One Nation, One Reich, One Peace
by Wolfgang Pohrt 1981 (Telos/ Die Zeit )
If the atom bombs are set off, we’ll be dead, but we have to live with the opponents of increased armaments and the neutron bomb. Once the bomb has fallen no one suffers any more. We suffer from its anticipated political consequences — for in the nuclear age the consequences of war precede it. After a nuclear war there will supposedly be cockroaches with five heads and legs four meters long. The mutations that interest us, however, take place beforehand, and they look quite different: one wanted to start a peace movement and it turned out to be a German national revival movement.
“No German can accept this unconditional subordination of the interests of our people to foreign interests, this surrender of disposal over the existence of our people to a foreign government.” The well-known slogan, the familiar tone: it ought to be followed by the “Deutschland” song, and then the oath to the flag. When such slogans drone from the radio, then we get the feeling that we are in our homeland. The populace is welded together into a humiliated community of destiny, indeed, one doomed to death; no one can stand apart, we know only Germans, and no party differences any more. That is how World War I began; that is how the war-guilt lie was denounced, as well as the dictated Versailles Treaty, and the usurous slavery imposed on the German people by international Jewish finance capital. That was, almost literally, Strauss’s slogan when the West German government allegedly sold out the people to the Russians in the treaties with the East.
We grew accustomed to this text long ago. If no one saw the people’s existence as threatened any more — by foreigners, by the Reds, the anarchists, a low birth-rate, increased government debt, a swelling flood of refugees — then we would miss something. Except that this time the speaker was not Dr. Strangelove in an interview with the Nationalzeitung but Prof. Gollwitzer in a letter to the editor of Der Spiegel And the unconditional subordination with which he reproached the West German government, did not refer, as one might think, to a demobilization of the West German army ordered by the Allies, but the stationing of missiles. Gollwitzer, a man of unquestionable qualifications, is of course not a war monger. His call for a general mobilization for the national war of liberation was aimed not at preparing for war, but at preserving peace. But the road to hell is paved with good intentions if the good intentions are a mortgage on a general absolution for unpardonable errors.
Although elsewhere human reason, human intention, and human will may have been just a ruse of history — in Germany they were all unmitigated, crafty, and wily. Even the “masses’ anti-capitalist longing” led here, contrary to all expectation, not to a revolutionary liberation from the rule of capital, but to its crowning, culmination, and suppression in concentration camps. The partition did not cut this country in half, as the Allies had intended, but doubled it instead. It perished in the national megalomania, but such perishings were always drastic cures for Germany’s economic power. Here we longed for the equality of all, and the result was an equal scantiness. Here the abolution of privileges was understood in the sense that the little man need fear no disadvantages if he denounces the privileged. Here the petit-bourgeois and the capitalist were denounced with fiery rhetoric, while capital continued to flourish magnificently, but afterwards all the jews were dead. Here nothing is innocent, not even enthusiasm for peace — especially not if the enthusiasm for peace catalyzes a German-national revival movement.
One could now object that Pershing missiles and neutron bombs are a threat against which one can rightly make a pact even with the devil. And if we sing all the stanzas of the “Deutschland” song three times a day and speak after the little man’s own heart (“Foreigners out!”) and elect Adolf von Thadden chancellor, if he is still alive — the main thing is to get rid of the nuclear missiles; and if we still listen to the Internationale only in secret and betray all insights, knowledge and principles to the demagogic slogans of a German national peace movement — the main thing is that the nuclear missiles be removed. What is forgotten is that of all things which a German national peace movement attacks — on the one hand, increased armaments, but on the other, for example, the insight that no socialist can wish even more sovereignty to this reactionary country such as it is, and that we have no reason to defend it against any foreign power and even to love it — one thus forgets that of all things which a German national peace movement attacks, the nuclear missiles are most resistant. Certainly, in the end the missiles will still be there, and only our reason, our credibility, our insights and knowledge will be gone. A peace movement that no longer recognizes any parties and classes, but only Germans, can achieve only partial success: the final defeat of the Left.
One could continue in the same vein. One could recall Brecht’s dictum that through the many daily little lies we make ourselves guilty also of the great catastrophe. When Gollwitzer and with him the new peace movement transforms this populace into “our people,” not just a possessive pronoun was added where a demonstrative would have been called for. Das Volk (the people) is not a term that the Nazis had to ruin, but for a hundred years already it had been the lie of the necessarily fated connection of the individual with the coerced collectively of the nation — i.e., the lie that denies the Enlightenment idea of mankind and with it the promise of the socialist revolution, still unredeemed down to this day, the association of free men. One could ask Gollwitzer whether he really seriously believes that the right of disposal over the existence of a population must first fall into foreign hands to become wrong — as if this right of disposal were not itself a scandal. One could ask him for an explanation as to where he gets the strange assurance that a West German government independent of foreign opinion would have more consideration for the populace as a whole and especially for Gollwitzer himself. We recall the people who were not murdered and expelled by foreign powers but by the German police, by the Gestapo and the SS. Some found asylum abroad. We owe the fact that we can continue to live here, to a great extent unmolested, not to any German national sovereignty, but to the Allied victory. And a year ago some wished that in case Strauss won the election, foreign countries, if necessary the CIA, would prevent the worst. If Albertz now publicly hopes that patriotism will never be completely lost, the objection to this is that no one can choose the country in which he is born or the language with which he grew up, but each person is free to make the decision to esteem or curse those accidental conditions to which he owes his existence. Whoever finds reason to esteem this country should name them. Whoever finds none and still loves it should remain silent; what moves in his deepest heart does not concern us. And when the tat in connection with the peace movement asks: “Why do we still not have a peace treaty 36 years after World War II?” then, in addition to astonishment at the national “We” in the alternative newspaper, the counter question is justified: “Why was Germany not at that time simply divided up among the neighborly countries?” — a comparatively modest and especially unbloody price for Auschwitz and the 50 million dead.
One could thus ask, argue and explain long and patiently— if the matadors of the new peace movement were ignorant beginners instead of experienced veterans. Thus, one could discover and correct errors, one could politely discuss strategy and tactics — if those leftists who are suddenly mouthing German national slogans were at least windy opportunists and sly tacticians and not what they are, namely, upright, thoroughly honest, loyal and pure-hearted people with conviction. Long before anyone spoke of increased armaments, the neutron bomb and the peace movement, they, who in contrast to millions of foreigners driven by hardship into West Germany, never have had to leave the country of their mother tongue and generally for years have been cozily nested in the same town and the same apartment, now weep for their lost homeland.
When Piwitt writes in Konkret: “This depressed national feeling of the Germans stems from the fact that the revolutionary national tradition’s were cut off,” that is because no one but the Germans themselves have cut off their revolutionary traditions (if there ever were any) and because one must hold a finger out so that another can simply cut it off — a whimpering lie that serves neither peace nor disarmament, but only the emotional needs of its author. When Piwitt, the man with the moral fiber and index finger, continues: “That is how this Americanizing acculturation, that is how this Yankee language, which dominates us with words like ‘fighting,’ and ‘dope,’ ‘power’ and ‘message’ even when we resist,” then he comes up with his proposal to purify the German language of Americanisms, i.e., of foreign words, of course, again too late. The German hit parade has started rolling long ago. When the leftist writer Gerd Fuchs in a conversation with Piwitt published in Konkret states: “These people have dishonored us. They have made an entire people into their accomplices. That is a mental and a political poisoning,” then we no longer need to know whether “these people” means the American government, the West German government, or the Nazis. This people at least has not done anything evil, it has just been crucified and seduced, and the others were always to blame. When Piwitt, finally, valiantly defends the German cultural heritage against foreign influence, with heart-rending groans at his country’s occupation by “Yankee culture,” and asks the question which most clearly threatens the main beneficiaries of the real exploitation and repression in the Third World: “So how can I resist colonialism?” then he is doing the right thing, but of course, in the only false place in the whole world.
Elsewhere the traditional forms of life of entire nations may have fallen prey to American cultural imperialism. But in Germany it is not barbarism but civilization that began with American cultural imperialism. In this country, every additional branch of the McDonald hamburger chain is a new island of hospitality and a delightful enrichment of culinary culture. To attack the United States because of its armaments policy and its support for just about every torture regime in the whole world is one thing, but the statement that there “is more culture in a single Beethoven symphony than all America has ever produced,” comes from Hitler, and jazz was already forbidden once. In the Third Reich, America was considered a crude, multilingual racial mixture, and that is the way it has remained if one is to judge on the basis of the hate-filled epithet “Yankee culture.” The great political crimes committed by Germany do not relieve us of the duty to attack America’s lesser ones. But every justified protest against U.S. policies is merely reactionary here if one small fact is forgotten: If Germany had ever had the military resources of the United States, no one would still be alive on this planet. We always understood the protest against the Vietnam war — how long ago that already was — in connection with German fascism.
No German who calls himself by that name has the right to judge America. Whoever lives in Germany and nonetheless does not want to be silent about the crimes being committed everywhere in the world must first of all renounce his nationality. A flaunting of Germanhood and national demagoguery which are allegedly supposed to strengthen the new peace movement against additional armaments and the neutron bomb in truth take away from it any moral and political legitimacy. Thus, one must suspect that not just the neutron bomb — that would be excusable — has robbed the German Leftists of their reason, but that they lost it long ago. Thus, one cannot escape the ugly suspicion that the peace movement is not so very concerned about increased armaments.
The Blood and Soil murmurings, the “homeland” whispers, the birth wave, the mother-cult, love for the pale mothers, the rubble women, raw food, nature and the wild health — this explosive mixture of sentimental values, tearfulness and brutality, customary in this country, existed long before the increased armaments, and only the spark was missing. Now the neutron bomb has become the fuse to ignite a German national revival movement. The alternatives are its mass basis, and the fatherland once again firmly has embraced its rejected children. Subterranean forces and semi-ends-of-the-world have always been necessary to unite this country.
What follows from this? Nothing, of course. America is mighty and great, the German Mark is falling, the Germans are skilled in adapting and masters at reaching for the ceiling. In a year, all this will be forgotten again, including, of course, increased armaments and the neutron bomb. Then the anger will be directed against the Turks.
Translated by David J. Parent.