke notes, to a “double shift to the right,” since in this coalition decidedly left-wing positions become quieter or remain in the background and, moreover, the right-wing populists can now claim that they are the only ones who are really standing up against the “establishment.”[10] 12.

12 As accurate as this version of RP interpretation is in its core in certain partial aspects, it should be relativized in its weight in several respects. For one thing, the failure of the left does not constitute the main cause of neoliberal polarization and declassification processes. For another, the fragmentation of the working class (in the broadest sense) is more advanced today compared to the time about 40 years ago, so that a unifying policy toward the ruling class currently poses greater difficulties and must be very well considered (Dörre 2019: 41ff.). Which, of course, does not mean that hereby the criticism of considerable deficits of the left has no justification.[11]

13. finally, the thesis that the RP was able to emerge and unfold mainly through an accumulation of events during the last decade partly hits the right notes, but is too little connected to long-term tendencies and structural problems of globalization. In a theoretically satisfactory overall approach, this – rather short-term and contingent – chain of factors can and must certainly find its place, especially as an amplifier or trigger for reactions to feelings of insecurity/powerlessness that had developed long before and were more or less latent.

14 By the “accumulation of events” with higher relevance, we mean above all the banking and financial crisis of 2007/08, the subsequent sovereign debt crisis (including the austerity policy derived from it) in almost all European countries 2010 et seq., the strengthening of the “Islamic State”(IS) and the increase in large-scale terrorist attacks (2013 et seq.) as well as the Greek crisis (2015) and the influx of refugees associated with the ongoing civil war constellation in several Middle Eastern countries (especially 2015 et seq.). – Although these events are not all directly related, they have undoubtedly strengthened the sense of being threatened and powerless, not least because official policies and responses to these developments did not start from reality-based analyses (and partial complicity in doing so) and, as a result, essentially consisted of a gradual extrapolation of previous policies. The confusion and dispositions for right-wing options that thus increased – especially as a result of the refugee crisis of 2015f. – were aptly paraphrased by W.F. Haug: “The hardships (of austerity policy, DB) had been passed off as without alternative. Now, for those who felt neglected by politics, it looked as if the actors of neoliberal desolidarization in the country were organizing a culture of solidarity for foreigners! Indeed, what a surge of solidarity under the name of welcome culture – for foreigners! And wasn’t there suddenly money for multiple material help, German courses, accommodation, etc.? Those in power had forgotten to deal with this inconsistency: ‘The solidarization with strangers is in contradiction to the neoliberal desolidarization of the last decades.'” (Haug 2017: 301).

15 Similar effects on the feelings and consciousness of not inconsiderable parts of the population were produced by the other events – not to be discussed in detail here – and the comparatively helpless official policy, which was not very willing to make fundamental changes (e.g. in European policy). Since the neoliberal grand coalition could offer few social alternatives to previous policies and the left could also propose few short- and medium-term effective, concrete and credible policies (going beyond abstract wishful slogans), a vacuum was created or the ground was prepared for answers from a completely different direction. This nationalist-ethnosocial propaganda, which starts from real problems but reinterprets them in a certain sense, sees the opposition between “above” and “below” not at all as a class opposition, but as one between “corrupt elite” and “homogeneous people of integrity” and, above all, an even more important opposition between “inside” and “outside”.


In conclusion and in summary, perhaps this much can be stated:

1. causes 1) to 3) – economic, socio-structural and political – are closely related, mutually conditional, possess the same, longer duration of existence as well as a similar depth dimension; taken together, they could be called the “neoliberal market dominance complex.” This is where the most serious causes are to be found, without which all the other factors mentioned above, which appear in the following explanations, would not have had such an effect (or would not have had such a strong effect). These are the structural determinants that have allowed fears, insecurity and feelings of powerlessness to develop into a “generalized culture of insecurity” (M. Candeias) in manifold forms. For the RP, these are at the same time the central starting points for its “diagnosis” and “therapy” proposals, which include an alleged “radical crackdown,” nationalist claims of exclusion, and an orientation toward a “golden, well-ordered community of yesteryear.” How close to reality and feasible these programmatic proposals are seems to be of secondary importance, since the past is apparently closer, easier to reach than a distant and opaque future.

2. the reaction of the “masculinity losers” – as an intermediate causal factor – has become broader, more intense and politically effective only after the macropolitical wind had turned to the right; latently, these defensive impulses had emerged before. In my opinion, the “weakness of the left” in whatever form would also have to be classified in this second category of causal factors, i.e. not as a primary factor. This weakness can probably be understood as a mixture of not being able and not wanting and is to be classified as an additional mediating and reinforcing link in the chain of many factors.

3. the third type of causation factors of the RP rise, which bear a relatively short-term character and are to be regarded as comparatively contingent (but by no means completely random)[12], are those grouped around outstanding individual events that had signal character. These events, some of which are connected, some of which are not, meant that the factors mentioned under 1) to 5) and the imbalances/downturns/dangers etc. caused by them seemed to clearly confirm the aloofness, incompetence and loss of control on the part of the ruling “elites”. The banking crisis, the debt crisis, the austerity regime, the Greek crisis, Islamist terrorism and finally the influx of refugees – all these were apparently further striking evidence of the loss of control and the inability and/or unwillingness to change something about the apparently inevitable, ever more dangerous and confusing situation.

4 Of the many unresolved problems of a satisfactory, coherent theoretical explanation of FP, three should be outlined again at the end. One is why a left-wing response to the “generalized culture of insecurity” has apparently been far less attractive and successful than right-wing populist responses have been. This seems all the more incomprehensible if one may assume that the main causes of this insecurity and danger of declassification are analyzed and named much more accurately by the left than by the right and, moreover, that regaining control over one’s own living conditions can only be achieved through a decisive democratization of the economy and society; on the other hand, a mere replacement of political elites, with a simultaneous continuation of foreign domination and exploitation through unrestricted capitalist relations of production, would do little to change the basic problems perceived as critical – which would probably be the case if the RP were to take over the government. The question of whether and when, in order to clarify this problem, a socio-psychological explanatory dimension – e.g. the conditions of emergence and the spread of authoritarian character structures – or the country-specific different forms of world market integration, labor market structures and welfare state models centrally included in Dani Rodrik’s and Philip Manow’s Political Economy of Right-Wing and Left-Wing Populism would have to play an essential role would have to be addressed and questioned. Surprisingly, these dimensions of the problem are not addressed or even included at all in the vast majority of works on RP.[13]

5. second, I do not think it has been clearly established that the rise of RP must necessarily go hand in hand with an absolutization of the opposition of inside versus outside or of the front against migrants/others. Or, to put it differently: whether the double front position or demarcation against “above” (the “elites”) and against “below” (marginalized groups, the unemployed, “social parasites,” lesbians, gays, etc.) is or must always be constitutive for the RP. In this context, migrants, asylum seekers, etc. could – at least theoretically – be dispensed with as negative projection groups and other “enemy groups” could be targeted. Candeias hints at this relative arbitrariness of “functional equivalents” for the purpose of demarcation. “The radical right enables individuals to engage in nonconformist conformism, in which the resistant stance is rhetorically directed against instances of domination, but at the same time practically invokes them for the devaluation and exclusion of the ‘other,’ the migrants, the ‘work-shy,’ the ‘filthy 68ers,’ feminists, etc. This can be experienced as a stabilization of restrictive agency under intensified conditions of insecurity.” (Candeias 2018:42).

Thirdly, it would be necessary to further address how the course of the RP is shaped: whether there is a radicalization to the right, as can be observed, for example, with the FPÖ, the AfD, etc. (and thus the term “right-wing populism” would have to be replaced with “right-wing extremism”), or whether the opposite development occurs in the direction of moderation, an opening to the center, and a stronger incorporation of welfare-state elements into the program, as is apparently the case with the “Front National” in France and the “Danish People’s Party.


Rising and falling processes and power shifts in the global economy

by Dieter Boris

[This article posted in June 2019 is translated from the German on the Internet, http://www.zeitschrift-marxistische-erneuerung.de/article/3486.auf-und-abstiegsprozesse-und-machtverschiebungen-in-der-weltwirtschaft.html.]

1. processes of ascent and descent in the world economy – special features under conditions of neoliberal globalization

Since the 16th century, there have always been processes of ascent and descent in the emerging capitalist world system, although each is usually characterized by particular forms and economic emphases. Since the “capitalist world system” has been understood since I. Wallerstein as a multi-hierarchical, dynamic whole, “processes of ascent and descent” involve either the attainment of a higher position or, correspondingly, a decline to lower positions in the world system.

The current processes of ascent and descent have been taking place within the framework of neoliberal globalization since the 1970s and 8o’s of the previous century. As a result, an extraordinary compression of space and time has occurred by means of new communication and transport technologies across – in some respects – relativized nation-state borders. This includes the likewise extraordinary speed of these processes of ascent and descent as well as the international financial markets playing a prominent role in this process. It is not the conquest of foreign territories as a goal, but rather the unhindered access to (and security of) worldwide investment opportunities and the unlimited mobility of financial flows that are characteristic. New communication technologies and intensified exchange processes have led to a partial acquaintance with foreign cultures, religions, habits and behaviors to an extent never before achieved. This, together with local/regional economic and/or ecological structural crises or warlike conflicts, is a factor that keeps international migration processes at a high level, as at times in the 19th century. Admittedly, migration processes are also partly causes and consequences of upward and downward mobility processes. What the central and more subordinate factors/determinants for these are is, of course, disputed – as with any complex issue.

Without going into detail, I would like to single out and emphasize what I consider to be two particularly important determinants for upward mobility processes from the “periphery” or the “semi-periphery” – which, in the case of success, go hand in hand: first, a coherent and efficient state apparatus which, in addition to a relatively effective administration and internal sanctioning power, is above all capable of and willing to make appropriate economic policy interventions, planning, industrial policy, etc.; flanked by sufficient sociopolitical measures. On the other hand, a state that can initiate and accompany education, training, technological development, general material and immaterial progress in civilization; this, in turn, has repercussions not only on economic development and population growth, but also on the internal conflictivity of the respective society. Despite some weaknesses and deficits in the implementation of this objective, it is now possible to speak of a “renaissance of developing states.” “The gain in attractiveness of developmental state models within international politics can be attributed … only in part to its strengths. Rather, it seems that the disastrous record of the market-centered development model of neoliberalism in the past and present has been instrumental in supporting the renaissance of the developmental state and the return to the understanding that the state is a central developmental actor.” (Peters 2017: 104f.)

I would venture the thesis: there is no country, no state in the last 40-50 years that can be counted among the “up-and-comers” that has not been able to exhibit these two characteristics at least above average. Conversely, the “relegated” countries in the global economic and political hierarchy certainly include countries that lacked these two characteristics – for whatever reason.

It should be well known that in the last 40 years the world economic weights have developed strongly in favor of some former peripheral or semiperipheral countries. The order in the shares of world social product has shifted significantly: In terms of purchasing power parity, the share of advanced, central capitalist countries fell from about 64 percent (1980) to 42 percent (2014). Conversely, the shares of emerging and developing countries grew from 1980: 36 percent to nearly 58 percent in 2014 (Goldberg 2015: 27). Whereby it should be kept in mind that this epochal reversal of the global economic weights is mainly due to the above-average growth rates and the far above-average population size of about 10 emerging countries (China, India, South Korea, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, etc.). The order of countries in terms of their shares of global GDP in 2017 (also calculated by chewing power parity) is as follows: 1. China 23.1 percent; 2. U.S. 19.5 percent; 3. India 9.5 percent; Japan 5.4 percent; Germany 4.2 percent (Neelsen 2019: 29). Accordingly, or more or less modified, the shares in world trade, foreign direct investment, foreign exchange reserves, shares in industrial production, etc. have also changed; of course, less so in terms of per capita income and even less so in terms of social indicators such as the “Human Development Index,” “Hunger Index,” etc.

All in all, the world economic weights have developed in the last 40 years in a direction that the world around 1800, i.e. more than 200 years ago and before the “industrial revolution”, already knew in a similar way.[1].

2. “Global North” versus “Global South”.

In analyses and debates of world political and economic contexts, the terms “global North” and “global South” have become more and more common in recent years, gaining acceptance even among those who themselves doubt the coherence and cohesiveness of this terminology.[2] Given the intimations made in the first thesis, we are dealing with a multi-hierarchically tiered, dynamic whole in the contemporary world economy, which for several reasons cannot be simply divided into two main blocs that are clearly opposed to each other. For at least four reasons: First, because the countries that are each assigned to one bloc are too different, or it is not at all clear whether they belong to this or that bloc. Do the OECD members South Korea, Mexico and Chile belong to the “global North” or the “South”? Conversely, is China part of the “global South”? If so, what justifies putting the world’s second most powerful economy on a par with the “Central African Republic”? These questions could be continued at will. Moreover, different countries not only have quite different economies, but they have been moving in opposite directions for a long time and have had widely divergent growth rates over longer periods of time.

It should also be noted here that the respective overall conditions on the world market and in the individual countries do not remain the same, but are constantly changing precisely as a result of the upward and downward movements that have already taken place, and by no means merely in the sense of a positive impulse or example from an emerging country that has risen, but on the contrary as a further obstacle in perspective to gaining a stronger foothold on the world market, for example through industrial exports. The rise of China, South Korea, Taiwan, etc., in particular, acts to a considerable extent as a further impediment to successfully pursuing a similar strategy and possibly contributes to stabilizing their subordinate position in the world system. In addition, in a new phase of neoliberal globalization, the risk of “premature deindustrialization” arises for some semiperiphery or periphery countries due to the fact that a certain “reindustrialization” is increasingly taking place in advanced countries through backshoring (“re-shoring”) and robotization, of which there are already clear signs (Sanahuja/Comini 2018:37).

Second, for the individual countries, especially since the neoliberal period and under the impression of the crisis in 2007 ff., an increased tendency toward internal socio-economic polarization can be recorded, so that it is hardly possible to speak of a uniform way of life or a “united we” vis-à-vis the outside world (most recently: Hürtgen 2018:124ff.).

Whether, thirdly, the overall significantly higher level of living in the central countries of developed capitalism results predominantly from the exploitation of “labor and raw materials” from “elsewhere,” especially from the so-called “global South,” would first have to be proven. There are not even approaches and attempts to do so, whereby the protagonists of such theses often refer to the “invisibility” of exploitation and corresponding one-sided transfer processes. Where nothing can be proved any more, science must abdicate and faith or an attitude towards life (of necessary asceticism) must be addressed.

In contrast, it can be assumed with some good arguments (Sablowski 2018) that the significantly higher overall productivity of central countries is based to an overwhelming extent on the technological advantage and the exploitation of their “own labor force” (in the broadest sense, i.e. also including immigrants and migrants); however, the contributions to the higher standard of living in this country coming “from outside”, which are by no means to be denied in view of the multiple and blatant exploitation conditions in practically all peripheral countries, play an overall, i.e. i.e. in overall economic terms, only a subordinate, additional role. And this despite many blatant examples of extreme exploitation processes, such as in the textile production sector in Bangladesh and elsewhere, in cobalt extraction through child labor in the Congo, or in oil production from palm oil monocultures in Indonesia, etc.

Who actually belongs to the “global south” and what role and what weight this actually has in the foreign economic relations of the Federal Republic of Germany, for example, is unfortunately never made known in the relevant – by the way extraordinarily successful (several editions in the shortest time!) – publications that advocate this thesis.

Finally, fourthly, a predominantly historically oriented justification of the term “global South” as a summary of all former colonies and semi-colonies (so tending: Wemheuer 2016:10ff.) can also only be convincing to a very limited extent, since e.g. the USA, Canada and Australia – core countries of today’s “North” – were, as is well known, also once colonies; moreover, it would have to be asked whether the past alone can offer a sufficient classification criterion for present processes.

When talking about the “global South” – as a relatively homogeneous, compact unit that is unilaterally dependent on the “global North” and therefore tends to be passive and opposed to it – it should be borne in mind that the regional weights in world trade have changed considerably compared to the 1960s/70s. South-South trade as well as South-South foreign investment and credit relations grew much faster than the corresponding elements of North-South relations during the last two decades. At that time in the 1960s/70s, North-North trade accounted for about 70-75 percent of total world trade, North-South trade was between about 15 and 20 percent, and South-South trade was almost non-existent or comprised at most about 5 percent of total world trade. Today, North-North trade (“triad” between the U.S., EU, and Japan) is about 50-60 percent, South-South trade is probably about 30 percent, and North-South trade is about10 percent, if one excludes the PRC – still often listed as the “South representative.” (Unfortunately, due to the statistical problems of classifying “North” and “South,” more precise estimates are scarcely available). In view of the international value chains controlled by transnational corporations, which are responsible for a considerable part of foreign trade, no clear or unambiguous conclusions can be drawn from the strong increase in South-South trade with regard to greater autonomy or independence for the “countries of the South.”

3. inconsistencies in processes of power shifts

Power shifts in the international system are based on the extent and availability over power resources. A systematization and illumination of these power resources has been made by Stefan Schmalz in his recent and very important work “Power Shifts in the World System” (2018). He essentially lists the five most important ones: Production, Raw Materials, Finance/Currency, Science/Technology, and Military, all of which are more or less closely interrelated. Nonetheless, there are also unilateral dependency relationships between the individual power resources. “Economic development forms … the basis for the exercise of power in the world system, since only in this way can armaments be produced and research financed.” (Schmalz 2018. 45). At the same time, there are also partial inherent logics of certain power resources whose appropriate assessment is important for the overall perspective of power shifts. Commodities and finance/currency dominance are very important, but the exploitation of commodities in one’s own country may possibly be limited in time; the finance/currency dimension could also be weakened in the medium term without sufficient underpinnings. There are often inconsistencies occurring with respect to the unfolding of different dimensions or the respective power resources, which is indispensable for an accurate analysis and possible foresight of the dynamics of the power shift; it is also relevant to distinguish between stock and current “output” (lard) of power resources.

It is often rightly pointed out that the U.S. is still clearly the preeminent, hegemonic, or dominant power in the international context in many dimensions, although its position – compared to 1945 or 1990 – appears today as weakened and challenged. Especially if one takes seriously the thesis of economic development as the basis for power shifts in the world system, one might come to the conclusion that dominance in finance and currency, in certain sectors of digital technology, and in the dissemination of mass culture might prove insufficient for maintaining dominance in the long run, as the broad economic underpinning for this is lacking.

The terse reference to the discrepancy between “stock” and current growth/”output” seems central to the core of current power shifts: primarily between the U.S. and China, and more broadly between the U.S., Japan, EU on the one hand, and China, India, Brazil, Mexico, Indonesia, South Korea, Vietnam, etc. on the other.

Although the rates of increase in the pace of growth, in terms of shares in world social product, financial and currency presence, foreign investment, spending on technology/science and military are growing at an above-average rate in the former (especially China, India), the “stock” in these areas is still quite high in the case of the USA, so that a qualitative leap in global power shifts and resource availability cannot be assumed any time soon; at most, these can be regarded as relatively probable in the medium or long term (thus also the central thesis of Schmalz 2018: 382ff.).

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