A political obituary for Mario Ohoven

By Hermann Ploppa.

On Saturday, October 31st 2020, Mario Ohoven, the long-time president of the Bundesverband Mittelständische Wirtschaft (BVMW), had a fatal accident with his Bentley. Rescue teams tried to free the man wrestling with death from the completely destroyed car – without success. Ohoven was on a clearly straight section of the Autobahn 44 between Ratingen and the Düsseldorf-Nord junction when his luxury car, for reasons not yet further clarified, went off the road and crashed into the crash barrier. This was a so-called solo accident, which means that other participants in the traffic were not involved in the accident.

Nothing definitive can be said at present about the circumstances and causes of this tragic accident. Whether the seventy-four-year-old Ohoven suffered a stroke of weakness, or whether the car failed, or whether other causes must be made responsible – we do not know. However, one can say this much with certainty: The sudden death of Mario Ohoven comes at a very decisive moment. Ohoven had been President of the Bundesverband Mittelständische Wirtschaft (German Association of Medium-Sized Businesses) since 1998. He was always able to bring his association forcefully into the political debate. From 2004 onwards, the Rhinelander also took over the presidency of the European umbrella organization of medium-sized and small businesses, CEA-PME. The European umbrella organization is made up of medium-sized business associations from 15 countries. Ohoven ensured that CEA-PME, founded in 1992 <1>, gained greater political weight in Brussels, among other things by registering as a lobby group with the European Commission. However, the expenditure of small and medium-sized enterprises for lobbying in Brussels only amounts to a modest 16,000 euros.

Mario Ohoven was a dazzling figure. He came from an entrepreneurial household. Ohoven was not the symbol of the typical medium-sized company. He was not a roofer or the owner of a mechanical engineering company. Ohoven earned his not insignificant income as an investment consultant. Or more precisely: as an asset adviser. So he advised wealthy fellow citizens on how to invest their money so that they have to pay as little tax as possible. His clientele therefore often consisted of people who were allowed to own far more than medium-sized assets. Accordingly, Ohoven oriented himself towards the rich and beautiful of this world. He loved glamour and luxury. And so it is not surprising that Ohoven repeatedly railed against the reactivation of the wealth tax.

Marxists would say that Ohoven consistently represented the class standpoint of the rich. He passed on the world view of the entrepreneurs from his generation of today’s over seventy-year-olds. A purely clientelistic world view that only represents the selfish interests of its own clients and largely ignores the big picture. Thus Ohoven railed in many self-made Podcasts against tax increases in general, against the rent barrier in particular. Against the Renewable Energy Law of 2017 – away with the solidarity charge! Whereby one can only agree with Ohoven on this point in view of the misappropriation of the so-called solidarity charge.

Ohoven found little criticism when it came to the destruction of small and medium-sized businesses by the market radical networks. Nothing critical was found with the middle class functionary when it comes to the destruction of the cooperative and public monetary economy – that is, Raiffeisen and Volksbanks as well as savings banks and state banks. These institutions are essential for the well-being of small and medium-sized businesses <2>. They are the lifeblood of the middle class. They offer this clientele the inexpensive and reliable loans they need for secure business and planning. That adequate wages for workers and employees are the absolute prerequisite for sufficient demand in medium-sized companies: Ohoven had no understanding for such ideas.

Let us now come to the points in which Ohoven stood out positively from representatives of other business associations. It is true that Ohoven’s medium-sized business association was also present in the working group for the design of the free trade agreement TTIP in Sigmar Gabriel’s Ministry of Economics. But Ohoven recognized that the TTIP represented an agreement that would bring the USA massive advantages in transatlantic trade and thus degrade the European economy in the long term to a decapitated organ of US corporations <3>. Ohoven criticized the dubious arbitration courts of the TTIP regime and turned against the American evidence principle: namely that a massive damage of a new product must first be detectable quasi in large-scale field trials before this product is banned because of its harmfulness. Ohoven insisted on the European precautionary principle. That a product, such as genetically manipulated soy, should rather not be approved if its harmlessness cannot be proven beyond doubt. TTIP was mainly put on ice because the then US President Donald Trump had no great interest in the new free trade agreement. But on the European side, Ohoven’s rejection of TTIP was an important contribution to its prevention. He also had a clear position on the abolition of cash. Ohoven used good arguments against the abolition of cash <4>. Of course it is not about the prevention of criminal money laundering, the boss of the middle class association clarifies. However, Ohoven sees here only the encroaching claws of a surveillance state, but not the corporate hands that infiltrate and control this encroaching state.

And now Corona. The massive and absolutely one-sided restrictions of the business activities of the middle class economy by the Federal Government challenge the protest of the middle class company owners. On May 1, 2020, Ohovens BVMW went public with its first open letter to the German Chancellor <5>.

Title: “Before it is too late!”

It states:

(translation)

“With great concern for the future of this country and the prosperity of its citizens, we appeal to politicians: put an end to the one-sided fixation on a purely virological view and thus the dangerous game with the future chances of this country. The fate of the German middle class is at stake. Lift the lockdown before it is too late! (…) Despite a state rescue package of more than a trillion euros, a wave of bankruptcies of unknown proportions is threatening, which could destroy the existence of hundreds of thousands of people within a few weeks.”

This incendiary letter was probably urgently needed. Because over three quarters of the BVMW members demanded at that time an exit from the lockdown by the end of May; a good third pleaded for an immediate exit. So it was already bubbling violently under the pot lid at that time. Mrs. Merkel and the unholy alliance of all parties represented in the Bundestag ignored this incendiary letter on a large scale. It is questionable whether it was right for Ohoven to call for a massive digitalization of small and medium-sized businesses in this situation and to refer to the massive efforts in China <6>.

From August onwards, the mood for the next lockdown in the fall began to take shape. For a long time, the BVMW website featured an emblem with the inscription: “No second lockdown!“ A second incendiary letter to the chancellor followed <7>:

(translation)

„Please exclude a second lockdown bindingly, so that stable confidence can be restored in medium-sized businesses!“

When the BVMW had the SPD General Secretary Lars Klingbeil in the studio for an interview in September, Klingbeil still assured that there would be no second lockdown <8>. But even this word of honor proved to be deceptive.

On October 28, 2020 Mario Ohoven gave the last live interview of his life. In a video of the newspaper Die Welt, Ohoven compares the second lockdown with a second heart attack, which the small and medium-sized businesses would not survive <9>. Overall, Ohoven is in line with the federal government in this last public appearance. He repeats the narrative of the danger of the coronavirus. For him, the conditions of the second lockdown are in principle not yet sharp enough. Ohoven gives the critics of the corona policy of the federal government a pretty rough deal. They are partly responsible for the current pandemic misery. It is possible that Ohoven had hoped for a kind of deal with the chancellor that would have been a gentle way out for the middle class. Because the very next day, the largest German association of small and medium-sized businesses published a statement by Mario Ohoven, which showed the disappointment about Merkel’s arrogance <10>:

(translation)

“In her government statement, the Chancellor could not provide a satisfactory explanation for the middle class for the second lockdown ordered by her and the Prime Ministers of the federal states. As a result of these measures – which were passed by the German Bundestag – thousands of small and medium-sized businesses are threatened with economic ruin. There is no doubt that in order to contain the pandemic, the state must do everything that is suitable, necessary and appropriate to protect its citizens. But the measures taken are about nothing less than the economic existence of entire professional groups, millions of self-employed persons and their families. Therefore, it is not only legitimate, but absolutely necessary to ask whether the measures are also proportionate in the legal sense and thus in accordance with our constitution. We as an association will initiate such a review in the interest of the middle class. In the end, this could lead to an appeal to the Federal Constitutional Court.”

These were the last public words of the president of the BVMW. At last Ohoven had the courage to openly express his concern of a unconstitutional circumvention of the parliaments. Here one can indeed not leave completely unmentioned the coincidence with the sudden unexplained death of the Vice President of the Bundestag, Thomas Oppermann. Oppermann, too, was no longer willing to accept the de facto coup by the Merkel government in cooperation with the minister presidents .

Oppermann and Ohoven are silent. Ohoven was an important representative of the interests of small and medium-sized businesses, and he was also a key player on the international stage. His loss cannot be compensated so easily. Whoever his successor will be: He is not to be envied. In addition to great expertise, he must also have a lot of backbone. He must have to fight against the destruction of the commercial middle class that is currently taking place if he wants to achieve anything. In warm words, the criminal and unfair manoeuvres against the middle class can no longer be tackled. The new BVMW president must look for strong partners, in order to protect its clients.

Mario Ohoven was a man with rough edges. We miss him.

Sources:

1. https://www.rubikon.news/artikel/entsorgter-mittelstand
2. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=asK6aew75z4
3. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4dKIEI2bPb4&feature=emb_logo
4. https://www.bvmw.de/fileadmin/01-Presse_und_News/Pressemitteilungen/Dateien/Mittelstand-Offener-Brief-Bevor-es-zu-spaet-ist-01-05-2020.pdf
5. https://www.bvmw.de/news/7200/unsere-arbeitswelt-wird-nach-corona-eine-andere-sein/
6. https://www.bvmw.de/leverkusen-rheinisch-bergischer-kreis/news/6860/kein-zweiter-lockdown-brandbrief-an-die-deutsche-politik/
7. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qOAtyp6FpTw&feature=emb_logo
8. https://www.welt.de/videos/video218864836/Wirtschaftliche-Folgen-Erneuter-Lockdown-Wie-ein-zweiter-Herzinfarkt-und-der-ist-oft-toedlich.html
9. https://www.bvmw.de/fileadmin/01-Presse_und_News/Pressemitteilungen/PM_29-20_Lockdown.pdf

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Thanks to the author for the right to publish the article.

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Picture source: Photo Kozyr / shutterstock

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