Immunization against Authoritarianism

Germany has experienced extreme left-wing (socialism/wannabe communism) and extreme right-wing (nazism/fascism) governments in the 20th century (and a monarchy with parliament and constitution at its beginning).

Especially the poor experience with nazism has provoked a strong reaction - the German society and state are designed to resist any attempts to revive fascism or similar ideologies. These precautions erode only partially and very slowly.

The poor experience with the Eastern German socialism and the strong anti-communism indoctrination that was applied in Western Germany during the Cold War caused a high degree of resilience to socialism as well. The outermost left wing of social-democracy is well alive in the party Die Linke, though. The same party has also some socialism features, but its chances to lead a leftist government that might threaten freedom in Germany is nil.

That leaves one most relevant threat to liberty; conservative/political center authoritarianism. There's no party in Germany that advocates this, but the threat might arise if an external shock (like 9/11) or a long-lasting misery (like the Great depression) erodes the resistance to authoritarian ideas. Such special conditions could make a loss of some civil rights (or loss of their effectiveness) acceptable. We saw that happen with regard to habeas corpus, torture and domestic spying in the post-9/11 USA.

The German governments of 2001-2008 (chancellors Schröder and Merkel) actually pushed a lot of domestic spying and previously not allowed police techniques forward - against mediocre resistance. That seems to have come to a halt, just short before the project to allow the Bundeswehr to support the police on our soil.
Two minor scandals of the Bundeswehr during the 2007 G8 meeting (Tornado planes flying low to scare demonstrants, unarmed Fennek sensor AFVs used to observe areas/demonstrants) have apparently caused a final stop tot his movement.
Domestic Bundeswehr competencies are still almost entirely limited to serious crisis situations (like floods, wartime).

The perception of the threat of potential authoritarian governments is rather weak because of our precautions and two generations of democracy (at least for most of us). Most Germans would likely suspect a threat form the extreme left or right and just a minority would agree that there's a real threat of an authoritarian government that could exploit already existing laws and technology to quickly establish a police state. We don't have as much public CCTV cameras as the British (yet) and some other precautions are still in force.

Nevertheless; it's time to focus on the threat that's left and get over the threats against which we have immunized us as much as possible in the past decades.
Let's resist additional competencies for judiciary and executive (the armed services of the state and the government) that might endanger liberty or help those who might sometime attempt to switch to an authoritarian state.

Sven Ortmann

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