Scholarship or War Propaganda attracts wide interest in Germany

The book Scholarship or War Propaganda,
published by the Mehring Verlag publishing house
in October, has hit a nerve. Just a few weeks
after its appearance, it has attracted wide
interest and prompted important debates.
The book documents the struggle by the
International Youth and Students for Social
Equality (IYSSE) and the Partei für Soziale
Gleichhet (PSG, the German section of the
International Committee of the Fourth
International) against the return of German
militarism. Last year the IYSSE revealed how
Professors Herfried Münkler and Jörg Baberowski
at Humboldt University in Berlin downplayed the
historic crimes of German militarism and agitated
for an aggressive German foreign policy. In
treating these questions, the volume addresses
fundamental political issues.
“The subject of this book goes well beyond the
conflict at Berlin’s Humboldt University (HU),”
notes the book’s forward. “It is concerned with
the relationship between scholarship and politics
in periods of militarism, mounting international
conflict and growing social tensions. It focuses
on the question: Will the universities remain
centres of scholarship and free criticism? Or will
they once again become state-directed cadre-
training centres for right-wing and militarist
ideologies, as was previously the case in German
These questions had already met with a polarized
response in Germany in the past year. While the
IYSSE received widespread support among
students and workers, organized meetings with
hundreds of participants, and was elected into
student parliament at Humboldt University,
leading German newspapers reacted with a smear
campaign against the IYSSE and the student
group Münkler-Watch. The university leadership
also attacked the IYSSE and accused it of
“character assassination.”
In the weeks since the publication of the book,
Münkler and Baberowski have made their right-
wing politics even more explicit. In his new book
War Fragments , Münkler justifies the US “war on
terror” and encourages similar war deployments
by the German Armed Forces. He praises “drone
and surveillance systems” as “the weapons of
post-heroic societies” and mocks critics of
combat drones who defend “the ethics of a pre-
bourgeois society with heroic, pre-bourgeois
ideals.” In the “security agency surveillance and
control systems,” he sees the modern
counterbalance of the “Hague convention
respecting the rules of war and Geneva
Jörg Baberowski has made himself the spokesman
of extreme right wing circles and exploits his
position as a professor in order to gain access to
the media and agitate against refugees while
demanding the sealing off of Germany’s borders.
In an interview with the Swiss Basler Zeitung, he
says that “in countries with right wing
conservative parties that are critical of
immigration,” there is “less violence against
foreigners.” He praises the far-right Swiss
People’s Party (SVP) as a “corrective for the
other parties,” and claims SVP head Christoph
Blocher is “on the contrary, not a right wing
radical. In Germany, you are a right wing radical
if you go to work on time.”
The election posters of the SVP, which
contemptuously attack immigrants and the left,
have now been copied by far right radicals all
over Europe. In July, SVP party president Toni
Brunner called on the functionaries of the party
to “systematically” and “consistently” combat
the building of new asylum centers. This requires
“active opposition,” Brunner declares.
Baberowski has espoused similar views. During a
September 24 discussion on Germany’s 3sat
television network, he declared, “Wherever many
people come from a foreign context and the
population is not involved in solving all of these
problems, it naturally leads to aggression.”
Although there have been 490 attacks on refugee
lodgings this year, according to official
estimates, Baberowski argues, “Given the
problem we currently have with immigration in
Germany, I think that’s rather harmless.”
Baberowski’s downplaying of violence against
refugees will come as no surprise to anyone who
has read Scholarship or War Propaganda. The book
shows in minute detail how Baberowski works to
downplay the crimes of National Socialism in
Germany and claims that violence is unavoidable.
His agitation against refugees is absolutely
consistent with this.
The ruling elite is using the refugee crisis to
justify new wars and justify attacks on
fundamental social and democratic rights.
Scholarship or War Propaganda explains this
development and shows the connection between
the return of German militarism, which is
supported by all parts of the German political
establishment, from the Christian Social Union to
the Left Party, and the deep crisis of capitalism
and growing tensions between the imperialist
This is why the book has met with such great
demand at meetings at Humboldt University and
also at the Goethe University in Frankfurt. “More
copies of this book were sold in the first four
weeks after it appeared than any other book at
our publishing house,” said Wolfgang Zimmerman
of Mehring Verlag.
The review published in the Left Party affiliated
daily newspaper Neues Deutschland is especially
remarkable. Author Kurt A. Richter takes
exception to the “darts thrown at the Left
Party” and “the invoking of an imaginary
working class,” but cannot avoid calling the book
a “necessary polemic against Herfried Münkler
and Jörg Baberowski.” He says the book is by no
means about a “tempest in a teapot,” but
instead is part of a “weighty dispute.”
The “argumentative volume” is “extremely
informative and stimulating and ought to find
many readers,” writes Richter. Baberowski and
Münkler are “justifiably accused of downplaying
or even falsifying controversial problems of
German and Russian history, in order to
encourage a hegemonic role for Germany as
‘taskmaster’ (Münkler) of Europe and a policy of
global intervention. Now an anthology is available
whose authors not only summarize the polemic
against Münkler and Baberowski, but carry it
forward in an argumentative counter-analysis.”
The review concedes that the IYSSE is right on
the fundamental questions. Münkler’s
“academically unsound attacks on Fischer are
meant to justify the supposed necessity of
German interventions globally and the German
claim on leadership in Europe,” writes Richter.
The chapter on Baberowski makes it clear “with
what appalling ignorance Soviet history after the
October revolution of 1917 is falsified, with what
embarrassing tunnel vision he judges the civil
war, the ‘red terror’, Stalinism and the invasion
of the USSR by Nazi Germany. Baberowski even
adopts the long refuted thesis of a German
preventative attack, with which Hitler wanted to
circumvent a ‘planned’ attack by Stalin. In this
way, German fascism is actually downplayed and
the aggressiveness of the German elite at that
time hidden.”