Discussion:
Antideutsche, once again
(too old to reply)
Henning Böke
2006-06-18 17:23:43 UTC
Permalink
The discussion on "anti-Germans", based on a heavy dose of
half-knowledge and speculation (this is, of course, a criticism
towards my German compatriots posting on this list), is mixing up
some things.

L?ko Wilms mentioned two - in his opinion "petty-bourgeois" -
organizations that he suspects to have been protagonists of
anti-German politics: the Arbeiterbund f?r den Wiederaufbau der KPD
(Workers league for rebuilding the KPD) and the Kommunistischer Bund
(KB, Communist league). But actually, none of them has any relation
to contemporary "anti-German" currents.

The Arbeiterbund, in the 1970s the major Maoist "ML" group in Munich
and Bavaria, had a certain influence in trade unions, a little
remainder still exists. The leaders are would-be poets who try to
imitate Brecht. But members must be industrial workers, or membership
application must be supported by two workers. They combined Maoism
with a strictly orthodox, nostalgic Stalinist traditionalism, and
they always rejected "petty-bourgeois" trends like ecology (until
1986 they fiercely defended nuclear energy). By origin, they are not
"anti-German": In the 70s, they were rather "patriotic". According to
their Maoist doctrine, they regarded Germany as divided and oppressed
by US imperialism and Soviet "social imperialism". They even used the
slogan "Deutschland den Deutschen" (Germany to the Germans), which is
actually a demand of the neo-nazi NPD. After 1980, when China became
even more "revisionist" than the USSR, they gradually changed their
attitude towards the Soviet Union, becoming less hostile. In 1990,
they resolutely defended the GDR against the imperialist "annexion".
They uphold the orthodox Leninist theory of imperialism, i.e. they
believe in an increasing conflict between US imperialism and European
imperialism under German leadership. According to Karl Liebknecht's
"Der Hauptfeind steht im eigenen Land" (your main enemy stands in
your own country), they claim that in Germany one must struggle
against German imperialism, not US imperialism, so they did not take
part in manifestations against the war against Iraq because they
believe that in Germany any action against an US war would strengthen
German imperialism. They are quite sensitive concerning
anti-semitism. They do not support "anti-Americanism" and
"anti-Zionism". In the late 1990s, they tried to build an "Alliance
of the peoples of Europe against Germany," as far as I know they only
found some allies in Poland. You may think of the Arbeiterbund
whatever you want (their 1920s-style cabaret performances are quite
funny), but anyway they are not "petty-bourgeois". Their opposition
against growing German power is anchored within a strictly Leninist
framework and has nothing in common with the core of "anti-German"
ideology.

The KB had its centre in Hamburg. The organisation was founded by
students, young workers and apprentices. They supported the basic
ideas of Maoism, but they rejected the Chinese doctrines on "social
imperialism", "three worlds" etc. They also did not really defend
Stalin. In general, their policy was rather undogmatic and pragmatic.
I think one can say that among the Maoists the KB played a role
similar to that of the Mandelists within Trotskyism: They tried to
combine a Marxist tradition with an opening-up to new "alternative"
movements. They were the first to generally oppose nuclear energy
(even in "socialist countries"). Their special feature which made
them outsiders was their theory of an imminent "fascization" (which
L?ko mentioned). In the 1970s, almost the whole German left expected
that the increasing economic crisis would lead to a left-wing
radicalization of the masses. We should be honest: This was an
illusion, and the KB was the only organization which did not share
this illusion. Today we have ten percent disoccupation and a
government which does not fight against disoccupation but against the
disoccupied. But there is no real mass movement. In the 1970s no one
on the left could imagine that in such a situation the republic would
remain stable. The KB, as a revolutionary organisation which did not
share the ingenuous revolutionary optimism of the others, was more
realistic than the other groups in seeing that in Germany there would
not be a left mass radicalization. (It was Lenin who said that there
will not be a revolution in Germany because it is forbidden to set
foot on the lawn, and before storming a railway station Germans first
buy a ticket.) But the KB expected the other extreme: They feared
that the crisis would result in a fascist tendency. (They interpreted
e.g. the measures taken by the social democratic government against
RAF terrorism in 1977 as "fascist." Actually, in Helmut Schmidt's
all-party "crisis management staff" the possibility of killing the
RAF prisoners was taken into consideration. When these prisoners then
committed suicide there were serious doubts.) In the 1980s, the
theory of "fascization" was critically revised. In this context, a
debate on German history and society began which finally resulted in
a split. Jewish KB members began to question the hidden anti-semitism
within the left: What did it mean that German leftists found
"fascism" in Israel and compared the Shatila massacre with Hitler's
"Endl?sung" (this was a headline of the KB newspaper Arbeiterkampf
which was criticized by many members)? What did it mean that the
first "selection" of jews after 1945 was done by the German and
Palestinian hijackers at the airport of Entebbe in 1977 (they
actually selected not Israelian citizens, but all passengers with
jewish-sounding names)? What did it mean that a rival Maoist
organization had called the emission of the US film series
"Holocaust" in German TV "Zionist propaganda"? This debate was a
great merit.

In 1989/90, differences emerged within the KB on how to deal with the
imminent reunification of Germany. The major faction considered this
as inevitable and recommended to support social protest against the
consequences of the capitalist restoration in the former GDR (most of
them joined the PDS). In january 1990, before the first free election
in the GDR, a huge victory of the social democrats was expected -
most leftists hoped the east Germans to vote for social justice. But
the triumphant winner was Helmut Kohl who was celebrated as a hero.
In particular the formerly "red" industrial areas of Saxonia had vast
conservative majorities. The KB minority drew the conclusion that in
this situation of a disastrous defeat of the left the main task, and
the only chance of survival of a radical opposition without being
integrated into the new national mainstream was not "class struggle"
but resistance against Germany's new national self-consciousness, its
imperialist ambitions (e.g. the role Germany played in the
destruction of Yugoslavia by recognizing Slovenia and Croatia),
opposition against the efforts to draw a "final stroke" under the
German past and to rewrite German history by presenting the Germans
as victims of "two totalitarian dictatorships", and the defence of
immigrants against the growing racism (which should dramatically
become manifest in 1992 when neo-nazis set on fire a refugee asylum
in Rostock, with resolute support from the population of the
neighbourhood). I do not understand, L?ko, what should have been
"petty-bourgeois" about this, and I cannot remember that your truly
proletarian troops did contribute anything noteworthy to this
(defensive) struggle. In other words: In those years radical politics
in Germany could not be based on something like "the working class,"
but only on radical minorities. If you had shouted on the street in
1990, "Up with proletarian class struggle! Long live socialism!"
everyone would have laughed. But if you said that you dislike German
unity then you could at least be sure that you were recognized as a
serious enemy, not just as a madman. To describe the situation with
Mao Zedong: The "main contradiction" had "changed its place." There
was no way to mobilize any "proletarian masses" against the new
German chauvinism. The "reunification" of Germany was a dramatic
turn. Its result was that opinions which had formerly been the
exclusive ideas of neo-nazis and the far right now became part of the
consensus of the "democratic centre." The national "normalization" of
Germany meant - and is still meaning - a big shift to the right of
the whole society (not only the bourgeoisie). The only possibility of
opposition was to openly attack this. Within the whole left the same
division which split the KB occurred: On one side there were the
pragmatists who wanted to make "Realpolitik" (mainly by joining the
PDS), on the other side there was the "radical left" which organized
the "Nie wieder Deutschland" (Germany never again) manifestation in
may 1990. ("Germany? Never again" was a quotation from the actress
Marlene Dietrich who stayed in the USA after 1945 and was therefore
considered as a "traitor" by many Germans.)

As far as I know, the first one to use the term "anti-German" was
J?rgen Els?sser, then a KB member. Nowadays he is a well-known
journalist, but he has changed his positions. In the late 1990s he
was a resolute supporter of Serbia (because Serbia has suffered much
from Germany). His books and articles had certain merits - he
uncovered the lies which were used to legitimize the war against
Yugoslavia; on the other hand his opinions on "uncivilized" Albanians
and Muslims are at least close to racism. He has turned back to more
classic anti-imperialist positions, and today he believes that
movements like feminism or gay emancipation are tools of imperialism
in order to undermine non-aligned countries. Now he also supports the
idea that France, Germany and Russia should build an alliance against
the US empire. In general, Els?sser tends to exaggerations. As a
former pragmatic Maoist, he seems to uphold Mao's "We must support
anything that our enemies dislike" (which, in my opinion, was not
Chairman Mao's best idea).

Serious differences within the "anti-German" radical left emerged in
1991 when some individuals - not organized currents - supported Bush
senior's war agaist Iraq. They were heavily promoted by the monthly
magazine "konkret," but they were a minority.

After the KB split the minority, now calling itself "Gruppe K", began
to edit a new magazine called "Bahamas" - this was an ironic allusion
to a dispute when a speaker of the majority had recommended them to
emigrate to the Bahamas if life in Germany was so terrible. Bahamas
was a review of the radical left, mainly focused on nationalism and
racism. The main problem of the former KB members was their lack of
theory - in the 1970s their rather pragmatic approach to politics was
their strength, because they were less dogmatic than others, but now,
in a situation which required theoretical reflection, it was a
disadvantage. They decided to open the editorial staff to other
persons, and this was a lethal mistake. Until 1994, the former KB
members were ousted by a group of "theorists" mainly coming from
Initiative Sozialistisches Forum, a little sectarian group calling
itself "left communist" or "council communist", dominated by the sect
guru Joachim Bruhn in Freiburg. They mainly refer to Adorno's and
Horkheimer's "critical theory" (but I do not believe that Adorno
would like them) and to Moishe Postone. (As far as I know, only one
single former KB member remained among the Bahamas editors, most of
them retired.)

It is essential to distinguish the new anti-German current which
emerged after 1994 from the anti-German tendency of the early 1990s.
I frankly confess that in 1990 I supported anti-German politics and
the "Germany never again" campaign. I am still convinced that this
was necessary. But for us this was a temporary position in a
particular situation, and it was a necessary element of left-wing
self-criticism in order to correct the shortcomings of our former
positions which under-estimated e.g. the persistence of anti-semitism
and racism. We criticized the "Realpolitik" leftists (including, of
course, all the economistic mainstram Marxist currents) because they
missed the point that in such a situation one could not do a
political "business as usual." More in general, to be anti-German
simply meant: to show in public that we are not patriotic, we do not
love Germany, we are "vaterlandslose Gesellen" (guys without
motherland), as the social democrats were called in the German Reich
of Wilhelm II. However, we did not intend to create a new general
world view.

The new anti-Germans who came after us were radical academics who
never had been involved into any social movement, but preached an
elitist "dialectics of crisis and criticism." They constructed the
core of the new anti-German ideology by rejecting any kind of workers
movement and, even more, any idea of a collective emancipation. Their
basic doctrine was the idea that liberal bourgeois emancipation is a
necessary condition of communist emancipation (in fact a complicated
matter), and they pointed out that in Germany this bourgeois
emancipation has never been carried out consequently. In substance,
this refers to the distinction of "Gemeinschaft" (community) and
"Gesellschaft" (society): Around 1995, the anti-Germans liked to
emphasize the difference between e.g. the French nation, based on
democratic citizenship, and the German nation which is based on
origin and blood. (Since then, the German laws have undergone some
slight changes, but German citizens with coloured skin, of Turkish
origin or jewish confession are still regarded as "foreigners" by
large parts of the German population.) Anti-Germans claimed that
France, the USA and Israel (!!! - the latter in spite of being a
State based on religion) are "civilized" modern nations, whereas the
way of building society in Germany or in the Arab world is pre-modern
and "v?lkisch" - I think it is impossible to translate this German
word into other languages: The English word "people" is derived from
Latin "populus", in romanic languages "el pueblo", "le peuple", "il
popolo" means "la gente", "les gens" as citizens, whereas the German
idea of "Volk" is associated with a community of common origin and
blood. This is a distinction which in fact should be considered. But
the anti-German doctrine distorted its own rational insights in the
different ways of nation-building by projecting them to an idealistic
abstraction: The anti-Germans created an idealistic image of
bourgeois democracy and "civilization" and opposed this idealistic
construction to peoples whom they considered to be "fascist,"
anti-modern and anti-semitic by nature - the Germans and the Arabs.
(I think it is necessary to defend Adorno, who, in spite of some
problematic assumptions, never made such an idealistic and uncritical
use of the notion of "civilization," against his anti-German
admirers.)

Of course, the anti-German "communism" is bogus because their outlook
is based on an as radicalized as abstract liberal individualism and
an idealistic view on "western civilization." Their ideology is
linked to a chauvinism of "civilization". Their attitude towards
Arabs and muslims has soon become openly racist. They denounce any
collective social movement, any collective defense against
neo-liberal imperialism and any claim for social justice as a
"shortcut" false anti-capitalism. Any spontaneous popular
anti-capitalism, based on intuitions of moral, solidarity and
justice, is associated with the nazi-German "Volksgemeinschaft", any
criticism against exploiters and persons in power (instead of
analyzing the objective relations of commodity production) is
denounced as "structural anti-semitism." For them, true
anti-capitalism can only be the critical analysis of commodity
fetishism made by enlightened intellectuals. However, during the
last years, some of them have begun to replace Marx, Adorno and
Postone by Karl Popper's "open society" liberalism as the new key to
"emancipation." For them all, the US and Israel are the bulwarks of
"civilization." Interestingly, there has been a change in their
attitude towards France: Initially they idealized France, nowadays
they are anti-French because France did not support the war against
Iraq.

In summary, I want to emphasize that "anti-German" motives have
appeared in very different frameworks. In the early 1990s, being
"anti-German" was an element of radical leftism in Germany, but it
was not a special ideology. "Anti-Germanism" as a distinct current
emerged in the mid-90s, and a further radicalization took place since
9-11. Of course, not all anti-Germans are as extreme as I described
them. I would say that the most extreme of them are rather radical
liberals than leftists, their attitude is a kind of non-conformistic
conformism, they are active supporters of imperialism. Their style of
writing is thoroughly aggressive and fanatic, and ironically their
vocabulary (describing Arabs, anti-imperialist leftists etc. in terms
like "bandits", "gangsters", "scoundrels") is almost fascist. The
Austrian Stephan Grigat, whose article has been posted on this list,
is rather moderate; at least he tries to make serious theoretical
arguments. The bigger problem is that this ideology has a certain
influence among many young Antifa activists. But for most of them,
the "anti-German" attitude is rather an emotional disposition than a
"theory".

But I also want to say that a critical confrontation with anti-German
doctrines should take into account that the early "anti-German"
debate, of which in particular the KB was a protagonist, had
legitimate motives and contributed much to correct the shortcomings
of the traditional left. Problems like hidden or structural
anti-semitism in the left do exist, and the anti-German debate helped
to detect them. Lenin once said that when criticizing our opponents,
we should examine which grain of truth their positions include. (I am
not a Leninist because average Leninists do not obey this maxim.)

Please allow me an important final word: In general, I use Marxmail
as a source of information, and I wrote this contribution mainly as a
piece of information in order to help non-German readers to
understand the different meanings of "anti-German". Normally I do not
write on Marxmail because the dogmatic style predominating on this
list is not my cup of tea. Expressions like "petty-bourgeois left" do
not belong to my vocabulary because such a term, for decades used by
different Marxist currents to insult and condemn each other
(Stalinists against Trotskyists and vice versa, different Trotskyists
against each other, Soviet communists against Maoists and vice versa
...), simply does not explain anything. Another example: Someone said
that anti-Germans are "detached from class struggle." Of course, this
statement is not wrong, but it does not explain anything. In my
opinion, this dogmatic "Marxist" language is as useless as the Beavis
and Butthead language from MTV.

Sincerely

Henning B?ke (Frankfurt, Germany)
kersplebedeb
2006-06-18 17:42:07 UTC
Permalink
i just have to say, this is one of the most informative and interesting
posts i have ever read on this mailing list. thanks for taking the time
to write it and send it out!
Post by Henning Böke
The discussion on "anti-Germans", based on a heavy dose of
half-knowledge and speculation (this is, of course, a criticism
towards my German compatriots posting on this list), is mixing up some
things.
Mark Lause
2006-06-18 17:51:46 UTC
Permalink
Kersplebedeb wrote of Henning B?ke's post, "i just have to say, this is one
of the most informative and interesting posts i have ever read on this
mailing list. thanks for taking the time to write it and send it out!"

These thanks are seconded. B?ke's email was extremely informative and put
much of the earlier discussion in perspective.

ML
Ian Pace
2006-06-18 17:55:22 UTC
Permalink
From: "Mark Lause" <MLause at cinci.rr.com>
Post by Mark Lause
Kersplebedeb wrote of Henning B?ke's post, "i just have to say, this is one
of the most informative and interesting posts i have ever read on this
mailing list. thanks for taking the time to write it and send it out!"
Post by Mark Lause
These thanks are seconded. B?ke's email was extremely informative and put
much of the earlier discussion in perspective.

Thirded - it was a fascinating and deeply informative post. I just wonder if
there's any way that B?ke could be persuaded to post here more often? Is the
'dogmatic style' to be found here (and certainly it is) necessarily much
worse than in other types of forums?

Solidarity,
Ian
Nestor Gorojovsky
2006-06-18 19:21:20 UTC
Permalink
Respuesta a:"Marxism Digest, Vol 32, Issue 44"
Enviado por:marxism-request at lists.econ.utah.edu
Con fecha:16 Jun 2006, a las 23:28
I haven't followed this thread too closely, so I hope I'm not
repeating something that's already been discussed. I just wanted to
add that this tendency within the German left to avoid criticism of
Israel--and worse, to automatically equate anti-Zionism with
antisemitism--is quite broad and deep, afflicting many (probably most)
on the left and far left.
No, dear cde. Anna, you have not repeated anything, and even if you
had, this that you are saying is worth repeating once and again.

This silence of the German left is probably the worst consequence of
the imperialist-imposed sense of collective guilt of the German
people for the crimes of their imperialist bourgeoisie.

Adorno, et al., as well as "anti-Deutsch" Leftists in general, are
the ramhead of a social-democratic "normalization" of the German Left
after 1945. And we know who the Social-Democrats, particularly the
German SDs, are (as from the point of view of History with capital
letters, I mean): the guys who voted the war credits in 1914, and who
never ever said a single word of regret.

Once the German Left gets rid of the parcel they supposedly own in
the collective guilt for Nazism it will be able to step ahead in the
hard road they will have to traverse if they want to overcome their
current inability to offer a serious alternative to the German
bourgeoisie.

Idealization of "national exceptionalisms" has worked, ever since
1945, on a bipolar scheme where the USA were the extreme "plus" and
Nazi Germany (that is, to put it brief, "Germans") were the extreme
"minus". It is important to stress that it was _never_ the Soviet
Union, which at most was _equated with_ Nazi Germany (of course, only
an imperialist nation could become the measuring rod for evil as well
as for bliss).

But German "exceptionalism" is, in essence, the consequence of having
been just the most perfect imperialist nation in the West _and_ a
latecomer. During a particular period of German history, this forced
its own bourgeoisie to behave towards parts of its own population in
the way "normal" bourgeoisies in other imperialist countries behaved
outside the limits of their own European possessions. Most
outrageous, probably, was that this bourgeoisie did not hesitate to
turn against a part of itself when it was proved necessary: the
Jewish portion of the bourgeoisie (Ha'avarah agreements with Zionist
Yishuv in Palestine, of course, excluded!)

Conversely, witness tolerant Dutch, harmless Belgians, in Indonesia
or Africa. Not to speak of other, more egregious, monuments to human
criminality. A single famine in India speaks more of British
imperialism than the Brighton Pavilion.

But back to the polarity: the day the USA produces one Rosa
Luxemburg, we shall begin to speak. In the meantime, the German Left
should lay all the blame for the "guilt" on the German bourgeoisie,
and encourage the German working class to say "We were victims, we
were not 'guilty'!")


Este correo lo ha enviado
N?stor Miguel Gorojovsky
nestorgoro at fibertel.com.ar
[No necesariamente es su autor]
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
"La patria tiene que ser la dignidad arriba y el regocijo abajo".
Aparicio Saravia
_ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _ _
wrobert
2006-06-18 20:16:05 UTC
Permalink
I know that this is a fairly minor detail, but Rosa Luxemburg was Polish.
She moved from there due to police pressures. She didn't particularly
like the place (see "How typically German is this Revoution" for details).
Of this, enough

robert wood
Post by Nestor Gorojovsky
But back to the polarity: the day the USA produces one Rosa
Luxemburg, we shall begin to speak. In the meantime, the German Left
should lay all the blame for the "guilt" on the German bourgeoisie,
and encourage the German working class to say "We were victims, we
were not 'guilty'!")
[No necesariamente es su autor]
wrobert
2006-06-18 20:16:06 UTC
Permalink
I know that this is a fairly minor detail, but Rosa Luxemburg was Polish.
She moved from there due to police pressures. She didn't particularly
like the place (see "How typically German is this Revoution" for details).
Of this, enough

robert wood
Post by Nestor Gorojovsky
But back to the polarity: the day the USA produces one Rosa
Luxemburg, we shall begin to speak. In the meantime, the German Left
should lay all the blame for the "guilt" on the German bourgeoisie,
and encourage the German working class to say "We were victims, we
were not 'guilty'!")
[No necesariamente es su autor]
Les Schaffer
2006-06-19 04:09:45 UTC
Permalink
Normally I do not write on Marxmail because the dogmatic style
predominating on this list is not my cup of tea. Expressions like
"petty-bourgeois left" do not belong to my vocabulary because ...
i join with others here in welcoming Henning to active participation in
the list.

in THAT spirit, i thought it would be interesting to check how many
times the phrase "petty-bourgeois left" showed up in Marxmail posts.

a '"petty-bourgeois left" site:archives.econ.utah.edu' at google shows
there are a total of 4 uses of the term over a 5 year period. see below.

my point is NOT that Marxmail is free of dogmatic style, but that its
best to be somewhat analytical about how strong or frequent such style
appears, and under what conditions.

and, yes, there are over 10000 hits for the plain term
"petty-bourgeois". i'll leave it to some resourceful subscriber to make
careful analysis of the use of the term. for example:

As long as we do not use the term petit-bourgeois pejoratively, it
may be occasionally useful. The politics of Ralph Nader, for
instance, may be usefully described as petit-bourgeois reformism, and
that is one of the reasons why I'm supporting it.

Yoshie

http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2004w33/msg00162.htm



les schaffer




1. /Date/: Fri, 24 Aug 2001 14:02:25 +0100 (GMT) (message sent twice)

The dedication of many comrades amongst the petty bourgeois left in
opposition
to the Turkish regime is not in question.

in

=========================================
Weekly Worker 396 Thursday August 23 2001
=========================================

Death fasts
Marxists and the politics of suicide
Aziz Demir analyses the class background to the hunger strike by
political prisoners in Turkey.

http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2001/msg05727.htm

2. /Date/: Wed, 10 Dec 2003 20:39:39 -0500

STAN SMITH WRITES
I am not a partisan of the US SWP, but in fairness to that
organization, some of you are being a little too dramatic
in your characterizations. The SWP always had the tendency
to characterize others in the movement as social democrats,
stalinists, various other types of petty bourgeois
left-wing, radical "opponents". This was always somewhat
sectarian

http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2003w49/msg00124.htm

3. /Date/: Sat, 21 Feb 2004 05:42:14 EST (message sent twice)

The intellectual core of the black elite is leagues ahead of the petty
bourgeois left and the bourgeois intellectual concerning American
history and
politics.

http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2004w07/msg00253.htm

4. /Date/: Tue, 12 Apr 2005 01:26:41 -0400

All SWP politics today starts from the defense of its bureaucratic
organizational structures (the norms, the centralism, the discipline,
the permanent leadership team). The starting point is opposition to the
"opponents," the petty-bourgeois left or nationalists, who prevent
workers from joining the SWP or related groups, or exert pressure on
members to differ with the leadership.

http://archives.econ.utah.edu/archives/marxism/2005w15/msg00047.htm
Johannes Schneider
2006-06-19 07:13:51 UTC
Permalink
Post by Henning Böke
The discussion on "anti-Germans", based on a heavy dose of
half-knowledge and speculation (this is, of course, a criticism
towards my German compatriots posting on this list),
Henning,

your polemics here are totally unneccessary. If you know better say so, but indulging in generalizations will not help.
Post by Henning Böke
is mixing up
some things.
L?ko Wilms mentioned two - in his opinion "petty-bourgeois" -
organizations that he suspects to have been protagonists of
anti-German politics: the Arbeiterbund f?r den Wiederaufbau der KPD
(Workers league for rebuilding the KPD) and the Kommunistischer Bund
(KB, Communist league). But actually, none of them has any relation
to contemporary "anti-German" currents.
Sorry to correct you here. The KB does not longer exist. So as an organisation it can only have any relation to "historic" and not to contemporary debates.
After all you write it yourself that the KB initiated the anti-German current. Leading anti-Germans are former KB-members.
For the Arbeiterbund it is different: They still exist today as a tiny organization, mainly here in Munich. As such they are the core of the anti-Germans here. While you are correct to point out they are rooted in orthodox Leninism and thus ideologically very distant from the anti-German mainstream, they are still able to dominate the local anti-Germans from an organizational point through their front FDJ.
The FDJ shares the anti-German dogma of equating anti-zionism and anti-semitism. See:
http://www.fdj.de/pdf/nahost.pdf

But overall you are correct: Both former KB and present Arbeiterbund are only a minor influence within the Anti-Germans as a whole. Nevertheless the KB could be seen as the midwife of this idiocy.
Post by Henning Böke
(clipped a lot of interesting stuff about Arbeiterbund)
They are quite sensitive concerning
anti-semitism. They do not support "anti-Americanism" and
"anti-Zionism".
First of all they equate anti-zionism anti-semitism. In my eyes such a policy does a great harm to the fight against anti-semitism.

Seeing anti-semitism everywhere will make you blind for the real cases of anti-semitism. I cannot call such a policy "sensitive", but at best idiotic.
Post by Henning Böke
In the late 1990s, they tried to build an "Alliance
of the peoples of Europe against Germany," as far as I know they only
found some allies in Poland. You may think of the Arbeiterbund
whatever you want (their 1920s-style cabaret performances are quite
funny), but anyway they are not "petty-bourgeois". Their opposition
against growing German power is anchored within a strictly Leninist
framework
Rather a caricture of Leninism. Supporting a colonial-settler state and favouring one-imperialist against the other is not Leninism in my eyes.
Post by Henning Böke
(clipped lot of interesting stuff about KB)
Out of curiosity: because of your passionate defense of KB policies, are you a former member?
Post by Henning Böke
Someone said
that anti-Germans are "detached from class struggle." Of course, this
statement is not wrong, but it does not explain anything. In my
opinion, this dogmatic "Marxist" language is as useless as the Beavis
and Butthead language from MTV.
Thank you for the final compliment. But in my eyes any Marxist analysis of an ideological current as to start from its relation to the class struggle and its position to the working class. Certainly an analysis or any kind or explanation can only start from there and has to go deeper and more detailed (as you did eg.).
But I did never intend to provide a full analysis but rather a short characterization.

Comradely

Johannes
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Henning Böke
2006-06-20 16:51:00 UTC
Permalink
Post by Johannes Schneider
Sorry to correct you here. The KB does not longer exist. So as an
organisation it can only have any relation to "historic" and not to
contemporary debates.
Yes, I forgot to mention that the organization was broken up after
the 1990 split. I use this occasion to add that there had already
been a first split in 1980, when the "Z faction" quit the KB
membership in order to support the radical left wing of the newborn
Green party. Protagonists like Thomas Ebermann and Rainer Trampert
left the Greens after 1990 and continued their political work as
independent radical leftists; they are against the new German Reich
as well as against imperialism. Another prominent figure is J?rgen
Trittin who became pragmatic, aligned himself to the Green
"Realpolitik" line and finally became minister for environment under
Gerhard Schr?der. Trittin often annoyed the conservatives and
liberals with his unpatriotic behaviour, in particular with his
sneers on the Bundeswehr (when journalists revealed nazi activities
in the army, Trittin said something like "No wonder in that troop").
Some months ago, the right-wing CDU hardliner J?rg Sch?nbohm
complained about Trittin in a TV talk show because in his official
letterhead Trittin writes: "Member of the Bundestag" instead of
"Member of the German Bundestag" - how unpatriotic!

In general, I would describe the situation in contemporary Germany
like this: If you are for social justice and against neo-liberalism,
the united neo-liberal front will say that you are a backward
"populist" who in vain is trying to escape the iron laws of
"globalization," and they will not miss any occasion to compare you
to neo-nazis because these are also against globalization. If you
are for socialism, they will say that you stick to an outdated
totalitarian ideology which has been falsified by history. In both
cases, they will say that you are absolutely unrealistic and have no
chance to make any real contribution to solve problems. But if you
reject black-red-gold, if you disturb the debates on "patriotism" and
German "Leitkultur" (guideline culture), they will regard this as a
serious threat. The reason is simple: Everybody knows that during
the last decades the Federal Republic of Germany functioned as a
democratic State without "patriotic values," which now are required
for a neo-liberal imperialist project. Around 1970, the German
president Gustav Heinemann (a moderate social democrat) said, "I love
my wife, not my State." Nobody complained about this sober
statement. But today, no politician dares to speak like this -
except ex-KB militant J?rgen Trittin who had to bear many insults for
his "unpatriotic" attitude.
Post by Johannes Schneider
After all you write it yourself that the KB initiated the anti-German current.
I said that the KB minority faction played a major role in the
"anti-German" trend of 1990, which must not be mixed up with the
Bahamas ideology after 1994. There is not "the anti-German current,"
there have been different currents. The "Germany never again"
campaign of 1990 was against the rebirth of an imperialist Germany,
the contemporary Bahamas ideology is against islamic immigrants.

Let me add one important historic detail. In 1990, I witnessed the
discussions preparing the "Nie wieder Deutschland" demonstration in
Frankfurt. The organizers were KB minority members and some other
radical leftists. The mainstream leftists (left socialists,
communists, Trotskyists, Maoists and other class struggle commanders
without army) criticized them saying that the slogan "Germany never
again" was "sectarian", "against the masses" and so on. But
nevertheless, then they all took part in the demonstration.

Finally, the difference lies in what you can call the "class line" -
in an ample sense. The KB members were political grassroot activists
with a background in trade unions, anti-war movement, struggles
against nuclear energy and initiatives against racism. I think this
can be called a "proletarian line" because the basic interests and
motives of these people lay in resistance against exploitation,
oppression and discrimination. You might argue whether their policy
was right or wrong, but anyway they were committed to class struggle.
The Bahamas guys were young academics who obviously never cared for
interests of average working people. Of course, you can call them
"petty-bourgeois" (but if we use such terms, we should always explain
what we mean).
Post by Johannes Schneider
Leading anti-Germans are former KB-members.
To clear this question, you should say whom you mean. As far as I
know (please correct me if I am wrong), Matthias K?ntzel is the only
former KB member who still belongs to the Bahamas gang. In 1994 the
Bahamas magazine was taken over by a group which never had any links
to the KB. In 1992, I visited some members of the Gruppe K (i.e. the
former KB minority) in Hamburg, who had just begun to publish
Bahamas. None of them is still supporting this platform. The
protagonist of the "anti-German" discussion within the KB had been
the Frankfurt group which never supported Bahamas. Detlef zum Winkel
(KB Frankfurt until 1990) even quit his job leaving the editing staff
of "konkret" in 1991 because he did not want to serve as a fig leaf
for chief editor Hermann Gremliza's bellicist pro-US line. You
should take note of this: there is a clear distinction between the
"anti-German" trend of the radical left in the early 1990s and the
pro-imperialist ideology of "konkret" and "Bahamas". I also
mentioned J?rgen Els?sser: He is the only really prominent and
influential ex-member of the former KB minority. But today he is no
longer anti-German, now he works for the daily "junge Welt", which is
hostile to anti-Germans. In general, most of the former KB minority
members have retired from politics, i.e. sometimes you meet them at
demonstrations as individuals or perhaps as members of some local
initiatives, but none of them has influence in a political
organization or current. I know a former KB member in Frankfurt who
always has been committed in Palestine solidarity. He still is, but
he is not an "anti-zionist."
Post by Johannes Schneider
For the Arbeiterbund it is different: They still exist today as a
tiny organization, mainly here in Munich. As such they are the core
of the anti-Germans here. While you are correct to point out they
are rooted in orthodox Leninism and thus ideologically very distant
from the anti-German mainstream, they are still able to dominate the
local anti-Germans from an organizational point through their front
FDJ.
If you report this from the Arbeiterbund centre Munich, of course I
believe you. I know some Arbeiterbund activists in Frankfurt - their
cabaret performances, focused on attacking the right-wing CDU of
Hesse around Roland Koch, are not bad, but I do not see links to
anti-Germans. Well, the FDJ - perhaps, I do not know them enough.
Arbeiterbund members mainly work in trade unions.

I suspect the following: Veteran Arbeiterbund members of course know
that their organization needs fresh blood for survival. They also
know that with their nostalgic Stalinist core ideology,
Th?lmann-style rhetorics etc. they will not attract young people
(young Stalinists rather join the German Communist Party DKP, in
which serious tensions between a pragmatic and an orthodox wing have
emerged). So it is no wonder that the youth organization FDJ chooses
another strategy. In other words: In the 1970s there were principal
ideological differences between DKP (pro-Soviet, Brezhnevist) and
Arbeiterbund ("anti-revisionist", Stalinist-Maoist). These
differences have blurred: The orthodox DKP current has adopted some
elements of "anti-revisionism", whereas Arbeiterbund has repudiated
former doctrines on "social imperialism" etc. So the "anti-German"
component is decisive for the Arbeiterbund's organizational profile.
Post by Johannes Schneider
The FDJ shares the anti-German dogma of equating anti-zionism and
http://www.fdj.de/pdf/nahost.pdf
The relation between anti-semitism and anti-zionism is a really
complex matter which I do not want to discuss comprehensively at the
moment. It is a matter of context. I oppose to people who generally
and automatically equate them. This is absurd, because there are
enough jews who reject zionism. For instance, a few weeks ago Rudi
Segall died in Frankfurt, an old Fourth International militant who
lived in a kibbutz in Palestine in the 1930s, but returned to Germany
after 1945 because he did no longer want to support a movement which
oppressed the Arabs. It would be ridiculous and dangerous to call
such a sincere jewish leftist an "anti-semite," as the Bahamas
crackpots etc. use to do. But there are some other aspects to be
taken into consideration: there are contexts in which anti-zionism
does serve as a masque of anti-semitism, and this should by no means
be supported or tolerated. Since 1945, almost every anti-semite
always says, "I am not against jews, but ..." I have enough
experience with this. It does make difference whether you criticize
zionism in Israel or in Germany, Russia or elsewhere. "Anti-zionist"
propaganda, even if it may have "correct" left-wing motives, will
always attract people who understand it in a bit different manner.
Unfortunately, dogmatic Stalinists, Trotskyists etc. are resistant to
this experience.

Now I see that for you the question of anti-zionism is the decisive
element which makes you regard as different groups as KB,
Arbeiterbund and Bahamas as components of one common current because
they all criticize anti-zionism (but they do/did it in different
manners), and this is why you dislike them. This seems to be the
crucial point of our differences. As a Marxist, you say that class
orientation is decisive, right? But now the criterion by which you
sort your friends and enemies seems to be the question of
anti-zionism. The Arbeiterbund is a proletarian organization, but
suddenly this does not seem to matter. In my view, the Arbeiterbund
is a funny bunch, their nostalgic ideology cannot be taken seriously,
but they are committed to class struggle and must not be mixed up
with people like the Bahamas staff.
Post by Johannes Schneider
Seeing anti-semitism everywhere will make you blind for the real
cases of anti-semitism.
In general I agree, but anti-semitism does not start only with
explicit attacks on jews. Seeing anti-semitism only where jews are
openly attacked as jews will make you blind for the real soil in
which anti-semitism grows. The mushroom you see is only a part of
the subterranean rhizom.
Post by Johannes Schneider
Out of curiosity: because of your passionate defense of KB policies,
are you a former member?
No. But I had many discussions with the KB group in Frankfurt in the
1980s. I learnt much from them. - In general, I am not interested in
justifying the policy of whatever group in the 1970s. My judgement
on the KB is not intended as a "passionate defense," I only want to
point out in what they were different from others - and a bit more
realistic, even if their "fascization" doctrine proved to be as
mistaken as the revolutionary optimism of others. - Nowadays I often
write for "ak - analyse + kritik", the former KB paper
"Arbeiterkampf".
Post by Johannes Schneider
But in my eyes any Marxist analysis of an ideological current as to
start from its relation to the class struggle and its position to
the working class.
Not wrong, but "working class" is in itself a concept to be explained.

Best regards

Henning
Johannes Schneider
2006-06-21 07:42:33 UTC
Permalink
Henning,

I agree with a lot of what you are writing. Just a few remarks.
Post by Henning Böke
In general, I would describe the situation in contemporary Germany
like this: If you are for social justice and against neo-liberalism,
the united neo-liberal front will say that you are a backward
"populist" who in vain is trying to escape the iron laws of
"globalization," and they will not miss any occasion to compare you
to neo-nazis because these are also against globalization. If you
are for socialism, they will say that you stick to an outdated
totalitarian ideology which has been falsified by history. In both
cases, they will say that you are absolutely unrealistic and have no
chance to make any real contribution to solve problems. But if you
reject black-red-gold, if you disturb the debates on "patriotism" and
German "Leitkultur" (guideline culture), they will regard this as a
serious threat.
I am not sure. At the moment any "un-patriotic element" is very marginalised. This is could be only temporary, but perhaps this new "enlightened" patriotism will stay.

Take for the example the episode with the teachers union: They published a pamphlet arguing against the national anthem and demanding a new anthem. (Idiotic in my eyes, no matter how 'progressive' a national symbol is, in the case of Germany it will still be the symbol of German imperialism). After furious attaks on the union's chair he was forced to apologize for his remarks. Does this mean he is feared or he his position is so marginalized?
I rather feel that people like Lafontaine, who try to invoke German patriotism against neo-liberalism are feared more by the ruling class at the moment.
Post by Henning Böke
The reason is simple: Everybody knows that during
the last decades the Federal Republic of Germany functioned as a
democratic State without "patriotic values," which now are required
for a neo-liberal imperialist project. Around 1970, the German
president Gustav Heinemann (a moderate social democrat) said, "I love
my wife, not my State." Nobody complained about this sober
statement.
Something to add. Untill 1989 'traditional' nationalism was not possible due to the existence of two German states. What we are seeing today is a kind of 'enlightened' nationalism, that uses an explicit anti-Nazi and philo-semitic rhetoric.
Post by Henning Böke
I said that the KB minority faction played a major role in the
"anti-German" trend of 1990, which must not be mixed up with the
Bahamas ideology after 1994. There is not "the anti-German current,"
there have been different currents. The "Germany never again"
campaign of 1990 was against the rebirth of an imperialist Germany,
the contemporary Bahamas ideology is against islamic immigrants.
Sorry, as an opponent I was a bit of sloppy and lunped aup all sub-currents under one main current. A bit like saying all Trots are the same...
Post by Henning Böke
Let me add one important historic detail. In 1990, I witnessed the
discussions preparing the "Nie wieder Deutschland" demonstration in
Frankfurt. The organizers were KB minority members and some other
radical leftists. The mainstream leftists (left socialists,
communists, Trotskyists, Maoists and other class struggle commanders
without army) criticized them saying that the slogan "Germany never
again" was "sectarian", "against the masses" and so on. But
nevertheless, then they all took part in the demonstration.
First a disclaimer, I was present at this demonstartion as well (and not in the last lines.)
But nevertheless it was first of all an expression of frustration and did not provide any orientation. What did that slogan stand for? Build up the wall again? Reconstruct the GDR?
Post by Henning Böke
Post by Johannes Schneider
Leading anti-Germans are former KB-members.
To clear this question, you should say whom you mean.
You mentioned some names, eg J?rgen Els?sser, who at least was anti-German. One might add Trampert and Ebermann (who were in the Z-faction of KB).
Post by Henning Böke
As far as I
know (please correct me if I am wrong), Matthias K?ntzel is the only
former KB member who still belongs to the Bahamas gang.
Justus Wertm?ller is still the main guru of Bahamas.
Post by Henning Böke
If you report this from the Arbeiterbund centre Munich, of course I
believe you. I know some Arbeiterbund activists in Frankfurt - their
cabaret performances, focused on attacking the right-wing CDU of
Hesse around Roland Koch, are not bad, but I do not see links to
anti-Germans. Well, the FDJ - perhaps, I do not know them enough.
Arbeiterbund members mainly work in trade unions.
Seems Munich is different. Here the Arbeiterbund split. The union cadres (aka known as KAZ-Fraktion) left and joined German CP (DKP). They are good comrades who provide the core of the left here. What is left in Arbeiterbund was the Zug-Fraktion. (Dont want th p-word for the Schmitz-Bender clique). The FDJ (at least in the West) is there front.
Post by Henning Böke
I suspect the following: Veteran Arbeiterbund members of course know
that their organization needs fresh blood for survival. They also
know that with their nostalgic Stalinist core ideology,
Th?lmann-style rhetorics etc. they will not attract young people
(young Stalinists rather join the German Communist Party DKP, in
which serious tensions between a pragmatic and an orthodox wing have
emerged). So it is no wonder that the youth organization FDJ chooses
another strategy. In other words: In the 1970s there were principal
ideological differences between DKP (pro-Soviet, Brezhnevist) and
Arbeiterbund ("anti-revisionist", Stalinist-Maoist). These
differences have blurred: The orthodox DKP current has adopted some
elements of "anti-revisionism", whereas Arbeiterbund has repudiated
former doctrines on "social imperialism" etc. So the "anti-German"
component is decisive for the Arbeiterbund's organizational profile.
Post by Johannes Schneider
The FDJ shares the anti-German dogma of equating anti-zionism and
http://www.fdj.de/pdf/nahost.pdf
Now I see that for you the question of anti-zionism is the decisive
element which makes you regard as different groups as KB,
Arbeiterbund and Bahamas as components of one common current because
they all criticize anti-zionism (but they do/did it in different
manners), and this is why you dislike them.
You distorted my position. It is not about criticism of anti-Zionism (as eg the KB did in the end of the eighties) but about the uncritical support for policies of the State of Israel, which is a common feature of all anti-German currents.
Post by Henning Böke
This seems to be the
crucial point of our differences. As a Marxist, you say that class
orientation is decisive, right? But now the criterion by which you
sort your friends and enemies seems to be the question of
anti-zionism.
Eg. your organisation, the DKP, is not anti-Zionist, but I do not regard them as my enemies. Wheras I hate anyone who actively supported the imperialist attack on Iraq.
Post by Henning Böke
The Arbeiterbund is a proletarian organization, but
suddenly this does not seem to matter.
I think with the departure of the KAZ-Fraktion they lost most of their proletarian comrades.
Post by Henning Böke
In my view, the Arbeiterbund
is a funny bunch, their nostalgic ideology cannot be taken seriously,
OK, lets call them like that way to avoid the p-word.
Post by Henning Böke
but they are committed to class struggle
and must not be mixed up
with people like the Bahamas staff.
Sorry, but those are their friends they organize joint congresses at Munich university. So you expect me to love those cheer-leaders for imperialist war?

Johannes
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