“Turning point” between war and peace

Klaus Hartmann

Klaus Hartmann, president of the World Union of Freethinkers

by Klaus Hartmann

If we are to believe the political announcers, we are constantly living in times of change, from one turning point to the next, so to speak. When the GDR came to an end in 1989, and with it the first German peace state, it was glossed over as a “turning point”. In the 1980 Bundestag election campaign, Helmut Kohl, who later became Chancellor of Germany, promised a “spiritual and moral turnaround”, and this came with the reduction of social benefits, which was supposed to strengthen “individual responsibility”, everyone was supposed to be the “architect of his own fortune”, pupils and students were no longer to be politicised but were to prepare their careers, and on top of everything, the hymn of individualism was sung.

The end of World War II is often declared as a “turning point for the whole world”, with some seeing it as a liberation and others as a defeat. In this year 2023, the voices of those who do not publicly regret the liberation from fascism as such, but who particularly resent the Soviet Union for its act of liberation, have become particularly audible. In many cities, above all in the German capital Berlin, anti-fascist symbols such as the St. George’s Ribbon were banned, even the Soviet flag and the flag of victory, the flag of the Russian Federation – but of course not the Ukrainian flag. Flags of the war ally are of course held aloft, youths with Russian flags at the Soviet Memorial in Berlin-Treptow were chased by police officers and hunted down (more links here and here).

This practice, worthy of a dictatorship, has its roots in another turning point, proclaimed by German Chancellor Olaf Scholz in his government declaration on 27 February 2022: “24 February 2022 marks a turning point in the history of our continent. With the invasion of Ukraine, Russian President Putin has cold-bloodedly unleashed a war of aggression …”

The fact that the war has already been going on since 2014 is systematically concealed because it would not fit the narrative of the Russian war of aggression. The war began in April 2014, when the Kiev putschists under “interim president” Oleksandr Turchynov deployed troops and Nazi battalions in a so-called “anti-terrorist action” against the rebellious inhabitants in the Donbass.

There are two prominent witnesses to the fact that this is not “Russian propaganda”, as it is often countered: NATO Secretary General Stoltenberg declared on 13.02.2023 before the NATO Council of Ministers in Brussels “The war did not start in February last year. It started in 2014.”

And Valery Salushnyi, Ukrainian commander-in-chief, told t-online on 15.05.2023: “For the Ukrainian army, this war already started in the summer of 2014.”

Scholz’s change of era marks the transition from NATO’s decades-long policy of encircling and surrounding Russia to direct war. Russia is also supposed to be to blame for this. In its current leaflet, the German Freethinkers’ Association writes: “When NATO invades even distant countries in violation of international law, it prefers to call its wars of aggression “intervention”, or better still “humanitarian intervention”. If, on the other hand, the Russian Federation intervenes in a war on its border that has been going on for eight years, it is supposed to be a “war of aggression”.

All those who do not follow the NATO line are defamed, marginalised and put down, threatened with destruction of their social existence. Meanwhile, the penal code is being brandished against peace demonstrators for “approval of a criminal act” or “incitement of the people”. Anti-Russian agitation remains permitted, but opposition to it can be punished.

Anyone who does not pay homage to the government’s war propaganda is supposed to be “right-wing” or even a “Nazi” – this upside-down world, re-evaluation of values has been in vogue at least since 1999, when Germany invaded Yugoslavia for the third time in the same century, under an SPD/Green government whose foreign minister Joseph Fischer proclaimed that “a new Auschwitz must be prevented” there.

The German fascists made listening to enemy radio stations a punishable offence, the EU banned Russian media for “disinformation”. The “Volksempfänger” was comparatively primitive compared to the transatlantic Gleichschaltung in the flimsy garb of pluralism. The Elbe valley around Dresden in Saxony used to be derisively called the “valley of the clueless” because no “West television” could be received there. Today there is only “West television” from Lake Constance to Rügen – so we have earned the title “Land of the Clueless”. There used to be a station called “Voice of America”, today all stations are unanimously Anglo-Saxon.

At least among leftists, “freedom of dissent” used to be high on the agenda and upheld with quotes from Rosa Luxemburg to Voltaire. Until ten years ago, there was an annual “lateral thinker award” in Germany for “particularly creative forward thinkers”, but now the opposite is true, namely conformism as a virtue and lateral thinkers as a dirty word. Even those who doubted the official climate narrative were quickly exposed as “climate deniers”, followed by the “corona deniers”. Anyone who criticised misguided ministerial statements or idiotic measures was ostracised as a “covidiot”. In the title of denier, the religious nature of the respective doctrine becomes clear, something we freethinkers have long known as notorious deniers of God.

Ursula von der Leyen announced that Ukraine is fighting for “our values”, she gives an ominous foreshadowing of what lies ahead: All opposition parties are banned in Ukraine, workers’ rights abolished, media in opposition to the government course are also banned. Nazis are declared national heroes and monuments to the liberators from fascism are torn down. 7,600 place names associated with the Soviet Union and Russia have been erased, 28 monuments to Alexander Pushkin, nine to Maxim Gorky dismantled, 20 million Russian-language books removed from libraries (see also Editorial Freidenker 1-2023).

For the time being they are only banning Russian and Soviet flags here, but in many cities the blue and yellow Ukrainian flags have already been put up on public buildings. Some will think this is wrong or disgusting, but also somehow harmless – but it is not. The Bulgarian author, our friend Germinal Civikov – who observed the NATO fem trial against Yugoslav President Slobodan Milošević in The Hague – recently wrote an article about the “Land of Values”. It is about an encounter between the editor of the Frankfurt Suhrkamp publishing house, Klaus Reichert, in September 1965 with the poet Paul Celan (Reichert published the book “Paul Celan. Erinnerungen und Briefe” in 2020). It includes the episode about a humid and merry evening in Frankfurt am Main: “And suddenly – it’s soon to be the Bundestag elections – they are standing in front of a huge blue and yellow billboard of the FDP. Reichert: ‘Celan flinches, freezes, scared to death, and shouts in horror: For God’s sake, those are the colours of the Ukrainian fascists.’ The poet saw not the party flag of the German FDP, but that of the Ukrainian fascist leader Stepan Bandera.” Civikov writes: “One may bear with the fears of a German-speaking Jew from Czernowitz of a flag that flew in his Bukovina homeland in 1941 and now adorns several stately buildings in EU metropolises.”

While opponents of the war are supposed to be “right-wing” or “Nazis”, the quality media find nothing wrong with the “bloody clown” Selensky (as an Easter march speaker from Ukraine recently called him) wearing a jumper with a Nazi symbol – the badge of the “Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists” (OUN) – on his visit to Italy. They also find nothing wrong when the call “Slava Ukraini” (German: Ruhm der Ukraine) resounds in the EU Parliament, and internationally politicians parrot it. Even the Zeitenwende-Scholz ended his laudation for the award of the Charlemagne Prize to Ukrainian President Vladimir Selensky on 14 May 2023 in Aachen with the battle cry “Slava Ukraini”. Twelve times the word “turn of the times” was mentioned at the event, but all speeches ended with the fascist salute.

This greeting, comparable to “Heil Hitler”, originates from the “Organisation of Ukrainian Nationalists” (OUN), which was involved in numerous serious war crimes during the German occupation of the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic by the German Wehrmacht. Its military arm, the UPA, occupied parts of the Polish territories of Polesia and Volhynia and committed massacres of the Polish civilian population there. The OUN provided SS volunteer battalions and cooperated with the German fascists in the persecution and murder of Jews, Poles, Roma and Sinti, Russians and especially members of the Red Army. The slogan “Slawa Ukraini” was established as their official salute in 1939, later joined by the gesture in the form of an outstretched right hand and the response “Gerojam slawa”. In the same way, Bandera’s collaborators greeted the Wehrmacht units.

On 9 May 2023, at the graves of Soviet war victims in Frankfurt’s main cemetery, I said: “This line of falsification of history became visible in the resolution of the EU Parliament when the Soviet Union was assigned at least the same guilt as Hitler’s Germany for World War II. It became visible again in the German Bundestag when the famine in the Soviet Union was falsified into the “genocide of Ukraine”. And it is currently visible when the display of flags and anti-fascist symbols is banned on the occasion of the celebrations of 8 and 9 May.

The author Marie Rotkopf has just reissued the 1915 book by the French sociologist Émile Durkheim entitled “Germany Above All” and written an essay on it entitled “The German Mentality and the War”. In it, she sums up the reinterpretation of history with the sentence: “Soon it will no longer be the Red Army that liberated Auschwitz, but the Azov battalion”.

The progressive renazification must be stopped, it requires denazification. The freethought movement, itself fought and persecuted by the fascists, some notably active in the resistance, should take up this task and support all activities in this direction.

Dr Wolfgang Schacht commented: We are in the phase of general intellectual, political and economic decline. On the basis of a GDR-phobia and Russophobia that has persisted for years, the ruling forces of the establishment, with the help of their media, have literally burned the old and new Nazi ideas of a superiority of their ideology, politics, economy and culture into our brains on a daily basis, in combination with a flood of absurd lies and obscure inventions. The statement of the foreign minister and chief ideologue of the EU on 13 October 2022 “Europe is a garden and the rest of the world is a jungle”, is only the tip of the racist iceberg in the Nazi world.

As philosophical materialists, freethinkers know: racist and fascist ideologies are not rooted in the spiritual sphere, but in the material basis, and the decline has primarily economic causes. The world financial crisis from 2007 onwards made a larger public aware of the crisis-ridden economic development, unfortunately without any noticeable consequences. The cyclical overproduction crises in capitalism are followed by overaccumulation crises, overcapacities and price increases are fought with higher interest rates, the result is sharply falling prices of securities, thus the collateral for loans becomes non-performing, the deposit guarantees of the banks melt away, the next “banking crisis” is due.

The low interest rate policy and flooding with fresh money intended to save the banks only has the desired effect in the short term; time is bought, but the merry-go-round is set in motion again. The “money” that is no longer created by the printing press, but by the click of a mouse, is not covered by any economic countervalue and, due to the lack of profitable investment opportunities in the production sector, predominantly goes to the casino. As long as the fictitious money remains in the speculative bubbles, it does no major damage, but if Corona compensation payments and the economic war against Russia drive inflation, interest rates must rise again so that the majority of the population pays for the debt. After twelve years of a 0.00 per cent interest rate, the Fed of the USA raised the key interest rate from 0.25 to 4.5 per cent between March and December 2022 – the last time it was this high was before the global economic crisis of 2007/08; it is now 5.25 per cent. – The result: a rapid decline in the value of US government bonds, a run on the banks. The first victims are Silicon Valley Bank, Crédit Suisse and First Republic Bank in the USA. Already we see the real estate financiers in trouble, joined by the construction industry: The number of building permits fell in April by the most in 16 years (Ntv news, 17.05.2023).

The USA is still the world’s largest economy in terms of gross domestic product, ahead of the PR China, but only because it includes industrial production, agriculture and services. It is only this service sector, and here especially the financial industry, that secures first place for the USA; in industrial production China overtook the USA more than ten years ago. But there is an even bigger stumbling block in the statistics: GDP is given in absolute figures and the basis for calculation is the purchasing power of the US dollar – in the USA. Figures that do not matter in other countries if they do not shop in the USA. That is why there is a more meaningful statistic, namely GDP by purchasing power parity. And here the PRC is well ahead of the US, and India and Japan are followed by Germany and Russia in 5th and 6th place.

All “rescue measures” after 2008 had the dominance of the US dollar as a prerequisite. Due to the politicisation of the currency by the US government and the Western sanctions against Russia, which are now more than 10,000 in violation of international law, the countries of the global South are increasingly looking for an alternative to dependence on the US currency. The de-dollarisation of world trade, i.e. the replacement of the US dollar as a reserve currency, is progressing ever faster, reducing the political influence of the USA. After Russia and China, Japan and other countries are now divesting US debt in a big way, and more and more are settling their trade in their respective currencies, with gold or commodity backing, or in Chinese yuan.28 According to the Financial Times, the US dollar has lost market share ten times faster in 2022 than in previous years. Its share of global foreign exchange reserves has also fallen significantly in recent decades – from 72 per cent in 1999 to around 50 per cent at present.

The crisis-ridden economic development of the Western countries of state-monopolist capitalism creates the swamp from which the poisonous fascist bubbles rise. Recognisably, today’s West is no longer the leader of human civilisation. Its increased and blatant aggressiveness stems from the effort to stop its downfall, Russia is to be defeated and then to pounce on China.

In a keynote speech at the Mercator Institute for China Studies on 30 March 2023, EU Commission President von der Leyen accused China of wanting to “promote its own new world order that would compete with the current global system”, that “Beijing’s imperative of more control and security will break the logic of free markets and open trade”, finally she criticised “the Chinese system of state capitalism”. But the strongest irritant for both Brussels and Washington is the course of unrestricted partnership between China and Russia; in this context, she contemptuously described the Chinese leader’s visit to Russia as a “show of friendship in Moscow”.

In place of the international legal order agreed upon after the victory over fascism in 1945, the “value West” propagates its so-called “rule-based world order”, the rules of which it of course determines itself, and which has a clear neo-colonialist orientation. But the post-colonial model of the West’s superior development no longer works, its “exceptionalism syndrome” impresses less and less.

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said on 29/04/2023 that the move towards global multipolarity is now a fact and a geopolitical reality, “consequently, Washington’s and its satellites’ efforts to turn the course of history backwards and force the international community to live by a freely invented ‘rules-based’ order are experiencing a full-blown fiasco.”

In this situation, freethinkers have an urgent task: enlighten, enlighten, enlighten. Let’s reach out to the people who are already on the move, who doubt the official narratives of politicians and mainstream media.

Let’s support the fight against neo-fascism and give a clear rejection to the pseudo-antifascists of Transatlantifa. Let us struggle to unite with the movements for democracy and freedom of expression.

Let us strengthen the forces of peace, international solidarity, cooperation between peoples for the multipolar world order based on equality and sovereignty. Let us defend solidarity and friendship with the Russian Federation and the People’s Republic of China.

Klaus Hartmann is President of the World Union of Freethinkers