The Rise of Alternative for Germany: Who Are Its Supporters and Examining the Fascism Question

A few weeks ago I posted a piece examining some of the reasons for the Alternative for Germany party rising in the polls and the elite response to the party. I received a fair amount of feedback in comments for not focusing enough on the dangers of the AfD positions and public statements from its members. It can be difficult to cover everything in a 3,000-word post, so here is a follow-up to that previous piece. Here I will cover some of AfD officials’ controversial statements and actions, further examine the makeup of their support in Germany, and take a look at where the party lands on the stages of fascism.

Those are not hard to find as they are routinely covered in the media. Here’s just a short sampling:

  • AfD Chairman Tino Chrupalla in a debate with the leader of the Free Democratic Party, Christian Dürr, said the following (from Ukrainska Pravda):  “Among other things, Tino Chrupalla made statements suggesting that Ukraine “will emerge from this war as a loser, just like Russia! Again there is only one winner, and that winner’s name is USA,” as well as complaints that Germany can no longer buy Russian gas profitable for it and buys “dirty shale gas from America.” To the indignation of his opponent, who was shocked by his indifference to the death of Ukrainians, Chrupalla said that people also died in Iraq and Afghanistan, so with that logic they cannot buy energy resources from the United States either.”
  • Last month, Florian Jäger, the chairman for the AfD in the district Fürstenfeldbruck, was convicted and fined for a 2021 Facebook post comparing the government’s COVID19 policies to the Nazi’s anti-Jewish pogroms. The post: “According to a well-known pattern, a scapegoat is currently being sought for the catastrophic political failure of the governing body, and Söder has found him. It’s the ‘unvaccinated.’”
  • AfD chairman Björn Höcke allegedly used a motto of the SA, the paramilitary wing of the Nazi party, at a speech in May 2021.He is accused of ending his talk with the phrase “Everything for Germany,” which was often used by the SA.
  • In 2020, the  AfD  suspended a spokesman after he suggested in an email exchange that the term “fascist” was used too freely.
  • In  2018 then-party leader Alexander Gauland said the  following: “We have a glorious history — and that, dear friends, lasted longer than those damn 12 years,” he said in reference to the Nazi era. “Yes, we accept our responsibility for those 12 years,” Gauland said, adding, “Hitler and the Nazis are just bird shit in more than 1,000 years of successful German history.”
  • The previous year, Gauland said Germany should be proud of its world war soldiers: “If the French are rightly proud of their emperor and the Britons of Nelson and Churchill, we have the right to be proud of the achievements of the German soldiers in two world wars. “If I look around Europe, no other people has dealt as clearly with their past wrongs as the Germans.”
  • In a 2017 speech, Hocke said “these stupid politics of coming to grips with the past cripple us.” He also criticized Berlin’s Holocaust memorial, calling it a “monument of shame.”

WSWS has a rundown on the current and past connections of the AfD’s top candidates:

[Maximilian] Krah, who has been sitting in the European Parliament for the AfD since 2019, maintains close contacts with the neo-Nazi ideologue Götz Kubitschek and is an avowed follower of Hitler’s crown jurist Carl Schmitt. In his own legal work, he represents Holocaust deniers, such as the dissident bishop Richard Williamson, and other right-wing extremists.

Krah is very well connected to the fascist scene in Europe. For example, he has employed French anti-Semite Guillaume Pradoura in his office since 2019, after he was expelled from Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National for an anti-Semitic cartoon. Krah defended the cartoon, saying, “The picture is not nice, but I can’t see any wrongdoing in it.”

The other AfD top candidates are cut from the same cloth as Krah. In second place is Peter Bystron, a member of the Bundestag (federal parliament) who also gathers fascists and criminal elements around him in his office. In early 2021, Bystron’s associate Dagmar S. was investigated for involvement in a Europe-wide far-right arms trafficking ring. In 2018, Bystron himself had taken part in shooting exercises with the white-nationalist Suidlanders during an official parliamentary trip to South Africa and provocatively described the far-right Afrikaner paramilitary group as “a civil society organisation.”

Alexander Jungbluth (fifth position), a member of the right-wing extremist student fraternity the Raczeks, agitated against “kebab shops” and “Shisha bars” in Germany at a meeting of the AfD a few days before the party conference. To the approving growls of his far-right audience, he called for “a German culture in Germany, a French culture in France, an Italian culture in Italy.”

Readers are welcome to add any statements or connections not included here. I’m not sure it changes the fact that the AfD’s increasing popularity (currently second at 21 percent in the polls) has to do with the unresponsiveness of the political class in Germany. With foreign and domestic policy leading to the erosion of working class German living standards, it is unsurprising that some voters are turning to a party despised by that same political class.

Who Are the AfD Supporters? 

The fact that inflation and immigration policies are helping AfD climb in the polls is backed by a recent poll by Instituts für Demoskopie Allensbach commissioned by the FAZ. It finds zero evidence for a right-ward shift in German public opinion over the last few years. According to the results, about two percent of the German population has neo-Nazi beliefs, and 12 percent have what the institute labels far-right and authoritarian views.

People with neo-Nazi beliefs constitute about 13 percent of AfD’s support while another 43 percent is from those with authoritarian views. That means there is 44 percent of AfD backers who are neither. Why are they now for the AfD?

A reminder of the main pillars of the AfD’s platform:

  • Anti-EU and anti-euro.
  • Fiercely ethnonationalist. AfD wants to drastically reduce immigration to Germany. The party is especially against Muslims in Germany. (According to the AP, roughly 19 million people, or 23 percent of Germany’s population today, either immigrated to the country since 1950 or are the children of immigrants, and there are roughly 5.5 million Muslims in Germany with many recruited as “guest workers” to West Germany more than 60 years ago.)
  • On foreign policy, they want to expel US troops from Germany and restore economic ties with Russia and maintain strong trade with China. They do not believe Germans’ interests are served by serving US foreign policy interests. Are not opposed to stronger German military  and use of force abroad but want it on German terms as opposed to under the US/NATO umbrella.

87 percent of AfD supporters are concerned about the number of refugees arriving in Germany compared to 56 percent overall, and 90 percent are very concerned about inflation compared to 78 percent overall. Adam Tooze summarizes:

For about half the AfD’s potential electorate, their vote is a matter of conviction. But for on top of that for a large part of the AfD’s electorate their preference is a way of signaling – presumably to what they take to be the mainstream – that they are dissatisfied with the status quo and do not believe that their voices will otherwise be heard. When asked why they might consider voting for the AfD at the next election – as 22 percent of those in survey said they would do – 78 percent said that it would be a sign that they were unhappy with “current policies” with 71 mentioning migration policy, in particular…

Overall, the conclusion of the surveys seems quite clear. There has not been a general shift to the right. In addition to a base of far-right wing support, which makes up 15 percent of the population, the AfD is attracting a protest vote that takes it to slightly more than 20 percent support. This is driven by dissatisfaction with migration policy and a general fear of societal crisis.

This polling supports the conclusions of Manès Weisskircher who researches social movements, political parties, democracy, and the far right at the Institute of Political Science, TU Dresden. He argues that AfD’s support, which is strongest in East Germany, can be primarily traced to three factors:

  1. The neoliberal ‘great transformation,’ which has massively changed the eastern German economy and continues to lead to emigration and anxiety over personal economic prospects.
  2. An ongoing sense of marginalization among East Germans who feel they have never been fully integrated since reunification and resent liberal immigration policies in this context.
  3. Deep dissatisfaction with the functioning of the political system and doubt in political participation.

With this in mind, the solution for the German political class to stop the AfD’s rise is straightforward: respond to voters’ concerns and provide economic benefits so that they would be less inclined to support a party like the AfD. But that is not what is happening.

German politicians have insisted voters simply don’t understand (i.e., the voters are stupid). The AfD has  been surveilled by domestic intelligence and pilloried in the media. And now there are discussions to ban the party. Predictably, AfD only rises in the polls in response.

No one statement better exemplifies the position of the German elite than foreign minister Annalena Baerbock’s declaration that she will support Ukraine no matter what German voters think. And the other major German political parties are united in support for Ukraine and continue to support a foreign policy at odds with the economic interests of the majority of Germans.

This leads to a series of questions: Who has  created the situation in Germany that has provided fertile ground for the AfD to move beyond its base of neo-Nazis and authoritarian supporters? Is the most effective way to counter its rise to continue to ignore voters’ concerns and surveill the AfD, attack it the media, and potentially ban the party? Or would it be to actually enact policies that would address voters’ economic anxieties?

We’ve seen this show before. A 2021 study published in the Journal of Economic History showed that voting data from a thousand districts and a hundred cities for four elections between 1930 and 1933 showed that areas more affected by austerity had more support for the Nazi Party.

The Fascism Question 

When examining the question of AfD and fascism, it’s useful to refer back to Lambert’s 2019 post on Robert O. Paxton’s “The Five Stages of Fascism.” Paxton writes that “Fascism is a system of political authority and social order intended to reinforce the unity, energy, and purity of communities in which liberal democracy stands accused of producing division and decline.”

It could be said that the AfD has fascist ambitions (with its hyperfocus on “preserving German as the predominant culture), but they do not yet have authority. The party would also have to obtain authority while sticking to its positions, which is easier said than done. Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni and her Brothers of Italy shared many similarities with AfD prior to obtaining power. In the runup to the Italian election last year and ever since, they have capitulated on the issues of the EU in order to appease Brussels, NATO in order to appease the US, and immigration in order to appease big business in Italy.

Paxton also writes the following:

We must distinguish the different stages of fascism in time. It has long been standard to point to the difference between movements and regimes. I believe we can usefully distinguish more stages than that, if we look clearly at the very different sociopolitical processes involved in each stage. I propose to isolate five of them: (1) the initial creation of fascist movements; (2) their rooting as parties in a political system; (3) the acquisition of power; (4) the exercise of power; and, finally, in the longer term, (5) radicalization or entropy. …

The second stage—rooting, in which a fascist movement becomes a party capable of acting decisively on the political scene—happens relatively rarely. At this stage, comparison becomes rewarding: one can contrast successes with failures. Success depends on certain relatively precise conditions: the weakness of a liberal state, whose inadequacies seems to condemn the nation to disorder, decline, or humiliation; and political deadlock because the Right, the heir to power but unable to continue to wield it alone, refuses to accept a growing Left as a legitimate governing partner.

So the AfD is in the process of reaching stage two – to take root in the political system. One could certainly argue  that  the German state is in decline, unable or unwilling to alter course. It wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the destruction of the Nord Stream pipelines and Germany’s head-in-the-sand response and general subservience to the US empire is a source of humiliation, as is the decline in living standards many Germans are being forced to accept.

More from Paxton:

The right questions to ask of today’s neo- or protofascisms are those appropriate for the second and third stages of the fascist cycle. Are they becoming rooted as parties that represent major interests and feelings and wield major influence on the political scene? Is the economic or constitutional system in a state of blockage apparently insoluble by existing authorities? Is a rapid political mobilization threatening to escape the control of traditional elites, to the point where they would be tempted to look for tough helpers in order to stay in charge?

So far, the traditional elites in Germany remain opposed to the AfD. Germany’s business groups, at least for now, are unified in their opposition to the AfD whose immigration stance goes against big businesses’ desire for cheap labor.

All of Germany’s main political parties are opposed to the AfD and even discussing an outright ban of the  party. For now at least, Germany’s main opposition leader, Friedrich Merz who leads the Christian Democrats, has ruled out cooperation of any kind with AfD. Merz, a former corporate lawyer who has  sat on numerous company boards including BlackRock Germany, had been heavily criticized for previous comments after AfD election wins in Eastern Germany local elections. He said at the time that they were democratic elections that “we have to accept, and then of course ways have to be sought in local parliaments to organize the town, the countryside or the county together.”

Unless the AfD changes its core positions on immigration and foreign policy, it’s hard to see how it would gain support of the German (and US/NATO) elite.

On the other hand, it’s equally unlikely that German elites can regain control of the plot.The problem for Germany is that its foreign policy and vassalage to the US is inextricably linked to its domestic economic woes. It is so wholly captured by Washington that none of the major political parties even agitate  for a more thorough investigation into the Nord Stream destruction. None of them call for a reexamination of  the country’s policy towards Russia (and now China too) and whether following the US/NATO lead is truly in the interest of Germans.

Until Germany is able to thoroughly raise these questions, it’s hard to envision a soft landing for its political system and society at large. And that only increases the possibility of, as Paxton writes, “rapid political mobilization threatening to escape the control of traditional elites to the point where they would be tempted to look for tough helpers in order to stay in charge.”

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  1. Tom67

    About the alleged Neonazi connections of the AFD: they are more conjecture and false alarm than real. Just two examples from the WWSW article:
    They call Götz Kubitschek a neo-Nazi ideologue. In reality Götz Kubitschek is an archconservative Catholic whose hero is von Stauffenberg who made the attempt on Hitler in 1944. The closest to him in US terms would be Pat Buchanan.
    Peter Bystron. His name is not Peter but Petr as he was born in Chechoslowakia and his German isn´t perfect. They try on him guilt by association with some Dagmar S. If one could label Petr Bystron anything it is being a hardcore supporter of Israel. And I mean hardcore with all it entails. He is an unpleasant politician who tries to whip up anti-muslim sentiment but he is no “Neonazi”
    Finally and again a paralell to the US and to Trump: there is a wing in the AFD that is trying to attract recent immigrants who are well integrated and resent the influx of new immigrants. As I live in West Germany where there are – differently to the East – lot´s of such citizens I can attest to the fact that among them hostility against more immigration is very pronounced. Just like the Latinos in the US which the Democrats took for granted. I could imagine even the Turkish-German population shifting to the AFD if the party plays its cards right.

    1. sinbad66

      This was over 30 years in the making.
      Ever since the Wall came down (and the forced reintegration of East Germany with the West), these issues, more underneath the surface, just roared to the top. Resentment from easterners for being treated as 2nd class (and, apparently, that still seems to be the case); from the westerners (“wessies”) resenting the fact that the easterners (“ossies”) wanted to live like them right now when it took them a couple of decades to get to that point. And adding in the fact that they were levied a “unification tax” didn’t help matters much (full disclosure: I was a US service member in the late 80s – early 90s; was married to a German and lived there until 1998). I remember the running joke at the time was “to throw the east Germans back over the Wall and build it 10 meters higher”….

    2. Schopenhauer

      Quite right, Tom, most of the examples for the alleged fascism of the AfD are more “false alarm than real”, the accusations indicate rather a very shallow knowledge of history and politics than valid elements of fascism (or even nationalsocialism) within the ranks of the AfD. From my point of view, the AfD is a very incoherent party with a strong neoliberal faction and with an influential (national- and social-) conservative strand.
      One of the main functions of the ubiquitous accusations is to silence any opposition against the disastrous energy-, economic-, immigration- and international policy of the government (and the functional elites backing it); the ruling class is using what in the Seventies media scientist Elisabeth Noelle-Neumann coined the “spiral of silence”.
      But under the pressure of the multiple crises and the mounting evidence of the dysfunctional policy of the former Merkel-governments and the current Scholz-government, the “spiral of silence” does not work “properly” any longer. Until know the only clearcut opposition to Merkels and Scholz` suicidal policy was the AfD but there is more and more evidence that within the coming months Sahra Wagenknecht is going to start an opposition party from the left. Potentially that can shatter the existing party system and bring – in the medium term – an end to the class war against the proles from above in the name of WEF and NATO. But it will be an uphill battle with a very uncertain outcome.

      1. digi_owl

        “the AfD is a very incoherent party with a strong neoliberal faction and with an influential (national- and social-) conservative strand.”

        A description that sounds eerily familiar to this Norwegian.

  2. The Rev Kev

    Reading that short sampling, I can see similarities to what Republicans think for better or for worse. And that AfD chairman Björn Höcke’s use of the phrase “Everything for Germany” is just a German way of saying “Make America Great Again.” But if the German political establishment is panicking about the rising popularity of AfD, what did they expect? The major parties came together in the backrooms and agreed to have the same policies such as the fanatical support for the Ukraine no matter the cost. Those that disagreed were attacked or cancelled. So when Baerbock said that she did not care what voters thought, that was just not her. That was the philosophy of all the main political parties which she was stating. So where did they think that all those voters would go left with no choice? Off to huddle in their frozen apartments while food prices are skyrocketing? If the establishment does not like this support for the policies of the AdF, then they could co-opt one or two of them but they won’t. They are too convinced of their righteousness. So the parties will lead Germany even more deeply into a very deep morass secure in the knowledge that they will always be personally taken care off. Meanwhile support for the AdF increases and I can easily see a situation where that party convinces the Turkish Guest Workers and their descendants to support them against the newcomers.

    1. GramSci

      My German’s very rusty, but doubt that ‘Alles fuer Deutschland’ means the same as ‘Deutschland ueber Alles’.

      1. Meddle

        “Alles für Deutschland” was a core slogan of the SA Brownshirts. Its use by AfD politicians is not accidental.
        This is exactly the mudge-and-wink tactic they use to keep their street-fighting thugs on board, while trying to look harmless for the unaligned protest vote.

        Conor’s piece does a very good job of showing how an essentially fascist party can mobilise a big protest vote that is not fascist or even right-wing.

        They get money from the state for every vote.

        You can nit-pick about individual examples, but we ignore the organic ties between AfD and neo-Nazi terror at our peril.

        I would love to be in direct touch with other German-based readers. Mail me at musikimwald(a)

      2. Revenant

        My thought too – if he said “Alles für Deutschland*, that means ” everybody for Germany”.

        Moreover, the temptation to co-opt a thuggish party hardly points to the mainstream Germans embracing AfD. The embrace happened when every major German party embraced Washington to keep themselves in power and suppress AfD.

        1. Carry

          German native speaker here:
          “Alles für Deutschland” does not translate to “everybody for Germany”, but means “everything” or “all” for Germany.

      3. Polar Socialist

        It does not, but nevertheless, the use of the phrase ‘Alles für Deutschland’ as a slogan is actually a punishable offence under section 86a of the German Criminal Code. Because it was used by the SA and is thus unconstitutional.

    2. Skip Intro

      The parallels are very strong with the US, where anti-globalist voices on the left are utterly buried, while the far right enjoys a very close working relationship with law enforcement from the federal level down. When Sahra Wagenknecht is booted from die Linke for being insufficiently pro war, you can see that German voters on the left who are opposed to the 4th reich platform of deindustrialization have absolutely nowhere to go but the far right.

      1. square coats

        I feel like there is something more to this seeming absence of a viable left but it’s not something I have very well figured out yet.

        I do wonder if another component of it is the center often calling itself the left, at least apparent in US politics with, for example, the Biden administration claiming to be progressive and then getting called communist.

        But I’m curious how the far right & law enforcement connection contributes to burying the left? Not skeptical curious, just like maybe I’m having a slow brain day curious.

        (Also, completely off topic, are you the same Skip Intro who posts videos on youtube?)

        1. Skip Intro

          There have been a series of scandals where German federal police were implicated in protecting right-wing criminals who were nominally informers, and were on a police payroll and being protected from prosecution for anti-immigrant crimes. There was even a Netflix miniseries about it. I think they have a lineage back to Operation Gladio, where they beat unionists and communists for fun and profit.

          And yes, you may have seen some of my work on title sequences for Netflix and others.

    3. hk

      The trouble, to me, is that the term “fascist” is too slippery a term, if not in its proper definition, certainly in the way it is used.

      Political “realignments,” in form of hitherto marginal political groups gaining influence fast, happens invariably because the “mainstream” groups lost the plot–they are too ensnared in political schemes of their own making that they have not only neglected popular discontent, but are increasingly shutting off the “conventional” paths through which they could be vented. Or, in other words, “democracy,” as functionally defined, has already failed. (The trouble with having lawyers define “democracy” is that they tend to get hung up on its technical workings, whereas, regardless of how it operates, by FPTP, sortition, or Heavenly Mandate or whatever, democracy “works” as long as it ensures that popular discontent does not accumulate to such extent that social stability is not fundamentally threatened ) The real danger from the rapid rise of marginal political groups is not that they might be fascist–although they could be/become one–but because of the uncertainty it generates. Maybe dubious groups will gain in power because the masses are willing to give them a chance. But, more likely, many previously small and marginal groups will suddenly grow so big and forced into massive organizational change (or complete invention from scratch of the internal organization) that no one knows what they’ll turn out to be when the process is over (which could mean that shady characters could wind up with a lot of power…or not at the end of the process.) One could look at one such development from history: the Republican Party in US during 1850s when it emerged after the Democratic-Whig political hegemony failed after amalgamation of many hitherto marginal groups (and the remnants of the Whig Party) with wildly divergent agendas…of which LIncoln was really an odd representative.

      This is really a longwinded way of saying that no one can really tell how AfD would evolve, even in the medium term: as you note, Germans of Turkish ancestry who feel nevertheless that they are really German (if it works for the Huguenots, why not?) shift support to the AfD and even join its ranks (if it does happen), things could change, or not. Scaremongering about how X is evil or whatever is dangerous without the recognition that the existing political order has failed and that X is the proverbial whirlwind….

  3. caucus99percenter

    Site that aggregates German poll results (Umfragen) and displays them in easily-grokked graphical form:

    Bundestagswahl = federal (parliamentary) election
    Landtagswahl = state-level (parliamentary) election

    Another similar site, but without the bar graphs:

    Election day in Germany is always a Sunday, so a voter-preference poll is often referred to as the “Sunday question” (Sonntagsfrage): “If the [federal or state] election were being held this Sunday, which party would you vote for?”

  4. Lex

    I appreciate the follow up, Connor.

    I’m concerned generally with establishing a context where Liberalism is contrasted with Fascism. Not just because I’m firmly in the Dimitrov camp when it comes to defining fascism. There were plenty of Germans who weren’t committed Nazis who worked diligently within the Reich. The political Liberals in Germany or the US won’t stand and fight a growing fascism, just like they won’t address the social and economic issues that lead people towards voting for far right parties as a protest vote. When the public shifts with enough weight towards proto-fascist political movements, the apparatchik Liberals will just adopt the politics of fascism.

    They’ll argue with themselves that they must for the sake of their individual needs, though a few will stand against the current. The majority of them will go along to get along, maybe saying that they’ll soften the system from the inside. And in this way the current, modern Liberalism will morph into fascism.

  5. Weil

    As George Jackson, murdered in San Quentin over 50 years ago knew:

    “The psycho-social dimensions of fascism become quite complex, but they can be simplified by thinking of them as part of a collective bargaining process carried on between all the elites of the particular state with the regime acting as arbitrator. 

    The regime’s interests are subject to those of the ruling class.

    Labor is a partner in this arrangement. 
    At the head of any labor organization in the fascist state, there is an elite which is tied to the interests of the regime—and consequently tied also to the economic status quo.

    The trappings of this pseudo mass society are empty, cheap, spectacular leisure sports; parades where strangers meet, shout each other down and often trample each other to death on the way home; mass consumption of worthless super-suds or aspirin; ritualistic, ultra-nationalistic events on days to glorify the idiots who died at war or other days to deify those who sent them out to die.

    A mass society that is actually a mass jungle.
    At its core, fascism is capitalistic and capitalism is international.

    Beneath its nationalist ideological trappings, fascism is always ultimately an international movement.”

    -George L. Jackson—Blood In My Eye; Classes At War

    “With this in mind, the solution for the German political class to stop the AfD’s rise is straightforward: respond to voters’ concerns and provide economic benefits so that they would be less inclined to support a party like the AfD. But that is not what is happening.

    German politicians have insisted voters simply don’t understand (i.e., the voters are stupid). The AfD has been surveilled by domestic intelligence and pilloried in the media.

    And now there are discussions to ban the party. Predictably, AfD only rises in the polls in response.”

    Nor did it happen under Weimar and we saw the results.

  6. pjay

    Thank you for this discussion, which certainly sounds familiar to those of us in the US. Any real “left” alternative has been gutted in all Western “democracies.” Despite the significant historical differences between nations, this process seems to have occurred in remarkably similar ways across them. This includes the near complete co-optation of the social-democratic (or “liberal” in the US vernacular) segments of the professional-managerial class in every Western nation. Given no other option, distressed citizens will turn to the right. Right-wing parties will focus on relatively powerless scapegoats rather than attack the real powers driving these undesirable changes. It’s an old and depressing story.

  7. Ignacio

    This was outstanding political analysis IMO. Very good job by Mr. Gallagher.

    I think there is an important addition to Paxton’s stages. A condition that a party must fulfill to be considered as “fascist” during stages 1 and 2: they have to create paramilitary corps such as the SA or squadrismo in Italy, to introduce, via violence, disarray and confusion. Lacking this, you cannot label the movement as fascist.

  8. Michael

    Pogo says: “We have met the enemy and he is us” .
    Aren’t we really looking at movements seeking to displace the existing Fascist state?
    JB says: “Nothing fundamentally will change”. Power speaking truth to wannabes?!

    In Bruce Kuklik’s entertaining book ‘Fascism Comes to America’ he posits fascism has been in the soil of the US for 400 years. Is the rest of the world that different?

    Perhaps AfD is a symptom of the pendulum reaching its limit. No guarantee that it sets its roots this cycle.
    Also a low probability that TPTB offer much to dilute their gravy train.

  9. Altandmain

    With the recent decline in German living standards, a backlash was inevitable.

    What’s really happening here is that the German ruling class is losing its legitimacy in the eyes of a growing number of people in Germany and is desperately looking for straws to grasp to hit the AfD with a smear campaign. It’s a pretty dishonest attempt and arguably by embracing censorship, the Establishment is more fascist than the AfD. I’m not saying that the AfD is perfect, and actually I don’t agree with some parts of their campaign platform, but they are a threat to the Establishment.

    The same is true of the left under Sahra Wagenknecht. The Establishment has launched a relentless ad homein campaign against her. Arguably by removing her from the German left, her base has nowhere to go but the AfD.

    As the article concludes, a soft landing is impossible because of the US and the control they have over Germany. A substantial amount of effort is kept right now to prevent a serious discussion about the US destroying Nordstream for example. Effectively German industry is being sacrificed in a desperate bid by the US to keep hegemony.

    In the long run, the German Establishment has an untenable position. Legitimacy comes from economic performance. That’s something that they are desperately short on. It will be even more so if the deindustrialization of Germany accelerates and the German manufacturers leave en masse.

    Actually, in the long term, it’s entirely possible that a new government that takes over will leave the US, NATO, and EU orbit to form a deal with Germany, Russia, and China. It would serve the interest of the German people more.

    1. CBBB

      I have to say I am getting sick of hearing this kind of commentary blaming Germany’s problems on the US or on German policy being too slavish towards the US or that Germany is sacrificing itself to the US.

      Germany’s problems were Made in Germany and they are simply not merely a result of energy policy/Nordstream/the Ukraine war.

      I never heard it mentioned that an insane ~50% of German GDP is exports. Do people think this is a sensible economic model? This is a high risk model that the Germans have pursued – lashing their economic well-being to the ups-and-downs of global markets and foreign tastes and demands that they cannot control. The German elite decided to pursue an economic model based on keeping wages and hence domestic demand constrained to the benefit of German export businesses – demand would be provided by foreigners (and the US being the world’s biggest consumer, ultimately a lot of Americans). Such a model almost by definition means they need to capitulate in foreign affairs to their customers.

      German’s problems started becoming visible long before the Ukraine War and even before Covid, already back in the late 2010s there were signs. The decline in living standards is much more visible recently of course but for younger people it was already there in the 2010s when housing costs started moving swiftly upwards in many cities – this trend exploded everywhere after COVID. Keeping housing costs moderate should have been priority number one for a country whose political economy cannot handle rising wages and where a large percentage of people, if not most, are renters.

      The German elites as well as the comfortable, complacent, upper-middle class CDU voters are to blame. But not, as I feel is often implied by such commentary, because they are just too damn slavish towards the Americans, but because they are greedy as fuck.

      1. Yves Smith

        I beg to differ. The longer term decline and the impact of the loss of cheap Russian are two entirely different matters. The latter is a shock that it putting Germany into a deep recession that it won’t escape any time two. To conflate the two is completely disingenuous. A Germany with a less export/manufacturing model would still be hit hard.

        1. CBBB

          I’m not even sure the current recession can simply be but down to the energy shock totally – they’re extreme dependence on exports in the face of rapidly changing trade patterns is a liability. I don’t think the demand for their exports is what it was in the mid 2010s even without the energy issues.

          Their export dependence is also, to my mind, a big reason they cannot stand up for themselves on the world stage either.

          1. Yves Smith

            Huh? It is the EU that is having a hissy with China, not the other way around.

            Energy intensive German manufacturers almost immediately started cutting back with the energy shock, reducing shifts, shuttering some then more operations, then offshoring. The deindustrialziation is a direct effect of the energy shock. That directly reduced exports by reducing supply. The energy shock also hit pretty much all of the EU, and it is the EU that is Germany’s primary export partner, at 67%. The US is 10%. Russia was small, hence the eagerness to sanction Russia.


            And the EU has not participated in the reshoring movement until Germany has very recently gotten in a hissy with China (and China is only <7% of the export total anyhow. It is the US that has been trying to restructure supply chains to cut out China.

            Making Shit Up is a violation of our written site Policies. I take umbrage at having to take time to debunk unsubstantiated handwaves.

  10. albrt

    A few years ago John Michael Greer suggested the possibility of an authoritarian environmentalist party taking root among young people. This makes sense to me, since at this point it is fairly obvious that authoritarian methods will be necessary to get people to stop burning all available fossil fuels.

    Anybody who wanted to start such a party would need to figure out which elements of traditional right wing politics to adopt. So far nobody seems to have put the pieces together. Baerbock and her ilk certainly have authoritarian tendencies, but the rest of their program drives away the traditionalist grassroots muscle necessary for an authoritarian party to be successful, at least within the 20th century model.

    1. digi_owl

      The problem is that such a party will excuse the “elite” while coming down hard on the poor.

      So far i have seen none that have a coherent, supply chain, view of how to get off the fossil fuel addiction.

      Because while cars etc are one problem, we must recognize how much modern farming is downright dependent on fossil fuel (not only do farm equipment run on diesel, fertilizer is made using hydrogen derived from natural gas). Never mind the amount of produce that is being grown out of natural seasons and shipped half way round the globe thanks to massive use of fossil fuel.

      1. Henry Moon Pie

        Here are three pretty smart people working on modeling just how a just degrowth could be accomplished. They’re trying to offer an alternative to what you’ve already noted is likely: a harder life imposed on the poor while the rich continuing filling the air with carbon. That’s exactly what will happen with the “price rationing” we have now.

        The problem you’ve noted with really being unable to reduce production of one product that comes from oil without reducing demand for all of them is one thing these models address. Given we’re about to hit the wall, it’s good that somebody is at least trying to look ahead a little to see which courses of action or responses are obviously going to be counterproductive and which might work.

        As for modern agriculture, it used to be that agriculture was the primary source of energy for humans. Put in one unit of energy (human or animal) and get ten out with some crops (in the form of caloric content). Now it’s the reverse: ten units of energy in for every unit out. Unsustainable hardly captures it. But it will take planning to execute a transition that doesn’t starve billions

        The main obstacle in any of this is that the elites fell they’ve made all the necessary decisions. They’re not interested in hearing from us. They only want to sell us on their vague, u/dystopian plans or shut us up. But as this unravels, I’m glad Hickel and his colleagues are working on a Plan B.

  11. Aurelien

    Thanks. Two obvious but banal points.
    Surveys of popular opinion in all democracies show consistently that people vote for political parties independently of, and even ignorant of, the detailed party platforms and the statements of party officials. More and more, people vote against rather than for parties, and the word that probably resonates more than any other in the title of the Party is “Alternative.” Ironically, the Nazis themselves were the beneficiaries of enormous protest votes in 1932, and their support was actually falling by the time Hitler became Chancellor.

    Paxton’s book is very good, but he does, I think, fail to distinguish between theory and practice, or dogma and government. Fascist ideology (such as it is) is very simple: what fascist regimes did in power is much more complicated, and not necessarily so interesting to analyse, since they had to react so much to events.

    1. Ignacio

      Another obvious point: If trying to pre-emptively label a party as “fascist” you have to show proof that the party has the intention to kill the democracy if and when they ever reach power. Difficult it is. Different from the neoliberal way that kills the democracy operatively while keeping the forms. It is possible to argue that both, neolibs and fascists, hide their real intentions in their platforms and statements.

  12. Susan the other

    It would be poetic Justice at this point in time, of peak political hypocrisy in the West, if AfD adopted a position and platform of peaceful deliberation to achieve some level of sovereignty for Germany. Since the neoliberals are the war mongers, and they get more paranoid by the day, it makes sense that an alternative should oppose neoliberalism by the most peaceful means while still being open and cooperative. Relentlessly so. Simple opposition to war and aggression would set a firm foundation. This is the wrong time for Germany to be taking up their pitchforks. Sovereignty is better served by a dedicated public stubbornness. AfD might consider becoming the party of conscientious objection. The COP.

  13. Irrational

    Thanks to Conor for another excellent post.
    Yes, there are concerning parallels between today and the 30s, but I completely agree with Ignacio’s two comments above about the intention to kill democracy once in power. Let’s not forget that the political parties at the time thought the little man with the mustache was controllable and then, voila, by decree they took power. Unless you can prove such intent I would find it hard to justify banning AfD, just because today’s politicians are too lazy, too greedy or too indifferent to address voters’ concerns.

  14. eg

    To me the AfD just looks like another example of the thesis in Jonathan Hopkins’

    Anti-System Politics: The Crisis of Market Liberalism in Rich Democracies

    A couple of quotes from the description:

    “Argues that this phenomenon is the long-term fallout from decisions made in the 1970s and 1980s, in which mainstream parties of both the left and right ceded power and control to market forces”

    “argues that it is a long-term result of abandoning the post-war model of egalitarian capitalism in the 1970s. That shift entailed weakening the democratic process in favor of an opaque, technocratic form of governance that allows voters little opportunity to influence policy. With the financial crisis of the late 2000s these arrangements became unsustainable, as incumbent politicians were unable to provide solutions to economic hardship. Electorates demanded change, and it had to come from outside the system.”;

  15. Anonymous 2

    Interesting. Thank you. Does anyone have information about the geographical location of AfD supporters? I ask because I understand the Nazi support was principally rural.

    1. playon

      I can’t answer your question but I would hazard a guess that modern Germany, like the USA, has become more urbanized compared to the 1930s.

    2. Tom67

      NAZI support was protestant and rural. The Nazis were weak in Catholic and industrial areas. The AFD is more rural but most importantly it is fast becoming the party of the former East Germany. The AFD is the strongest party among industrial workers. No wonder as the unions have become totally undemocratic. They select their delegates top down and then the leadership is selected by these very delegates. The leadership is woke as hell and colludes with management. The leadership spouts the usual bromides about “diversity” “gender equality” a.s.o. and the average worker just wants to puke. And mind you a good half of the workers are of non-German ancestry. I know the inner workings of a factory making electrical equipment with 1200 employees. They are mad as hell about the wage rises that were negotiated by their union IG-Metall. If inflation isn´t soon brought under control I wouldn´t be surprised if the workers go on an illegal strike. A friend of mine who works in that factory for 35 years told me he has never seen such dissatisfaction.

  16. communistmole

    Comparisons with historical fascism are pointless, if only because a revolutionary working class was a prerequisite for its existence. The Afd merely represents the self-destructive element that has always been inherent in bourgeois society and which now intensifies in the global crisis. The only function of its existence is to drive the social climate further toward authoritarian crisis management.

    And hoping for Wagenknect as an alternative is imo hopeless.

  17. hemeantwell

    This was just posted at Moon’s site. Seems like the SPD is going full throttle on boosting its vote with refugee gratitude. The AfD might thank them for boosting their recruitment efforts as well.

    Interior Minister Nancy Faeser, of the Social Democratic Party (SPD), has stated her party’s intention to massively expand voting rights for foreigners. This includes a plan for refugees who have lived in Germany for more than six months to be allowed to vote, according to the German daily BILD.

    here’s one link to the story:

    1. caucus99percenter

      Latest survey by the polling organization GMS now has the AfD at 23%, a full seven percentage points ahead of the SPD at 16%.

      The SPD is now backpedalling furiously, claiming that (municipal election) voting rights for migrants after 6 months was a “misprint” and that the party-platform brochure in question should have said 6 years’ residence instead.

  18. caucus99percenter

    Somehow just denouncing people and calling them names tends to backfire as unconvincing. On the contrary, people start to suspect the integrity and intent of the name-callers. That’s certainly the case with voters here in Saxony and the establishment’s efforts to portray the AfD as beyond the pale.

  19. Giandavide

    The comparison with italian meloni is quite wrong. meloni never was against nato, she just endorsed minor filorussian statements, positions that are comparable to some of the usa republicans. the post war italian extreme right always were pro nato and pro usa, apart the involvement with the italian black terrorism season. they were strongly anticommunist, that’s a main characteristic of every fascism, and that’s a stance that i don’t find in afd. in general i think that my country and germany are very different

      1. Giandavide

        the article quoted just genally talked about an anti Nato phase, but it didn’t specify in what that consist. Indeed it was nothing as extreme as Afd, that claims about an exit from Nato, and it was rather limited to criticizing some strategies, like sanctions toward Russia. indeed “The criteria on the basis of which the Ecfr think tank compiles its classification are support for the EU, adherence to the values ​​of liberalism and secularism, support for NATO and relations with the USA, the position towards globalization and free trade, and relations with Russia. The latter consider a real benchmark on the part of the Ecfr, given that the common ground, the study claims, seems to be on the one hand populism and on the other the alignment with a sort of “anti-Western narrative” which would be fueled by Putin’s Russia..” (auto translated from Apart my considerations about a system like that, it’s clear that the criteria for defining a politician as anti western are considering far less extreme positions than those of today. Then the “extremist” Meloni signed a trusty vote for the “technical government” of Mario Monti in the 2011, togheter with Partito Democratico, when she was considered an extreme right extremist ( Indeed Meloni coalition taken less votes than Pd+M5s. She’s premier after the endorsment of Mario Drahi and the support of Partito Democratico, that preferred to lose the elections by not form an alliance with M5s (while they governed togheter until last month). Things in Italy are quite ridicolus, it surprise me that from abroad we’re perceived as a serious country. The ones that talked about fascism danger of Meloni helped her to exploit the italian electoral law that prize larger coalitions.

        1. Yves Smith

          This is shifting the grounds of your argument, which is bad faith argumentation and a violation of our written site Policies. You made a definitive assertion:

          “meloni never was against nato”

          That proved to be false. When I showed you had overstated, you are now trying to defend your position without acknowledging your initial claim was inaccurate.

  20. Sin Fronteras

    This is a summary of this post I linked to on my Facebook page. Facebook is truly a despicable media, but it’s where all my friends and family are. I cannot for example, get any indication of who sees my article but doesn’t like or comment on it.

    Analysis and discussion of the rising Alliance for Germany party re fascism. Several interesting points:

    One important one is that a factor giving rise to fascism is the refusal of established parties (and their oligarchic backers) to do ANYTHING for the common and poor people.

    A comparison with today and then is that today BOTH the right and the authoritarian centrists are restricting democracy.

    A difference with the US is that historically fascism was used to smash a radicalized organized working class: Italy, Germany, Chile, Spain, Portugal. It seems to me that oligarchic conflict like we have today in the US is different because the working class and left are disorganized. One part of an oligarchy repressing another is NOT fascism. The Left, such as it is, may decide one faction is preferable to another, but that is NOT the same as “saving our democracy”.

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