Hare & Hedgehog, by Dagmar Henn

The title refers to the Brothers Grimm Tale, ‘The Hare and the Hedgehog.’ They give the moral to be “that no one, however distinguished he thinks himself, should make fun of a lesser man, even if this man is a hedgehog.”

Original author: Dagmar Henn

English editor (footnotes and bracketed insertions): Rufus Magister

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Some time ago the thought passed my mind that the Vietnamese would wait in vain for any solidarity from [leftists in] the West, if the Vietnam War took place today. How could that happen? Meanwhile German media reproduce without the least hesitation statements by Kiev propaganda that cannot be called other than fascist. No voice is heard against it. Any other subject seems more important. Are we all blinded? How could it happen that we are just months, perhaps only hours away from a global war, that starts from our soil, that is set in scene by our ruling class, and there is nothing around that could honestly be called resistance?

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All those many decades of imaginary peace created dangerous prejudices: That history moves at such a slow pace all the time, that friend and foe can be recognised by simple criteria, that there is always a possibility for compromise and that we are somehow on the path towards some kind of human progress, even though capitalism rules unchallenged. All those prejudices need to be dumped where they belong – in the dustbin.

Reaction doesn’t dress compliantly in traditional German costume like in the 1940s. It clothes itself with the naive twinkle of Marie-Luise Beck from the Green Party, it talks through the sentences of the social democrat [Minister of Foreign Affairs Frank Walter] Steinmeier[1]. It won’t do us the favour to wear a signboard around its neck. There is no other way than to look at the situation precisely and draw conclusions. Over and over again.

During the last months I had some clashes with different authors who didn’t consider [to be] fascism ongoing events in Ukraine. Meanwhile a law was suggested in the relic of the Ukrainian parliament that in every possible sense equals Hitler’s enabling act. Press, Internet, any type of communication can be censored. It authorises the president to ban parties by decree; under suspicion of “separatism” property can be seized without trial. That is the legal step into dictatorship. No fascism?[2]

For months already junta personnel, regardless of their party affiliation, utters statements that are beyond any doubt. Poroshenko talked about “hundreds that will pay with their lives for every dead Ukrainian soldier”. There was talk about “filtration camps”. When the subject of a cease-fire for the evacuation of civilians came up, they declare the “separatists” didn’t take any serious steps towards it, as they neither hoisted a white flag nor delivered their weapons. All these statements don’t mix at all with the rules of bourgeois democracy. It would even be difficult to find a single sentence that does. No fascism?

What is happening in the Donbas now cannot be called other than genocide. Settlements that don’t even harbour any militia positions get completely razed by artillery. Infrastructure for water, electricity and gas are intentionally attacked. With the exception of the use of biological and nuclear weapon, any possible war crime has already occurred in a civil war that started just four months ago. This is a re-enactment of the Nazi war of annihilation on the eastern front. No fascism?

German government didn’t move away from its unconditional support of Kiev fascists, not a single millimetre. No resistance against that. No solidarity with the junta’s victims, even less so with the two people’s republics Donetsk and Lugansk. Why? Because figures like Andreas Umland succeeded in convincing German left public that the left there co-operates with really evil right-wing forces …[3]

Surprisingly most people participating in some form in concrete politics here co-operate with structures like Caritas. Caritas is a part of a profoundly homophobic, sexist institution called the Catholic Church. Why is that acceptable, but people dare to blame communists in Donetsk and Lugansk for co-operating with homophobes, when it is really a question of survival? It’s time to correct the criteria and spell out some uncomfortable truths.

1. The race that cannot be won

German left is incredibly proud of its moral standing. Because they worked so bravely on matters like sexism, racism and homophobia. Because it believes to have scored some victories in these areas, that it desperately needs for its self-estimation after decades of defeats. Because it believes that society really improved that way.

This is an illusion. Not only that it takes little effort to prove that all the successes that were achieved just get realised for those members of the affected minorities that are members of the right class as well, as it happens with any kind of bourgeois liberty. Not only that for quite some minorities (e.g.. single mothers and migrants) the real, material situation actually worsened profoundly. No, the main problem is that this can be nothing else than imaginary successes.

A society whose economic system creates inequality in consistent and accelerating manner needs to create an ideology of inequality to secure the necessary co-operation of its people. There is no slavery without contempt for the slaves and no feudal rule without degradation of bond-serfs. There is no capitalism without discrimination against the proletariat.

That doesn’t have to relate openly to the whole class. At the moment the group of long term unemployed – like German sociologist Wilhelm Heitmeyer proved – leads the ranks of the degraded and excluded, followed by Muslims.[4] So at the moment the class character of this game is nearly out in the open. But it could as well be the green-eyed or longhaired. That doesn’t matter. That discrimination exists is the logical consequence of an unequal society.

But as capitalism requires discriminatory ideology, all those successful battles against discrimination regarding one specific group just have one single consequence – another group will suffer from discrimination. No rule of law and no consensus in society can change that. As nothing can change the fact that members of the dispossessed classes stay empty-handed, with or without laws against discrimination.

Therefore these battles are just like the race between hare and hedgehog. And our nice, noble German left passionately accepts the role of the hare.

2. Politics is no game

It should become clear now that the long calm after 1945 was an exception, some strange kind of cease-fire, nothing like normality. Two years ago I wrote (in “Weihnachten in Paris”).[5]
that the perception of the relation between effort and effect was distorted in old FRG [Federal Republic of Germany, i.e., West Germany] because when looking at the imagined successes no one took the shared border between the systems into consideration. I had thought to write it more straightforward originally. I wanted to write: even all the tiny liberties that existed in the Western German Republic were paid for by the Red Army on its way from Moscow to Berlin. By the only currency valid for such matters.

For 25 years now we have had to pay our bills ourselves, and the result is catastrophic. Reunited Germany rediscovered its old imperialist attitude and lusts for a place in the sun. In the country social Darwinism, (i.e. the hatred of the ruling classes for the ruled condensed into ideology), became common thought. All the other EU members are turned into dustbins for the consequences of crisis and plundered as if it were 1942.

The rituals of parliamentarian politics mask that it always deals with existential matters. Hunger or food, life or death, war or peace. They don’t just shroud the class character of the conflicts. They veil that any change for the better, even a reformist one, has to be fought for, that it needs courage, perseverance and determination and that the small successes are just a collateral benefit of the commitment of those who struggle for the large success. For decades the illusion spread that politics were an area of civilised, regulated negotiations, that there were liberties guaranteed for everyone and that the European Civil War [6] was a matter of the past. The German left swallowed that, completely.

But there are just two possible developments in this final crisis of capitalist production, as it manifests itself in Europe today. Either we manage to dump this system, no matter which European country starts the process, or it pulls the last arrow out of its quiver and plunges the world into a big war.

No, I don’t believe the imperialist block of the EU will be broken in Germany. Last time Germany was on the forefront of a revolutionary period was in 1525.[7] But I do believe that it’s due time to drop the toys, strike of the sand[8], grow up and take the situation seriously.

A short time ago there were serious attacks against an exhibition about the Odessa massacre in Leipzig. [It became] propaganda for the right because the survivor that was present had said something homophobic. It’s shocking that such a debate takes place at all. People who use this argumentation might as well require exclusion from refugees, in case their shelter burns, because they might be homophobes. Or not fit the criteria of the actual responsible commission of purity in any other way. It’s hard to top the amount of cynicism and political squalor that expressed itself that way.

Basically all of the left (and all its tastes, be they anarchistic[9] or communistic) dug as deep into defensive that it doesn’t perceive anything aside its own (as unnecessary as useless) discourses of self-justification, especially nothing up on the surface. To stand for an equal society, to want to break the barbaric might of capital is no longer a reason for pride; even the idea is presented with a hundred excuses and alienations from past and future errors, one just wants to make a proposition, quite mannerly and respecting all bourgeois concepts of freedom, and without the intention of bending a straw. One cowers down to jump over sticks that are not even presented yet.

And what happens on the surface? With a bit of luck we perhaps just escaped the unleashing of a global war with Germany significantly involved. Thanks to sheer luck and thanks to the resistance of the two People’s Republics of Donetsk and Lugansk, to which we owed gratitude even if they were cannibals dressed in the fur of the last living polar bears. The reaction of the German left is just sufficient to [make it] look for a corner [in which] to be ashamed.

I had thought about many arguments. That one has to recognise how strong the relics of the Soviet Union are in those two People’s Republics, and that any political assessment of organisations there has to include that factor. That matters like a right for work and for housing or even the question if the economy should be owned by the people doesn’t turn into objects of discourse because it would be as absurd there as a debate about slavery would be here. That the label “nationalism” gets useless if real colonial dependencies are involved. That it’s impossible to separate humanity from equality, and that it is visible where the trench is drawn, how it looks and how deep it actually is (here I wanted to commend a video from the interrogation of two Ukrainian artillerists in Gorlowka – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hhCvJK_kYM8, not for the content of the dialogue, but for its character, and then point to the fact that the opposing version can be found looking for a certain Lyashko). I had mentioned that the Spanish republic 1936 didn’t demand a test of ideology from its international supporters, and that that was reasonable, because under certain circumstances alliances are not created in discourse, but through facts[10].

But all that would miss the core of the problem. Because the matter isn’t what people in Donetsk and Lugansk do right or wrong, the problem is here, with us. Revolutionary situations always were difficult to decipher, liberation movements always formed alliances in line with local requirements and not along our actual preferences, and there has ever been and there still is the possibility of meanders and failures. None of that changed during the last few decades. But while before any movement against imperialist powers was greeted and supported, because they were considered to be on the same side and criticism came later, now the reaction is immediate alienation. Even if their enemies are fascists. Even if there is quite an impressive list of crimes presented, that they defend themselves against.

This isn’t a matter of understanding this is a matter of decision. Who doesn’t react to a revolutionary development with a possible socialist perspective as in Donetsk and Lugansk (and we are talking about nothing less) with joy, but with disapproving alienation, and still waits for the results of a systematic bureaucratic test, has long since capitulated and is satisfied with leaving some interesting footnotes in history. He doesn’t mean it when he (or she) talks about a society after capitalism. Against this decision arguments are useless.

What would we have done, had the plans for war succeeded? Look for another hole still a little bit deeper, to dig in further? What will we do, if these plans are continued at another place ( e.g. in the Baltic States)? Lead debates about vegan food and hope that everything ends up well somehow?

German left suffered an enormous defeat in the last months. But it didn’t even realise it. It is just too busy running after the hedgehog.

But it is urgent to drop the role of the hare. The danger of war will not disappear from the table anymore, and everything that can be rationally expected is a delay. It is our task to hinder German imperialism from executing such plans. Regardless whether this beast is alpha or beta in this pack, it is our task to slay it. Or at least try to, as much as we can. And that can’t end with another round of leaflets and demonstrations without effects. This requires other thoughts.

Dagmar Henn is a social services professional, she is a former member of the Munich City Council for Die Linke (“The Left’”), formed from a fusion of the former ruling party of the German People’s Republic, the Socialist Union Party, with a left-wing split from the Social Democratic Party.

The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of Oceania Saker.

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[1] It only took a short time to find plenty on Marie-Luise Beck’s views on the Ukraine, not only in German but also in English.  She is a committed apologist for the Maidan regime.  For both her and German Foreign Minister Steinmeier on the Ukraine during Petro Poroshenko’s pre-election visit to Berlin, see  “Poroshenko: ‘No negotiations with separatists’“ http://www.dw.de/poroshenko-no-negotiations-with-separatists/a-17619764.  The Banderaist regime has cited her as recently as 4 Sept., see “Ukraine has full support of the Greens in the German Bundestag”, (http://mfa.gov.ua/en/press-center/news/27534-ukrajina-maje-cilkovitu-pidtrimku-frakciji-zelenih-u-nimecykomu-bundestazi).

[2] As detailed in his Wikipedia entry, Oleh Lyashko (cited below) is a former member of the “Bloc Yulia Tymoshenko” and presently the leader of the Radical Party. In March, he introduced a bill calling for the death penalty for separatists and bans on the Communist Party and the Party of Regions.  See “The Verkhovna Rada offer to execute members of pro-Russian rallies” (title courtesy of Google Translate), http://mir24.tv/news/politics/10083690. He polled just under 9% in the recent presidential elections, making him third.  It also notes his participation of his “Ukraine” Battalion in war crimes condemned by Amnesty International.

A somewhat milder version of this proposal passed early in April; see http://en.ria.ru/world/20140408/189106368/Ukraine-Stiffens-Penalties-for-Separatism.html.  It was not until this summer that action against the Communist Party occurred, when its Rada faction was disbanded by decree.  See http://www.thewire.com/global/2014/07/ukraine-to-ban-communism/374961/  The regime continues to apply the heavy hand of repression; recently approved legislation will purge the civil service; see http://rbth.com/news/2014/09/17/verkhovna_rada_passes_lustration_bill_at_third_try_39838.html

[3]For Andreas Umland, I can do no better than to cite his capsule Wikipedia biography:  “Andreas Umland (born 1967 in Jena, Germany) is a German political scientist and historian, specialising in contemporary Russian and Ukrainian history. He is a Member of the Institute for Central and East European Studies (ZIMOS) at the Catholic University of Eichstaett-Ingolstadt in Upper Bavaria, a small, yet active research centre.  He lives in Kiev, while teaching at the National University of ‘Kiev-Mohyla Academy’. He is one of the leading German specialists in the history and politics of Ukraine and also of Russia.  His studies of Russian and Ukrainian politics focus on the post-Soviet extreme right.”

[4] Prof. Wilhelm Heitmeyer, Institute for Interdisciplinary Research on Conflict and Violence, Bielefeld University (http://ekvv.uni-bielefeld.de/pers_publ/publ/PersonDetail.jsp?personId=21765&lang=en).  I could not immediately find a reference to the work she cites, but see his publications at:  http://www.uni-bielefeld.de/%28en%29/ikg/publikationen.html, where he writes extensively on social issues.

[5] originally posted in May of 2012 at http://www.scharf-links.de/133.0.html?&tx_ttnews[tt_news]=24824&tx_ttnews[backPid]=56&cHash=bbb74957c0.  The repost (acknowledged) from a few days later at http://www.proletarische-plattform.org/2012/05/18/weihnachten-in-paris/ has a nicer layout and graphics.

[6] At a minimum the World Wars, but it could reference to a long history of internecine strife between conflicting, overlapping ideologies and alliances dating to the Wars of the Reformation.

[7] She refers to the Peasants War, inspired in part by Luther and the Reformation.

[8] This would seem to be the  equivalent of “hold your ground,” in German, and to me it suggests a weak position, “castles made of sand.”

[9] She actually uses “autonomous,” I think this clearer for us English speakers, I’m unsure how widely known the term is, and it signifies, perhaps, a certain tone of ultra-leftism by the collective.

[10] The best known example would be George Orwell’s account of his service, Homage to Catalonia –  A broad front of the centre-left fought against Franco and the fascist Falange.-  RM

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