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Opinion: Bavarian nonsense

Felix Steiner / ccDecember 9, 2014

Everyone is laughing at the Bavarian CSU, but they were trying to address a new xenophobia that is actually everyone's concern, says DW's Felix Steiner.

Deutschland Deutsch für Zuwanderer in Bayern
Image: picture-alliance/dpa/D. Ebener

#YallaCSU - the hashtag has had the Twittersphere and the Internet laughing for the past couple of days. The press and left-wing politicians have also been heaping both derision and fierce criticism on the Bavarian Christian Social Union, sister party to Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union. Even the New York Times has weighed in on the subject. Now everyone can feel victorious: The CSU executive has revised its main motion for the party conference this weekend. Migrants who want to live in Germany permanently should now only be "motivated" to speak German, and no longer "obliged" to do so - and the reference is now only to "in daily life," not "in public and within the family."

It's not unusual for the conservative Bavarian party to keep the rest of Germany in suspense with their strange ideas, but the original draft of the text was so absurd that no political brain in the CSU could seriously have thought it made sense or could be implemented. It's all the more surprising as it completely contradicts the CSU's fundamental objectives: No other party is so keen to emphasize the right of families to self-determination - as for example with the "child care subsidy" for parents who don't want to put their two- and three-year-old children in kindergartens. Because parents know best what's good for their child, and it should be absolutely no one else's business what goes on behind a family's front door as long as no crime is being committed.

Deutsche Welle Felix Steiner
DW's Felix SteinerImage: DW/M.Müller

Language police

How exactly the CSU was planning to check up on linguistic practice within the family is something we will now unfortunately never know. There has been a great deal of conjecture about this over the past few days. The question as to whether it was going to introduce a "language police" was one of the more benign. The numerous comparisons with Nazi-era "block leaders" or East Germany's all-encompassing state security network of informants must finally have persuaded the CSU grandees to rethink. These are painful comparisons for democrats in Germany.

The CSU was just trying, once again, to act in accordance with one of the fundamental maxims of their late leader Franz-Josef Strauss, who once posited that "the only thing right of the CSU is the wall." By this he meant that there could be no democratic party in Germany more right-wing than the CSU. All those left of center refer to this dismissively as "fishing in murky right-wing waters." For its part, the CSU is just trying to avoid the fate of the Social Democratic Party: since first the Greens and now the Left party began to take some of its ground, it has been unable to govern alone in any of Germany's states.

Fear of euroskeptics and xenophobes

It's clear who the CSU is afraid of. On the one hand there is the "Alternative for Germany" party, with its strident criticism of the euro and the state of the European Union. And on the other there is the movement that does not yet have a political home but has been gathering momentum in recent weeks, staging demonstrations in more and more German cities under absurd names like Hogesa, Pegida and Dugida. Allegedly it is concerned with the fight against Salafism - which would be all right in and of itself - or the supposed Islamization of Germany and Europe. For many, though, this conceals nothing more than nebulous xenophobia.

With its instinct for what moves people, the CSU is now trying to take the wind out of the sails of these protests by calling for the swift assimilation of all migrants - and in its first attempt it aimed, as it often does, far too high. Yet it doesn't need to feel it bears the sole responsibility for this topic: the self-declared anti-Islamization demonstrators are not only CSU voters, just as the euro-critical Alternative for Germany has been poaching supporters from all political camps. And although Sigmar Gabriel and Gregor Gysi may wish to deny it, there is a xenophobic element among SPD and Left party voters, too, as election research has demonstrated on numerous occasions. But for the time being these parties insist that it's not their responsibility, and are confining themselves to mocking the CSU. They can have their fun for now. But the political fight against intolerance is a task that needs to be addressed by the entire political spectrum!