Post-reunification German identity and racism : a critique.
Post-reunification developments in German society, including the intensification of racism and
nationalism, and the question of German identity, have led to a wide-ranging international
debate. My thesis discusses some of the controversial issues and arguments raised, in an effort to
understand the specific forms of contemporary German racism.
The legal status and the political economy of asylum seekers are analysed, as are the debates
leading to the mid-1993 change in Germany's Basic Law. Until then, a unique right which
guaranteed asylum had existed. Its insertion into (West) Germany's provisional constitution in
1949 had been more ideologically than altruistically motivated. The change in legislation,
primarily aimed at appeasing the racists, had the immediate effect of curbing numbers.
Focusing on East-West migration, Germany's constitutional policy of accepting ethnic Germans
from Eastern Europe is scrutinised. Previously a tool in the Cold War armoury, this open-armed
approach was curtailed by an embryonic immigration law.
In the aftermath of the collapse of 'communism' and German reunification, the integration of
foreigners and of east- and ethnic Germans raised new questions about their respective rights. An
examination of the changing terms of debate about citizenship and identity in German society
reveals the different consequences for both citizens and non-citizens. Through briefly comparing
German with French citizenship, the peculiarity of the former, and the framework for assessing
the current 'dual nationality versus naturalisation' controversy, is established.
Political and theoretical interest in German identity has resurfaced. In determining the key
components of post-war identity, I found that anti-communism had stood out in serving as a
negative reference point; now it is increasingly being replaced by racism. The mixture of
biological and political factors in the new make-up of German collective identity appears to
leave no room for foreigners.
The critique of the contemporary German Left's approach to racism and identity is backed up by
events in the city state of Bremen, particularly around the 1991 local elections, which -
alongside fascist successes - revealed the Left's difficulty in sustaining a consistent anti-racism.
The conclusion indicates that the issues of asylum, immigration and ethnic Germans had
required serious answers before 1989. Reunification catapulted them to centre stage. The lack of
a coherent theory and strategy is reflected in the ad-hoc, contradictory nature of policies dealing
with the various categories of migrants. The 'solutions' proposed within the context of the
German nation state are finally contrasted with those currently discussed at the European level.