Thursday, 8 October 2009

What Was the True Purpose of the STASI?

These days, the STASI is forgotten by most people, conveniently so by many German politicians and the British ones who negotiate treaties with them that affect the lives of hundreds of millions of people, but the STASI hasn't really gone away. It has transformed itself into something that certain investigative journalists in Germany (an endangered species, really) refer to as the "Deutschland-Clan".

This is an organized crime network, carrying a lot of clout within the German criminal justice system as former STASI personnel forge new careers in the Federal Police and public prosecutor's offices. It also appears to have both the management and trades unions in its pocket in two areas of strategic communications: German Railways and German Telecommunications. -It also played a role in German and Austrian companies getting impressive contracts from American Railroad companies for signalling and communications gear. (Always less emotive and less publicized than surrendering rolling stock to foreign suppliers, although Railtrack has been happy to do this in the UK.)

Now, it seems very unlikely that the new organised crime network, based on the STASI infrastructure of terror, would be seeking a return of the old communist German state, which would be pointless, or communist world revolution, which would be over-ambitious. But what was the STASI's purpose in the first place: could this provide a clue as to what, apart from make money and terrorize people, the Deutschland Clan is likely to do?

The STASI was formed by negotiation between Gestapo officers and agents captured by the Russians, and NKVD officers tasked with creating a functional communist state from the social chaos left by the Red Army's officially-sanctioned orgy of organized rape, which was Stalin's deliberate punishment for the German people for having turned against him. Essentially, the NKVD offered to let the Gestapo off for war crimes, provided that they agreed to ignore the massive war crime of organized rape, and to make East Germany run for the communists. The deal was struck, and the released Gestapo duly started to enforce order, repair the country's social structure (always, only to a limited extent) and enforce obedience to the new Communist puppets. (But never the same widespread belief that the Nazis had enjoyed.)

So, the STASI, to begin with at least, was a sub-set of the Gestapo, minus the ones who chose to go to the West and do a deal, or Argentina and do no deal. (This depended on whether their "nest egg" was information, which MI6 or the American OSS actually wanted, or whether they already had money. If they had money, they went to Argentina or Paraguay without delay or a single thought to any deal with Western Intelligence, if they had information, they traded that -and then went to Argentina without much in the way of backward glances.) In a sense, the STASI was the Gestapo in purer form, free of the pro-western element or those who had successfully feathered their own nests. Far from being communists, these were the NAZI Taliban, the utter hard core of true believers.

It is hardly surprising, therefore, that in practice, East Germany functioned like the Nazi state, not as it had been during the Holocaust (there wasn't an ethnic minority of any size available in any case!) but as it was between 1933 and 1939. Towards the end, they even had new death-camps built, although the Russians pulled the plug before these could be used. They weren't big enough to "process" a whole ethnic group, just political dissidents, which is precisely what the original NAZI camps were designed to do, before successful territorial conquests left them with more Jews corralled into ghettos than they knew what to do with.

Faced with the chaos and ruined state left behind by Stalin's rapine and revenge, the NKVD had done a deal with the devil and created a survival capsule for Nazism.

Which brings us to the much neglected question of what the NAZI party itself was supposed to be -and for whom?

In 1919, after the Armistice and the punishment of Germany via the Treaty of Versailles, there were several odd little political parties like the NAZIs, all testing out the waters with different bits of the political spectrum. Adolf Hitler, upon his release from hospital, was recruited by German Military intelligence, based on very positive comments about his courage that were on file from his (Jewish) former Commanding Officer, as an agent who would go and infiltrate these subversives. Strangely, for a spy, he ended up as figurehead of the worker's party that he'd been sent to infiltrate. Stranger still, they originally tried out a version of Marxist class warfare, before finding that this found no favour with their potential supporters (bottles were thrown at Himmler when he made a speech saying the Party's ideology was close to Lenin's) and racial politics only emerged as plan B after this riot.

The Nazis engaged in street scuffles and political trials of strength with several other broadly similar parties, (for all we know, German Military intelligence had agents like Hitler in all of these parties) and eventually, after some farcical false starts, the NAZIs got going and started to emerge as the strongest of all the radical new parties. At which point, they suddenly came into the money, from all the industrial combines and big banks that had backed Lubendorf's regime under the Kaiser's rule for the consolidation of Germany and the attempted empire-building that led to the Great War.

Germany seems to us like a fixture, but when the Nazi party started, it hadn't been a united nation all that long and there was still a fond memory of the smaller states that had been there, so much more peacefully, before. There was a distinct possibility in the air, that defeat and austerity would transform German nationalism back into Bavarian and Prussian nationalism, and that the whole thing would revert to its pre-Bismark condition. In those circumstances, the NAZI party acted as a survival capsule, not just for German Imperialism and the industrial combines behind that imperialism (they wanted a worldwide market for their goods, simple as that!) -but for the whole concept of Germany as a nation, rather than as a group of nations sharing a language with Austria and parts of Switzerland and odd bits of other neighbouring states. But Germany as a nation was as much a marketing concept for the big industrial combines as it was a political concept.

The Nazi party was a survival capsule for the global ambitions of German Industrialists, just as Imperial Germany had been their first, overt expression of global ambition. The political ideology of the Nazis was chosen by a mixture of competition and experiment: the party tried different ideologies before it settled on the "Nazi" one that we can recognize -and it competed with other "radical" groups with a suspiciously similar provenance, all based around disgruntled ex-soldiers. (Not something Germany was short of after 1918!) It was a brilliant marketing man's exercise in determining how to sell industrial ambition once more to the rustically-inclined German people, even immediately after that ambition had brought the ringing disaster of military defeat upon them, and the even worse disaster of the punitive Versailles treaty.

All the STASI ever was, was a temporary vehicle for the same seed of ambition that the Nazis had carried. It was only ever waiting for the Soviet ruler to depart, but in the meantime, it was so rooted in the mechanism of social coercion that the Soviets needed in order to rule their part of Germany, that there was no prospect of the NKVD and the KGB routing it out, because that would have yielded control of East Germany to the West. In return for propping up a puppet communist regime, the STASI could keep the embers of NAZIsm alive -and there was nothing Moscow could do about it, although the KGB must have known the nature of the deal which their NKVD predecessors had struck.

Now the Deutschland Clan has spread out from East Germany, to the whole of a united Germany, has tendrils in Austria and in the ethnic German communities of the United States, Canada and Argentina. Being a Mafia organization, it has contact with the Russian and Polish Mafias, but the master servant relationship that appeared to exist between the KGB and the STASI, is reversed between the Deutschland Clan and the Russian Mafia. Tail wags dog.

The Deutschland Clan represents a direct threat to democracy, not just in Germany and Austria, but also in the United States, Canada and Argentina. The danger here is very real and very great. It may also be very imminent, but this is harder to gauge.

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