Joschka Fischer A Major Break with the Past

Germany's former foreign minister sees an abundance of global conflicts threatening world peace in the age of right-wing populism. It will be up to the left and its protest movements to fight back.
Joschka Fischer sees a series of global conflicts facing Europe in the coming years.

Joschka Fischer isn’t one to mince words when it comes to what kind of threat he believes the world is facing from Donald Trump and the rise of right-wing populism. But the popular former German foreign minister, who served from 1998 to 2005, is even more worried about what could come next: A French president named Marine Le Pen.

“Should France elect Marine Le Pen – Trump will be viewed as someone who barely scratched the surface,” Mr. Fischer, a long-time leader of the left-leaning Green Party in Germany, said of the right-wing candidate in this year’s French presidential elections at a Handelsblatt-sponsored dinner in Düsseldorf this week.

“This is going to lead to a global crisis that will have serious consequences for our country too,” he said, including a break-up of the euro zone in those serious consequences.

Video: Joschka Fischer sees a more intensive relationship between Europe and China.


Mr. Fischer smiled and laughed that evening but also made dire warnings: “We’re witnessing a world-historical break” from the liberal order created by Winston Churchill and Franklin D. Roosevelt after the Second World War, he said.

The United States is no longer a guarantor of that world order, he added, predicting three major global hotspots that could balloon into major conflicts in the coming years of the Trump administration: the South China Sea, Iran, and North Korea.

Right-wing social movements are very well prepared. They learned a lot from the left-wing counter cultures of the 1970s. Joschka Fischer, Former German Foreign Minister

How should the left fight back? Mr. Fischer says it takes all kinds, and not just in politics. He says he’s pleased by the response of civil society and the courts to Mr. Trump’s executive orders on immigration in the United States. But in an interview with Handelsblatt Global on the sidelines of the dinner speech, he added that the new protest movements still have a lot to learn.

“Right-wing social movements are very well prepared. They learned a lot from the left-wing counter cultures of the 1970s. It’s a copy, and I think the liberal forces now have to organize themselves,” he said.

“All who are in favor of human rights, the rights of minorities, of democracy, an independent judiciary, the very basics of our democratic civilization, they have to organize themselves,” he added.

Mr. Fischer should know. Before becoming a politician, he was a leader of that 1970s counter-culture in Germany, famously joining protests and resistance movements, some of which turned violent. He has long since renounced violence as a means of protest.

For European politicians, the current developments mean turning more toward Asia. China and Germany will have to grow closer, he says.

“We will see a more intensive relationship, unfortunately based on the new policies which are emerging from Washington D.C.,” he told Handelsblatt Global.

There is one positive silver lining amid the gloomy forecasts: If France rejects Ms. Le Pen this May, Mr. Fischer believes there will be “a window of opportunity for a rethink,” at least in Europe.

That, however, will require changes in Germany too. Confronting right-wing populism in Europe means rejecting austerity, he said: "The question of growth is decisive for the euro zone."


Christopher Cermak is an editor with Handelsblatt Global based in Berlin. Christian Wermke is a correspondent for Handelsblatt's weekend section based in Düsseldorf. To contact the authors: [email protected] and [email protected]