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Proletarian issue 70 (February 2016)
On the New Year’s Eve events in Germany
Racism will not be ended by political correctness, but by a united working-class movement for socialism.
New Year’s Eve witnessed large-scale assaults by young men on women in Germany. In Cologne alone, more than 500 cases of violence were recorded – a mixture of muggings and sexual assaults. A crowd of 500-1,000 men, described as drunk and aggressive, are believed to have been behind the attack on partygoers in the centre of Cologne. One woman is alleged to have been raped.

However, these attacks were not confined to Cologne. According to RT: “More than 1,200 people fell victim to attacks on New Year’s Eve in four German cities with more than a half of them suffering from sexual assaults.”

The overwhelming majority of the attackers are reported as being of north African or middle-eastern origin, and police say that none of them were Cologne residents. Among the 52 people so far identified by the police as possible suspects in Cologne, 15 were planning to seek asylum in the country. The suspects also include one American and two Germans. (See Over 1,200 victims of NYE assaults across Germany – state interior minister, RT, 21 January 2016)

Following the attacks, neither the political elite nor the police were candid about the events or the countries of origin of the attackers. The initial police report described the evening in Cologne as having been characterised by a ‘relaxed atmosphere’ with the ‘celebrations [being] largely successful’, while the politicians were quick to assert that the attackers were not migrants who had in recent months sought asylum in Germany. (See Cologne sex attacks: Police could not cope – report, BBC News, 7 January 2016)

This statement may have had an element of truth to it. According to Telesur: “the police have stopped and checked the IDs of about 70 people out of the hundreds that were on New Year’s Eve allegedly protecting the assailants from the police or encouraging them to continue their attacks.

“Others detained, not carrying identification documents, were referred to by the police as ‘refugees’ in the first report issued that night. Though critics say without documentation this description could not be confirmed.

“Several policemen also reported the presence of many French-speakers ... While most asylum seekers in Europe usually come from conflict zones like Syria or Afghanistan, most of these men were from Algeria and Morocco, two former French colonies.” (German minister: New Year’s sexual attacks were ‘premeditated’, 10 January 2016)

Only a week later, however, it was acknowledged that some asylum seekers were among the suspects after all. The true picture – the extent and the serious nature of the assaults – emerged through social media, where video clips of the events were circulating.

Allegedly, the police were under orders not to report on crimes involving refugees and asylum seekers – a case of political correctness gone mad; a madness in which the German news media collaborated. According to the BBC: “Public broadcaster ZDF has apologised on social media because it failed to report on the mass assaults on its Monday evening news bulletin, after the news began to emerge.”

Of course, the fact that there seems to have been a coordinated cover-up only served to make the information even more inflammatory when the truth was revealed.

Not surprisingly, the extent and nature of the attacks, combined with the clumsy (not to say dishonest) attempt by the authorities to hide them, has proved a godsend for the right-wing anti-immigrant lobby in Germany – and in many other European countries, too. Notwithstanding the fact that the miscreants make up only a miniscule percentage of the refugees and asylum seekers who have entered Germany in recent years, all muslim men are now being tarred with allegations that they in general have a dangerously contemptuous attitude towards women.

Racist parties are having a field day manipulating and twisting these events to whip up anti-immigrant hysteria in blatantly xenophobic terms, appealing to the basest instincts in the human breast. If opinion polls are to be believed, the hysteria has been whipped up to such an extent that a large proportion of women now claim they are afraid to go out alone at night.

As Telesur pointed out: “While investigators are still struggling to understand what happened, the country's far right has greatly benefited from the incidents, using islamophobia and anti-refugee rhetoric, while promoting the historical xenophobic stance that ‘they are raping our women’.

“The right has been gaining strength in the past days.

“But the events may also help the Islamic State group in the long term. As some experts highlighted after the Paris attacks in November, the armed group gains more supporters and militants among Europe’s moderate muslim populations as they more and more become the target of discriminatory policies and islamophobic sentiments, which become more visible in Europe following Islamic State group attacks.”

Although many muslims have condemned the outrages in Cologne and elsewhere, the Alternativ für Deutschland party is warning against the “disintegration of German culture” – a narrative that has become a standard xenophobic tool in the hands of all the right-wing populist parties. On 11 January, a march organised by the reactionary Pegida movement in the city of Leipzig carried banners saying: “Rape refugees not welcome”. (See 'Rape refugees not welcome': protesters in Cologne force Merkel response following mass New Year's Eve sex attacks by John Shammas, Mirror, 12 January 2016)

Tatjana Festerling, one of the Pegida leaders, said: “These muslim refugees started an area-wide terror attack – a terror attack on German women; on blonde, white women.” Such inflammatory and racially-provocative language could only have been calculated to incite Germans to attack muslims. (Quoted in Cologne sex attacks ‘good for us’, anti-refugee protestors say by Carlo Angerer, NBC News, 18 January 2016)

Ms Festerling ‘forgot’ to add that the famous Oktoberfest beer festival and funfair, along with other large public events in Germany, has routinely been accompanied by incidents of sexual assault – without any substantial presence of migrants. Perhaps assaults on German women by drunk white German men are part of the ‘civilised’ ‘German culture’ she wishes to preserve.

As a result of such bile-filled and incendiary statements, revenge attacks have already begun. The Mirror reported: “at least 11 foreigners, including Pakistanis, Guineans and Syrians, had been injured on Sunday evening in attacks by hooligans bent on revenge for the assaults in Cologne”.

Consequent upon the hype surrounding these events, the consensus on welcoming refugees, which was already fraying, has abruptly come to an end. Sixty percent of Germans, according to the latest polls, now say they believe that the country cannot cope with a large influx of refugees and migrants – up from 46 percent in December 2015. (See NBC News, op cit)

The German government is seriously considering changing the law to make it easier to deport those convicted of sexual assault. It is under pressure, especially in view of three impending state elections. Warm hospitality and generosity towards the refugees facing imperialist war and imperialist-begotten jihadi terror is fast making way for fear, suspicion and downright hostility to the innocent victims seeking refuge from war zones.

In 2015, 1.1 million refugees – equivalent to 1 percent of the German population – entered the country. This flow of refugees is planned to be cut drastically in the coming months, although the need to accommodate those unfortunates who have been driven out of their country at gunpoint or through starvation is greater than ever.

Elsewhere in Europe, the Schengen agreement, which allows the free movement of people between countries that are part of the system, is on the verge of breakdown. Checkpoints, fences and border controls are cropping up in several parts of the continent.

Border checks were introduced on the Oresund bridge between Denmark and Sweden – being the first time since 1958 that such border control has been introduced between Scandinavian countries. Austria is reinforcing its border with Slovenia; Hungary is helping Macedonia to build a fence.

But for all these restrictions, even in mid-winter, three to four thousand migrants continue to arrive each day in Germany. Thus the EU, especially Germany, has big problems on its hands, not knowing which way to turn.

Europe is paying the price for having collaborated with, or acquiesced in, many of the wars of Anglo-American-French imperialism, which have resulted in the overthrow of the secular Iraqi government of Saddam Hussein, the overthrow of the progressive secular Libyan government of Muammar Gaddafi, the decades-long destruction of once-secular Afghanistan and the wreaking of havoc in secular Syria – all of which are driving millions of refugees to seek safety in Europe.

The proletariat of Europe must understand that it is their governments that are responsible for the plight of the refugees making their way to the comparative safety of Europe. In the words of Marx, written in the context of British colonial rule in India: “there is something in human history like retribution, and it is a rule of historical retribution that its instruments be forged not by the offended, but by the offender himself”. (The Indian revolt, New York Daily Tribune, 16 September 1857)

The progressive workers of Europe should make it perfectly clear that, while muggings and sexual assaults are in no way to be condoned, the actions of a tiny minority of miscreants must not be used as an excuse to vilify muslim men in general. We must not allow our class to be manipulated into accepting ever-greater divisions, which are imposed on us by our rulers in order to keep us weak and diverted. Let those who are guilty of these nasty crimes be charged and tried, irrespective of their backgrounds, and let the rest of us get on with the pressing task of building working-class unity.

The proletariat in the centres of imperialism, while demanding, and itself extending, a warm welcome to the refugees, must oppose imperialist predatory wars of conquest and take active measures to frustrate them.
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