What's wrong with liberals

Conservatives and New Right : Germany's liberal conservatives are homeless

Suddenly 120 listeners flinch, who are sitting tightly packed in the library of conservatism in Charlottenburg. A guest in the audience has just accused Rupert Scholz of being the speaker for the evening on the subject of asylum, of being a political establishment. He always evades when it comes to the consequences, and Scholz would like Merkel and other politicians to go to jail because he himself complains about their asylum policy. This policy is destroying Germany.

Then the renowned constitutional lawyer, Federal Defense Minister under Helmut Kohl and 80 years old, is loud. His tone of voice ends the murmur abruptly. He shouts: “I don't accept your polemics!” He teaches that Germany has a constitutional state. "If you want to bring someone to justice in a democratic system, you need a trial," says Scholz excitedly.

Germany is currently full of radical slogans and sharp counter-reactions. Debates without hostility are hardly possible. It is always said, “We can still say that”. The debate about refugee policy was and is a catalyst for aggressiveness. There is only friend or foe - for or against.

If anyone should be able to mediate at all, it would have to be the liberal conservatives like Scholz. They are well known to the left, and they also have the best access to the far right and to those who have appeared there in recent years, because there are overlaps in thinking.

They form a bourgeois-conservative debating club

Rupert Scholz has been a CDU member since 1983 and is an avowed conservative whose credo comes from the philosopher Odo Marquard: the future needs a past. Scholz has been a vehement critic of the Chancellor's refugee policy since 2015; but here in the library he is now forced to draw his own personal boundaries against the radical, the hurtful polemics and the anti-democratic gesture.

In the stuffy room next to high shelves full of conservative and national conservative books, men and women over 60 or 70 years of age sit on black folding chairs, some younger people are also there. You have come to hear Rupert Scholz talk about migration and the ceiling. Since it was founded in 2012, the library has been a place where people gather who distrust the establishment, they form a bourgeois-conservative debating club: Disappointed members of the CDU, AfD supporters, non-party conservatives, and supporters of the “Identitarian Movement” who "Wants to anchor the preservation of the ethno-cultural identity in the Basic Law". All possible facets of being right are represented.

In the increasingly confusing atmosphere of the AfD, rights of all stripes are opening up anyway to dictate the discourse in the country. It is a movement against supposed political correctness - against marriage for all, gender mainstreaming, modern sex education or feminism; against the euro and of course against mass immigration. The honorable conservatives like Rupert Scholz have intentionally or unintentionally become part of this movement. And at the same time lonely - because the new rights only wash around them like a rock in the sea.

The bustling whispering in the audience is noticeable, whoever comes here likes to chat and is happy to meet like-minded people. “What can you do in view of the situation in the country?” One guest asks his neighbor. “Either a military coup or a war,” replies.

“How long do I have to watch my fatherland being destroyed?” Scholz was asked by a woman after his lecture. When Scholz ignores her, a visitor whispers: "Now nobody dares to get up again!"

A young man reports that he suffers from his peers. For migrants, for strangers, for the colorful society, “they just don't want to be German”. Germany will be the victim of re-education: "How should we convince people of us without being defamed as rights?" Scholz replies dryly: "You have to accept the battle of opinion."

The visitors and this library are representative of the patchwork of right-wing attitudes that are gaining more and more attention in this country. In the meantime, more than 153,000 citizens have signed the “Declaration 2018”, which denounces “illegal mass immigration” and is to be submitted as a petition to the Bundestag. In addition to representatives of the New Right, many educated citizens with an academic degree took part.

Scholz did not sign, but his name appears as a proposal for the composition of a commission that the initiators are calling for.

A few days before his lecture in the library, Scholz smokes cigarillos with relish in his office at an international law firm on Friedrichstrasse. The 2018 declaration? He don't know. Don't even care. Let him be his own master, say what he has to say. If a right-wing extremist thinks that's good, he doesn't care, but there is nothing he can do about it.

Scholz: Whoever gives up borders gives up the state

Rupert Scholz thinks you can change a society, but only if you are aware of your history and culture. “I cannot force people to become world citizens, to strip off everything national. His nationality is his origin, his home. In my being and in my consciousness I am part of the past of my people. Anyone who denies this is an ideologue and mutilates himself. ”He sees himself as a conservative who has become homeless in the CDU, betrayed by his own party. The abolition of conscription, the quick nuclear phase-out or marriage for all were painful milestones for him. Alexander Gauland has drawn his conclusions and co-founded the AfD. Rupert Scholz stayed.

Since the end of 2015 he has been calling for a reform of the asylum law, because almost all refugees who have come to Germany go through the asylum procedure, "but only very few are politically persecuted." He believes that humanity cannot be above the constitution . And: Whoever abandons borders, abandons the state. His personal fight against refugee policy has two pillars - a legal and a social one. He fears that the attempt to integrate 1.5 million people from a different cultural environment will "admit has to lead to severe upheavals in society. "Ultimately, he fears the loss of national identity. You can open up as a country to be multiethnic, but then you have to develop a balanced understanding of nations at the same time it can become normal. "

In the library of conservatism, the majority of the public would reject such differentiations. Just like leftists. But differentiation is the essential feature that distinguishes Scholz from the radicals. Many from the right-wing movement can be found in Fasanenstrasse: the founder and editor-in-chief of “Junge Freiheit”, Dieter Stein, who was a member of the Republicans, is a co-initiator of the library and has close ties to the AfD. While the “Junge Freiheit” relies on reforms, others like the extreme right-wing publisher Götz Kubitschek want more revolution. It is no coincidence that the new right youth movement of the Identitarians, Kubitschek's magazine “Sezession”, is closer than the “Junge Freiheit”. But the bottom line is that the protagonists' worldview finds more supporters and multipliers than ever before. Young and old.

Can you be conservative with a clear conscience because you see yourself as an antidote and not a placebo?

One of the people who only answers this question with a long sigh is Ulrich Greiner. For the long-time head of the feature pages of the weekly newspaper “Die Zeit” and a renowned literary critic, the refugee crisis was the event, similar to Scholz's, to rethink his own attitude.

On a Thursday in April, the 72-year-old, who is the father of two grown daughters, is sitting in his office crammed with books. He is tall, slim, friendly. He is endowed with a self-confidence that is fed by his own life experience and the conviction that a proper general education really doesn't hurt you. He emphasizes: “When I say that it is not absurd to fear Islamization, then it is neither racist nor folkish. I'm not an Islamophobic either. I don't teach anyone, I just express my attitude. "

Gender mainstreaming also upsets him

In March 2016 he wrote a long text entitled “On the Right to Be Right”, which later became the book “Heimatlos. Confessions of a conservative. ”Greiner describes his personal change from a leftist to a conservative. It is a private lesson that gives an insight into the narrow, often empathic and dogmatic world of the 68s.

The book is also relevant in the now because it calls for people to leave the trenches in the name of reason. Greiner writes that his conservative stance is not a political program, but an attitude towards life. This is contrary to the zeitgeist - but meets the lifestyle of the new right. Just as Rupert Scholz's criticism of refugee policy hits the attitude of the new right. Greiner writes that the warning against Islamization is not just the fantasy of confused Pegida supporters, finds that the protection of marriage and family guaranteed in the Basic Law does not include same-sex ways of life, opposes “practices of biotechnical reproduction” and doubts that Legitimation of Brussels for the bank and euro rescue. Gender mainstreaming also upsets him.

In Hamburg he says: "If we no longer know our culture, if the traditional knowledge of literature, art or even our own history is lost, then the dominant culture is in danger." In his office, Greiner complains about the writer in the face of the debates Uwe Tellkamp, ​​who criticized the federal government's refugee policy for no longer giving a leap of faith. It is no longer believed that you want to discuss the matter.

But he wants. And so one day later he travels from Hamburg to Göttingen to take part in an event organized by the left-wing writers' association PEN Germany. Topic: "The right to freedom of expression and the new rights."

More than 150 representatives of the presumably enlightened middle class sit in the historical library of the Paulinerkirche in the evening. The hall radiates what Greiner misses: Western, Christian culture. On the podium are PEN President Regula Venske, the writer Zoe Beck, who founded the initiative Verlage gegen Rechts, and the historian Ulrich Sieg. But Greiner of all people fell into the trap right at the beginning. He insinuates that the historian, who is giving a short lecture, apparently also wants to put today's debates under Nazi suspicion. “Where is this going to lead?” He asks irritably. Sieg spoke about the period from the First World War and Weimar to National Socialism and said: “Conservative revolutions are happening. Now. Back then. We have to discuss this further. "

For Greiner, the evening went like after conceding three quick goals in football. He can say what he wants, he is the enemy. When he notes that he thinks it's good that the AfD is sitting in parliament because you now have to deal with it, some whistle. Zoe Beck speaks of a "pub context" that he creates and thinks that if that were the only way to argue - "good, but in what way, that is just not good because the AfD deliberately crosses borders" . She asks Greiner indignantly, without looking at him: "Is that also cute?" When he tries to defend Tellkamp by pointing out that one should be able to discuss things with him without saying that he talks like Pegida, she counters : Tellkamp would only like consistency.

Greiner seems lonely there on the podium - he struggles to maintain his composure.

A few weeks before Göttingen, Ulrich Greiner also reads from his book in the Conservatism Library, although he is not comfortable with it, he is afraid that he will be asked to show solidarity with the AfD or Pegida, as he says. He would then draw his line, denounce the cynicism of a Gauland, the relativization of the Shoah, right-wing revisionism. But nothing happens, no attempt to capture it. Maybe it's because he only utters what his audience thinks. It is risky to be conservative about your way of life. Anyone who is in favor of classic marriage, of bringing up children without a crèche and of self-conceived children must “beware of hatred and hostility” and the “crushing suspicion of being“ right-wing extremist ”hovers over you.

After the reading, he sits with the organizer and guests in the pub. He feels good, in retrospect remembers a “traditional bourgeoisie of the most pleasant kind”. Until the topic turns to the "soldier" and "masculine". The Germans lack that, says one. He complains that people live in a “post-heroic” age, but that nations need “soldier virtues”. Greiner senses that it is now becoming suspect. His father, who was in the Wehrmacht, had already tried to teach him how to be a soldier. He hated it. He just thought he was among his own. Not any longer longer.

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