Angela Merkel, Germany’s conservative chancellor, is steering a cautious course between two conflicting needs.
On the one hand she must convince the German people to pay—everyone with their taxes and some with their lives—for NATO’s Mideast wars. This is no easy task because the sufferings of two world wars have left them with an aversion to military adventures. To motivate them to battle, she and the rest of the establishment are demonizing Muslim fundamentalists as mad-dog murderers who must be stopped before they destroy us. They manipulate German guilt feelings about past atrocities by proclaiming they now have a humanitarian obligation to defeat these new Hitler-like fanatics who threaten the world.
On the other hand she doesn’t want to stir up too much anti-immigrant sentiment. Four million Muslims live in Germany, five percent of the population. This high immigration is part of the ruling class’s deal with their colleagues in the Muslim countries. Emigration of malcontents relieves internal pressure there, helping prevent social anger from building into revolutionary rage. The anger is an inevitable result of repressive polices that hold the working class in servitude, a necessary condition for high profits. The West also provides equipment, finances, and training of military and police there to keep dissent in check.
Immigration provides cheap labor and increased consumption here. But it also causes problems. Many malcontents have now seen both sides of the deal and are fighting to defeat it however and wherever they can. The media call this terrorism, the malcontents call it war with the only weapons they have. The Western right wing exploits their attacks in order to drum up xenophobic nationalism. The rulers distance themselves from that because it’s a barrier to neoliberal globalization, but they can’t go too far because they want the right-wing votes.
Merkel and other Western leaders are seeking a course through an increasingly polarized environment, trying to maintain balance in a wobbly, unstable system: capitalism.
William T. Hathaway is an adjunct professor of American studies at the University of Oldenburg in Germany. His new book, Lila, the Revolutionary, is a fable for adults about an eight-year-old girl who sparks a world revolution for social justice. Chapters are posted on www.amazon.com/dp/1897455844. A selection of his writing is available at www.peacewriter.org.