Recently, I wrote about the relatively exotic choice of Neues Deutschland as a newspaper. I continued this self-experiment by purchasing Junge Welt (young world). Where ND was the East German Pravda, jW was the publication of the Freie Deutsche Jugend, the youth wing of the state-socialist party. And yes, amazing as it seems to me, it is still published and has subscribers. But, it also appears on the brink of disappearing which is one of the reasons I picked a copy up.
A Counter-Conceptualization of the World?
As I think back about both of the newspapers, I’m a bit torn in my impression. On the one hand, I was hoping/thinking/looking for an alternative view of the world, ein Gegenentwurf, a different way to interpret the news or different news altogether. I guess that was a tall order, because what I mostly found is stale rhetorical flourish and dated orthodoxy. I suppose that what that means – and this is probably no surprise, but still a bit of a let-down – is that the Left in Germany has not really found a new, or even new-ish way to think and write about the world, about globalization, and post-socialist understandings of the world.
Rhetoric – Marxist Orthodoxy and Odd GDRisms
Some terminology that the jW uses is quite different and noticeably so. All through the Fall, the back-and-forth about the sale/purchase of one of the largest grocery store chains has been in the news. Most media look at this in terms of a corporate battle of sorts. To the jW it is a symptom of the capitalist crisis that produces concentration of means of production. Not quite that elaborate in the rhetoric, but here’s a quote
After the capitalists could not come to an agreement, thousands of employees now have to fear for their livelihood.
(Nr. 243, October 18 2016, p. 2)
A review of David Van Reybrouck’s Gegen Wahlen. Warum Abstimmen nicht demokratisch ist (Nr 243, Oct 18 2016, p. 11) goes all out with the orthodoxy in the following paragraph.
Unfortunately, the author remains wedded to an understanding of democracy that separates the political sphere strictly from production. This, even though the establishment of economic equality is clearly the most important precondition for true political freedom.
[Leider bleibt der Autor einem Demokratieverständnis verhaftet, das die politisch Sphäre von der der Produktion strikt trennt. Dabei ist die Herstellung ökonomischer Gleichheit die wichtigste Voraussetzung für echte politische Freiheit.]
Not necessarily wrong, and definitely an alternative conceptualization of reporting the news, but somewhat orthodox nevertheless.
Some words and phrases that appear in the jW have a decidedly East German ring to them. And to me as a reader, these phrases are somewhat alienating.
For example, the use of BRD to refer to Germany (Bundesrepublik Deutschland = Federal Republic of Germany) is mostly annoying to this German. East Germany was very keen on drawing distinctions with West Germany, of course, and that was fair enough. But 26 years after formal unification and we’re still pretending that the Federal Republic is the evil, imperialist neighbour?, please! Some flourishes like “FRG capital” are thus off-putting to me.
East German media had a strong tendency to use scare quotes. This has always been some kind of ironic shaming strategy.
Back when CETA debates were reeling from the Francophone Belgian rejection, the jW discussed this in terms of “so-called freetrade” (der sogenannte Freihandel), the “so-called” being the rhetorical flourish here.
As you can see on some of the examples above, unions feature quite prominently in the paper and its reporting. THAT actually is a difference to other media outlets where unions, even the powerful German unions mainly feature as naysayers. Union conferences are reported about, union perspectives on politics are quoted.
There is also a peculiar lingering familiarity with or fondness for former socialist fraternal nations.
The election in Montenegro (formerly a part of Yugoslavia of course) was featured much more prominently than in other papers, for example.
This fondness also leads to some oddities, I find. Clearly, the jW editorial staff has not really made up its mind about a position on Putin’s Russia and Xi’s China. Yes, former brothers-in-arms and thus to be supported/liked, but it’s pretty hard as a reader to develop a liking for either contemporary Russia or China from a Marxist perspective, other than hastening the world toward a crisis of capitalism.