The Fourth Reich: American Hegemony and the Question of European Democracy

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The Fourth Reich

American Hegemony and the Question of European Democracy

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Europe is an invalid who owes her best thanks to her incurability and the eternal transformations of her sufferings; these constant new situations, these equally constant new dangers, pains, and make-shifts, have at last generated an intellectual sensitiveness which is almost equal to genius, and is in any case the mother of all genius.

Nietzsche, The Gay Science, Book 1, Section 24 [1]

In a recent article in Spiegel, “The Fourth Reich: What Some Europeans See When They Look at Germany” [1], attributed to Spiegel Staff (Nikolaus Blome, Sven Böll, Katrin Kuntz, Dirk Kurbjuweit, Walter Mayr, Mathieu von Rohr, Christoph Scheuermann, Christoph Schult), a stunning admission was repeated, in which Angela Merkel laments, defiantly, ‘I am rather alone in the EU, but I don’t care. I am right.’ The article claims her lament was shared with ‘a small group of advisers during a discussion about the role of the IMF.’ The article continues: ‘Later, she said: “We are in Europe what the Americans are in the world: the unloved leading power.”’

The article offers context for the current situation of Europe, arising at the end of WWII:

After the end of the Third Reich, German dominance on the Continent appeared to have been rendered an impossibility for all time. West Germany and East Germany both were initially tentative states that more or less willingly subordinated themselves to their big brothers, the US and the Soviet Union. They ceded to the dominance of others.

The rehearsal of the historical context of the current situation culminates in the fateful question: ‘Which is why the “German question” has returned. Is the new Germany too big and powerful for the other European countries or is it too small and hesitant?’

The article illustrates its fateful question by quoting Hans Kundnani of the European Council on Foreign Relations:

“Germany is once again a paradox. It is strong and weak at the same time — just like in the 19th century after unification, it seems powerful from the outside but feels vulnerable to many Germans. It does not want to ‘lead’ and resists debt mutualization, but at the same time it seeks to remake Europe in its own image in order to make it more ‘competitive.'”

Kundnani continues his Neo-Liberal narrative with an emphasis upon his apparent interest in a very powerful Germany, conceived as a hegemon:

A real hegemon like the US, Kundnani writes, doesn’t just establish norms. It also creates incentives for those it rules over so that they remain part of the system. To do so, it must compromise in the short term so as to secure its long-term interests.

The article further develops its thesis of the question of Germany as hegemon:

Germany is acting not like a hegemon, but like a “semi-hegemon.” It is an argument previously made by the German historian Ludwig Dehio in describing Germany’s position in Europe after 1871. Though the context was radically different, former Polish Foreign Minister Radoslaw Sikorski also said in a speech in Berlin in November 2011 that he was less afraid of German power than he was of German inaction and urged Germany to take the lead in Europe.

The concrete meaning of this hegemony, for the Nikolaus Blome et. al., becomes more explicit in their analysis of German foreign policy:

Whereas Germany has dominated Europe economically during the euro crisis, it has remained a foreign policy dwarf. The apex of this refusal to play a significant political role was its abstention in March 2011 United Nations Security Council vote on the NATO intervention in Libya. European partners like France also saw the vote as a step backwards for Germany.

The article quotes Kundnani with respect to its lack of military hegemony, next to its economic “empire” in the Eurozone: Germany, Kundnani writes, “is characterized by a strange mixture of economic assertiveness and military abstinence. For that reason alone, the references to the Nazi period are off base.”

The article concludes with the following summary and prospect:

Germany is, in fact, not big enough to solve the problems of all the others with money. But it would still be important sometimes to show more greatness, sometimes by way of generosity. And it would certainly be easier to make progress in Europe without the new polemic tone from Munich and Berlin. Power and greatness can sometimes be shown by ignoring the inappropriate comparisons, or by elegantly refuting them.

In a nut shell, the article argues that Germany must complement its economic might with a return to “greatness”, standing together with the forward nations which will participate in illegal NATO operations and wars, such as Libya. Nikolaus Blome et. al. argue that Germany should either ignore comparisons with the Third Reich of Nazi Germany, or elegantly refute them by becoming exactly that which it claims to be avoiding.

The answer to the German question is not that of Abe of Japan who seeks to re-write history, while seeking to dismantle the pacifist constitution.

It is extraordinary that an upstanding magazine such as Spiegel would advance such an uncritical thesis, that a more NATO oriented and militarily “progressive” Germany would enhance its relationships within Europe and in the international arena.

Indeed, it could be seen as a mark of distinction that Germany did not participate militarily in Libya, just as it refused to be drawn into the illegal war in Iraq. If Germany is in fact a nation of rules, then it is also a nation which should follow International Law. Its recent overtures in relation to Edward Snowden shows that Germany can still attempt to be independent of the United States and its occupation of Europe in the form of NATO.

The real question is to address Merkel herself and her contention – which I detailed above – that she was right to bring the IMF (another instrument of “a real hegemon”) to handle the finances of the Eurozone.

But, was she right? Does she still think that she was right, as the uncritical Spiegel article tacitly implies. Is it right for Germany and for Europe to be administered by NATO and the IMF? In other words, is it good for Germany and Europe for the American occupation and administration to continue, including its military assets and personnel in Europe?

Lost in the thread of this elucidation of the question of Germany, the Spiegel article mentions Syriza’s Yanis Voroufakis’ desire for a “Marshall Plan” for Europe, which could be carried out by such a beneficent hegemon.

However, this is where the essential contradiction of American hegemony and European Sovereignty and Democracy is revealed.

With the “Marshall Plan”, the United States rapidly took over the finances of Europe after the war, and with NATO membership mandated (as Greece knows all too well), the European continent lost its sovereignty. Its political history has been determined by this loss ever since.

Europe does not need a hegemon. Angela Merkel’s lament is fundamentally in error. Europe already has a hegemon, a “real hegemon”, in the words of Kundnani, and that is America.

Syriza and the European Anti-Austerity movements are seeking to change the narrative of the history of the present.

Austerity is an ideological and concrete complement to the deepening of American control over Europe, which will soon lose any trace of sovereignty with the implementation of TTIP, which has been described as the economic complement to NATO.

The kind of “Marshall Plan” that would be appropriate for a sovereign Europe of democracies would be, in the words of Georges Bataille, one of expenditure, of festival, one which recognises that economics is not restricted to the Neo-Classical/Neo-Liberal ideologies of American think tanks and their European and global associates.[3]

Syriza, Podemos and the new European Left present a shift in the narrative of debt and austerity, setting forth alternatives, the motive of which is the satisfaction of the people’s needs. This shift is sweeping across a Europe that sets upon the precipice of renewal.



[1] Nietzsche, Friedrich, The Gay Science, Volume 10, The Complete Works of Friedrich Nietzsche, edited by Oscar Levy, Macmillan Company, 1924.

[2] ‘The Fourth Reich: What Some Europeans See When They Look at Germany’ by Spiegel Staff, March 23, 2015.

[3] Bataille, Georges. ‘The Notion of Expenditure’, Visions of Excess, University of Minnesota Press, 1985.


Go to: The Ends of the British State in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

Go to: “They Destroy, We Create: The Anti-Austerity UK Alliance” in Planet Magazine: The Welsh Internationalist

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Go to: The Tragic Community: Friedrich Nietzsche and Mao Tse Tung

Go to: Prometheus Dismembered: Bataille on Van Gogh

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Go to: The Politics of the Imperfect: Building a Different World

Go to: The Laughter of Dionysus: Bataille and Derrida on Joyce

Go to: The British Wasteland: A History of the Present

Go to: Wales in the European Union

Go to: UKIP and the Politics of Disruption

Go to: Divided We Fall: Plaid Cymru and the Green Agenda

Go to: Discovering Plaid Cymru, the Party of Wales

Go to: Dylan Thomas in Exile

Go to: Whispers of a Forgotten Nation – The Writings of Dr D. Ceri Evans

 Go to: Edward Snowden on Walden Pond

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