01 September 2023

Aiwanger and us

At the end of the 1980s, when Hubert Aiwanger, the Bavarian Minister of Economic Affairs, was an 11th-grader in a Bavarian high school and was caught with a Nazi leaflet in his school bag, I also went to a very similar Bavarian high school, a little further south, in Rosenheim. We are about the same age, Aiwanger and I. We both grew up in the same area at the same time. We both graduated from high school in the same year, 1990.

Last night, when I couldn’t sleep, I dug out my old high school yearbook. There they were, the „all-German triumvirate“ from the history Leistungskurs in my Rosenheim school, as the yearbook editors put it in blissful innocence. Three grinning blokes, G., M. and S., their arms stretched out and their fists put together, performing some sort of a mock Rütli oath. Ordinary boys with ordinary hairstyles. S. was the headmaster’s son, a straight-A student, the pride of his tightly authoritarian CSU dad. The history class, according to the yearbook, „formed the framework for the three history buffs‘ political activities to save the fatherland. The catalogue of their ideas in this regard was long, such as the reintroduction of their beloved old Reichskriegsfahne.“ A few pages further on, M., a future career army officer, describes this history class as the training camp of an „elite troop“, which, however, was so bored that it began to „occupy itself with other things“ such as „planning the next (militant) assault. A ‚march on Berlin‘ was even planned as the ultimate goal.“

Of course, this was all nonsense and nobody took it seriously. Very much unlike that manifesto of an „anarchist-nihilist people’s front“ which my friend N. and I drafted some day out of sheer boredom between two classes and pinned to the upper school board. I was summoned to the headmaster’s office to confront me with the evidence: There, some class assignment of mine! The same handwriting! Would I still deny that I was the author of this pamphlet? I couldn’t believe that they took all that silliness seriously. But they did. (Nothing happened, though, except a stern admonition; they didn’t want to make a fool of themselves after all).


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The leaflet in Aiwanger’s school bag wasn’t just nonsense, not even he is claiming that, but a Nazi text of unmitigated, unparalleled perfidy. But it was also nonsense. It was obviously meant to be satirical. Funny. A joke. What the „all-German triumvirate“ in Rosenheim wrote about themselves in the high school yearbook was absolute nonsense; I’m rather certain they weren’t any assaults planned, let alone „militant“ ones, and that „march on Berlin“ was referring to the class trip to what was then still the divided city that returned to be the capital of Germany a few years later. But it wasn’t just nonsense either. Those three blokes with their Reichskriegsflagge fully knew what they were waving around with. In the 1989 European elections a few months earlier, 22.1 per cent of the Rosenheim voters had voted for the far-right Republikaner.

Nonsense is powerful. Knowing that was something we all had in common. The ultra-humourless K-Gruppen post-1968 era was not long over, the peace and environmental movement and the RAF terrorism were still very much present. Our more senior schoolmates went to Wackersdorf at the weekend to protest against nuclear power and the police. In our year, as far as I know, no one did. We preferred to make fun of things. We liked to see ourselves as great ironists, that’s what we found attractive, dazzling and elusive and contingency-conscious, thumbing our noses at everything and everyone. Great satirists we were. The whole yearbook: nothing but (woefully mediocre) satire from the first to the last page. The power it seemed to give us! The despair we could drive the authorities into with it! Dazzling and elusive. I can still feel physically how good it felt to watch it dawning on the headmaster that he was making a complete tit of himself with his attempt to pin me and my „anarchist-nihilist people’s front“ down to any disciplinable position at all.

Hubert Aiwanger has built his entire political career on thumbing his nose at the CSU. Not one of them, and yet not their opponent either. In league with them, but owing them nothing. Always a bit more Lower Bavarian even than the Lowest Bavarian party that ever existed. Always getting the loudest laughs in every Bierzelt. Dazzling and elusive. Perhaps the price of this perpetual unfixability and unassailability is that one loses all sense of whether one has done something or been part of something that simply cannot be done. That cannot be excused with the passage of time, not with „not wanting to be a snitch“, not with youthful foolishness. That, even after 30 years, is nothing but unmitigated, unparalleled perfidy. Something where the Gaudi stops, as they say in Bavaria. Something for which one can only ask forgiveness.

The week on Verfassungsblog

The Aiwanger affair is interesting not just in its historical and political, but also in its legal dimension. What happens if PM Söder decides to dump his Minister of the Economy? What the Bavarian Constitution says about this is analyzed by JANNIK KLEIN.

In 1990, all the basic facts about global warming were already well established, and if my coevals had had less nonsense in their heads, a bit more progress in averting the climate catastrophe might have been achieved in the 33 years that have passed since then. But as it is, the traffic-light federal government has to be reminded by 60 eminent legal scholars of its obligation under constitutional and international law to effectively reduce CO2 emissions.

Lando Kirchmair’s idea, recently presented here, to measure laws in future directly against the standard of the environmental protection clause in Article 20a of the Basic Law, meets with opposition: Even if one assumes with Kirchmair that a justification requirement for climate-damaging policies results from Article 20a, according to ANDRÉ BARTSCH, practical concordance cannot provide a satisfactory answer to the distribution problems of climate protection in any case.


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Den vollständigen Ausschreibungstext finden Sie hier.

Die Bewerbungsfrist endet am 30.09.2023


The fact that the way in which the constitution of Bosnia-Herzegovina ethnically distorts the right to vote and stand for election cannot be reconciled with the basic principles of democracy has not been known for quite as long as global warming, if only because this constitution did not even exist in 1990, but still for a very long time indeed. Now the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has deepened its jurisprudence on the subject with another landmark ruling. JENS WOELK analyses the background and consequences of the judgement.

In the Czech Republic, President Petr Pavel will be able to replace almost the entire bench of the constitutional court in the next two years. The current president does not want to continue the non-transparent practice of his predecessor. But there is dispute about the right procedure for the future, even within the legal community. ANDREA PROCHÁZKOVÁ reports.

In Poland, the PiS government will couple the upcoming parliamentary election with a referendum on four heavily loaded questions about, among other things, migration and the retirement age. This is not the first idea they have copied from their friends in Budapest. ELIZA RUTYNOWSKA examines its constitutionality.

In Russia, in time for the start of the new school year, a law comes into force that not only brings history textbooks across the country into line, but also provides for the possibility of obliging children to do forced labour for the war. ANASTASIIA VOROBIOVA finds herself reminded of the worst times of the Soviet Union.

In the German debate on so-called „clan criminality“ (why this term is problematic: here), there is discussion of making it easier to seize incriminated assets by shifting the burden of proof. JAN BAUERKAMP considers this neither necessary nor constitutional.

If the Federal Constitutional Court has issued an injunction against a law, the Federal President usually refrains from promulgate this law as long as the injunction stands. This is apparently also the case at the moment with regard to the threshold clause in the European elections. HEIKO SAUER examines the legal requirements and limits to which this practice is subject.

That’s all for now. All the best to and see you next week!

Max Steinbeis

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SUGGESTED CITATION  Steinbeis, Maximilian: Aiwanger and us, VerfBlog, 2023/9/01, https://verfassungsblog.de/aiwanger-and-us/, DOI: 10.17176/20230902-062932-0.

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