Tuesday, 15 May 2007

Right-Wing Extremist Crime on Rise in Germany

Sorry for the recent string of German-related entries on this blog. Back in France tonight, and then there'll be more entries about France and other countries.

Just to note here that according to the Verfassungschutzbericht 2006 (a yearly report by the German federal agency responsible for the protection of the constitution), which was presented by Germany's Interior Minister Wolfgang Schäuble a few hours ago, right-wing extremist crime has risen 18.1% in 2006, as compared to 2005. This means that a staggering 18.100 right-wing extremist crimes were committed in Germany last year.

Monday, 14 May 2007

German TV dementia

Currently in Munich, I was watching German TV yesterday night for the first time in a long, long while. They served me up a rather entertaining half-documentary, half-movie about the first German experiences of serious terrorism.

Two moments of dementia, however, were striking and amusing. A Lufthansa plane had been hijacked, and has found its rocky way to Mogadishu. German special forces - the infamously incompetent GSG9 - are flown in to liberate the hostages. When they arrive, the Somali authorities are training to storm the plane themselves.

The German commander makes fun of them: "I asked them whether they had ever stormed a plane before. I had to explain to them that it isn't so easy, that people could die. But the Somali commander looked all-excited: 'we don't have any experience of how to do this, but we've been practising since this morning', he told me. Naturally, it would have ended in a catastrophe had we left the affair to the Somalis".

Quite. Just as it did end in a catastrophe when in Munich, a couple of years before, the same GSG9 decided to refuse a request by the vastly more experienced Israeli forces to allow them to mastermind the operation. Instead, the GSG9 took things into their Germanic hands, and stormed the plane full of Israeli Olympic athletes hijacked by Palastinians. All hostages died. A few years ago, Germany was even convicted to pay some damages to relatives of the victims for its insufficient handling of the situation. So the experience the German in the documentary seemed so proud of stems primarily from that catastrophe...

Second, there was a comic moment when Helmut Schmidt, who was Germany's Chancellor at the time of the successful Mogadishu operation, was recalling how useful it was that nearly all politicians in charge at the time had been Wehrmacht officiers not that he proncounced the word "Wehrmacht", makign reference merely to their position as Unterleutnant. "The hijackers didn't know what cattle of fish they were dealing with - they had certainly made a huge miscalulation" he said, commenting on his military experience. Well, yes. But Schmidt's point didn't exactly help to diissipate the terrorists' - no doubt ridiculous - claim, oft-repeated in the movie-elements of the show, that the German government were all fascists anyway...

Not making any serious points with this, but amusing, I think, these instances of German TV dementia certainly are.

Sunday, 13 May 2007

Red-Green Comeback in Germany

At today's elections in Germany's smallest state, Bremen, the governing grand coalition has suffered marked losses, whilst the Green Party has increased its share of the vote to over 16%. It is likely that Bremen's Social Democrats will choose to govern in a coalition with the Green party henceforth - even though a grand coalition would continue to have a large majority and a red-green coalition would have been possible even in the last Parliament.

For those, admittedly not many, who are nostalgic for the seven years in which Gerhard Schroeder was Germany's Chancellor this is important news: the red-green model had become completely wiped out in Germany, not only on the national but also on the state level.

A little bit of hope, however, is also restored to others, who perhaps were never entirely enthusiastic about the Schroeder government, and yet hope that Germany's political future lies with its moderate left of centre forces. For socially liberal social democrats the Green Party is the natural coalition partner because it provides a corrective for socially authoritarian and populist forces on the left, such as those trumpeted by Oskar Lafontaine in Germany, some Old Labourites and, in part, Royal in France.

It was with the Red-Green coalition of 1998 that the social changes initiated by the 1968 generation found visible representation in the country's political leadership. These accomplishments have now, by and large, penetrated into the political consensus. But many battles for social advances remain to be fought. These need a political home, which for progressive left-wingers in Germany is likely to remain, to a great part, somewhere between the Social Democratic and the Green Party.

For this reason, today's election result in the tiny state of Bremen is important, even though it is a very long road indeed to the next Red-Green coalition on the national level - and, alas, possibly an even longer road to a national Red-Green coalition that can live up to the hopes initially invested in the 1998 Schroeder government.