What takes place in Europe now underlines the continuity of history going back to 1945
The primary purpose of the current post is to bring attention to a Lawfare article about white supremacy as an embedded feature of German military and civic institutions.
I refer to a Jan. 30, 2022 Lawfare article by Anna Meier entitled: “Germany’s White Supremacist Problem – and What It Means for the United States.”
An Editor’s Note outlines the content of the article:
As the United States wrestles with the threat of white supremacist violence, observers often look to Germany for lessons on how to deal with a racist past. The University of Nottingham’s Anna Meier argues that this is a mistake. She finds that German officials often minimize the extent of the problem and, as a result, ignore the deeper structural reforms needed to reduce racism.
The gist of the article is that things are not always as they appear.
The article highlights a theme addressed previously, namely, that in order to address issues such as bullying, harassment, and coercion, the power relations at play must be in favour of the forces that seek to deal with them.
The second purpose of the post is to bring attention to two studies of East Germany before and after the fall of the Berlin Wall
Some years ago I read a few pages of Stasiland: Stories from Behind the Berlin Wall (2002) by Anna Funder. As noted at a previous post, a passage from p. 136 of Stasiland concerning an interview with a former German Democratic Republic propaganda official, in particular caught my attention:
He can switch from from one view to another with frightening ease. I think it is a sign of being accustomed to such power that the truth does not matter because you cannot be contradicted.
What comes to mind on reading this passage is the concept that, sometimes, power speaks its own language, whereby up is down, in is out, and big is small. (In the course of observing committee of adjustment and other land use hearings in Toronto over many years, it had dawned upon me that, on occasion, power does indeed speak a language of its own.)
I decided to subsequently read Stasiland from cover to cover because it’s mentioned in a Doctor of Creative Arts dissertation by Siobhan McHugh:
Another study Siobhan McHugh mentions in her dissertation is entitled: The Firm: The Inside Story of the Stasi (2010) by Gary Bruce.
A blurb reads:
Based on previously classified documents and on interviews with former secret police officers and ordinary citizens, The Firm is the first comprehensive history of East Germany’s secret police, the Stasi, at the grassroots level. Focusing on Gransee and Perleberg, two East German districts located north of Berlin, Gary Bruce reveals how the Stasi monitored small-town East Germany. He paints an eminently human portrait of those involved with this repressive arm of the government, featuring interviews with former officers that uncover a wide array of personalities, from devoted ideologues to reluctant opportunists, most of whom talked frankly about East Germany’s obsession with surveillance. Their paths after the collapse of Communism are gripping stories of resurrection and despair, of renewal and demise, of remorse and continued adherence to the movement. The book also sheds much light on the role of the informant, the Stasi’s most important tool in these out-of-the-way areas. Providing on-the-ground empirical evidence of how the Stasi operated on a day-to-day basis with ordinary people, this remarkable volume offers an unparalleled picture of life in a totalitarian state.
The two books, each of which approaches oral history and archives from a different perspective, are worth a close read. [1, 2]
The third purpose of this post is to bring attention to a New York Times article by Ivan Krastev entitled: “Europe Thinks Putin Is Planning Something Even Worse Than War.” The article identifies the author as a permanent fellow at the Institute for Human Sciences in Vienna and an expert on international politics.
I do not subscribe to the New York Times; instead, I access it through the Toronto Public Library website. As a non-resident of Toronto, I pay an annual membership fee to access the site.
An excerpt (I’ve omitted embedded links) reads:
The answer is surprising, even paradoxical. Europeans and Ukrainians are skeptical of a major Russian invasion in Ukraine not because they have a more benign view of Mr. Putin than their American counterparts. On the contrary, it’s because they see him as more malicious. War, they reason, is not the Kremlin’s game. Instead, it’s an extensive suite of tactics designed to destabilize the West. For Europe, the threat of war could turn out to be more destructive than war itself.
America and Europe aren’t divided on what Mr. Putin wants. For all the speculation about motives, that much is clear: The Kremlin wants a symbolic break from the 1990s, burying the post-Cold War order. That would take the form of a new European security architecture that recognizes Russia’s sphere of influence in the post-Soviet space and rejects the universality of Western values. Rather than the restoration of the Soviet Union, the goal is the recovery of what Mr. Putin regards as historic Russia.