The “Rule of Nepotism and Corruption”?
Aspects of the present “authoritarian State” in Germany

In its MITTAGSECHO feature,  broadcast by WDR 5 radio, “excerpts from the international press” are usually presented to the listener. On Saturday, October 23, 2010, comments of AUSTRIAN and SWISS daily newspapers that focused on the events in Stuttgart this month were quoted. One of the papers  that was quoted  squarely blamed “the authoritarian state” in Germany (“der autoritaere Staat”) for what had happened. There was a sharp remark that what the politicians attempted to sell the public as a high speed train infrastructure project was above all “a property speculation project” (“ein Grundstuecksspekulationsgeschaeft”). And on top of it, the whole thing smelled of “Filz”  seemingly involving big business people and people that belong to the “classe politique” in Germany.(1)

The term “Filz”(a substantive literally meaning “felt”)  is customarily employed in Austria, Switzerland, Germany for ties between politicians and (usually, big) business that are too close and too shady to be still considered proper. The verb “verfilzen” means “to become felted” or “to become matted.” And in a metaphorical sense, that means exactly an entanglement,  ties that are so close that you cannot tell the one from the other: influential and high-ranking politicians (or their spouses or other close relatives) are clandestinely (rather than openly) involved in business deals as partners of capitalists interested in a certain project, and these business people are pulling the strings, instrumentalizing their close connection to said politicians (for instance, in order to get state-contracts, or state-subsidies, or because they hope to profit from “privatizations” etc.), thus playing a political game in tandem with their partners, the professional politicians. The dictionary gives the following explanation of the term “Filzokratie”: “nepotism and corruption.” 
The term should of course be explained in this way: “the rule respectively overpowering might of corruption and nepotism”. After all, the second semantic component of “Filzokratie” (“-kratie”; Engl., -cracy –  as in democracy, aristocracy, etc.) means “rule, domination, etc.”

Perhaps it becomes more and more apparent why “les braves citoyen” (the sober, ordinary citizens) who faced a shocking “repression policière” in Stuttgart on  Sept. 30, 2010 –  as another paper poignantly noted this month (2) –  are getting angry and choose to demand that the state government in Stuttgart should step back and open the way to early elections.(3)

At the moment, the conservative parties are losing support as rapidly as the Social Democrats, a party that entirely disillusioned millions among its backers when the Schroeder administration pushed through the same neo-liberal and anti-social reforms that Sarkozy tries to put in effect at the moment, against much grass-roots resistance, in France. As the Schroeder cabinet was facing resistance from a minority of mildly left-wing Social Democratic members of parliament at the time, the “reforms”  were only possible thanks to a tacit, informal but, de-facto, very effective coalition with the Christian Democrats of Ms. Merkel. Small wonder that Social Democratic voters felt betrayed. 

Today, the Merkel administration takes on the Christian Democratic electorate head on and their voters desert it, right now –  especially in the South West.

While the Democratic Left profits only modestly at the moment, it is the Green Party which can expect enormous gains at the polls. If they don’t want to break the trust that many voters seem to put in them, they must oppose –  and clearly stay away from –  the usually practices presently inscribed in German politics: 




It was “lobbyism”, after all,  that made the unforgettable Mr. Schreiber so famous, the man whose extradition by Canada was sought  for so many years. And this because of his involvement in illicit arms deals - one of them  involving the Thyssen Corp., the Kohl administration, and the Saudi monarchy.(5) In the "Saudi" case alone, bribes amounting to some 200 million marks (about 100 million euros) were paid that the governing Christian Democratic party of Mr. Kohl was immediately suspected to have profited from...

Likewise, the public has not forgotten Mr.Pfahls,(6)  a contact of Mr Schreiber. At the time of the Saudi deal, he was undersecretary of defense, thus a trusted,  high-ranking official of the government under former chancellor Helmut Kohl. Mr. Pfahls had to stay in hiding in Taiwan and elsewhere for years on end. He got away with whatever it was (for that was never wholly clarified, it seems), remaining almost scot-free. When he was finally sentenced in 2005 to merely two years and three months in prison, he was released from jail the following months.(7)

The fact that Mr Pfahls was convicted by the German court of "passive corruption" (accepting a moderate sum, that paid for his lavish life as a fugitive) and of tax evasion (he didn't pay taxes on his small part of the enormous "kickback") did not exactly clarify what happened with those 130 million euros that he and a certain Mr. Holzer moved back and worth between clandestine accounts in the late 1980s and the 1990s, according to the investigation conducted by a Swiss judge, Mr. Bertossa, who was then investigating the Leuna case.(8)  Money for whom, if not for the two of them?

Incidentally Mr. Pfahl's partner at the time, Mr.Holzer, was a key figure in the Leuna scandal. In this case, again huge bribes (according to one source 330 million francs) were paid. This time by the French state-owned oil multi ELF AQUITAINE when it sought to acquire the large state-owned  Leuna refinery in the former GDR. An industrial complex that was offered by the Kohl administration to interested investors. Mr. Alfred Sirven, "second in command" of the French firm that succeeded to acquire the publicly owned LEUNA refinery complex, was later on sentenced in France for defrauding the French state by overseeing the payment of  these enormous sums, channeled to unknown destinations as bribes that would facilitate acquisition of LEUNA by ELF AQUITAINE. 

At the time when Mr. Holzer was involved in the transfer of ELF AQUITAINE bribes (a fact that later on led to his indictment and condemnation in France), he made at least two payments involving more than 5 million marks to bank accounts of Mr. Pfahls in Luxembourg.
It was Mr. Kohl who personally sheltered Mr. Pfahls in the case of the illicit Saudi arms deal; which perhaps explains the mild sentence. Both the French judge in charge of the Leuna inquiry, Ms. Joly, and a Geneva-based Swiss judge exploring shady movements of huge sums in the context of the Leuna deal, Mr. Bertossa, did not fail to state that in their opinion the German judicial system never seriously explored the Leuna case (and thus Mr.Pfahl's and/or Mr. Kohl's involvement in it).(9)
When a parliamentary committee investigated the LEUNA affair in Germany, Burkhard Hirsch, a liberal former minister of the interior (belonging to the FDP, a coalition partner of Helmut Kohl’s Christian Democrats) found out that many hard discs of computers used by the out-going Kohl administration had been illegally (or “accidentally”) wiped clean and content-less  and that many paper documents of the out-going government, destined for the federal archives, had inexplicably vanished. 
Faced with this parliamentary investigation, the former head of government, Mr. Kohl either resorted to pleading amnesia or, in other cases, to a curious defence, i.e. that he had given his “word as a gentleman” (sein Ehrenwort) to keep quiet about certain things. 
The social democrats failed to subpoena Mr. Kohl, as they could have done. Were they afraid that the political opponents would uncover the dirty linnen of certain social democratic big-shots if the probe Mr. Kohl was subjected to was  going to far and the probing, in other words, was  too deep?

These things do not go unnoticed by ALL citizens, and small wonder that today, made sensitive by unresolved affairs in the past,  critical persons in the German South West regard the Stuttgart 21 project with careful eyes. If the proponents of the project have their way, billions of euros in subsidies will be shouldered by the tax-payer: some estimates give 8 to 10 billion euros as the projected cost of the entire high-speed train construction while the more conservative estimates imply that construction of the underground central station and the railroad tunnels in Stuttgart will cost about 4.5 billion euros, and the new line outside Stuttgart to Ulm some 2.9 billion. In exchange, the areas now occupied by above ground tracks, the present central station, and the large public park will be privately marketed, and this very profitably, as prime sites in downtown Stuttgart will be produced... Private gain from property speculation will not be possible, however, if the heavily subsidized high-speed train line and the subsidized underground central station aren’t realized. Both the Federal Government and the state government of Baden-Wurttemberg have already consented to pay such subsidies. And how strange – top politicians, among them a minister of the environment in the state government, as well as people close to them (for instance the spouse, until recently, of what was until recently the head of the state government) were trustees of an “urbanistic” foundation chaired by the boss of a property corporation that stands to profit from the project now questioned by the critical public.

Do “Leuna affairs” recur again and again, under ever-changing names?

Those who see their project threatened are, understandably, angry and nervous. Perhaps this explains the readiness to use the police in such manner as the international press described, against children, seniors, respected members of the – until recently –  conservative-leaning middle-class, and against, of course, the trade-unionists and ecologists and college students who do not fail to oppose mis-government when necessary. One has nothing to add when centrist papers abroad speak of “repression against brave citizens” and of a “class politique”  that brought to light the ugly face of an “authoritarian state”…

Today, it is an open question whether the present elan and the aware engagement of citizens interested in  public affairs (the res publica, as the Romans called it) will give way again to apathy, should we not succeed – thanks to a broad coalition of political tendencies – to achieve a real and solid influence of the people in all affairs that concern them. And therefore, it is more necessary than ever before to achieve participative democracy. A situation where people fall back into their arm chair, choosing to believe that their efforts were in vain and that “we can’t influence anything”, is dangerous in any democracy. In such a situation, anger and frustrations might make too many citizens inclined to look for a strongman.(10) This is already true of 25 per cent of all adult Germans, according to certain surveys. Those 75 per cent who at present continue to believe in – and support – democracy, deserve better and more than what the slick and clever, in the “classe politique” are prepared to give them: SOOTHING WORDS, MANIPULATION, DISINFORMATION. 

If the “CLASSE POLITIQUE” IN GERMANY, at least those responsible for the police repression against brave citizens, continue to believe that the present disgust, dissent, and the sense of being betrayed by elected personnel, so-called “servants of the people,” is simply due to “A PROBLEM OF COMMUNICATION”, of “INSUFFICIENTLY COMMUNOICATING THEIR” [QUESTIONABLE,  PROBABLY SELFISH AND, as the international press suspects, OFTEN IMPROPER] “INTENTIONS”, they are wrong. And they’ll find out they are wrong, for sure.

  - kw, jc, aw


(1)  The quotations included at the beginning of this article are from the “Mittagsecho” feature broadcast by WDR 5 and by NDR radio. A podcast is available for a limited time. Check:

(2) Cf. « Répression policière contre de "braves citoyens"  » [Police repression against good citizens], the
French summary of an article published by the German language-edition of the Financial  Times, in:

(3) Cf. the Stuttgarter Appell ( - In the meantime, even the party-chairman of the Social Democratic Party, Mr. S. Gabriel, is saying in public that instruments of participative democracy like the "Volksbegehren" (petition for a referendum) are necessary in order to avoid a "widening gap between established politics [i.e. the classe politique] and the population." (WDR5 radio news, Oct. 24, 2010). 

(4) It is a widely known fact by now that "experts" from financial institutions were recently working inside a ministry of the German government, drafting the provisions that are meant to regulate the banking sector. -  Likewise, experts and lobbyists of insurance companies, pharmaceutical corporations etc. have been  allowed to influence, in similar fashion, the drafting of legislation that directly concerns them. Members of parliament have complained that in various instances they have received the text of acts comprising at times a hundred pages or more, on the day they are supposed to vote on them. The discipline expected from them as party members makes them approve acts they haven't even read. This leads certain critics to conclude  that parliamentary initiative and control are largely inexistent, while ministerial bureaucracies (under the guidance of the important figures in the government and the ruling party or parties) cooperate closely with Capital, in order to create the laws and regulations deemed necessary by the latter. Private business, which is so successful in placing trusted persons in ministeries and in top positions within political parties,  reciprocates by employing top political personnel once they quit as public servants.

(5) It was only in early 2010, that Mr. Schreiber was compelled to stand trial in Germany. Questioned ten years earlier, at a time when the prosecution had just started proceedings against Mr. Schreiber, the honorable Mr. Schaeuble, then party-chairman of the Christian Democrats (and at present minister of economic affairs in the Merkel administration!), couldn't remember any details of a meeting with Mr. Schreiber, concerning a certain sum that Mr. Schreiber said (or is said) to have passed on to him. Amnesia is a comfortable defense for top politicians, it seems. Mr. Kohl, facing an investigating parliamentary committee in the context of the scandalous Leuna case, suffered from it, too.

(6) Mr Pfahls (born  1942), a graduate of a law school, was president of the "Service for the protection of the constitution" (the internal secret service) and later on, an undersecretary in the Ministry of Defense, responsible for overseeing weapons exports. He then joined the Daimler-Benz Corporation, a German MNC which is also a major arms manufacturer. The revolving door between top posts in government and top jobs in private industry and financial institutions apparently is not only typical of the situation in the U.S.; we discover it in Europe, as well.

(7) Upon his return to Germany, Mr. Pfahls was sentenced to two years and 3 months in prison in August 2005 and released from prison in September 2005.

(8) The prosecution in Geneva (Switzerland) stated that Mr. Holzer und Mr. Pfahls moved those 130 million euros back and forth between accounts in  Liechtenstein, Switzerland, Luxembourg, Antigua and Panama, Paul Perraudin; the judge entrusted with the respective investigation,  decribed this as making no sense economically and therefore indicative of money laundering activities („unsinnige wirtschaftliche Struktur, die einen konkreten Verdacht der Geldwäscherei begründet“). 

(9) The following comment by Mr. Bertossa, the Swiss judge, in the German weekly, DER SPIEGEL, is very revealing: "Leuna was privatized by the German authorities. The deal has lead to ... payments by Elf Aquitaine that were not justified. And I take note that exactly the official files concerning the Leuna deal have disappeared in the chancellor's office. A democratic prosecutor of crimes must act in such a case. Otherwise the only possible conclusion to be drawn is that certain crimes, such as corruption, are not persecuted in Germany. In that case, it would be consequent to delete the respective paragraphs in criminal law."  (Der Spiegel 30/2001, p.66)

(10) The presence of dangerous authoritarian tendencies in Germany cannot be denied. At present, certain politicians inside three out of the four largest parties are doing whatever they can to kindle xenophobic tendencies. The "Other" as scapegoat - it was already a recipe dear to Goebbels and Hitler. Simultaneously, politicians inside the Christian Democratic party, including Mr. Schaeuble,  and certain legal "experts in contitutional law" are again fanning a debate culminating in the conclusion that the constitution should be changed in order to make possible the deployment of the German armed forces inside Germany in peacetime. Against whom? People like the protesters in Stuttgart? What are such politicians afraid of? Do they fear the looming, peaceful and democratic self-empowerment of  ever-larger, awake parts of the population that is at present disempowered by a "classe politique" - that is to say, by a "caste" (or "tangle" of competing and co-operating, closely networked groups) decisive parts of which are again and again discovered to be venal? Are they afraid that people are fed up with a "Republik der Konzerne": a republic stolen by MNCs, banks, in short, big business?