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Anti-Fascism Betrayed? The Left and the French Presidential Elections.

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Image result for front uni contre le fascisme

The End of the United Front Against Fascism?

The French Presidential Elections: Anti-Fascism Betrayed?

“qui’il n’y pas de hiérarchie dans l’inacceptable entre le Pen at Macron. Entre la xénophobie et la soumission aux banques.”

There is no difference of degree between the unacceptability of le Pen and Macron, between xenophobia and surrender to the banks.

Emmanuel Todd.

“Last year I wrote in the struggle against fascism the Communists were duty-bound to come to a practical agreement not only with the devil and his grandmother, but even with Grzesinski.”

Leon Trotsky. 1932. The Struggle Against Fascism in Germany.

The 2/3rds majority of Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s La France insoumise who support abstention, or a blank vote, in the second round of the French Presidential elections is echoing across the hexagon’s already divided left. In Wednesday’s Le Monde Jean Birnbaum wrote of the burial of the “united front” spirit of anti-fascism (le 4 août de Mélenchon, ou l’antifascisme trahi). There are those who argue that not only is Macron beyond the pale, a banker, a globaliser with a sorry Ministerial record as a hard-liner pushing liberal labour reform, but that his election would prepare the way for a future Front National triumph. Hence ballot spoiling, blank votes, for abstention are the only possible choice in an election where there is no choice. Birnbaum argues that this, amid smaller (indeed, very small) leftist groups and some public intellectuals refusing to “takes sides”, shows that the  unity of the left against fascism, which has been a cornerstone of its politics since the mid-1930s, is breaking up.

This is not, then,  a debate about abstention as such. This position, a very old one on the French left, going back to Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809 – 1865),  which argues for self-organising outside of Parliamentary institutions, is not at the centre of the debate. Alain Badiou early intervened in favour of a re-establishing a “communist vision” outside the “depoliticising” ceremony of the ballot box. Badiou’s recommendation not to vote because it only encourages them has not caught many people’s attention. (Alain Badiou. Voter renforce le conservatisme).

The Le Pen versus Macron duel has raised more serious issues. For Birnbaum, who has written on the blindness, if not indulgence, of a section of the left faced with Islamism (Un Silence Religieux. 2016 Review), some on the French left, many formed, like Mélenchon, from the Trotskyist tradition, have forgotten the need, which Trotsky (for all his acerbic attacks, and his loathing of the German Social Democrats, summed up in the figure of the Prussian Interior Minister, Grzesinski, demanded, faced with the prospect of Hitler’s rise, to defend democratic institutions.

No New Hitler.

It would be indecent to have to say that France today is far from the Weimar Republic. A new Hitler in power is not in prospect. There are no street battles between the Front National and the left. The FN does not offer a genocidal programme. Birnbaum’s argument that those who propose the view that Macron and Le Pen are politically twin-evils does not flag up the posthumous victory of the worst years of Stalinism, the Third Period. But, as many convincingly demonstrate the French far right is the vehicle for illiberal democracy. From leaving the Euro, Frexit, clamping down on immigration, including the expulsion of ‘suspect’ individuals, “national preference” (jobs first of all for French citizens), and tightening the borders, economically and socially, requires authority beyond normal Parliamentary democracy. The not-so-secret ambition of the extra-parliamentary wing of the far right, which would be emboldened by a FN victory, remains to fight the left violently, from the city pavements, civil society, education, and the workplace. (on this see the excellent: The Front National and fascism. Martin Thomas).

Yet Marine Le Pen’s party is, apparently, ‘normalised’. It is a refuge, Pierre-André Taguieff describes it, for those excluded by globalisation, a “pathological form of self-defence”, confronted with the erosion of nation states and the rule of elites. National-populism, he argues, reflects a “need” for identity and belonging. (La revanche du nationalisme. 2015)

There are doctors who claim to be treating this disorder. On the same page of le Monde, Henri Pena-Ruiz, Jean-Paul Scot and Bruno Streiff defend La France insoumise and refuse to be blackmailed into supporting Macron (Insoumis, osons penser librement!). They claim that their movement is at the forefront of the battle against the FN. On the one hand they have waged the “battle of ideas”, defending the role of immigrants n producing French national wealth, and the duty of “universal hospitality” to strangers advanced by Kant, a refusal to divide the world into “us” and “them”. On the other hand their “révolution citoyenne”, a 6th social, ecological and economic Republic, offers a message beyond short-term election battles. Federating the people, it can equally capture the best traditions of the left and those marginalised by globalisation.

Henri Pena-Ruiz has himself helped avoid faults that Birnbaum’s Un silence religieux attacked. That is the incapacity, mixed with an opportunistic eye to new recruits against ‘globalisation’ and ‘imperialism’, of some of the left confronted with Islamism. His Qu’est-ce que la laïcité? (2003) stands as a significant defence of secularism, and a rebuke to groups like the British Respect, and the Socialist Workers Party, who allied with the Islamic far-right.

Yet it does not help Mélenchon’s supporters that they choose to deny the accusation that they mirror 1930s sectarianism to cite the role of the German SPD in preparing the way for Hitler by, between 1924 and 1929, accepting a policy of austerity through their alliance with the centre (Catholic) party. This transparent attack on the Parti Socialiste, by Macron interposed, and its (mild) fiscal austerity indicates that in some way it holds  responsibility for the le Pen, and the far right. This is can easily be interpreted as indicating that the Macron ‘finance’ class are not only an enemy, but the real foe, beside which the Front National is a ‘diversion’.

Some readers may also consider that one could have done without the text’s references to their movement’s remarkable “intelligence collective”. Their is a feel of the courtier when they talk of the “honneur” of “non-guru” Mélenchon for organising a “consultation” of his supporters to know their views on voting in the second round. Others might wonder why there is no reference to the 15-16% of voters for this candidate in the first ballot that, polls indicate, who are ready to vote Le Pen on Sunday.

Populism and Sovereignty.

One problem remains. If those who refuse to ‘choose’ between Macron and Le Pen reflect a French debate, the underlying issues affect the left across the world. In Europe particularly ‘populism’ is not the preserve of the far right. Mélenchon’s intellectually ambitious advisers may look to Ernesto Laclau and Chantal Mouffe’s efforts to theorise contradictions between the “power bloc” and the “people”, and as the a handbook for constructing a force, filling the “empty signifier” of the People with a voice that articulates the needs and feelings of a broad constituency, against the ‘oligarchs’. In doing so their own demands for ‘national independence” to “produce French”, not to mention lyrical rhetoric about the French revolutionary tradition, or references to Kant’s universal principles of right, have been criticised as nationalist. Their ‘movement’, La France insoumise, which lacks any serious democratic structure, has claimed to be “beyond” traditional political divisions, while falling back into one of the most traditional oppositions of all: the Nation against the other Nations. If Macron represents economic liberal policies, for them he embodies something more: the Cosmopolitan European project. They have, in short, entered the orbit of Sovereigntism.

La France insoumise at an impasse.

After pursuing this path, Mélenchon and la France insoumise won a strong vote but a position as Number Four in the poll. They look less like a force that has abandoned the anti-fascist front, than a movement unable to offer anything more than continued protest. Instead of attempting, as Birnbaum and many others argue, to mobilise against Le Pen, for the unity of democrats against illiberalism, with the prospect of future social conflicts against Macron in mind, they are marching in disorder, a third abstaining a third voting blank and a third for the representative of ‘globalisation’, and their own “excluded” voters still set to back le Pen. It remains to be seen whether they will be able to gather together enough strength to gather together with those they now pour scorn upon to reach agreements on the left for the June legislative elections.

Europe’s Far Right Capitalises on Brexit and Trump Victories.

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Image result for Proteste gegen Europa der Nationen und der Freiheit)

Against Far-Right Meeting: Koblenz Stays Multihued!

The pro-Brexit UK left claimed that a vote to leave would strengthen the ‘anti-austerity’, left-wing and labour movement, forces across in Europe.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

Now Donald Trump, who gives credit to the victory of Leave to his own triumph, heralds America First! – a slogan straight out of the back catalogue of his own, and the European extreme right’s favourite tunes.

The European far-right is also trying to capitalise on Brexit, and the success of Trump’s reactionary populism.

The Irish Times reports,

Koblenz will be the meeting place of European far-right leaders this Saturday. Hosting the event is Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) co-leader Frauke Petry and her new husband, party MEP Marcus Pretzell. Guests include French presidential hopeful and Front National (FN) leader Marine Le Pen, Dutchman Geert Wilders, whose Party for Freedom (PVV) is leading polls ahead of March elections, and Matteo Salvini of Italy’s Northern League.

Hours after Donald Trump’s inauguration in Washington, European far-right leaders see a mutual benefit in presenting themselves in public as a united front opposed to the EU’s current form, to its open borders, to its currency and to its approach to the refugee crisis.

The Tribune de Genève carries the same story:

Au lendemain de l’investiture de Donald Trump, la présidente du Front national en France, Marine Le Pen, retrouve samedi en Allemagne des dirigeants de partis de droite extrême et populistes européens, pour tenter d’afficher un front uni avant plusieurs scrutins cruciaux.

The day after Donald Trump’s investiture, the President of the Front National in France, Marine le Pen, is meeting this Saturday with the leaders of the European extreme right and populist parties, to attempt to assemble a united front before several crucial election contests.

The far from left friendly or even liberal Bild report that this meeting has caused outrage in Germany,

Wilders, Le Pen und AfD tagen in Koblenz Empörung über Gipfel der EU-Hasser

Gegen den geplanten Kongress formiert sich Protest

Wilders, Le Pe and Afd (Alternative for Germany) meetin in Koblenz. Outrage at the Summit of European Union Haters. Protests are being organised against this Congress.

Deutsche Welle provides the background,

Frauke Petry is careful about her reputation. She does not want to be seen as a right-wing extremist and nor does she want her party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), to be labeled as such. She has called the Thuringian AfD leader Björn Höcke, who held a controversial speech in which he criticized the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, a “burden for the party.” For a while, Petry’s reservations have kept her from contacting Marine LePen from the France’s National Front, which is considered to be at least a notch more radical than the AfD.

Last summer, Frauke Petry secretly met Marine Le Pen. Now she is seeking public appearances with LePen, Wilders and Matteo Salvini from the Italian Lega Nord. Nonetheless, the AfD itself is not hosting the party gathering. Petry’s new husband, the head of North Rhine Westphalia’s AfD, arranged the meeting. He is a member of European Parliament for the AfD and as a lone MEP joined the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) parliamentary group, whose driving force is the National Front. Pretzell’s only party colleague in Strasbourg, Beatrix von Storch, is a member of Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy (EFD), which is mostly run by Britain’s UKIP and the Italian Five Star Movement.

There are people in the AfD who think Petry’s appearance at the gathering is wrong. “That is a pure ENF matter that has nothing to do with the AfD,” says Jörg Meuthen, who ironically makes up the party’s leadership duo with Petry. Even the Berlin AfD chairman Georg Pazderski says that the AfD should distance itself from the National Front, as its economic policies are too “socialist” for him. The FN does indeed advocate isolationism and anti-globalization, unlike the economically liberal AfD.

The protests today:

a broad counter-alliance with the slogan “Koblenz remains diverse” has formed and will demonstrate on Saturday. The head of the SPD and deputy Chancellor Sigmar Gabriel wants to join the march as do representatives of the Green Party, the left-wing party Die Linke and even the Social Democrat foreign minister of Luxembourg, Jean Asselborn. “We cannot leave the destiny of the continent in the hands of the nationalists,” Asselborn told the German Press Agency.

Yesterday around 100 people demonstrated against the far-right in Koblenz: Erste Demo gegen Rechtspopulisten in Koblenz

 Notice of the much larger  march today:

ENF (Europa der Nationen und der Freiheit) kommt nach Koblenz – Statement zu den Hintergründen und der Brisanz – Proteste am 20.01/21.012017 in Koblenz

Der ENF (Europa der Nationen und der Freiheit), die Fraktion ultranationalistischer und rechtsradikaler Parteien im Europäischen Parlament, besteht aus 39 Abgeordneten des „Front National“ (FN, größte rechtspopulistische Partei Frankreichs um Marine Le Pen), „Der Freiheitlichen Partei Österreich“ (FPÖ – Rechtsextreme … ENF (Europa der Nationen und der Freiheit) kommt nach Koblenz – Statement zu den Hintergründen und der Brisanz – Proteste am 20.01/21.012017 in Koblenz weiterlesen

Written by Andrew Coates

January 21, 2017 at 11:23 am

Merkel’s Party Beaten by Hard Right AfD, as Left Also Suffers Losses in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Poll.

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Spontane Demonstration gegen AfD Wahlparty läuft vom Ostbahnhof los.

Spontaneous anti-fascist demonstration after Mecklenburg-Vorpommern result.

Solidarité Ouvrière publishes photos showing  that the march was attacked by the far right.

 

Infografik Landtagswahl Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Englisch

Deutsche Welle reports,

Politicians blame Merkel’s refugee policy for defeat in regional elections

Chancellor Angela Merkel received heavy criticism from her opponents as well as from within her own ranks. Her party, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), came third place in state elections in her home state.

The CDU’s Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), blamed the chancellor and her open-door policy on refugees for the shocking result in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania. Bavarian finance minister Markus Söder said that receiving fewer than 20 percent of the overall vote in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania should serve as a “wake-up call” with regards to her refugee policy.

Söder told the Monday morning edition of the regional daily newspaper “Nürnberger Nachrichten” that Merkel needed to adopt a hard line on migrants.

“It is no longer possible to ignore people’s views on this issue. Berlin needs to change tack,” Söder said.Merkel’s CDU lost a great number of votes to the newly established “Alternative for Germany” party (AfD), which managed to come second-place in the regional elections in the northeastern state.

They add,

In addition to Merkel’s CDU’s bad results of only 19 percent of the vote, her federal government coalition partner, the Social Democratic Party of Germany (SPD), also suffered a major setback. While the centre-left SPD managed to garner a better-than-forecast 30.6 percent in Sunday’s election, it too lost several percents of its voter base to the AfD.

The AfD had targeted Merkel’s CDU and her coalition partner, the SPD, since her decision a year ago not to close Germany’s border to refugees arriving from war zones such as Syria and Iraq via Hungary and Austria.

We add, Die Linke also lost 52 % and Die Grünen 3,9%.

Infografics: Afd development

Initial analysis of the vote, Wer wählte 
die AfD? (Die Linke sympathising, Neues Deutschland) indicates the following.

From an inquiry into  60,000 new voters for the anti-immigrant party, the AFD gained support from the following parties  19 000 from the already far-right,  NPD  23 000 from the CDU, 18 000 from Die Linke, and 16 000 from the SPD.

Amongst men voters the AfD support levelled with the SPD, particularity amongst those between 25 to 59 years old.

22% of  AfD voters are self-employed, , 19 % administrative/clerical employes, including 17% in the public sector.

Amongst those of a medium educational level the AFD also scored level with the SDP.

Update: le Monde.

Le parti d’extrême droite allemand AfD s’est reconverti dans le populisme

The AfD, founded in 2013, from being the “teachers’ party”, campaigning against the Euro and for conservative issues, has become increasingly ‘populist’ opposed to the ‘old parties’ and mobilising around the themes of identity (against immigration) and security.

A survey, comparing national support for the AfD from 2015 to 2016 shows its social base, notably support amongst the young.

C’est d’abord le cas des chômeurs (15 % se disent proches du parti, 4 % en 2015), des ouvriers (11 %, + 6 points), des moins de 30 ans (10 %, + 5 points) et des habitants de l’ex-Allemagne de l’Est (11 %, + 5 points). A l’Ouest, en revanche, ils ne sont que 3 % (un point de plus qu’en 2015).

First of all they have backing from the unemployed (15% in 2015, 4% in 2014), workers (11%, up 6%O, the under 30s (10%, up 5 points) and those living in the former GDR (11%, 5 points ore). In the West they remain at 3% (1% up from 2015).

Der Spiegel also notes that in this regional election the AfD had the largest percentage vote amongst workers, (33%) and the unemployed (29%)  and self-employed (27%). (“Sowohl bei Arbeitslosen (29 Prozent) als auch bei Arbeitern (34 Prozent) und sogar Selbstständigen (28 Prozent) sind die Rechtspopulisten stärkste Partei geworden.”)
Taz  observes that the AfD already sees a “revolution” in the making, (“AfD-Rechtsaußen Höcke sieht schon die „Revolution“ heraufziehen.)

in Der Spiegel   says, that the SPD has no alternative, and that “In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern profitierte nur die AfD. Alle anderen Parteien haben verloren.” – only the AfD has gained. All the other parties have lost.”

A very comprehensive Wikipedia entry is here: The Alternative for Germany (German: Alternative für Deutschland, AfD)

Written by Andrew Coates

September 5, 2016 at 11:05 am

Ernst Nolte, Historian of Fascism and Nazism, Dies at 93.

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Ernst Nolte, Historian of Fascism and Nazism, has just passed way ay at 93.

Ernst Nolte’s The Three Faces of Fascism (Der Faschismus in seiner Epoche. 1963) was the first serious book that I read (in the late 1970s and still have a copy of) which dealt properly with Action française. That is the French pre-Great War movement that arose from the anti-Dreyfus campaigns. This violently nationalist (and ‘monarchist’), and anti-Semitic group which was the precursor of many forms (the youth squads of Camelots du Roi) and ideas of the 1920s and 1930s European extreme-right. Nolte took time to unravel the writings of their ideologue, Charles Maurras. His “nationalisme intégral” and use of Catholicism against Laïcité  (even if as a self proclaimed Comtean ‘positivist’ he was not a believer, and was eventually denounced by the Church)  has echoes which can still be heard in France today..

The book deals head on with the anti-Marxist strain of Action française.

Fascism is anti-Marxism which seeks to destroy the enemy by the evolvement of a radically opposed and yet related ideology and by the use of almost identical and yet typically modified methods, always, however within the unyielding framework of national self-assertion and autonomy

The study has its faults, above all the reliance on the history of ideas. But this is also a strength in that Nolte offered a lot of detail that did not depend on his theoretical framework. But it’s hard to ignore that he neglected class issues  which is extremely important in the way French nationalism appealed to a constituency beyond the ‘traditional’ Monarchist strongholds in the army and conservative fractions of the bourgeoisie, to the peasantry and a section of the ‘patriotic’ working class. And these became more apparent as the Three Faces extended towards the rise of Italian fascism, which is unintelligible without the role of post-war workers’ conflicts, not to mention Nazism, born in the heat of intense class conflicts.

By underlining the anti-Marxist ideology of the far-right Nolte’s contribution to the history of the French far-right  stands head and shoulders over Zeeve Sternhell’s La droite révolutionnaire, 1885-1914. Les origines françaises du fascisme, (1978) and Ni droite ni gauche. L’idéologie fasciste en France, (1983).

Sternhell claimed that French fascism derived much of its force and ideology from Boulangisme, the 1880s  populist movement around the  nationalist would-be dictator George Boulanger, seeking revenge for France’s military defeat by Prussia,  Revolutionary syndicalism, which (he falsely asserted),  embraced fascism in its early stages. His evidence relied on the mere existence of the  Cercle Proudhon (a small discussion group). This involved syndicalist patriots loosely  connected to the contrarian leftist Georges Sorel), the  modernist novelist  Pierre Drieu La Rochelle and Monarchists associated with Action française. Its exact influence, rather than associations,  was is never demonstrated.

There is no doubt that the period before the First World War saw a rise in “political confusionism” in France, with some on the left passing to the right, even the far-right, (as is happening today across Europe). But French fascism, as it emerged as a para-military force with some strength in the 1930s, owed more to traditionalist nationalism (Maurice Barrès) and forces hostile to the French Revolution human rights universalism and cosmopolitanism , than to anything from the left apart from rhetoric about capitalism and  Anglo-American ‘plutocracy’. Nolte’s account made this absolutely clear. In this respect the Three Faces remains an important, essential, work.

 Nolte’s contribution to understanding this dark side of history is, nevertheless, overshadowed by  this: the Historikerstreit

The debate opened on June 6, 1986 when the philosopher and historian Ernst Nolte had a speech printed in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, entitled Die Vergangenheit, die nicht vergehen will (“The past that won’t go away”). Nolte argued that the “race murder” of the Nazi death camps was a “defensive reaction” to the “class murder” of the Stalinist system of gulags. In his view, the gulags were the original and greater horror. In the face of the threat of Bolshevism, it was reasonable that the German people would turn to Nazi fascism.[10] He had already articulated this argument the previous year in an essay published in English: “Auschwitz… was above all a reaction born out of the annihilating occurrences of the Russian Revolution… the so-called annihilation of the Jews during the Third Reich was a reaction or a distorted copy and not a first act or an original

This is how his passing was reported.

 

Controversial German historian Ernst Nolte dies at 93 (Deutsche Welle.)

 Controversial German historian Ernst Nolte dies at 93

German historian Ernst Nolte, responsible for a contentious essay on the causes of Nazism, has died in Berlin after a short illness. Nolte’s 1986 essay was the source of much debate among historians.

With his 1986 essay in the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” newspaper entitled “Vergangenheit, die nicht vergehen will” (“The past that will not pass away”), Ernst Nolte caused an uproar in historical circles.

His controversial thesis that Hitler and the Nazis were Germany’s logical reaction to the “existential threat” represented by the Russian Revolution launched a wave of indignation and led to furious debate among historians.

“Did the ‘Gulag Archipelago’ not exist before Auschwitz?” Nolte wrote in the essay. “Was Bolshevik ‘class murder’ not the logical and factual predecessor to the Nazi ‘racial murder’? … Did Auschwitz not, perhaps, originate in a past that would not pass away?”

Nolte was also known for published works including “Three Faces of Fascism,” “Germany and the Cold War” and “The European Civil War 1917-1945: Nazism and Bolshevism.”

Born in the university city of Witten, in North Rhine-Westphalia, Nolte did his doctorate on Karl Marx and was a professor at the Free University of Berlin.

Written by Andrew Coates

August 19, 2016 at 1:30 pm

Alternative für Deutschland in Electoral Breakthrough.

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They’re Jubilant: Few other People are. (1)

AFD (Alternative für Deutschland) RIDES HIGH reports Reuters.

With a high turnout in all the votes, the AfD, already represented in five of Germany’s 16 regional assemblies, succeeded in entering three more.

Its support was strongest in Saxony-Anhalt, where it grabbed 24.2 percent of the vote behind a diminished CDU showing, surpassing even the Social Democrats (SPD), Merkel’s coalition partner in Berlin, ZDF television projections indicated.

With campaign slogans such as “Secure the borders” and “Stop the asylum chaos”, it was the first time the AfD had come as high as second in any state.

“We have fundamental problems in Germany that led to this election result,” said AfD chief Frauke Petry.

The AfD’s rise, which has coincided with strong gains by other European anti-immigrant parties including the National Front in France, punctures the centrist consensus around which the mainstream parties have formed alliances in Germany, and may embolden more European leaders to challenge Merkel on the migrant issue.

The CDU’s leader in Saxony-Anhalt pointed the finger squarely at Merkel for his party’s losses.

“The issue that has brought the AfD into parliaments across Germany can’t be ignored on a federal level any more. We need solutions,” Reiner Haseloff told ARD television.

Charlotte Knobloch, former head of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, bemoaned a “massive shift to the right”.

“If voters follow the call of right-wing populists and extremists to such an extent, it is a failure of the democratic parties,” she said.

SPD SUFFERS

In Baden-Wuerttemberg in the southwest, the Greens for the first time became the strongest party in a state, with 31.1 percent of the vote, ZDF television projections indicated.

The state was a CDU stronghold for more than 50 years before turning to a Green-led coalition with the SPD in 2011 after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in Japan, and CDU support fell by another 12 percentage points on Sunday.

Also damaging for the CDU was the result in Rhineland-Palatinate, the home of former chancellor Helmut Kohl.

There, the CDU’s Julia Kloeckner, who had positioned herself as a future candidate to succeed Merkel, failed to unseat SPD state premier Malu Dreyer.

It was the only bright spot for the SPD, the biggest loser overall. In Saxony-Anhalt, its support almost halved and in Baden-Wuerttemberg it sank by more than 10 percentage points.

Asked if the SPD’s weak showing in those two states would trigger questions about SPD leader Sigmar Gabriel’s future, deputy party chairman Ralf Stegner said: “No, not at all.”

It is still unclear which coalitions will take power in each state, but the splintered vote opens the prospect of deep changes to the political landscape.

Die Welt, presenting a detailed break-down of the vote, notes that the AfD support came above all from former CDU and SDP voters: (Woher die Stimmen für die AfD kamen)

The Süddeutsche Zeitung points out that, the AfD has one central theme: “Es gab ein Thema, das in diesem Wahlkampf, an diesem Wahlsonntag alle anderen überlagert hat: die Flüchtlinge. DieAfD ist gegen “Multikulti”, prangert das “Asylchaos” an, ist stattdessen für “Mut zu Deutschland”, für “kontrollierte Zuwanderung”. That is, refugees. The AFd is against multiculturalism (in their derogatory slang, with echoes of ‘cult’), singles out Asylum-seeker chaos, their “Pride in Germany” and demands for a “control of immigration.”

The paper lists its other appeals as a “protest party”, as a “social-media party” and a party of “donnernden Reden”, thundering speeches, which we would more freely translate as loud-mouthed demagogy, shouting “”Merkel muss weg”, Merkel must go!

Taz reports on the AFD’s jubilation-time, and its satisfaction that it is no longer an East Germany party facing with the “lying-media”:

Jubelzahlen aus der Lügenpresse

Auf der Wahlparty der Rechtspopulisten ist die Stimmung gut. Die AfD sei nicht mehr nur eine Ostpartei, freut sich deren Spitzenpersonal.

 Taz also reports on the results in  BadenWürttemberg

Daniel Cohn-Bendit über Kretschmann

„Es bleibt nur Schwarz-Grün“

Also bleibt nur Schwarz-Grün, die neue Große Koalition.

That is, Cohn-Bendit foresees a Green-‘black’ (CDU) coalition running the state.

The Guardian states,

The German government will stick by its existing refugees policy, a spokesman has said, after the anti-immigrant Alternative für Deutschland made strong gainsin regional elections on Sunday.

Asked if the results in three German states, where support for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s conservatives dwindled, would lead to a change in policy, Steffen Seibert said: “The German government will continue to pursue its refugee policy with all its might both at home and abroad.”

AfD entered state parliaments in all three regions that voted, winning 24% of the vote in Saxony-Anhalt and over 10% in Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate.

The results suggested that German politicians increasingly appear to have two options: rally behind their chancellor, or rail against her.

Although AfD enjoyed considerable momentum, the majority of votes still went to parties who support Merkel’s pro-refugee stance. In all three states, incumbent premiers held on to their seat. In Baden-Württemberg and Rhineland-Palatinate, the Green and Social Democratic (SPD) candidates managed to increase their vote after resolutely backing the chancellor’s open-border position.

(1) Except perhaps this man: Wie Putin die rechten Parteien in Deutschland hofiert.

Written by Andrew Coates

March 14, 2016 at 1:46 pm

Left Manifestos for Europe: Diem25 – Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, Yanis Varoufakis and Transforming the EU.

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The Observing Greece site has performed a service to the left by providing links to the following Manifestos on Europe.

New Manifestos  For Europe!

Our Manifesto for Europe” by Thomas Piketty and 14 others.
A Europe that works” by the ALDE party.
We are Europe” by Daniel Cohn-Bendit and Ulrich Beck.
A Plan B in Europe” by Jean-Luc Mélenchon and others.
European Solidarity Manifesto” by european-solidarity.eu.

It also links to this, the most important of recent statements, Diem25 – Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 and their “Manifesto for Democratising Europe“.

Last October (2015) Yanis Varoufakis  announced plans to draw up this Manifesto.

One very simple, but radical, idea: to democratise Europe.” An interview with Yanis Varoufakis

He said,

So would Jeremy Corbyn’s Labour Party be welcome to join your movement?

YV: Absolutely. But you see it is important to make this point. This is not going to be a coalition of parties. It should be a coalition of citizens. They can belong to any party they want. This will not admit parties into it. It is not a party and it is not an alliance of parties. The idea is to create a grassroots movement across Europe of European citizens interested in democratising Europe. They can belong to any party. Of course they will be involved in other campaigns in their local communities, in their member states, in their nations. Maybe you will have people from different parties from the same country. I can easily imagine that, and actually I would like that. Because if the idea is not to replicate national politics, why can’t you have that? But personally, I count a lot on the Corbynites.

AS: Are you drawing up a manifesto?

YV: Yes. This is what we’re working on.

AS: Who’s writing it?

YV: I’m not going to give you names, and we will not sign it when we launch it. It will be a free floating text.

AS: Can you give us an estimated release date?

YV: It will be before Christmas.

AS: In the UK we are facing this referendum on whether we should leave or whether we should stay. openDemocracy has been discussing how this will be framed in the media and we think it may come down to something like this: “do we love business more than we hate immigrants, or do we hate immigrants more than we love business?”

YV: That’s an interesting way of putting it.

….

AS: Owen Jones is calling for what he calls Lexit – a left-wing exit from the EU. What would you say to someone like him who would support everything you say about Europe and democracy, but still wants to leave the EU?

YV: Well, I’m facing this kind of argument in my country with former comrades of mine in the government who left and formed the Popular Unity Party, who are saying exactly the same thing. We can’t have a genuine conversation with the Eurogroup, so exit is the only solution.

My argument is that there are no easy solutions. I wish that we could create an alternative universe in which it would be possible to have a degree of autonomy, autarky, that allows you to clean out the Augean stables. You can’t. The idea that we will go back to an agricultural pastoral life is absurd. Today, even combine harvesters are governed by electronics that our countries do not necessarily produce.

You cannot step back from the globalised market and especially from the Europeanised market. So if you exit without having any capacity to participate in the democratisation of that market, then you will always be subject to a market that is run by technocrats and you will have even less degrees of freedom than you have now.

I think it’s very important not to fall into the nationalist trap of thinking that you can recoil back into the nation-state cocoon. That doesn’t mean that we should go along with Brussels. I’m not in favour of staying within the EU and playing ball. I think I have proven this beyond any reasonable doubt. I believe in staying in to subvert the rules. Even to go into a campaign of civil disobedience within. That for me is the left wing strategy. Not “Lexit”.I’m not in favour of staying within the EU and playing ball. I think I have proven this beyond any reasonable doubt.

Owen Jones has taken this argument on board.

He now says, (Guardian 7th of January).

With Cameron in retreat, Labour can unite behind “in” while calling for a different EU. That means making it more democratic, more transparent and, above all, challenging how it is all too often hardwired to support unaccountable corporate interests rather than working people. There will be differences in emphasis in how this is achieved. For those on Labour’s left, there are two European initiatives that must surely be engaged with. One has been set up by Yanis Varoufakis, the former Greek finance minister. In February, he will launch the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (DiEM25), with the aim of democratising unaccountable EU institutions. Another is Plan B, set up by leftwingers such as Germany’s Oskar Lafontaine and France’s Jean Luc Mélenchon, which aims to coordinate European politicians, intellectuals, activists and NGOs with regular summits to chart a different way forward.

For too long, European movements aspiring to redistribute wealth and power have been fragmented, lacking in solidarity and coordination. Nobody believes that the EU – which has imposed calamitous economic policies throughout the eurozone – can be changed one country at a time. Syriza suffered a punishment beating for attempting to challenge EU austerity, largely because of the EU establishment’s fear that otherwise similar movements would follow its example. But Greece represents a tiny proportion of the EU economy, and was thus expendable. Before Christmas we saw the dramatic success of Podemos in Spain, which won a fifth of the vote after less than two years of existence and which is poised for further gains. A rightwing government has been deposed in Portugal, admittedly by a precarious leftwing coalition. There is a glimmer of hope for change in Europe.

You can get Varoufakis’s  latest views (in German) here:  Der Weltveränderer: Was Varoufakis wirklich will (24th January).

The Manifesto document is headed: To Democratise Europe or Abolish the EU.

Its central calls are,

  • To democratise the European Union.
  • To end the reduction of all political relations into relations of power masquarding as merely technical decisions.
  • To subject the Brussels bureaucracy to the will of sovereign European peoples.
  • To re-politicise the rules that govern our single market.
  • To restore sovereignty to our Town Halls and Parliaments.

Standing together for a Europe of Reason, Liberty,  Tolerance and Imagination, made possible by comprehensive Transparency, real Solidarity and authentic Democracy, the manifesto calls for a social, democratic, decentralised, pluralist  and united Europe.

 notes that the clearest demands are these:

Within 6 months: full transparency in EU decision-making (live-streaming of all important meetings, publication of ECB minutes of important sessions, publication of all important documents such as the TTIP negotiations, etc.).

Within 12 months: address the economic crisis. DiEM 2025 will present detailed policy proposals in the four realms where the crisis is housed: public debt, banking, inadequate investment and rising poverty. The policy proposals will “Europeanize all four while returning power to national parliaments, to regional councils, to city halls and to communities.”

Within 2 years: formation of a Constitutional Assembly comprised of representatives elected on trans-national tickets. The Constitutional Assembly will be empowered to decide upon a future democratic constitution that will replace all existing European Treaties.

Thereafter: enactment of decisions of the Constitutional Assembly.

These proposals are, as they say, “courageous”.

Keleingut notes the lyrical prose of the Manifesto.

Indeed: I have edited the references to the text, to avoid burdening the reader with too many adjectives about what kind of Europe should be built.

But better the sentence, “We join in the magnificent tradition of fellow Europeans who have struggled for centuries against the wisdom that democracy is a luxury and the weak must suffer what they must.” than the mean-spirited phrase-mongering of the ‘Brexit’ crew, ‘left’ and right.

A key theme of the document is the need to avoid the violation of democratic decisions by the European Union – a very clear reference to the austerity imposed against the will of the Greek electorate.

Observing Greece adds this  comment,

I think there will be a significant correlation between Varoufakis followers and personal IQ. Young students with socially-romantic dreams will fall for him, no questions asked. I think there will also be a strong correlation between Varoufakis followers and lack of practical experience in the real world. And, of course, all dreamers of a leftist victory over cold-blooded neoliberals will be among Varoufakis’ passionate followers regardless of age, IQ or work experience.

I think the big question is whether Varoufakis will succeed in lighting a fire relatively soon. A fire among his followers, within the media, within the public discourse etc. If he does not succeed with that, his movement will wither away relatively quickly. As a new Finance Minister, Varoufakis succeeded in lighting a fire throughout Europe literally from one week to the next (until he blew a fuse). We will soon know if he manages to accomplish the same feat also as a former Finance Minister.

As a pro-European democratic socialist, a supporter of a “European Social Republic”, who will be voting to remain in the EU, I can only wish Diem25 – Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (Facebook) well.

As even the the hard-bitten Tendance supporters say, “On s’engage, et puis on voit”, You commit yourself, then you see….

More: Yanis Varoufakis. On Podemos, Greece, and DiEM – Interview in El Mundo. Varoufakis Blog. January the 24th.

Yanis Varoufakis: we need a new movement for democracy in Europe

Yanis Varoufakis speaks to Nick Buxton about why he is launching a pan-European movement for democracy, to save Europe before it’s too late. Red Pepper.

… instead of going from the nation-state level to the European level, we thought we should do it the other way around; that we should build a cross-border pan-European movement, hold a conversation in that space to identify common policies to tackle common problems, and once we have a consensus on common Europe-wide strategies, this consensus can find expression of that at the nation-state and regional and municipal levels. So we are reversing the process, starting at the European level to try to find consensus and then moving downwards. This will be our modus operandi.

 

Written by Andrew Coates

January 26, 2016 at 1:29 pm

Democracy in Europe Movement 2025, or DiEM 25, Yanis Varoufakis – Plan C, “alternative to austerity”.

with 5 comments

Meeting and Launch for ‘Plan C’ Feb 9th. 

On Common Dreams Lauren McCauley  Reports,

Hoping to show Europeans they have an alternative to the prevailing system of “authoritarianism” and austerity, former Greek finance minister Yanis Varoufakis has announced a new cross-continent movement with a “simple, common agenda:” To democratize Europe.

The movement, known as the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025 (or DiEM 25), will be launched on February 9 at Berlin’s Volksbühne theater.

Varoufakis, who first revealed the plan late last month in an interview withL’Espresso, said that he is hopeful this “activist movement” will connect progressives across the continent and enable them to take back power from the ruling elite and what he described as the “shadowy world of bureaucrats, bankers, and unelected officialdom.”

Tagesspiegel announces  the movement’s foundation,

Yanis Varoufakis will in Berlin linke Bewegung gründen

Yanis Varoufakis sucht die große Bühne für sein Comeback. In der “Volksbühne” will er im Februar eine neue Bewegung gründen.

Original report Neues Deutschland. 

Plan C: Varoufakis startet neue Bewegung in Berlin

Aktivisten-Netzwerk soll am 9. Februar gegründet werden / »DiEM 25« will als »dritte Alternative« zwischen Renationalisierungsirrweg und »anti-demokratischen EU-Institutionen« wirken

More here EuroActiv.

Former Greek Minister for Finance Yanis Varoufakis is planning a comeback – in Germany. EurActiv Germany reports.

In February, he wants to launch a “third alternative” to renationalisation and the “anti-democratic European institutions”.

Varoufakis wants to launch his pan-European project as early as February. The initiative, under the name of “Democracy in Europe Movement 2025” (DiEM 25), wants to bring interests together in order to “democratise Europe and stop the creeping fragmentation”, according to Neues Deutschland.

Varoufakis intends to launch his new project on 9 February in Berlin, at the Volksbühne theatre, which over the years has seen the start of many movements, including many that worked for the fall of the Berlin Wall.

The former finance minister has repeatedly said that he wants to start a new movement, not a political party. Instead, his proposed “third alternative” wants to highlight the wrong direction and decisions of nation states and the “anti-democratic European institutions”.

Varoufakis, who constantly fought against the austerity measures demanded by Greece’s creditors, resigned his office in the summer of 2015. Since then, he has been a regular participant in discussions that seek to find an alternative to the return to the nation state or the collapse of the eurozone. If the euro were to collapse and the crisis to continue ad nauseum, this would lead to “hopelessness, depression and anxiety” and contribute to a resurgence of renationalisation, ultra-nationalisation and xenophobia, he warned in a recent interview with the Spanish newspaper El Diario.

Details of meeting and tickets here:

DiEM 25 – Announcing the Democracy in Europe Movement 2025

Mit Yanis Varoufakis und weiteren Referenten. Moderation: Srećko Horvat

Erstmalige Vorstellung der Bewegung: DEMOCRACY IN EUROPE MOVEMENT 2025

Written by Andrew Coates

January 9, 2016 at 1:20 pm