berlinboy @ : The anti-german position
Because this community has pretty much just been me writing in dates for demos and lectures, I've decided to try something new. This week I'm going to provide insight on the anti-german argument, as its understood by Volker Radke. I'm not saying that its necessarly correct, or important, but I guess its at least interesting to read, and might give you something to think about... so here's the first part. Tell me what you think.
Anti-German for Beginners
"Since the establishment of the German Reich 1871, which was result of a war of aggression itself (Bismarck had provoked this, herein exemplary for Goebbels such as Fischer and Scharping, by falsification of a diplomatic note), the Germans have waged two world wars and a dozen different military strikes. Hardly a country between north cape, Namibia and China, which would have remained saved from the attendance of German soldiers. In not one case Germany was the attacked state, and in each individual case it nevertheless lodged a complaint about the necessity to defend itself: against the "welsh hereditary enemy" (France), the "perfide Albion" (England), the "yellow danger", "Zulukaffern", "tsarist barbarianism, "bolschewistische Untermenschen", "the Weltjudentum", "the American Plutokratie", the Hitler of the Balkans, Iraq, the Hindukusch, the "enemies of the civilization" and/or "our way of life" (chancellor Schroeder)." (Hermann L. Gremliza/Juergen Elsaesser)
Anti-German positions developed with the end of the German Democratic Republic as a reaction to the new German reality. They were formulated in left-wing newspapers and magazines as, konkret, Junge Welt, Bahamas and 17°C by different authors with disparate theoretical orientations. In the following I'm going to summarize the most important arguments and some of my own ideas. How can an anti-German position be justified?
Different scientists - for instance Reinhard Kuehnl and Norbert Elias, recently Daniel Goldhagen and John Weiss, asked the question whether there was such a thing like a "German Sonderweg" (i.e. specific historical circumstances distinct from the histories of other nations) which finally led to two world wars and the annihilation of the European Jews. Could the elite in other nations have motivated their population to lead an extermination war against all Jews or were there singular conditions in Germany, which particularly predestined its elite and its population for such crimes? I would like to briefly specify the most important differences between the development of Germany and the other European nations here:
In the "late nation" Germany, nationalism has always played a very important role, and it was stongly connected with antisemitism even before the establishment of the German Reich 1871. George L. Mosse writes: "The stronger the desire for national unity became, the stronger the prejudice against the Jews grew" (George L. Mosse, Ein Volk, ein Reich, ein Fuehrer). The "love" for Germany was extremely frequently connected with the hate on Jews, which led to desires of annihilation very early (i.e. Martin Luther (1) or with Johann Gottlieb Fichte (2) ). Biologically-racist nationalism had been the replacement for the own nation for a long time. When the national unity became a reality, the virulence of antisemitism grew even stronger. The argument between liberal, "philosemitic" proponents of the emancipation of the Jews and their conservative opponents was essentially one between antisemites, because both groups saw the Jews as "different" and morally inferior to the Germans. The liberals considered the Jews - contrary to the conservatives - as trainable, which however changed at the end of the 19th century: Now liberals began to regard the Jews as a "race" like it had become common sense in Germany to think about both Germans and Jews as a "race". The massive resistance against the political emancipation of Jews as conducted by the conservatives was, by the way, unprecedented in other western countries.
The long "Kleinstaaterei" the idea of a "Germany" before the unification of the smaller pre-German countries into the German state) and an associated stronger endangerment through powerful neighbour states helped to produce a strong feeling of being threatened by the external world, which could increase up to paranoia when a real crisis arose. Such a perception of the world can lead to "mental traditions", which survive the causing historical constellation, since they also are transfered to other situations, and naturally can be used by political and economic elites. The "mental traditions" can obtain a momentum, which obviously never becomes something unchangeable - under other conditions, these attitudes can change again - yet the fact that some of the dangerous elemnts which have constituted "German Identity" for so long are still there should make us weary. They show up for instance in the irrational fear many Germans show of British beef, African refugees and takeover-attempts by foreign companies.
The strong anchorage of "Prussian virtues" like obedience, performance of duties etc. and the historically formed militaristic convicition of large parts of the population has been represented in detail by many historians.
Strongly irrational tendencies, as in the German Romance and in the German Idealism, are part of German history of ideas and they influcenced the thinking of the National Socialists.
The specific situation of the German industry (few colonies, high economic growth but not enough markets etc.) caused a strong expansion urge within different, export-dependant capital groups, without which probably none of the two world wars would have occured. These and other economic conditions might explain fascism in nations such as Italy and and to some extent why the two world wars were started, but cannot contribute much of an explanation why the Germans committed the Holocaust. To other countries such as Italy and Japan these conditions apply too, however they did not become as genocidal as Germany.
There was an antisemitic tradition in Germany combined with a special "German" understanding of capitalism, in which production (the "schaffende" capital) was associated with the non-Jewish Germans and the circulation sphere (the "raffende" capital) was associated with the Jews. The propagandists of this ideology expected to triumph over the dark sides of capitalism when annihilating the Jews and managed to enthuse millions of followers for this "German project" (see Holger Schatz and Andrea Woeldike, Freiheit und Wahn deutscher Arbeit)
I think it's important that Germany - contrary to the USA, England and France - did not accomplish a successful bourgeois revolution. The aristocracy was still very influential during the 3. Reich, and which is still more important, the liberty values of bourgeois liberalism did not find a strong anchorage within the population. There's some evidence for the thesis, "that a self-confident, its success enjoying middle class simply never developed in Germany. First the citizens had fear of the aristocracy and of the crown, then they had fear of the proletariat... " (Wolfgang Pohrt, Das Jahr danach, P. 311). While bourgeois emancipation had also failed in Spain, Spain did not have the power to provoke a European-wide war - it only managed to accomplish a "normal" fascism. I find it likely that the missing integration of bourgeois liberty values affected the development of Germany to a considerable degree. It is hard to imagine a Mussolini or a Hitler in England or France - the population did not have the necessary frame of mind to subjugate under a "Fuehrer", since civil liberty and equality values had a greater importance in the consciousness of both population and elite.
There it is, part two will come tomorrow.