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Vogliamo Tutto

Willy-Brandt-Platz, Frankfurt, 03.02.2024. Banner reads: "Stop the criminalisation of Palestinian resistance and solidarity" Attribution:, CC BY 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Vogliamo Tutto

Since I wrote “Staatsraison: Dispatch From Germany” six months ago, Germany has seen an avalanche of staatsraison attacks, supported across the political spectrum. These attacks have often been mobilized and led by representatives of the Deutsche Israelische Gesellschaft, the journal Jüdische Allgemeine, and by Zionist factions of Jewish communities in Germany, including youth groups and student leaders. With the rise of the Green Party, the post-1968 generationmy generationhas now taken over, not only state power, but also its presumed “reason” and the concomitant willingness to exercise it. In fact, staatsraison has evolved from a noun, a concept coined for certain kinds of direct political power of the state, to a liberal/leftist verb, a daily practice of dissemination, a way of doing the business of the state.

We have yet to see a single, massive, high-profile event in solidarity with Palestine that has been organized by German academics. The Palestine Congress, organized by Palestinians and Jewish leftists not necessarily in academic positions, was promptly demonized as terrorist antisemitism. Jewish left organizations have offered leadership; local and national Palestinian groups have organized weekly demonstrations; anticolonial students have taken the leadbut the German liberal leftist public remains undisturbed.

How have we arrived at the point where staatsraison reigns supreme? Where staatsraison is met with mostly local events, tactical circumvention, or outright refusal to raise critical voices?

Let me recall some of the decisive moments of staatraison's trajectory.

I remember antifascism as a severely attacked, maligned, and persecuted militant international struggle against the remainders of fascism in Germany and Europe. We rose up against international war regimes and the emerging restoration of racial capitalist repression within and by the welfare state. Demonstrations against the Vietnam War in Germany ran with the slogan: USA, SA, SS!

I remember “Berufsverbote” (1972-1985), the enforcement of anti-communist hysteria. Political repression against presumed enemies of the state led to hundreds of people losing their positions as teachers, professors, social workers, and other state employees.

I remember the prosecution of RAF (Rote Armee Fraktion) “terrorism” in the “Bleierne Zeit” in the 1970s. The RAF, a rather desperate form of politics enacted mainly by people who had been disillusioned in their peaceful antifascist struggles, was successfully criminalized by the state. Both the politics of violence itself and all assumed Sympathisanten were pathologized.

In a deferred effect of the aggressive isolation of the more militant parts of the post-68 left, the Green Party entered parliament in 1983. It was boosted by high hopes for democratic representation, for majority-white movements against nuclear power, and for women’s and queer rightsa new bourgeoisie in the making. What then had happened to antifascism?

I remember the 1985 Weizsäcker speech that recast the May 8th capitulation of the Nazi regime to the allied forces as the “day of liberation,” over and against the reactionary framework of “surrender.” It was a double gesture: an admission of guilt, but also a rearticulation of the German national body as self-redeemed by its acceptance of defeat.

I remember the 1987 Historikerstreit, which explicit polarized a mainstream liberal public, for whom Holocaust shame was the normative consensus for a Germany that was finally re-emerging as a morally acceptable international player, against an organized reformation of the political right. Right-wing historian Ernst Nolte published an article that framed the Holocaust as Hitler`s response to Stalinism. Habermas played a decisive role in this year-long controversy, with his express critique of what he called historical revisionism, a critique which insisted on the acknowledgement of guilt as a chance for a new German identity.

I remember the Bitburg cemetery scandal, when Kohl and US President Reagan visited Waffen-SS graves, one of the moves that launched Holocaust denial by right-wing think tanks.

In hindsight, this last intense and volatile controversy platformed a germinal condensation of right-wing intellectual discourse, one which has since become ever more rabid. At the time, liberal articulations of the Holocaust codified in what Czollek called Gedächtnistheater were winning the day. They made Germany “good” again, liberating us from guilt with public memory campaigns to establish German responsibility and repentance for the Shoah. We redeemed ourselveswith typical German arroganceby the performativity of remembrance as a teleological national narrative. Within two generations, we moved to an amply “profess-able” national pro-Israelism, which became our preferred form of exoneration.

It is also important to see the currently ever more aggressive pejorative attacks on postcolonial critique as an internationally coherent rollback. This rollback began decades ago: with the early attacks on so-called “political correctness”; with the political and intellectual aggression against post-Civil Rights gains in Black Studies programs in the United States; through the post 9-11 campaigns against “critical race theory.” What happened in the academic realm was in perfect concert with the political isolation and cultural discrediting of African and Third World liberation movements after the end of the Cold War, and with the neoliberal take-over of white empathy discourses by organized and often highly capitalized white savior NGOs.

A shift had been mobilized from radical political analysis to cultural tourism and multicultural affect (socially engaged versions of ethno-chic). Its outliers were scattered strands of academic projects: a tiny number of understaffed postcolonial studies programs, and the occasional English Department seminar on Chinua Achebe. To this day, there is not a single Black Studies program in Germany. The University of Hamburg center for colonial research, founded in 2014, is an overdue project to address seriously German coloniality. It remains underfunded and isolated from mainstream humanities, which are mired in tenets of white European humanism. Additionally, it depends on the financial and ethical grace of meagre and always embattled state support under the aegis of diversity claims.

We have witnessed the swift trajectory of a nationalization of white leftist politics: from rebellion/anti-imperialist solidarity to national Erlösungserzählung (the narrative of national redemption), then to democratic civility via Habermas and the Green Party becoming part of the state, and, finally, to rabidly enforced staatsraison. But staatsraison as a project began long before October 7, 2023. Its current aggressive mobilization has been so successful only because the call for unconditional solidarity with Israel provides a platform for the continuous inscription and incorporation of the German liberal left into state politics. There has been no continuum of sober, materialist state analysis in which to ground a politics beyond idealistic trust in the good faith of German state apparatuses.

Liberal-leftist mainstream press, academia, and institutions have remained mired in Habermasian frameworks of deliberation. Habermas’ notion of deliberation as a strategy to build, mobilize, and manage civil society’s contradictions has resulted in a host of practices to exclude, forego, isolate, cannibalize, or override antagonism and political negativity. The hegemony of “deliberation” has facilitated widespread liberal and activist confusion. It gives rise to actual belief that the state can and should be, not only the addressee, but the guarantor of claims to secure civil rights politicsby negotiating, framing, and funding antiracist, feminist, queer, and decolonial grassroots educational projects. This has resulted in widespread dependency on state funding. State sponsorship of movements has furthered the project of Germany as a white European “good” nation, fostering tactical, opportunistic diversity, and integrating a measure of antiracist critique into public discourse, while suppressing actual political change.

More radical, grass-roots mobilizations, such as environmental struggles, resistance against a TESLA factory, antifascism on the ground, and abolitionist campaigns against racial profiling and police violence are being isolated, slandered and ostracized. Legal prosecutions of activists have risen, for example, the charges against international protest at the G20 summit in Hamburg in 2017. The combination of in- and ex-corporation is mobilized by, and further mobilizes in turn, an almost complete dedication, or even surrender, to so-called ”Realpolitik.”

How can left or progressive movements reconstruct a solidarity and clarity that effectively competes with these narratives of deliberation? If we address our current situation, not as a crisis but instead, in the words of Bedour Alagraa, as “an ongoing apocalypse,” how must we organize? How do we build effective solidarities within and across groups of oppressed and marginalized people?

It is important to note that it is not (yet) fascist forces that have set police with dogs on protesting students. If that were the case, the lines would be hard, but clear. As has been true elsewhere, at the University of Bremen, it was the current liberal rectorate who called in police to break up an “against scholasticide” student encampment. Authoritarian surveillance as well as cancellations and silencing of protest have been enacted by state actors who represent and embrace a discourse of diversity, tolerance, and deliberation in their programmatic pronouncements. The challenge now will be to act concertedly in these precise moments, when radical antagonistic protest interrupts this discourse, and the façade of liberal toleration starts to fray at its seams, to the extent where it summons state violence.

The task before us is to organize radical anticolonial, internationalist, antiwar struggle against the nation state, and against the emerging supranational entity that composes Frontex-defense of white Europe. We are utterly unprepared for the social and political struggles that rising European fascism will bring us to. It is urgent that we raise the bar and demand anticolonial, antifascist education focused on a long overdue critique of myopic German constructions of its post-WWII identity, along with its social, cultural, and political consequences.

Resistance to staatsraison will have to build organization: anti-white power, international, intersectionally composed, and above all, financially independent of the state. To invoke the clairvoyance of the late Mike Davis, what it could mean for us to realize that we survive only under the shelter of each other?

PROF. DR. SABINE BROECK is professor emerita of English-Speaking Cultures and Transnational / Transcultural Studies at the University of Bremen, with foci on intersectionality, narrativity, critical race studies and slavery. Early in her academic career, she published the monographs Der entkolonisierte Koerper (1988) and White Amnesia-Black Memory. American Women’s Writing and History (1999). In 2014 she co-edited (with Carsten Junker) the pathbreaking collection Postcoloniality-Decoloniality-Black Critique. Joints and Fissures (Campus and Chicago UP). She is also co-editor, with Stella Bolaki, of Audre Lorde’s Transnational Legacies, University of Massachusetts Press (2015,) as well as, with Jason Ambroise, of Black Knowledges/Black Struggles: Essays in Critical Epistemology, Liverpool University Press (2015). Her third monograph, Gender and the Abjection of Blackness, was published by SUNY Press in 2018.



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