German government steps up military recruitment campaign in schools

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A central element of Germany’s return to an aggressive, great-power foreign policy is the militarization of society as a whole. In the context of the war in Ukraine and the recently announced tripling of the German military budget, the militarization of society is taking on new and unprecedented forms.

On March 7, the German Minister of Education, Bettina Stark-Watzinger (Liberal Democratic Party), demanded the increased presence of Bundeswehr (German army) officers in schools.

She justified her request as follows: “It is important that the Russian attack on Ukraine and its consequences for Germany and Europe are addressed in lessons in an appropriate way, taking into account the age of the pupils. . Especially in these times of social media and misinformation, there needs to be an appropriate response that addresses student concerns and fears. »

The aim of the campaign is clear. It is not about the “anxieties and fears of school children”, but rather about indoctrinating young people with official propaganda and gaining their consent to militarism and war. For years, the Bundeswehr has pumped millions into advertising and recruiting campaigns, in addition to sending its officers to schools, so far without success. The vast majority of young people want nothing to do with war and militarism.

Stark-Watzinger’s plans were met with furious opposition on social media. “The Bundeswehr has absolutely nothing to do in the schools. If someone comes, I will keep my children at home that day,” comments Sonja. John Klapper thinks that “the promotion of the killing business has no place in schools”. And RicoTV writes: “Do they hate children so much? First the children must be infected in the schools, then you allow them to be conscripted into the armed forces. You really become the second AfD (far right).

Other comments on the Education Minister’s statement decry one-sided reporting and relentless war propaganda by state media and politicians.

“Why don’t you tell the children that we have been starving children in Yemen for years!!!!! writes elfox. Yemen, one of the poorest countries in the Arab region, has been bombarded by Saudi Arabia – with the active or tacit support of imperialist powers – for years. This criminal war will result in leaving 1.3 million pregnant women and 2.2 million children severely malnourished by the end of this year. Already, 17.4 million people in Yemen suffer from hunger.

Regarding the war in Ukraine, a user by the name of Vita15 raises the question of “how did it come to this” and “what role NATO, the United States and Europe have played and play here” .

In fact, the Russian invasion of Ukraine is not an “unprovoked war of aggression”, as official propaganda claims, but rather a reactionary and nationalist response by the Putin regime to the systematic offensive of the powers of NATO. Since the dissolution of the Soviet Union by the Stalinist bureaucracy, NATO has systematically surrounded Russia and in 2014 orchestrated a right-wing coup in Ukraine to bring a pro-Western regime to power.

Now the imperialist powers are using the Russian invasion to bring about regime change in Russia itself and advance their own plans for rearmament and war. The German Armed Forces Special Fund (Sondervermögen Bundeswehr) of 100 billion euros launched by the German government is the largest program of rearmament of the German army since the time of Adolf Hitler. The deployment of Bundeswehr youth officers in schools is intensified under this program.

A Bundeswehr youth officer in action (photo: “Communication is his job” by Wir. Serve. Germany, CC BY-ND 2.0)

The latest annual report on youth officers published by the Bundeswehr in 2020 noted with satisfaction: “The various efforts to improve the number of full-time youth officers have borne fruit.” For example, “out of the 94 full-time youth worker positions nationally, an average of 77 positions had been filled”, which corresponds to a staff complement of 82%. Since 2010, the amount devoted to the recruitment of youth workers has increased from 12 million to 33.6 million euros.

The report leaves no doubt that it is a question of recruiting young people for wartime missions. The youth officers had “the task of speaking to pupils and students and other interested parties in schools and educational institutions about the role and tasks of the Bundeswehr”. Young officers “with deployment experience are particularly sought after”. After all, “they can describe their personal experiences, classify and evaluate the conflict” and “make sense of the conflict”.

Officially, school and university youth officers are not allowed to recruit directly for the Bundeswehr, but this is precisely what is happening more and more. In 2021, 1,239 minors were recruited for the Bundeswehr, according to the annual report by Eva Högl (SPD), commissioner for the armed forces of the Bundestag. This is 91 more (about 8%) than the previous year, when 1,148 minors were recruited.

The Association of German Teachers (DL) supports the use of youth workers in schools. It is “part of the schools’ educational mandate to inform about the work of the Bundeswehr – and to do so through first-hand experts. In this regard, the deployment of youth workers should go without saying,” explained DL President Heinz-Peter Meidinger. He dismissed the widespread criticism with the provocative remark: “I strongly reject such demonization of the Bundeswehr.”

The International Youth and Students for Social Equality (IYSSE) strongly condemns the militarization of schools, especially given Germany’s history. In the 20th century, Germany twice tried to impose its political and economic interests on Europe and the world by military force. The terrible consequences are well known. In World War II alone, Germany was responsible for the industrial murder of 6 million Jews and the killing of 27 million victims in the Soviet Union through the Nazi campaign of mass extermination.

In both world wars, pro-war propaganda in schools played a huge role. The students were indoctrinated and instrumentalized in the struggle for the “German fatherland”. Millions have been used as cannon fodder to advance the imperialist interests of the rich and big business. It cannot happen a third time.

What is needed are not young army officers, but teachers! Greater investments in education instead of billions for the army are needed! The coronavirus pandemic has significantly increased the workload for teachers and students.

According to the calculations of the famous education researcher Klaus Klemm, the shortage of teachers in the next few years will be much greater than the figure predicted by the Conference of Ministers of Education and Cultural Affairs (KMK). According to Klemm, there will be a shortage of 45,000 teachers by 2025, more than double the total cited by the KMK. For the German ruling class, however, the priority is to prepare for war.

To avoid another catastrophe, the younger generation must turn to a socialist perspective and build an international working class anti-war movement.

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