Breaking the suffocating hegemony of the left: Humboldt professor speaks out
Last month, German Humboldt University Professor Jörg Baberowski explained in an interview in the feuilleton section of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung, that the “cultural hegemony of the left,” should be broken down in order to create intellectual head space.
Published: June 1, 2017, 8:45 am
Some years ago in Der Spiegel and recently in the journal Forschung und Lehre, Baberowski pleaded that history should no longer be “morally discredited” and considered a “taboo”.
He is a professor of Eastern European History and an authority on the history of Stalinism, particularly Stalinist violence, genocide and terror against the peoples of Eastern and Central Europe.
Baberowski reveals how the “hegemony of the left” has long since silenced important voices of conservatives such as Franz Josef Strauss from Bavaria, who “proudly said he was a conservative and a right-winger”.
According to Baberowski: “The left has struggled and imposed cultural hegemony as defined by Antonio Gramsci.” He says it has become virtually impossible to challenge leftists because those who thinks differently are cast as morally inferior.
“Who dares to say today he is a right-winger? A right-winger, well, that’s someone like a pedophile or a child molester.” The narrow concept of what is acceptable, he argues, “serves primarily as a verbal means of defamation, in order to exclude those who think differently from the democratic consensus”.
This “shift of coordinates” could succeed only “because the left has gained the upper hand in public discourse and is the only force to determine who is left and who is right.” Both liberals and conservatives “were subject to these rules” Baberowski noted.
In “civil institutions, in the media, education, the universities,” the “cultural hegemony of the left is structurally secured in such a way that resistance is futile,” the academic continued.
“Particularly in the bourgeois milieu, most people speak the same standardized language and strive not to violate the requirements of the diktat of the virtuous… And when finally everyone speaks the same language, then thinking is subjected to Gleichschaltung [enforced conformity].”
Baberowski says economic liberals and leftist romantics who believe in a better world, applaud a leftist hegemony of “the opening up of borders to everyone. Some seek boundless profit, others dream of a world society.” The “world of business” has thus “adapted itself to the hegemonic discourse in a way inconceivable some decades ago”.
The academic decried the loss of free speech, because those who differ have to “reckon with being excluded from public discourse” when one expresses an opinion on questions of immigration, Muslims or nationalism that conflicts with the “hegemony of the politically correct” and the “diktat of the virtuous”.
“Anyone who judges racism, colonialism, war and peace or the relationship of the sexes differently than hegemonic discourse allows, is morally discredited,” Baberowski points out.
He accuses the “sixty-eight generation” — who in 1968 introduced Trotskyism’s violence to public debate — of laying “the foundations for moralizing politics” by “deciding what could be said about the past and how it could be said”.
“Since then, resistance to a dead dictator is sufficient ground to assume the moral high ground over other people,” he added, alluding to the stifling political consensus in post-World War II Germany.
In February 2014, the International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE), a Trotskyist youth organisation, published an open letter attacking Humboldt University because “Baberowski is utilizing his position at the university to advance the notorious right-wing conceptions of Ernst Nolte, who for three decades has been associated with writings that seek to relativize and diminish the significance of Nazi crimes.”
In the open letter to Humboldt, the IYSSE also wrote: “The revival of German militarism requires a new interpretation of history that downplays the crimes of the Nazi era.” The letter referred to an article in Der Spiegel in which Baberwoski claimed that Nolte had been “historically right”.
In 1986, Ernst Nolte exposed how Germans had been provoked by Bolshevism, opening up what became known as the Historians’ Debate. Jürgen Habermas, Hans-Ulrich Wehler, Hans Mommsen and many other leftist academics however, had quickly intervened to oppose his position.
Ever since, Baberowski has been the victim of a campaign of character assassination. He has denounced the IYSSE as a “Stalinist sect” that uses the “instruments of hegemonic discourse to draw attention to itself”.
Student associations Astas in Bremen, Hamburg, Lüneburg and Heidelberg, as well as the student parliament of the Free University in Berlin, have protested against Baberowski’s positions, after an interview with Forschung und Lehre, was sent out to more than 30 000 members of the German Association of University Professors and Lecturers.
Even the leftist Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, presented Baberowski and his colleague Herfried Münkler, who had also been criticized, as victims of slander and bullying in 2015.
Baberowski denounced the Socialist Equality Party (SGP) as a “sect” and “psycho-terror group” that promotes “criminal energy” against him. He noted that the SGP published a leaflet “on which my head and a swastika were to be seen,” directly linking the SGP to “threats of murder” and attacks on his house, and accused it of using false names in order to avoid public discussion.
The university administration has defended Baberowski and his positions were recently confirmed by a court ruling.
At the Leipzig Book Fair in 2012, he won the Leipzig Book Prize in the category of nonfiction/essay writing for his book Verbrannte Erde. Stalins Herrschaft der Gewalt.
In response to the refugee crisis in Europe in 2015, Baberowski called for a more restrictive policy toward the influx into Germany and criticized German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s approach of open borders.
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