[Translated from Freerk Huisken's presentation to the panel discussion Different League Same Sport: On democratic nationalism and fascist ideology, April 30, 2009, Hannover, Germany]
1. Fascists, old and new, are neither the product of traditions nor the result of spontaneous, individual notions. Fascists — the Germans after Weimar and in the current republic, as well as the French, Italian, Danish or Romanian fascists — are disappointed nationalists; disappointed by the politics of the government they live under. That is to say, they are drawn — in Germany and in other European states — from the supporters of democratic-capitalist rule, hold citizenship of their nation state, are proud of that and share the key objectives of democratic-capitalist leadership. They are first of all — like German politicians Brandt, Kohl, Schrder, Merkel, Lafontaine or Fischer — for securing and expanding the power of their nation-state, both internally and against external state competitors; secondly, they are supporters of capitalist economic growth on which the wealth of the state is based, and with which the political leaders of the nation want to increase power, influence, and importance; and thirdly, they attach great importance to the unity of the nation’s people, who represent for them the key productive force in the global struggle for strengthening national sovereignty, its economic basis, and for securing its hegemony. Fascists begin their political careers as good, honest (democratic) nationalists, to whom pride in the homeland and service to the fatherland are already worth some private sacrifice.
2. Such nationalists become disappointed in democracy out of their fundamental approval for the aims of the democratic state if, or because, they are of the opinion that the clique of leading politicians across all parties are betraying the highest aims of the nation. From the diagnosis of betrayal, they draw the conclusion that their nation state, which is called to greatness, is at a minimum being ruined, if not doomed to destruction, by the incumbent rulers.
Their diagnosis of betrayal attaches itself to the following points:
—They discover elements alien to the nation, which undermine national unity and thereby weaken the productive force of the nations people. At one time, those elements primarily included Bolsheviks/Communists and Jews or Jew-ridden Bolshevism (Hitler), which, although surely non-German, had nestled into the German national body; today it is primarily foreigners.
—They complain that the state is too submissive to capital, which does not place its capacities at the service of the nation, i.e., does not calculate in the national interest but rather increases its profits according to private calculations: whenever, with whomever, and wherever.
—And they regard it as a particularly despicable form of betrayal of the fatherland that their homeland surrenders its highest purpose, namely, national sovereignty, by entering into alliances with competitors or former enemies (EU, NATO ) instead of asserting its sovereignty globally as its most important and purely national mission.
3. This diagnosis of demise made by disappointed nationalists does not hit on the democratic-capitalist reason-of-state and its implementation, since this is not a matter of debate for any democratic party. Though the leaders of the nation allow themselves a few calculated compromises when implementing the fundamentals, these compromises always take their measure from the national benefit:
—In Germany, the goal of national unity still stands at the top of the political agenda of all major parties and those — like The Greens/The Left Party — that would still like to make it. Enemies of the nation and elements foreign to the nation have a tough time of it under democratic rule: communism had to be eradicated as a subversive force; something the post-war democrats have implemented — in this case they successfully took up the legacy of German National Socialism — with, for example, the ban on the German Communist Party and anti-totalitarianism as state doctrine. According to the key principle of foreign policy, foreigners have in principle no business being here just because they are foreigners. And when foreign affairs politicians sometimes make exceptions to their principles — guest workers, green cards, etc. — then only in order to make use of, for national purposes, as temporarily as possible, poor people with foreign passports, as a general rule. They then must do menial work; function as cheep workers squeezing wages; and represent an additional, even cheaper and forcedly even more willing reserve army.
—To be sure, the democratic state, on whose power capitalist private property is based, makes itself the servant of capital and its growth in its policies — something that government intervention in the current crisis verifies all too clearly. But by no means disinterestedly: it knows it is in fact the second beneficiary of the success of global, capitalist exploitation, since the wealth available to the state depends on nothing other than the profits of its favorite citizens. It participates in the private success of its capital through taxes and government debt.
—Finally, the alliance policy that the European states and the USA signed off on indeed relativizes national sovereignty — but mind: relativizes it, but by no means surrenders it. The nation states of the European Union do open their internal borders, but conversely strengthen control of all their external borders against unwanted foreign border-crossers, jointly establish large corporations (Airbus) and meanwhile pool their military resources in order to be unbeatable with their combined military power. In all cases, each participating nation state intends to reap its own benefit from the pooling of political, economic, and military forces.
4. So disillusioned nationalists turn out to be radical idealists of democratic principles and democratic state purposes. What is unbearable to them is the realism of the ruling democrats, who know quite well that their goals cannot be pushed through in confrontation with the US and the rest of Europe these days; consequently they have to swallow one or another bitter pill, make compromises and concessions, but despite that ultimately at the same time always furthering their national interests in the slipstream of the US military superpower and the EU. They see the demise of the nation where democrats in power relativize their racism against foreigners in nationally calculated terms; and consider growth-oriented, business-location policy, which for all governing teams forms the royal road to increasing the wealth and importance of the nation in the normal economic state of capitalism, to be subjugation of the state to the dealings of traitors to their own county.
5. And the results of the policies of postwar democracy speak for themselves. According to the imperialist standards by which Germany's leadership has measured itself now for 60 years, the former war loser has written a success story of an impressive kind:
—The national growth has catapulted Germany into the first team of capitalist nations. It is the world export champion and its currency, the deutsche mark, served as the basis of the euro, which has now made it to second world money.
—Politically, Germany has some say in the club of the powerful (G7/8), is trying to gain more influence against the USA out of that membership with Europe qua weapon, and takes part in all present-day NATO wars with products of its nations armaments manufacturers.
—All the revanchist aims of Germany have worked out: with the annexation of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany), Germany has acquired new importance by means of a complete state with a land and people; and hegemonic access to the Eastern European states, their resources, and their strategic significance is also not half bad.
—And with all this, the nations people in their — unfortunately — overwhelming majority are completely with the program and nothing has changed their good opinions of Germany and its alternating democratic leadership, neither unemployment, Hartz-IV labor and welfare reforms, forced exploitation, real wage cuts and minimum wages, nor the destruction of the environment, radiating nuclear reactors, ruined food, prospects of pandemics, and in the end, not even crises and wars. The elections substantiate that as much as do recent polls: 60% of all Germans are proud to be German (Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, April 30, 2009). And finally, the German trade unions have the audacity to boast that Germany is the country with the lowest number of strike days per year in Europe.
6. The new fascists, who bring their love of country to bear these days in the form of political parties (National Democratic Party, German People's Union, The Republicans) against the major democratic parties, are thus, with their prophecy of doom, rather implausible for German citizens, who have set their gaze firmly on the nations successes. Quite in contrast to the Weimar era, when the Nazis could score points by referring to territorial losses, reparations obligations, expulsion from the League of Nations, a rebellious working class, elements foreign to the nation, and everything else that seasoned nationalists at that time felt as unbearable humiliation. The imperial successes of democratic capitalism are today the reason for the failure of the efforts of neo-fascists to take power. The political persecution of the NPD, etc., which as an unwelcome competitor is not wanted in concert with the democratic parties, goes a step further, so that the neo-fascists regularly have problems with the 5% threshold in elections one of the lessons of Weimar for wearing down extremists. And only where modern fascists borrow from the realism of the major democratic parties in their political program — in Germany this can be seen in the policies of the NPD in regional parliaments — do they have prospects for participating in power (see Italy, etc.). They thereby become electable for wider parts of the nation: no wonder when they are then hardly distinguishable from the democratic competition, which advances its own political program.
Incidentally, post-war Germany has itself long since made provisions for the case of national emergencies that it no longer wants to handle democratically: the major national parties have unanimously resolved to record the legal transition to fascist procedures for national management of crises, civil and other wars in the emergency laws and only recently have supplemented them with some lovely bodies of laws against terrorism, extremism, and organized crime. If they decide on a state of national emergency, democrats will be taking the liberty of transitioning to fascism quite without a change of government.
Leftist anti-fascists behave at the moment as auxiliary troops of official, democratic anti-fascism; i.e., as democracys cleaning staff that intends to wipe this form of rule clean of blood stains. They therefore oughtnt be surprised when prime ministers and representatives of the major parties grace their antifascist demonstrations with their presence. One doesnt fight fascism as a useful idiot for democratic rule. One has to make the object of protest the swamp from which it arises: nationalism in leadership and people. Anyone who wants that has to take a different stance, not as a narrow-minded anti-fascist who takes it as his national-moral duty to warn against the possibility of a return of the most barbaric form of bourgeois rule, but rather as a critic of the actually existing barbarity of capitalism and the exercise of power of actually existing democratic rule.