In the gardens of the University of Münster there stands a monument that commemorates the German soldiers who fought in the First World War. Atop it stands a stone carving of a German soldier, head encased in stahlnhelm and body clothed by uniform and trench coat. Clutched tightly in the soldier’s hands is a long sword facing downwards, giving an impression of firm resolve. On the foundation plinth, a second, later plaque has also been affixed that refers to the actions of 26th Armoured Division in the Second World War.
Across the monument is daubed the word BLUT (blood) in crimson red.
In any other country, the daubing of the word upon such a monument would be met with mass outcry, an immediate clean-up campaign, and a public propaganda program to reaffirm the respect “the nation” holds for the military and its sacrificial dead. This however is Germany, the exception to the rule of reaction, where the nation state is obliged to beat itself before it beats its drum. Upon closer inspection of the paint, it appears that it is aged, the act of daubing committed many years ago. Here we see social acceptance of the act; the BLUT is not officially perceived as an act of vandalism, but rather an essential part of the monument itself: a third, postmodern plaque that has been added to the piece. It is the pretence of penance required, a social flagellation for the sins of the state’s past. It’s even possible to imagine that there might be a public outcry should the denizens of the city wake up to find the BLUT scrubbed away.
There is a puncturing, fundamental truth in the act that emblazoned the word BLUT upon the monument, and for that alone it should be lauded. Such memorials are the oldest totems of the symbolic order, which bases itself upon a banal baseness ensconced in shining stone and sharp, commanding edges. Since viewing that monument among the trees of a tranquil garden, all other war memorials now appear incomplete to me, as though they all miss that crimson explosion of truth upon their facades.
There is however an underlying unease in the fact of this act. The act on the surface appears to be a powerful form of dissent, but what worth is an act of dissent where there is no reaction against it? When such an act is implicitly endorsed by the authorities through their very inaction, one wonders what interests this serves in the German situation. If the state truly disowned the acts of the past, then surely the monument would have been removed entirely? Yet this statue remains and the accompanying BLUT serves a deeper purpose, as I shall explain.
The act of covering the statue in BLUT, beyond the obvious immediate implications of this act by some anonymous leftist provides a means of distancing that the unknown individual likely never imagined. That is, it distances the incumbent liberal democratic regime from both the Bismarckian and National Socialist past. The acceptance of the authorities is the welcoming of that distance, and so we see dissent against statism used for statist ends. Here we find the chief lie of the liberal democrat: that of a fundamental difference between the regime of today and the disowned Fascist past. Nevermind that all state systems, liberal or otherwise are created and fed on the backs of countless oppressed associations – this fact is conveniently forgotten on the frontline of public consciousness. The only key difference between the explicit dictatorship and the implicit dictatorship of liberal democracy is that the former is far more honest than the latter. The openly authoritarian state declares itself as master and the people as slaves to it, or to some particular mystical ideal thereof. To the contrary, the liberal democratic rulers pretend to be the slaves to “serve the people” who are supposedly the masters who command. Further, this indicates the seductive power of liberal democratic discourse and how it neuters and subverts the consciousness of radical emancipatory political interests. Under out and out authoritarianism, one knows clearly who and what one’s enemies are, but liberal democracy muddies the waters and tells a far more insidious tale. From this confusion arise the foundations of the poisoned well called reform – where buckets of wasted energy and political failure descend in an attempt to fill the void that is at the heart of modern mass society.
All of these abstract interests influence this seemingly straightforward act and this is something I also wish to communicate in this article. In what may appear to be acts of little consequence around us, there are deep truths hidden beyond the naive or obvious truth. Furthermore, acts of apparent destruction and the communication of simple and powerful truths may easily be subverted for symbolic ends contrary to the original intent of the act.
If we were true to ourselves, every building – not just war memorials – would be covered in BLUT, because the labour performed to create them, the materials, and the intentions are all derived from a madness that demands BLUT for production. Such an all-encompassing declaration of BLUT upon authoritarian society would be something so powerful that it could never be subverted. Let the BLUT flow.