richard barbrook on 5 Oct 2000 14:19:22 -0000


[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

<nettime> HORST MAHLER: THE ROLE OF A SAD SACK


	HORST MAHLER: THE ROLE OF A SAD SACK

	John Barker <harrier@easynet.co.uk>

'FORMER BAADER-MEINHOF GUERRILLA CONVERTS TO NEO-NAZI PROPAGANDIST.' This
is a headline in Imre Karacs article in 'The Independent' (1/9/00). It
might well have had as a sub-heading: GERMAN PHILOSOPHER BLAMED. The
convert is Horst Mahler 'now sitting in the office of his prosperous legal
practice in West Berlin's gastronomic zone', and the philosopher, that man
Hegel, who the convert lawyer claims, he swotted up on during his ten years
in the jail as a Red Army Faction associate, and who brought him to the
conclusion "Foreigners are salt in the soup. Too many foreigners spoil the
broth".

	The language tells a tale, the folksy bad faith of these ludicrous
metaphors. In the last week Mahler joined the NPD, the paper reports, and
now he has a busy calendar 'often at the invitation of respectable middle
class circles'. There, after or before the speech has been made perhaps,
the broth is to his taste, bland but meaty.

	This transformation from ultra-leftist of the bolshevik avant-garde
type to racist nationalist is not new, it was a standard move for certain
pre-war French communists for example. Writing "Mimesis" during World War
II in the haven of Istanbul (which had in a previous age provided a safe
place for the expelled Jews of Western Europe) the great literary critic
Erich Auerbach provided some context for the modernist current in
literature when he talked of the crises of adjustment caused by the uneven
development of modernity. "In Europe this violent clash of the most
heterogenous ways of life and kinds of endeavour undermined not only
those...principles which were part of the traditional heritage...it
undermined even the new revolutionary forces of socialism, whose origins
did not go back beyond the heyday of the capitalist system. These forces
threatened to split up and disintegrate. They lost their unity and clear
definition through...strange alliances which some of these groups made with
non-socialist ideologies...and finally through the propensity of many of
their leaders to switch to the side of their most extreme enemies...The
temptation to entrust oneself to a sect which solved all problems with a
single formula whose power of suggestion imposed solidarity and which
ostracized everything which would not fit in and submit was so great that,
with many people, fascism hardly had to impose force..."  We might add that
such leaders switching sides are functional to the capitalist status quo
whereby 'extremist' becomes a political category of its own, 'left' or
'right' same difference.

	It is true that Turkey no longer provides the liberal refuge it
once did and is instead dictatorial expansionist and in receipt of a
favourable Western Press vis--vis Greece for example, but Mahler's hostile
take is not on the Turkish state but its people. "Turks are a problem.
There are simply too many of them over here...and they are becoming more
extreme and fundamentalist with every generation," he is quoted as saying.
At the same time he describes Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer and the
present Chancellor Gerhard Schroder as 'traitors'. Ironies spring up
everywhere. Imre Karacs focuses on the fact that it was Schroder as lawyer
who got Mahler out of jail after 10 and ensured that Mahler too could
practice again as a lawyer, and also that his government runs one of the
harshest asylum regimes in Western Europe. More to the point however is
that this government Mahler is confident enough to be rancorous about, is
the one that has failed to keep its promise of separating citizenship from
ethnic origins. If Fischer is a traitor it is to those who voted for his
Green Party and this promise. It is a failure which can only have given
confidence to the NPD. And most of all, irony-wise, there is Mahler talking
of Turks becoming more extreme and fundamentalist. Nothing to laugh about
either. If his allegation is even partially true it must be satisfying to
him and his politics since extremist fundamentalists need each other even
when they are hate figures for each other.

	Turkey as a problem also has its place in the geo-political
mish-mash, Mahler now talks, that is, anti-semitism dressed up as
anti-American/anti-globalization rhetoric. This is his argument as quoted:
"I am convinced that the geo-strategic aim of the US, the East Coast, lets
say Wall Street, is to balkanize Europe, thus to neutralize Europe's
competing power for ever. That's why Clinton is proposing that the EU
should admit Turkey." By 'Wall Street', he says "I don't mean the Jews. I
mean the organised bank capital in which Jews play the decisive role. These
Jewish circles...they are the ruling world power...The Torah is
inhuman...It preaches genocide and issues the divine order to Jews that it
expects them to kill men, women and children in the name of their God...In
1968 we went to the streets to fight US imperialism. Nothing has changed.
Today it is called 'globalisation', but it's the same thing, a principle
that destroys peoples."

	This bog standard European anti-semitism could have been written
anytime in the 20th century and as always has the function of sidetracking
a critique of capitalism into a matter of ethnicity. Terrible that it
should need unpicking yet again but necessary when other voices claiming a
'leftist' heritage have opposed a capitalist driven globalisation with what
in reality are religious or ethnic fundamentalisms; and when
anti-Americanism per se has been the radical rhetoric of the worst kind of
ethnic nationalisms. Necessary too when capitalist-defined globalisation is
increasing the power and wealth of the already powerful and wealthy, and
does need to be opposed.

	This globalisation may be American-led but the capitalist powers as
a group, European and Japanese too, have long known that they need the USA
as the central agent of their collective dominance. It is also true that
the USA has a cynically uncritical view of the Turkish regime because of
its geo-political role in relation to the middle-east and Russia. But they
are not alone in this, other European states are also keen seeing the
market size of the country. It is also well-known that the much-criticized
Greek opposition to Turkish entry (one based on not wholly unjustified
fears) is handy for the German government in that it does not need to be so
open in its opposition to Turkish entry, an entry which would surely demand
proper changes in German citizenship laws. The 'traitors' of the government
seem no more keen than Mahler himself for such a thing to happen.

	As in 1930s nationalist rhetoric the prominence of finance capital
is picked out by Mahler. In the era of financial liberalization and
free-floating currencies, the power of such capital (whose flows exceed
trade flows many times over) is as never before. Its victims however are
not middle class Germans but the peoples of the 'Third World' and more
recently even the more prosperous parts of South East Asia. Equally the
role of the USA is not a monopoly one, far from it, even if it has
undertaken to manage potential crises for finance capital. Deutsche Bank,
ANB, Lloyds, HSBC and a whole raft of European investment funds have all
done well in the deregulated world. Mahler's Wall St/Jewish conspiracy line
also ignores the continued massive economic weight of the oil and armaments
businesses which are hardnosed and politicized WASP affairs.

	To unpick the arguments of this sad sack of shit may seem to be
hardly necessary but his case has a wider resonance. For one thing there is
a strong-anti-nationalist movement against capitalist-defined globalisation
in the Third and First Worlds which, as we've seen in London, Washington,
Seattle and Prague is an alliance without an avant-garde, without the
manifestos of those claiming a monopoly of the truth, and which in the
Third World too has avoided radicalism that is military, charismatic or
rhetorical only. This has obviously proved intolerable to Horst Mahler. The
defeat of what might be called '1968 aspirations' for 25 years has been a
bitter disappointment for many and has produced various morbid symptoms
from fantasies of abstract nomadism to adhesion to those 'sects with a
single answer' as described by Auerbach. In prison, for an avant-gardist
Bolshevik,  it must have been that much the worse, and his present ghastly
certainties more comforting than the messy democracy of a youthful mass
movement which has no time for racist paranoia.

	This sense of defeat is in the present day both childish and
unnecessary and for some leftists who feel it, allowed them to feel
comfortable with a strategy of "the enemy of my enemy is my friend" when
the enemy has been 'US imperialism'. In part it is generational, left over
from a Cold War in which leaders however corrupt and repressive could be
supported if they said the right things. In more recent times the notion of
cultural relativism has provided a similar rationalisation.

	In the middle-east where US-led imperialism has prevented the
development of any progressive secular politics from the moment Mossadeq
was overthrown in 1953, it is at least understandable why many might look
to Saddam Hussein-despite his history-to Stand Up to the West. In Europe
there is no such excuse, no excuse for example for the de facto support for
Milosevic the ethnic-cleanser from sections of the left.

		Personally I feel myself to be a European glad not to be an
American in a country with a massive prison population and capital
punishment regime aimed predominantly at black Americans but have no
illusions as to the European ruling class being morally superior. Nor about
the way Fortress Europe is being constructed, not by Horst Mahler but those
in government. Mahler's expressed fears of Germany being swamped employs
the same language which dominates media debate and political attitudes to
immigration and refugees. What Imre Karacs, like most media reporting,
leaves out is how functional the NPD, Horst Mahler and 'sects with a simple
formula' are to globalised capitalism in Fortress Europe. He government who
have erected it know that western European demographics demand 'economic
migrants'. It is in the interests of globalised capitalism that such
migrants should be made to feel threatened and insecure and thus be more
likely to accept wages and conditions that do not threaten those interests.

The western media like Imre Karacs' report of Mahler's conversion prefers
to concentrate on the racism of 'skinheads' and east Germany, despite those
'respectable middle class circles' at which he speaks. Not that there
aren't such people, the recent murder of a Mozambiquan man married to a
German woman was horrific. But what of the firebombing of a hostel in
Hamburg and what of those respectable middle class circles. It is a canard
of a certain kind of leftist politics that does not like, let alone trust
the working class, that it is this class which is responsible for racism
when in large cities and especially amongst young people this is manifestly
not the case. Such blindness to the truth can only make things easier for
Mahler and his broth.


#  distributed via <nettime>: no commercial use without permission
#  <nettime> is a moderated mailing list for net criticism,
#  collaborative text filtering and cultural politics of the nets
#  more info: majordomo@bbs.thing.net and "info nettime-l" in the msg body
#  archive: http://www.nettime.org contact: nettime@bbs.thing.net