Scandinavian history in the revolutionary era & Implications

From Barton, H. Arnold. 1986. Scandinavia in the Revolutionary Era: 1760-1815. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota

Gustav IV Adolf’s (GIVA) monarchal crusade againt democratic Enlightenment in Europe
Feat.: Sweden, France, Russia, England, Prussia, and some bit players

At the turn of the 1800s in Sweden, Gustav IV Adolf (GIVA) succeeded his father Gustav III to the throne.
GIVA was determined to restore Swedish prominence in Europe. Prepared to wheel and deal for territory and his conservative-idealist aspiration to organize and lead royalist Europe against the democratizing French, in 1803 Gustav IV Adolf traveled to Germany with his Queen Frederika, a German princess. We will see that GIVA was a pretty good strategist, but he was striving against the historical tide, and as with his father who had tried in vain to institute pro-aristocratic policies against welling democracy, his elite power strategy was generally underappreciated by his rivalristic, Enlightenment-bedazzled royal relatives.

In 1804 Duke Enghien was captured by French Republican forces in Baden. This provided Gustav IV Adolf with the pretext to declare that he was ready to lead monarchist Europe against Republican France.

GIVA spearheaded a royalist Russian, British, and Austrian coalition against the French. “Brutal oppression, French despotism” is how the royalist described democratic France. He took his time negotiating, as he was bargaining for a military subsidy inexchange for Sweden’s strategic bridgehead geoposition, as well as a royal French Bourbon restoration. Finally in 1805, at the Treaty of Backaskog, GIVA won himself command of the troops in Germany, 20K pounds sterling, security of Swedish rule over Pomerania, in an all-in/all-out deal. In the Treaty, there was no mention of a royal Bourbon restoration.

Along with actually commanding soldiers in war, Gustav IV Adolf was an absolutist ruler. The Treaty of Backaskog enjoyed no support from his court advisors, and given that Sweden had long depended on French support, was considered overly idealistic, in the anti-democratic direction. Gustaf af Wetterstedt grumbled that it was “Impossible to speak with the King about commercial interests.”

Prussia was lurking, playing the dozens. It joined the monarchical coalition, only to immediately conclude an agreement with France that promised non-intervention in exchange for Hanover. Prussia’s fancy footwork broke the coalition: England and Russia withdrew from Northern Germany. But Gustav IV Adolf occupied the Hanoverian territory of Lauenberg. He used a legalistic justification to try to restore British and Russian backing and to extort unpaid, promised military subsidies. England and Russia declared GIVA’s position untenable, urging him to abandon the fight. GIVA was relentless: “A Prussian attack on Lauenberg is an attack on Sweden!” he declared, but he quietly reduced his army in Lauenberg to a token 300 men. Then GIVA instituted a naval blockade. Their commerce disrupted, this move deeply irritated his erstwhile allies, England and Russia.

Fortunately for Gustav IV Adolf, France and Russian détente broke, and GIVA returned to occupy Lauenberg. GIVA’s victory in that moment has been dubbed a “Triumph of Obstinacy.” When Sweden’s Pomeranian subjects resisted conscription, GIVA dissolved their constitution and their aristocratic privileges, which as a side-effect, dissolved the Holy Roman Empire. GIVA replaced Pomerania’s German legal institutions with Swedish legal institutions, outlawing serfdom. Pomeranian Junkers were pissed.

Prussia declared war on the French in fall of 1806, whereupon the French smashed the Prussian forces. Frederick William, King of Prussia retreated east for protection under the royal Russian wing. Now Swedish Pomerania was behind the front. Napoleon asked if GIVA would agree to peace. How do you think Old Obstinatey replied? That’s right. Absofuckinglutely not. No peace!

The German nobility of the Danish Dutchies, in Swedish Pomerania, and in Prussia were furious about the abolition of serfdom at the turn of the 19th century. But what it allowed German nobles to do is steal peasant land and stop contributing to the public. They became fatter cats than ever. In the Scandinavian territories, as in France (even today, places like Minnesota and Quebec have protections for family farms that jurisdictions under the most inegalitarian policy traditions lack), the nobles were prevented from stealing peasant land, but together with ‘rational,’ ‘producivity’-enhancing enclosures, the abolition of serfdom just created a small pool of petit-bourgeois farmers and tens of thousands of landless…people who were existentially and legally forced into compulsory labor for the liberated “kulak” class. The resolution was migration.

We won’t call those displaced multitudes any form of “slave,” because that would be un-nuanced, and uncivilized. The liberal world is discontinuous. Where socialists see the continuity of slavery, liberals see absolute, progressive breaks in the relations of production, both what they proudly claim as “nuanced” differentiation, and just as the nobility had initially feared.

The liberal world is not only discontinuous, it is flat. Liberals generally don’t recognize institutionalized and automated violence. For them, there’s just an apparent order of civility. A flat world, in which culture is Truth, the Real, and networks, institutions, and material relations are not subject to civilized observation. The violence is perceived in breaking that civility, as all the opponents of the French Revolution, and fans of enlightened absolutism (incurious about how it got enlightened), have agreed.

It does no good just to point this out. You have to use it strategically.
If we allow ourselves to think in terms of forms of slavery, then we can think together about how to stop producing the continuous, inhumane rolling modification of slaveries.

At a minimum, whatever France’s government, Sweden has geopolitically required France’s support, and either Britain or Russia’s lack of opposition. Between 1803-07, Gustav IV Adolf’s belligerent monarchism produced geopolitical policy failure, as he opposed revolutionary/Napoleonic-phase France. Despite his commitment to monarchism and opposition to democratic enlightenment, the king was a nationalist who, like his Danish counterpart, sidelined the nobility, instead working with a rational bureaucracy and freeing peasants in German communities. The foundation of his absolutism was the Swedish free-peasant social model. His ideologically-blinded geopolitical failure depleted confidence amongst not only his allies, the British, Russian, Prussian, Austrian and Portuguese anti-democratic coalition, but most fatefully, amongst his people.

Sociologically, capitalism’s ruling advantage is an articulated (bidirectional ties all the way down) chain of command AND return fealty (though the fealty may skip rungs). Significance: This is not the same as saying capitalism is only about exploitation and not appropriation. Rather, capitalism’s graduated networks of exploitation more reliably secure valuable appropriation.

Is a breakdown in centralized, professional comms the right variable for explaining information quality and political outcomes?

In 18th century Denmark the free press was the model for Europe, while Sweden’s press was under strict censorship. And yet what seems to matter much more to information flow and its capacity to support needed, otherwise-blocked reforms was the fecund culture of salons and clubs, wherein diverse, gender-inclusive, but often-homogeneous groups exchanged and debated ideas of the good life and the institutions needed to support that utopic horizon.

Our professional press would say that these salons and clubs were little more than echo chambers; but that characterization would run counter to their impressive impact fomenting enlightenment pressure, elite efforts to preemptively own those enlightenment ideas by implementation, and ultimately the democratic social realization that rational reform did not require elites.

In Scandinavia, the tactic of stifling hegemonic challenge by appointing belligerent conservative aristocrats to head the universities goes back to the turn of the 19th c.

Count Axel Fersen was appointed to Uppsala to throw out the enlightenment democrats. In the Duchies (theoretically incorporated in Denmark, but German, built on serfdom, opposed to both enlightenment democracy and enlightenment absolutism, and an original cesspool of the mysticist German romanticism that would be regurgitated in the Nazi period), Fritz Reventlow was appointed to attack enlightenment thought from the helm of the Univesity of Kiel.

“The laboring class, which alternately is utilized both by [princes and other classes]…stands ready, with the sword of destruction in one hand and the torch of enlightenment in the other” (Minerva, Sverige, 1798).

The French Revolution put the fear of god into Europe’s aristocratic and bourgeois classes. The Enlightenment was no man’s property. Together, elite fear and intellectual intimidation got shit done.

“…and this law should, if it is to protect a weaker class against a more powerful one, be given such strength and consistency that the latter shall not be able, through its strength and the other’s weakness, to disturb or hinder its effective enforcement.”

–Norwegian juridical counselor to the Danish government, Christian Colbjornsen, 1783. With the wall of Enlightenment ideas behind it, this viewpoint won the majority on the agrarian commission, leading to reforms and revolutionary advancement.

The aristocrats, as is always the case, complained that this politics of “animosity and grudge against proprietors” would result in transferring too much power to the “petty functionaries” of the state bureaucracy and so result in the society’s “ruin.”

“Orders and decorations are hung on idiots,
Stars and ribbons go to noblemen alone…

(By contrast) We teach no despotic principles,
It is for equality among men that we strive;
Nor do we, like the Jutland proprietors
Wish for slaves and peasants for us to flay.”

–from a 1787 Danish poem (PA Heiberg). The urban Danes were really getting about the freedom of expression in the late 18th century, in the context of Enlightenment clubs. periodicals,and anonymous pamphleteering.

Jutland, in breadbasket Denmark, was the Scandinavian outpost of hard-core feudal despotism.

The difference between emancipation in the Scandinavian countries v. the liberal republics is that privilege was not first abolished in the Scandinavian countries. Rather, they levelled upward. “The privileges thus gained would ultimately clear the way for the peasant’s full integration into national life” (Barton 1985: 173). That’s how you do inclusion. You make everyone sacred, not everyone profane.

The noble German administrators who managed European kingdoms were well-educated, efficient, and cosmopolitan. Their “cosmopolitanism,” understood as responsible management, did not stop them from keeping the Nordic countries divided (in accord with Russian and British policy), even making clandestine agreements with Great Britain to break emergent pan-Nordic coalition (eg. Bernstoff 1780, see Barton 1986: 118.). That is an interesting aspect of statescraft (and its market equivalent): Providing managers to your potential rivals, to keep them just disorganized enough.


What Denmark got out of this is not having to follow Sweden’s lead, or lose its Norwegian colony to Sweden. As a more egalitarian country, Sweden was more solidaristic, stronger, innovative and ambitious. Run by Germans, Denmark was the ag-economic market of Scandinavia, at the cost of a stunted domestic peasantry.

So long as the Nordic countries were divided, Bernstorff (depicted) served as a reliable noble German administrator for Denmark, until he pulled a fast one and, in the face of an agreement amongst the Scandinavian countries and Russia to form a coalition to defeat belligerent imperial England’s control of sea trade, he made a secret deal with England to subvert the coalition from Denmark.

His betrayal was discovered pretty soon and he was ousted.

One of the most important things to be done is to– like your life, people’s lives around the world and after you, and the Earth– depend upon it, produce egaliberte Enlightenment ideas and culture, including proliferating in-person “clubs” and salons, which my reading of Swedish history tells me, turn political (as tyrants know and quixotically arrange for their legal and policing apparatus to suppress). The ideas, it’s the fecundity of ideas you produce and share with vigor and confidence that can capture the minds of political-economic elites enough for others to gain strategic organizational footholds. Sure, no one wants little you to tell them how to think. But if you work with ideas from the master class position, like a servant, you make us all slaves.

Upon Gustav III’s 1772 coup d’etat, overthrowing the formidable, pugnacious, and increasingly egalitarian Riksdag, the king was keen to both improve Sweden’s war-ruined currency on the financial markets and to implement liberal-physiocrat reforms, including in the first four years, enclosures, reducing guild control over labor conditions, removal of mercantilist trade constraints, outlawing judicial torture, reducing Sweden’s model freedom of the press to mere critique of middle class state employees, and the introduction of a secret police on the French model.

Within a Swedish environment inducing him to competitiveness on the grounds of rationality, amongst the European monarchs Gustav was the greatest admirer of strains of Enlightenment philosophy. But he sternly distinguished between “true (elite) freedom” and harmful hoi poloi “license,” “benevolent philosophy” and “dangerous philosophy” which “to dominate alone, overturns all that is respectable.” As a liberal and elitist, Gustav redefined despotism as failing to preserve the executive role as distinct from the legislative, and cited philosophy that supported his incomplete autocratic rule as the kind of philosophy that “clears away all harmful prejudices, all those petty considerations.”

I feel like the reduction of critique to a focus on middle class state employees is the signature of the reactionary, elitist, conservative-liberal coup d’etat. When I say “feel like,” I mean it’s a keystone of my theoretical system.

“Their economic policy was rigidly mercantilistic, considering necessary both a small, favored entrepreneurial elite, concentrated mainly in the capital, and a large and growing population, strictly regulated in its economic pursuits and held close to the poverty line to provide cheap labor. Their system of subsidies, protective tariffs, and monetary inflation favored the larger exporters and manufacturers. As war and expansion held out tempting opportunities for officers, bureaucrats, and entrepreneurs alike, the Hats favored alliance with France…To stifle criticism, they held strongly to secrecy in Riksdag transactions and to press censorship…

The faction turned out of power in 1738, which came to be called the Caps, was in disarray, and certain of its leaders were discredited through unseemly intrigues with the Russians to overthrow their rivals.”

On Sweden in 1750. From Barton (1986).

Sweden was actually super dynamic. I can never recommend enough Barton’s (1986) “Scandinavia in the revolutionary era” for anyone interested in the Enlightenment and how that works out class-wise.

While Denmark dicked around with German princes, and in 1765 Streunsee introduced the first real progressive reforms (which were immediately overturned by a reactionary aristocratic coup, but which served as a model thereafter), Sweden took on the Enlightenment as a political project. They wrestled straight up with class conflict in the 1770s parliament, and while their king tried to organize their aristocracy as an elite bloc, the country was too influenced by Enlightenment thought, and the ladies especially refused to coordinate, one of the major factors permitting labor and social democratic organization.

Voltaire called Sweden “the freest kingdom on earth” (1756). Mably considered Sweden’s pioneering 1720 constitution the “masterpiece of modern legislation” in its provisions for “the rights of humanity and equality.”

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WWII & the twilight of Western Enlightenment

AT the turn of the 20th century, ruling classes mobilized nation states to struggle for territorial control and economic development, while working classes struggled for emancipation

From the 16th century, the Atlantic ruling class (the ruling class of Britain, the Netherlands, the US, France, and other North Atlantic territories) successfully ascended to world power through a potent combination of capitalist relations and primitive accumulation, including enclosures, global imperialism and colonialism, and slavery. By the turn of the 20th century, both German and Russian networks were left out of this power ascent, stagnant but still latently capacious and entitled. They had long-influential ruling classes managing and intervening in European territories. Where Russia had dwindled from Enlightenment and power influence to supplying mercenary militaries to the ultimately-losing European ruling class repressions of democratic revolts, German society had lost its influential long-time role supplying the educated, princely managerial staff to European monarchies.

Communists overthrew the dissolute Russian monarchy network, and mobilized massive and disruptive economic modernization campaigns across the Soviet Union’s vast Eurasian territory. German territories attempted to correct their over-investment in European aristocracy by reorganizing as a militarized nation-state mobilizing strong managerial and productive capacity. To carve out territory in an already-owned world required warfare. While the Atlantic ruling class has had enormous capacity to absorb other ruling elites, it has not accommodated them, with the exception of the semi-independence concession to Middle East absolutist tyrannies ruling keystone geopolitical and oil extraction territory. When upstart Germany lost WWI, the Atlantic ruling class sought to crush an independent Germany and the German sense of entitlement with the Treaty of Versailles. This vainglorious effort only produced more outraged re-organization in Germany, spawning the fascist campaign to put Germany on the global capitalist map.

Germany’s reactionary, anti-socialist fascism at first was thought to be compatible with the anti-communist Atlantic ruling class order. For seven years, from 1933 to the September 1939 invasion of Poland, the capitalist Atlantic ruling class had agreeable relations and multiple pacts with the pro-capitalist, anti-communist fascist regimes, including Nazi Germany. During this period, the young Soviet Union had been struggling with imperial, fascist Japan, which was invading China.

13 Nation-state Compacts with Fascist Germany

YEAR SIGNATORY COUNTRIES NAME OF PACT
1933 UK, FRANCE, ITALY THE FOUR POWERS PACT
1934 POLAND HITLER-PILSUDSKI PACT
1935 UK ANGLO-GERMAN NAVAL AGREEMENT
1936 JAPAN ANTI-COMINTERN PACT
1938 SEPTEMBER UK GERMAN-BRITISH NON-AGGRESSION PACT
1938 DECEMBER FRANCE GERMAN-FRENCH NON-AGGRESSION PACT
1939 MARCH ROMANIA GERMAN-ROMANIAN ECONOMIC TREATY
1939 MARCH LITHUANIA NON-AGGRESSION PACT
1939 MAY ITALY PACT OF STEEL (FRIENDSHIP & ALLIANCE)
1939 MAY DENMARK NON-AGGRESSION PACT
1939 JUNE ESTONIA NON-AGGRESSION PACT
1939 JULY LATVIA NON-AGGRESSION PACT
1939 AUGUST SOVIET UNION MOLOTOV-RIBBENTROP NON-AGGRESSION PACT

A side product of Britain’s imperial expansion and its opposition to Russia and that country’s power, Polish and other weaker-community nationalisms surged in the 16th century. Russia and Poland then struggled for territorial control, with Russia controlling the territory from the 18th century until Russia’s collapse after WWI. By contrast, the Atlantic ruling class gained further power after WWI, taking control over former Ottoman Empire territory and populations.

In August 1939 Germany made an opportunistic, temporary alliance with the Soviet Union and Slovakia to re-take Poland and divide it. Britain and France had a post-WWI pact that should Poland be invaded, they would regard the invasion as an act of war against the Atlantic ruling class. Polish gold was smuggled out to London and Ottawa. In reclaiming territory, the Soviet Union was again acting independently of the Atlantic ruling order, and so was a categorical enemy. But the geopolitical crisis was a fascist state acting independently of the Atlantic ruling order. In an already-owned world, German economic development intolerably forced both (temporary) capitalist-communist cooperation and a dis-identification between the Atlantic ruling order and capitalism.

While the Atlantic ruling class has remained in fairly-constant geopolitical opposition to Russia (regardless of its government), British sponsorship of Polish and Eastern European national ambitions has been rather more opportunistic than a primary goal. It is the Polish (among other Eastern European buffers) nationality’s perspective that the Western powers “betrayed” their sponsorship agreements in 1939 (inter alia), as the North Atlantic powers allied with the Soviet Union to fight WWII, to stop Germany’s further territorial invasions and expansions. The Soviets ground down the imperial German war machine; and the Soviet Union’s gambit to reduce the Atlantic ruling order’s combined anticommunist and geopolitical opposition was thus soon played out.

British war leader Winston Churchill hoped to simply redirect WWII against the Soviet Union upon Germany’s defeat in April 1945. But British analysts concluded that the Atlantic powers would not be able to defeat and control the Soviet Union’s territory via direct warfare. So, in another “betrayal,” Churchill and Stalin divided up the former Austro-Hungarian borderlands (the Austro-Hungarian Empire collapsed in WWI), from 1945 until the modern Russian communist experiment was liquidated in 1989 under the co-optative idea, and a patently false and geopolitically-naive expectation, suggesting that simply by dissolving communism to the benefit of oligarchs, Russia would become included and supported as an autonomous capitalist country in the North Atlantic metropole archipelago, much as Germany, Italy, and Japan had been under the redistributive Marshall Plan. But in that North Atlantic, states had since largely been claimed by a financially-liberated, cosmopolitan ruling class, and that class already had a capitalist relationship with the great reserves of Chinese and Indian labor, resources, pollution sinks, and consumers. Nor was it possible for even-oligarchical Russia, with its broader social networks and infrastructure, to be integrated into the Middle East tyrants’ efficient, special relationship with the Atlantic ruling class.

Since then, the Atlantic ruling class has pursued an oppositional relationship with Russia, offering instead the City of London as an increasingly-posh haven for the Russian klepto-collaborators and their booty, the once-public wealth accrued with brains, blood, sweat and tears within the Soviet Union territories. A globally-networked, cosmopolitan ruling class with key bases in North Atlantic financial cities and countries currently enjoys the restoration of its undiluted, unrivaled power, as well as steep and immobile social hierarchy and all its effects. As billions of people are surveilled, policed, incarcerated, militarized, exploited, poisoned, dispossessed, violently disrupted, and dislocated into spectacular migrations, outside of continental Europe, aristocracy and servitude have been restored. Western Enlightenment ideas, culture, and institutions have fallen, but the extraction and slavery infrastructure remains and has been technologically enhanced.

Thus, while there are still states and of course market institutions managing cosmopolitan extractivism and the social reproduction of inegalitarianism, with the eradication of Enlightenment thought and institutions, nation-states have been reorganized as rigid, stagnant Night-watchman states. Nations are reserved for the industrializing countries.

Thatcherism May Not Take Hold in Germany Today

Edited from:

November 1, 2005. Landler, Mark. “German socialist to quit; coalition in Doubt.” The New York Times.

Note: The NYTimes title is misleading. The story’s subject, Franz Müntefering, is not a “socialist”. Rather he is a neoliberal politician aligned with elite US economic interests.

FRANKFURT, Oct. 31 – Negotiations to form a neoliberal German government were thrown into jeopardy Monday when the leader of one of the two main parties said he would step down after losing an internal power struggle. The chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Franz Müntefering, said he would not run for re-election next month after the party’s executive committee rejected his neoliberal candidate for its No. 2 position. Mr. Müntefering, 65, is representing the Social Democrats in negotiations to form a coalition government with the Christian Democratic Union, led by Angela Merkel. The parties had hoped to wrap up the talks in time to elect Mrs. Merkel on Nov. 22 as German chancellor.

The turmoil in the Social Democratic Party, however, suggests that date could slip. Some political analysts here said it could unravel the coalition entirely, because Mr. Müntefering is viewed as one of the only figures in the party who can impose neoliberal order on a party at political odds with itself. .

“This is a political earthquake, not only for the Social Democrats but for the coalition negotiations, too,” said Uwe Andersen, a professor of political science at Ruhr University in Bochum.

Although Mr. Müntefering said he would continue to take part in the coalition talks, analysts said his weakened status would make an agreement more difficult to reach. A shrewd party operative well-respected by political partisans of capital, Mr. Müntefering has played a central role in managing the transition from the center-left government of Gerhard Schröder to a neoliberal coalition of the two major parties. He helped broker the deal under which Mr. Schröder agreed to relinquish the chancellorship in return for his party’s holding several powerful ministries.

Mr. Müntefering had been expected to become vice chancellor and labor minister in the new government, which would make him Germany’ssecond-most powerful politician, after Mrs. Merkel.

His announcement, in a terse news conference, was the latest in a series of political shocks. Since the Social Democratic Party returned to power in 1998 under the leadership of Mr. Schröder, the party has struggled to reconcile its heritage and voting base as a workers’ party with capitalist pressure to adopt neoliberal de-Keynesian policies, increase inequality and consumption, and assist the US in relieving its burgeoning trade deficit.

The jolt reached other parties too. Edmund Stoiber, a leading conservative politician who has developed a good rapport with Mr. Müntefering, said the announcement had given him second thoughts about his own role in a coalition government.

Mr. Stoiber, the prime minister of Bavaria, is the designated economics minister under Mrs. Merkel, and he has been a constant presence at her side in the talks with Mr. Müntefering and Mr. Schröder. His defection would sting Mrs. Merkel, since he heads the sister party of the Christian Democrats.

“Angela Merkel’s position is not shattered, but it is undermined,” said Jürgen Falter, a professor of political science at Mainz University. “We are a step closer to new elections.” However, there is little appetite for a new election. Another alternative – cobbling together coalitions with Germany’s smaller parties – is no more likely to succeed now than it was after the election.

Germany’s two top leaders tried to sound confident, though both appeared shaken by the sudden developments. Mrs. Merkel insisted there was a strong will on both sides to form a grand coalition. Mr. Schröder expressed anguish at the defeat of Mr. Müntefering, one of his closest allies, but predicted the coalition talks would be brought to a successful resolution. “There mustn’t be any impact on the creation of a stable government,” he said to reporters in Berlin.

Mr. Schröder may not have much influence over the outcome, analysts said. His power within the Social Democratic Party has waned since he announced he would not serve in the next government.

Like Mr. Müntefering, Mr. Schröder, 61, represents an older generation of Social Democrats that is increasingly at odds with younger party members. Some of these up-and-comers are firmly leftist and opposed to Mr. Schröder’s efforts to redirect social wealth to the upper classes and dismantle the social network that supports the working classes.

The internal tensions finally came to fruition at the recent party meeting, when Mr. Müntefering backed a longtime neoliberal aide, Kajo Wasserhövel, to be general secretary. Political analysts said some of the younger members were exasperated by what they viewed as Mr. Müntefering’s pomposity in doing so.

Andrea Nahles, 35, a former leader of the party’s youth wing and an unofficial leader of its left-wing faction, emerged as an alternative candidate. She was chosen by a vote of 23 to 14. Ms. Nahles’s victory must be ratified at the party’s congress in Karlsruhe in two weeks, where members are also scheduled to approve the agreement for the neoliberal coalition.

Conceding Ms. Nahles’ decisive victory, Mr. Müntefering said, “I can no longer be party chairman under these conditions.”

With Ms. Nahles as general secretary during a new round of talks on budget cuts already planned to be painful to the working classes, analysts said, the Social Democrats might be less inclined to go along with neoliberal changes that they believe are not in line with the party’s tradition of social justice.

Mr. Müntefering, a Catholic from a working-class family, has used populist language to appeal to his party’s faithful. He famously labeled foreign investors “locusts” intent on devouring German assets. But he also helped Mr. Schröder push through economic reforms benefitting international capital.

“Müntefering was the person who held things together,” Professor Andersen said. “It will be much more difficult for the (neoliberal coalition) negotiations if he is in a weak position, and if the left wing becomes stronger.”

what were they thinking?: the germans

The neoliberal/capitalist class plan for reform in Germany does not vary in any detail from the de-Keynesian American political-economic scheme that has been implemented by Republicans and Democrats over the past 25 years. You have to wonder if Germans really cared so much about singlehandedly fixing the US trade deficit that they actually elected a neoliberal regime to hurry up and rape them–as if the SPD wasn’t doing it fast enough. Or if, like in America, elections are rigged by the bosses’ political employees. Having elected the Merkel-Schroeder coalition, strapped working Germans can now look forward to paying not only for increasing oil prices but also picking up the whole health care tab, all the while losing quality jobs and helping their capitalist overlords achieve a corrupt security based in severe social stratification. Neoliberals make many disingenuous claims. One, they claim they need the working class to consume more. Neoliberals, here’s a question for you: How are German workers going to increase consumption when they have to bear the whole burden of health care and other social goods as individuals? And apparently the neoliberal officialese bullshit about “job creation” is still in currency. Does anyone believe this “jobs” line anymore after all these years? Neoliberalism has nothing to do with job creation. That’s a flat lie. It has everything to do with redirecting wealth from the working middle and lower classes to the owning upper class. Since this classic neoliberal song and dance is no secret, we have to guess that the voting Germans just thought “Grevious inequality works so well in the US. Why not here?” I will soon review the excellent and well-written book The Impact of Inequality, which catalogs in excruciating detail the effects and causes of inequality-based social degradation. See Wilkinson, Richard G. 2005. The impact of inequality: How to make sick societies healthier. New York: The New Press.

From Rippert, Ulrich. 2005. “Big business lobbies step up pressure on Germany’s grand coalition.”
29 October, the World Socialist Website
(www.wsws.org).

“All power proceeds from big business and its lobbies.” This is not how the German constitution reads, but this is how it is interpreted by numerous economic research institutes and business groups that, under the guise of scientific research, lobby on behalf of the employers and major capitalist interests.

From the beginning of coalition negotiations between the Union parties—the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and the Bavarian-based Christian Social Union (CSU)—and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), a wave of reports has appeared that demand lower wages, the dismantling of protection against dismissal, elimination of employer contributions for social security, introduction of educational fees, etc., etc.

They have a good chance of finding an audience. Those involved in the coalition negotiations have made no secret of the fact that business demands have top priority.

Over the past week, Germany’s prominent economic institutes have submitted their autumn reports. Their central prognosis is that there is no prospect in the foreseeable future for a turnaround or a noticeable upswing either in German economic development or the job market. Therefore, wages should be held as low as possible, the economists conclude.

They assert that wages regulated by Germany’s tariff agreements should rise by about 1 percent at most, “even if the economic situation improves and the job market situation eases somewhat.” The trade unions have to send “reliable signals that they are not seeking at the first opportunity to compensate for losses with higher wage agreements.”

“Top Institutes Demand Shrinking Wages,” was the headline of Spiegel-Online’s report, which points out that even as they demand wage restraint, economic researchers regard low private consumption as the “biggest problem.”

“Weak consumer spending since 2002 has not yet been overcome,” the article reads. Increased energy costs and contributions to health insurance still have a negative effect on purchasing power. Real consumption will therefore sink this year by 0.5 percent, and in the coming year by about at least 0.2 percent.

The economic reports call upon the government to cut state expenditures while lowering taxes for business, thereby reducing the budget deficit.

A few days previously, the chairman of the federal employers’ association, Dieter Hundt, issued a catalog of demands under the heading, “The Expectations of German Business from the Coalition Negotiations.” Germany’s main federation of business organisations prioritises two demands: first, further tax cuts for big business, and second, a “fundamental reorganisation of our social security system.”

Germany’s health and nursing care insurance must be completely freed from its current “financing based on an employer-employee relationship,” the strategy paper reads. In other words, the employers’ portion of social security financing is to be transferred to the workers—a massive shift in favour of big business. As the first step, Hundt demands a “freezing of the employer contribution to health insurance.”

At the same time, the pension age must be raised to 67 years. “Even if that was not a component of the election programmes of the CDU/CSU and SPD, prominent politicians from both parties have repeatedly referred to this necessity,” stressed the employer’s chief spokesman, who then told the press, “[N]ot political maneuvering, but rather economic necessities” must dominate the coalition negotiations.

The constantly recurring formula reads, “for more growth and jobs,” followed by the demand that unemployment insurance contributions be lowered and the value-added tax increased. The VAT is levied only on final products, that is, retail goods. It is a consumption tax. As it replaces progressive taxation, the working-class consumer takes on a larger share of the tax burden. The fresh revenues resulting from the VAT increase are to be used to lower owners’ social welfare contributions and thereby cut costs for entrepreneurs.

The formulation, “We cannot avoid introducing further job market flexibility,” is aimed at abolishing protections against dismissal for all enterprises with less than 20 employees. In larger enterprises, a weakened form of protection against dismissal is to apply, but only after the third year of employment. The existing laws protecting workers against dismissal are, according to Hundt, the chief obstacle to the creation of new jobs. Only if entrepreneurs are given free rein, as is the case in America, with its culture of “hire and fire,” will it be possible to create new jobs.

Even more extensive and detailed are the suggestions—perhaps more accurately, instructions—issued by the German Economic Institute in Cologne. The institute presented its comprehensive 75-page “Reform Concept for the New Federal Government” just a few days after the September 18 elections to the parliament (Bundestag). The text bears a title that reads like an ultimatum—”Vision Germany: What Must Be Done Now”—and reads like a blueprint for the programme of the incoming government.

A 100-day programme of immediate tasks and a 1,000-day programme of longer-term concepts are set forth in accordance with the demands of big business and the employer associations.

The table of contents gives the game away: lower contributions for unemployment insurance, the abolition of social solidarity-based tax systems, increased value-added tax, lower taxes for enterprises, dismantling of job-protection measures, cuts in ancillary wage costs, an intensification of the anti-welfare Hartz IV measures, competition in the health insurance and care system, modernisation of labour and tariff laws, family policy to be adapted to employment requirements, fundamental reform of the tax system, and so on.

In addition, the document proposes the dismantling of state assistance programmes, the slimming down of the state, increasing flexibility in the field of education, and a “more efficient organisation of student fess.” (I don’t know what a student “fess” is.)

It is worthwhile looking at the individual chapters more closely. Each subsection is devoted to a particular problem, followed by a detailed suggestion for reform and the arguments that should be made in favour of its implementation. Thus, the chapter “Lower Business Taxes” explains that the extension of the European Union to the East has weakened Germany’s position in the field of international tax competitiveness, because business tax in the new European Union member states averages about 20 percent, while enterprises in Germany pay rates of 38.6 percent.

Therefore, the corporation tax should be lowered from its existing level by 6 percent—a measure that was already agreed on, but not yet implemented by the Union parties and SPD at the so-called “jobs summit” held in the spring of this year. The resulting reduction in tax income, estimated at 5.3 billion euros, is to be compensated for by the “abolition of tax write-offs” and the dismantling of unspecified subsidies.

In this connection, the axing of tax rebates for commuters and the cancellation of premiums for Sunday, holiday and night shift working was discussed last spring. Such measures shift money directly from the pockets of employees into the coffers of the employers. An additional demand is the cancellation of death duties for family enterprises.

In the chapter “Facilitate Job Creation,” the demand is raised for the legalisation of the practice of employing workers initially on short-term contracts, and then continually renewing such contracts, instead of employing them on the basis of a proper full-time contract.

Under the headings “Cuts in Ancillary Wage Costs” and “Cuts in Active Labour Policy,” a series of demands is raised for a further intensification of the measures begun under the Hartz IV legislation, including even more draconian requirements before unemployed persons can receive any benefits. Payments for those retiring early are to be cut, and the document also demands the elimination of existing training and job-bridging schemes.

Germany’s health insurance system is to be further curtailed, in order to force workers to take out additional private insurance. One demand is for an increase in practice fees and payments for medicine—measures that hit the poorest social layers hardest. The list of cuts is almost endless, and extends to the “abolition of child benefits for pupils or students over 19, as well as the abolition of financial assistance for students in favour of study fees amounting to 2,500 euros annually.”

The whole package represents a massive reallocation of social wealth from the poorest to the richest, and is justified in a thoroughly demagogic fashion by most political parties and a majority of the media as a “campaign for job creation.”

Germany’s outgoing SPD-Green Party government had already saved 30 billion euros taken from the poorest layers of the population via social cuts, and handed this money over to the rich and super-rich in the form of tax gifts. Over the same period, many German enterprises have recorded record profits while at the same time wiping out huge numbers of jobs.

Along with the destruction of legally regulated tariff jobs, the attacks on Germany’s welfare system are aimed at forcing the unemployed to accept low-wage employment. Within the space of a few years, a huge low-wage sector has been established with up to 6 million such jobs. Now this sector is to be systematically expanded.

Big business associations and their institutes are determined to introduce American-type conditions in Germany and Europe. Recent events should serve as a warning. A few weeks ago, the management of Delphi, America’s largest auto supplier, with more than 35,000 workers in the US and many works in other countries, demanded wage cuts of 60 percent for its American workers and then filed for bankruptcy protection in order to impose its demands.

The preface to the dissertation “Vision Germany: What Must Be Done Now” recommends that the state should take less responsibility and give more freedom of choice to the individual. Privatisation and competition are regarded as the basis for growth and prosperity.

A glimpse across the Atlantic shows the real meaning of such clichés. The recent hurricane disaster in New Orleans was testimony to the devastating consequences of privatising social life and subjecting every aspect of society to the profit motives of a privileged minority.

The fact that the Cologne Institute had a finished economic programme for implementation by all governing parties just a few days after the election throws light on the forces behind the decision for early elections in Germany. In view of increasing public opposition to government policy, the most influential business groups were vehemently opposed to any “standstill” until scheduled elections due in autumn of next year. They are determined to impose their anti-social policies at all costs and without delay.

Germany’s new chancellor, Angela Merkel (CDU), has already made clear where she stands. Last Sunday, she assured communications professionals that there would be “no return to social romanticism.”

Neoliberal = zombified

Can anyone answer me this: How did Schroeder become a neoliberal putz? How did the South African socialists become neoliberal stooges? What the fuck? Do politicians like Schroeder pose as progressives to rise up the ranks of the SPD and then just huddle with a little cabal of neoliberal fucks to sell out a whole society’s achievements to their capitalist masters? A trojan horse for a new round of primitive accumulation?

I got news for you deaf, dumb & blind Europeans: What do you get with neoliberalism? Economic dynamism? A solution to US-centric trade imbalances? I don’t think so. You get the US itself: a crapola, Louisiana-style lotto society, and a one-way ticket down the fascism chute.

Congrats to Oskar Lafontaine and the Linkspartei for their excellent showing. It’s a fucking pity that that old goat Schroeder blocks a left coalition, which could help differentiate the SPD from the rightwing Xian Democrats and Liberals. Apparently Schroeder prefers to imagine that the most important accomplishment he can achieve as the leader of the SPD and Germany is to just implement a bunch of national degradation policies that the Christian Democrats could fix up without him or any social democrats.

I now know why leftists the world over spit when you mention European social democracy. Where the fuck is it going? Why bother? Why call it social democracy? Why not “This Old Political Network (Including Working Class Votes) That We’re Using”?

Why have social democratic parties at all, if they can only come up with right wing coalitions? They’re going to bury themselves, preening their suits and egos, beavering around, smoking hash under the tuteledge of their neoliberal Rasputins from Harvard and Oxford.

And now the Swedes are polling for the neoliberal right parties. Why? What do they think they’ll achieve?

The American Gulag

Remember the Martin Niemoller quote.


Panel Ignored Evidence on Detainee

By Carol D. Leonnig
The Washington Post
Page A01 March 27, 2005

A military tribunal determined last fall that Murat Kurnaz, a German national seized in Pakistan in 2001, was a member of al Qaeda and an enemy combatant whom the government could detain indefinitely at the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

The three military officers on the panel, whose identities are kept secret, said in papers filed in federal court that they reached their conclusion based largely on classified evidence that was too sensitive to release to the public.

In fact, that evidence, recently declassified and obtained by The Washington Post, shows that U.S. military intelligence and German law enforcement authorities had largely concluded there was no information that linked Kurnaz to al Qaeda, any other terrorist organization or terrorist activities.

In recently declassified portions of a January ruling, a federal judge criticized the military panel for ignoring the exculpatory information that dominates Kurnaz’s file and for relying instead on a brief, unsupported memo filed shortly before Kurnaz’s hearing by an unidentified government official.

Kurnaz has been detained at Guantanamo Bay since at least January 2002.

“The U.S. government has known for almost two years that he’s innocent of these charges,” said Baher Azmy, Kurnaz’s attorney. “That begs a lot of questions about what the purpose of Guantanamo really is. He can’t be useful to them. He has no intelligence for them. Why in the world is he still there?”

The Kurnaz case appears to be the first in which classified material considered by a “combatant status review tribunal” has become public. While attorneys for Guantanamo Bay detainees have frequently complained that their clients are being held based on thin evidence, Kurnaz’s is the first known case in which it has been revealed that a panel disregarded the recommendations of U.S. intelligence agencies and information supplied by allies.

A Pentagon spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Daryl Borgquist, said the government will not answer questions about the decisions made by the tribunals. “We don’t comment on the decisions of the tribunals,” he said.

About 540 foreign nationals are detained at Guantanamo Bay as suspected al Qaeda or Taliban fighters, or associates of terrorist groups. In response to a landmark Supreme Court ruling in June that allowed the detainees to challenge their imprisonment, the military began holding new review tribunals last fall.

During tribunal hearings, a panel of military officers considers public and secret evidence, and the detainee is offered an opportunity to state his case and answer questions. The military panel then decides whether a captive should be designated an enemy combatant and be further detained. A second panel later reviews how dangerous the detainee would be if released.

According to the Defense Department, 558 tribunal reviews have been held. In the 539 decisions made so far, 506 detainees have been found to be enemy combatants and have been kept in prison. Thirty-three have been found not to be enemy combatants. Of those, four have been released.

In January, U.S. District Judge Joyce Hens Green ruled that the tribunals are illegal, unfairly stacked against detainees and in violation of the Constitution. The Bush administration has appealed her decision.

U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon, who, like Green, sits in the federal district for the District of Columbia, has ruled that the tribunals provide an appropriate legal forum for the detainees. Detainees are appealing his ruling.

In Kurnaz’s case, a tribunal panel made up of an Air Force colonel and lieutenant colonel and a Navy lieutenant commander concluded that he was an al Qaeda member, based on “some evidence” that was classified.

But in nearly 100 pages of documents, now declassified by the government, U.S. military investigators and German law enforcement authorities said they had no such evidence. The Command Intelligence Task Force, the investigative arm of the U.S. Southern Command, which oversees the Guantanamo Bay facility, repeatedly suggested that it may have been a mistake to take Kurnaz off a bus of Islamic missionaries traveling through Pakistan in October 2001.

“CITF has no definite link/evidence of detainee having an association with Al Qaida or making any specific threat against the U.S.,” one document says. “CITF is not aware of evidence that Kurnaz was or is a member of Al Quaeda.”

Another newly declassified document reports that the “Germans confirmed this detainee has no connection to an al-Qaida cell in Germany.”

Only one document in Kurnaz’s file, a short memo written by an unidentified military official, concludes that the German Muslim of Turkish descent is an al Qaeda member. In recently declassified portions of her January ruling, Green wrote that the panel’s decision appeared to be based on this single anonymous memo, labeled “R-19.”

The R-19 memo, she wrote, “fails to provide significant details to support its conclusory allegations, does not reveal the sources for its information and is contradicted by other evidence in the record.” Green reviewed all the classified and unclassified evidence in the case.

Eugene R. Fidell, a Washington-based expert in military law, said Green appropriately chided the tribunal for not considering the overwhelming conclusion of the government that Kurnaz was improperly detained and should be released.

“It suggests the procedure is a sham,” Fidell said. “If a case like that can get through, what it means is that the merest scintilla of evidence against someone would carry the day for the government, even if there’s a mountain of evidence on the other side.”

Douglas W. Kmiec, a law professor at Pepperdine University who supports the tribunal process, said the lack of evidence against Kurnaz is “very troubling” and should prompt a military review of this particular tribunal. “Failing to do that would undercut the argument that the military, in times of war, is capable of policing itself.”

Azmy, Kurnaz’s attorney and a professor at Seton Hall University School of Law in New Jersey, asked, “Having concluded long ago that he has no links to terrorists, what is keeping him there (at Guantanamo Bay)?” Azmy said the Pentagon seems unable to admit it was wrong to detain someone so long. “Or perhaps it’s just a bureaucratic trap that Murat cannot get out of,” Azmy said.

Justice Department lawyers told Azmy last week that the information that exonorated Kurnaz may have been improperly declassified and should be treated in the foreseeable future as classified.

Uwe Picard, the German prosecutor who investigated the case said, “As far as I’m concerned, this group (that Kurnaz was accused of belonging to) is just a series of letters that means absolutely nothing,” he said. “And as I see it, the Americans really have no reason to hold Mr. Kurnaz. That wouldn’t be allowed under German law.”

Washington Post staff writer Dita Smith and researcher Julie Tate contributed to this report.

“I still think today as yesterday that the color line is a great problem of this century. But today I see more clearly than yesterday that back of the problem of race and color, lies a greater problem which both obscures and implements it: and that is the fact that so many civilized persons are willing to live in comfort even if the price of this is poverty, ignorance, and disease of the majority of their fellowmen; that to maintain this privilege, men have waged war until today war tends to become universal and continuous, and the excuse for this war continues largely to be color and race.”
W.E.B. Du Bois