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Alternative fur Deutschland – The AfD: Germany's New Nazis or another Populist Party?

Alternative fur Deutschland – The AfD: Germany's New Nazis or another Populist Party?

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Alternative fur Deutschland – The AfD: Germany's New Nazis or another Populist Party?

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566 pages
7 heures
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May 1, 2020
ISBN:
9781782846802
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Right-wing populism has been on the rise in Europe and elsewhere. Germany's foremost populist party is called Alternative for Germany (AfD). Founded in 2013 and entering Germany's federal parliament in 2017, the AfD increasingly moved towards right-wing extremism. Today, the party is Germany's most successful nationalistic party. Following the populist playbook, the AfD started off with a simple neoliberal and anti-Europe message, but soon moved towards the extreme right. By 2017 the AfD's ultra-nationalistic wing had successfully outmanoeuvred the party's moderate and neoliberal leader Frauke Petry. Written from the standpoint of openness, pluralism, liberalism and democracy, this book examines the AfD's rise to fame, its successes, and the party's ideological links dating back to German Nazism of the 1930s. The author illuminates the party's ideological and institutional links to present-day Neo-Nazis; its close associations to the right-wing street movement Pegida; the recruitment of right-wing extremists and former Neo-Nazis into its parliamentarian ranks; its xenophobic, anti-Muslim, racist and anti-Semitic ideologies; and its relationship to the neo-fascist Identity Movement. A historical overview positions the AfD within Germany's political landscape. The work engages with the make-up of AfD voters and electoral successes; the party's relationship to anti-Semitism; and its dreams of re-establishing a mythical Aryan Volksgemeinschaft. Close attention is paid to the AfD's demagogic and nationalistic leader, Bjorn Hocke, as well as the party's admiration for the radical right of neighbouring Austria. A final chapter examines the fascist character of the AfD as measured against Umberto Eco's fourteen elements of Ur-Fascism. Three questions are posed: Will the AfD lead to the end of German democracy? Is Germany moving towards another Third Reich? Is there another Hitler in the making?
Sortie:
May 1, 2020
ISBN:
9781782846802
Format:
Livre

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Alternative fur Deutschland – The AfD - Thomas Klikauer

The AfD

Germany’s New Nazis or another Populist Party?

This book is dedicated

to the victims of

Fascism and Nazism.

Alternative für

Deutschland

The AfD

Germany’s New Nazis or another Populist Party?

THOMAS KLIKAUER

Copyright © Thomas Klikauer, 2020.

Published in the Sussex Academic e-Library, 2019.

SUSSEX ACADEMIC PRESS

PO Box 139, Eastbourne BN24 9BP, UK

Ebook editions distributed worldwide by

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814 N. Franklin Street

Chicago, IL 60610, USA

ISBN 9781789760460 (Hardcover)

ISBN 9781782846802 (Epub)

ISBN 9781782846802 (Kindle)

ISBN 9781782846802 (Pdf)

All rights reserved. Except for the quotation of short passages for the purposes of criticism and review, no part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted, in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise, without the prior permission of the publisher.

British Library Cataloguing in Publication Data

A CIP catalogue record for this book is available from the British Library.

This e-book text has been prepared for electronic viewing. Some features, including tables and figures, might not display as in the print version, due to electronic conversion limitations and/or copyright strictures.

Contents

Preface and Acknowledgements

List of Abbreviations

1

Introduction – The Rise to Fame

2

Electoral Success

3

The AfD Voter

4

The Rise of Antisemitism

5

Nazis or Populists?

6

The Volksgemeinschaft

7

Björn Höcke and His Support

8

The Austrian Freedom Party

9

Ur-Fascism

10

Conclusion – Nazism in Germany

AfD Chronology

Notes

Index

Preface and Acknowledgements

Alternative für Deutschland – The AfD is based on well over twenty reviews, articles and general comments on the AfD that I have published between 2017 and 2019. An important foundation for the book comes from German to English translations of primary and secondary sources. Primary sources used in this book include, amongst others, AfD speeches from AfD rallies and contributions made in parliaments (available on YouTube) as well as party documents like the AfD’s official party programme, authorised documents, endorsed posters, banners, etc. The AfD’s party programme however turned out to be of very limited usefulness.¹ The programme is largely a whitewashed document, possibly designed to appease Germany’s political watchdog, the Verfassungsschutz that is furnished with the capability to declare political parties illegal. It appears that understanding the AfD through its party programme is similar to examining a tobacco shop to understand lung cancer.

All other sources used in this book are secondary sources. These are translated publications about the AfD. Despite its 1,700 footnotes, this book is not a scientific book.² It is the tenth book that I have written. However, unlike every other of my books, this book is the first one in which I could back up not just every single claim I made about the AfD through (often more than) one source, but I could back up almost every single word used in the book to describe the AfD. In other words, the evidence presented in this book to describe the AfD is rather solid.

Some of the publications used as references in this book have been compiled by research institutes (e.g. https://www.amadeu-antonio-stiftung.de/en), think tanks and weekly or monthly magazines (e.g. Der Spiegel, Die Zeit, etc.) as well as newspaper articles published in Germany’s national, non-tabloid but quality newspapers (e.g. TAZ, FAZ, Handelsblatt, Frankfurter Rundschau, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Tagesspiegel, etc.). These sources have been beneficial in illuminating the link between the AfD and neo-Nazis as they exist in today’s Germany. Alternative für Deutschland – The AfD examines this relationship. The book does not look at the AfD’s more moderate neoliberal faction; it exclusively examines the neo-Nazi–AfD link based on translations of a large number of German sources (many only accessible in Germany) into English. Alternative für Deutschland – The AfD essentially reports what has been extracted from four key resources:

1. The well over twenty books on the AfD published in the German language;

2. Studies compiled by German research institutions, think tanks and academic-scholarly literature;

3. Published newspaper and magazine articles written by journalists; and

4. AfD documents such as, for example, the party programme, public speeches, etc.

Investigating the linkage between the AfD and Nazism meant having to deal with some very old-fashioned Germanic words like Volksgemeinschaft, völkisch, bluthaft, deutsch-stämmig, rassisch artfremder Mensch, Volkstum, Überfremdung, and the like. It emerged that Google’s translator (translate.google.com) decodes key terms like Volksgemeinschaft simply as national community which, at some level, might be correct. But this translation does not capture the term’s true ideological meaning, namely the Volksgemeinschaft as an Aryan and race-based nation. Many of these German right-wing and Nazi terms that were made famous by the Nazis of the 1930s and have survived until today are almost untranslatable. Hence they have been used in their original form with annotations to their meaning.

Another clarification is important to note for this book. Even though the re-unification of Germany occurred in 1989/90, this book continues with the well established terminology of East-Germany and West-Germany. This separation is suitable because it highlights the stark contrast that still exists between both parts of the country as well as the differences between the Eastern (more radical) part of the AfD and the Western party section that is more moderate.

Finally, there have been several people who have – directly and indirectly – assisted with the writing of this book. A special thank-you goes to Ralf Itzwerth (IT support), Ataus Samad, and even more so to Jayne Bye (Director, Human Resources & Management) at the Sydney Graduate School of Management (University of Western Sydney, Australia) for keeping almost the entire monstrosity of university administration largely away from me. Without Jayne’s very generous help, I would still be filling in forms and battling with university internal websites instead of completing this book.

My gratitude also goes to Clemens Heni, Tomasz Konicz, George Sternfeld, Norman Simms, Kathleen Webb Tunney, Jeffrey Masson, Christian Schneider,³ Andreas Kemper, Andreas Peglau as well as my friend, Emeritus Professor Konrad Kwiet from the Sydney Jewish Museum, for their helpful assistance on issues like Antisemitism and the like. I am also grateful to the Hans-Böckler-Foundation for supporting my transition from tool-maker to academic, including an internship in the late 1980s with the Union of Automobile Workers (https://uaw.org) where I learned typing with ten fingers. My thank-you also goes to the Internet translation site bab.la⁴ for assisting me in converting seemingly untranslatable German words into English language. Without the combined effort of foremost the people and the institutions named above, this book would have never been published. My highest recognition, however, goes to my wife Katja for proofreading and copy- editing the entire book. Without her work, this book would have never seen the light of the day.

Finally, this book is written to honour the words of Saul Friedländer who closed his Holocaust remembrance lecture in Germany’s federal parliament in 2019 with the following words (my translation):

Finally, I would like to mention a few words that we should always keep in mind. Hans von Dohnanyi, a brother-in-law of Pastor Bonhoeffer, a former official in the Ministry of Justice of the Reich, then an officer during the war, helped, under great personal danger, Jews from Berlin to flee to Switzerland. He was arrested in April 1943 and sentenced to death by hanging together with Dietrich Bonhoeffer. In April 1945, shortly before both were executed, he responded to a question about what made him resist. His answer is valid in its simplicity for all time and places: It was simply the inevitable course of a decent person.

List of Abbreviations

AfD Alternative for Germany (German: Alternative für Deutschland)

AH Adolf Hitler – Leader of the German Nazi party

ARD A German public TV broadcaster (German: Arbeitsgemein-schaft der Rundfunkanstalten der Bundesrepublik Deutschland)

BDM League of German Girls (German: Bund Deutscher Mädchen) – Nazi organisation (1930-1945)

BH Blood & Honour – UK Neo-Nazi group

BMW Multinational company producing cars and motorcycles (German: Bayerische Motoren Werke)

CDU Christian Democratic Union of Germany (German: Christlich Demokratische Union Deutschlands)

CSU Christian Social Union in Bavaria (German: Christlich-Soziale Union in Bayern

DKP German Communist Party (German: Deutsche Kommunistische Partei) founded in 1968

DNSAP Austrian National Socialist Party (German: Deutsche Nationalsozialistische Arbeiterpartei)

EHRC European Human Rights Convention

EU European Union

FAZ Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung – A German daily newspaper

FBI Federal Bureau of Investigation (USA)

FDP Free Democratic Party (German: Freie Demokratische Partei)

FPÖ Freedom Party of Austria (German: Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs)

Gestapo Geheime Staatspolizei (German: Secret State Police), 1933–1945

HH Heil Hitler – A Nazi salute

HJ Hitler Youth (German: Hitlerjugend)

IB Identitarian Movement (German: Identitäre Bewegung)

JA Young Alternative (German: Junge Alternative) – Youth organisations of the AfD

KPD Communist Party of Germany (German: Kommunistische Partei Deutschlands), banned in 1956

LGBTQ Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender and queer movement

MC Motor Club of motor cycle riders

MI5 Security Service (UK), also known as Military Intelligence, Section 5

MP Member of Parliament

NEOS New Austria and Liberal Forum (German: Das Neue Österreich und Liberales Forum)

NetzDG Network Enforcement Act ( German: Gesetz zur Verbesserung der Rechtsdurchsetzung in sozialen Netzwerken)

NGO Non-governmental organisation

NPD National Democratic Party of Germany (German: Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands)

NSDAP National Socialist German Workers’ Party (German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)

NSKK National Socialist Motor Corps (German: Nationalsozialistisches Kraftfahrkorps) – A Nazi organisation

NSU National Socialist Underground (German: Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund)

ÖVP Austrian People’s Party (German: Österreichische Volkspartei)

Pegida Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident (Ger: Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes)

RTL Radio Télévision Luxembourg – A private TV and radio broadcaster

SA Storm Troopers (German: Sturmabteilung) of Nazi Germany (1920s and 1930s)

Sat.1 Satellitenrundfunk – a private TV broadcaster

SD Security Service of the Reichsführer-SS (German: Sicherheitsdienst des Reichsführers-SS)

SPD Social Democratic Party of Germany (German: Sozialdemokratische Partei Deutschlands)

SPÖ Social Democratic Party of Austria (German: Sozialdemokratische Partei Österreichs)

SRP Socialist Reich Party (German: Sozialistische Reichspartei Deutschlands)

SS Protection Squadron (German: Schutzstaffel) of Nazi Germany (1929–1945)

T4 Action T4, Nazi-Germany’s mass murder through involuntary euthanasia; T4 abbreviates Tiergartenstraße 4

TAZ Die Tageszeitung – A German daily newspaper

UK United Kingdom

Ukip UK Independence Party – A hard Eurosceptic, right-wing political party in the UK

UN United Nations

US United States of America

VS Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (German: Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz)

WW II World War II – 1939–1945

WWT White Wolves Terror Crew – German Neo-Nazi music band

ZDF A German public TV broadcaster (German: Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen)

1

Introduction – The Rise to Fame

The AfD is an openly Nazi party

with antisemitic undertones.

Friedrich Merz, CDU, 2018¹

Founded on the 6th of February 2013² and having entered Germany’s federal parliament only four years later in 2017, the AfD is the rising star of German politics.³ The party is called AfD or Alternative für Deutschland – Alternative for Germany. In the traditional political spectrum spanning from progressives to Nazis/fascists, the AfD is closer to the latter and often seen as chauvinistic, right-wing-populist,⁴ nationalistic, populist, right-wing,⁵ extremist,⁶ radical-right, or simply as Germany’s new Nazi party.⁷ It is deeply nationalistic and populist.⁸ As such, ideas like ‘nation, [chauvinistic] culture, and race remain key elements of a right-wing mobilisation’⁹ in which biologically justified racism includes the destruction of those deemed inferior.¹⁰ The Untermensch or sub-human replaces the concept of ethno-pluralism.¹¹ This exchanges biology with culture. ‘Biologism [like this is] racism’.¹² It demands the elimination of all cultural mixtures and is set against multiculturalism.¹³ The Alternative for Germany is more of an alternative against a number of issues – it is against foreigners, refugees, etc. – in short, anyone non-German.¹⁴ However, this has not always been the case.

The origins of the AfD date back to the year 2001. This was the time when a social-democratic agenda, called 2010, decreased Germany’s once mighty welfare state to the wishes of neoliberalism.¹⁵ It foreshadowed a new form of authoritarian capitalism to which the AfD later added a nationalist touch. Initially, the AfD started as a neoliberal party with strong feelings against anyone foreign and with an anti-European Union stance.¹⁶ Featuring its right-wing populism it became the symptom of a development that began long before the AfD appeared on Germany’s political scene.¹⁷

The proclaimed victory over socialism in Europe not only strengthened capitalism but also led to the successive elimination of communist parties (first), trade unions (second), and currently social-democratic parties – with Austria and Italy as prominent examples. The major socio-economic conflict does no longer appear to be about capitalism but within capitalism. It sets globalised-neoliberal capitalism against authoritarian-nationalistic capitalism (e.g. Brexit, Trump, the AfD, Italy’s Northern League, France’s Le Pen, the Visegrád group, Europe’s radical-right, etc.).

There are many elements that link the AfD to neoliberalism, such as its staunch anti-unionism, the proposed elimination of the social-welfare state, its support for lowering taxes for corporations and the rich, etc.¹⁸ On the other side there is the AfD’s new nationalism with the selection of social groups according to völkische, i.e. racial principles.¹⁹ Originally, the AfD presented itself as a party in support of small and medium enterprises as well as family owned businesses. Soon after its foundation, however, the initial neo-liberal dogma began to weaken, only to be replaced by a more nationalistic-völkische ideology.²⁰ This move was supported by the publication of a book. Virtually every German-language book on the AfD agrees that the social-democratic party member Thilo Sarrazin’s publication Germany Is Abolishing Itself (August 2010), which sold millions of copies, contributed to the rise of xenophobia in Germany.²¹ It also aided the rise of the AfD.²² The book’s overt intolerance features racial resentment presented in a scary, highly populist, and alarmist way. Germans were told to preserve their race otherwise foreigners would abolish the German Volk.²³ Many Germans believed Sarrazin’s dystopia.²⁴

The AfD thrived on the ideology of Sarrazin’s book as well as on the refugees arriving in Germany during 2015. Sarrazin’s book conjures up images of floods, hordes, and invasions.²⁵ Soon, the AfD began to collect voters from Germany’s centre when it started to present itself as a force against the invented floods of refugees. Already before that, in the year 2014, many began to associate the AfD with:

• a nationalistic Germany-first-interest ideology,

• limiting refugee numbers,

• crypto-democratic, so-called direct Volks-participation, e.g. Germans only,²⁶

• the elimination of the Euro currency (e.g. Deutsch Mark nationalism²⁷), and

• law and order policies against crimes committed by non-Germans [Ausländerkriminalität].²⁸

These are also popular themes of the AfD’s twin brother, a street movement called Pegida.²⁹ Pegida boss Lutz Bachmann³⁰ likes to pose in a Hitler outfit. The movement’s front-woman, Tatjana Festerling, has been convicted of hate speech.³¹ Pegida claims to define the in-group as patriotic Europeans.³² They are ready to defend the occident (central Europe). This is set against the out-group, i.e. anyone non-German, non-white and non-centre-European. The movement’s racism comes with the ideology of cleanliness, insinuating that the out-group is dirty. It soils the place. It needs to be cleaned up – in a kind of ethnic cleansing. All this always means racial purity in the German context. The overtly nationalistic AfD/Pegida and their sympathisers demand Germany remains German. Not surprisingly, the rise of the AfD came with a massive increase in antisemitic and Neo-Nazi attacks on refugees, their residences, mosques and synagogues.³³ These attacks – that started with the racially motivated pogrom-like attacks in the Eastern German town of Hoyerswerda in 1991 – were on the increase since former chancellor Helmut Kohl had conjured up a new nationalism during the re-unification of Germany.³⁴

By autumn 2015, the political atmosphere in Germany had begun to change even more. Resentment against refugees won over Merkel’s welcoming culture and Germany’s ugly head of racism returned with a vengeance. Simultaneously, the AfD ramped up its verbal violence.³⁵ According to a survey conducted during the year 2014, 57% of people felt threatened by Islam. The AfD has been able to harvest these resentments with the goal to establish itself within Germany’s party system. It quickly realised that it could attract previous non-voters and turn parts of the working class and the working poor into AfD supporters. Its party programme mixes anti-humanism, claims about decadence, the Nazi’s Germany Awake!,³⁶ conservative reactionary and nationalistic politics (e.g. Moeller van den Bruck, Oswald Spengler,³⁷ Julius Evola, Carl Schmitt, Ernst Jünger, etc.) with contemporary right-wing populism. Behind AfD populism lurks a deeply racist face and the neoliberal agenda to privatise Germany’s system of unemployment benefits, increase the pension age to 70, and lower taxes for the rich. This is largely camouflaged through the party’s ideology of a racially homogeneous nation that extends to a Europe consisting of racially defined and confined individual fatherlands. The AfD declares that the project of an open and liberal Europe has to end and wants to return to a nationalistic Europe. Given Brexit and the party’s relying on Deutsch Mark nationalism, the party plans a referendum against the Euro currency with the plan to re-introduce the Deutsch-Mark.³⁸ A return to Germany’s D-Mark would set the scene for its anti-EU stance.

Less in official documents and more in personal attacks and hate speeches, the AfD likes to break taboos using semi-Nazi vocabulary. It believes in insults and verbal attacks. The AfD is convinced that Neo-Nazi propaganda is an expression of free speech.³⁹ It largely follows three convictions:

1. If Germany’s political system fails to react to the AfD’s provocations, the AfD’s ‘racism, revisionist history, and anti-humanist claims’ are seen as acceptable;⁴⁰

2. If Germany’s political system rejects AfD provocations, the AfD can present itself as an outsider working against the establishment; and finally,

3. The AfD’s strategy of provocations receives substantial media attention, creating a high profile media image that is useful for the AfD as this, at least potentially, translates into votes.⁴¹

These strategies are part of what the AfD calls culture war.⁴² Its war is predominantly directed against a perceived cultural elite that the AfD believes is left dominated. The second part of the AfD’s media strategy is to present itself as anti-capitalist. Often, anti-capitalism is linked to anti-European attitudes.⁴³ Like the real Nazis of the 1930s – the National Socialist Party – the AfD too pretends to be against capitalism. Simultaneously, it rejects trade unions. Its faked anti-capitalism has not prevented the party from attacking trade unions at workplaces, for example, through organisations like the Zentrum Automobil.⁴⁴ A similar right-wing organisation has been set up at JenOptik.⁴⁵

Despite this, the AfD’s main ideological focus remains anti-refugee and anti-migration. These ideologies have been able to create substantial support from some sections of the middle-class, some workers and the precariat.⁴⁶ Predominantly, this developed on the basis of decades of right-wing indoctrination – Germany’s tabloid press, etc. – and the successive weakening of a once traditional working class consciousness. It was replaced in part with a nationalistic and völkische ideology that converted sections of the proletariat into de-politicised rabble. Parts of the precariat – Hegel’s rabble and Marx’s Lumpenproletariat – now support the AfD. They became the AfD’s new authoritarian-reactionary subjects.⁴⁷ Much of this is based on the European social-democratic parties’ move towards neoliberalism that features the hallucination of a third way between socialism and capitalism. In many ways, this support for neoliberalism ended the historical capital-labour compromise that camouflaged class war during the so-called golden years of European capitalism (1945–1975). Those years were defined by class compromise, social-democratic welfare state policies and Keynesian economics. The rise of neoliberalism ended this. Consequently, social and economic insecurity rose.

Exploiting these insecurities, the AfD’s scapegoating policies push the party’s crypto-fascist ideologies that are updated and now called ethno-pluralism.⁴⁸ They are nothing more than racism disguised as pluralism. In the AfD’s application of the neo-fascist ideology of ethno-pluralism, there is to be a strict segregation between the Germanic and all other races as well as the rejection of weaker races. Tormenting the weak, Germany’s right-wing crypto-philosopher Peter Sloterdijk likes to divide the useful from the not so useful.⁴⁹ He argues that there is a need for lower taxes for the elite. Social welfare needs to be reserved for those who – as Leistungsträger – contribute to capitalism. These so-called carriers of economic achievement⁵⁰ are to be supported while for the weak, state support should be eliminated. Building on Sloterdijk, his ideological pupil, Marc Jongen, quickly rose inside the AfD to become the party’s key ideological thinker. Many of their ideologies are designed to attract a resentful petit bourgeois. This voter reservoir makes up about a third of the German electorate and is highly susceptible to the AfD’s politics of fear mongering and scapegoating.

So far, these ideologies have been successful in catapulting the AfD into almost every state parliament and, since 2017, into Germany’s federal parliament. Without a doubt, the 2017 election marked the most decisive ‘electoral breakthrough’⁵¹ for the AfD. Its ‘political earthquake’⁵² ‘made history’.⁵³ Given its stratospheric rise, many have been asking: How can the AfD be stopped?⁵⁴ Firstly, one might need to realise that much of the AfD’s rise is a result of the deliberate weakening of progressive forces including Europe’s once mighty social-democracy. Instead of appeasing capital and engaging with the AfD’s agenda, class politics should be the focus of debates. This needs to be linked to fighting the early signs of the rising danger of fascism. With the rise of the AfD and other European radical-right parties, some have already seen certain similarities with the early phase of Italian fascism.

On the downside, one might argue that, on the whole, the AfD is not an outright fascist party. For one, and this comes despite the popularity of the AfD’s völkische leader Björn Höcke,⁵⁵ the AfD still lacks a charismatic Führer.⁵⁶ Its semi-violent street fighting movement Pegida has failed to mutate into a fascistic mass movement. Pegida remains largely concentrated in the Eastern part of Germany (in the cities of Dresden and Erfurt). Any Pegida-equals-SA⁵⁷ equation does simply not exist.⁵⁸ This is despite the fact that Pegida itself has announced it ‘is the new SA’.⁵⁹ AfD/Pegida’s Benjamin Nolte – known as Banana-Nolte inside right-wing student fraternities⁶⁰ – carries appropriate attitudes but is no new Führer. Apart from significant but largely unstructured attacks, violence, and brutality directed against anarchists, trade unions, the Greens and virtually anyone deemed not German looking, the AfD and Pegida have no fighting organisations similar to Italy’s Black Shirts⁶¹ or Germany’s SA. While being staunchly anti-democratic,⁶² Pegida is not Germany’s new SA.⁶³ Nonetheless, it remains useful to clearly understand the enemy of democracy. And for that, a brief look at the AfD’s history remains indispensable.

A brief history of the AfD

The AfD’s party name, Alternative for Germany (AfD), might also be understood as Angst für Deutschland as the AfD operates with angst and fear. Recent plays on its name have been Alternative for the Dumb and A f*** Disgrace. The history of the AfD is rather short, stretching from 2013 to today. Compared to other political parties with a long history (e.g. Germany’s labour party, the SPD founded in 1863), the short-lived AfD might very well be Germany’s most successful party given its quick rise, however, it has not (yet) become a real mass party.⁶⁴ The AfD hovers around the 12 to 15 percent margin. Having entered Germany’s federal parliament with 12.6% of the public vote, the AfD is nowhere close to Germany’s two real mass parties,⁶⁵ the conservative CDU and the social-democratic SPD.⁶⁶

Since its interception, the AfD has moved from being an anti-Europe party towards being a party of hatred and rage.⁶⁷ The party’s original quest to leave the Euro currency zone and NATO were soon superseded by right-wing populism. One of its irrational ideas demands to incarcerate Germany’s chancellor Angela Merkel. The AfD alleges political misconducts – which are not a crime in Germany. The AfD believes ‘Merkel has lost the right to lead the German Volk’.⁶⁸ Pushing its crypto-Nazi image, the AfD uses the word führen (to lead). It speaks of das Volk führen –Volksführer – conjuring up images of Nazi Germany and Hitler, the Führer. What is interesting is not so much the hate directed against the democratically elected chancellor who, the AfD believes, should be carried out of the chancellery in a straight-jacket’⁶⁹ but the way members of the party think and talk. It reveals their anti-democracy stance.

Over the last few years, the AfD has become a party that uses democratic engagement and freedom of speech almost solely for the purpose of issuing personal insults and spreading hatred and Antisemitism.⁷⁰ One might argue that the AfD’s real danger comes from its rampant nationalism spiced up with racism, especially bearing in mind Germany’s unique history. German right-wing populism is different from any other version of right-wing populism (Trump, Orban, Duarte, Le Pen, Bolsonaro, etc.) as Germany’s right-wing is infamously linked to one word – Auschwitz. It was the Germans who committed the Holocaust. As one of Germany’s most astute historians said, No Germans – no Holocaust.⁷¹ To camouflage this yet allude to it at the same time, the AfD uses the very reliable idea of dog-whistle politics.⁷² Instead of using the term Nazism, they use völkisch. To the unsuspecting eye, völkisch just means Volk, a rather innocent term. But to the AfD’s hardcore right-wing and Neo-Nazi supporters it means exactly one thing, Nazism.

AfD party apparatchiks also use the Nazi word Volksgemeinschaft, seeking a cultural shift towards this Volksgemeinschaft.⁷³ The party fancies a German lead-culture⁷⁴ – Leitkultur – as well as the mythical concept of a völkische race-based Volksgemeinschaft. Envisioning the Germanic-Aryan race, the AfD’s Volksgemeinschaft thrives from dividing society into Aryan Germans set against Jews, communists, social-democrats and non-Germans while democratic parties are abused as ‘the cartel of old parties.’⁷⁵ The party believes that the established democratic parties have robbed Germans of their state. Höcke – who wants to destroy his enemies saying, I want to be a wolf not a sheep⁷⁶– also argues that democracy has a ‘decaying odour’ which mobilises yet more Nazi images from the time of a decaying democracy on the eve of Hitler’s takeover.⁷⁷ Since a court case in October 2019, ‘Björn Höcke can be called a fascist’.⁷⁸

Expressions of the party’s ideology come in many ways. For example, in 2016 the AfD posted a note on its regional (North Rhine-Westphalia) Facebook page.⁷⁹ It said that the German citizen and Hamburg born German-Turkish minister for Migration, Aydan Özoguz (SPD), an elected politician, should be deported to Turkey and disposed of – entsorgt, a term exclusively used for waste and garbage in the German language.⁸⁰ Aydan Özoguz is not Bio-German – of Aryan stock – and therefore does not fit into the Volksgemeinschaft.

The term Volksgemeinschaft is a pre-Nazi concept. The Nazis mis-used and abused it by turning it into their racially based state plan to create a racially homogenous Volk. This ideology has been taken over by the AfD today. One of the key ideas of the Volksgemeinschaft is that anyone can be excluded – needless to say, it is the AfD that defines who is to be excluded and done away with. This task falls into the vicinity of Höcke who, according to ex-Neo-Nazi Christian Ernst Weißgerber, is ‘one of the most powerful men inside the AfD’.⁸¹ Höcke believes that the AfD will dispose of the Greens, liberals, and social-democrats as they do not fit the Volksgemeinschaft’s nationalistic-racial profile. Together with this, Höcke also thinks that non-Volksgemeinschaft-like refugee accommodations are breeding grounds for fundamentalism and criminality. Höcke and the AfD work hard to rehabilitate Nazi jargon.

Not surprisingly, the AfD is also the place where Germany’s strong racist student fraternities have found a new ideological home. They include people like Albrecht Glaser, Enrico Komming, Jörg Scheider and Christian Wirth.⁸² Already during the 1930s, some fraternities began the ethnical cleansing at universities well before the Nazis’ SA arrived.⁸³ They attacked even Nobel Prize winners but not Heidegger (NSDAP membership number: 3.125.894).⁸⁴ Then as today, these fraternities are not democratic organisations. Yet they never shy away from using democratic rules to destroy democracy. In fact, many fraternities and AfD officials believe that democracy is merely a game – one that is more fun when played without rules. Meanwhile, the AfD insults political opponents as murderers while accusing critical journalists of lying.⁸⁵ All of this has a rather recent history.

As mentioned, one of the AfD’s power boosts came with a book. Many agree that one of the AfD’s ideological predecessors was social-democratic party member Thilo Sarrazin who wrote the book Germany Abolishes Itself (2010). The book’s success and its accompanying ideology can easily be detected in AfD speeches. After Sarrazin’s book, 18% of Germans said they would vote for a Sarrazin Party. The book shifted Germany’s political climate to the right. SPD politician Karamba Diaby, who was born in Senegal, was intimidated when the AfD’s natural ally Pegida made its showing. He believes it all really started when Sarrazin’s book was published. Something had shifted.⁸⁶ Germany’s political culture had moved towards the radical-right and racism. The next big change towards an even more xenophobic climate came only a few years later. In autumn 2015, thousands of refugees entered Germany. Relatively fast, Merkel’s initial welcoming culture⁸⁷ mutated into cultural alienation and the notion of so-called faked refugees.

The AfD both engineers and rides on the xenophobic wave of resentment against refugees.⁸⁸ AfD boss Gauland –who likes to honour Wehrmacht soldiers who fought Hitler’s race war– believes that Nazism was merely a ‘little bird shit on Germany’s history’.⁸⁹ Gauland’s staff includes people from right-wing student fraternities, members of the crypto-fascist Identity Movement,⁹⁰ Germany’s real Neo-Nazi party, the NPD,⁹¹ and the now illegal homeland-faithful youth⁹² or H-D-J.⁹³ To keep German blood pure, Gauland demands an immediate stop to migration.⁹⁴ To crank up racism, his völkische AfD bedfellow Höcke speaks of cultural genocide on the German people, fuelled by the hallucination that Middle Eastern refugees will take over Germany.

Sarrazin’s ideological supporters interpret this as a threat. Not surprisingly, half of all Germans believe that crime is on the rise. The opposite is the case but the AfD’s perceived crime wave in the wake of the refugee intake remains. Cunningly, AfD regional boss George Pazderski noted that real is what people perceive as real. Therefore, the AfD is working on false perceptions as it creates fear. By 2016, a German insurance company (www.ruv.de) began to recognise the above. It noted a shift in Germany’s climate that attested an upswing of fear.

In addition to such well-crafted perceptions there are also real crimes. Perhaps the single most recognised event remains the sexually motivated attack of German women by a group of refugees during New Year’s Eve in Cologne in 2015/2016. Already on 15 October 2015, Höcke forecasted that if the refugee intake is not stopped, there would be a civil war. While Hitler talked about a winter offensive, the AfD set up an autumn offensive in 2015 to fight against the imagined refugee chaos.⁹⁵ Neither in 2015 nor in 2016 and even in the following years there was any civil war. Nonetheless, the AfD carries on with such apocalyptic forecasts and fears. As Hitler’s Reichsmarschall Herman Goering once noted,⁹⁶

Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.

It works with external enemies as well as internally. AfD leader Beatrix von Storch, for example, claims that schools educate children to have anal sex.⁹⁷ Parents are threatened as fear is engineered. The politics of fear is deeply rooted in the AfD. It includes not just the imagined fear of children having anal sex but also an economic fear such as losing out as Germany’s once mighty social welfare state has been cut down to the level of neoliberalism under Schröder’s so-called Hartz IV program.⁹⁸ Hit hard, many East-Germans no longer believe the promises of the welfare state.⁹⁹ Such disillusions spill over into the political system, thereby impacting on democracy itself.

Throughout Germany’s post-war history, such disillusionment led to right-wing resentment. It found its ideological home in Germany’s main conservative party, the CDU, in particular in the chauvinistic faction known as steel helmet.¹⁰⁰ Steel Helmet followed an extreme right-wing ideology dating back to 1918/19. In the immediate post World War I period, para-military militias, the infamous death skull¹⁰¹ – symbolised by a military steel helmet with a death skull – roamed the streets shooting and killing workers. They killed a revolution that sought to end monarchy, dictatorship, and capitalism.¹⁰² Soon, these militias mutated into the murderous free corps (killing, for example, Rosa Luxemburg) and somewhat later some entered Hitler’s SA and SS. Their anti-democratic and chauvinistic ideology re-emerged after World War II in the CDU’s steel helmet where it was securely locked away inside Germany’s main conservative party.

With the CDU increasingly becoming less staunchly conservative and slightly more moderate, the AfD established itself as a new reactionary-conservative party for the losers of globalisation. It has been successful in converting a resentment against neoliberalism and globalisation into xenophobic politics. In doing so, it attracts former NPD (Neo-Nazi) and Republican (semi-Neo-Nazi) voters.¹⁰³ Founded in 1964, the NPD remains Germany’s traditional Neo-Nazi party. There had been a short-lived Neo-Nazi party that euphemistically mislabelled itself The Republicans.¹⁰⁴ Behind the rather innocent name –Republikaner – lurked former SS Unterscharführer Schönhuber as its leader.¹⁰⁵ However, lacking mass appeal, this party was quickly dissolved.

Like many old Nazis and new Neo-Nazis, AfD supporters are unusually loyal to their party. One of the party’s leaders who shows great party loyalty is the AfD’s Beatrix von Storch, countess of Oldenburg. Her grandfather was Adolf Hitler’s finance minister. Von Storch, who is also a Christian fundamentalist, likes to claim that there is an abortion industry operating in Germany.¹⁰⁶ She rejects the so-called gender- and homo lobby and seeks to protect housewives against the terror of gender balance. While having no children herself, the staunchly Prussian and Christian von Storch favours families. In the AfD’s race-based social-Darwinism¹⁰⁷ the family is the völkische blood-based germination-cell from which the Aryan race grows. This, of course, indicates the elimination of people with mental illnesses and those deemed decadent. So far, her strong anti-gay stance has not openly collided with AfD leader Alice Weidel who lives in an openly homosexual relationship with Sarah Bossard in the Swiss town of Biel.¹⁰⁸ Meanwhile, von Storch has plenty of contradictions of her own. The AfD pretends to support neoliberalism and anti-state policies. It rejects trade unions, organised labour and labour laws. At the same time, von Storch has won an unfair dismissal court case that relied heavily on Germany’s extensive body of labour laws – her hypocrisy meter was working overtime.

Von Storch also oversaw the mysterious vanishing of €10,000 from an AfD account linked to a holiday in Chile. Simultaneously, she accuses Germany’s democratic parties of being negligent, showing slackness and wasting state funds.¹⁰⁹ Being ideologically motivated, von Storch is most remembered for her suggestion that German border guards should shoot refugees.¹¹⁰ When asked, does this include women and children, she snapped: yes. Later she claimed never to have suggested shooting refugees. Von Storch also maintained that the mouse on her computer had slipped. Whether a slipping mouse or not, von Storch supports a strict division between a racially defined belonging¹¹¹ and those deemed to be outsiders.¹¹²

Von Storch’s counterpart and AfD official Thor Kunkel, who likes to write Nazi literature whilst also producing Nazi pornos,* thinks – quite in line with von Storch – that German people have been forced into line through the ideology of multiculturalism. He likes to deliver hate speeches against minorities who are believed to endanger the very existence of Germany’s Volksgemeinschaft. Much of this has enticed Harald Martenstein, columnist at one of Germany’s leading weeklies – Die Zeit – to speak of a Führer bunker mentality inside the AfD. This is a reminiscence of Bruno Ganz’s movie Downfall (2004) that shows the last days of Hitler’s dying regime and the insanity of total loyalty. The AfD sees itself surrounded by refugees and migrants against which it has to protect Germany’s Volksgemeinschaft. Anyone who does not show loyalty to the Volksgemeinschaft is viewed with suspicion.

The AfD’s prime medium to assure party loyalty is the Internet, in particular, social media like Facebook. The fact that more and more Germans receive their news through social media plays into the hands of the AfD. These sites often work as echo chambers mirroring already existing ideologies.¹¹³ Germany’s foremost business daily – the Handelsblatt – has called the AfD’s sites a closed ward of the Internet. It alludes to such echo chambers that enhance already existing right-wing ideologies. Von Storch’s preferred echo chambers are FreieWelt.net und Abgeordneten-Check.de. What AfD members and supporters do not read on such sites are the contradictions. The

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