German Leftists on European Power

, July 15, 2009

Jewish Political Studies Review 21:1-2 (Spring 2009)  

 

Weltmacht Europa – Hauptstadt Berlin? Ein EU-Handbuch [Global power Europe – Capital Berlin? An EU handbook], by Ilka Schröder (ed.), Konkret-Texte 39, Hamburg: Konkret-Literatur-Verlag, 2005, 215 pp. [German]

Reviewed by Susanne Wein; review translated by Alex Arndt

 The anthology Weltmacht Europa – Hauptstadt Berlin? was published as part of the “Konkret Texte” series under the heading “imperialism.” The choice of title indicates that this collection of texts is part of a debate within the political Left of Germany, and not really a comprehensive handbook in the classical sense. Nevertheless, it draws a clear line against those so-called “anti-imperialist” elements of the German Left which indiscriminately view the U.S. and the EU as evil empires and regard Israel as an imperialist bridgehead, if not the single power calling the shots. These radicals support any reactionary and nationalist liberation movement as long as it is anti-Western. Their radical notions are still to be found in some small circles, and they have recently regained strength within the so-called anti-globalization movement in groups like Attac.

The blurb on the cover indicates that the focus of this work is EU foreign policy: “The authors reveal the aggressive potential of the self-proclaimed ‘Super-Power with a Heart,’ its anti-American and anti-Israel foreign policy, its support of terrorists as ‘resistance fighters,’ destabilization through ethnic minorities, the war against the dollar as reserve currency, and its plans to build up an European army ready to wage war globally.” The editor, Ilka Schröder, served as a member of the European Parliament until 2004 (initially for the Green Party, later as an Independent) and considers herself to be a “critical insider.” She and her two scientific assistants, André Anchuelo and Frank Oliver Sobich, contribute the majority of the eleven articles of this book. After introductory remarks on the historical development of a united Europe and “EU imperialism,” Markus Euskirchen provides a well informed insight into European military policy. Giovanni Krowalczyk explains the currency system and the attempts to establish the Euro as a new global currency against the dollar.

While Sven Engels’s essay on the walling-off of Europe to establish an authoritarian security state, a “Fortress Europe,” provides all the necessary data on the increased security measures on its outer borders and the establishment of databases, he fails to address the real security threats that became apparent after the terror attacks of 9/11. Here, Engels merely claims that “contemporary terrorism can be easily instrumentalized for other purposes” (193). Furthermore, he claims that after 9/11, “culturalist racism” has been added to the preexistent state racism against refugees and asylum seekers. This analysis is weak, as it is well known that the attackers came from an upper middle class background and were able to study and plan the attack in Germany unchecked. This essay employs typical radical jargon in claiming that hardliners in the government just waited for such a terrorist attack to happen in order to impose stricter controls.

A more sophisticated analysis comes from Sebastian Bischoff on the U.S. as a conceptual enemy of German nationalists. These nationalists try to blame current capitalist tendencies in Germany, such as the dismantling of the welfare state, on the U.S.: “Rheinischer Kapitalismus (social market economy) versus neoliberalism” (176), “shareholder-value spirit versus an autochthonous enterprise culture” (180). In addition, he claims that American culture threatens Europe: Hollywood and McDonald’s versus European culture.

Anchuelo and Schröder’s article “The Middle East as a Testing Ground for European Superpower Ambitions” gives a closer look at the European policies in the Middle East. I agree with the special role of Germany described in this process. For example, the Middle East Quartet’s Roadmap of 2003 was based on an idea developed in a paper by then-German-foreign-minister Joseph Fischer. Writing in 2005 (before withdrawal from Gaza), Anchuelo and Schröder paint a gloomy picture of German soldiers invading Israel as part of a UN or NATO operation. This is based on visions developed by the former German coalition government of SPD and the Green Party. Currently, in spite of the permanent provocation of Hamas after the withdrawal, and the eventual reaction of Israel to defend its people against the rockets in December 2008, the German media still seems biased against Israel, portraying it as the main obstacle to finding a “solution” for the conflict. This would mean, in their view, negotiating with terrorists like Hamas.

Nevertheless this text’s exclusive definition of anti-Semitism as a “European export hit” seems far too linear and narrow. Here, one does not find an analysis of the specificity of anti-Semitism in Germany, nor of religiously motivated Islamist anti-Semitism. (They do give the example of former Liberal Party member Jürgen Möllemann [106].)

My biggest criticism, however, is that most contributions employ deliberately careless and annoying expressions, such as “whatever the Nazis left over from the Labor movement wasn’t really motivated to fight right from the start” (42) or “other people who thought of themselves as very critical spread the nice idea that imperialism is only based on the shaky rule of small groups with special interests, who want to enjoy life at the expense of the general population” (19). Such statements are accompanied by phrases and truisms about capitalism and nation states.

In addition, it is outright dangerous to understand National Socialism – as Sobich does in “From Central Europe to the European Union” – as “German fascism,” merely with the aim of radicalizing “the ideal of every bourgeois state,” “total sovereignty, complete independence from practical constraints – be it the ‘Jewish dominated’ global market,” or “the national interests of other sovereigns” (41). Here, the systematic murder of more than six million Jews and all the other victims of the Nazis becomes merely a negligible episode.

Reading this book is a strenuous task because it is written largely in the journalistic idiom of the German leftists. Accordingly, one should have some previous knowledge of the basic literature related to the subject in order to retain a balanced perspective. However, despite its ideological point of view and blind spots, it represents a contribution.

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Susanne Wein is a PhD student at University of Bremen, dealing with “Anti-Semitism in the Political Culture of Weimar Republic: A Research on Parliamentary Debates.” She lives in Berlin, Germany and New Haven, U.S.

 

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