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  • Rejection by Implication: Christian Parties, German Identity, and the Power of Discourse, 2001–2002
  • Robert Gould (bio)

Since the CDU/CSU’s return to power in Berlin in 2005 their discourse concerning non-German permanent residents of the country has changed – at least at the federal level. In the words of the Chair of the CDU/CSU party group in the Bundestag, their position has become “Migration ist heute eine nicht zu leugnende Realität der deutschen Gesellschaft” (Kauder). However, their previous long-held position was that Germany was definitely not a country of immigration (Bade; Weber). The CDU’s 2001 paper on immigration, Zuwanderung steuern und begrenzen: Integration fördern, and the manifesto of the CDU/CSU for the 2002 federal election campaign, Leistung und Sicherheit: Zeit für Taten. Regierungsprogramm 2002/2006 von CDU/CSU, both illustrate the powerful devices previously employed in the rejection of the “other” in the national identity politics of the beginning of the twenty-first century. Behind the guise of national protection there is the demonization of an important segment of the permanently resident population for political and electoral advantage. What Michał Krzyżanowski and RuthWodak had said about migration debates in Austria is certainly valid for German identity politics: The Austrian debates had become characterized by tensions between globalizing processes and nationalistic trends – who is included and who is excluded (29). This raises fundamental questions concerning intolerance in prominent public statements.

The election manifesto and position paper were not quickly thrown together. The CDU and CSU are linguistically very conscious, very sophisticated, and highly aware of the necessity, value, and potency of long-term communication strategies. They are aware, too, of the effectiveness of building on terms and concepts anchored in the popular discourse. Pointing to the success enjoyed by the language of the political left and impressing the importance of language on his own party, in a speech to the CDU convention in 1973 Kurt Biedenkopf had stated:

Der politische Erfolg unserer Partei wird entscheidend davon abhängen, ob es uns gelingt, eine Sprache zu finden und praktizieren, die unsere Sprache ist. [...] Sprache ist [...] auch ein wichtiges Mittel der Strategie [...]. Statt der [End Page 397] Gebäude der Regierungen werden die Begriffe besetzt, mit denen sie regiert [...]. Deshalb, meine Freunde, ist die Auseinandersetzung mit der politischen Sprache von so großer Bedeutung.

(CDU, ed., 22. Bundesparteitag Hamburg 1973 61)

The broad question of the CDU’s “finding and employing its own language,” as Biedenkopf suggested, cannot be explored here.

That the CDU/CSU and conservative circles in Germany were fundamentally hostile to immigration and the permanent presence in the country of so many non-Germans is well known. Less well known, however, are some of the means by which the party members and representatives strove to propagate and reinforce this rejection among the voting public. The analysis of the language and images by which individuals and groups construct and are constructed in social categories, realities and even “problems” (Blommaert 4) seems to be central in this context and is subject of “critical discourse analysis” (CDA). This analysis includes the study of how language is used in the exercise of power. For Wodak and Meyer (10) the investigation of the relationship between language and power constitutes the fundamental concern of CDA.

With this in mind, it is fascinating to examine ways in which discriminatory statements about immigrants or foreigners are formulated within the two conjoined parties, which at the federal level have been in power for forty-one of the Federal Republic’s sixty-two-year existence and, in the case of the CSU, in Bavaria for all but five years. Consequently they form what Jan Blommaert calls a “key site of research into the connections between language, power, and social processes” (34). In Blackledge’s terms, these two texts – the 2001 position paper on immigration and the 2002 campaign manifesto –form part of a “powerful discourse” (14), and this is particularly the case in the light of the CDU/CSU’s and CSU’s impressive electoral success. We are dealing here not just with what Teun A. van Dijk has called a “symbolic elite” (362), but also with a real political...


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