German politicians, media seek to criminalize opponents of war

Christoph Dreier

Yet another apostle of peace: President Joachim Gauck, who was
a Protestant pastor in the GDR (right), visited his colleague Daniela
Schadt (left) and members of the Geneva cantonal government,
the St-Pierre Cathedral.
(Photo: Jean-Christophe Bott)

In recent months, President Joachim Gauck has been calling quite openly for a more robust German military presence in the world. This attempted revival of German militarism has been decisively rejected by a majority of the population. Politicians, the media and the public prosecution department are now organizing a campaign against opponents of war and preparing to launch criminal proceedings against them.

In line with this, the Facebook posting of a hitherto largely unknown Left Party politician has recently come under attack. Last Monday, 28-year-old Brandenburg state parliament deputy Norbert Müller referred to criticism of Gauck’s war policies made by a number of church pastors, and wrote on his Facebook page: “Some remain true [to their faith]. Others become federal presidents and obnoxious warmongers.”

The posting was seized upon by numerous media outlets and condemned for “defaming the president”. Such a denigration is a criminal offence in Germany, which—under Section 90 of the Criminal Code and on authorization of the federal president—can be punished with imprisonment for a term of between three months and five years. A spokesman for the Potsdam public prosecutor told Spiegel Online that the authorities were reviewing the case. On Wednesday, Gauck then sent word that he had not authorised the prosecutor to initiate proceedings.

Munich Security Conference endorses US call for expansion of neo-colonial wars

Christoph Dreier

US vice president Joe Biden (R) greets Israeli Defence
Minister Ehud Barak (L) on the second day of the 49th
Munich Security Conference at Hotel Bayerischer Hof
in Munich, Germany, 02 February 2012. More than
400 foreign and defence policy heavyweights were to
discuss Mali, Syria and other global trouble spots. The
Munich Security Conference (MSC) brings together
some 400 guests - a dozen heads of state and govern-
ment, 70 ministers as well as leaders from defence and
business, including the arms industry.
(Credit: EPA)

This year's Munich Security Conference, held over the weekend, took place against the background of the re-colonization of the Middle East and Africa by the US and its European allies. It was an unabashed affirmation of the type of naked imperialist domination of these regions that characterized the first half of the 20th century.

Even as the meeting was underway, French President François Hollande was making a celebratory visit to France’s former colony Mali while French troops and war planes continued to attack insurgent-held territory, and British Prime Minister David Cameron was holding talks with UK-backed leaders in Algeria and Libya.

For three days, leading political, military and defense industry representatives of the major powers, along with invited officials from other nations, met to discuss current and future military operations and geo-strategic issues. The conference demonstrated the consensus among the major imperialist powers, led by the United States, for an expanded political and military drive to install puppet governments and seize control of critical natural resources across the Middle East, Central Asia and the African continent.

The tone was set by US Vice President Joseph Biden, who delivered a bellicose speech singling out as targets of US and NATO aggression nations ranging from Syria, Iran and Yemen to Somalia, Mali and the rest of North Africa.

Some 400 participants from nearly 90 countries were invited to the privately organized conference, which has been held for the past 49 years at the Hotel Bayerischer Hof in Munich. Among those taking part were Iranian Foreign Minister Ali Akbar Salehi and, for the first time, representatives of the Western-backed Syrian opposition.

The threat of dictatorship in Greece

Christoph Dreier

From the student uprising at the Athens Polytechnic that
led to the collapse off the 7-year dictatorship in Greece

The installation by the banks and major imperialist powers of a “national unity” government in Greece that includes members of the fascistic LAOS party, as well as the designation of the right-wing New Democracy party to head the defense ministry, must be taken as a serious warning to the Greek and international working class.

Thirty-eight years after student protests at the Polytechnic in Athens on November 17, 1973, whose bloody suppression ultimately brought down the US-backed junta of the colonels, finance capital is again considering the imposition of military rule or fascist dictatorship to suppress the workers.

Ousted PASOK Prime Minister George Papandreou had mobilized the army to suppress strikes against the austerity measures he was carrying out at the behest of the banks and European institutions. In August 2010, soldiers broke the strike by truckers against the deregulation of their profession. In October of this year, the government placed striking refuse workers under military discipline and forced them back to work.

On February 4, 2011, Athens News Agency reported that the army’s 71st airborne brigade had staged a mock battle with anti-austerity protesters. The exercise included methods for controlling “feuding parties” as well as “conflict deterrence” and “crowd evacuation.”

There is a barely concealed debate within the ruling class over whether to scrap all democratic procedures and move openly towards authoritarian rule. In May, a CIA report declared that a coup in Greece was a possibility. In September, retired army officers rioted, after which the Association of Support and Cooperation of the State Armed Forces, the professional association of full-time soldiers, warned Papandreou in a letter that the army was following his policies “with increased concern.” Defense Minister Panos Beglitis denounced the officers for acting as “a state within a state.”

Shortly before Papandreou resigned, he and Beglitis sacked the entire General Staff of the armed forces, leading to widespread suspicions that a coup had been narrowly averted. This followed a massive two-day general strike and new demands from the European Union and the International Monetary Fund that Athens impose even more sweeping layoffs and wage and pension cuts. It preceded the furious reaction of the financial markets to Papandreou’s proposal for a popular referendum on the new austerity measures.

All of the sacked military chiefs had been appointed by the previous New Democracy government. Now New Democracy is once again in charge of defense, and the new defense minister, Dimitris Avramopoulos, has pledged to reverse the sackings.

European markets plummet on fears of a new banking crisis

Christoph Dreier

Allocating hundreds of billions more in public funds to cover the potential losses of banks across the euro zone - a coordinated plan to “recapitalize” the banks - this points to a policy of pushing Europe over the edge.

European stock markets fell sharply Tuesday and the euro hit new lows for the year amid reports of an impending default of the Greek economy and fears of a rapidly developing recession and renewed banking crisis on both sides of the Atlantic. Asian markets were also generally lower for the day.

Major European banks with heavy exposure to the debt of ailing euro zone countries such as Greece, Italy, Spain and Portugal suffered heavy losses. The Franco-Belgian bank Dexia lost 37 percent at one point following rumours of an imminent crash of the bank.

US stock exchanges, sharply lower for most of the day, pivoted in the final hour of trading to close with substantial gains. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 360 points in the last 30 minutes to end the day with a gain of 153 points. The rally was evidently triggered by an article posted on the Financial Times web site reporting that euro zone finance ministers meeting in Brussels were moving toward a coordinated plan to “recapitalize,” i.e., bail out, the European banks.

Earlier in the day, one analyst had noted, "Dexia's problems stress the point that for euro zone leaders the Greek crisis is less about Greece and more about the potential for it to spark a much more widespread banking and economic disaster."

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