1914-2014, German "Left" Ready for War

1) Systematic Revision (GFP 2014/07/04)
2) German unions support the government’s war policies (Ulrich Rippert / WSWS, 7 July 2014)

=== 1 ===


Systematic Revision
(Own report) - The leadership of the "Die Linke" ("The Left" Party), widely considered an anti-war party, is seeking to align its policy with Germany's official foreign and military policy. Just recently, leading party functionaries declared that "differences over foreign policy will not stand in the way" of a future coalition with the SPD, which is currently in the government coalition with the Christian Democrats. This statement was made following a secret meeting of top leaders of the Left Party with the Chair of the SPD, Sigmar Gabriel. The Left Party's spokesperson on the Bundestag's Foreign Policy Committee, Stefan Liebich, regularly attends so-called red - red - green talks, meant to facilitate a convergence of Left Party political standpoints to those of the SPD and the Greens. It was on such an occasion that Liebich also declared that he "does not preclude foreign missions of the German Bundeswehr." This past April, the "Left" Party parliamentary group, for the first time, did not unanimously vote against a foreign military mission. At the same time, a clause in the party's electoral program, for the European parliamentary elections, that characterized the EU as a "militarist power" was completely deleted from the program. Members of the party, who openly oppose warfare, can now expect to be publicly disavowed by the party's leadership.
"More Active Foreign Policy"
In an interview, published a few days ago in German media, the Vice Chair of the Left parliamentary group, Dietmar Bartsch, made a plea for a "more active foreign policy." Bartsch said that he too would like to see Germany assume "more responsibility" at the global level. This is in line with the programmatic statements being made by Germany's President, Joachim Gauck, Defense Minister, Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) and Foreign Minister, Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD). All three sought to justify an intensification of Germany's military engagements at the Munich Security Conference, Germany's most important military policy conference. Even though Bartsch speaks out against "more German soldiers abroad," he underlines that "no government" of Germany would be able to simply "interrupt" the "missions it has agreed to carry out under a UN mandate." "The decisive moment would then come, when the Bundestag will have to take a decision on the prolongation of these missions. This would always involve a case-by-case examination." This Left Party functionary couples this with an unambiguous call for closing ranks with the social democrats: "In 2017, differences over foreign policy will not stand in the way of a coalition of SPD and the Left Party."[1]
"Reaching Agreement on Defense Policy"
Gregor Gysi, the Chair of the Left Party's parliamentary group, made a similar statement early last month. The politician made the false allegation in a radio interview that the SPD has "learned" that the wars, they continue to justify and support in Yugoslavia and Afghanistan "have not solved the problems confronting humanity, but rather made them worse." Gysi also appears to be convinced of the possibility of forming a coalition government with the German Social Democrats: "We can reach an understanding in questions of foreign policy, even in defense policy."[2]
Picking up the Threads of Conversation
Gysi's statements had been preceded by a meeting that, at first had been kept secret, between Left Party co-Chairs Katja Kipping and Bernd Riexinger and the head of the SPD, Sigmar Gabriel, on June 2 of this year. The purpose of that clandestine meeting was to end the "breakdown in communication" and pick up the long-term "threads of the conversation," according to the news provided by the parties nearly a month later.[3] They also emphasized the need to remain absolutely silent about the contents of these talks. Nonetheless, Gabriel's Vice Chair, Ralf Stegner, implied that the social democrats are mainly disturbed by the Left Party's opposition to war: "Much of the Left Party's foreign policy is of another world."[4]
Imperial Liberalism
Public discussions between representatives of the Left Party, the SPD and the Greens are regularly held on the premises of the Berlin-based daily, "taz." Last month, at this forum, the Left Party's spokesperson on the Bundestag's Foreign Affairs Committee, Stefan Liebich, made wide-ranging concessions to official German foreign and military policy. As the politician explained, the Left Party does "not rule out foreign military missions for the Bundeswehr," for example for the stabilization of a "cease fire line," for "civil protection in disaster zones," or to thwart "genocide."[5] Liebich co-authored a paper outlining "Elements of a Foreign Policy Strategy for Germany." The paper was jointly published by the government-affiliated German Institute for International and Security Affairs (SWP) and the German Marshall Fund of the USA (GMF). The paper proposes that the Federal Republic of Germany "make use of the entire panoply of foreign policy instruments - from diplomacy via development and cultural policy all the way to the use of military force," to globally impose its political and economic interests. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[6]) Similar policy statements can be found in the book "Left Foreign Policy" edited by Liebich. In this anthology, one author explicitly acknowledges her attachment to the strategy of "imperial liberalism," which signifies that "liberal political objectives be pursued through the use of military force or the establishment of hegemonic structures."[7]
EU Criticism Deleted
The Left Party's systematic revision of its anti-militarist political positions has already begun to have practical consequences. In April, when the Bundestag was called to decide, whether the Bundeswehr should participate with a frigate in the removal of Syria's arsenal of chemical weapons in the Mediterranean, for the first time in its history, the Left Party's parliamentary group did not unanimously vote in opposition to a German military operation. 19 of the Left Party parliamentarians abstained, while five voted in favor of the mission. Almost at the same time, the party leadership pushed through the deletion of an essential passage from the Left Party's electoral program for the European Parliamentary elections: The formulation characterizing the EU as a "neoliberal, militarist and, to a large extent, undemocratic power" was completely deleted from the text.[8]
Admission Fee to a Government Coalition
In the meantime, antimilitarists in the Left Party can expect to be publicly disavowed, if the party leadership finds their positions inconvenient. This most recently happened to the regional parliamentarian in Brandenburg, Norbert Müller, who referred to the German President, Joachim Gauck as a "disgusting warmonger."[9] Similarly, the party leadership recently also publically rebuked the Bundestag parliamentarian, Sevim Dagdelen. When the Green parliamentary group whip, Katrin Göring-Eckardt, slandered those denouncing the participation of neo-fascist organizations in the Ukrainian government as "cheap populism," Dagdelen responded with a quote from Berthold Brecht: "A man who does not know the truth is just an idiot, but a man who knows the truth and calls it a lie is a crook!"[10] Evidently the leadership of the Left Party is about to sacrifice anti-militarism on the altar of a political alignment with the official German foreign and military policy - the admission fee to a future government coalition.
[1] "Dieses Pferd ist tot". www.tagesspiegel.de 27.06.2014.
[2] "Wir brauchen Deeskalation". www.deutschlandfunk.de 08.06.2014.
[3] Unter sechs Augen. Junge Welt 25.06.2014.
[4] Rot-rotes Treffen: Gabriels linke Nummer. www.spiegel.de 24.06.2014.
[5] Zitiert nach: Rot-rot-grüne Kriegspolitik. www.scharf-links.de 26.06.2014.
[6] See The Re-Evaluation of German Foreign Policy.
[7] Gabriele Kickut: Linke zwischen Antiamerikanismus und Bündnisfrage. In: Stefan Liebich/Gerry Woop (Hg.): Linke Außenpolitik. Reformperspektiven. Potsdam 2013. Siehe hierzu auch: Peer Heinelt: Linke Krieger. In: Konkret 1/2014.
[8] Der vollständige Satz lautet: "Spätestens seit dem Vertrag von Maastricht wurde die EU zu einer neoliberalen, militaristischen und weithin undemokratischen Macht, die nach 2008 eine der größten Krisen der letzten 100 Jahre mit verursachte." Er findet sich im Leitantrag des Parteivorstandes der Partei "Die Linke" zur Europawahl, ist aber im offiziellen Europawahlprogramm der Linkspartei nicht mehr enthalten.
[9] Oppermann prangert "unglaubliche Entgleisungen" an. www.sueddeutsche.de 25.06.2014.
[10] Mit Brecht gegen Faschisten-Versteher. Junge Welt 05.06.2014.

=== 2 ===


German unions support the government’s war policies

By Ulrich Rippert 
7 July 2014

The German Trade Union Federation (DGB) unreservedly supports the foreign policy of the grand coalition government and its return to great power politics and militarism. This is clear from an article by the new DGB chairman, Reiner Hoffmann, published on a website of the foreign ministry.

In May, foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier (SPD, Social Democratic Party) opened the website “Review 2014—thinking further in foreign policy”, to promote the new foreign policy orientation announced at the beginning of the year.

Steinmeier, along with Defence Minister Ursula von der Leyen and President Joachim Gauck, announced that the previous policy of military reticence was at an end. In the future, Germany would once again intervene in the world’s crisis regions “also militarily”, with more independence and more self-confidence.

At the meeting to launch the new website, Steinmeier repeated that Germany was “too big and too important” to continue “commenting on world politics only from the sidelines”.

Until now it has been mainly foreign “experts”, invited and paid by the foreign ministry, who have promoted “greater German foreign policy responsibility” on the new website. This culminated in a contribution by a professor from Singapore, whose article was headlined: “Germany’s destiny—to lead Europe in order to lead the world”.

Now the DGB has officially supported this campaign. Completely in step with Steinmeier, with whom he has collaborated for years in various leading SPD bodies, Hoffmann writes: “In many parts of the world where acute crises arise, German foreign policy is confronted time and again with the need for short-term intervention. We therefore need a forward-looking foreign policy, which can recognise the potential for crisis early enough and make a preventive intervention.”

“Forward-looking foreign policy” and “preventive intervention” are code words for aggressively pursuing imperialist interests, as the German government is doing currently in Ukraine, where it is collaborating with oligarchs and fascists in order to bring the country under the influence of the European Union and NATO.

Hoffmann does not need to specifically mention that he too supports military intervention in pursuit of imperialist goals. That is clear from the context of the official discussion. Consequently he makes no criticism about the current intensive campaign to beef up Germany’s military capacity and for military interventions.

Instead, the union bureaucrat praises the effectiveness of the civil service apparatus in the foreign ministry, which, “with the political foundations, the German embassies, but also the organisations of civil society”, has “numerous and good sources of information” at its disposal.

It goes without saying that Hoffmann and the unions belong to the “organisations of civil society”, with their European and international umbrella organisations, along with the union-led works councils in the transnational corporations providing the foreign ministry with an excellent network of international relations.

Hoffmann praises the European Union and the Maastricht Treaty, which serve the German government as an instrument for imposing massive attacks on workers’ social achievements in Greece and throughout Europe. “We need a foreign policy that concentrates on multi-lateralism and which strongly supports the EU’s common foreign and security policy introduced in the 1993 Maastricht Treaty”, he writes.

Hoffmann embeds his support for an imperialist foreign policy and the EU with rhetoric about social justice, maintaining international standards, the dismantling of social and economic inequality and the strengthening of social partnership. “The social dialogue between employers and employees contributes decisively to the dismantling of social and economic inequality, and must therefore be extended internationally”, he writes, and emphasizes that “free trade unions” are indispensable to that end.

He consciously utilises the term “free trade unions”. Ever since the Cold War, it has connoted anti-communist “unions” that collaborate closely with the CIA and other imperialist secret services and support dictatorial regimes.

Hoffmann declares that the universal access to basic social safeguards and trade union freedom are “human rights”. This term too should be seen in relation to the current war propaganda.

Almost all the imperialist wars of the last years—in Libya, Syria and Mali—were conducted in the name of “human rights”. The UN has even developed its own doctrine to this end, the “Responsibility to Protect”. Steinmeier also demands that Germany should no longer leave the preservation of human rights to others, but must be prepared to make a contribution to the defence of human rights everywhere in the World—also militarily.

The new DGB chief, who at almost 60 is an experienced union apparatchik, embellishes the humanitarian war propaganda of the SPD, the Greens and the Left Party with social phrases and offers the DGB’s services as a partner to the foreign ministry and the Bundeswehr (Armed Forces). This fits in seamlessly with the policies of his predecessor, Michael Sommer.

Sommer and the then Defence Minister Thomas de Maizière (CDU, Christian Democratic Union) declared in unison in 2013 that the relationship between the trade unions and the Army, in contrast to the past, was no longer strained, but was marked by mutual recognition.

De Maizière said: “We want to establish the spirit in which we can take [our] collaboration into the future”. Not just the trade unions, but the Bundeswehr too was part of the peace movement!

In March 2011 Sommer delivered a speech at the Bundeswehr Academy on the topic of “The trade unions and their relationship to the Bundeswehr”. He had said that the Bundeswehr’s foreign missions had “very much contributed to relaxing the relationship between the unions and the Bundeswehr”. The unions were also interested in international stability and questions such as the safeguarding of Germany’s sources of raw materials.

The close collaboration between the DGB and the Bundeswehr met with criticism and protest from some union members. As a result, the DGB leadership held a “Peace and Security Policy Workshop” last October, tasked with bringing critics of the unions’ pro-war policy into line.

The main speaker invited by the DGB was Herfried Münkler, who teaches political theory at the Institute for Social Science at Berlin’s Humboldt University. He is also an advisor to the government and plays a key role in the present political campaign to return to an aggressive German foreign policy. The moderator of the DGB workshop was the TV journalist Paul-Elmar Jöris, a prizewinner of the Federal Academy for Security Policy, and a contributor to the advisory council for Bundeswehr Civic Education.

The article by the new DGB chief on the propaganda web pages of the foreign ministry continues this course. The union bureaucracy is responding to the mounting social crisis and worldwide political instability by moving closer to the German government, integrating itself into the state apparatus. It utilises its bureaucratic apparatus and its still remaining influence in the factories to crack down on the growing anti-war mood in the working class.

The unions have already used their influence in order to destroy social conditions and jobs, playing off workers against one another, and extorting them, as at Opel Bochum where the unions suppressed any serious opposition to the plant closure. Now they are going one step further and are offering their services to silence and intimidate opponents of war in the factories.