News of the huge turnout – over 50,000 at the massive anti-racist concert in Chemnitz today – is coming through as this article goes to press. The banner has been #wirsindmehr (‘There are more of us’) as protestors lead the way in unity against the rise of the far right.
Nick Jones investigates the AfD: Alexander Gauland co-leader of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) defends the Chemnitz ‘Far-right Riot’ against ‘foreigners’ as self-defence. A closer look at footage of the protests in Chemnitz reveals AfD placards. There was public outrage when members of an official AfD visit to Sachsenhausen Concentration Camp, from the constituency of AfD co-leader Alice Weidl, had to be abandoned due to the intervention of some members of the group who cracked jokes and questioned the existence of gas chambers. The AfD in Baden-Würtenburg even sought to cancel school educational visits to memorial sites commemorating victims of fascism.
The AfD are feeding the confidence of the far right. Neo-Nazis attacked a group of SPD members from Marburg at the Chemnitz counter-protest. The neo-Nazis in the National Democratic Party (NPD) are beginning to organise street patrols against ‘foreigner violence’. The far-right argues that crime is caused by foreigners and asylum seekers, yet statistics show a drop in crime at a time when refugees entered Germany in record numbers in 2016. This stands in sharp contrast to the dramatic rise in far-right offences with over 1,485 cases recorded in 2015; this has risen each year. There has been a 116% increase in racist attacks and 60% increase in religious hate crime.
The Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) is a major player in German politics. It has won seats in the majority of German Federal Parliaments and the Bundestag or national Parliament. The AfD is not the only far-right party in Germany but it has managed to unite the fragmented elements around their ideas of German identity and open hostility to Islam, alongside racist stereotyping of asylum seekers and refugees.
Origins of the AfD
The AfD was formed in 2013 by disillusioned Conservative CDU supporters, free market radicals, far-right nationalists and populists. The anti-Islam Pegida movement strengthened the right in the party and influenced successful racist election campaigning in Brandenburg, Saxony and Thüringia in 2014. The then leader Bernd Lucke sought to challenge this move and distance the party form the hard line racists and neo-fascist tendencies. He was removed at the party conference in Essen 2015 by a new leadership Frauke Petry (right-wing populist), Alexander Gauland (extreme-right conservative, 40 years a member of the Conservative ruling party CDU) and the neo-fascist Björn Höcke.
The AfD uses religious and nationalist stereotyping of Jews, Muslims and Roma Gypsies as well as those from southern Europe, the Middle East or Africa in publications and media appearances. In 2015 the ‘Patriotic Platform’ was launched by Björn Höcke with the support of Alexander Gauland. Their strategy is not restricted to Parliament and they seek to organise a far-right street movement and in Höcke’s words ‘…win back Germany, one piece at a time.’ The recent events in Chemnitz should be a warning.
Many neoliberal conservatives could not stomach the sharp turn to the right and left the party along with Lucke. The far right influence grew to the point that Frauke Petry also resigned from the AfD, unable to stop the neo-fascist wing, following the Bundestag Parliament elections in 2017. The party has become a rallying point for the far right and champions aggressive nationalism, racism and ultra-conservative ideas.
Racism and the Far Right
The AfD puts intolerance of Islam at the centre of its politics. Its party programme states:
‘Islam does not belong in Germany. The AfD sees the constant growth in the number of Muslims as a danger for our State, our society and the world order.’
The AfD seeks to exclude Germany’s five million Muslims and create a climate in Germany where they feel unwelcome. They seek to ban foreign donations to build mosques, minarets on mosques, the call to prayer, the burka and the niqab or veil.
They have been stirring up hatred for years and one consequence has been over 400 politically motivated attacks on Mosques and prayer rooms between 2001 and 2016.
Back to the 50s for women
The AfD claim that Islam is anti-women, yet promote policies that go against gender equality. It seeks to increase the birth rate of German families to at least two children. Its programme demands: ‘More children – instead of mass immigration’. One measure includes support for those who seek to recriminalize abortion. Björn Höcke seeks a return to the ‘natural order of the sexes’. AfD does not support equality for lesbians and gay men and campaigns against adoption rights for lesbian and gay couples.
How can the AfD be stopped?
Die Linke – the German Left Party – does not believe the AfD is like other political parties in Germany: the AfD is increasingly under the control of neo-fascists who seek to undermine democracy in order to instigate a strong state. Die Linke refuses to participate in any joint work with them and no-platforms them where possible and exposes them in public when the opportunity arises. Die Linke helped launch ‘Stand Up to Racism’ as a nationwide umbrella group to help coordinate activity against the AfD. The tasks ahead cannot be underestimated and racism can be pushed back; but practical solidarity and action is also need to stop low wages, unemployment, lack of housing, cuts in welfare and discrimination.
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