Almost one hundred years to the day, Germany experiences another reactionary putsch.
Mathew D. Rose is an Investigative Journalist specialised in Organised Political Crime and an editor of BRAVE NEW EUROPE.
Image Wikimedia Commons
Leaders of the Christian Democrats and Liberals in Thuringia’s Parliament congratulate each other to their successful Putsch
In German history books the drama in the German state of Thuringia this week will be regarded as a minor, peripheral event. Almost exactly 100 years ago, on March 13th 1920, there was a similar event: the failed reactionary Kapp Putsch during Germany’s Weimar Republic. That lasted only a few days, but one can see it as the precursor of Nazi Germany. What is the Thuringia Putsch a precursor of?
It was all rather straightforward. Two beleaguered German liberal democratic parties, Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats and the Liberals, both of which are losing their grip on political power, decided to join with the far-right (really far right) Alternative for Deutschland (AfD) to take power in the eastern German state of Thuringia. Their stated motive was to overthrow a radical leftist government, which oddly enough was what the leaders of the Kapp Putsch claimed a century earlier.
Something must be made clear. This so-called radical leftist coalition in Thuringia consisted of the Social Democrats, Greens, and the Left Party (Links Partei) which had been in power in Thuringia for the past five years. In that period nothing remotely leftist occurred. In fact, in Germany, all seven major political parties are dyed-in-the-wool neo-liberals.
Merkel’s Christian Union, after having its worst result in 55 years in the previous Bundestag election (32.9 percent) has since been stuck between 27 percent and 28 percent in the polls. Burdened with the unpopular Ms Merkel as chancellor, they tried to alleviate the situation somewhat by selecting a new party leader, choosing the even less popular Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer. With their disastrous climate policy alienating young voters, their inexorable redistribution of wealth from the poor to the rich, and an economy that is threatening to go into recession, they can read the writing on the wall.
The Liberals are doing just as poorly. They are a super neo-liberal party of corruption – far-rightists in expensive suits using a fascist dog whistle. Their leader, Christian Lindner, thought he was going to be the German equivalent of Austria’s Sebastian Kurz, uniting the far and centre right. Lindner even declined to join a coalition with Merkel and the Greens in 2017, so confident was he of his strategy. Needless to say, Germany already had a party that unites the far and centre right, the AfD, and does not need a second one. Thus the Liberals are faring as poorly as Merkel’s Union – they are just under 10 percent in the polls. Lindner is under immense pressure from his party to find a solution.
The problem is, as a political party the fewer votes you have, the less power you wield. Power can only be attained by being in government, be it in the Bundestag or one of the 16 state assemblies. In government you have favours, laws, and contracts to sell to corporations and particular interests. This is all legal, thanks to the laws political parties have tailored to their needs. A political party receives very little corporate munificence for sitting on the opposition benches. Furthermore in government you also have lot of well-paid public jobs at your disposal, for you and your members, which maintains party loyalty and discipline. Through the increasing number of political parties and the ever growing number of parties in a coalition, the share of the political booty keeps diminishing. Which brings us back to Thuringia where the Christian Union and Liberals were facing a second term of a Leftist/Green/Social Democrat coalition, which would have meant a further five years in the financial wilderness.
A premise of neo-classical economics, the ideological basis of neo-liberalism, is that we all act solely and rationally to maximise our gains. This is certainly true for liberal democratic politicians who always have their eye on the money. And politics? As Hayek and the fathers of neo-liberalism explained, like the nation-state, this has to be reduced to a little bit of culture and identity politics. The free market – meaning the international corporations – will do the governing, as we are witnessing.
In this political vacuum, Europe’s liberal democrats have lost their purpose. There are no real political issues – even the Greens are ducking the critical aspects of climate change – just various shades of neo-liberalism, as was seen in the recent EU elections in Germany. Thirteen parties won seats in Germany and that in a nation that 20 years ago only had four national parties.
The solution that members of Merkel’s Christian Union and the Liberals have come up with is calling for their parties to move further right to retrieve their voters from the AfD. The opposite has occurred: increasingly more of their voters have gone over to the AfD. Under the dictum if you can’t beat them join them, these same elements have called for their parties to join in coalitions with the AfD.
There are two major problems with this proposal. First, many Germans – not as many as one might believe or wish – have learned their lesson from the mistakes of their grandparents’ enthusiasm for fascism. Secondly, the liberal democratic parties in the EU have been hanging on to power by warning that “There is no alternative: It is us or the fascists”. In Thuringia Merkel’s and Linder’s crews changed this imperative to “There is no alternative: it is us AND the fascists, or the radical left”. It was a risk, but the liberal democratic parties know that they are not actually standing with their backs to the wall. It’s not a wall it’s a precipice. Merkel was out of the country, so she would be shielded if things went wrong – as they did, horribly. But this hasn’t lost them the war. It is an orderly retreat following the first minor skirmish.
The Thuringia Putsch did not last as long as the Kapp Putsch (24 hours versus five days). What the consequences will be, we shall see. The irony is that Kramp Karrenbauer, who probably bowed to party pressure in allowing the putsch, will most likely be disposed of (probably to a good job at the EU or UN), and replaced by someone who has been pushing for such a coalition with the AfD, overtly or covertly.
How did it come to this in the Christian Union? With the support of the corporate media it has been struggling to keep alive the myth of Merkel as the Great Stateswoman, the Great Climate Chancellor, the Great woman with Great social empathy, the Great Mummy of her Nation. All gone, except in the mainstream media of course. The Great Libya Peace Show in Berlin a few weeks ago – yet another failure – was with luck the end of this tortuous Merkeldämmerung.
Merkel’s Christian Union and the Liberals are undeniably, like other European liberal democratic parties, rapidly losing their credibility and voters. That leaves only one way to remain in power: entering coalitions with the Greens and the far right. The problem with the Greens is that their programme has become much the same as that of the Christian Democrats and Liberals – with a bit of green washing on offer for the corporations. Moreover, the Greens can move as far to the right as they wish, all in the name of saving the planet, as we are currently seeing in Austria.
As I wrote a year and a half ago in my article “How the EU has become an incubator for fascism”, the logical final stage of neo-liberalism is fascism. Many think they are seeing it already in Poland and Hungary. They are not. Poland is a case of authoritarianism; Hungary, corrupt authoritarianism. Where we are truly seeing fascism is in Spain in its struggle to suppress democracy and self-determination of the Catalans. Since the Spanish government resorted to state terrorism to repress the Catalan independence movement, there has been not only a recrudescence of fascism – the real stuff – in a big way (Spain has a rich fascist tradition), but also pernicious manifestations of fascism, as was made visible when the US government recently warned its women citizens of increased sexual assaults in Spain. Can a “neo-liberal light” government like that of the Spanish Social Democrats and Podemos change the course of things?
The same state terror is being employed by Macron in France, first in his police offensive against the Yellow Vests, and now against those striking against his neo-liberal pension policies. It is a brutality seldom seen in modern Europe. The number of people who have lost eyes, fingers, hands, and are permanently disabled is awesome. If a government led by Marine Le Pen had resorted to state terror of this magnitude, the outcry by the liberal democrats and corporate media would have been deafening, but Macron is one of their own. He is an EU leader of the new normal: maintaining the neo-liberal diktat at all costs.
The next massive conflict is already building up: when the European youth realise that despite all the Climate Emergencies being declared throughout the EU, the EU political elite will continue protecting the interests of the corporations against those of its citizens and the planet.
And who knows, maybe in three to five years the British will look back and think: “We got out just in time.”