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A Shameless Discourse

Catherine Lazarus-Matet


In Germany, leading members of the AfD, Alternative for Germany, have recently broken the shame barrier. And we are witnessing the international deployment of this symptomatic posture of the state of the world. No good word can counter the destructive enjoyment that is at work. Can we hope, at least, as analysts, to touch the ‘I don’t want to know anything about that’, one by one, in order to wear down the passion of indifference.

One of the leaders of the AfD, Alexandre Gauland, published an opinion piece entitled “Why Populism?” in the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, 6 October, which, according to historians and journalists, paraphrases Hitler’s remarks in a 1933 speech at a Siemens factory in Berlin. does not make an empty reductio ad hitlerum but shows how, if this platform is not strictly a plagiarism (it comes very close to that, however), the ideology that underlies it is unequivocally in the same vein. Moreover, the banalization accentuates the unacceptable nature of such remarks, the author having managed to describe the Nazi period as “a bird dropping in history”; which is rather little compared to the glorious millennial history of Germany. The “uprooted international clique” targeted by Hitler “that stirs up hatred between peoples”, becomes “a globalized class” that lives at the expense of the people and has nothing but contempt for them – the true people, that is, who are attached to their roots. Antisemitic hints are barely masked. Especially when one reads that Bjoern Hoecke, another figure of the German far right, called the Holocaust memorial in Berlin a “monument of shame”. The target today has widened. Implied: the Jews. And stated: the migrants, the democrats, the “Europeans”. Same disadvantages, same treatment! The pro-Nazis have not ceased to be there, even if there were limits imposed on them by law. These limits having now been crossed, there is an echo, hammered at by Marine Le Pen or Salvini et al, of the linguistic management of fear, the history of nations sullied by the outsider. One more step.

For other supporters of the party, it is time to change the politics of memory and pay tribute to the armed forces of the Reich, just like France for example, honouring De Gaulle and England Churchill … Added to this is the announcement a few days ago of the creation of a “Jewish section” of the AfD, consisting of 19 Jews, members of the party, conceived as …. a guarantee against the antisemitism of the Muslims! Why not a section for Christians of the East? Nationalism has sometimes wanted to give itself the airs of philosemitism, even a little softened as, sometimes, with Maurice Barres, but anti-Semitism is in its nature.

And then to give an idea of the beautiful solidarity expected by some, let us evoke this German polemic on establishing of online platforms encouraging the denunciation of teachers critical of the AfD on the basis of their “obligation to neutrality”. Here neutrality would be close to indifference.

In his “Note on Shame”, Jacques-Alain Miller took up a question from Éric Laurent on “(…) the moral phase into which we’re supposed to have entered since the fall of the Berlin Wall”, giving rise to “a surge of excuses, regrets, of pardons, of repentances, to the point where having shame would thus become a global symptom.” What is becoming a global symptom, however, is the reversal of this moral posture, which could make one ask oneself if it went too far, a reversal which can also be read, when, on September 26, at the UN, the Hungarian Interior Minister, Péter Szijjártó, was able to declare that “migration is not a fundamental human right” and that the global compact for refugees and migrants “is strongly biased, unbalanced, dangerous and will cause new waves of migration.” This global pact, initiated in September 2016 with the Declaration of New York for Refugees and Migrants, has been approved by all 193 UN member countries – with the exception of the United States – and its final approval must be reached in December. Poland, Austria, Hungary will follow Trump. All this is going very quickly.


Translated by Janet Haney

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