The rise of AfD right-wing extremism may well threaten Germany’s democratic society
Photo by Corinna Haselmayer
The rise of AfD right-wing extremism may well threaten Germany’s democratic society. It applies even more since the AfD mutated into Björn Höcke’s national-revolutionary movement party while also moving [its focus] from the earlier scapegoat (the Jew) to the current scapegoat, the Muslim. Others might argue that the AfD has not replaced one scapegoat with the other but has simply added more to the list of people, groups and religions it hates.
Rising right-wing extremism is also shown in the fact that the AfD links itself increasingly to the semi-fascistic Identity Movement (IB) which models itself on the anti-democratic forces of the Weimar Republic. Like the real Nazis of the 1930s who exploited the economic recession of the 1930s, today’s IB and AfD rather skilfully exploit the global financial crisis of 2008.
As a typical right-wing populist party with deeply anti-pluralist and authoritarian tendencies, the AfD also likes to exploit the fact that about 15% to 25% of Germans hold anti-establishment attitudes. They look for scapegoats as right-wing extremists often do. The authors define right-wing extremism as a phenomenon that explains social inequality through race and ethnicity while seeking an ethnically homogenous Volk [people].
The semi-intellectual predecessor to much of the AfD’s right-wing extremism was Thilo Sarrazin’s book Germany Abolishes Itself (2010). It legitimised racism, Social-Darwinism and Ethnocentrism – a camouflaging word for racism. Unsurprisingly, 51% of Germans agree with Sarrazin. Sarrazin believes that all Jews share a specific gene. This eliminates religion in favour of racial determinations.
Predictably, 18% of all Germans would vote for a Sarrazin Party. Germans acquired their Sarrazin Party in the form of the AfD and its crypto-fascist movement wing called Pegida. Pegida is not just the natural ally of the AfD, as AfD boss Alexander Gauland once said, Pegida is also deeply racist.
Pegida boss Lutz Bachmann, for example, likes to dress up as Adolf Hitler. AfD and Pegida believe there is a replacement of Germany and indeed of Europe through Muslim migration this is well on the way. This belief appears to be stronger in East-Germany compared to the West. As a consequence, the three key regional strongholds of the AfD are the East-German states of Thuringia (Björn Höcke), Lower-Saxony (Poggenburg), and Brandenburg (Gauland). Its female-free (!) leaders are: the völkisch-nationalistic Björn Höcke; Andre Poggenburg who believes the left is cancer on our Volks-Body; Hans-Thomas Tillschneider (IB and Pegida); and Alexander Gauland.
All these men are united in their conviction that the party needs the Muslim as the enemy. By advocating that, they also jointly believe in the ideology that those who are German will always be German and those who are Muslim will always be our enemy. With this, the AfD violates Germany’s constitutionally assured freedom of religion. The AfD’s racially pure Germany will be ethnically cleansed of anyone non-Christian – this means the degrading and exclusion of about ten million people living currently in Germany.
Such beliefs have not always built the core ideological foundations of the AfD. Historically, the AfD was founded as a neoliberal anti-EU party in 2013. Within the span of a few years, the AfD then moved towards right-wing extremism. This occurred in the rhythm of its party conventions. Eventually, the AfD arrived at its present stage where it is using a neo-national-socialist language and is dreaming of a race-based völkische nation ((30). This is signified in the ideological shift that came with anti-elite AfD deputy Alice Weidel. Weidel used to work for capitalism’s elite, Goldman Sachs. Starting off as a neoliberal, Weidel now believes that
Germany’s government is run by pigs. They are puppets of the Allied Forces tasked with keeping Germany down which they achieve through a civil war caused by Überfremdung – the influx of foreigners.
This targets Germany’s democratic political system which they hate and seek to eliminate. As expected, ideas like these attracted Germany’s far right and true Neo-Nazi party, the NPD. Former NPD supporter and AfD hard man Matthias Manthei, for example, openly admitted, after the failure of the NPD, we [the Neo-Nazis] are now travelling in a train called AfD. Until the appearance of the AfD, the NPD used to be Germany’s only real Neo-Nazi party. With the rise of the AfD, NPD voters, supporters, and members moved towards the new party.
Today, the AfD is the party of frustrated people who are full of hate for anyone who thinks differently. Anyone seen as being critical of the AfD is called a traitor, a rat. AfD members and supporters often show paranoid friend-vs.-foe attitudes. Of course, anyone not part of its beloved Volksgemeinschaft is a people traitor. As a consequence of its belief in the Volksgemeinschaft, parliamentarianism is of next to no value to the AfD.
Some see the AfD as a form of NPD 2.0. Both parties have in common that they glorify, not the current army but (Hitler’s) army, the Wehrmacht. Re-establishing militarism means reconstructing a man as a man. Masculinity and manhood underscore the AfD’s militarism, chauvinism and right-wing extremism. Such right-wing extremism is by no means an exception inside the AfD. Instead, it marks the core of the AfD.
In the East-German state of Mecklenburg-West Pomerania, for example, this is most strongly expressed in the fact that in 2017, roughly half of all active party members showed clear Nazi attitudes. By the end of 2018, one might also add the East-German city of Chemnitz with its violent foreigner hunting and an antisemitic attack during an AfD-Neo-Nazi rally at the end of August 2018. As reported by CNN, BBC, etc. the combined AfD/Neo-Nazi rally had all the fascist trimmings one would expect.
Mecklenburg-West Pomerania is also the home state of former AfD state parliamentarian and representative of the Neo-Nazi wing Holger Arppe. Arppe’s AfD membership was cancelled after his racist and violent rape-fantasies which he had posted on the Internet became known. Already fined for hate speech in 2015, AfD-man Arppe fantasises about burning his red-green opponents on the stakes. He also wants to see the guillotine working until it breaks. People he does not like should be shot and buried in mass graves. This is the language of fascism – not democracy.
Arppe’s friend is IB’s Daniel Fiss who was once asked by his comrade Arppe to supply a few strong Neo-Nazis for a rally – Fiss sent two men. Returning from a trip to neighbouring Poland, Arppe noted, Poland is great, I walked five hours through Breslau and didnt see a single headscarf or nigger. Early on, Fiss and Arppe agreed that, in case of an economic or political crisis, we will kill people on the left. About his colleagues from Germany’s neoliberal FDP party, Arppe says, I will put a bullet in their brains…I cannot stand them.
After all this became known, Arppe had to go. His successor in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania became Islamophobic Dennis Augustin who believes that [Germany’s democratic parties] foster an invasion of migrants. Augustin also thinks that in twenty years time, we will no longer be allowed to eat pork, Christmas and Easter will be eliminated, we will have child marriages and honour killings. Augustin also believes in conspiracy theories about Muslims overrunning Germany.
The AfD’s Baden-Württemberg setup became infamous through the party’s most outspoken Antisemite, Wolfgang Gedeon. Germany’s most antisemitic and nationalistic political party also has Sarajevo born Dubravko Mandic. Mandic once noted, the AfD distinguishes itself from the NPD through our ability to attract the political centre and not through ideology. Indeed, many NPD ideologies overlap with AfD ideologies. Finally, there is the supposedly anti-elite Beatrix von Storch.
Storch is part of Germany’s aristocratic elite. She is a relative of Johann Ludwig Graf Schwerin von Krosigk. He was Hitler’s finance minister responsible for the plundering of Germany’s neighbour countries and Jewish property. Aristocrat Storch believes that Merkel is the biggest criminal in Germany’s post-war history. Unsurprisingly, Storch does not think that about her relative Krosigk – a convicted war criminal.
Like her uncle, Storch wants to be part of regime change – a change from democracy towards an authoritarian regime. This is also advocated by the aforementioned semi-fascist IB. The IB has about 400 members throughout Germany. It seeks to install a race based apartheid regime. One of the key joining AfD-IB links is Lower Saxony’s AfD hard man Tillschneider.
In the AfD’s regime change project, the IB is supported by the aforementioned Daniel Fiss who joined the IB with his comrades of national-socialist men. Ideologically, such regime change plans are supported by battle demagogue Ernst Jünger, Swastika-loving author of The Third Reich, Moeller van den Bruck, and Nazi lawyer Carl Schmitt. Inspired by Italian fascist Mussolini, these anti-democratic demagogues believe that violence remains central.
Among the AfD’s numerous links to Neo-Nazism is also the long-time NPD activist Kevin Schulhauer (Thuringia). He works closely with the aforementioned Dubravko Mandic. AfD man Mandic likes to collect donations for the semi-fascist IB using Facebook pages. All of this hardly occurs unconnected from real right-wing violence. In the year 2016, for example, Germany experienced one arson attack on refugee accommodation every three days; it registered 434 injured people during such attacks; and it had 3774 xenophobic attacks on refugees.
This is the level of right-wing violence directed against the AfD’s scapegoats. A typical attack occurred on the 28th of August 2015 when a right-wing extremist threw a Molotov-cocktail through a window into a refugee house in the East-German town of Salzhemmendorf hitting the bedroom of an 11-year old who luckily was sleeping in a neighbouring room next to his mother.
Such right-wing violence does not come without some sort of general support. Support is found in the fact that 88.4% of AfD supporters look down on refugees. Furthermore, the AfD has, to a large degree, taken over the NPD’s political programme (101). Generally speaking, AfD support is about twice as strong in East-Germany compared to Germany’s western part. The unchallenged AfD stronghold remains Saxony. It is the place where Pegida originated (Dresden) and 8,000 Neo-Nazis marched in unison with the AfD in August 2018 (Chemnitz). It is also the place where the murderous Neo-Nazis, the NSU-network, was hiding. The NSU went underground –others say they lived rather openly among Neo-Nazi peers– in the Saxony cities of Chemnitz and Zwickau. In Saxony, the AfD received 27% of the popular vote.
Accordingly, 58% of Saxonians believe to be estranged in Germany because of foreigners, even though the level of migrants in Saxony barely measures 2.3%. In neighbouring Thuringia things are hardly better. There, 69% think that democracy does not represent the will of the people while 63% believe Germany needs a strong party that represents the Volksgemeinschaft. In Thuringia, right-wing authoritarianism was established during the 1990s when the Neo-Nazi organisation Thüringer Heimatschutz was allowed to operate at will. Its leader was the child pornography criminal Tino Brandt. Thuringia also has a sizable scene of right-wing hard rock music festivals and is home of the AfD’s most outspoken right-winger, Björn Höcke.
In conclusion and given what has been outlined above, the AfD attacks the basic foundation of Germany’s democratic constitution. It has replaced Antisemitism with Islamophobia or rather, some would say, the AfD has simply added Islamophobia. Just as the election victories of the NSDAP during the 1930s, the AfD has also managed to enter Germany’s political centre, making it more extreme…[which is] somewhat similar to the situation found in the final years of the Weimar Republic.
The upside, however, is the fact that after three generations of Germans living in democracy, the overwhelming majority of Germans appreciate liberal pluralism. In addition, Germans strongly reject cruelty and brutality; they also reject violence against civilians as well as torture. 72% of all Germans are proud of democracy and 77% support Germany’s democratic constitution. Most significantly, 61% of all Germans support migration. More than 70% will give refuge to those persecuted. Virtually the same applies to the European Union. 63% agree fully and 19% partially with the idea that the European Union should be strengthened.
In sum, the AfD will remain an anti-democratic, xenophobic, anti-Semitic, right-wing, and perhaps even fascistoid party. However, the AfD is not the new NSDAP. Gauland and Höcke are not new Hitlers. The AfD is not a straightforward fascist party. Still, it carries elements of fascism, hence, the term fascistoid. It will also damage Germany’s democracy and its democratic institutions. It will continue to work on changing Germany’s political climate and it will encourage right-wing violence. People will die. On the positive note however, the AfD is unlikely to reach beyond its roughly 10% in the West and its 20% in the East. On the downside, the AfD will seek to engineer resentment against anyone not too German looking but it will not be able to engineer a regime change from democracy to a dictatorship. Even with the AfD, Germany is unlikely to turn into another Nazi dictatorship.
Among the approximately twenty German-language books published on the rise of the right-wing extremists party AfD, Hajo Funke and Christiane Mudra’s book is one of the most exquisite books explaining the character of the AfD. The AfD likes to characterises itself as just another populist party. The recent electoral successes of the AfD – it doubled it previous electoral result in the East-German state of Brandenburg and tripled its result in Saxony – showed the success of this strategy. Hajo Funke – one of Germany’s foremost political scientist – and actress and movie director Christiane Mudra’s book makes clear that the AfD is more than just another populist party. Their investitgation into the AfD shows that there are just too many links between German Neo-Nazi and the AfD to sustain the just another populist party myth.
The most recent example delivering further evidence to Hajo Funke and Christiane Mudra’s argument comes in the form of Brandenburg’s AfD-leader Andreas Kalbitz. Recently, AfD strongman Kalbitz was forced to admit that he attended Neo-Nazi camps in the past. He also marched with 5,000 Neo-Nazi at the infamous Chemnitz rally (2018) were hunting non-Aryans was the order of the day and an attack on a Jewish restaurant occurred. In short, Funk and Mudra’s book presents a comprehensive insight into the AfD.
Hajo Funke and Christiane Mudra’s Gäriger Haufen is published by VSA Print.
Thomas Klikauer is the author of The AfD published by Sussex Academic Press.