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Germany rearms

Martin Suchanek, Infomail 1179, 27 February 2022 (abridged)

When the U-turn came, it came fast. At a special session of Germany’s Bundestag on Sunday, February 27, it was agreed to more than double the Army’s budget to 100 billion euros. In addition, the „defence“ budget will be increased to 2 percent of GDP in future years. Germany is rearming.

After months of criticism from the right wing media that he conceded too much to Putin, that his loyalty to „the West“ was in doubt, Olaf Scholz is now a hero, the tabloid Bild, hailed him as „Super-Scholz“. Its editor in chief, Johannes Boie, was ecstatic:

„100 billion euros for the Bundeswehr, immediately! Fighter jets and drone programmes to be accelerated! At last, money for defence, as NATO has long demanded!

„Measures to cut energy costs. Liquid gas terminals for a more independent energy supply!

„A left-wing chancellor is implementing demands for which conservative and bourgeois journalists and politicians have been ridiculed for many, many years.“

What we actually have is a right wing Social Democrat who, like Schroeder with his Agenda 2010, is advancing the interests of German imperialism and leaving behind all the left wing doubters and pacifist talk.

Self-criticism as justification

According to Scholz, Russia’s attack on Ukraine has fundamentally changed the world situation. Coalition ministers and MPs, and some from the CDU/CSU parties, are practising „self-criticism“. For years, they had misjudged Russia under Putin, had been naïve, deceived by Putin and had forgotten their own interests and, of course, democracy and humanity. Now this has to stop.

According to former pacifists from the Greens and the SPD, peace can only be created with weapons. The Bundeswehr, the peacekeepers who sacrificed so much for „democracy“ in Afghanistan and Mali, must finally be modernised, enlarged, upgraded – and, of course, given the public recognition that democratic troops deserve.

Armed drones? State-of-the-art combat aircraft? Yesterday still controversial, today indispensable to „defend democracy“! Arms deliveries to war zones? Until recently only behind the scenes, since 26 February, quite openly. The first 1,000 howitzers are already on their way to Ukraine. Sanctions against Russia, which were controversial yesterday, cannot be enough today – and not only for the SPD, Greens, FPD and CDU/CSU. The right-wing AfD is the only party to criticise the sanctions because they will also harm Germany – but it welcomes arms deliveries to Ukraine and the rearmament it has long demanded.

Left Party

Finally, the Left Party, DIE LINKE, has also made a parliamentary statement. It rejects the rearmament of the Bundeswehr, albeit without a very clear explanation, but it does support the sanctions against Russia. It does not understand the reactionary Russian invasion of Ukraine as part of a larger inter-imperialist struggle for the redivision of the world, and thus fails to name it as such. At the same time, the conflict over Ukraine is currently coming to a head almost inexorably.

That is forcing the German bourgeoisie (and not only it) to adjust its policy. The quantum leap of Germany’s imperialist rearmament, as well as the formation of the Western bloc behind the USA, is dressed up with the usual phrases about „democracy, humanity, human rights“. Where were these in the NATO bombings and the occupation of Afghanistan? Where was the superior humanity in the Yugoslav war? Where was it when the Ukrainian government organised a civil war against the east of its own country, costing the lives of an estimated ten thousand people? Where are the human rights of all those refugees who are crammed into camps at the borders of Fortress EU, in North Africa or Turkey, or drowning in the Mediterranean?

At its special session, the Bundestag did not want to hear anything about this reality of German and „Western“ imperialist democracy and exploitation. And the Left Party also failed, once again, at least as a left opposition in parliament, to denounce its own government and its imperialist policies. It is failing to make clear that the suffering of the Ukrainian people is only a means to an end, not only for the USA and NATO but also for the EU and Germany; to push back Russia and, indirectly, China. For this, not only Putin but also the West accepts that the conflict over Ukraine could turn into an open inter-imperialist war. The decisions of the Bundestag, and a whole series of reciprocal sanctions, increase the danger of the war which they officially want to banish.

Nuclear Power Europe

It is not only the government that speaks of a „turning point“. The bourgeois press, whether Bild, FAZ or Spiegel, has long argued that Germany’s policy towards Russia has failed on a grand scale, allowing itself to be shown up by Putin, neglecting its own interests and above all the Bundeswehr. Now they say Germany is being presented with the bill for this. But, they suggest, the Putin shock could also be positive if it brings a clear change of course. In an article ominously entitled „War again“, one of the editors of the up-market Frankfurter Allgemeine, Berthold Kohler, concludes:

„If the Europeans do not want to bow to Moscow’s attempt – closely followed by Beijing – to create a zone of reduced sovereignty around Russia, then Europe must become a nuclear power worthy of the name. This will not be possible without Germany’s participation.“

A declaration of intent, in Kohler’s sense, was delivered by parliament and government on 27 February. 100 billion for new weapons and other equipment will not be the last special budget, if the rearmament cabinet has its way. The arms industry will be pleased. But behind all this there is a programme to make Germany, and an EU led by Germany, into a real player in the struggle for world domination, an imperialist power on a par militarily with the USA, China and Russia. The FAZ has the dubious merit of spelling out the nuclear and militaristic consequences. In this respect, the organs of the bourgeoisie are more open and honest than their managing committee in the German government.

This is certainly related to the fact that Scholz and the SPD, and even some of the Greens, are often the driven, rather than the driving, forces on rearmament policy. This has its advantages for the justification of such a policy. The Green Foreign Minister, Annalena Baerbock, the „left-wing“ SPD Secretary General, Kevin Kühnert, or even Olaf Scholz himself, are much more likely to be accepted as committed to democracy and human rights, as struggling with a billion-euro rearmament programme and as having „good intentions“ in general, than a neoliberal whip like CDU leader Friedrich Merz or FDP Finance Minister Christian Lindner. However, this does not change the essence of the matter.

Class struggle against militarism

The working class and the class-struggle left must not be deceived by such democratic phrases. Rearmament remains rearmament – for capital and imperialism! And the costs for the programme of billions and for the consequences of the sanctions will have to be paid by workers, whether through social cuts, continued state of emergency in the health system, price increases or factory closures. But they will also have to pay through increasing militarisation, increased, of course exclusively for „democratic“ foreign interventions and by an increasing danger of war.

It is therefore not only necessary to take to the streets against Putin’s reactionary war. At the same time, it must be clear that the war in Ukraine is part of a larger struggle for the redivision of Europe and the world between the great powers. The government’s billion-dollar arms programme and its sanctions are the means by which this new cold war is being fought. And that’s why we need to build a movement that deals with our „own“ ruling class, according to Karl Liebknecht’s motto: „The main enemy is at home!“

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