What could possibly unite the real estate magnate Donald Trumg with the left-wing firebrand Oskar Lafontaine? Spiegel columnist Jan Ffeischhauer explains:
In den Zeitungen steht, was für eine Gefahr für den Weltfrieden ein Wahlsieg des amerikanischen Milliardärs bedeuten würde. Man kann dort jeden Tag lesen, wie engstirnig, rückschrittlich und bigott seine Vorstellungen seien. Ich verstehe die Kritik nicht ganz. Ich habe beim Lesen nämlich eine Entdeckung gemacht: Vieles, was Trump fordert, findet sich so oder so ähnlich auch bei der Linkspartei und ihren publizistischen Bannerträgern.
("I'm constantly reading in the newspapers how the American billionaire would be a major threat to world peace if he wins the election. You can read everyday how short-sighted, backwards and bigoted his ideas are. I don't entirely agree with this criticism. In reading about his programs I've actually made the following discovery: much of want Trump wants can also be found with Left Party in Germany and with their journalist supporters.")
Interesting conclusion. Let's look at some specific issues:
NATO: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine would like to consign the alliance to the scrap heap.
PUTIN: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine admire the autocratic kleptocrat Vladimir Putin - Trump because Putin reminds him of Mussolini; Lafontaine since Putin reminds him of his hero Joseph Stalin.
FREE TRADE: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine want to abolish all trade treaties - especially TIPP - and impose tariffs on imports.
IMMIGRANTS: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine want to stop immigration - Trump sees immigrants as terrorists and criminals, Lafontaine hates Fremdarbeiter.
WALLS: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine want to build walls - Trump would wall off the border with Mexico; Lafontaine dreams of a new Schutzmauer.
FREE PRESS: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine hate the press - Trump has promised to punish those newspapers that published negative articles about him once he becomes president; Lafontaine would abolish the Lügenpresse and replace it with RT Deutsch and Sputnik.
ANGELA MERKEL: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine have only contempt for the chancellor, primarily because of her stance on refugees.
DEMOCRACY: Both Donald Trump and Oskar Lafontaine hate liberal democracy and would replace it with a benevolent dictatorship.
There is much that unites these two. Maybe Donald will invite Oskar and Sahra to the Inaugural Ball?
The German "protest party" AfD (Alternative for Germany) and the neo-Nazi NPD appear to be joined at the hip: the voters make few, if any, distinctions between the two. In the last elections the AfD emerged as the leading political party in east German state of Saxony-Anhalt, while the Nazis made surprising inroads in the supposedly more enlightened western Geman state of Hesse. The ARD TV news program Kontraste sent reporters to to both areas to find out what the voters were thinking.
What they learned was disturbing. Have a look at these "protest voters".
So the one voter visited Buchenwald and didn't see any gas chambers: voting for the Nazis makes perfect sense!
What is amazing is that these citizens all complain that the refugees are getting preferential ("bevorzugte") treatment, but yet can't cite any examples except that they were forced to wait longer at the hospital or clinic to see a doctor.
They complain about all the crimes committed by refugees, yet can't explain why the statistics show that crime is down. The crime statistics must have been fabricated by the "Lügenpresse"!
What is clear is that these voters are all animated by one thing: racism.
We have a good description for folks like these in the United States: Trump-Voters!
"One of Donald Trump’s closest allies on Wall Street is a now-struggling German bank.
While many big banks have shunned him, Deutsche Bank AG has been a steadfast financial backer of the Republican presidential candidate’s business interests. Since 1998, the bank has led or participated in loans of at least $2.5 billion to companies affiliated with Mr. Trump, according to a Wall Street Journal analysis of public records and people familiar with the matter.
That doesn’t include at least another $1 billion in loan commitments that Deutsche Bank made to Trump-affiliated entities."
Donald Trump has built his wealth by running a string of fraudulent businesses, financed by Deutsche Bank, leaving behind numerous bankruptcies, angry consumers, and countless lawsuits. Here is a list of just 13 of Donald Trump's failed businesses. I'll just highlight one of his biggest frauds - Trump University - which was nothing more than a multilevel marketing scam:
Trump University Also known at the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative, Trump University was a series of wealth-building seminars for which students paid as much as $34,995 for mentorships that would supposedly get them access to Trump's secrets of success. Instead of the hand-picked instructors Trump promised, the seminars were delivered by motivational speakers, often without degrees, and sometimes with criminal records. According to his FEC filings, Trump brought in $11,819 from the Trump Entrepreneur Initiative last year; he's now the subject of two class-action lawsuits in California related to Trump University, and a third suit, for $40 million, brought by New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.
Trump's Hausbank, Deutsche Bank, has likewise enriched itself with fraudulent activities. The difference is that Deutsche Bank has actually been convicted of fraud and may now lose its license to manage pension funds in the United States:
Regulators from London to Seoul have sanctioned Deutsche Bank for misdeeds committed over the past decade. The accumulation of crimes has now taken on a life of its own, prompting new inquiries based on previous episodes. The U.S. Labor Department, for instance, is considering whether the German bank’s two recent convictions for fraud in foreign countries should cost it the ability to manage billions of dollars of Americans’ retirement funds.
In a ruling that has gone mostly unreported outside of official filings, the department tentatively denied Deutsche Bank’s (ticker: DB) bid for an exemption from possible money-management restrictions. Because two units in other parts of the bank were convicted of felonies, the money management units have faced curbs on running U.S. pension money. At stake is Deutsche Bank’s official status as a qualified professional asset manager, or QPAM. The QPAM designation allows an asset manager to assume multiple roles in overseeing government-regulated Erisa pension plans, or those covered by the Employee Retirement Income Security Act of 1974. It’s unusual for Labor to deny an application for an exemption, even temporarily.
One other important difference between Trump and Deutsche Bank. Deutsche Bank has been forced to pay $billions$ in penalties and legal fees and its shares have lost more than half their value as the bank plans to lay off tens of thousands of employees.
Donald Trump could potentially be rewarded with the presidency of the United States.
Bernie Sanders’ call for a “democratic socialist” political revolution has failed to resonate with most voters. Americans, it seems, on the whole reject socialism and have always rejected socialism.
To understand why, I turned to Seymour Lipset’s and Gary Marks’ book It Didn’t Happen Here: Why Socialism Failed in the United States (2000).
Lipset and Marks point to “American exceptionalism” as the overriding explanation for lack of a socialist workers movement. Here the term does not refer to triumphalist meaning adopted by neo-conservatives or evangelicals (“God’s Own Country”) but rather as defined by Tocqueville and others as distinct from Europe:
"The United States, as noted by Alexis de Tocqueville and Friedrich Engels, among many visitors to America, is an "exceptional" country, one uniquely different from the more traditional societies and status-bound nations of the Old World. The term "American exceptionalism," first formulated by Tocqueville in the 1830s, and since used in general comparative societal analyses, became widely applied after World War I in efforts to account for the weakness of working-class radicalism in the United States."
Lipset and Marks come up with four primary reasons for why the United States, alone among industrial societies, lack a significant socialist movement or labor party:
The Two Party System: America is exceptional for preserving its two-party duopoly for well over a century. Both the Democrats and Republicans have established deep roots in working class communities cultivating ethno-religious identities and providing patronage. Because the main parties were so porous, they easily absorbed occasional attempts to mobilize around class, beginning with the Workingmen’s parties of the 1830s. Third Party efforts have always failed. Eugene Debs ran for president for the Socialist Party five times and even at his peak in 1912 only garnered 6% of the popular vote.
Libertarian Mindset: American workers have always been more sympathetic to libertarianism and suspicious of state control:
"The anti-statist, anti-authoritarian component of American ideology, derived from Jefferson’s declaration of Independence, remains an underlying source of the weakness of socialism in the United States.”
Diverse/Stratified Working Class: The United States differs from other ‘neo-European’ societies in the diversity of its immigrants. As a result, the working class was exceptionally stratified by ethnicity, religion, and language. The authors point out that socialism did achieve some success in some ethnically cohesive communities. Examples would be the native-born Protestants in Oklahoma — a socialist hotbed in early 2oth Century, or the radical East European immigrants on New York’s Lower East Side.
Schism Between Unions and Party: Lipset and Marks discuss this at great length. For a number of reasons, the American Federation of Labor was hostile to socialism, and as a result, any labor or socialist party was deprived of a solid base in the trade unions. The dogmatism and extreme radicalism of the Socialist Party alienated the base of the unions. For example, the militant atheism of the party alienated the sizeable proportion of workers who were Catholic (in religion or culture). Irish immigrants, in particular, were hostile to socialism.
There are certainly gaps in Lipset’s and Marks’ analysis: they have little to say about the racism that prevented American labor from joining the struggle for civil rights that could have revived a socialist movement. And the book needs to be updated to cover the impact of accelerating globalization and the automation/digitization of production and service jobs.
What are the chances that things could change and America would see a greater acceptance of socialism? Not great, as far as I can see: the continued decline in union membership and the rise of the gig economy are just two factors that will inhibit a new socialist movement.
The comedian Carolin Kebekus talks about similarities between Donald Trump and the right-wing extremist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) before declaring AfD party leader Frauke Petry Pussy des Monats. (H/T nobody):
So it has come to this: The front-runner for the Republican presidential nomination, at a campaign rally Saturday in Orlando, leading supporters in what looked very much like a fascist salute.
“Can I have a pledge? A swearing?” Trump asked, raising his right hand and directing his followers to do the same. He then led them in pledging allegiance — not to the flag but to Trump, for which they stand and for whom they vowed to vote.
Trump supporters raised their arms en masse — unfortunately evoking the sort of scene associated with grainy newsreels from Italy and Germany.
I've been way behind in my reading, but on a plane the other day I happened to pick up a recent issue of Der Spiegel and came across an article that was very unsettling to read - Besorgte Brandstifter ("Concerned Arsonists"). Of course I've been following the news reports of shelters and homes for migrants in Germany being set on fire. I always assumed the arsonists were skinheads, or members of neo-Nazi organizations. But no, the people who commit these terrible acts are our neighbors and colleagues:
Das Bundeskriminalamt hat unlängst einen neuen Tätertypus ausgemacht, man könnte ihn „Brandstifter von nebenan“ nennen. In mehr als 70 Prozent der Fälle, in denen nach Übergriffen auf Asylunterkünfte Verdächtige ermittelt werden konnten, wohnten diese vor Ort. Die Mehrheit war nicht in die rechtsextreme Szene eingebunden, nur knapp ein Drittel einschlägig vorbestraft.
There is the friendly and hard-working 24-year-old Dennis L., who, before showing up for work one morning stopped and tossed a Molotov Cocktail under the bed of a 11-year-old boy from Zimbawe. His fellow workers were shocked: Dennis had never attended any right-wing extremist Pegida marches or demos, nor had he ever expressed hate against migrants or any foreigners. There was the single mother of two and the nice bank clerk - normal middle-class people - "Brandstifter aus der Mitte" - both charged with arson against a migrant facility. Especially grotesque is the case of Dirk D. - a young man who poured gasoline on the roof of a migrant shelter and lit a match. Dirk D. was much beloved locally for his work as a - fire fighter.
And let's not pretend that these fires are just being set in Saxony - the heart of Pegida-Land. The arsonists next door are doing their work in every state throughout Germany. Saxony is everywhere - Wir sind Sachsen:
Sachsen ist die Spitze des gesamtdeutschen Eisbergs. Das Ressentiment in Sachsen ist kein anderes als im Rest von Deutschland, es tritt nur offener zutage. All die Probleme, die Sachsen macht, findet man überall in Deutschland – seien es rassistische Polizisten, wütende Mobs oder brennende Asylunterkünfte. Viele Positionen von Pegida treffen auf große Zustimmung in ganz Deutschland. Die »Alternative für Deutschland« feiert ihren Siegeszug bundesweit. Im März wird sie wohl in drei weitere Landtage einziehen. Und es war nicht der sächsische Landtag, sondern der Deutsche Bundestag, der vergangene Woche die Asylgesetzgebung erneut verschärfte und dem Mob so weitere Wünsche erfüllte. Das Problem heißt Deutschland. Und Sachsen bleibt deutsch.
("Saxony is the tip of the iceberg for all of Germany. The resentment in Saxony is no different than in the rest of Germany; it is just more visible. All of the problems we see in Saxony can also be seen everywhere in Germany - whether it's racist police, raging mobs or burning asylum shelters. Many of Pegida's positions are supported throughout Germany. The "Alternative for Germany" - AfD - is winning voters all across the nation. In March it will most likely win seats in three more state assemblies. And it wasn't the Saxony state assembly that passed the new restrictions pertaining to migrants - fulfilling the wishes of the mob - but rather the Bundestag - that national parliament. The problem is Germany. And Saxony is German.")
In the US we have Donald Trump driving a mass movement of white resentment - appealing to racism and bigotry of the mob, combined with a crude nationalism. And let's not pretend the Trump phenomenon is limited to the poorly-educated white male underclass. The Beast is US:
it’s time to place the blame for the elevation of a tyrant as the presumptive Republican presidential nominee where it belongs — with the people. Yes, you. Donald Trump’s supporters know exactly what he stands for: hatred of immigrants, racial superiority, a sneering disregard of the basic civility that binds a society. Educated and poorly educated alike, men and women — they know what they’re getting from him.
Donald Trump's campaign for the Republican Party nomination now appears unstoppable. Much has been written about his appeal to white nationalists here, who interpret his slogan "Make America Great Again" to "Make America White Again". Less attention has been paid to his conspiracy theories, which resonate with an every-growing segment of the US electorate. But conspiracies are at the heart of Trump's campaign strategy. After all, he became a hero to many conservatives with this vocal Birther campaign against President Obama. And millions of Americans cheered when he stated that "thousands and thousands" of Muslims in New Jersey celebrated in the streets on September 11, 2001 as the World Trade Center came down, even though the story was a total fabrication.
Now Trump has placed conspiratorial thinking squarely at the center of the Republican primary. A whole generation of people who get their information from random sources on the Internet have eagerly taken up his invented stories and are reposting them as fast as they can. Trump’s lies and his distortions of reality don’t stick to him because his followers are not interested in truth. They prefer satisfying stories.
Popovic has written that it’s impossible to debunk conspiracy theories, and I can confirm that he is right, being the subject of several myself. He argues, instead, that the best weapon against conspiratorial thinking is laughter. He and his friends wore T-shirts with the slogan “Touch me — I’m a foreign mercenary.” Maybe, just maybe, that might work: When President Obama mocked Trump’s birther campaign at the White House correspondents’ dinner in 2011, Trump did shut up for a while. But I’m afraid that as Trump looks more and more likely to become the Republican presidential nominee, it’s going to get harder and harder to find him funny.
The situation in Germany is equally dire as more and more people get their information from "alternative" news sites such as the Truther site Kopp Online or Kremlin-backed outlets such as RT Deutsch or NachDenkSeiten . The journalist and researcher Tobias Jaecker has written extensively about conspiracy theories in Germany:
"US-Schiffe bringen Flüchtlingsmassen nach Europa!", "Man will die deutsche Bevölkerung austauschen", "Der IS ist ein Geheimdienstkonstrukt des Westens", "Die Amerikaner wollen mit den Flüchtlingen Europa destabilisieren" - das Internet und viele Köpfe sind voller solcher Thesen. "Verschwörungstheorien haben gerade Konjunktur", sagt der Journalist Tobias Jaecker, der sich schon lange mit dem Thema beschäftigt. "Verschwörungstheorien entstehen immer im Zusammenhang mit gesellschaftlichen Umbrüchen mit Kriegen und Krisen", sagt er. "Immer, wenn sich Leute Dinge nicht erklären können und nach Erklärungen suchen, dann wird in der Regel die Frage gestellt: 'Wem nützt ein Ereignis?' Und dann kommt der Umkehrschluss: 'Wem es nützt, der muss dahinterstecken'."
Most popular conspiracy theories in Germany, as Jaecker points out, have an anti-American/anti-Semitic foundation.
It is interesting to watch Vladimir Putin's efforts to interfere in US politics by stroking Donald Trump's ego. In fact, the Kremlin has been active in promoting anti-democratic movements for some time, from bankrolling the far-right Front National in France to reaching out to both the far-right AfD (Alternative for Germany) party and the far-left Linke (Left Party) in Germany. But Putin is far from being the first foreign leader to attempt to subvert the democratic process in the US or in Europe.
As historian Klaus Fischer points out in his book Hitler & America (see my review), Hitler had a shrewd grasp of American politics. The Führer nurtured Germany's ties to the America First crowd - led by the Nazi sympathizer Charles Lindbergh. He hosted a meeting with Herbert Hoover in Berlin. Hoover, an engineer by training, marveled at the Nazi's massive infrastructure projects. Hitler's goal all along was to keep America neutral for as long as possible - until at least he had finished his project on the European continent. This strategy was largely successful until Kristallnacht in November 1938. Even after Kristallnacht there were plenty of Americans who thought the threat against the Jews was exaggerated, or even that the Jews had brought it on themselves (see The American Papers That Praised Hitler).
At the same time, Hitler recognized that his greatest adversary was Franklin Delano Roosevelt. Hitler suspected that FDR might be a Jew, but in any case he was clearly controlled by the Jewish interest. By 1940 Hitler sensed that FDR was girding the nation for war with Germany. His last hope was that FDR could somehow be defeated in the 1940 presidential election.
In June of 1940 Hans Thomsen, the charge d'affaires at the German Embassy here, requested that the German Foreign Office in Berlin transfer thousands of US dollars to pay a Republican congressman so that he could take about 50 fellow isolationist Republicans to the party's National Convention in Philadelphia. They would push for an anti-war platform. What's more, the Republican isolationist faction was forming a committee that would publish full-page newspaper advertisements during the convention bearing the message ''Keep America Out of War.'' The advertisements would cost $60,000 to $80,000, Herr Thomsen said. (That would be hundreds of thousands of dollars in today's money.) The Nazi Party would pay for half the cost (the rest to come from wealthy Republican donors).
Hitler was an equal-opportunity benefactor who recognized that there were plenty of Democrats who opposed the President's foreign policy. A Nazi envoy in Mexico City funneled about $160,000 to someone in the Pennsylvania Democratic Party to buy delegates' votes against FDR at the Chicago National Convention in August. The Nazi's figured that even if FDR could not be defeated he might have been blocked - or at least slowed in his war preparations - if the Democrats adopted a peace platform. In fact, isolationist Democrats did succeed in pushing through a plank pledging to keep the US out of overseas conflicts. FDR made them add the phrase "except in case of attacks."
As it turns out, the Nazi's money went to waste for the most part: the Republicans nominated Wendell Wilkie, a staunch ally of Britain and a supporter of intervention. FDR was easily reelected (to an unprecedented 3rd term). Afterwards, FDR expressed relief that he had won because "there were altogether too many people in high places in the Republican campaign who thought in terms of appeasement of Hitler."
For more information on this amazing chapter in US history see: 1940: FDR, Wilkie, Lindbergh, Hitler - the Election amid the Storm (2014) by Susan Dunn.