In de­fense of An­gela Merkel

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The re­cent cover of show­ing Ger­man Chan­cel­lor An­gela Merkel in front of the Acrop­o­lis sur­rounded by Nazi of­fi­cers serves an im­por­tant pur­pose: it fi­nally poses, in a way that can­not be evaded, the ques­tion of Ger­manopho­bia in Europe.

The abuse of Ger­many has dragged on for quite some time. Demon­stra­tions in Cyprus in March 2013 in­cluded ban­ners bear­ing car­i­ca­tures of Merkel done up as Adolf Hitler. In Va­len­cia at around the same time, on the oc­ca­sion of the an­nual Fal­las cel­e­bra­tion, there was Merkel as an evil head­mistress de­liv­er­ing to the head of the Span­ish gov­ern­ment and his min­is­ters “The Ten Com­mand­ments of An­gela the Ex­ter­mi­na­tor.” She ended up be­ing burned in ef­figy in the flames of the bon­fires of St. Joseph.

Two months later, in Por­tu­gal, sim­i­lar pa­rades fea­tured the same Hit­lerised Merkel car­i­ca­tures, borne by howl­ing demon­stra­tors dressed in mourn­ing clothes and de­cry­ing the Ger­man leader’s “pol­icy of mas­sacring the poor.”

And, nat­u­rally, there was Greece, where the phe­nom­e­non reached its apogee dur­ing the near-ri­ots of Oc­to­ber 2012, in which the world was treated to the spec­ta­cle of Nazi and Ger­man flags flown to­gether – and then burned to­gether – be­fore the Acrop­o­lis in scenes that pre­saged the cover.

In Italy, the right-wing daily news­pa­per Il Gior­nale had no scru­ples about de­vot­ing its head­line for Au­gust 3, 2012, to the emer­gence of the “Fourth Re­ich.” Like­wise, con­spir­acy web­sites in the coun­tries of north­ern Europe claim that Ger­many’s ea­ger­ness to sup­port Ukrainian Pres­i­dent Petro Poroshenko against Rus­sian Pres­i­dent Vladimir Putin is a reen­act­ment of Hitler’s sub­ju­ga­tion of Ukraine. Then there is France, where the game seems to be to see who can come out on top in pop­ulist de­nun­ci­a­tions of the new and de­testable “Ger­man em­pire.” From the ex­treme right, Na­tional Front leader Marine Le Pen chides Merkel for the “suf­fer­ing” that she is im­pos­ing on the peo­ples of Europe. From the op­po­site ex­treme, we have the Left Party’s Jean-Luc Mé­len­chon thun­der­ing against Merkel’s “aus­ter­ity” pol­icy and invit­ing her to “shut up.”

The prob­lem with this Ger­manopho­bia is not sim­ply that it is stupid, or that it is yet an­other symp­tom of the de­com­po­si­tion, be­fore our eyes, of the noble Euro­pean project of in­te­gra­tion and ever-closer union.

No, the prob­lem with to­day’s Ger­manopho­bia is that, con­trary to what the sor­cerer’s ap­pren­tices who stoke it would have us be­lieve, their be­hav­iour is not a sign of their op­po­si­tion to the true fas­cism that lies on the hori­zon, but rather of their al­le­giance – and even con­tri­bu­tion – to it. Why? There are sev­eral rea­sons. For starters, to op­pose Ger­many’s so­cial, eco­nomic, and for­eign poli­cies by equat­ing Merkel with Hitler is to ba­nalise Hitler. How­ever le­git­i­mate dis­agree­ment with those poli­cies may be, Ger­many is one of the con­ti­nent’s most scrupu­lous and ex­em­plary democ­ra­cies. To say that it re­sem­bles in any way the Nazi regime – which in Europe still stands for the de­struc­tion of democ­racy (in­deed, civil­i­sa­tion it­self) – is to ex­on­er­ate that regime, and to re­as­sure and en­cour­age to­day’s neo-fas­cists, al­low­ing them, whether in­ten­tion­ally or not, to reen­ter the public de­bate.

What is more (and this is key), those keen­est to dis­credit Merkel just hap­pen to be the same peo­ple who do not hes­i­tate to waltz with Vi­en­nese neo-Nazis or to form an al­liance, as in Athens, with the lead­ers of a gen­uinely ex­trem­ist party. All of the clamor raised around a Ger­many that has sup­pos­edly “re­united with its demons” masks the voice of fascis­tic par­ties – from Greece’s Golden Dawn to Hun­gary’s Job­bik, Slo­vakia’s SNS, Bel­gium’s Vlaams Be­lang, and Bul­garia’s Ataka – that are in the process of es­tab­lish­ing them­selves in Europe.

It should also be noted that Merkel is a woman, and that ha­tred for women – the dis­dain in which they, right along­side the Jews, were re­garded by the racist the­o­reti­cians of the 1920s and 1930s – has been an es­sen­tial di­men­sion of ev­ery ex­pres­sion of fas­cism. Like­wise, the slo­gans slung about in Va­len­cia in Oc­to­ber 2012 – with demon­stra­tors urged to chant at the chan­cel­lor’s ef­figy, “You will love money above all else” and “You will honor the banks and the Bank” – had the un­mis­tak­ably foul odour of the old mantras about “the golden calf” and the “cos­mopoli­tan plu­toc­racy.”

Peo­ple have fi­nally come to un­der­stand that anti-Amer­i­can­ism, born on the ex­treme right and fed, in Ger­many, for ex­am­ple, by the phi­los­o­phy of Martin Hei­derg­ger and his acolytes, is a fix­ture of fas­cism.

It is now time for us to un­der­stand that the same is true of Ger­manopho­bia. In France, it ap­peared with the French an­tiSemitic nov­el­ist and ac­tivist Mau­rice Bar­rès, who saw in the phi­los­o­phy of Im­manuel Kant a ve­hi­cle for the “Jewifi­ca­tion” of Euro­pean minds. It tri­umphed with Charles Mau­r­ras’ Ac­tion Française and its pro­tracted war with “Jewish and Ger­manic ab­strac­tions.” And it cul­mi­nated with the red-brown cells that, even to­day, on sites that I pre­fer not to men­tion, of­fer “grub” and a “hide­out” for per­sons will­ing to “bump off” the “bosses” on the chan­cel­lor’s “pay­roll.”

The his­tory of ideas has its logic, rea­son, and folly, its un­con­scious and its tra­jec­tory. It is both fu­tile and danger­ous to deny any of them.

That is why, to­day, it is crit­i­cally im­por­tant, in the face of a dark force that is ris­ing, swelling, and un­furl­ing in Europe, to de­fend An­gela Merkel.

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