Factional Struggle within the Establishment

BERLIN |

BERLIN (Own report) - The extreme right in Germany is celebrating the promotion of Hans-Georg Maaßen, the outgoing President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) - the domestic intelligence agency - to become State Secretary in the Ministry of the Interior as a new success. Maaßen had sought to shield right-wing demonstrators by relativizing racist attacks on migrants. He had already manifested a certain affinity toward parliamentarians of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party. Maaßen's promotion comes at a time, when a growing number of sectors of the German establishment - in politics, business, and the media - are undergoing a shift to the right. The AfD party is the most prominent example, whose group in the Bundestag is chaired by a former head of the state chancellery in Hesse alongside a former Goldman Sachs employee. Other examples include elite organizations - such as the Friedrich A. von Hayek Foundation - under the leadership of ultra-rightwing forces. Already in 2010, an influential government advisor reported that there were discussions about "a bit of dictatorship" however, "no constitutional organ" was prepared to take the necessary steps.

Investigations for "Treason"

Already Hans-Georg Maaßen's appointment to be President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV) had been met with sharp public criticism. In 2002, as head of the Aliens Law Department in the Ministry of the Interior, Maaßen had formulated the grounds for the German government to prevent Murat Kurnaz, from Bremen, from returning to Germany from the US torture camp in Guantanamo, even though US authorities had offered to release him. Maaßen argued that - while being detained in the US torture camp - Kurnaz had not extended his German residence permit as required and therefore had lost the right to re-enter Germany.[1] As a result Kurnaz was left to suffer another four years in Guantanamo. As head of domestic intelligence, he later provoked more indignation. In 2015, he had triggered with a denunciation the preliminary investigation of two journalists for "treason." Using internal documents, they had reported critically on the intelligence agency. Because of this blatant attack on freedom of the press, Heiko Maas, at the time, Minister of Justice, asked the Federal Prosecutor, Harald Range, who initiated the investigation, to take temporary retirement. Maaßen remained in office, despite the hefty protests.

Advantages for the AfD

According to reports, Maaßen had always been more conciliatory towards the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party than toward journalists critical of the intelligence services. He repeatedly met with leading AfD politicians for talks. The Bundestag parliamentarian, Stephan Brandner (AfD) noted that, on June 13, 2018, Maaßen had given him information from the BfV's annual report before it had been published. Maaßen denies this.[2] Under Maaßen's leadership, the BfV had ignored information from the Bremen and Lower Saxony state branches, which had led to the AfD youth association Young Alternative (Junge Alternative, JA) being placed under observation in both states. An intelligence officer, involved with this case, was quoted saying "the federal office sits six months on information without processing it."[3] Maaßen triggered his most recent scandal by claiming that he has no indication that on the fringes of right-wing demonstrations in Chemnitz, that refugees were being "hunted down" and that a video showing such an incident was called "deliberate misinformation."[4]

Anchored within the Elites

Maaßen's rise to become Secretary of State in the Ministry of the Interior, where he will be in charge of the federal police, cyber- and information security as well as public security, has occurred in a period, when sectors of the establishment - in politics, business, media and the ministerial bureaucracy - are undergoing a shift to the right. The most prominent example is the AfD, which was founded on the initiative of German economists such as the economics professor Bernd Lucke and the former Federation of German Industries (BDI) President Hans-Olaf Henkel. It is still firmly anchored in sectors of the elite, even though the far-right wing, in the meantime, has taken control of the party. Whereas the party is headed by an economics professor (Bernd Meuthen) and the former head of Hesse's State Chancellery (Alexander Gauland), the parliamentary group in the Bundestag is chaired by Gauland and Alice Weidel, a former employee of both Goldman Sachs and a major financial investment management company. This corresponds to the fact that, according to a recent survey, the AfD electorate tends to be of higher income and a slightly higher-than-average educational level. (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[5])

Shifts to the Right

Shifts to the right can also be seen in business-related elite organizations. For example, 50 members of the Friedrich A. von Hayek Society, an association of around 300 influential economists, entrepreneurs and politicians, have resigned from the association, because they were unable to have a resolution accepted, calling for a policy of unambiguous dissociation from the far right in the AfD. The members of the Hayek Society include the AfD Bundestag parliamentarians, Alice Weidel, Beatrix von Storch and Peter Boehringer, as well as entrepreneurs such as Erich Sixt and Theo Müller ("Müller Milk"), the Bundestag parliamentarian Frank Schäffler (FDP) and the economist Thomas Mayer of the University Witten/Herdecke, considered one of the country's most influential economists. Only recently, the former CDU politician, Friedrich Merz, declined acceptance of an award granted by another influential elite organization - the Ludwig Erhard Foundation's "Ludwig Erhard Prize," on the grounds that the foundation's chair, Roland Tichy, a former Chancellery official under Helmut Kohl, is embarking on a course similar to that of the AfD in his new "Tichy's Insight" media project. The head of the Berlin office of the project, for which also publicists, who for years had been oriented on the Christian Democratic parties, are writing, is the Erhard Foundation's Vice Chair, the former Green Party politician, Oswald Metzger (today in the CDU). When Merz announced his refusal to accept the Ludwig Erhard Prize from Tichy's hand, it triggered a dispute among the jury members, leading to the resignation of four of Tichy's critics. Tichy remains in office as foundation chair.[6]

"A Bit of Dictatorship"

A growing number of influential individuals and organizations from the conservative, liberal or even social democratic spectrum of Germany's establishment, who are publicly taking extreme right-wing positions, are consolidating the image of an elite, who is losing faith that Germany can continue to be reliably guided through the dramatically more acute global rivalry with its previous liberal-conservative, social-liberal methods or even a grand coalition. A publishing house of the Bertelsmann Group made a momentous decision in 2010, when it published the book by the Bundesbank board member Thilo Sarrazin (SPD). The book was imbued with racism, and becoming one of the best-selling nonfictions, had served as a trailblazer for the extreme right-wing.[7] Also in 2010, one of the most influential government advisors explained that currently - evidently in internal debates within German elite circles - "variations of dictatorial powers and measures are discussed." "However, there is no constitutional organ, prepared to go the risk of taking the chance with a provisional dictator." (german-foreign-policy.com reported.[8]) 2010 was the year, when it also became known that one of the Chancellor's most important advisors for military policy, Col. Erich Vad, holds a great sympathy for Hitler's crown jurist, Carl Schmitt. In an article for the extreme right-wing periodical "Sezession," Vad once wrote that the "paralysis of the post-bourgeois political class," whose "conception of the world primarily consists of re-education, the moribund rituals of the settling of historical accounts and the mythology of the '68 movement," could have as a necessary "antidote," the political philosophy of Carl Schmitt. However, it "runs contrary to the idealist utopia of a global development of human rights, a peaceful arrangement between cultures and civilizations and of free, open and multicultural societies."[9]

"A Pre-Fascist Phase"

Vad survived the protests against his positions unscathed. As the Chancellor's advisor in military policy and Secretary of the Federal Security Council he retired in 2013 and today, manages a private consulting agency. Individuals with ties to the "Sezession" magazine and the Institute for State Policy are currently employed by AfD Bundestag parliamentarians and are thus helping to shape their policies. They are backed by a growing right-wing tendency in political publications that can also exploit the growing right-wing street protests. Maaßen defended these street protests against democratic criticism. In view of this general development, Naika Foroutan, a migration researcher at Berlin's Humboldt-University, recently formulated a bleak prognosis. "Germany is becoming more brutal," she said in July. As in other numerous European countries, one can observe a "strategic demoralization of societies." Germany is no exception, "the society's development points toward a pre-fascist phase."[10]

 

[1] See also 17 Years "War on Terror".

[2] Maaßen soll unveröffentlichte Informationen an AfD gegeben haben. tagesspiegel.de 13.09.2018.

[3] Verfassungsschutz soll Hinweise über AfD monatelang liegen gelassen haben. tagesspiegel.de 16.09.2018.

[4] See also Auf dem Weg nach rechts.

[5], [6] See also Rassismus von oben (II).

[7] See also Herrschaftsreserve.

[8] See also A bit of Dictatorship.

[9] See also Der Militärberater der Kanzlerin.

[10] Andrea Dernbach: "Es ist unser Land, verteidigen wir es gemeinsam". tagesspiegel.de 22.07.2018.