German Establishment Prepares to Cross the Rubicon 

Berlin continues to double down on Ukraine, earmarking nearly more than $8 billion for the war in its just-passed budget. While the domestic situation implodes, and the government and media smear anyone – political parties, farmers, strikers – who opposes the direction Berlin is taking the country. And that list is growing.

It’s difficult to overstate how unpopular the ruling coalition is that just got its war-austerity budget passed. Nearly two-thirds of voters want to pull the plug on the current government – a rare step in Germany. Chancellor Olaf Scholz has some of the lowest approval ratings for a German chancellor ever. If elections were held today, the three ruling parties (the Social Democrats, the Greens, and the Free Democrats) would struggle to reach a combined 33 percent. The public’s dissatisfaction has been steadily growing for two years, and yet the ruling coalition refuses to change course.

The complete unwillingness of the government to listen to voter concerns is unsurprisingly leading to the increased popularity of parties that go against the group think on foreign policy that is having direct repercussions on domestic policy. In a nutshell, the government policy is more money for war and less social spending at home.

The ethno-nationalist Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, which calls for a rethink on Russia policy, has been the biggest benefactor of the government trainwreck, but the newly formed working class party on the left led by Sahra Wagenknecht is similar, minus the ethno-nationalism, and is also gaining in the polls.

Right now, all the focus is on the AfD and what to do about it.

The “Center” Cannot Hold 

A recent POLITICO piece sums up the German elite line of thinking, declaring “the country’s domestic politics are becoming dysfunctional” and that there’s a need to “keep the country together in the middle” in the face of the “shrinking political center.”

It’s hard to know what exactly is “centrist” about pursuing war with Russia or  destroying German industry, but that is what the “middle” translates as these days: keeping the Project Ukraine train on the tracks.

POLITICO frames it as though the voters have become dysfunctional by refusing to support parties that are making their lives worse and instead choosing to support the AfD – a party despised by the elite. One could also argue that this means democracy is working as it should. The parties enacting unpopular policies are losing support (except the Greens whose voters are quite satisfied with how things are going), and voters are going with an alternative – in some part to give an upraised middle finger to the establishment.

But that’s not the officialdom view, as expressed by POLITICO. No, it is that something is broken, and it ain’t the elites so it must be the voters. Something must be done about this, but what?

Protests, Strikes, and more Protests

What’s happening in Germany is that anyone who questions the logic of the war against Russia or complains about the economic fallout in Germany is immediately labeled, far right, racist, fascist.

That includes workers as labor actions have jumped in Germany and look set to continue. Train workers just went on one of their longest strikes ever, which was of course playing right into the hands of the far right.

Farmers, too, are now members of the far right.

Farmers blocked Green economics minister Robert Habeck from disembarking a ferry on his return from vacation on the island of Hallig Hooge.

The German political class was aghast.

Scholz’s spokesperson, Steffen Hebestreit, said it “is shameful and violates the rules” of democratic society.  The governor of North Rhine-Westphalia state and a member of Germany’s main conservative opposition bloc said “this transgression is absolutely unacceptable.”

The government and media then began an effort to discredit the farmers based on the fact the AfD supports the protests and the following:

According to German media outlet Spiegel, members of several right-wing extremist groups, including The Homeland and Third Way, were at a rally in Berlin, as were AfD members. In Dresden, a video on social media showed people carrying flags from the Free Saxony right-wing extremist party clashing with police.

Habeck himself said this: ”Calls are circulating with coup fantasies, extremist groups are forming and ethnic-nationalist symbols are being openly displayed.”

This decision to focus on the presence of some right-wing elements ignores the farmers’ complaint that money is being taken out of their pockets to help fund the war against Russia. As one protestor said, “For a farm like mine, I would lose about 10,000 euros. For our businesses, it’s a catastrophe.”

The government in Berlin is scrambling to save or reallocate around $66 billion over the next several years, and one thing it elected to cut was subsidies on diesel fuel purchased for agricultural purposes.

Germany’s budget crunch is largely a result of its economic war against Russia and support of the destruction of Ukraine in a bid to weaken Russia. Forced to replace cheap Russian energy with expensive Russian energy laundered through middle countries, the government has thrown billions at energy subsidies to try to soften the blow. At the same time, Berlin is increasing the defense budget due to its perceived threat from Russia.

The diesel fuel is also affected by…Russia. For example, Germany’s Schwedt oil refinery, which supplies 90 percent of the gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and fuel oil used in Berlin, has been running at around 50 percent capacity due to the loss of Russian fuel.

Farmers and others are making the connection. From the POLITICO piece:

…one of the men, Martin Zühlke, who said he heads an association of biogas plant owners from the eastern state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. “When we look at the government’s policies, we see a lot of arrogance, ignorance and stupidity packed with ideology and still more stupidity.”

His companion, Thomas Strahl, who said he worked in a municipal office, delivered a far more extreme assessment — and one that went well beyond diesel — saying he’d been disturbed by the government’s arms shipments to Ukraine and by what he called its “Russophobia.”

“What they are doing today,” he said of the German government’s robust line against Russian aggression “it’s similar to what the Nazis did back then.”

POLITICO uses these men as examples of “radical, anti-government malcontents.”

These strikes and protests were quickly overshadowed by the ongoing uproar over an alleged far-right plot involving the AfD to start rounding up immigrants and deporting them.

The Jan. 15 report, titled “Secret Plan Against Germany” was from Correctiv. Here’s the deck, which provides the gist:

It was the meeting that nobody was ever meant to find out about. Back in November, high-ranking politicians from Germany’s far-right Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, neo-Nazis, and sympathetic businesspeople gathered in a hotel near Potsdam. Their agenda? Nothing less than the fine tuning of a plan for the forced deportations of millions of people currently living in Germany.

“The report galvanized German society like little else since reunification,” politicians from all major parties denounced it, 250,000 protestors reportedly hit the streets two weeks ago, thousand were out again yesterday denouncing “hate,” and there is wall-to-wall media coverage of the “plot” and protests. Even sports figures got in on the action with Christian Streich, SC Freiburg’s 58-year-old coach calling for people to “rise up” as “as advertiser brand names flickered from a screen behind him.”

There was just one problem: how much of the report was true?

The deputy editor of Correctiv Anette Dowideit began to walk back the bombshell report on a January 28 television appearance, saying that there wasn’t actually any talk of deportations at the meeting, nor was it similar to the Nazi Wannsee Conference in 1942, where it was decided to embark on the mass killing of Jews.

For its part, the AfD calls the Potsdam gathering nothing more than a “small, private debate club,” but not a “secret meeting dangerous to the public.” Four individuals with ties to the AfD were reportedly at the meeting.

Dowideit claimed that the German press “misinterpreted” Correctiv’s report (despite the piece including direct references to mass deportations and the Wannasee Conference) and ran with it, which led to the mass protests and even louder calls to ban the party.

As far as I can tell, Correctiv’s climb down hasn’t received nearly the same amount of attention that the original story received. Correctiv, a non-profit, lists Google, George Soros’ Open Society Foundations, Deutsche Telekom, and Pierre Omidyar’s Luminate as some of its largest donors. Correctiv also coordinated the CumEx corruption stories, which involved then-mayor of the Hamburg city-state Olaf Scholz and have kept his feet to the fire as chancellor.

At the same time that Germany was in a meltdown over the AfD, the Bundesstag quietly passed a law clearing the way for easier deportations of asylum seekers, and criminalizing certain activities by aid workers who assist them, punishable with up to ten years in prison. There was no uproar over this action (maybe I missed it?). Here’s Deutsche Welle with the details:

Among some of the measures of the legislation — dubbed the Repatriation Improvement Act — is the provision for longer periods of pre-deportation custody, in a bid to give authorities more time to complete the process before having to release an individual.

The legal maximum duration of detention ahead of deportation will be extended from 10 days to 28 days.

Authorities will have more powers when it comes to conducting searches, for instance now being allowed to enter rooms of shared accommodation and not just the room of an individual being deported.

Minister of the Interior Nancy Faeser noted that the number of repatriations increased by 27 percent to 16,430 in 2023 as a result of previous measures, and that this new legislation will help boost those numbers this year.

The same Faeser is calling the small AfD involvement in the Potsdam discussion on immigration policy “an active effort to shift borders and to spread contempt for democracy and misanthropy into the heart of society.”

Often lost in the media furor over the AfD is that the party gets a decent amount of support from immigrants. NC reader Tom67 reports from Germany:

​​About the AFD: there is something very interesting going on. Second and third generation Turkish voters are turning to the AFD. Their parents arrived in Germany, worked hard and became modestly wealthy. Now they see millions of people from the 3d world entering Germany and entering the welfare state almost immediately. The SPD and the greens don´t know, what will hit them. Sure there are Fascist elements in the AFD. But there is also a black member of the Bundestag and some prominent Muslims in regional parliaments. They are all united in demanding the closure of the border. And that is tremendously popular exactly among previous immigrants. Just the other day I talked to a Turkish shopkeeper who supports the AFD and I hear the same things from a big factory (1200 employees) in my area.

The Correctiv report could have also been an attempt to peel away some of this support. So in the end a questionable report about a meeting with loose ties to the AfD:

  • Helped take the wind out of the sails of worker actions across the country by linking them to a right wing allegedly engaged in a nefarious Nazi-esque plot.
  • Overshadowed actual government action on immigrants – the very stuff that protestors were so up in arms about when the AfD was alleged to be involved in a hypothetical plot.
  • And helped build support for a potential AfD ban.

That’s impressive.

In light of the Bundestag’s recent actions on asylum seekers (which is very similar to the AfD position), it’s worth wondering if all the government’s righteous outrage against the AfD is really about immigrants or some of the party’s other ideas, like detente with Russia and its anti-Eu stance. Here’s AfD leader Alice Weidel talking to the Financial Times in a January 21 profile:

Weidel, party leader since 2022, said an AfD government would seek to reform the EU and remove its “democratic deficit”, including by curbing the powers of the European Commission, an “unelected executive”.

“But if a reform isn’t possible, if we fail to rebuild the sovereignty of the EU member states, we should let the people decide, just as Britain did,” she said. “And we could have a referendum on ‘Dexit’ — a German exit from the EU.”

As far as the European Commission and its president Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen are concerned, that’s basically a declaration of war. As von der Leyen says, she has the “tools,” and she’s not afraid to use them.

Support Someone Else or Else

In the aftermath of the deportation controversy, an AfD candidate lost an election he was expected to win.

In a second-round runoff in the district of Saale-Orla in the south-eastern state of Thuringia, the AfD candidate, Uwe Thrum, lost to (CDU) candidate Christian Herrgott by 4.6 percentage points. Thrum got 47.7 percent of the vote, against Herrgott’s 52.3 percent. Earlier in January, the AfD candidate had 45.7 percent of the vote to Herrgott’s 33 percent.

The vote has been hailed as a sign that the backlash over the alleged deportation plan is beginning to dent the AfD’s support. Maybe. Or maybe more of those who voted for the SPD candidate and the left-wing candidate in the original election simply switched to the CDU candidate in the runoff.

The German media and respectable center has been labeling the AfD dangerous Nazis for years now, and the party’s support has only grown, so we’ll see if this makes a difference.

National polls are showing a small decline in AfD support:

On the topic AfD supporters, it’s important to remember that there is a fascist element to the party, but its recent growth is largely due to disenchantment with mainstream parties unresponsive to voter concerns as Adam Tooze summarized:

Amongst who count as AfD supporters, people with neo-Nazi attitudes make up roughly 13 percent. Those with far-right authoritarian attitudes account for another 43, which means that 44 percent of those expressing support for the party do so without a general identification with far-right politics.

For about half the AfD’s potential electorate, their vote is a matter of conviction. But on top of that for a large part of the AfD’s electorate their preference is a way of signaling – presumably to what they take to be the mainstream – that they are dissatisfied with the status quo and do not believe that their voices will otherwise be heard. When asked why they might consider voting for the AfD at the next election – as 22 percent of those in survey said they would do – 78 percent said that it would be a sign that they were unhappy with “current policies” with 71 mentioning migration policy, in particular…

Overall, the conclusion of the surveys seems quite clear. There has not been a general shift to the right. In addition to a base of far-right wing support, which makes up 15 percent of the population, the AfD is attracting a protest vote that takes it to slightly more than 20 percent support. This is driven by dissatisfaction with migration policy and a general fear of societal crisis.

This polling supports the conclusions of Manès Weisskircher who researches social movements, political parties, democracy, and the far right at the Institute of Political Science, TU Dresden. He argues that AfD’s support, which is strongest in East Germany, can be primarily traced to three factors:

  • The neoliberal ‘great transformation,’ which has massively changed the eastern German economy and continues to lead to emigration and anxiety over personal economic prospects.
  • An ongoing sense of marginalization among East Germans who feel they have never been fully integrated since reunification and resent liberal immigration policies in this context.
  • Deep dissatisfaction with the functioning of the political system and doubt in political participation.

Will the deportation report have enough staying power to change the AfD’s long term trajectory – especially if the ruling coalition continues to run the country into the ground and other major parties don’t show major divergence on issues like the war against Russia? While the AfD does have a base of right wing voters, it and Wagenknecht’s party on the left, are the only ones drawing the connection between Germany’s foreign policy and its woes on the home front.

The government still has a few tools at its disposal before escalating to an outright ban. The Bundestag is already debating how to deal with the AfD, holding the hearings “Resilient Democracy in a Diverse Country — a Clear Stand Against the Enemies of Democracy and Their Plans of Forced Displacement.”

The next likely step is that the party will lose state funding due to its “anti-democratic behavior.” But if that and more bad press doesn’t do the trick, a ban, which would be the equivalent to disenfranchising more than one fifth of the electorate, is looking increasingly probable.

The talk of banning the AfD picked up again around the protests. MInister of the Interior Faeser called a ban the “last resort,” an option that is directly correlated to the AfD’s popularity. Christian Pestalozza, a constitutional law expert in Berlin, tells Deutsche Welle that one prerequisite for a ban is that there must be probability that the AfD “will at some point have enough weight to achieve its goals.”

So that’s it. Voters either need to realize the error of their ways or the “center” will make that decision for them in order to preserve “democracy.”

Amid all this song dance, it’s easy to forget that there’s an easy way for the German establishment to return to what POLITICO describes as the safe and responsible center. Stop destroying Ukraine in an attempt to weaken Russia and stop making German citizens’ lives worse through a disastrous economic war against Moscow.

Unfortunately, for the German elite, a ban appears to be the more palatable option, but just as they failed to foresee (or refused to care about) the fallout from their latest war on Russia, they’re certain to underestimate the repercussions that would come with a ban of the AfD.

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  1. Trees&Trunks

    Some parts of the AfD program is now adopted by SPD. It seems as if the problem is not the policies but access to the corruption schemes they have in the German government.

    “The German government is responding to the mass protests against the Alternative for Germany (AfD) by increasingly openly adopting the fascists’ programme itself.

    On Wednesday, Social Democratic Party (SPD) leader Lars Klingbeil called on the states to implement the offensive on the deportation of refugees decided by the federal government. “The federal states now have the possibilities, and they must utilise them,” Klingbeil demanded in an interview with the Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung. “The state must function when it comes to repatriating people who cannot stay with us.”

    Western Values!

  2. Scarlet

    Time for Electronic Democracy?

    ‘The People’ vote on all issues and policy.

    All can propose.
    All can discuss.
    All can VOTE.

    If a voter breaths, they can vote.

    This will help prevent voter apathy or disenfranchisation as people get see action on things that count for them.
    It limits executive, elite power.

    Thatcher words.
    ‘Don’t referendise everything it takes all the fun out of politics.’
    So lets do it.

    In a real democracy ‘The People’ are sovereign.
    In a real democracy people can change their minds.

    Democratic representation has failed.

    1. jobs

      That isn’t going to work without breaking up media consolidation and eliminating political censorship by media and governments.
      As an example, look at how all the Russia hate came about in the West. And the same thing is happening with Iran and China.

    2. Kouros

      And bureaucracy must have cameras and microphones on while working, like cops, just as a first step. All accounts of those working in government and their extended families to be audited seriously every year.

      An independent of government with independent and secure funding of commissioner of ethics to be created, that would audit accounts, recordings, minutes of bureaucrats as well as elected officals. With power to prosecute and order changes.

        1. Kouros

          The siad ethics people also have to wear cameras and michrophones. Every work related activity has to be recorded.

  3. ZenBean

    It’s a little bit unfair to entirely blame the German elite for all of this when there is roughly a third of the German electorate that is fanatically in favor for all of this. Affluent, culturally-liberal city dwellers. The self-declared creme de la creme of society (“Besserbürger”), highly-educated, but poor in judgement: being well-represented in academia, media and in the higher echelons of the economy (though not as owners) they punch well above their weight. And the only thing they can think of doing in the face of opposition is: doubling down on the very policies that caused their problems in the first place. Removing them from the levers of power will not be easy and in all likelihood they will still be calling the shots after the next federal elections via the CDU. Germany is in for a rough decade.

    1. JTMcPhee

      The disease affecting the West seems then to be pretty universal. “In a nutshell, the government policy is more money for war and less social spending at home.” Sounds like a very apt statement of the”policy” of the US Empire and all its satrapies. “You mopes will take the levers of power when you pry them from my cold, dead hands…”

      1. spud

        under free trade and open borders, governments lost their sovereignty, the government now is merely a servant to the rich and markets.

        its about time we are hearing this, i am saying, finally,

        “In light of the Bundestag’s recent actions on asylum seekers (which is very similar to the AfD position), it’s worth wondering if all the government’s righteous outrage against the AfD is really about immigrants or some of the party’s other ideas, like detente with Russia and its anti-Eu stance. Here’s AfD leader Alice Weidel talking to the Financial Times in a January 21 profile:

        Weidel, party leader since 2022, said an AfD government would seek to reform the EU and remove its “democratic deficit”, including by curbing the powers of the European Commission, an “unelected executive”.

        “But if a reform isn’t possible, if we fail to rebuild the sovereignty of the EU member states, we should let the people decide, just as Britain did,” she said. “And we could have a referendum on ‘Dexit’ — a German exit from the EU.”

        As far as the European Commission and its president Ursula Gertrud von der Leyen are concerned, that’s basically a declaration of war. As von der Leyen says, she has the “tools,” and she’s not afraid to use them.”

        definition of free trade,

        free trade
        Trade between nations without regulatory barriers such as tariffs or quotas.

        international trade free from government interference, especially trade free from tariffs or duties on imports

        international trade free of government interference.

        under free trade, whats mine is mine, whats yours is mine, and there will be no discussions about this period.

        under free trade the rich can now get what they want, any where they want, in anyway they want, with no regard about the consequences.

        the people of the world want their political rights, economic rights, and social rights back. this is plainly evident for all to see.

        and as long as we free trade, that is give up our sovereign rights, we cannot have what humanity and the environment deserve.

        brexit must be looking pretty good to the germans today, besides everyone else stuck in a free trade zone.

    2. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you and well said.

      I note my German colleagues are divided. Those working with smaller firms and / or in small cities tend to be dissatisfied. The ones working with big firms and wealthy individuals and / or in big cities are content.

      With regard to farmer discontent, my bank trades a lot with this sector, not just in Europe, and reports the discontent in the Midwest and East Anglia.

      I keep an eye on the UK rural press and detect some envy at what continental peers are doing, but a reticence to replicate. One pig farmer, who does not come from these islands and is often on tv, reckons things are not bad enough yet for his peers, but he doubted they would do much as, he implied, the forelock tugging mentality is strong.

    3. Carolinian

      The above says the ruling coalition has 33 percent support. Biden now has around 33 percent support. Isn’t it interesting that both of these defenders of democracy have governments that only a minority of the people support? Come to think of it Hitler also started out with a minority government. Of course it’s superficial to try to prove a case via historical comparisons but isn’t that what these “democrats” are doing constantly?

      And yet where these new authoritarians differ from the past is their devotion to internationalism and their weak ties to the military. Let both the US and Germany start sending their conscripted young people off to die for empire and things would turn on a dime. When they do use the leftover remnants of empire to take on Russia it’s a disaster–probably because they thought they were going to take down Russia without a war. Propaganda was only one leg of Hitler’s dictatorship but the new authoritarians think it, and the media, are all they need–that and of course “lawfare.”

      Anyhow thanks to Conor for the detailed report. It’s depressing how much the situation in Germany sounds like here. No wonder half the world is looking for the “West-xit.”

      1. chris

        Yes, thanks to Connor for this depressing but useful report. The current European experience kills any optimism I have for the US. If their leaders are so committed to destroying their prosperity in the face of real hardship, what hope do we in the US have against the same madness? And in the event a popular response does form, these pro-Insanity factions will shamelessly lie and manipulate to attack the groups in opposition. I can’t wait to read about how Bernie Sanders is Anti-Semitic and how Aaron Mate grills baby steak before he eats it with ketchup made from Ukrainian tears.

          1. Mikel

            That’s what I’ve been seeing it as: testing grounds to see just how much can be gotten away with – no covert action needed.
            And it’s a method many countries are salivating for – even outside the West.

    4. Ignacio

      The German elite then represents those affluent supposed liberal city dwellers and it is fair to blame them entirely for their warmongering let’s call it “liberal” for whatever liberal means in their minds which is quite a narrow sense of the term in which “liberal” means those that are with us, or as Steffen Hebestreit, said (with a small correction) it “is shameful and violates OUR rules” of democratic society. Totally agree on the rest of your statements.

    5. Roger Boyd

      Western societies tend to have a highly-concentrated elite then a very large segment of courtier academics, media and cultural industries (many of the elite children go into these areas), business people and security services (until relatively recently the CIA would recruit mainly from the select elite universities, and the CIA set up the BND) – the creme de la creme. This is probably about 20% of the population in total and is the home base of “liberalism”.

      In the West outside the US this segment has become increasingly comprador in recent years, following the interests of the US rather than their own country. The US has a huge apparatus for co-opting / bribing / blackmailing other country’s elites and courtiers. The US has decided to damage Europe to help itself (more fossil fuel exports, industry re-shoring to the US) and make sure that Germany does not ally with Russia. So its compradors in the European nations, and most especially in the EU, are carrying out their orders. If they did not they would be immediately targeted by the US and its other compradors, lets remember that the US used the Danish secret services to bug the previous German leader’s phone.

      If a leader truly representative of the people’s wishes got near to be being in power then a full court press of the media and security services would roll into place, as with the combined successful campaign to remove Corbyn. The same with the EU and US political attack on the Georgian parliament when they wanted to pass a law combating foreign-funded NGOs. The president of Georgia, although ethnically Georgian, was born, raised and worked for many years in France. She was actually previously the French Ambassador to Georgia and she was all over the media denouncing the government.

      1. Sully

        “The US has a huge apparatus for co-opting / bribing / blackmailing other country’s elites and courtiers. ”

        One sees this at work in Japan, where the CDC just celebrated opening an office, yesterday.

        As Michael Hudson pointed out not long ago, Japan has a non-economy feeding the rich there. What was once a strong momentum in manufacturing is now arbitrage for their small group of elites — arbitrage of the interest rate differences between the low Japanese rate and ours.

  4. The Rev Kev

    The next German Federal election will be held no later than 26th October 2025. That is fact one. The second fact is that the present German elite are Neocons, especially the Greens. And as Alex Christoforou notes, the two outstanding characteristics of a Neocon is that they have nor reverse gear and if their plans blow up in their faces, then they will always double down. So I surmise from this that the German government will dig in and keep pushing ahead with what they are doing until they are forced from office next year. Between now and then, with time running short, they will also bring in all sorts of radical laws and seek to have them that they cannot be overturned after leaving office. Laws that only Klaus Schwab could love with absolutely no regard if the majority of citizens can even pay for them. I will note one other thing and that is this section-

    ‘…the Bundesstag quietly passed a law clearing the way for easier deportations of asylum seekers, and criminalizing certain activities by aid workers who assist them, punishable with up to ten years in prison’

    So by asylum seekers, do they perhaps mean military age men & women from the Ukraine so that they can be sent back there for cannon fodder? Of course military age for the Ukraine appears likely to be between 17 to 70.

  5. Feral Finster

    Of course the AfD will be banned on any pretext, as will any other political force that dares question American hegemony in general ornthe war on Russia in particular.

    Problem solved, since europeans like being slaves.

  6. funemployed

    I honestly can’t think of a more effective way to bolster the image of Nazis than a bunch of power-mad, entitled twits breaking everything then calling everyone who challenges them Nazis.

    1. Daniil Adamov

      It is how Stalin was rehabilitated in the 90s here in Russia. The same liberal intellectuals who vocally supported destructive economic policies and idolised Gaidar and Chubais were also hysterically anti-Stalin (by which I mean that they not only condemned him for his actual crimes against the population, but also made things up – I am thinking of stuff like one of the founders of Memorial knowingly withholding information about the actual number of his victims, since it was noticeably lower than the one that was accepted among the good people – as he later admitted without the least hint of remorse, once he had been caught). By the 1980s, Stalin has been partly discredited and partly forgotten among most of the population. In the 1990s he was suddenly big again and I have no doubt that it was at least partly because those highly educated, widely loathed individuals attacked him so senselessly.

      1. Roger Boyd

        A big part of that was because of the opening of the Soviet archives to historical research. Much of Khrushchev’s “secret” anti-Stalin speech and Wester/Liberal propaganda was significantly debunked. Losurdo’s “Stalin History and Critique of a Black Legend” is an excellent counter-balance to the anti-Stalin mythology. Of course, the liberal press and the Trotskyist left heavily attacked the book. It was published by Iskra books, as it was obviously too hot to handle for the mainstream press.

        1. Paradan

          I would absolutely love it if someone would take the time to read “Yezhov vs. Stalin” by Grover Furr, and tell me what they think. He’s a historian that had access to the archives before they closed them back up, and his version of events makes way more sense then the standard narrative. If he’s a loon and I didn’t get the memo, then, oh well. Otherwise I’m forever grateful to the individual over at Moon of Alabama’s forum who pointed me to Mr. Furr’s home page.

      2. .Tom

        I heard on a podcast recently that in Gulag social hierarchies, the lowest of the low, the most despised and badly treated by both guards and other prisoners, were the intellectuals.

    2. KD

      I honestly can’t think of a more effective way to bolster the image of Nazis

      How about bringing a former Waffen SS soldier before the Canadian Parliament for a standing ovation, or providing unconditional military and political support for a regime were the ICJ has found “plausible evidence” of genocidal acts and genocidal intent?

      1. Feral Finster

        And yet Canadian policy barely changed, no heads rolled, the whole thing was quickly brushed aside as an embarrassing incident that everyone would rather not talk about.

        1. Es s Ce tera

          I like to think, or hope, that privately people learned something, a bit of a history lesson – that half of Ukrainians fought on the Nazi side during the war, the other half the Soviet side. Since this didn’t jibe with what everyone previously understood, there was probably a lot of googling and researching going on, and digging up of grandpa’s old passports and birth certificates and such. And at least some of those Ukrainian families in the Canadian midwest had grandkids coming to uncomfortable conclusions about grandpa which rather do explain some of his iffy beliefs.

          So even if it was quietly brushed aside by the media, the incident was probably still helpful, just a little.

          1. Pym of Nantucket

            I live in the largest Ukrainian city outside the Ukraine. The inconvenient truths started coming out in the form of large university donations, and yes, people looking back and questioning who did what to whom back then. The Deputy Prime Minister is even slowly having to cool off on the yellow and blue flag waving given her family links (not to mention posing with the black and red banners for photos). Because people have to dig so hard to get both sides of stories, it seems to be just too much work to expect people to tune in to the painful nuances.

            It’s really a treasure to have sites like this that detour simplistic narratives. I’m sure 1 or 2 percent of the population takes the time to discern ine sided news.

          2. Mike

            The Ukrainian-Canadians in western Canada are mostly descendants of pre-WWI immigrants. I’m one of them. The post-WWII Ukrainians mostly ended up in the eastern, urban part of the country.

          3. stickNmud

            Only about 250,000 residents of the Soviet Republic of Ukraine joined the Wehrmacht after the German invasion of the USSR in June 1941, with roughly 8,000 joining the Waffen SS Galicia division. On the other hand, between 4.5 million and 7 million Ukrainians served in the Red Army during WWII. So, rather than ‘half’, between 18 and 28 times as many Ukrainians fought to defend the USSR as joined the Wehrmacht and fought against the USSR during WWII. Facts matter.

            1. Feral Finster

              Of course. And when I lived in Ukraine, nationalists were seen as freaks, clowns and psychos, at least outside of Galicia.

              But now the Galicians get to write the narrative.

              1. The Rev Kev

                Bit like how when Germany came together as a nation in the 1870s, it was the Prussians that got to write the narrative then.

        2. Kouros

          Canadian Foreign Policy is kept close to the chest of bureaucrats and Privy Council and away from the public with just dribs and drabs allowed to percolate in the news.

          However, I am sure if a FOI is submitted to the PMO for all the messages received from the public and their content, it would be a hair raiser and would point to the gap between Canadian Foreign Policy and public opinion.

          1. Tom Doak

            Isn’t Canadian foreign policy kept quiet until they are sure what the Americans want them to do?

          2. Kouros

            And who’s going to publish me? I am 100% convinced on my statement, so I don’t need to submit an FOI to confirm what I know in my bones to be true.

  7. KD

    Its hard to underestimate the panic and desperation in the need to continue funding for Ukraine, especially with America apparently balking at the Congressional level. European elites have “bet the Eurozone” on sanctions and a war against Russia, and what will come after if Ukraine is defeated? Sanctions have set Germany on a course toward deindustrialization and have shifted it from an exporting nation to an importing nation. If it becomes evident that all these sacrifices were for nothing, and worse, Germany has been played by its “ally”–what then for the German elites? Everything must be mustered to forestall the inevitable, to make the hopeless appear to contain hope.

    1. Feral Finster

      This is why the West will only continue to double down, because they’ve already bet too much.

      This is also why Russia drastically miscalculated in not using enough force to end the war quickly, before eurofools and their American enablers could paint themselves into a corner.

      A lot of serious incidents start as relatively minor matters that escalate out of control as nobody can be seen to back down.

      1. Kouros

        The Military Intelligence Services were likely played and misinformed the decision makers on the likely quick success of the SMO, including about the fail attack at Gostomel. However, overall, it wasn’t a bad gamble, with a good draft at the end of March 2022. The mistake was to show “good will” and reatreat the Russian forces from the proximity of Kiev and other locales before anything was ironed out. Of course, the USUK would have exercised pressure anyways and force Z et al to recant.

        This is why I am skeptical of all this uptick on promises of 2 state solutions to be seriously considered in Israel/Palestine. Daniel Levy, former Israeli negotiator for the Oslo Accords raised the alarm signal that it is likely a hoax to allow Israel / US to kick the can down the road a bit longer…

        1. Feral Finster

          Had Russia taken this war seriously and used overwhelming force such that the Kiev regime and its western sponsors had no choice, we would not be having this discussion, and a lot of good people would be alive today.

  8. vao

    I would like to correct a detail:

    For example, Germany’s Schwedt oil refinery, which supplies 90 percent of the gasoline, diesel, jet fuel and fuel oil used in Berlin, has been running at around 50 percent capacity due to the loss of Russian fuel.

    As I reported late last year, Schwedt is now operating at above 80% capacity — thanks to running the old pipeline from Rostock to the max with crude of various provenances, and especially thanks to oil procured from Kazakhstan via the Druzhba pipeline. The refinery is again producing the much needed diesel, bitumen, and jet fuel.

    But it continues to be dogged by massive problems.

    1) The refinery has had to process 23 different sorts of crude. The consequence: massive emissions of nitrogen and sulfur, since the equipment is fine-tuned for Russian oil. The plant has been operating under pollution waivers, and the management has already made a demand to authorize their prolongation with a doubling of emissions.

    2) Investigative journalists have uncovered odd discrepancies between the declarations of German officials regarding the crude deliveries from Kazakhstan, those from Kazakh officials, and the reservation of pipeline capacity through Russia. In addition, the government has instructed customs officals to no longer verify the source of crude unloaded in Rostock. There is now a strong suspicion that the German government is just letting Russian oil in, because of all the technical difficulties with the refinery — just not via the Druzhba pipeline.

    3) The refinery management intends to build a new pipeline from Rostock to replace the very old one that is now the lifeline for Schwedt and thus increase the supply capacity from 6 to 9 M tonnes/year. It asked the government for a subsidy of € 420M. Since this kind of support for private firms is forbidden under EU rules, the EU Commission must explicitly authorize such a deal. The dossier was sent to Brussels 9 months ago — the decision is still hanging.

    4) When the German government placed the Schwedt refinery under fiduciary administration, it also gave a 2-year job guarantee to the employees. This guarantee ends in September, but despite explicit and forceful inquiries by a Green representative in the Bundestag, the Habeck’s ministry answered more than evasively — to the great frustration of refinery employees, the Schwedt city council, and other stakeholders.

    5) The fiduciary administration of the refinery has already been prolonged, and the current phase ends in March. Habeck is now seriously considering nationalizing the plant — which would take care of point (3) and probably (4) above. The Greens are all for it, as this would also make it possible for the State to invest in turning the refinery into a hydrogen-producing plant. It remains to be seen tenaciously Rosneft will fight against such a move.

    In short: thinks are not going well, merely not as bad as before.

    1. JTMcPhee

      I’m wondering why Russia continues to supply petroleum to Germany or any of the rest of the West. Are the income streams important to Russia at this point? If it’s respect for contracts, is there not more than enough reason to treat German concerns in breach of the arrangements? If there’s a life-pr-death struggle going on between Neoconia and the Axis of Resistance/multipolar world, why continue offering ANY aid and comfort to opponents who are trying to kill you and take your stuff?

      1. albrt

        I have no inside information, but it looks to me like Russia has no interest in waging total war. They are winning on the current trajectory, and when the war is over they will need to find a way to live with the Europeans. In the meantime, Russia and its allies are making money marking up the Russian oil and selling it to Europe. In other words, Russia is a civilized country.

        If Europe escalates further then perhaps Russia will escalate further.

        1. Polar Socialist

          Maybe Russia (or the proponents of the multipolar world in general are) is trying to control the speed at which The West is collapsing.

          Even if that means saving the neocons from themselves for some time.

          1. David in Friday Harbor

            Most likely the Russian leadership fear that the total collapse of the West would create its own potential for uncontrolled military escalation. Putin and Lavrov are on-record that they don’t see Trump defenestrating Biden as a necessarily positive development.

            The Russian feint toward Kiev and Kharkov was clearly intended to force a quick negotiated settlement, not the prolonged war that they got. Keeping up a trickle of petroleum might be seen as a way to avoid another chaotic German social collapse with unpredictable consequences.

      2. Daniil Adamov

        Maybe because it isn’t a life-or-death struggle, or even if it is, the Russian government does not really view it as such. Realistically, Ukraine with Western backing can kill Russians (and Ukrainians), but it is not a threat to Russia’s existence or to the Russian government. And the West probably isn’t such a threat either, unless it uses nukes. What else can they actually do, apart from keeping the slaughter going at the current, fundamentally non-threatening pace? I don’t see them staging a land invasion, and if there were any takers for a coup, they would’ve shown themselves earlier. Anything else is not a danger to the government and its stuff.

        1. Aurelien

          I think it was an existential struggle at the start, but I don’t think that’s still true. The West is fast running out of materiel to send, and any thought of direct NATO intervention is a joke (where? what with?).

          But I’ve always assumed the Russians are taking the long(er) view. Their strategic objective here has to be a weak Europe and a United States which for practical purposes is no longer present there. That will take a few years, but then I have always assumed that the Russians are trying to create a strategic situation that will last 25-50 years anyway. In such circumstances, a militarily weak and probably politically unstable Europe dependent on Russian gas is actually a pretty good end-state.

    2. Ignacio

      Thank you vao. Your comments on Germany, i find them always worthy. As well as from other commenters like Tom cited in the article.

    3. chris

      Thank you for sharing your insights!

      A factor that appears to be ignored by those relying on this new Russian life line is the condition of the Russian supply system feeding it. What is their outage schedule like? How old are their pumps and pipes? My understanding is that because they had the new physical infrastructure in NordStream, much of the Russian maintenance planning had been re-prioritized away from these old pipelines. If that’s true, then I wonder what will happen if they need to perform repairs and the resulting problems that come from the Germans losing oil from a source they’re not supposed to have access to compounds theater issues they’re already facing.

      Of course, maybe we’ll see a Ukrainian yacht on wheels nearby this spring and then another pipeline sabotage. I can’t believe the people behind that would let this situation continue after they went to the trouble of destroying the Russian ability to supply oil to Europe.

  9. Tom67

    Another excellent article Conor and thanks for quoting me! Just by chance about an hour ago I met my friend who works in this very factory with 1200 workers mentioned earlier. There are quite a lot for workers of Turkish origin there. I asked him whether they changed their mind about the AFD. He answered not at all. They laugh about the propaganda against the AFD and don´t believe at all that the AFD wants to deport people like them. My friend who works in this factory since 30 years and was asked by his colleagues to become a union delegate (which he declined as he is disgusted by the union) explained to me why it is that Turkish workers are as much or even more inclined to support the AFD than German workers:
    1. They are socially conservative and intensely dislike the ubiquitous transpropaganda. The AFD is the only party that positioned itself against selfsame.
    2. They see themselves as part of German society and want a better future for their kids. But they mostly live in areas with lot´s of immigration and their kids can´t properly study if half or more of class mates don´t speak proper Germans. My friend told me that some of his coworkers are seriously considering hiring private teachers and sharing the cost.
    3. They feel being treated unfairly. When their parents or even grandparents came to Germany they had to work very hard whereas newcomers nowadays get state support from the moment they get here.
    4. General economic grievances aren´t met. There´s widespread support among all the workers for the train strike going on. They wish their own union was like the train workers union. The metal workers union, the biggest in Germany, is a sick joke. The union leadership picks the delegates and the delegates the union leadership. A parasitic structure has developed where people with degrees in social sciences are at the top of the union who have never worked with their hands. Not surprisingly they are more concerned with identity poltics than questions like shift work or other bread and butter issues.

  10. MD in Berlin

    All very thought-provoking. I think it might be useful to think of the movements as (possibly powerful) currents, the party-political votes as froth. I don’t see much sign of the slander (re AfD) harming the protests and strikes. And their success depends ultimately on their strength and determination, not their score in opinion polls.

  11. MD in Berlin

    The anti-AfD protests are fundamentally a good thing. A real chance of ripping off the mask of respectability. Signs that that’s starting.
    Two strands to the movement. One in some way supportive of the current government. But a second strand saying (or at least open to the idea) that we must deal not only with the AfD but also with the political mess that they exploit to gain support. To my mind, the latter is the one to watch.

    1. hk

      The latter is at the core of all “democratic” problems, though, isn’t it?

      In every polity, population gravitates towards “change” when the political status quo becomes corrupt, incompetent, or otherwise fundamentally problematic without prospects of change. Political entrepreneurs seek to exploit this tendency no matter where and who they are. These are fundamental characteristics of a functioning “democracy” and, in a sense, the most important role thereof–that it allows for an organic change of the regime that fails to address popular discontent and prevents it from festering too much.

      Most of “lawfare” nonsense directed at reputedly problematic political movements (without saying that these movements are not problematic) is aimed at subverting this basic democratic function, by preventing the organic replacement of the incumbent regime, by forcing the narrative that “there is no alternative.” One day, though, the discontented populace will cease to buy this narrative: better Satan than X and all that. IF some subset of the incumbent politicians figure this out and somehow reform themselves from within, that would be nice. But I don’t hold my breath. This problem, I think, is in fact the fundamental internal contradiction of democracy (analogous to the internal contradiction of capitalism (or markets, at least) that Adam Smith pointed out): democracy is bad for politicians and the politicians have every incentive to seek to subvert from within, and if they try hard enough, they would actually succeed and destroy it and set it up for its “violent” throw–either politicians themselves would “defend” it by resorting to violence or other “non-democratic” means or the opposition themselves would use “non-democratic” means to overthrow them with popular approval even if not active support.

      1. Kouros

        Please use the term “representative-democracy” in the future for it provides a more accurate description of the methodological underpinings of a said polity.

        1. hk

          I think I actually meant “democracy”: I definitely did not mean “representative” democracy. However, given that “democracy” is a problematic term that everyone seems to define differently, I will be sure to define my definition with more clarity in the future.

          1. Kouros

            It is a bit of a rabbit hole. Even representative democracy doesn’t fully inform of the status. It is one thing to have representatives elected via elections and competition and another thing to have representatives elected via sortition, at random. So on and so forth…

    2. Schopenhauer

      At first: Congratulations to Conor for this detailed but very precise report about the deteriorating political and economical situation here in Germany.
      Secondly a remark to MDs perception that a strand of the “Against the Right” wants to “deal not only with the AfD but also with the political mess that they [the AfD] exploit to gain support”. I fear that this is wishful thinking: The crowds gathering in different german cities neither want to stop the madness sending weapons and money galore into the big blue&yellow hole named Ukraine (my impression is that this issue is carefully avoided) nor did they want to address the dysfunctional migration and energy policy (the ridiculous “Energiewende”) of the current and the previous german government. Sahra Wagenknecht whose newfounded party BSW wants not only to end the selfdefeating sanctions against Russia but also to reverse the destructive energy policy would hardly be welcome at any of the “Against the Right” protest because from the brainwashed view of the protesting majority Wagenknecht is not a left wing politician but a blackhaired copy of Alice Weidel (the much-loathed frontwoman of the AfD). The “second strand” MD is speaking of does not want a change to more popular politics but more of the same selfdefeating and selfdestructive Merkel & Scholz policies.
      Would there be a fundamental critique of the general direction of the government policies at the gatherings the government would try to undermine them instead of showing up there personally and prominently (Scholz, Baerbock, Esken and the likes were seen at the so-called “protests”).
      When the german “elites” succeed in legally banning the AfD Wagenknechts BSW will be next.

      1. MD in Berlin

        Time will tell. What I see and hear is not brainwashed. And I don’t find that a meaningful category for understanding political movements. If you look for example at the placards participants make, there is certainly a critical strand.

  12. Irrational

    Thanks for this post, Conor. I had certainly missed that Correctiv was walking back their original allegations!
    As you say the “Ampel” is currently very unpopular with voters and this also manifests itself in Foreign Minister Baerbock’s and economy Minister Habeck’s ratings dropping by high single digit percentage points as far as I can see. But the Defence Minister Pistorius is now the most popular politician. So against the economic effects of the Russia sanctions, but seemingly not against the war mongering. Puzzling.

    1. vao

      Actually not quite. Germany received cheap oil and gas via dedicated pipelines from Russia; now it receives, in a hush-hush fashion, some Russian oil via tankers (which is more expensive than via pipelines), and Russian LNG (which is much more expensive than via pipelines).

      But all right: the LNG from the USA, the gas from Norway and the Netherlands, and the oil from Kazakhstan and other places are all more expensive than the former hydrocarbons procured from Russia.

    2. Don

      Comment withdrawn — on more careful reading, I think I understand the intent of the sentence. (And the moderators are presumably very, very busy.)

  13. ArvidMartensen

    Why are the ruling neoliberal parties becoming so shameless and so dogmatic in what they are doing.
    Perhaps it is because they know they control the media companies, social media companies, and the internet backbone companies. And they assume that that control will strengthen as AI takes over, where AI is the stalking horse for totalitarian control.

    When you think you can do as you like and then bend the minds of voters to agree with it, then you will do whatever you like. Elections won’t matter, popular opinion won’t matter, because they can all be gamed.
    Time will tell.

  14. Felix_47

    This is a great outline by Conor. I live in Germany. The situation is very much like that in the USA. The massive demonstrations against the right (meaning AFD) are disturbing because of their size and the lack of credible stimulus as discussed by Conor. Anyone with a brain who does not have an electric SUV to commute in and lives in a nice suburban area and is making bank in the migrant industrial complex knows that this recent migrant group is generating a massive rise in criminalty, drug use and disorder. So deportation of those illegally here has become somewhat more mainstream. That is why Scholz and the Ampel are finally trying to something symbolic but something. And the right wants to stop the war in Ukraine and if they gain power the US and England will be going it alone. So one wonders who is behind these demonstrations?

  15. AG

    fyi a Geman commentary on this issue summarizing the attitude towards immigration since the 90s.
    alas only machine-transl. available.
    But one of the very very few public commentaries of this candid sort:

    “Remigration is a German state policy”
    by Wolf Wetzel

    The essence:
    “(…)So why are hundreds of thousands taking to the streets alongside those who are doing exactly what can and should be understood as remigration? Why is what the coalition government does, implements and launches okay, while those who talk and dream about it are the devil?(…)”

    with a few press quotations fom 30 years ago:

    “(…) “The boat is full ,” Der Spiegel magazine from September 9, 1991

    “ It cannot be the case that some of the foreigners go begging, cheating, even stabbing through the streets, are arrested, and just because they shout the word ‘asylum’ are on the taxpayers’ hands“It’s in your pocket.” Klaus Landowsky, CDU parliamentary group leader in Berlin. Quoted from: STERN No. 43 from October 17, 1991

    “Short process, grab yourself by the head and collar and get out with it!” Friedhelm Farthmann, SPD, then minister in North Rhine-Westphalia on the “solution to the asylum question”. Quoted from: Der Spiegel No. 3/93 from March 17, 1992

    And the ending:

    On May 26, 1993, the German Bundestag passed with a whopping 2/3 majority the de facto abolition of the right to asylum (…) From then on, Germany surrounded itself with the invention of “safe third countries” to which refugees could be deported immediately. (…) those who still managed to get to Germany (…) faced a rejection rate of asylum applications that rose to 98 percent – a safe return to hunger, torture and death.
    On May 26, 1993, not hundreds of thousands, but a few thousand demonstrated against the abolition of the right to asylum.
    Thirty years later, the motives on the part of the government and those demonstrating with that government have not changed.

    The “fight against the right” is intended to suggest a center that – looking at the last 30 years – could hardly be more right-wing.

    Is it possible that it is not about the “fight against the right”, against racism and fascism, but rather about protecting everything with which one has come to terms?

    Is it possible that a lot of things are and can be right-wing once you get used to it and can rely on it?

    see German original:

  16. Froghole

    “No, it is that something is broken, and it ain’t the elites so it must be the voters. Something must be done about this, but what?”

    As I am sure many will be thinking, it seems we are back to Brecht in 1953:

    “After the uprising of the 17th June
    The Secretary of the Writers Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had forfeited the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts. Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?”

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