Questions asked by Stephen Cheng, freelance journalist from NewYork, the United States
1) How extensive is anti-German influence?
2) Is there a chance for anti-German criticism to become a multinational
3) What divisions exist among the anti-Germans?
4) How adamantly in favour are the anti-Germans of post-9/11 Anglo-American
foreign policy? Are there criticisms?
6) Do any ties exist between anti-Germans and "conventional" pro-Israel
advocates (i.e. American neoconservatives, American Christian evangelicals)?
7) Are there links between the anti-Germans and other movements in general
(i.e., unions, minority rights, homosexual rights, women's rights, human
rights, anarchists, other socialists/communists)?
8) Where would most anti-Germans locate themselves on the left-right
political spectrum? Do they consider this dichotomy to be valid?
9) Where else do anti-Germans differ from the conventional left?
10) How exactly does Marxism and critical theory influence anti-German
11) What sort of conflicts has anti-German criticism caused within the
German left? How acrimonious (or, for that matter, violent) have these rifts
12) What are some trends (i.e., in history, in society, within Germany or
continental Europe or the Middle East) that concern anti-German thinking?
13) What is the possibility of the anti-Germans dividing on what seems to
be their two basic points of agreement, solidarity with Israel and
solidarity against Germany?
Answers given by the group sinistra! from Frankfurt/Main, Germany.
sinistra! holds a homepage under the address www.copyriot.com/sinistra or www.sinistra.tk and can be contacted by e-mail via sinistra[AT]gmx.li
As there doesn't exist any formal organizational structure it is impossible to speak of “the” anti-Germans as a homogeneous movement.
Historically anti-German theory is a radicalization of anti-national theory. Already in the course of WW1 the later communist leader Karl Liebknecht strongly opposed the growing national mood and the erosion of internationalism in the German (and European) social-democracy stating “Der Hauptfeind steht im eigenen Land” (the most dangerous enemy is to be found in your own country). But such views remained minoritarian. A kind of (inter)nationalism, which does not question the concept of nation states as such – if it is not a kind of nationalism itself - remained dominant in the German left for a long time.
Neither did anti-nationalism become a coherent theory nor a broader movement until the late eighties or early nineties when the traditional anti-imperialists were criticized by a post-modern, Foucault inspired left for defending a concept of people (‘volk’) as an almost biological identity instead of deconstructing it. Besides, it became obvious that the national liberation movements around the world (e.g. IRA, ETA, PKK, ...) did no longer (if ever) fight for socialism but for purely nationalistic motives only.
The xenophobic outbursts and the growing nationalism after the German “reunification” in 1990 made the simplified old-school-left distinction between a progressive working-class versus a reactionary upper-class more and more ridiculous. Those burning down the homes of refugees, waving German flags and shouting fascist slogans were for the most part members of the working-class. The dark shadows of the German past became more and more threatening and a new and accurate study of German history - that is to say German national socialism - was an obvious consequence for some in the German left. It became clear that an emancipatorical left cannot rely on the German working-classes but must stand in opposition to the vast majority in this country; a majority who advocates racism, anti-Semitism, nationalism, a majority with a deep authoritarian disposition and a majority that did not change too much since their parents or grandparents committed the most horrible crime in mankind's history: the mass murder of six million European Jews. In this crime, that is symbolized by the name of the death camp Auschwitz, the anti-Germans recognize the ultimate break with the basic rules of a civilized society: Colonialism, imperialism and wars were linked with massacres and all kinds of atrocities, but followed a certain rational calculation, the instrumental rationality of capitalism, that seeks – in general – to preserve its reproductive basis, i.e. those to be exploited, what limits the brutality and institutionalized violence in a capitalist society to a certain extent.
Up to now, only the Germans managed to install a mass-murderous ideology – racial antisemitism – as a program that was to be realized by a cooperation of mob and elite, by a fusion of total state, capital and work(ers). This project not only theoretically labeled ‘the Jew’ as the head of an international conspiracy of capitalist and communist forces against the ‘Aryan race’, as a ‘negative principle’, in contradiction to the harmony of the German ‘volksgemeinschaft’, but tried to put this madness to practice: The Germans hunted for every Jew throughout Europe – old or young, rich or poor, left or right, atheist or orthodox – and shot or gassed every Jew they captured. It was even planned to eradicate all Jews worldwide – the ideology of annihilation fully triumphed over any economic, political or military logic.
Against the ignorance of an alienated world that not only created Auschwitz but also a mentality of people that, instead of intervening, looked on as their neighbours were being murdered in the gas-chambers, Theodor W. Adorno formulated a new categorical imperative: It demands that everything has to be done, so that Auschwitz or anything similar may never happen again. But as long as there exist the concepts of state, capital, nation and a specific coldness of the modern subject, i.e. the social foundations that made Auschwitz possible, we can never be sure that such an insane mass murder will not happen again.
Especially this fact made a re-formulation of anti-national theory necessary. Even though nationalism, racism and antisemitism are universal phenomena, to be found to a certain extent everywhere in the world, it is undeniable that they became nowhere else as murderous as in Germany. So when anti-national means the abolishment of all nation-states, anti-German means that all nation-states should be abolished, but Germany - the origin of an unprecedented mass-murder – should be the first and Israel as the refuge of the surviving victims of German atrocities the last nation-state to vanish (and should decide for itself).
In this sense solidarity with Israel does not mean commenting on the concrete politics of the state of Israel or its representatives, though Israel – as each other state, too – is formed by the interest of its national capital, practices exploitation of the Israeli proletarians and is structured by racist segregation. But anti-German criticism has to emphasize that Israel is not to be treated as any other “normal” nation-state, as it is the only spot on earth, where those who are still subject to anti-Semitic attacks on a daily basis can defend themselves effectively. Auschwitz, where no-one stood by the Jews to prevent their eradication – neither the crematoria nor the railway tracks to the death camps were bombed – proved the necessity of this institution of Jewish political emancipation with a strong military arm to guarantee its existence. In these days Israel's right to exist is not only denied openly by neo-nazis and islamistic fanatics but also in an indirect way by anti-Israeli governments in the West and a left who is camouflaging its obvious anti-Semitism as “anti-Zionism”.
The position towards the United States is pretty much disputed within the anti-German movement. All anti-Germans have in common to denounce anti-Americanism though. Anti-Americanism has been a constitutive factor of the German society after World War 2. Similar stereotypes seem to be working in the left as well as in the right. So anti-Germans are making it a point to break with this tradition of thinking.
But there are major differences within the anti-German movement concerning this issue. While it is common sense to make mention of the American role in World War 2 and the fact that the people in the concentration camps were freed by the allied powers and not by the German left, as often as necessary, some anti-German groups (often referred to as “hardcore anti-Germans”, although this term might be quite misleading) made it a point to celebrate every single move in American foreign politics in the past and present. Instead of just giving the US credit for the major role they’ve played in defeating Nazi-Germany in World War 2 and thereby putting an end to the holocaust, these groups are drawing close similarities between WW 2 and the “War on Terror”. By this they are putting the reactionary and anti-Semitic regimes in the so called Islamic world on one level with the Nazis. This is not only a serious minimization of the nazi era and the holocaust, but also a violation of the (radicalized) categorical imperative of Karl Liebknecht, that the main enemy is one’s “own country”. These anti-Germans see themselves on the side of civilization and declare Islam their main target instead of Germany.
In contrast to this position, we see our mission not in a form of policy that tries to advise the one or the other government what they should do, but in a sort of radical criticism of the basic forms of capitalist society. Anti-Americanism in this sense is a paradoxical product of capitalism: though conservative, left- and right wing-forces in Germany see themselves as ‘anti-capitalist’ and maintain to reject ‘commerce’, ‘money-culture’ or ‘casino-capitalism’, tendencies which they suppose to be culminating in the USA, they tend on the other side to bind themselves through this mode of superficial criticism stronger to a form of ‘good’ and ‘social’ European capitalism. Communist criticism should, instead of staring at phenomena like ‘Hollywood’ or ‘McDonald’s’ and propagating a ‘not-so-decadent-capitalism’, attack the roots of the capitalist society: the mode of production that commodifies every aspect of our lives under the merciless rule of the value.
Of course we do cooperate with antifascist, feminist and anti-racist groups. For us all forms of discrimination and prejudice must be confronted likewise: Racism, antisemitism, sexism and homophobia contradict any idea of a better society and as long as any one of the above mentioned ideologies exist it will be impossible to speak of emancipation.
As past and present of the American society differ from the circumstances in Germany, we are aware of the fact that the people in the USA who are interested in general emancipation stick to another position than the anti-Germans. Yet we think that there can not only be some kind of mutual learning, but also in some areas a practical cooperation. As the USA is still an important partner in terms of economy and military, it is able to establish a kind of political pressure on German government. The press campaigns against German enterprises like BMW and BASF during the latest round of negotiations about compensations for slave labor during national socialism showed that there can be a positive effect if this pressure is applied in a reasonable manner. Although the result was in the end quite poor and most of the former slave laborers have been left unpaid, this example could be nevertheless a paradigm for future campaigns of the American left against German politics.