Dobrindt bids to become the German Trump
CSU minister wants white, Christian “bourgeois” revolution in German
If you want to know what the German Trump will sound like, listen to Alexander Dobrindt. He is not yet the German Trump — he lacks the charisma and the stupidity. Yet the route to a Trump in Europe lies exactly through the path Dobrindt charts in his Die Welt article: for German conservatism to end its post-war attachment to the centre; to stigmatise the left in the same breath as Islamist terrorists, and to reinvent the ideology of kinder, kirche, küche for the 21st century.
We have been through exactly this process, both in Britain and the USA. The far right creates an electoral magnet for conservative politicians; the billionaire-owned media push the far right agenda; a social-media bubble is created where lies about migrants are spread — and then the mainstream press is called the “lying-press” for refusing to spread them. Eventually someone in the mainstream centre-right decides to join the right-wing “revolution”.
That’s effectively what Sebastian Kurz has done in Austria, cheered on by a bunch of lederhosen-clad bankers in Alpbach, and now Dobrindt wants to do it in Germany.
Hannah Arendt understood well how the far right always used hapless sympathisers to create an echo chamber for their reactionary ideas, normalising them and blurring the difference between fascism and respectable conservative thought.
This is the process Dobrindt’s call for a “conservative revolution” in Germany has begun: it signifies the willingness of the CSU right wing to play the role of hapless sympathisers for the AfD and the social base it is mobilising — while always, of course, counselling against excessive “nationalism” or, at this stage, right wing violence. The lesson of the US Republican Party is that these things come later.
Let’s deconstruct Dobrindt’s slogans (see below for a Google-translate version of the article into English).
First — the assertion that “Christianity is the foundation of our politics”. Wrong: the politics of the Federal Republic of Germany were founded on the defeat of the Third Reich by the Allies. In Article 137 it says “there shall be no state church”. Our grandfathers enforced this onto your country because they had seen the way an alliance of Christian fundamentalists and Nietszchean amoralists perpetrated genocide.
The attempt to align Christianity with the rationalism and scientism of the Enlightenment is also wrong. Our shared Enlightenment culture also commands the radical left to oppose “Sharia and burqa, child marriages and forced marriages, Islamist hate speech and religious incitement” — but we should do so in the name a secular constitution, not by stirring religious warfare between the German population and the refugees and migrants.
Second — who can be against the rights of the individual? Nobody. Except Dobrindt is not defending the individual — he is defending the privilege of the heterosexual family. This is fine, and falls within the normal bounds of a debate between conservative Christianity and the progressive liberal majority in society.
However, Dobrindt seeks to weaponise defence of the family (there is not one word about defending individual rights) for the same reason as the alt-right in the USA. Let’s quote his disgusting sentence:
“Socialists, nationalists, ecologists or Islamists … exaggerate the collective. They consider the class or race, nature or the umma more important than the individuals.”
The true purpose of this allegation is to create an “other” — exactly as the Conservative right did in the 1920s — consisting of progressives and a religious minority. In the 1920s we had “judeo-Bolshevik” — how long until the word “Islamo-socialist” enters the German conservative lexicon? What will happen to this “other” during the “conservative revolution”? The beauty of reviving right-wing innuendo is, as Trump demonstrated, you just have to let the imaginations of your followers provide the answer.
Dobrindt’s third point is an attempt to separate patriotism from nationalism. Nobody should defend the absurd anti-German movement, or cultural relativism. However the proposal that “patriotism is a prerequisite for cosmopolitanism, because one can only truly respect the other nation, if one appreciates one’s own identity” is, again, designed to otherise Germany’s ethnic and religious minorities.
“We are proud of our German culture,” says Dobrindt. I am also proud of it — and I am British. It is Germany’s gift to the world. The works of Bach, Beethoven, Goethe, Heine, Wagner, Brecht and Thomas Mann are among countless global monuments. I have seen the choir of London’s Royal Opera House sing the closing chorus of Wagner’s Die Meistersinger, which begins with the troubling lines “Ehrt eure deutschen Meister”, (honour your German masters) and a crowd of educated bourgeois British people cheer them, because we understand that the post-war intelligentsia of the Federal Republic carried out an intense audit, a self-criticism of Germany’s cultural history.
We in the English speaking world could not take part in that audit if we did not at the same time audit our own history of imperialism and racism.
Once you understand the through line of irrationalism from Nietzche through Spengler to Rosenberg; and the logical connections between Die Meistersinger and the Nuremberg rallies you can see why a simple proclamation of “pride” in German culture is not enough. I write this as someone who has made an hour-long documentary for the BBC on Wagner painstakingly rescuing what is progressive from what is reactionary in the music.
Proclamations of pride in the national culture of a former imperialist country are always covert declarations of pride in the racist past unless they specifically audit what is being perserved, and what jettisoned. We know this because that’s exactly what happened with Trump, and with the British conservatives over Brexit.
Point four — commitment to “Europe” is the anchor that binds the CSU to the neoliberal centrist project for now — and it is well defined. For the centre-right in Germany “Europe” is bigger than the Euro and the single market — it is the rock on which white, Christian cultural supremacy is based. However, read the subtext: he does not say “the European Union” is bigger than its economic building blocks — he says the idea of” Europe” is, effectively bigger than the European Union.
Under Merkel, the CDU/CSU has relentlessly gamed the Eurozone economy in favour of German advantage, crushing democracy in Greece, inflicting mass unemployment on the periphery. Dobrindt’s homily to “Europe” is, in fact, a promise of deep ambivalence towards the European Union once it ceases to deliver mercantilist profits to German business, and should its human rights laws begin to stand in the way of a “bourgeois revolution” in Germany. That’s why Dobrindt’s party invited the racist, nationalist anti-semite Victor Orban to address their gathering in January 2017. Victor Orban is Dobrindt’s kind of European.
Point Five is a restatement of economic neoliberalism. Like all conservative parties in crisis, the CSU is turnign towards a form of “national neoliberalism”. In this phase it does not attack the EU, but attacks instead the European laws that oblige Germany to take refugees and uphold their human rights. This commitment to marketisation, and opposition to redistribution of wealth, will form the grounds of convergence once if parts of the CSU summon up the courage to break with the centrist consensus and attempt to create a Bavarian Trump, alongside the AfD.
Point Six is the traditional right wing genuflection to the repressive state. Point Seven is more interesting, because like all technologically illiterate centrist politicians, Dobrindt seems to think that automation and digitisation are going to miraculously create jobs, if only the state refuses to interfere or direct the digital economy. This is not a stupidity confined to the CSU. The problems come when it does not happen; when automation begins to desroy well paid jobs.
However, there is a sting in the tail: in order to unleash the digital society, Germany must go on inflicting austerity on the rest of Europe, he says.
“ Unrestrained public debt and monetary expansion and an ECB policy of zero-interest money escalation may jeopardize Europe’s stability”, says Dobrindt. On the contrary: it is the refusal to partake in public investment, the lateness of monetary expansion and the pig-headedness of German and Dutch central bankers inside the ECB that have jeopardised Europe’s stability.
Dobrindt’s conclusion is a shocking statement of conservative radicalism. Shocking because, coming in a country whose bourgeoisie have made one previous foray into a conservative “revolution” which ended in war and genocide, it makes no attempt to acknowledge that fact.
Yes, it may not sound good to the ears of small-town xenophobes to hear the Nazi past dragged up — but the signature of the Allies is on the Basic Law of 1949 and everybody in the Western world has ownership of preventing a second lurch by German conservatism towards the project of a romantic reactionary uprising against modernity.
Dobrindt’s call for Germany to sweep away the legacy of 1968 is a call for a social counter-revolution. Notable by its absence is any attempt to defend what the German Federal Constitution is based on: namely universal rights, latterly embodied in the European Convention. Above all the specific dishonesties in Dobrindt’s article, it is this that is the most revealing.
German social-democracy can have no part in a government with a party which wants to attack the rights of women, gays, single people, Muslims and refugees. If the SPD wants to put nation before party, it should make Condition #1 for a grand coalition the sacking of Alexander Dobrindt as a minister and the repudiation by Angela Merkel of his attacks on the left.
Appendix. The Welt article is behind a paywall. Below is a Google-translate summary of the key paragraphs
“Germany is a bourgeois country. The majority of people in our country live and think civically. There is no left republic and no left majority in Germany. Not least, this has clearly shown the 2017 Bundestag election again.
“Yet, in many debates, a left-wing ideological majority dominates over a bourgeois majority. The origin of this lies exactly 50 years ago, in 1968…”
“Germany is not the Prenzlauer Berg, but Prenzlauer Berg determines the public debate. Therefore, more and more people feel that they no longer take place in the debates with their positions, their opinions and their everyday life. That the political fight for equality, freedom of expression and tolerance is for everyone, only not for them. That those who talk a lot about diversity, in fact, accept only one opinion — their own”.
“Left ideologies, social democratic statism and green prohibitionism had their time. The new Islamism attacks Europe’s idea of freedom and self-conception and may not even get its time. That is why a new bourgeoisie is forming in Germany. The leftist revolution of the elites is followed by a conservative revolution of the citizens. We support this revolution and are its voice in politics.”
“1. The Christian faith is the foundation of our politics. We stand for the preservation of creation, the protection of life and physical integrity, the inviolability of the dignity of man and the defense of our Christian-Western (abendland) dominant culture. It forms the basic consensus of our coexistence and is the central prerequisite for functioning integration. Those who want to integrate must also know where — in which society and which value system…”
2. The individual and his dignity are at the center of all political action. We think society from the individual to the whole, from the little family to the big collective. Socialists, nationalists, ecologists or Islamists do the opposite and exaggerate the collective. They consider the class or race, nature or the umma more important than the individuals….”
“3. Region and homeland are roots of our identity. We love our Bavarian homeland, we are German patriots. Leftists have been defaming homeland since 1968 as an allegedly reactionary place of narrow-mindedness. …”
“4. We are committed to Europe and the West. …Our community of values is affected where other worldviews oppose it. To protect a community of values, therefore, it is also necessary to point out these limits in order to maintain the stability of the community of values. We therefore advocate an effective limitation of immigration to a level that does not overwhelm our ability to integrate. Only in this way will Europe remain the cradle of the Western community of values in the future.
“5. The freedom of the citizens must become bigger again.”
“6. Without security, there is no freedom….
7. We need an economic upsurge in the gigabit society…At the same time, the state must be measured. Unrestrained public debt and monetary expansion and an ECB policy of zero-interest money escalation may jeopardize Europe’s stability.”
“Conclusion: The 21st century must show that the left and right-wing ideologies of the 20th century have been overcome. The spiritual extension of socialism over the ideas of 1968 should come to an end. We want to leave 1968 behind us. We need the emergence of a new bourgeoisie that is aware of its values and freedom. We need to break into a new, conservative bourgeoisie that brings our country together, strengthens our community of values and defends our freedom.”
If anyone wants to do a proper translation, Dobrindt’s article deserves to be widely read.