Introduction With a population of 83 Million, Germany is the biggest country in the “European Union”. For decades the far right in Germany wasn´t able to catapult their political parties into the ´Bundestag´, the German parliament. Nonetheless, far-right parties, namely the NPD and Republikaner, noted some successes on a local level and were voted into …
With a population of 83 Million, Germany is the biggest country in the “European Union”. For decades the far right in Germany wasn´t able to catapult their political parties into the ´Bundestag´, the German parliament.
Nonetheless, far-right parties, namely the NPD and Republikaner, noted some successes on a local level and were voted into the ´Landtag´, but before 2013 weren´t able to be voted into the federal parliament. After the founding of the ´Alternative für Deutschland´ (AfD) in 2013, it established itself as a Eurosceptic party and became a sump for different streams of the far right. Over the years the AfD went from being a Eurosceptic party into a far-right party with an openly fascist wing, which grouped around the politician Björn Höcke.
In September 2021 the party was voted into the ‘Bundestag’ for the second time. In Germany, approximately 10% of the eligible voters gave their votes to the AfD.
Since 2013 there were different right-wing street movements with different focuses.
At the end of 2013 „Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung Europas“ (PEGIDA) and 2014 the „Hooligans gegen Salafisten“ (HoGeSa) focusing on Islam.
After the „Summer of Migration“ 2015 (civil war refugees from Syria came to the EU), there were many local „Nein zum Heim“- Campaigns and rallies of the AfD against the reception of refugees.
Later, the anti-refugee theme shifted to anti-establishment, and “Nein zum Heim” became “Merkel must go”.
In April 2020 the „Querdenken“- movement started with a topical focus on Covid-restrictions and vaccination. The movement is not originally far-right, but open to the far right and in some federal states far-right forces lead these protests.
Since the founding of the AfD many experts see a „Rechtsruck“, a shift to the right, within German society. Surprisingly the neo-Nazi far right wasn’t able to take advantage of this shifting societal mindset anywhere in the country.
Having a successful far-right party, such as the AfD, is a new phenomenon in Germany. The AfD is looking for role models in neighboring countries. Especially, the far-right-populist FPÖ in Austria functions as a role model for the AfD. There are close links between the AfD and FPÖ, not the least because of the common language.
In recent years, right-wing scandals in the police and army have been recurring. Some involve groups and networks. This is alarming as both have access to weapons and the police can access vulnerable information. Such incidents of unlawful leaks of sensitive data from police computers make it difficult for victims of right-wing violence to turn to the police.
Status of the far-right
In a federal state like Germany, you have to look at the situation in the respective member states. There is an important difference between Western Germany and Eastern Germany, the former „German Democratic Republic“. In some ways this part of Germany is more similar to Eastern Europe: The socialist past, the foreclosure, the homogeneity of the population and a larger problem with unemployment.
But also within Eastern Germany we can observe important differences. The state of Saxony is a stronghold of the far right and is becoming a kind of experimental zone for the far right.
Western Germany has a longer history and experience with migration. But this also gave rise to nationalism and fascism in migrant groups defending themselves against German racists. Especially within the Turkish community, we can identify strong and established fascist and nationalist organizations. They are a danger for Armenians, left-wing Turks and Kurds. The German far right is very concerned by Germany’s development into an “Einwanderungsland”, this is connected to narratives of “The Great Replacement”, “Eurabia” and a general fear of losing a homogenous German nation and identity due to rising migration to the country. In Western Germany, the far right is becoming more inclusive to some extent and also accepts migrants or homosexuals in its ranks if they have similar point of view.
Racist hardliners, on the other hand, declare large areas of Western Germany as lost. Recently, they have therefore been discussing to initiate their own settlement in Eastern Germany, somewhere in Saxony, as a Plan B if the “reconquest” of the whole country fails.
Status of antifascists
Counter-resistance against the right is provided by independent left-wing anti-fascists as well as by other parts of civil society. Migrant self-organizations are also involved in this struggle. Partly, the federal state and member states of Germany are also trying to address the issue with some of their 17 domestic intelligence services called “Verfassungsschutz” (Protection of the Constitution”). However, since the “Verfassungsschutz” in Germany also infiltrates the right-wing scene with so-called V-men (“Vertrauensperson”; “trusted person” who are normally members of the groups themselves), it is rather part of the problem than the solution.
Victims of right-wing violence are mostly migrants, LGBTQI+, Jews, and people of color, but also homeless and left-wingers. In recent years, journalists and politicians have also been increasingly affected by right-wing attacks. Especially women are often victims of shitstorms with the threat of sexualized violence.
Anti-fascists are also threatened by right-wing violence and hostility.
The question of how broad alliances should be and how close one could cooperate with state agencies provides for constant discussions amongst anti-fascists.
When considering the international relations of the far right, it is necessary to look at the different currents and organizations. The AfD is well networked with its sister parties in the EU. The neo-Nazi right is internationally well connected, especially by music. Many concerts with German bands or organizers take place in neighboring countries such as the Czech Republic, France, or Switzerland to circumvent a ban.
There is also an export of ideology on the content level through translations and book publications. For example, right-wing publishers in Germany publish authors such as Alain de Benoist (France).
The neo-Nazi parties NPD, “Der III. Weg” and “Die Rechte” have contacts with similar parties abroad. They often send delegations to their demonstrations, for example to the Lukov March in Sofia (Bulgaria), the Irmia March in Athens (Greece), or the “March of the Nation” in Kyiv (Ukraine).
The far-right AfD is relatively isolated in Germany. All other major parties reject a coalition with it, including the CDU/CSU and the FDP.
At the local level, however, there is cooperation outside of official coalition agreements on the municipal level, e.g. the CDU in some municipal councils votes for proposals put forth by the AfD. This happens particularly often in the state of Saxony.
The AfD won 11% of the votes in the 2019 EU elections. Ten of its deputies are members of the far-right group „Identity and Democracy“.
Most currents of the far-right, the conservative, and Christian right gather in the AfD. There are also individual members with neo-Nazi biographies, but the party is not a neo-Nazi party. No neo-Nazis, but the fascist New Right is organizing in the wing around Björn Höcke. This wing is so strong that hardly any decisions against its will are possible within the AfD. Leaked internal forums show that there is also a strong affinity for violence among the AfD’s middle-class members.
The fascist wing of the AfD is trying to position the party as the parliamentary arm of right-wing street movements. To this end, the AfD also organizes large demonstrations itself.
An important goal of the far-right is to strengthen German nationalism by trivializing or denying Nazi crimes. With this nationalization, one hopes to initiate something like a re-homogenization of Germany.
In Germany, the far-right has several magazines (Cato, Compact, “Deutsche Stimme,” “Zuerst!”, “eigentümlich frei”, pi-news, “Tichys Einblick” and many more) and a weekly newspaper (“Junge Freiheit”). While the weekly newspaper is also aiming at a more academic and conservative audience, Compact and “Zuerst!” have more of a tabloid-style. Compact in particular is a forum for various conspiracy narratives. Compact – edited by the former communist journalist Jürgen Elsässer – is the organ for right-wing street movements like Pegida or “Querdenken”.
In the early days, the AfD’s election campaign was supported with around 10 million Euros through an independent association. The money was used to rent posters, place ads, and finance pro-AfD campaign newspapers. Journalistic research suggests that the money came from billionaire August François von Finck (1930-2021).