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Germany: A Conservative Case against Globalization

by dvx Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 03:43:57 AM EST

As I noted in this morning's Salon, one of Germany's most prominent dailies quoted a prominent retired politician as saying:

Our economic system is outmoded, the interests of capital exclusively dominate the world.

Admittedly, there is nothing about this insight that is particularly noteworthy.

Except that the person speaking is Heiner Geissler, who used to be Helmut Kohl's pit bull. Let's savor the irony.

from the diaries. --Jrme


At one time or another over the course of his career, Heiner Geissler was a lot of things: secretary general of the CDU, vice-chairman of the CDU/CSU fraction in the Bundestag, Federal Minister for Youth and Family. But no one ever thought him a bleeding heart. Here is an excerpt from his reply to Joschka Fischer in a parliamentary debate over the deployment of medium-range missiles in 1983:


Der Pazifismus der 30er Jahre, der sich in seiner gesinnungsethischen Begründung nur wenig von dem heutigen unterscheidet, ... dieser Pazifismus der 30er Jahre hat Auschwitz erst möglich gemacht. The pacifism of the 30s, which scarcely differs in its ethical foundations from that of today, ... this pacifism of the 30s is what made Auschwitz.
(from)

That was then. This is now:

Hintergründe - Politik - FAZ.NET - Heiner Geißler: "Protests can help Merkel"

06. Juni 2007 
Die Kritiker der Globalisierung haben prominente Unterstützung aus dem konservativen Lager bekommen: Der frühere CDU-Generalsekretär Heiner Geißler trat der Organisation ,,Attac" bei. Im F.A.Z.-Interview spricht er über Gewalt und Betonköpfe.

Herr Geißler, freuen Sie sich, dass morgen der G-8-Gipfel beginnt?

Das ist ein Grund zur Sorge, denn die wichtigen Tagesordnungspunkte der Kanzlerin werden wohl nicht zu Beschlüssen für politisches Handeln führen.

Sie wollen Beschlüsse und fürchten also nicht, dass sich acht Staaten zur illegitimen Weltregierung aufschwingen?

Nein. Unser Wirtschaftssystem ist überholt, die Kapitalinteressen dominieren einseitig die Welt. Wenn man wie Ludwig Erhard geordneten Wettbewerb will, braucht man, solange es keine Weltregierung gibt, multilaterale Abkommen.

Sie sind kürzlich Attac beigetreten. Könnte das Netzwerk ohne G-8-Gipfel überhaupt auf seine Anliegen aufmerksam machen?

Mehr als hundert Organisationen von Greenpeace bis Pax Christi, vor allem aber auch Attac haben die G-8-Treffen gegenüber 1975 gewaltig verändert. Die reichen Länder wurden durch die Proteste sensibilisiert. Die Bundesregierung oder wenigstens die Kanzlerin hat erkannt, dass die friedlichen Demonstranten ihre Bundesgenossen sind.

[...]

Sie glauben nicht, dass Sie Ihrer Parteivorsitzenden, der gastgebenden Bundeskanzlerin, in den Rücken fallen?

Das Gegenteil ist der Fall. Die Demonstrationen können der Kanzlerin nützen, auch wenn einige Betonköpfe dies nicht kapieren.

06. June 2007 
Critics of globalization have received prominent support from the conservative camp: former CDU secretary-general Heiner Geißler has joined Attac. In an F.A.Z.-Interview he talks about violence and die-hard reactionaries.

Mr. Geißler, are you pleased that the G8 summit begins tomorrow?

It is a reason for concern, because the chancellor's important agenda items will not lead to resolutions for political action.

So you want resolutions and are not afraid that the eight nations could constitute themselves as an illegitimate world government?

No. Our economic system is outmoded, the interests of capital exclusively dominate the world. If we want regulated competition, like Ludwig Erhard, we need multilateral agreements as long as there is no world government.

You recently joined Attac. Could this network gain attention for its goals at all without the G8 summit?

Over a hundred organizations, from Greenpeace to Pax Christi, but above all Attac, have changed the G8 meetings considerably compared to 1975. The rich nations have been sensitized by the protests. The German government, or at least the chancellor, recognizes that the peaceful demonstrators are their allies.

[...]

And you don't believe that you are stabbing your party chairwoman, the chancellor hosting this event, in the back?

The opposite is true. The demonstrators can be useful for the chancellor, even if a few die-hard reactionaries don't get it.

With its final question, the FAZ would seem to be suggesting that Geissler is being untrue to his party. But by invoking Ludwig Erhard, Geissler would seem to imply that the party - and more broadly, German conservatism - has become untrue to itself.

Ludwig Erhard was Konrad Adenauer's Minister for the Economy. He was also the architect of the social market economy, the framework in which the Wirtschaftswunder occurred:

The social market economy seeks a middle path between socialism and capitalism (i.e. a mixed economy) and aims at maintaining a balance between a high rate of economic growth, low inflation, low levels of unemployment, good working conditions, social welfare, and public services, by using state intervention.

Basically respecting the free market, the social market economy is opposed to both a planned economy and laissez-faire capitalism. Erhard once told Friedrich Hayek that the free market economy did not need to be made social but was social in its origin.[1]

In a social market economy, collective bargaining is often done on a national level not between one corporation and one union, but national employers' organizations and national trade unions.

Geissler came of age politically in the late Adenauer years (and the era of Erhard, his successor), when restraints on capitalism, social welfare, state intervention and collective bargaining - as a recipe for prosperity - were all part of the conservative program.

And then there's that big "C": Now in Germany, you seldom hear politicians referring to "Christian values" unless they're talking about Turks or fetuses. Geissler, however, on his own representation at least, seems to take his Christian values seriously (judging by all the Christian-themed political books and lectures). And he seems not to be using the revised Bible where it says, "Blessed are the markets for they shall enrich the few."

So while Geissler has remained true to his (Adenauer-era) conservative roots, the "Christian" parties have embraced the "turbo-capitalist" ideology. And obviously, he is not happy.

It would not do to interpret these remarks as representative of any meaningful conservative anti-neoliberal backlash. But Geissler and his remarks indicate that there is a serious conservative case (at least within the context of German political history) for opposing unfettered global capitalism.

And for those of us with longer memories, the specter of hardliner Geissler calling the neolibs "diehard reactionaries" is priceless.

Display:
This is not too different from the attitude of American Paleoconservatives such as Pat Buchanan or Paul Craig Roberts.

Strange fellow travellers for people like us.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 06:12:43 PM EST
Wow, even from the title, does this mean the Pentagon has to add Germany to the "axis of evil" list?
Sorry, after all I am an anti-Illuminati guy.
by Lasthorseman on Wed Jun 6th, 2007 at 08:32:36 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Except Geißler is no libertarian.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 01:22:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Paleoconservatives are not libertarian.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 04:57:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Some are, or at least call themselves so to distinguish themselves from neocons. I got this from reading AntiWar.com during the initial year of the Iraq war.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 07:11:11 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think Paleoconservatism and Paleolibertarianism are better descriptors, and non-overlapping categories. They share their opposition to the neocons:
Notably, [Pat Buchanan] developed professional ties with openly gay paleolibertarian Justin Raimondo, due to their common Old Right anti-war views.


Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 07:20:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Interesting, thanks.

Paleolibertarianism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Political alliances with paleoconservatism. The two groups are closely related, although they sometimes quarrel over the virtues of free trade, Wal-Mart and other issues. For example, paleolibertarians tend to praise Patrick Buchanan for his stances on foreign policy, yet accuse him of protectionism. Conversely, paleoconservative Sam Francis argued that big business should serve the interest of middle America [1]. Both sides prefer to attack their mutual opponents than each other, however.

I again get the sense though that the names and content of ideological movements are very fluid.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 07:40:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
In the quoted article FAZ had a nice term for them that made me laugh: "Betonköpfe"  ("concrete-heads").   Did they make that up or is that really a word in common European parlance for "die-hard reactionaries"?
by NHlib on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 10:04:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It means "people who aren't able to change their position no matter what happens". Not used often, though.

"If you know your enemies and know yourself, you will not be imperiled in a hundred battles." Sun Tzu
by Turambar (sersguenda at hotmail com) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 11:51:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mayber usage varies across regions (and generations)? I am quite familiar with it, both in Hungarian and German, though in both, primary usage was for top bureaucrats and leaders under 'communism'. According to what I found with a little Googling, the usage may originate withg Wolf Biermann.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 01:52:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
At any rate, this is a different vita from Geißler's:

Paul Craig Roberts - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

He was Distinguished Fellow at the Cato Institute from 1993 to 1996. He was a former Senior Research Fellow at the Hoover Institution. ...During 1981-82 he served as Assistant Secretary of the Treasury for Economic Policy. President Reagan and Treasury Secretary Regan credited him with a major role in the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, ...he drafted the Kemp-Roth bill [a tax cut] and played a leading role in developing bipartisan support for a supply-side economic policy.

In 1987 the French government recognized him as "the artisan of a renewal in economic science and policy after half a century of state interventionism" and inducted him into the Legion of Honor on March 20, 1987.

..."In their hatred of "the rich," the left-wing overlooks that in the 20th century the rich were the class most persecuted by government. The class genocide [in communist societies] of the 20th century is the greatest genocide in history." [7]

Though here he attacks opponents as "libertarians" in third person, many consider Roberts a libertarian himself. Roberts' opposition to the ruling order is Iraq first, economy second. Geißler's is economy first, religion second.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 07:35:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for diarising this! (I mentioned Geißler joining Attac in my headline-dump on G8-related news from Germany.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 01:22:05 AM EST
And for those of us with longer memories, the specter of hardliner Geissler calling the neolibs "diehard reactionaries" is priceless.

Indeed...

I think Geißler is indicative of a trend Oskar Lafontaine and WASG were, too: the shift of the Overton window, where what was once mainstream opinion turned hard-left or 'left-extremism'.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 01:30:56 AM EST
Could you develop that thought about the Overton window?
by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 02:23:01 AM EST
[ Parent ]
?

What is there to develop about it?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 03:02:27 AM EST
[ Parent ]
DoDo nailed it. It's the Overton window in reverse. Large parts of the policies that Geissler and Lafontaine advocate were a part of the mainstream West German political consensus up until 1990. Now they've been displaced to the fringes of political discourse.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman
by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 03:47:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
So they are "conservative" policies in the etymological sense of the word, and they are advocated by people both on the left and on the right, while neoliberalism is "progressive"?

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 04:59:51 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To a large extent, yes.

And what do you mean "they"? It seems to me we often find ourselves here discussing how we to preserve the activist social state against the neocon radicals.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 05:31:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"they" are the policies.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 05:43:06 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oops. Sorry.

Reading too fast is a major cause of accidents.

The fact is that what we're experiencing right now is a top-down disaster. -Paul Krugman

by dvx (dvx.clt t gmail dotcom) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 05:48:31 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Too bad Germany doesn't have speed limits on the information superhighway.

Can the last politician to go out the revolving door please turn the lights off?
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 7th, 2007 at 05:53:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]


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