Wednesday, May 04, 2005

German Government's Nazi Techniques Isolate Jews and Capitalists

When the historian Michael Wolffsohn entered Germany's laughably-named Kapitalismusdebatte yesterday, setting out some considered historical analogies in the Rheinische Post, the blog breathed a sigh of relief.

For over three weeks we have been writing about the matter and we were beginning to tire. The government's chief demagogue, Chairman Müntefering of the SPD, continued his capitalist-baiting with almost daily eructations of bile. Here is a brief summary of the German government's techniques as used over the past month:

1. Identify a group to blame for society's ills (ie. capitalists);

2. Say that they are part of an international movement which undermines Germany for profit;

3. Compare them to unpleasant animals (eg. " a plague of locusts")

4. Encourage citizens to boycott them;

5. Draw up a blacklist of names of the "guilty" capitalists;

6. When the capitalist victims of this treatment protest, demand that they apologise (see today's papers and this blog).

That is a dispassionate description of what the German government, primarily in the form of Chairman Müntefering, has been up to these last weeks. Now it doesn't take a professor of history to spot a few elementary parallels with the techniques used by the Nazi's to isolate their Jewish "enemies".

Professor Wolffsohn's calm, quietly despairing comments, the blog thought, would show Germans their government's true face, shame their politicians to some semblance of decency, and finally bring the matter to an end, not a moment before time.

But this is not what has happened. Fascinatingly, Germans, instead of turning their backs on the demagoguery of Chairman Müntefering, are rushing to attack Michael Wolffsohn! A senior SPD functionary called Herr Schartau has actually demanded that Wolffsohn apologise for his remarks. An SPD "economic expert", Herr Wend, says "Der Mann hat sie nicht alle" ("That man isn't all there"). Even the opposition FDP leader, to his undying discredit, defends Chairman Müntefering against Wolffsohn's remarks, which he claims are "as unhistorical as hurtful."

On the one hand, a lot of these weird people are bien-pensants who abhor each and every comparison with the Nazis as "lowering the tone of the debate." For them, Nazis are strictly off-limit, and the only time a comparison might be made is when you are dealing with actual neo-Nazis - pasty, unpopular postmodern shadows of the real thing, who represent no serious political threat. But any cool historical comparison, such as that made by Michael Wolffsohn, dealing with mainstream politics and the powerful politicians and political techniques of today, is beyond the political pale. In this way the validity of a living engagement with the past is denied.

On the other hand, even if one can respect the sqeamishness of bien pensant opinion leaders, one has to say they lack imagination in a way that is in itself dangerous. For if one rushes to condemn Prince Harry for wearing Nazi-like fancy dress, but cannot point out that the lethal techniques used by the Nazis to isolate and demonise groups within society are still alive and kicking today, and are being used by the biggest party of government in Germany, then one's political antennae are receiving and responding to a fatally filtered segment of reality.

And the six techniques listed above, as used by the ruling SPD party, have horrified the blog over the past few weeks. What is even worse is that voices who condemn them are attacked for "lowering the tone of the debate" - as if Chairman Müntefering's remarks about "capitalist locusts" truly constituted a debate, as opposed to desperate election polemics.

The German government, and the "debate" it has chosen to start, may not quite have descended to explicit Jew-baiting or pogroms yet, but it is quite happy to condone continued capitalist-baiting. The blog thus recommends that all Jews and capitalists keep a careful eye on the flight and train schedules to Holland and Switzerland, in case we need to go somewhere more civilised, where we're welcome, and don't have to put up with this kind of soul-sapping demagoguery disguised as "debate."

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