Intakes: 'Rostock or: How the new Germany is being governed'

In this abridged translation of an article originally published in Wildcat (Germany), it is shown how the state is using the issue of racism to develop its 'social strategy of tension'.

Submitted by Joseph Kay on September 26, 2006

The 'Intake' article this issue is taken from #60 of the German magazine Wildcat (Shiraz e.V. - Postfach 301206 - 50782 Köln), a copy of which was sent to us with the request that it be circulated.

The text seeks to give an overview of the relationship between capitalist restructuring and immigration in Germany. Whilst we are well aware that the Fascists pose a real threat to German immigrants, the idea that they threaten to take state power in Germany (the '4th Reich') is a product of the media and some anti-fascists. Despise this the 'fascism/anti-fascism trap' appears to be working; with the state focusing on right-wing violence in an attempt to make the public forget about the social and political crisis. Thus the stale tries to exploit the majority's rejection of the extreme-right by imposing new laws (e.g. high sentences for 'violent crimes', 'against right and left extremism', increased surveillance etc....) which it then portrays as 'democratic'.

But the state has been unable to completely co-opt the anti-fascist movement. This was shown by the clashes between the left and the police at the government sponsored 'anti-racist' demonstration in Berlin on November 8th 1992, where Kohl was heckled by large sections of the crowd. And the recent murders of five Turkish women in Sollingen were followed by two nights of rioting and looting as the community vented its anger on the police and capitalist property. Indeed Turkish youths have begun to organise themselves into gangs to protect their communities from the far-right, resulting in running battles between themselves and the fascists.

Yet despite these actions the German state, with the help of the media, has managed to secure the general consensus that legal foreign workers are OK, whilst asylum seekers should be deported as rapidly as possible under the new 'fast-track' procedure.

Rostock or: How the New Germany is being Governed

Although the burning of ZASt (the central office for asylum claimants] in Rostock was made a symbol by the media and the Left, it is necessary to locate violence against asylum seekers in the general context of class struggle and capitalist restructuring currently occurring in Germany (and throughout Europe in general). This requires a detailed analysis which relates the riots in front of the asylum camps to housing shortages, rising unemployment, restructuring of the factories, state labour market policy, juvenile rebellion and so on. So far we have only partial answers to these questions, and there has been a tendency for anti-fascists to become fixated with re-runs of '33. But it is clear that the state is seeking to manipulate the conflicts around the 'asylum problem' in order to try out a new form of politics within Germany, i.e. a strategy of tension. The riots in front of the asylum camps nearly all had a common pattern: a heating up of the situation by the state, letting go of fascist groupings, protection of the riots against interventions by anti-fascists. Thus the riots serve as a smoke screen in an effort to distract the German working class from the welfare cuts decided last summer, and act to legitimise the further militarisation of the repressive apparatus. The attacks on foreigners are to enable a stronger hierarchisation of the labour movement and a fragmentation of the class. To a degree the state's policy is succeeding with a rise of racism within the class.

Migration into metropolis

The destruction of possibilities for self-reproduction by capitalist development or non-development, wars, starvation in the case of Africa, the changes in the East, etc., are sparking off migration movements on a worldwide scale. Millions of people are trying to reach regions where they are able to secure their survival (in a better way). Only a small percentage of these people have a chance of reaching Europe (due to large distances, and the high costs of travelling) and many of those who do arrive here are caught and turned back at the borders. However those who succeed in breaching 'fortress Europe' are subject to racist attacks both by the state apparatus and right-wing groups. At the moment, in all Western European countries intensified conflicts are taking place between natives from the lower layers of society (workers, welfare recipients, petit-bourgeois) and immigrants searching for self-reproduction possibilities; brawls between Greek and Albanian workers, attacks on Africans in Italy and France, arson against refugees' homes and street riots in Germany. The fact that the 'multicultural middle-classes' show up less doesn't mean they're less racist: for them, refugees initially provide no competition in the housing and labour markets, their kids don't have the problems of overcrowded school classes with a high percentage of foreigners, and asylum camps or ZASt are rarely if ever located in their neighbourhoods. In Germany, the demand for cheap labour has traditionally been met by immigrants. Until recently assimilated immigrants were able to secure wages approaching the levels of the worst paid Germans. Now German capitalists are trying to counteract this by a hierarchisation of immigration and a slowing down of the assimilation process. This is being accompanied by the implementation of seasonal contracts, and the use of casual workers from Poland, Yugoslavia, Hungary, Romania, CSFR, Bulgaria, Russia for much lower wages.

An illegal workforce is much cheaper for the single entrepreneur, but these 'illegal' immigrants pay no taxes or social contributions. However the German social system can only be financed by the immigration of a young workforce, whose education didn't cost the German state anything, and who are working here and filling up the coffers of the health insurers and pension funds, whilst receiving few, or no payments if they go back to their native countries. Thus the state has a financial interest in a legal regulation of migrant work. For this purpose, the Grundgesetz [provisional constitution of the BRD] article 16 which guarantees the individual the right to claim asylum and to stay in Germany until a court has decided upon the individual case is dysfunctional: after recruitment stoppage and the obligatory visa. it becomes the only way to legally come to Germany. It excludes the conditions of the free market and actually prevents the taking up of a job. But the concentration of immigrants in 'asylum houses' has served to make the refugees visible as a 'problem' whilst preventing contacts with other proletarians. Until now, this has worked quite well, preventing common struggles (e.g. for decent housing). But the bureaucratic process hinders people from starting a 'normal' job. At the moment less than 10% of those caught crossing the border illegally say they are claiming 'asylum'; most of them want to 'work' here and would rather get deported and try again soon than be subject to displacement in the camps under bureaucratic control. The most rational solution for capital (to let the workforce in) would be an immigration law. But such a law would be a de facto recognition of the rights of immigrants, hence other measures are being debated in order to provide a stronger hierarchisation of the 'foreign population' in Germany. But the pogroms are needed, too, to create the necessary 'pressure for action' for a change of the Grundgesetz and other measures - and to show the immigrants that they are second class people who are merely tolerated whilst they are willing to do the jobs Germans won't.

Crisis of the political class - crisis against the workers

The scenario of hostility against foreigners, supported by both the state and media, takes place in the context of the deepest political crisis in German history. Central to this crisis is the breakdown of the political machinery; the parties are failing in their role of recuperating the desires of the working class in order to sustain capital. Now the parties only represent themselves, and no one pretends otherwise. The system of the party-state doesn't function anymore. Although the parties are co-operating in a great coalition of crisis-management, neither the SPD nor the ruling coalition have a political programme. Compared to this, the slogans of the right-wing parties seem simple and understandable: against the 'Islamisation' of Germany, against the ECU, the few available flats for Germans etc... Thus the traditional parties are losing votes, as a significant section of the electorate refuses to vote or casts its vote for right-wing and populist parties. This is particularly so in the former GDR, where the collapse of the civil rights movement has been followed by the emergence of a new scandal-ridden political class. With its nationalisation, the church, in GDR times an 'oppositional force', finds itself in a deep crisis. Accepting separate wage levels for East and West Germany, the unions have also gambled away previous successes. The financial crisis of the state is also sharpened by the high costs of re-unification (i.e. payments for unemployment in the East, the building-up of the infrastructure, subsidies to capitalists willing to invest). The high interest rates serve to keep the state budget financeable and to slow down the boom. But this crisis is not a specific 'German problem'. In France and Italy, already the Gulf War had been used for a slow-down. The re-unification of Germany first resulted in a separate development. But after the summer of '91, unrest also grew among the West German workforce, despite both the metal union IGM and the public sector unions calling off strikes. Since then, the ruling class has turned to a policy of high interest rates, a social pact, i.e. a great coalition (and in our context: the deliberate escalation of the 'asylum problem', resulting in the introduction of new asylum laws on July 1st 1992). Now, simultaneously there is a slow-down of the boom, with factories being restructured for lean production, resulting in record levels of unemployment, the social cuts are deepening, and higher taxes and interest rates are eroding the value of wages.

As a result of a policy of high interest rates conducted through the European Monetary System, Germany is exporting its debts and unemployment into the other European countries - that is, into national economies already much deeper in crisis. The unrest in Greece and Italy shows that the bourgeoisie can't escape class struggle through the export of capital, They merely alter the location of this struggle. On this level, too, the Maastricht treaties have shown where Europe is heading: towards economic unification whilst delaying it at a political level, thus the illusion of 'social democratic' control of the EC has been postponed indefinitely. The reunification of Germany was conducted in a similar fashion as there was no 'political ' decision in a parliamentary sense, neatly illustrating the abdication of the political class. But, if an economic imperialism, ruled by anonymous bureaucrats and emergency governments, is capital's vision of future government, it would necessitate a substantial sharpening of repression in advance. In this case a strategy of tension would seek to drive the multi-party apparatus into coalition whilst repressing the social opposition. Whether it gets this far depends on working class resistance. We must remember that the ruling class are not heading towards Europe voluntarily, but because they are unable to survive in a national form - our aim must be to help them to an all-European funeral instead!