Gretchen Dutschke Klotz
Report on Germany and Denmark
I spent most of the months of December and January in Germany and Denmark and would like to pass on my impressions. I live in the USA most of the time, so this is obviously limited.
In the past year I believed that rejection of Bush government policies was fairly strong in Europe both by the people and by some of the governments, and thus we could expect some support for political alternatives in the USA. This impression was not confirmed. The massive anti-war demonstrations at the beginning of last year in most European countries have not fostered a new alternative movement and no new thinking.
It is true that most people I met as well as the press in Germany and Denmark do not like Bush. The reason for their rejection is because they consider him stupid and they feel some unease about US unilateralism and the rejection of international treaties especially the Kyoto treaty.
However, there is no general feeling that Bush government policies are dangerous for Europe and people do not see them as a threat to peace in their part of the world or to their economic situation.
People in Germany and Denmark do not seem to be very interested in what is going on in the USA at all. If you try to paint a picture of an interrelated whole in which the US wars, its economy, and its long term strategic goals for world domination are analyzed, they find it obscure. I did not meet anyone including Greens (I talked to Christian Stroebele and other German Greens) who were very concerned with this broader picture.
The most compelling interest in the wider view in both countries was expressed over and over with the words "western values". We have to preserve western values. I am sure people have different ideas of what this means. For some, western values means preservation of national identity as white and Christian. For others it means preservation of liberal democracy against threats from Islamic expansion in Europe. In all cases, it is very ominous.
Population in Germany and Denmark is falling. If those countries are to be able to support their impending mass of retiring persons they will have to have more young people working. The only way this can be done is to allow immigration from Asia and Africa. Governments understand the dilemma, but they are not willing to solve it. People do not want more Muslims. Therefore, it is likely that eventually Europe will become weaker economically. Because people have no interest, and rightly so, in developing competing military power, the only way they could counter US hegemony would be economically, but because of their inability to develop their economies independently of the US motor, they will not be able to form any kind of balance of power against US hegemony. And people seem to have no notion at all, nor do they care what US hegemony could potentially mean for them as resources become scarce.
Although German government policy seems to be to keep open channels of communication with Russia and China, there is no desire to strengthen these ties. China is viewed as outside the realm of "western values" and therefore not a potential ally against US hegemonic goals. In fact, because people believe that the US government shares their belief in "western values" ultimately the only hope is to stay within the US sphere of influence (and let the US fight the wars if need be). They do not understand that the most compelling fact about political developments in the world that will affect them, is the consolidation of US empire. People seemed very surprised when I would harp on the fact that the reality of empire cannot be democratic, that the two forms of government are incompatible and that a US empire will not be a democracy, nor will it promote or support real democracy anywhere in the world. I think Europeans are complacent about their own democracies, do not feel they are endangered (which, in fact, they aren't at this time), but interest in politics is low, especially among the youth. I guess I was a little frustrated too, that they didn't think a powerful US empire was a problem for them.
The expansion of the EU to include 10 Eastern European countries is one of the big problems for Germany right now. There is no money to support these poor economies. Germany's debt is growing and solutions are not appearing. Germans do not want those small Eastern European countries to be able to tell them how to run their country, which they fear if the EU should allow every country an equal voice. The small countries on the other hand, don't want Germany and France to tell them what to do which would happen if decision-making is based on population. So far the EU has been unable to solve this. On the other hand, most people do think the idea of the European Common market is very good. They imagine that it could be an example of how the FTAA could work. But I wonder if they understand how different the USA's dominance relation to the countries of South America is compared to the EC.
There is certainly more interest in alternative energy in Germany and Denmark than in the USA. The countryside in both countries is full of windmills. However, even in Denmark alternative energy only supplies about 17 - 20% of the total energy and there isn't much chance of expanding wind energy. The windmills are very noisy and no one wants them near their homes. I heard complaints about this, but little enthusiasm for putting a lot of effort into alternatives. Yet, that is what Europe has to do, if it wants to have any chance of forging ahead in the next period of economic growth. If the USA puts its energies into war and the oil economy (which will likely happen if Bush government policy continues another four years), it will forfeit the dominant position it has now. It's a chance for Europe, which I am not convinced Europeans will use to their advantage. Yet, they have no oil, or if they do - as Denmark does - it will be gone in a couple decades. Germany has coal and that is where they are putting their efforts now, to make it as clean as possible. So far, they are not about to undo their goal of ridding themselves of nuclear energy in 30 years or so.
There is a feeling that the huge deficits the Bush government is creating are not good. This is probably the cause of the Euro going up so high against the dollar. That is nice for people who want to travel to the USA, but not so good for trade - however, there doesn't seem to be much worry about it on the whole. Nonetheless, there is a gradual tendency in Denmark and Germany to begin bit by bit to enact neo-liberal policies of privatization and deregulation. Social services are being cut. This is causing strikes and lots of complaints. In Denmark people are also beginning to say, maybe we don't need any more tax cuts. Unlike many Americans they do understand that tax cuts mean cutting services. Also in Denmark the span between rich and poor is very small compared to the USA and there is not a powerful class of super rich who control everything there. Of course, one could develop if they continue their present path of following the US lead. But maybe they won't. They like the welfare state. Denmark has been doing very well economically the last few years.
Germany on the other hand is an economic disaster. No one really knows how to solve it. People do want to keep the welfare state, but they desperately need jobs. Maybe that is part of the reason for the dampened spirit there. Students don't know if they'll be able to find work when they are done. The fact that the only options Europeans can think of are copying US neo-liberal policies (which are now at least partially obsolete in the USA with the neo-conservatives pushing through their empire-building agenda) is very disconcerting. I think the US would not now be abandoning neo-liberalism for neo-conservatism if the neo-liberal policies had been that successful. So why don't Europeans start asking why? And finding their own solutions?
On the whole people's views in Denmark and Germany are very inward looking. There are no proposals for alternative solutions and little interest in or awareness of opposition groups in the USA.