The refugee crisis as victory of neoliberalism

When the Spanish Jews had to flee Spain in 1492, Sultan Bayezid II issued a formal invitation to Jews expelled from Spain. This was only partially a humanitarian gesture as it had economic reasons, too. The Muslim Ottomans were mostly disinterested in business enterprises and were more than happy to leave these to members of the religious minorities.

Ye call Ferdinand a wise king he who makes his land poor and ours rich!“ the Sultan is said to have said.[1]

The Migration in 2015/16 to Germany has deep economic aspects. The export-oriented, German economy is in dire need of man power. The German magazine Der Spiegel quoted a study of the Bertelsmann Stiftung, claiming that Germany needs more than 500’000 immigrants per year to compensate for the shortage. The same study demanded that measures be taken "so that Germany as a country of immigration will also become more attractive to third country nationals". [2]

This stands in sharp contrast to the US Treasury’s criticism in October 2013, which criticized Germany’s export-intensive economy:

Germany’s anemic pace of domestic demand growth and dependence on exports have hampered rebalancing at a time when many other euro-area countries have been under severe pressure to curb demand and compress imports in order to promote adjustment. The net result has been a deflationary bias for the euro area, as well as for the world economy.“[3]

Others share this criticism, but go even further. Economist Prof. Heiner Flassbeck in an interview:

We generally have far too low wages in Germany. A minimum wage would have a positive effect on the entire tariff range. This would enable wages to approach the level at which they would have to be in order not to jeopardize the European monetary union.[4]

[emphasis added]

The hard core neo-liberal inclination was already displayed during the rescue of the banks and during the Greek crisis. Germany not only works against the Greek population by saving the banks from losses, it works against its own people, too, by not raising salaries. In addition, it threatens the cohesion of the European union and works tirelessly to increase exports for maximisation of profit for the top %1.

In short, a thoroughly neo-liberal policy.

The slogan wir-schaffen-das“ («we’ll make it») is therefore just means to an end. Flattering the liberal-left by suggesting effort to actively provide humanitarian aid, the left was silenced. Who can critique a «we’ll make it» that is the only reasonable statement when human lives are stake.

The actions of the German government were, however, very far from we’ll make it. Instead of calling out a state of emergency, the burden to deal with the refugee crisis was left to the countries. In Berlin, refugees had to wait for weeks until they were registered. The necessary emergency aid was largely provided by volunteers and countrywide coordination was lacking.

Threats such as closing swimming pools[5] or remarks that refugees astonishingly have the money to drive hundreds of kilometers through Germany by taxi[6], do not correspond at all to the above maxim but foster xenophobic tendencies.

The shift to the right in Germany – with massive gains of the far right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) – is no threat to the neo-liberal agenda. The AfD represents through and through neo-liberal positions.[7] Calls for the abolishment of the euro are secondary as certain demands will never be implemented and serve only as propaganda. But other positions have majority appeal and thus the AfD could become the ‘kingmaker’ of further social dismantling. And if the Alternative should no longer be perceived as an alternative in the future, the confused and disoriented voters will most likely return repentantly to classic neo-neoliberal parties (CDU and FDP).

The elections are in 2017 and the refugee crisis had its maximum in 2015 so the CDU had enough time to change from «we’ll make it» to «the borders are tight». The EU-Turkey deal de facto abolished asylum law and "Queen Angela" has done what the conservative voters expected from her: close the borders. Therefore the right is pleased.

The refugee crisis as a whole becomes a triumph of neo-liberalism: A Syrian war – not unrelated to global neo-liberal word order[8] – creates refugees that become welcomed economic fodder for the German export-industry, an industry that threatens other economies with its surplus. The high immigration numbers lead to a swing to the right, which hits the Social Democrats (SPD) more than the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and brings a party into being that is completely neo-liberal at its core. With the new workforce Germany becomes even stronger economically forcing other counties to adapt neo-liberal policies to remain competitive. With the influx of ‘fresh slaves’ the aggressive German economy can set the race to the bottom in Europe to a new level.[9]

The result is presentable Islamophobia and xenophobia and a laughing, neo-liberal economy which has not only received the desired man power but also a society that argues about immigration and Islam instead looking at of the root problem of our time – the neo-liberal agenda.


3Report to Congress on International Economic and Exchange Rate Policies, October 30, 2013, p. 4,

8 US foreign policy is based on neo-liberal capitalism. The situation in Syria is at least partially the result of US interventions that are based on furthering economic interests.

9 The expression fresh slaves is in no way intended as derogatory towards refugees but expresses that fact that refugees are easily exploitable. A refugee will take any job that prevents him from perishing.

Leave a comment

Filed under politics

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s