Before I turn to more Cassandra worries and warnings, here is some good news. After six years of protest, with people living in tree houses, an artist couple getting hauled away for painting the forest, and the death of a man who fell from a tree ladder, adding tragedy to developments, the multiplying crowds every Sunday finally took effect. A court injunction stopped the huge RWE energy concern from further cutting down the last 500 acres of the Hambacher Forest near Cologne to make way for its open pit lignite coal mines and ordered that the big tough police actions be ceased. It was no final decision but stops the huge excavators at least for many months. Well over 50,000 joyful “Save Our Forest” proponents gathered nearby to celebrate a true people’s victory!
Victor Grossman, Berlin Bulletin No. 153, 12. Oktober 2018
Lignite coal pollutes and stinks. Aside from the arboreal environment, Germany – and many other countries from Sweden to Brazil – are facing a less palpable but far worse stink – the menace of a turn to the far right. Mob scenes in Chemnitz in late August, with violent attacks on Near East immigrants, a Jewish restaurant, journalists and anti-fascists, brought big headlines but were only part of a long-lasting development. For years, in countless towns and cities, rallies and concerts featuring Nazi symbols, salutes and songs have blasted their threats. Though often outnumbered by courageous anti-fascists, too often they were not just protected but pampered by police and authorities infected with the same bacilli but camouflaged by official insistence on the right to free speech.
Eye-catching in Chemnitz were not just Hitler salutes under the statue of Karl Marx but the friendly cooperation between leaders of nasty PEGIDA anti-Islam movement, local pro-fascist thugs and a representative of the racist Alternative for Germany party (AfD), which has 92 nattily-dressed legislators in the national Bundestag, currently places second in polls and is represented in almost every state legislature (soon in all 16), with hopes in 2019 of first place in Saxony (with Chemnitz).
The Chemnitz event had an unusual aftermath. Hans-Georg Maassen, president of the Office to Protect the Constitution (VS), like the FBI, denied the veracity of a video showing thugs chasing foreign-born men, and implicitly supported the mob. His obvious lie made him a laughing-stock, but less joyfully when people learned that he had colluded with and advised AfD leaders. Instead of throwing him out on his ear, however, the coalition parties fired him from his post by promoting him to a higher, better paid one! This was too much for most Social Democrats to swallow, and their leader, Andrea Nahles, was forced to re-negotiate a change. So Maassen was not promoted. Instead he got a new job with his main ally, Interior Minister Seehofer, though at his former (high) salary.
At first the racist AfD was treated as a pariah by government leaders. But the media gave its leaders kid glove treatment, offering every chance to sound wise and very social not just in the Bundestag but on many a talk show. Gradually, some right-wing CDU politicians are now sending up trial balloons. If we see no other alternatives, they suggest, maybe we should talk it over with the Alternative for Germany after all. Though timidly at first, such trends are gaining strength.