IYSSE holds student parliament election meeting at Berlin’s Humboldt University

By our correspondents
13 January 2017

About 50 students attended the third lecture held on January 11 as part of the IYSSE’s campaign for the student parliament election at Humboldt University (HU) in Berlin. On December 14, hundreds of students attended the first lecture given by David North.

On Wednesday, the university group of the IYSSE at the HU invited Christoph Vandreier as speaker. Vandreier is the spokesman for the IYSSE in Germany and writes regularly for the World Socialist Web Site.

Vandreier began by summarizing the most important conclusions from the two previous meetings. David North had made clear that Donald Trump was preparing to head the most right-wing government in the history of the United States—a regime intent on advancing militarism and crushing the social rights of workers. The danger of a Third World War was very real.

The same tendencies towards nationalism and militarism were gathering ground in Europe. The reaction of the German elite was to rearm and seek to dominate Europe in order to be able to intervene on a global scale. The return of German militarism permeated all of society, Vandreier maintained.

Under these conditions it was necessary to discuss the topic of the meeting: “Will the universities be centres of scholarship and free discussion? Or will they, as was formerly the case, become state-controlled centres for the indoctrination of right-wing and militarist ideologies.”

“A glimpse at the HU reveals how far this process has already advanced,” Vandreier explained. Last November, the student parliament at the HU supported a motion lodged by the IYSSE, opposing advertising on campus for the German army. The response of the president of the university, Sabine Kunst, as well as the student services body, Studentenwerk, was to affirm they would ignore the decision and continue to allow the Bundeswehr to recruit students.

This disregard for the democratic decision of students was no accident. Kunst had already cooperated with the Bundeswehr in the past. She now intends to step up the funding of external university activities by cuts in regular university courses. Such external funding is often made to arms companies or the Bundeswehr. In the last two years alone, the Federal Ministry for Education and Research spent €13 million on armament research at German universities.

The Humboldt University had already cooperated with the Bundeswehr, its universities or institutions. Thus, one HU affiliated institute, Artop, had trained soldiers as so-called “intercultural counsellors” for use in the war in Afghanistan. Many other such co-operations have been struck with the Charité University Hospital.

“However, the role of higher education institutions is not simply limited to developing new weapons and methods of conducting war,” Vandreier emphasized. “The war also has to be ideologically prepared and the widespread popular resistance to war overcome.”

A key role in this respect was played by the political scientist Professor Herfried Münkler. Using a number of quotations, Vandreier showed how Münkler sought to relativize Germany’s guilt for the First World War, argue that Germany should become the “taskmaster” in Europe and supported rearmament, in particular the use of drones.

“While Münkler is omnipresent in the media and has made a priority the influencing of public opinion, there are other professors at the HU who work in the background to legitimise militarism,” Vandreier said. He then cited the example of professor of law, Georg Nolte.

Nolte had been involved in the drafting of the study “New power, new responsibility,” which had provided the impetus for the revival of German militarism. Nolte also justified civilian casualties in foreign deployments, legitimized the bombing campaign against Serbia, and, conversely, branded the annexation of Crimea a violation of international law. “This is called doublespeak,” Vandreier said.

“The return of German militarism evokes all the ghosts of the past. Nationalism and xenophobia are once again entering the political mainstream,” Vandreier said. Muslims, in particular, were being targeted by right-wing ideologues. At the HU, the professor of social sciences, Ruud Koopmans, had made a name for himself in this respect.

Koopmans has stated that nearly half of all Muslims in Europe are fundamentalists and concludes that they are not prepared to integrate. Vandreier then revealed in detail the questionable basis of the studies on which Koopmans bases his conclusions. Koopmans has gone so far as to assert that migrants do not integrate because welfare state benefits are too high.

“Hunger as a motivation for integration—this is the reasoning behind this argument,” Vandreier summarized. “This inhuman argument is only surpassed by Professor Jörg Baberowski, who teaches Eastern European history at the HU.”

Baberowski had developed into a speaker of the new far-right in Germany. He despised refugees, legitimized brutal wars and justified social inequality and dictatorship. In his work, Baberowski relativized the crimes of National Socialism. Vandreier proved this with numerous quotations.

It is clear that these professors are not just expressing individual views, because no other professor has criticised them. “But, on the contrary, when the IYSSE criticized the views of Münkler and Baberowski the Institute of History and the University management issued statements slandering and threatening us.”

The most recent example was an appeal by Professor Thomas Sandkühler, which he published in October on the official Moodle pages of his lectures, which was directed against the IYSSE. The professor then refused to answer the IYSSE’s detailed response, Vandreier reported. Instead, he sought to suppress any discussion, using his authority as a professor.

The development at the universities was an expression of a general social tendency. Trump was being attacked from the right within the US political establishment because he was regarded as insufficiently aggressive towards Russia. But no one has seriously opposed his right-wing, mafia-type government.

The reason is the deep crisis of capitalism, which has led to unprecedented levels of social inequality, dictatorship and war all over the world. “All the unresolved problems of the 20th century are re-emerging,” Vandreier explained, citing extensively from the perspective document published by the World Socialist Web Site earlier this year.

The only way to prevent a disaster was a socialist revolution, Vandreier declared. “Whoever wants to fight against the lurch to the right and against the danger of war must join the socialists and take part in the construction of the IYSSE.”

In the discussion, IYSSE speakers emphasized the importance of countering the falsification of history. Only on the basis of understanding history would workers be able to intervene independently in political life and carry out a socialist revolution. This underlined the importance of the work of the IYSSE.

Many listeners were shocked at the extent of the anti-refugee sentiment, war propaganda and right-wing ideology at Humboldt University. “I find it quite devastating that there are professors who favour and propagate such ideologies,” said Josué, who studied agricultural sciences at the HU. “I think it is really crass that something like that still takes place and nothing is really done about it.”

Josué saw a close connection with developments in the US: “In the beginning, Hitler was not taken seriously. There will be a bad dynamic when Trump does what he wants to do, and that will also be a global problem. Either way, America has always been a problem when it comes to wars and Trump is definitely no improvement!”

Hanna, who studies art history at the HU in the third semester, and her friend Lisa (who studies social pedagogy) also responded positively to the meeting. “It is quite correct that we urgently need an international movement against war,” Hanna said.

The last meeting of the series takes place next Monday under the title “For a socialist movement against war and militarism.” Elections to the student parliament at Humboldt University take place on the following two days.

 

Commenting is enabled but will only be shown on the live site.