The political crisis in Germany and the tortuous road to a “European bloc”

‘Nuevo Curso’ apropos of the ‘Refugee Crisis’ in Europe (June 25, 2018)

1.  The anti-immigrant revolt of the German petty bourgeoisie

» In December last year, we alerted on our Telegram channel that the CSU, the Bavarian party associated with Merkel’s CDU, was turning to the right in an increasingly nationalist discourse. In the context of the stagnation of the bourgeoisie in Germany, which – like the British, Italian or Spanish bourgeoisie at the time – had not yet found the ways and means to renew its political apparatus, the advance of identity politics, beyond the electoral progress of the AfD seemed significant to us. Significant because it pointed out that the nationalist revolt of the European petty bourgeoisie was beginning to condition even the heart of European continental capital. And this up to the point where the “migration question” – the center of all suspicions and fears of the Central European petty bourgeoisie – has come to fracture the most solid German party apparatuses this June.

First there was the party congress of “die Linke”(1) but immediately afterwards there was the CSU-CDU relationship and their coalition government, as Seehofer, the Minister of the Interior and party leader of the CSU, announced legislation that would allow any asylum seeker who had previously passed through a country without any persecution to be rejected “on the spot”, without even consulting the Chancellor. Such legislation was an open revolt against the position defended by Merkel and her authority in the cabinet. The announcement alone led many to consider the “Merkel era” as over. The daily ‘Die Welt’, traditionally a media support for the CDU, went so far as to state that “Merkel’s power currently exists only on paper.” (2)

The crisis once again paralyses the German bourgeoisie, stuck in the mud by fundamental strategic differences. The petty-bourgeois revolt has reached the CDU itself: regional presidents of Merkel’s party have begun to align themselves with “hard” refugee policies. The CDU’s economic council is attacking the “Macronite” proposal, supported by Merkel, to re-insure the unemployment insurances(3) Although Merkel calls for a common European and German front to confront a USA having launched a trade war, the migration debate is Kryptonite for the ‘Grand Coalition’ so laboriously constructed by the chancellor. It suffices to consider the possibility of an AfD strengthening in the polls at the expense of CDU-CSU and SPD. The totality of votes for the governing parties would not reach 50%. (4)

2.  A refugee crisis or a crisis of Franco-German imperialism?

The entire political government apparatus is clearly breaking down. Merkel responds to Minister Seehofer’s outrage by buying time. She has obtained a delay of two weeks to “Europeanize” the issue by promising that next Thursday’s summit (5) will provide a multilateral framework for the Bavarian ambitions. That’s when Macron and Juncker have maneuvered to save Merkel. The alternative to the tough chancellor is a new political paralysis in Germany that could tie the hands of a whole continent. The Spanish bourgeoisie on its part has its hands on its head: “If Merkel falls, everything falls”, they assure. (6)

Macron hopes that Merkel and German capital will begin a realignment. Because the bottom line is that the French and German bourgeoisie are forced to discipline the EU around them, (7) to try to articulate an anti-American bloc (8) and expand foreign markets to compensate for the growing damage caused by the trade war with the USA (9) and the customs skirmishes with China. Merkel at first realized that every step forward only would serve to accelerate the entry into an era of increasingly violent conflict and has tried to keep at a distance from Macron’s famous “impulse”… only to regret this as the G7 summit confirmed to her that the USA is not going to provide for truces in the trade war. Merkel’s weakness is that of a German bourgeoisie who does neither have a unified position on the imperialist strategy to follow in the new context of the trade war, nor on how to integrate the demands and fears of its petty bourgeoisie into the renewal of the political state apparatus.

3.  Salvini, Italy and the refugees

Germany is by no means the only country with a petty bourgeoisie in revolt. In Italy the formation of a Lega – 5 Stars Movement axis, supported by sectors of the big industrial bourgeoisie, led the desperation of the petty bourgeoisie into a true “national liberation movement” against the euro. Following the failure of its first attempt to form a government, under the pressure of Brussels and Berlin and of the direct intervention of the Presidency – the head of the [national] state and of the state bourgeoisie – the new political leadership of the Italian state has turned toward a new front. The “Aquarius” crisis highlighted Germany’s fractures, its inability to discipline even Austria and Bavaria, and the EU’s inability to discipline its partners even minimally.

But beneath the demagogic battle and the arguments about the shipwrecked and the refugees, much more was looming. For Salvini, di Maio and Conte, it is about assaulting the euro by putting Italy at the heart of the solution to the internal political battle in Germany. With Merkel chased by polls and hanging in the ropes within her own government, the same German press acknowledges that “German hopes rest, as so often, in the wallet”. In other words, the German bourgeoisie is prepared to “pay”. Hours before the hasty Brussels summit, conjectures [proliferate] about the possible exchanges between Germany and Italy. The bet of the German analysts is that the underhand tricks of Salvini and Conte pursue a re-balancing of the euro and a hidden debt acquittal. (10)

The mini-summit [of Sunday June 24] provides a good example of the limits imposed on the Franco-German axis as a whole by the emergence of identity politics and the centrifugal forces of the petty bourgeoisie. The ‘Visegrad bloc’ (11) did not disappoint and boycotted the ‘mini-summit’; the Netherlands, certainly the EU state entertaining the most brutal racist discourse, immediately jumped on the bandwagon of theMacronite” proposals for an European micro-budget that would at least symbolically compensate for the imbalances of the euro; Bulgaria defended a total closure of the borders and Austria proposed to militarize the Mediterranean Sea to reject the rescue ships.

A fine picture to which the media tried to make the new axis Macron-Sánchez, and its proposal to Europeanize the asylum seekers’ centers by turning them into “reception platforms”, (12) look pretty, even if it has not escaped to anyone that “Macron, who likes to give lectures on European values, would already be prepared to accept that the rescue boats should be sent back to Libya.” (13) For in the end, as we saw from the moment Italy opened the summit with its “10 points,” the hypocritical “concern” for the refugees of some is as false as the fear of a social fracture claimed by others. Immigrants, shipwrecked and refugees are just instruments, weapons thrown into a fight in which the smell of blood on the (German) shepherd has turned half a herd of supposed European humanitarian sheep into wolves.

4.  A new EU within the EU

This mini-summit opens a scenario that will probably be resolved at two different levels. The first one presumes that there already exists a certain European consensus: the “European Asylum Service” will become a genuine European agency which will receive asylum applications from the whole of the EU and distribute them in accordance with the Italian requirement that refugees should not be left to the [sole responsibility of the] receiving country but to [that of] the European Union as a whole. In addition, Frontex will become a common European border guard, relieving the border countries of costs and responsibilities. And finally, and very possibly at the expense of Germany, the EU will embark on funding programs for Morocco, Algeria and Libya, managed by Spain, France and Italy respectively, to engage North African states in containing migratory flows from the African continent before they reach the coast or the fences of Ceuta and Melilla. In other words, France, Spain and Italy will cede sovereignty to Frontex in exchange for gaining “European” instruments with which to strengthen their own imperialist policies in the Maghreb and Libya.

The second scenario has much more background… and it will be much more opaque. Merkel confides the unblocking of the crisis to the development of bilateral agreements on migration and refugees. It would thus form a “hard core” on the migration issue, to which the Spanish bourgeoisie already reckons itself – with pleasure. Once again, the migrants are just an excuse. The consolidation of the Franco-German axis with a corona of countries that would “deepen” the treaties could have important consequences in the medium and long term.

For Germany, this new path would present itself as an opportunity to break out of an increasingly dangerous impasse in the context of a relentless trade war that is reshaping the world per day. (14) For France, which immediately joined in the idea of “moving forward without hoping for consensus”, it would also mean the opportunity to compromise and tie in a hesitant and fractured German bourgeoisie. For Italy, [it carries with it] the opportunity to recover its centrality, clean up its financial capital and get rid of some of the constraints imposed on it by Brussels. For Spain, the possibility of strengthening its presence in South America while becoming a vehicle for its European partners. For weaker countries like Portugal or Greece, the only option is to have a lifeline when the next, and apparently imminent, recession erupts. Over all it means building a “European bloc”, more belligerent in Africa and Latin America, more open to agreements with Russia, and in a discursive and economic battle against the USA. «


Translation: H.C., June 27, 2018

Annotations: July 3, 2018


3  A French proposal to allow members states like Spain or Italy (where unemployment skyrockets easily in the first moments of every crisis) to receive loans for financing their unemployment subsidies, in case of a catastrophic crisis like 2009 in Spain, at better prices than the sovereign debt market.

5  The European Council at Brussels on June 28 and 29.

7  In English on this blog: The great German winter offensive (AFRD#02, March 31, 2018; article 3/3))

8  In English in AFRD#03, May 31, 2018: ‘Nuevo Curso’: Is an anti-US bloc emerging around Germany?

11  In English on this blog:  The blocks at war under the European Union (AFRD#02, March 31, 2018; article 2/3)