All sorts of centralized organizations that appear rock-solid may well melt into air as the disintegrative dynamics gather momentum.
Germany has long been seen as the rock on which the European Union is founded. Never mind that the formation of the EU’s first incarnation, the 6 member Common Market came only a few years after the defeat of the Nazi attempt to unify Europe’s culturally and economically diverse nations as a single political, financial and cultural entity under a common flag, or that the plainly stated goal of the Common market’s founders was from day one the political integration of Europe, somehow the ruling elites were either stupid enough or perhaps, given that they might have been singing from a very different song sheet to us punters, cunning enough to let Germany sieze a pivotal role in this new ‘free trade’ organisation, or that Britain was kept out until German domination was well established.
But with nationalistic feeling resurgent in Italy, Spain, Poland and many of the smaller EU nations and the push for ‘ever closer integration’ encountering increased resistance almost everywhere, suddenly we find that all is not well in Germany, that purported bastion of political and economic stability and social cohestion
Rising political and social discord in Germany, as in the rest of Europe, is generally being attributed to “populism” as the national elites and Brussels bureaucrats try to pretend everything is under control, but may actually signal the re-emergence of the ancient geographic and cultural fault lines that led to the formation of Europe’s many nations. An often-overlooked manifestation of this might be the nation-state of Germany.
It may be convenient and expedient for politicians and the media to blame “populism” for the fracturing of the status quo in Germany, but to do that is to conveniently forget that Germany does not have the thousand plus year history of some other EU member states such as Britain, Sweden, Denmark, Spain and Portugal (in spite of several hundred years of Muslim incursion,) and Austria, but only became a single nation in 1870 when Otto von Bismarck united a number of independent principalities and grand duchies.
Given the undertones of ethnic/religious bias attached to “populism,” this allows media-savvy politicians to paint opponents as racist by using the the code-word “populist” as a substitute. In fact populist does not equate to racist, Hitler may have been a populist and a racist, but Mohandas K Gandhi was also a populist and a nationalist but nobody would call him a racist.
Labeling dissenters “populists” as the Merkel government and other establishment parties along with left wing extremists like the greens and Marxists have doesn’t explain or predict anything. In terms of economic classes, it’s more insightful to distinguish between the Protected Class (insiders and favored elites) who benefit enormously from the status quo and the Unprotected Class (outsiders, marginalized workers, those without privilege or access to cheap capital).
But this wealth gap doesn’t exhaust the sources of profound social discord. As historian Peter Turchin explained in Ages of Discord, historical eras are either integrative, in which people find reasons to cooperate, or disintegrative periods in which reasons to split apart become dominant. Clearly, the geopolitical order is entering a disintegrative phrase, and dismissing those who dissent from the establishment’s all-joi-hands-and-sing-kumbaya narrative as “populists” is not going to reverse that. For insight on how the disintegrative phase may manifest in Germany, let’s turn to Mark G.’s commentary:
The breakdown of the Bavarian CSU and German CDU center-right coalition (refounded post WWII by Konrad Adenauer) is historic. And it has definite regional implications. I think we could be watching the beginning moves not in a “German Brexit” but in the political collapse of the modern German state into multiple components. As I mentioned last year, I personally expect this because modern Germany is a rump survival of Bismarck’s Wihelmine German Empire. It has lost all strategic rationale for its existence. And under Frau Merkel it has almost no military forces and no control of its own borders. Such a ‘state’ cannot long endure.
“Mr Seehofer – who is also the chairman of coalition partner the Christian Social Union (CSU) – has agreed to give Mrs Merkel two weeks to try and thrash out a Europe-wide migration policy with other leaders at the European Council meeting at the end of the month.”
Merkel has zero point zero chance of reaching any Europe-wide agreement on immigration given the present composition of the governments of Austria, Italy, Hungary, Slovakia, Czechia and Poland. Since 2015 all of them have been electorally remodeled into populist based governments with fundamental anti-refugee and anti-migrant views. As an example, when we passed through the Sudetenland last year in Czechia the highway billboards openly proclaimed “No Islam – No Terrorism”.
Their thinking is vastly closer to Seehofer’s than to Merkel’s. Merkel can’t even control her primary CSU coalition partner any further. What is more likely to occur is the German government, or multiple successor German governments, will move much closer to the eastern European position.
And if Merkel attempts to construct a hard left domestic coalition consisting of the CDU, the SDP, the Greens and “The Left” (Die Linke) to continue her present policies, then I expect the CDU itself to experience an internal split and also further hemorrhaging to Alternativ fur Deustschland. Its difficult to see her retaining her position in the CDU after presiding over the collapse of the historic CDU/CSU coalition.
New elections are highly likely in these circumstances. And in the last elections the main Center parties – CDU/CSU and also SDP – all lost significant numbers of supporters to the AfD and Die Linke. Another round at this point will probably produce a much larger AfD, plus political gridlock as the Establishment attempts to ignore the democratic result.
On an anecdotal basis, last year I again met individuals in Rheinland-Pfalz who in 2015 had been members of The Greens. Come 2017 they all had left the Greens and were wavering between the CDU & AfD.
On a related issue: it seems to me the present migration induced political crisis in German politics will cause the PIGS to attempt to rebid and renegotiate the terms of their ECB/IMF bailouts.
In the light of points made in the above extract it is fair to say that Marx’s famous summary of the disintegrative forces inherent in capitalism–“Everything solid melts into air”– aptly describes the core dynamics of disintegrative phases.
If we look at a map of the states which make up modern Germany circa 1866 and ask if the geographic, political and cultural lines visible on this map still pertain beneath the surface of a monolithic modern state. All sorts of centralized organizations that appear rock-solid may well melt into air as the disintegrative dynamics gather momentum.
It would be foolish to compare Germany to Yugoslavia in the early 1990s? But the social and economic problems in Germany and other European Union member states, 25 years after its founding is a warning signal of the dangers of trying to foist changes beneficial to the elites onto the mass of working and middle class populations. In particular the immigration policy imposed by Brussels of simply allowing in all arrivals has been a social disaster.
The EU’s central bureaucracy along with the main advocates of political integration, Germany and France have long portrayed the union of European states as a political, economic and historical success story. But the downside of this merger is all too often ignored – and this is increasingly endangering its future.
The Maastricht Treaty, the 25th anniversary of which passed last week, was the European Union’s founding document and the point at which all pretence of the EU being nothing more than a free trade area was abandoned. For a few years after the treaty was signed, it seemed that no one was able to recognize the European Union’s innate defects, or those that did were dismissed as right wing reactionaries.
Ever since Maastricht one of the European Union’s faults has been the ineptitude of its attempts to put together a common approach to foreogn policy. First its inability to correctly assess the conflicts in Yugoslavia, which were going on at the time or to exert a moderating influence on the warring parties and to prevent civil wars in the region. Before it even evolved into the EU, the European Community was inconsistent and unconvincing when it came to applying the values it claimed to represent to its dealings with Yugoslavia.
One of the main reasons for this has been the fact that the main EU power, Germany, still suffering an enormous guilt hangover from the 20th century’s two great wars, has declined to act but has by inaction, by failing to lead, prevented the rest of the EU from doing what needed to be done.
With the signing of the Maastricht treaty, Germany transferred not only its economic power and postwar instinct toward non – intervention to the EU but also it’s moral authority. And a bunch of smooth cheeked deal makers, which is what the EU Commission, the committee which effectively controls the EU, are always going to shirk moral responsibility, preferring to take refuge in rules and regulations. Just like West Germany during the Cold War, the newly constituted union of states was an economic giant, but a dwarf in the foreign policy arena.
This dwarf has barely grown in the past quarter century. Occasional forays into international conflicts while hanging onto America’s coat tails have ended disastrously for the people the effort was supposed to help, while purely diplomatic initiatives have all failed. Thus today, for example, there is no consistent foreign policy line on the Balkans – and the western Balkans are, again, increasingly unstable.
Meanwhile in Germany, Angela Merkel’s fragile coalition totters on the brink of collapse as the Christian Social Union (CSU), a conservative party which dominates the federal province of Bravaria threatens to quit is support of Merkel and thus bring down her government over her idiotic insistence on maintaining the ‘open doors’ immigration policy that has allowed millions of illiterate, culturally backward and unemployable third world peasants to flood into the country.
“With populist parties AfD (Alternatif fur Deutschland) and FDR (Free Deomcrats) having made vast gains in last year’s inconclusive election, if Merkel falls Germany could end up with an anti – EU coalition vehmently opposed to mass immigration in power. Yet some German states are very left wing and collectivist and would find this intolerable.
So where could federal Germany go from there?