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POLITlK : PERSPEKTIVE
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SPD, DON’T LET THE FRINGES GROW
DER AUTO-KANZLER: A RETROSPECTIVE ON GERHARD SCHRÖDER’S CHANCELLORSHIP
FREED NIPPPLES? EGALITARIAN BODY POLITICS IN GERMANY
DAS ZPD: THE NEW SPAßGUERILLA SHOCK TACTICS
WHO THE VOLK ARE YOU?
CAN GERMANY RIDE THE STORMY TRADE WINDS IN THE FACE OF TRUMP’S PROTECTIONISM?
BUREAUCRACY: BURDEN OR BLESSING FOR GERMAN SOCIETY?
POLITlK : PERSPEKTIVE
EDITORIAL Welcome back to Politik:Perspektive. Having been humbled to receive such positive responses from the first volume’s readers, we were eager to keep the journal going! As you have already noticed, we have refined P:P’s visual appeal and pruned content elsewhere to maintain a balanced mélange of the personal and the factual approach to topics. But there’s more. Although conscious of Germany’s importance within the German speaking space, we find ourselves often disappointed with the lack of academic emphasis on Switzerland and Austria, hence we have produced an ‘In Fazit’ (In Summary) on some pertinent developments within both countries. Of course, this has potential to expand to other German speaking communities in later volumes. In addition, we have now given you, the reader, a forum to ‘Write In’ and share some thoughts on any developments related to DACH or the EU. This is a chance for non-German at Leeds students and readers alike to voice their opinions across the countless foci in German-speaking states and institutions. Themes for this issue’s contributors consist of two significant analyses on the SPD, approaching its current flunk twofold; a particularly esoteric attribute of German culture in Tom Winter’s article, while Rebecca Hall outlines the subversive tactics of a new group of activists, creating thenand-now parallels in the process. Florian Schoeper delves into his remarks on the topic of German identity before the tone shifts to fears of fallout over Trump protectionism on Germany and the EU. And finally, a pros and cons toss-up over German bureaucracy. Guten Appetit
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SPD, DON’T LET THE FRINGES GROW
On the 4th March 2018, the German Federal Republic took a reserved sigh of relief as the Eurozone front runner emerged from political insecurity with a rehash of the previous legislature’s government: GroKo V.3. The GroKo (Große Koalition), Grand Coalition, that has emerged has left a tidal wake of insecurity and political realignments amongst the population which has shattered the almost dully predictable facade of German politics. In light of the breakdown in the exploratory ‘Jamaica’ coalition talks – so named because of the Christian Democratic Union (CDU), liberal Free Democratic Party (FDP) and Green Party (Grüne/ Bündnis 90) party colours - the kingmaker in the Grand Coalition, the Social-democratic Party of Germany (SPD), brought itself to the negotiating table under the auspices of former European Parliament President, Martin Schulz. Following his election as head of the SPD and the subsequent Schulz-Effekt (Schulz effect), which saw a short-term turn around in national polls, the SPD’s almost immediate decline has persisted beyond its miserable performance in last
year’s state and federal elections. The following article deals with the fundamental tectonic shifts in German party politics as a result of the SPD’s synonymity with Angela Merkel’s CDU / CSU alliance and the consequences for the future socio-political landscape of Germany at a historical juncture where populism’s determined course through European nations has throttled three of Germany’s eastern neighbouring states. The SPD, originally founded on Marxist party values like those of fellow Western European labour parties, remains Germany’s oldest political party, predating Nazi Germany. During West German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer’s oversight of the Wirtschaftswunder (Economic Miracle) of post-war West Germany from 1949-1963, the SPD had to redefine itself in a way to break away from its socialist roots in a country which had reconfigured its post-war psyche to fit a market-based social economy based on the ‘Third Way’ brand of ordoliberalism, while living under a democratic parliamentary political system. Meanwhile, the Federal POLITlK : PERSPEKTIVE
Democratic Republic stood in vast contrast to the Democratic German Republic which survived under a communist state governed under a forced blend of the East German SPD and the communist KPD. The West German SPD became a Volkspartei (catch-all party) in 1959 at the party’s Godesberger conference. It dismissed the thitherto primal tenet, Marxism, instead opting for a social-democratic leaning as well as extending its electoral base to all layers of society beyond the working classes. The party reaped the rewards on a handful of election days, delivering two consecutive SPD Chancellors, Willy Brandt and Helmut Schmidt, from 1969 until 1982, then Gerhard Schröder from 1998 until 2005. These revivals at the poll booths were evidently linked to the party’s convergence towards the popular rebuilder of the pre-unified German state and its precedent-setting economic policies, the Christian Democratic Union. At the time of Schröder’s 1998 appointment as Chancellor, the SPD had delivered 20.18 million votes. As of the 2017 federal election, however, the so 5
cial democrats sit on a measly 9.54 million. The SPD’s perceived downfall can be attributed almost entirely to the nature of the SPD-CDU’s ideological assimilation, product of the CDU/CSU’s political voyeurism in leading coalition talks in the absence of a hospitable centre-right party with which to partner. The current German coalition government is the third such one in 12 years consisting of the greatest vote-wielding parties; the Christian Democratic Union (coupled with its inseparable sister party, the Christian Social Union of Bavaria) and the Social Democratic Party. Such exposure to one another has led to the CDU appropriating parts of the SPD’s political positioning on the ideological spectrum, and in doing so the nationwide CDU has seemingly shifted the Volkspartei’s furthest right-wing fringe to the centre ground. No clearer is this typified through Merkel’s opendoor migrant and refugee policy, where her disregard towards the impacts waves of refugees and migrants would have on the social fabric of fellow EU members was as shocking as her party’s subsequent abandonment of centre-right politics. Inevitably, the Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) was the only political party which distinguished itself from the Berlin consensus through its opportunistically befitting populist narrative. So fatal a leftward shift is that the CDU has taken, that the CDU lost around a million votes to the AfD in September’s Bundestagswahl (federal election). Despite his recent comments over the Hartz IV unemployment benefit allocations that even Ian Duncan Smith would probably hesitate to mutter, it is predicted that Merkel’s party would lose a further 6.5% of its electorate to the FDP were Jens Spahn, newly 6
appointed Minister for Health and potential Merkel successor, to run for the Chancellery. A ‘Weiter so’ should not remain official dogma of the historically socially conservative party if it is to keep the balance. In an innocuous, yet inadvertently tragic comment which highlights the apparent amity of SPD-CDU policy sharing, SPD MdB (Member of the German Bundestag) Katrin Budde, ‘architect’ of the Magdeburger Modell, believes a minority government to be feasible at the federal level. Sharing her government-forming tips to the Süddeutsche Zeitung in December, the overseer of the SPD-led minority government of the state of Saxon-Anhalt from 1994-2002 suggests a hypothetical which I believe would have been opportune for the SPD in order to return to opposition. By letting the CDU/CSU govern lightly, it would have upheld the equilibrium in the Bundestag through a healthy dialectic progression and an internal reflection on a more original, nuanced manifesto of policies. However, the CDU was aware that were the SPD to show them its back Germans would be called upon once again to elect a government. Such a gamble most certainly would not have been fortune for Germany if current polls are to go by. Furthermore, this raises another question considering the concluded coalition deal; is the SPD simply an accommodating, morally-obliged altruist? Or is it that under a consensus-based electoral system, the additional insecurity of delivering decisive governance must be avoided? Such a realist approach requires self-proclaimed ‘parties of government’ to concede on manifesto promises and principles of its party values to preserve the allure of a trustworthy Volkspartei. This is certainly a valid criticism in light of the FDP’s NO 2 / FRÜHLING 2018
unexpected withdrawal from the Jamaica exploratory negotiations; demonstrably through a lull in the polls, under party leader Christian Lindner the Free Democrats are considered to be too unfaithful and politically irresponsible, since they were not committed as a potential party of government. This is due in part to the bravado of the risk-taking FDP leader Christian Lindner who believed he would have been personally rewarded for defying Merkel were the Germans to face another election. Similarly, the socio-politically fatal move to return to another GroKo may be due to meso-level political actors - that’s to say the functionaries and established political class within the Bundestagsfraktionen (parliamentary parties) who operate on an individual-rational basis of egotistical and financial aspirations to wriggle into a ministerial post at the cost of its parliamentary and nation-wide unity… Martin Schulz, was it? Because in light of the SPD’s own JuSo (Young Socialists) publicly arguing for a withdrawal of theparty from coalitions talks, and an ARD- DeutschlandTrend poll (1st March 2018) confirming a majority of Germans regard another Grand Coalition sceptically, credence is given to such cynicism. Were it not for someone other than Andrea Nahles tipped to take over the leadership of the SPD at its Wiesbaden conference on the 22nd April, a defining third order shift of the type British Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn’s has effectuated in opposition may have defined a clearer ideological boundary between the SPD and CDU prior to September’s federal election. Even still, Merkel’s party insidiously occupy swathes of centre-left ideological territory.
The very labelling of the SPD as a Volkspartei had consequently been questioned by February 2018, as it appeared to dip below the AfD in the polls. It is the dire necessity for a discernible identity for the SPD that causes the balance of Germany’s consensus-based politics to be jeopardised. Even if there are demonstrable SPD successes within this government’s Foreign, Finance and Labour ministries (to name but three of the six handed to it for this coalition), its activities should distinguish themselves markedly from those of the CDU/CSU to vindicate rhetorical discontinuity and di-
vergence in its third Grand Coalition. This would not only serve to reconfigure its political identity, but to fend off a populist narrative of establishment parties not acting in the public interest. With the AfD posing as official opposition in the Bundestag, the SPD already begins this legislative period at a tactical disadvantage. The AfD is now in a better position to gain legitimacy across the electorate as the largest party calling out the flaws in government with the third biggest time allocation given to speak in parliamentary sittings,
POLITlK : PERSPEKTIVE
even able to set the tone of certain debates. The AfD is now the recipient of 16 million euros to finance its Bundestag affairs, and an as of yet unspecified amount (believed to be in the millions) to fund AfD-associated stipends. The AfD can now assume extra-parliamentary positions in the German Development Bank and the international radio station, Deutsche Welle. Let us hope, therefore, that the current winds of change lead to a marked divergence in the SPD’s course in government as to stem Germany’s haemorrhaging disenfranchisement with its Volksparteien.
DER AUTO-KANZLER: A RETROSPECTIVE ON GERHARD SCHRÖDER’S CHANCELLORSHIP
The Story of Schröder Gerhard Schröder was always an ambitious man. He made no denial of his ambitious nature, describing himself as a “climber” working his way up from a difficult childhood as one of five children under a single mother to the highest office in the land. Schröder’s landmark victory to become chancellor in 1998 showed huge promise for a new, forwardthinking political and economic climate in Germany, yet the results never quite materialised. This article aims to firstly explain Schröder’s chancellorship to a generation who have known Angela Merkel for their political lives, and then to explore the significance of his legacy today. The 1998 election was an interesting crossroads in post-reunification German politics. The ‘safety first’ attitude espoused by Helmut Kohl was old-school CDU politics in the vein of Adenauer and the Wirtschaftswunder (Economic Miracle), yet Kohl’s popularity had fallen amongst the electorate. The traditional German Mittelstand (middle class) economy and policies of Kohl’s tenure had led to 8
unemployment of 9.2%, according to the OECD, which disproportionally affected the population in former GDR states. In this climate, Schröder looked to be a dynamic, confident candidate who had just swept to victory in Niedersachsen with a complete majority, a rarity in Germany’s coalition-dominated governments. Indeed, Schröder needed to form a coalition with the Greens in order to form a government in the Bundestag, joining forces with the charismatic Joschka Fischer. Immediately upon starting his term, Schröder encountered problems. He and Tony Blair released a joint statement announcing their policies of expanding the remit of the Left to include business-friendly policies, with the main objective of working with large international firms in order to achieve macro-economic stability across Europe. This Neue Mitte (Third Way) would become one of the defining ideologies of Schröder’s chancellorship. However, Schröder never shared the support and confidence within his own party that Blair was able to rely upon. NO 2 / FRÜHLING 2018
Another aspect of the Neue Mitte was tax and welfare reform, which did not sit will with many within the SPD, many of whom had supported Schröder due to his campaign promises not to interfere with the welfare system. Fortunately for Schröder and the SPD/Green coalition, in 1999 the CDU was found to have been receiving illegal party funding and shady wire transfers from international bank accounts. The SPD still managed to lose a succession of 6 state elections due to the turmoil following the Neue Mitte manifesto, illustrating the extent of the party in-fighting. After the 2002 federal election victory for the SPD/Green coalition, Schröder began to develop the ‘Agenda 2010’, a key set of policies which came to define his second term as chancellor. In essence, these policies entailed the implementation of Neue Mitte economics in Germany, promising to support the welfare state through modernisation. In practice, this resulted in reducing funding to the various unemployment and benefit institutions. Another aspect of the Neue Mitte was abolishing
the capital gains tax on corporate stocks and shares, making Germany more attractive to foreign investors. However, Schröder’s reforms did not have the intended results. Agenda 2010 failed miserably; his Hartz IV reforms have become notorious in German news and political culture. Schröder’s Germany was running the risk of becoming a mid-tier nation, a Mittelmacht. His principle vision was to fight that trend and establish Germany’s place in the new world order. It is here that the cuts on capital gains tax for shares comes into play: Germany’s Mittelstand economy drew its strength from the individual workers, and transitioning to an economy dominated by large-scale financial economics neglected these individual workers and the Mittelstand principle as a whole. The goal of Agenda 2010 was to modernise and protect the welfare state, but to many amongst the population and to sceptical SPD politicians it seemed like blasphemy. In practice Schröder’s reforms failed. Germany might have launched itself into the 21st century, but this came at the cost of a rise in unemployment and economic stagnation. After the SPD lost the 2004 elections in Nordrhein-Westphalia, Schröder called a vote of confidence (the German Grundgesetz, Constitution, does not allow votes of no confidence) against which he then campaigned in order to trigger fresh elections. Angela Merkel and the CDU/CSU bloc won by only a few thousand votes, a testament to Schröder’s charisma and prowess on the campaign trail. Eventually the SPD went into a Grand Coalition with the CDU/ CSU Bloc and Schröder ceded the chancellorship to Angela Merkel. Schröder’s Forgotten Legacy Today The story of the SPD/Green coalition is a complex one, and the
events described here barely scratch the surface of 7 years in German politics under Schröder and the SPD/Green alliance. Yet it has huge significance when regarding Germany today and the general trajectory of Germany after the Second World War. Under Schröder the first German troops since 1945 were sent abroad to conflict zones in the Balkans and Afghanistan alongside other NATO allies. This is not only historically significant, but also represents in part the fulfilment of Schröder’s vision. He was opposed to the German wariness at wielding influence abroad. The new German assertiveness on the international stage was, however, not limited to military expeditions. Schröder was hugely active within the European Union, often joining forces with French President Jacques Chirac in order to support the Euro. The significance of this today is shown by Merkel’s roles within the rebuilding of the EU after the 2008 recession. Schröder laid the foundations for Germany as the EU’s bedrock, economically and socially. Aside from international relations, Schröder represented a progression in German history. He was the first post-war chancellor to have been born after 1945; a man occupied not by Germany’s past but with its future. Unlike, for example, Willy Brandt, Schröder was not a powerful symbolic figure by any measure within the SPD. His rule was defined by compromise, which eventually led to his downfall. By straying too far from the SPD’s roots Schröder alienated himself from the central psyche of his party, which was naturally an untenable position. His slick, business-friendly style was not compatible with the dream of 1968, and his downfall after the 2004 showed how toxic his image had become. This is clearly put POLITlK : PERSPEKTIVE
into perspective when compared to Joschka Fischer, who remains beloved despite his involvement with the turmoil of 1968 and the 1970s. Much like Blair, Schröder’s promises soured alarmingly quickly. For, when all was said and done, Germany was left with the Grand Coalition he had originally wanted in 1998. Yet this GroKo was not his: it was Merkel’s. Her domination of German federal politics ever since certainly tarnishes Schröder’s reputation in comparison. Yet Schröder was also a victim of circumstance. His vision was a marriage between the sacred concepts of the post-War welfare state and a modern globalised player on the world stage; a marriage that was not destined to last. These lessons resonate today. Schröder’s tenure as chancellor is a cautionary tale in compromise and personal vision, contrasting to Merkel’s enduring faith in ‘business as usual’ politics. Gerhard Schröder is often forgotten when discussing modern Germany, yet the symbolism of his chancellorship, and its failure, is closely linked to the economic and political behemoth that is the modern German state. Unlike his predecessors Schröder did not bear the burden of the Second World War, the Cold War or reunification, but one of global political movements. To say he failed is reductive, yet to say he succeeded is naïve. Although often neglected, his importance should never be forgotten.
64 days after Austria’s federal election on 15th October last year, the conservative ÖVP (Austrian People’s Party) and right-wing, populist FPÖ (Austrian Freedom Party) formed a government under 31-year-old Chancellor Sebastian Kurz. This contrasts starkly with Merkel’s fourth cabinet formed having assembled following six months of negotiations. In what die Welt has described as a political vacuum in the EU, Austria’s Türkis-Blau coalition is said to be forging a new strategic axis with the Netherlands, amongst other EU member states, to countenance Franco-German hegemony. The state visit of Hungary’s premier, Viktor Orbán, also hints towards Austria’s intent to become a mediator between the Visegrad group (Poland, Hungary, Czechia, Slovakia), and the rest of the EU in light of the refugee crisis. While 24 countries have expelled over 100 Russian diplomats in solidarity with the UK after the Skripal poisoning, Chancellor Kurz has avoided taking such action on the grounds of Austria being a ‘neutral country’. Kurz will have hosted Vladimir Putin twice within four months come July, while his coalition party, the FPÖ, shares a treaty of friendship with United Russia, Putin’s ruling party in the State Duma. Whereas many EU countries expelled a token diplomat, Austria’s foreign minister, Karin Kneissl justified Austria’s neutrality on the grounds that it homes numerous UN agencies.
Looking to a nation with which the UK is soon to have more in common, Switzerland is preparing itself for an impending referendum on the adoption of a Rahmensabkommen (basic treaty) at the initiative, and now behest, of the EU. Amidst a familiar debate over national sovereignty, Switzerland is faced with a demand to assimilate five of its over one hundred bilateral treaties with the EU into what EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker tenderly labels a ‘friendship treaty’. Opponents argue that ‘foreign judges’ will manage cases of conflict between the EU and Swizterland, while proponents see the adoption necessary to maintain access to the EU single market.
The Swiss Radio and Television (SRF) public service broadcaster faced a brief existential crisis on the 4th March this year when the Swiss went to vote on the outright abolishment of their 450 Frank (€390) licence fee. The ‘No-Billag’ referendum was resolutely dismissed when the broadcasting service, which provides its services in all four languages spoken in the Confederacy, was assured continued public financing by an overwhelming majority; 84% voted in favour of retaining the licence fee in Bern, 78% in Zürich, 73% in Basel. The people’s initiative shortly revived debate over the popularity and monopoly of public service broadcasters and media competition throughout the Germanspeaking countries.
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FREED NIPPPLES? EGALITARIAN BODY POLITICS IN GERMANY
It is well-known that Germans, as a rule, aren’t afraid of showing a bit of skin. Freikörperkultur (often abbreviated as FKK), literally ‘free body culture’, is almost a national institution. The roots of the worldwide Naturism movement can in fact be traced back to Germany. How then, do German attitudes towards the exposed human form fit into the wider worldwide debate surrounding body politics, and how does it stand in comparison to attitudes promoted by equality campaigns, such as ‘Free the Nipple’? To tackle this question, we must first make sure we are all on the same page regarding Freikörperkultur, and ascertain whether it is a phenomenon of any particular political leaning, or if it’s just a quirk of modern and contemporary German society. Its roots can be traced back to the Lebensreform (life-reform) socio-philosophical movement of the late 1800s, a largely apolitical phenomenon where proponents espoused the benefits of a return to a more ‘natural’ lifestyle. This encompassed education reform, vegetarianism, organic agriculture, sexual 12
liberation, alternative medicine, and nudism. Not only did early adopters of FKK believe in an array of purported health benefits provided by full-body exposure to sun and fresh air, referred to as ‘heliotherapy’, but they also held strong political beliefs on both sides of the political spectrum. During the relatively socially progressive Weimar-era of German history, FKK was propagated largely through membership to private clubs, which often had overtly political credos. German naturists could join specific groups to discuss either the struggle of the proletariat or the protection of the Christian ‘Fatherland’ while they sat nude playing chess and eating bratwurst. Under Nazi-rule, FKK-clubs alongside all other form of recreational nudity were quickly outlawed. However, soon a much less inclusive government approved Naturism law was instated, designed to reinforce the perceived superiority of the Aryan race. To this day, it is hard to ascertain whether naturism was politicised by the Nazis, or whether it was only naturist groups who held similar political beliefs to the Nazis that were permitted to reform. NO 2 / FRÜHLING 2018
Once the Third Reich was toppled, Germany became divided in two. The ideological backbone of each state differed, but naturism prevailed. In the East, FKK was initially banned, but due to widespread protest and civil disobedience the ban was rescinded. Subsequently FKK flourished in East Germany: naturist activities were allowed with a few stipulations, namely that ‘naturism-clubs’ as such were deemed exclusionary and therefore remained illegal. This meant that, in comparison to the West, where most naturism occurred within an organised setting, public nudity was much more prevalent and not confined to certain situations and activities. To this day, even after reunification and the relative homogenisation of German culture, FKK is considered more an East-German phenomenon than anything else. Throughout the history of Freikörperkultur, it has been unclear whether the movement was a fundamentally political phenomenon, like the ‘Free the Nipple’ campaign, or whether its propo-
nents were simply often banded together with others who share their political convictions. It would make sense, if naturism were to be seen as a hallmark of egalitarian socialism, as one’s wealth, job, religion, and societal status are not present when they are standing wearing nothing but what God gave them. It therefore would be easy to draw parallels between the tenets of socialism and the egalitarian aims of the ‘Free the Nipple Campaign’, and that would be the matter closed. However, it’s not quite that simple. While it is true that FKK enjoyed the zeniths of its popularity during politically left periods of German government, such as the during the Weimar era and in the GDR, modern day office workers in traditionally conservative Bavaria are equally as likely to swap their business suits for their birthday suits during their lunchbreak as their counterparts in more liberal North-Rhine Westphalia. Freikörperkultur has occasionally been turned into a political talkingpoint, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that it is in itself a political
Despite Germany’s lax attitudes regarding public nudity, there is in fact a history of naked political protest within Germany. From the student protests of the 1960s right up to the present day, nudity has been utilised by male and female protesters in Germany in varying ways for many different causes. Students have stripped down to symbolise the ‘stripping down’ of their education due to funding cuts in the 1980s; rioters have chosen nudity to symbolise their vulnerability in juxtaposition to rows of fully armoured riot-police. More recently, protesters from the radical feminist group FEMEN have scrawled messages across their bare chests and exposed their naked bodies in protest to a number of different causes, such as the Hamburg Elbphilharmonie Music Hall’s decision to host a series of concerts performed by Woody Allen, an alleged sex criminal. In each of these examples, protesters have utilised the naked human form not only for its metaphorical significance, but also for ‘shock factor’ - a shock factor which is has not diminished even in FKK-loving Germany. The preposterous, hypocritical, and discriminatory female toplessness laws and taboos against which the ‘Free The Nipple’ campaigns are not really a German problem, in that Oben Ohne, public toplessness to us Anglophones, is not illegal. The only circumstances in which a woman can be prosecuted for baring her naked chest, is when someone feels so personally offended that they sue on terms grounds of molestation, an unlikely event to arise from someone merely not wearing a top. However, this doesn’t mean that the naked female form is not needlessly sexualised for Germans in the online-sphere. Every single one of the POLITlK : PERSPEKTIVE
top five most-used social networks in Germany censors any depiction of female toplessness, yet allows pictures showing topless men to be seen by any users without any sort of censorship or age-restriction. This means that the vast majority of depictions of female nudity on the German-speaking internet are pornographic, thereby sexualising something which is not normally regarded as innately sexual within German society. These websites, granted, were not created by German people, or specifically with the sensibilities of Germans in mind, however they still have an effect on representations of the bodies of men and women in Germany. It is for these reasons that I don’t doubt that there are German supporters of equal censorship on social media platforms, and that the support shown by these Germans has a great impact on the movement. Germany stands as a shining example, refuting any possible suggestion that the widespread acceptance of the naked human form throughout society leads to moral corruption. Naked bodies don’t have to be pornographic. We are always naked under our clothes, whether we are old or young, male or female, disabled or able-bodied, light-skinned or dark-skinned – this is an unchangeable, oft-politicised fact of human existence, and Germans do their part to help us realise that nudity is okay. To tackle this question, we must first make sure we are all on the same page regarding Freikörperkultur, and ascertain whether it is a phenomenon of any particular political leaning, or if it’s just a quirk of modern and contemporary German society. Its roots can be traced back to the Lebensreform (life-reform) socio-philosophical movement of the late 1800s, a largely apolitical phenomenon where proponents 13
espoused the benefits of a return to a more ‘natural’ lifestyle. This encompassed education reform, vegetarianism, organic agriculture, sexual liberation, alternative medicine, and nudism. Not only did early adopters of FKK believe in an array of purported health benefits provided by full-body exposure to sun and fresh air, referred to as ‘heliotherapy’, but they also held strong political beliefs on both sides of the political spectrum.
During the relatively socially progressive Weimar-era of German history, FKK was propagated largely through membership to private clubs, which often had overtly political credos. German naturists could join specific groups to discuss either the struggle of the proletariat or the protection of the Christian ‘Fatherland’ while they sat nude playing chess and eating bratwurst. Under Nazi-rule, FKKclubs alongside all other form of
NO 2 / FRÜHLING 2018
recreational nudity were quickly outlawed. However, soon a much less inclusive government approved Naturism law was instated, designed to reinforce the perceived superiority of the Aryan race. To this day, it is hard to ascertain whether naturism was politicised by the Nazis, or whether it was only naturist groups who held similar political beliefs to the Nazis that were permitted to reform.
DAS ZPD: THE NEW SPAßGUERILLA SHOCK TACTICS
In September 2017, the leader of the Thuringian AfD, Björn Höcke, awoke to find that 22 concrete blocks resembling Berlin’s Memorial to the Murdered Jews of Europe had been erected in view of his house. This “Höcke Mahnmal”, as the press have since dubbed it, was installed by a group of Berlin artists, operating under the name of “Zentrum für Politische Schönheit” (ZPS). The group, distinguishable by their trade-mark dirt-smeared faces, claimed to have rented the plot of land opposite Höcke’s family home in the small village of Bornhagen ten months previously, and to have been spying on him and his family ever since. Unless he fell to his knees before the “memorial” the group would go public with intimate details about his private life. This bizarre set of circumstances was a delayed protest against Höcke’s Dresden speech, delivered to the youth faction of the AfD, Junge Alternative, in January 2017. Höcke, who has made enemies even within his own party with his hard-right stance, provoked international outrage with the speech
in which he blasted “moronic Bewältigungspolitik”, referring to the focus in German politics and society towards “working through the past”, and called for a U-turn of Erinnerungskultur (culture of memory). At the climax of the speech, Höcke decried Berlin’s Holocaust Memorial as a “monument of shame in the middle of the capital”. Reactions were instantaneous: the Ettersburg foundation swiftly banned Höcke from taking part in the memorial service for Holocaust Remembrance Day at the Buchenwald Concentration Camp. Even from within his own party there were loud calls for Höcke’s expulsion due to the speech. Enter Das Zentrum Für Politishe Schönheit Since 2009 the group has been crowd-funding politically and morally provocative art installations. On the homepage of their slick website, the group describes itself as “storm troopers for the construction of moral beauty” and claim to “represent aggressive humanism”. In his book Wenn nicht wir, wer dann? (If Not Us, Then Who?) and POLITlK : PERSPEKTIVE
in various interviews, the group’s leader Phillip Ruch insists that the general population is fundamentally political, but uninspiring political leaders have cultivated a climate of political apathy. Their aim, therefore, is to provoke a response to contemporary moral injustices and to galvanize political engagement through shocking art. In 2014 the group gained the attention of the world by removing the white crosses commemorating victims of the Berlin Wall and replacing them with a small sign declaring “there is no thinking going on here”. The crosses resurfaced some days later on Europe’s external border, intending to highlight the hypocrisy of celebrating the 2014 Mauerfall anniversary whilst the borders of “fortress Europe” were being increasingly fortified and migrant deaths in the Mediterranean were steadily rising. In 2015 they made headlines again by hosting a funeral for one of these drowned refugees. The ZPS, like the subversive groups of the 60s and 70s are responding the political climate around them and attempting to make light of injustices through subversive art, 15
which by Ruch’s admission, is intended to cause pain. In a society where protest is becoming less and less effective; where the political elite appear out of touch with their citizens; where human rights crises rage abundant, the group’s frustration and their adoption of subversive methods is understandable and commendable. Yet with their latest action, the group appear to have transcended a boundary. Their stated aim with the campaign was to destroy Höcke’s self-designated refuge. Given Höcke’s fanatical criticism of Germany’s response to the so-called refugee crisis, the group’s choice of location is not without irony. But by spying on Höcke and threatening to publicly air his dirty laundry, the group have erred into the territory of tangible violence as opposed to just symbolic violence, and have violated his right to privacy and that of his family. This has the potential to harm not just the culprit, but also his wife and four children. Commentators have responded to this tension by highlighting the irony of “using Stasi-tactics” with the aim of creating a more humane and liberal society. But Ruch remains stubborn: “we only use Nazi methods against Nazis.” As satisfying as it would be to see Höcke kneeling in the mud before a makeshift memorial, when the group’s actions are dragging innocent children into the mix, then a boundary has been overstepped which risks compromising their public image. If they wish to trigger a collective soul searching, there needs to exist a level of public sympathy towards their cause. The hypocrisy of using somewhat authoritarian methods against Höcke will ultimately only impact how seriously their protest is taken.
Spaßguerilla of the West German Student Movement. The Spaßguerilla were a subsection of the Außerpolitische Opposition (extra parliamentary opposition, APO), a loose collection of student and left-wing groups which formed in the late 60s in response to what they perceived to be a lack of genuine opposition in the German parliament. The Spaßguerilla used humour and symbolic violence as a method of protest to highlight injustices in German society. The most famous example was the attempted “Pudding Assassination” of American Vice-President Hubert Humphries in 1967, when an attempt to symbolically “assassinate” the visiting Vice President by mobbing him with vats of pudding was foiled. Eleven people were arrested in connection with this incident, highlighting the German Government’s over-zealous suppression of student protests. Ulrike Meinhof captured the hypocrisy perfectly in an article for Konkret, “Pudding and Napalm”, in which she contrasted the state oppression of student protesters with the German Government’s indifference to the liberal use of napalm by the Americans against Vietnamese civilians. The resemblance that the ZPS bears to the Spaßguerilla of the 1960s is attributable to the parallel political contexts both movements were located in. The members of the student movement perceived Germany of the
The group’s use of dark humour recalls another time in German history when humour was applied to sharp political commentary: the 16
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1960s to be a continuation of the totalitarian regime of the National Socialists, evidenced in the state’s heavy-handed response to protests and dissidence, support for USled engagement in a “genocidal” war in Vietnam, and in the failure to complete the denazification process which saw former Nazis retain prominent roles after the war. Fast forward to 2018, and Germany is still quaking from the unprecedented success of the AfD in the latest elections, gaining an average of 13% of votes and becoming the third biggest party in parliament. In the wake of the rise of right-wing political parties across Europe and Trump’s ascension in the States, it seems once again that the lessons of the previous century have not been learned. In this context, Höcke’s questioning of Erinnerungskultur becomes all the more sinister. Parallel to this shift towards political extremes, the parties of the centre are suffering a loss of credibility and support. While yet another Grand Coalition is being formed, a split is threatening the SPD who are accused of having lost touch with their political support base. The SPD youth faction, the Jusos, rallied against the renewed coalition and calling for a Corbynesque renewal of the party. Similarly, the formation of the APO was triggered as they perceived the formation of a Grand Coalition between the SPD and CDU to signal the end of a real opposition in German politics.
One of the main similarities between the two groups is the lack of confidence in traditional methods of instigating change in society. The APO and the student movement felt that the government were no longer receptive to their voters and therefore they broke away from parliamentary politics and took to the streets to make their message heard. In One Dimensional Man (1964), Herbert Marcuse argued that traditional protest did not affect change because it was “tolerated” by the system. By allowing a certain amount of protest, the system could absorb any dissenting energy without it representing a real threat to the regime.
True protest therefore mus t be subversive to be effective. In 2017 a Pepsi advert which showed Kendall Jenner handing out cans of drink to her fellow demonstrators at a protest march shows just how far this Marcusian “repressive tolerance” has come. Protest is no longer just tolerated by the State, but has been appropriated by corporations as a marketing strategy. Activism has become a commodity. The aims of the Spaßguerilla and the ZPS meet here: to protest in a way that is not just absorbed the state, but shakes society awake from its political stupor. The political contexts of the turbulent 60s and modern Germany appear more
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similar than would be first assumed. From history, we know that the protests of the APO, including those of Spaßguerilla had lasting effects on political culture in Germany that is felt to this day. But we also know from history that the success of such movements is largely dependent on their public reception. In the 70s, when some former members of the student movement radicalized and took to real violence, the support of the public quickly waned, and the impact was to unfairly cast a shadow on the memory of the protest movement. ZPS should bear this in mind when planning their future campaigns.
WHO THE VOLK ARE YOU?
Imagine my surprise when I was flicking through some 1970s Schlager records in a music shop in Germanys ‘oldest town’ of Trier and I discovered a signed copy of a Roberto Blanco vinyl. It’s not every day you come across a gem, and a signed one made this discovery extra special. The fact is that I had no idea who Roberto Blanco was either, but I was nonetheless intrigued. The cause of my instant intrigue in a naff ‘entertainer’ of the past was down to the image on the album sleeve; suffice it to say he is a Schlager singer from the 70s and one of the only, if not the only black singer in German musical history. With race in the days of the Roman Empire being a lot less stigmatised than in the societies of today, I thought it strange that during the glory days of Trier as a centre of the Roman Empire, I would be seeing many more black people and, in fact, many more people from everywhere. After I had stopped laughing at the varying shades of corny, goofy and stale that I found within this atrocious collection of records, I began to wonder why. 18
For those not in the know, Schlager is a garish German brand of sentimental Pop music, especially popular in the post-war years. A popular music often adhering to songwriting traditions and patterns of German folk music. Goodtime, knees-up music: clapping on every third beat or banging your beer on the Tisch without a care in the world apart from, of course, your dentures falling out. This is because Schlager is often considered music for the old folks, especially underlined by the old and sometimes outdated song content. A remake Schlager version of a traditional lullaby, Es war in Böhmerwald wo meine Wieger stand, literally ‘My Cradle Stood in The Bohemian Forest’ is a hit exemplary of this, as the Böhmerwald is no longer part of German territory and, after the post war expulsions of the German population of the area, has no more German cradles standing in it like most of former Prussia. A titan of the genre, Karel Gott, with his dyed hair, whitened teeth and young wife, is himself a Prager (of Prague origin) who sings in German, indicative of the temptation of the genre and the listenNO 2 / FRÜHLING 2018
ers to live in the past. Of course, the reasons for differences in demographics between Germany and other countries in Western Europe are many, and it is certainly not something I can go into here. But, my discovery of Roberto Blanco in a way highlights the meeting of two separate worlds: Germany’s racist imperial past represented by the listeners, and the new Germany adjusting to the inevitable modern age in which people are moving as much as products and files on the internet. Germany has been in the unofficial process of coming to terms with its identity as a multicultural nation in the last 15 years or so, during which one of the first steps was the abolition of the ius sanguinis principle in 2000, which only granted automatic citizenship at birth to those of German ancestry. In practice, this meant that those born and bred (and registered legally) in Germany where not automatically granted German citizenship on the day of their birth if the parents of the child were not German. I found this hard to comprehend. By denying a young child from an
ethnic minority background the right to be considered German, even if they are neither proficient in the language of their parents, nor have ever been to the country of their family’s ancestry, one ascribes an identity for them which does not belong to either subject or the government who ascribes it. It is, in my view, absurd that my friend Nicolò, despite being born and bred in Frankfurt, knowing very little Italian and, in fact, only going to Italy for the first time at the age of 17, is not considered German by the state. Indeed, he had to apply for a German passport in a similar manner to the Syrian refugees who arrived in Germany during the European migrant crisis. The cold and somewhat uncomfortable fact here is that such people are, or in this case were, considered irrevocably foreign by the government at the time of their birth due to their foreign parentage. As is often the case for second and third generation minority groups upon visiting the ancestral country of origin, acceptance is not always easily found. After all, the Turkish Turks in Turkey, unlike the German Turks in Germany, do not always see a young second generation Turk from Dortmund as Turkish at all. The Turkish identity given to him by German society, upon which he relied for any reference of who he is and where he belongs, is torn away from him. A situation is created where he is not seen as German in the country of his birth, because his parents aren’t German, and he is not seen as Turkish in Turkey because he’s never lived there and, frankly, has very little to do with Turkey. Such young people grow up with what Italian writer Gesualdo Bufalino would call a hyper-sensitive excess of identity. The move from the völkisch German identity of the past, towards the new Germany, which has been
embracing the multikulti nature of its fabric in recent years, is important - and I say this because in some ways the symptoms of a national identity based on ethnicity remained visible like a historical Weißbier hangover. Historically speaking, German lands as empires had limited contact with nations and people outside of Europe. Indeed, I would argue that while Germany’s neighbours a few doors down to the west (namely the French, Belgians, Dutch and British) were out gallivanting around the rest of the world colonising and ‘civilising’ as they went, the Prussians were out in their own back gardens colonising parts of Europe itself. This has affected attitudes regarding fellow Europeans, their neighbours to the east. To some extent these can be compared to the aforementioned countries’ attitudes towards Africa, Southeast Asia and the Indian subcontinent that can unfortunately still be found, in varying shades of shock, in their respective societies today. The supposedly barbarous and uncultivated residents of areas that western imperial powers colonised, could be patronised and arranged as a convenient antithesis of ‘the West’ and ‘civilization’. This is a tool which would prove handy in the forming of national identities and empires, as Edward Said discusses in his acclaimed work Orientalism (1978) The Teutonic Knights famously annexed areas of the Baltic coast in a similar manner to fight and convert the pagan Lithuanians to Christianity, a challenge that, once achieved, left them fairly redundant in the area. These areas were subsequently considered German and formed East Prussia at both the height of Prussian expansion in Europe and during the interwar period. This was a centre for Kultur, with the likes of Kant and POLITlK : PERSPEKTIVE
Herder hailing from these territories. In a sense, when the Teutonic knights conquered and converted the non-believers in Lithuania and Latvia, they had in fact found for themselves what they believed to be people in need of their particular civilising influence. The same identity ascribed by imperial Europe to former colonies as the other, which lie as scars upon society and culture in Europe, can be found in a smaller way in Germany regarding fellow European neighbours. It always seemed strange to me how in German culture, the ‘other’ that Said talks about being created by European imperialism begins geographically far closer to home than in other western cultures. The clichéd image of this ‘other’, being found in a variety of 20th century popular culture and literature, the Heart of Darkness of Africa and a recurring tendency to portray anywhere south of the Mediterranean and beyond as the unknown, bizarre, sinister or even dangerous became such a permanent fixture that societies started to believe it. During time spent in Germany, I found it very interesting that even to this day the ‘orient’ can encompass a far larger area than in the conventional sense. Indeed I have often noticed ‘der Osten’ used as a synonym for Poland. Obviously, this is partly due to the literal ‘eastness’ of the nations in relation to Germany’s geographical situation in Europe. Even so, such literalness is unfamiliar to someone from the United Kingdom where it is not common practice to refer to the Low Countries or indeed Germany as ‘the East’. That means something else to us, namely the Far East, due to our history as a global power. Perhaps in Germany these parts of the world were lumped together for a long time. That the intriguing and peculiar 19
racial slur Kanake, for which there exists in my opinion no adequate modern English translation, refers to Arabs, Turks and/or southern and south-eastern Europeans despite being historically used to denote Polynesians perhaps reinforces this. Perhaps it is only now, with the ever-present backdrop of the migrant crisis that we can gauge Germany’s updated feeling towards the orient in a sort of public acid test. In the absence of a German worldwide spread of influence, the Czech, Pole, and Lithuanian fell under a somewhat similar category - filling a void left by a lack of colonies which was nonetheless necessary to form an empire. Bismarck and Hitler were able to use the fetishised image of Slavic people under the pretence of being superior, yet as an empire they, like all the European powers, needed this to enhance the evolution of their power. One can’t help but wonder about the implications on the future of a
post migrant crisis Germany if there are still home-grown ‘foreigners’ (or as the government now refer to them in splendid German compound noun fashion: those-witha-migration-background) in my age group applying for citizenship. Indeed the idea of ‘indigenous foreign’ seems to jar with a country that has taken in such a colossal figure of refugees in the last four years and this seems to be a big step. The future generations of the new arrivals will be, unlike those born before 2000, granted immediate citizenship. In this sense the policies of Angela Merkel concerning migrants have been a move from naught to sixty and has been raising questions about compatibility of immigrants in Germany. I will leave you with a reminiscence of an article I read recently in Der Spiegel, in which the rise of rightwing political groups in ‘eastern Europe’ was covered. From the ever more pious and preposterous Poland and the anti-EU chauvinistic chairman of the Czech party ‘Freedom and Direct Democracy’, to
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Orbán who straddles the Danube with a giant net fishing for refugees and migrants. It was all there, as is often the case with Spiegel, including one strange phrase which I honed in on, fascinated by its use in this context. As someone who dislikes the use of the term ‘eastern Europe’, something which I find not only historically and culturally inaccurate but also geographically so, seeing as Prague is further west than Vienna, I was especially intrigued to find this cluster of EU newcomers referred to as Naher Osten lit. ‘The Near East’. Because of the Cold War, British people also use the term ‘Eastern Europe’ for any country that was on the other side of iron curtain, and in that light we are not right either. Indeed, with relations with Russia increasingly resembling the amicable vibes of the good old days, it is likely that this term isn’t going anywhere soon. Journalistic fun with pun or not, I think that that last pint must have been bad because that hangover is hanging around for the time being.
WRITE IN BA Politics and History, University of Leeds
In the 2017 federal elections, Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) was awarded 12.6% of the overall vote share. As a result, it is now the third largest party in the country and the single largest opposition party in the Bundestag. The nature of the German governmental system means that an explicitly anti-euro, anti-immigration and anti-Islam party now has some degree of influence over the future of both Germany and the European Union. Having found itself chairing three of the Bundestag committees, and a set of major decision-making bodies in the German political system, the AfD has significant influence over the federal agenda. Collaboration between the CDU/ CSU and the SPD has blocked efforts by the AfD to seize control of the culture committee, which would have put it in a position to pursue its inflammatory agenda of â€˜defending German identityâ€™, but the single most powerful of the committees is now under their control. The Bundestag Budgetary Committee gives AfD influence over areas that it has campaigned on since its creation. For example, the party now oversee the bailout payments to Greece - the disruption of which has been a long-term goal of the party. Additionally, they could obstruct the transformation of the European Stability Mechanism into a European Monetary Fund, which will not only frustrate relations between Germany and France, but within the ruling CDU/CSU and SPD coalition, too. This puts the AfD in a position of considerable bargaining power with the government whilst also creating an opportunity for it to present itself as a reliable and effective political operator. All in all, it seems that the future is bright for the AfD. Less so, for Merkel and the Europhiles.
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MSc Mechanical Engineering, University of Warwick
Germany’s geopolitical stance has always been one of divisiveness between East and West. The most recent incarnation of this appeared in the form of foreign policy being perhaps duly represented by Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel of the SPD. The conflicting messages come from Germany’s stance on the new pipeline: Nord Stream 2, connecting Russian low-cost fuel directly to Germany - a move which hurts its Eastern bloc allies and in particular Ukraine. Despite continued controversy over the construction of the gas pipeline, Germany has been steadfast in its continued support of the project; a move defended as purely business-motivated by Angela Merkel’s spokesperson. Baltic states have called for a move away from Europe’s Russian gas dependence due to the latter’s reliability on such a key resource, and particularly on the supplier Gazprom, often seen as a foreign policy instrument of Russia. This worry gained credibility with the latest spat between Russia and Ukraine, ending with Ukraine being forced off from Russian gas on 1st March 2018 when temperatures dropped to -22˚C; a move some are calling blackmail comparable to 2009 where south-eastern Europe was deprived of natural gas for 13 days following a feud between Gazprom and Naftogaz (the Ukrainian gas company). With the addition of Nord Stream 2, it is thought that Ukraine will fade from being a conduit or Russian gas, giving them less control and bargaining power with Russia, and perhaps more importantly, Germany will not have to converse with its ally over the continued flow of Russian gas. It can also be seen that the low cost of gas for Germany is being subsidised by a high cost for the Baltic States. This all seems to point toward building favourable relations with Russia, particularly with the Foreign Minister previously calling for sanctions to be partially lifted in light of the Minsk Accords, despite Russia not fulfilling the terms. The paradox in German foreign policy is that Germany and Merkel have always taken a strong line against Russian aggression in Ukraine, and has now shown international solidarity with the UK in expelling 4 Russian diplomats in the wake of the Skripal novitchok attack in Salisbury. However, now with the SPD again back in coalition, the calls for continued American leadership to oppose a void feared to be filled by hostile claimants of power is shown to be juxtaposed with Russian appeasement. In trying to protect its business interests, it would seem that Germany has shown itself unwilling to stand up and take a strong line and bind Europe together, ignoring repeated calls from its Baltic allies to recognise the greater threat to the European project in the East. In the wake of reduced American intervention credence is given to Moscow’s geopolitical goal of reconstructing fits lost empire.
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A COMMENTARY: CAN GERMANY RIDE THE STORMY TRADE WINDS IN FACE OF TRUMP’S PROTECTIONISM?
A report from the Statistisches Bundesamt (Ministry for Statistics), released on Wednesday 21st February, named China as Germany’s biggest trading partner. This comes at a time where trade hostilities between Germany, the US and the EU are on the rise. Trump’s protectionist ‘America First’ policy has at its core a prioritisation of its homeland industries, namely steel and aluminium, through the introduction of tariffs. Similarly, as EU officials begin to draw up a new seven-year-plan, not doubt inspired by those of Stalin nearly a century ago, the Brexit deficit of 14 billion euros has left smaller EU-member states disgruntled. Germany appears to be at an economic impasse. How should Europe’s largest economy react to American protectionism? And does this economic power vacuum present a new opportunity for a European-orientated World Trade Order? Since reunification in 1989, Germany has been without question Europe’s economic powerhouse. Within its confined trading peripheries, the introduction of the euro strengthened German exports
massively. The strong regulatory framework provided by Deutsche Bank for the common currency has prevented many of the anticipated downfalls of a transnational currency from being realised. The removal of currency exchange costs boosted trade between European states; France was from 1975-2014 Germany’s largest trading partner. Yet, in the context of globalisation German exporting has reached new heights. The Statistisches Bundesamt’s announcement on Wednesday 21st February reaffirmed that China, for a second year running, is Germany’s largest trading partner. The trade between the Bund and the People’s Republics totalled 186.6 billion euros. This represents a trade deficit for the Germans of 14.3 billion euros. This is not to say, however, that Germany’s European trade partners have been made redundant. With net trade summating 177.3 billion euros, the Netherlands is Germany’s second largest trade partner. France and the UK occupy fourth and fifth, respectively. Notable here is the impressive export excess Germany has over both the UK and France: Britons are down POLITlK : PERSPEKTIVE
47.2 billion euros and the French 41 billion. The Wider Impact of ‘America First” Undiscussed in the above section is the Germany-US trade relationship. I argue this relationship requires more attention given the recent recommendations of US finance minister, Wilbur Ross. In his report commissioned by Trump, Ross calls for measures looking to protect steel and aluminium industries on home soil. The first recommendation suggests a 24% tariff on all steel imports. Alternatively, an import tariff of 53% could be placed on steel arriving from 12 nations, including Brazil, China and India, with import quotas being set for other countries. The final recommendation would see a cap in the region of 63% on the total imported steel. The aim of these measures is to boost the percentage of American steel sold in the US from 73%-80%. And, though German steel makes up only 2.5% of that imported into the States, it is the principle of reintroducing what German media is labelling “draco23
nian” tariffs that may damage the US trade relationship with Germany and the EU. As such, though protectionist measures resonate well amongst American voters, it may lead dwindling US economic influence on this side of the pond. The US is the largest importer of ‘Made in Germany’ goods, with total imports equating to 112 billion euros. American imports into Germany, however, total only 61 billion euros, which makes America Germany’s fourth largest importer. In the face of Ross’ tariff measures, this reliance on US exports may appear problematic for German economists and politicians alike. The President of the Bundesverband der Deutschen Industrie (Federal Association for German Industry), Dieter Kempf, has voiced concerns over the impact tariffs will have on export-nation Germany to the US government. Indeed, half of jobs in heavy industry, and a quarter of all jobs in the Federal Republic, are reliant on exports to the US. Though America is only one of Germany’s trading partners, a tariff war would in any case threaten the job security of millions of Germans: the new and vastly unpopular GroKo (Grand Coalition: CDU & SPD) would struggle to survive in the face of such job losses. There remains, however, a European dimension to this issue. European Angst: A turn away from the West It is not just German industrial workers, however, who should fear a backlash from American protectionism. Experts from the Schweizer Wirstschaftsforschungsinstitut (Swiss Institute for Economic Research) have analysed the economic influence of German exports in other EU-member states. The study outlining this analysis has estimated that roughly 5 million jobs Europe-wide are secured 24
through German exports. The bulk of these jobs are located in newly ‘ascended’ nations such as: Slovakia, Poland and Czechia. Though these countries may be more prone to a bit of populist nationalism similar to that of Trump, in the same breath they are unlikely to support any actions which threaten their own economic security. This research has come at a perfect time for EU officials, who are in the midst of planning the next EU seven-year economic plan. Brexit has amongst other things left a gaping 14 billion euro hole in the EU budget. With smaller nations, such as those above, disgruntled by the prospect of forking out more cash, it would appear larger contributors such as Germany may have to foot the bill. Fortunately for the EU elites, Germany has already expressed a willingness to do so. It appears that the Germans may be the only ones who place their faith in a strong economic future in the European Union. A survey carried out by the Pew Research Centre in June 2017 asked respondents who they wanted to carry out trade deal negotiations: their respective nation-state or the EU. Only Germans (sixty percent) supported an EU-led negotiation approach. The Greeks (sixty-three percent), French (fifty-six percent) and Hungarians (fifty-five percent) all supported their national governments over EU negotiating teams. I find this result, however, not out of the ordinary: recent EU Free Trade Agreements (FTA) have favoured an encroachment on national sovereignty by multinational corporations. The Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), which sought to break down trade barriers at the expense of national governments’ law-making abilities, received much protest from Europeans. And rightly so. One clause in the agreement gave private companies the right to sue NO 2 / FRÜHLING 2018
national governments, should they impose a law which prevents a product being sold in that country. One thing is clear: the EU must take a new approach when drawing up multilateral trade agreements if it is to keep the Union together. An approach in which globalisation works for the worker and firms alike. I believe this new approach lies in a reorientation in economic priorities. Legislative bodies in the European Commission may, too, no longer view America as their primary ideological trading partner.
Brussels is currently lining up a variety of counter-tariffs to those proposed by Wilbur Ross. Bourbon Whiskey and Harley-Davidson motorbikes are the chips on the negotiation table. Beyond being deeply embedded visual representations of American consumer culture, both products have intricate links to pro-Trump politicians in the States. Harley-Davidson motors originate from Wisconsin, the home state of the Republican Speaker for the House of Representatives – Paul Ryan. Similarly, Bourbon Whiskey is produced in Tennessee and Kentucky, which is the home state of Trump supporter – Mitch McConnell. McConnell is the majority leader in the Senate. Additionally, Brussels is targeting Californian orange juice, potatoes and tomatoes. China too is planning on implementing tariffs on American products such as Soya.
These politically charged choices may play into certain Trump narratives regarding attacks from a liberal establishment. They are, however, just an act of political reciprocity.
mining global trade winds. Should this be the case, ‘America First’ may end up as ‘America third’, trailing behind Europe and China.
As political force mobilise themselves in face of this tariff war, the EU must look to secure FTAs with other political-economic hubs. Latin America, in particular Brazil, may present prosperous trading opportunities, given that Brazil is a main target of US tariffs. Germany should strive for further influence over the direction of FTAs : if the country is to put more into the European budget and still suffer from US protectionism, then Merkel will be keen to open up new trading routes to ensure the quarter of jobs secured through exports are not threatened by US protectionism. A resultant turn away from US-driven trading tendencies may lead to revival of global European economic primacy. This may in turn encourage the Chinese government to take a more active role in deterPOLITlK : PERSPEKTIVE
BUREAUCRACY: BURDEN OR BLESSING FOR GERMAN SOCIETY?
After waiting in line at the residents’ office for an hour, my patience is quickly wearing thin. It’s 7am on a freezing Friday morning and I’m clutching a stack of documents wider than the pretzel that I’ve had for breakfast, fruitlessly hoping that this third attempt to change my address will be a success. The phrase “bureaucratic nightmare” does not even begin to describe the metaphorical, near physical fight I have had with the pencil-pushing staff, who are likely now beginning to pity me because I practically now live in the lobby of their offices. Initially, it wasn’t enough to have my signed rental agreement, passport, work contract and confirmation of residence form
to prove my credibility; instead my landlady had to fill out another completely new form with all the information I had previously presented, once again signed by her, to prove that I wasn’t a criminal faking my identity to rent a flat. Admittedly, this description seems extreme, but after missing several mornings of work and pointlessly queuing only to be told there’s yet another hoop to jump through, my feelings towards bureaucracy are only those of frustration and anger. Finally, I am resigned to the fact that I have to abide by the rules that govern the German way of life. This whole stressful experience
left me wondering; does German bureaucracy prevent efficiency and stifle innovation? Ultimately, is this fundamental building block of business actually counterproductive? Although I may just sound like 26
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another disgruntled Brit abroad, there is evidence to suggest that the Germans themselves hold a similar opinion. For example, the German government established the “Simplified Bureaucracy and Better Regulation” initiative in 2006, a governmental department dedicated to reducing official red tape. Overall, the aim of the scheme was to foster economic growth by simplifying complicated
application procedures across a range of different sectors, including health and safety, construction, education and finance. The concept was incredibly forward thinking and innovative, however the bureaucratical procedures put in place to combat bureaucracy seem somewhat counterintuitive, as this
scheme has arguably become just as complicated as the paperwork it seeks to prevent. The Federal Statistic Office, Destatis, uses countless methodologies to measure the “compliance costs on businesses” and the “barometer of burdens”, but ultimately the official jargon is too complex for the average person to comprehend. An example of this is the “Verkehrswegeplanungsbeschleunigungsgesetz”, a law adapted in 2015 to accelerate approval for building new road networks, with a name that sounds longer than the Great North Road itself. A further example of over-regulation having threatened Germany’s competitive edge in the past was explained clearly by a World Bank study entitled “Doing Business in 2004”. The report described that it took 45 days for eager entrepreneurs to register their start-ups in Germany, compared to 18 days in the UK and only four in America. Not only was the bureaucracy stifling the success of new start-up enterprises, the precedent of over regulation was also set from the very beginning. Over a decade later, German business law still poses a threat to new businesses. Most notably, financial barriers to entry in to the market for entrepreneurs
are still very high; to register a Gesellschaft mit beschränkter Haftung (GmbH) into the Commercial Register it costs an eye-watering 25,000 Euros, a sum which seems extreme when compared with the £12 direct debit payment that the UK Government requires to register a private limited company in Britain. On the one hand, bureaucracy does have its advantages: German political economist, Max Weber, identified the positive aspects of bureaucracy in the late 19th century, which are still just as relevant today: rigorous administration establishes strong hierarchy within organisations, creating rigid chains of command, whilst rules that govern work practices and delegation of tasks are established to ensure predictability, rational thinking and democratic decision making. However, this rigidity can mean businesses and governments become inflexible and resistant to change. Over time, a well-oiled bureaucratic business machine can begin to mechanically deal with customers in a routine and impersonal way. Once this begins to happen,customers are likely to become frustrated and disenfranchised, succumbing to the mind numbingly dull and ordered way of thing, but does this mean that bureaucracy
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forces creativity and innovation to grind to a standstill? Apparently not. A group of six Syrian refugees released an app in 2017 called “Bureaucrazy,” after having fled to Germany and being immediately overwhelmed by the mountain of paperwork that awaited them. Designed to translate the complicated terminology of governmental documents from German to English and Arabic, the app is now branching out, aiming to inform users which exact papers are needed for new residents, whilst guiding them to the correct offices to submit said documents. Although it is incredible to witness the uninhibited creativity that bureaucracy has inspired, it is sad to think that such tools are needed to decode a system of rules that should make processes transparent and understandable. A compromise needs to be found between the two extremes: the “iron cage” of bureaucratic regulation shouldn’t compel people to circumvent the rules. Instead, a rule-loving society like Germany should encourage new regulation reforms, or even deregulation, which promotes functional order, without the unnecessary paperwork.
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