Who’s Afraid of an Alternative for Germany? 

The media describes them as far-right, anti-European Union, anti-immigrant, fascist, etc. But what exactly are the positions of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party? Why is it steadily gaining in public opinion polls, and why is the German establishment so afraid of them?

Various AfD party members have made comments in recent years that, depending on your point of view, are offensive or were blown out of proportion by the media. I’m not going to review all those here but instead wanted to look at what policies are contained in the AfD platform. The party’s “Manifesto for Germany” is a 93-page document that covers just about everything, but I want to focus here on areas that the media most frequently focus on  – immigration, the EU, and nationalism, as well as the set of positions that I would argue is the real reason for hyperventilating over AfD’s rise: foreign policy.

On the EU:

We oppose the idea to transform the European Union into a centralised federal state. We are in favour of returning the European Union to an economic union based on shared interests, and consisting of sovereign, but loosely connected nation states.…

We believe in a sovereign Germany, which guarantees the freedom and security of its citizens, promotes economic welfare, and contributes to a peaceful and prosperous Europe.

Should we not succeed with our ideas of a fundamental reform within the present framework of the European Union, we shall seek Germany‘s exit, or a democratic disso- lution of the EU, followed by the founding of a new Euro- pean economic union.…

European politics are characterised by a creeping loss of democracy. The EU has become an undemocratic entity, whose policies are determined by bureaucrats who have no democratic accountability.

On the Euro currency:

We call for an end to the Euro experiment and its orderly dissolution. Should the German Federal Parliament not agree to this demand, Germany’s continued membership of the single currency area should be put to a popular vote.…

The Euro actually jeopardises the peaceful co-existence of those European nations who are forced into sharing a common destiny by the Eurocracy. The introduction of this currency has led to resentment and confrontation amongst countries in Europe. Countries incurring economic difficulties within the single currency area are forced to restore their competitiveness by such measures as internal devaluation and associated budgetary constraints (austerity policies), rather than exploiting the tool of currency adjustments. Tensions amongst European nation states can inherently be ascribed to the Euro.

AfD doesn’t just oppose the Euro for altruistic reasons. The party also objects to any form of financial equalization between the richer and poorer euro countries and claims Germany shoulders an unfair burden in propping up the weaker members of the eurozone.

The political programme provides very little on labor policy, but AfD does want to provide financial incentives for Germans to reproduce. Here is the party on low birth rates and immigration:

In order to fight the effects of this negative demographic development, political parties currently in government support mass immigration, mainly from Islamic states, without due consideration of the needs and qualifications of the German labour market. During the past few years it has become evident that Muslim immigrants to Germany,in particular, only attain below-average levels of education, training and employment. As the birth rate is more than 1.8 children amongst immigrants, which is much higher than that of Germans, it will hasten the ethnic-cultural changes in society.

The attempt to counteract these developments by increasing the rate of immigration will inevitably lead to the estab lishment of more parallel communities, particularly inlarge cities, where integration with the native population is already a problem. The spread of conflict-laden and multiple minority communities erodes social solidarity, mutual trust, and public safety, which all are elements of a stable commu- nity. The average level of education will continue to drop.

Greater political support for parental work, as well as education and family policies which are focused on the needs of families and young couples wanting to start a family, will once again lead to birth rates at a self-sustaining rate in the medium to long-term. We regard the closing of the gap between the actual number of children being born, and the desire of 90% of young Germans to have children, as a central element of our political platform.

The document goes on for many pages about protecting the nation’s culture and how Islam is not a good fit for Germany. What exactly  is that culture?

The AfD is committed to German as the predominant culture. This culture is derived from three sources: firstly, the religious traditions of Christianity; secondly, the scientific and humanistic heritage, whose ancient roots were renewed during the period of Renaissance and the Age of Enlightenment; and thirdly, Roman law, upon which our constitutional state is founded.

Islam does not belong to Germany. Its expansion and the ever-increasing number of Muslims in the country are viewed by the AfD as a danger to our state, our society, and our values. An Islam which neither respects nor refrains from being in conflict with our legal system, or that even lays claim to power as the only true religion, is incompatible with our legal system and our culture. Many Muslims live as law-abiding and well-integrated citizens amongst us, and are accepted and valued members of our society. However, the AfD demands that an end is put to the formation and increased segregation by parallel Islamic societies relying
on courts with shari’a laws.

Here is the AfD immigration policy in a nutshell:

Current German and European asylum and refugee policies cannot be continued as in the past. The ill-fitting term “refugee” used for all the people who enter Germany irregularly with the aim to stay here forever, is characteristic of this misguided policy. It is necessary to make a distinction between political refugees and people fleeing from war on the one hand, and irregular migrants on the other. It is the AfD’s view that true refugees should be granted shelter as long as there is war in the countries of origin. Irregular migrants, who are not persecuted, have no right to claim protection, contrary to refugees. Once the reasons for fleeing, such as an end to wars, or political and religious persecution, no longer applies, shall residence permits of refugees be terminated. These refugees need to leave Germany. Germany and its EU partner countries should provide incentives for those who have to leave. It is in the interest of domestic and foreign peace if refugees return to their home countries and contribute to the political, economic and social reconstruction of these countries.

We advocate moderate legal immigration based on qualitative criteria where there is irrefutable demand, which can neither be satisfied from domestic resources, nor by EU immigration. The interests of Germany as a social, economic and cultural nation are paramount.

On militarization,  foreign policy and the US:

Currently, the operational readiness of the German Armed Forces is severely compromised. Due to poor political decisions and mismanagement, our armed forces have been severely neglected for over three decades. The operational readiness has to be fully restored so that the armed forces will be able to perform all their responsibilities. This is an essential prerequisite for the acceptance of Germany as an equal partner by NATO, the EU and the international community.

Membership of NATO corresponds to Germany‘s interests with regard to foreign and security policy, as long as NATO’s role remains that of a defensive alliance. The AfD believes that predictability in meeting commitments towards NATO allies is an important goal of German foreign and security policy, so that Germany can develop more political weight to shape policies, and gain influence. We advocate that any engagement of NATO must be aligned to German interests, and has to correspond to a clearly defined strategy.

Wherever German Armed Forces, as part of NATO operations, are involved beyond the borders of its Alliance partners’ territory, shall, in principle, only be carried out under a UN mandate, and only if German security interests are taken into account.

On Germany’s occupation by allied troops (i.e., the US):

…70 years after the end of World War II, and 25 years after the end of a divided Europe, the renegotiation of the status of Allied troops in Germany should be put up for discussion. The status of Allied troops needs to be adapted to Germany’s regained sovereignty. The AfD is committed to the withdrawal of all Allied troops stationed on German soil, and in particular of their nuclear weapons.

And on Russia:

The relationship with Russia is of prime importance, because European security cannot be attained without Russia’s involvement. Therefore, we strive for a peaceful solution of conflicts in Europe, whilst respecting the interests of all parties.

Why Is AfD Surging in Popularity?

AfD is a relatively new party – it was founded in 2013. It first began to gain a foothold among disenchanted voters in East Germany during the refugee crisis in 2017, but with the onset of the war in Ukraine and the energy crisis in Germany, their support has been growing and spreading. What originally made AfD so attractive in East Germany?

According to Manès Weisskircher who researches social movements, political parties, democracy, and the far right at the Institute of Political Science, TU Dresden, AfD’s support in the East 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.

Recent polling contains interesting findings with regards to the AfD. It shows that 44 percent of Germans supporting the party do not have far-right views, but they are more concerned with inflation (90 percent) and immigration (87 percent) than the general public (78 and 56 percent, respectively). A whopping 78 percent of those who said they would vote for AfD said they would do so to show they were unhappy with current policies.

The rise of the AfD is rooted in the crisis of German neoliberalism, and the current war in Ukraine that accompanies it. The idea that the West would cause Russia to collapse, divide it into pieces and plunder its natural resources has spectacularly backfired.

The German economy is instead the one in a freefall. In response, Berlin continues to liberalize immigration laws to attract more foreigners with the hope it will help the economy – this despite the fact that half of German citizens would like the country to take in fewer refugees than it currently does.

A record high of 71 percent of the German public are not satisfied with the work of the federal government, according to a recent Deutschlandtrend survey. The current government is unresponsive to the concerns of working class voters. Foreign minister Annalena Baerbock famously summed up that reality last year:

The AfD is the only party in Germany making the connection between Berlin’s bellicose policy towards Moscow (and increasingly Beijing as well) and the worsening economic conditions for Germans.

The Greens, rather than examine their own failings, are blaming voters for not fully understanding their policies. They’ve launched a “charm” offensive to better explain their wisdom while simultaneously escalating their charges against the AfD. Tobias Riegel writes at NachDenkSeiten [machine translation]:

The [Green] chairman of the Europe Committee in the Bundestag, [Anton] Hofreiter, is currently warning against the AfD and has accused it of treason. He also did not rule out a ban on the party, as reported by the media . Two sentences by Hofreiter are particularly striking. On the one hand:

“You have to be aware of the incredible danger that the AfD poses to democracy and the rule of law, as well as to the prosperity of many people; that has not yet arrived in all parts of society.”

And on the other hand:

“There is also insufficient awareness of the danger that the AfD poses to our country’s external security in this difficult situation with increasingly aggressive dictatorships such as Russia and China. The AfD is predominantly a group of traitors who act not in the interests of our country but in the interests of opposing powers.”

If you swap “AfD” for “Greens” and if you swap “Russia” for “USA”, you could almost think Hofreiter is talking about himself and his leading party friends in these quotes.

Meanwhile, the country’s Left Party, which is considered a direct descendant of the Socialist Unity Party that ruled East Germany until reunification, has completely collapsed after abandoning nearly all of its platform in an attempt to appear “ready to govern.” Much like the bourgeoisie Greens, the Left increasingly stands for neoliberal, pro-war and anti-Russia policies. Former Left voters have increasingly switched to the AfD in response.

As long as the AfD is the only party in Germany willing to connect the dots between US control over German foreign policy and the increasing toll that is taking on the citizens’ standard of living, it will likely continue to attract voters.

Why Is There Such an Outcry Over AfD?

For years now, the German establishment has been throwing the kitchen sink at the AfD. There are of course allegations of Russia connections. They hate the disabled. They are extremist and must be monitored.  A former AfD representative was also  allegedly part of a coup plan involving 25 geriatrics that were inspired by QAnon and were somehow going to take over the government. Stories on the coup plot almost always focus on the AfD link and warnings that they are getting “more extreme.”

Most of these scare stories about the AfD originate from Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), which last year won the right to surveil AfD members after judges allowed the party to be branded a “suspicious entity.”

German authorities are now able to monitor and intercept mail correspondence, phone calls and online conversations. It can also limit members’ ability to get employment in the public sector and make it more difficult to obtain licenses for weapons.

(In the past, the BfV investigated members of the Left Party suspecting them of intending to replace the existing economic, political and social order with a socialist or communist system.)

Much of this seems ripped straight out of the US playbook for dealing with Trump and unruly voters in general: ignore the voters, blame the voters, and then release spooks.

The media hysteria over the AfD is reminiscent over the constant ringing of alarm bells over the election of the Italian Prime Minister and her Brothers of Italy party last year. Fascism was on the march, they declared. Well, Meloni has turned out to be a pretty run-of-the-mill corporate stooge who toes the line on the EU and NATO. Even her anti-immigrant rhetoric gave way to ensuring the arrival of a certain number in order to maintain the supply of cheap labor for Italian businesses. And the freak out over Meloni died down as soon as she proved her devotion to the EU and NATO.

Let’s not pretend that any of the concern over the AfD is due to its proposed policies regarding German culture and immigrants. It is because the party is advocating for positions that are a direct threat to Brussels and Washington. If it went forward with efforts to get Germany off the euro or boot US troops out of the country, it would collapse the whole EU-NATO system.

Despite the media and intelligence agency pressure, the AfD only seems emboldened. Beyond the party platform, AfD members have since gone further in their criticisms of the US.

Here’s Member of the European Parliament Maximilian Krah:

“It is certain that the German government was informed of the sabotage beforehand by the Americans. This is the only explanation for Scholz’s awkward silence. With the addition of a woke and irresponsible warmonger like [Foreign Minister Annalena] Baerbock, who declares that Germany is at war with Russia, nothing surprises me.

The problem is that this is tearing the German economy to pieces and significantly impoverishes Germany. Moreover, the billions spent by Germany on this gas project, which ensured us cheap energy, are lost, but the coalition which governs Germany does not care. Officially, Scholz knows nothing. Apparently, we live in a democracy.”

The AfD is also increasingly critical of Berlin’s stance towards China, which it believes is being driven by US interests and Germany’s detriment. From  Deutsche Welle:

The AfD has positioned itself in opposition to the German government’s critical policy toward China. Berlin’s China Strategy, published in mid-July, for example, was denounced by Bystron, the AfD’s foreign policy spokesperson, as the “attempt to implement green-woke ideology and US geopolitical interests under the guise of a strategy for German foreign policy.”

The description of China in the strategy as a rival — as well as a partner and competitor — was for Bystron “the consequence of the US’ confrontational course toward China. This confrontation and division are not in the interests of Germany as an export nation,” he said.

For political scientist Wolfgang Schroeder from the University of Kassel, the AfD’s foreign policy positions demonstrate an attempt to set itself apart from the other German political parties. Geopolitically, said Schroeder, the AfD sees the traditional Western ties with the United States, which it regards as hegemonic, as having past their use-by date.

“The AfD considers Washington to be more part of the problem than part of the solution to the challenges facing Germany,” he told DW. “That’s because the AfD considers the US an imperial actor whose vested interests cannot be reconciled with those of Germany.”

The AfD is essentially calling for a return to the Angela Merkel foreign policy based on Wandel durch Handel (“transformation through trade”). It relied on cheap Russian gas imports and exports to its largest trading partner, China.

There is now a central disconnect to Germany’s foreign policy and domestic policy. As Berlin follows the wishes of the US, lives for the citizens of Germany will  continue to worsen. How can Germany reconcile this?

German Chacellor Olaf Scholz’s Zeitenwende was essentially a promise to the US that Germany will from now on take up its sword in defense of US hegemony and morally superior purposes (such as Baerbock’s feminist foreign policy that aligns neatly with Washington’s enemy list) against Russia, China, Iran, and whoever else threatens the “rules-based order.”

The AfD, whether you agree or disagree with its other positions, is for now the sole German party standing against such an arrangement.

The German state’s harassment of the Left Party appears to have worked in getting it to abandon its previously “radical” goals of empowering workers, dissolving NATO and getting US troops out of Germany. We’ll have to wait and see what path the AfD takes.

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  1. digi_owl

    The sad part is that quite a few of the talking points are old leftist talking points. But thanks to neoliberalism infecting post-war leftist parties, the only option remaining for frustrated workers etc are the proto-fascist parties. These are all effectively protest votes. And should a leftist party take up the talking points sans the xenophobic stuff they would make massive gains (On that note, there is a difference between outright xenophobia and having immigration policy that protect wages. But the right has been allowed to confuse the two for decades).

    But sadly the monied class is still far more scared about that than fascists goosestepping in the streets, as at least those will “discipline” the working class (Many of them likely wear some kind of security uniform during working hours, maybe even a police badge).

    1. polar donkey

      Yes, left-wing populists can easily become right-wing populists. Want to prevent that? Give left-wing populists a few populist policies. This is why Obama 2008/2012 voters became trump voters in 2016. Democrats don’t do anything when in power (because they are corrupt liars) so nothing changes. Fast forward to 2024, and you have Trump beating Biden from a jail cell. Neoliberalism sets loose the 4 horsemen of the apocalypse.

      1. PelhamKS

        I wonder whether left-wing populists in the US would have greater difficulty switching to the right than their counterparts in Europe. Being left-wing of any coloration in the US necessarily entails buying into the woke/LGBTQIA+ agenda, which is anathema anywhere on the right. That may not be as much the case in Europe.

    2. schmoe

      This perfectly tracks US “liberal” MSM talking points. Despite their dismissal of Phil Donohue, MSBC had many guests opposed to the Iraq War and Chris Matthews was hardly a fan of the war. Around 2012 I noticed that suddenly MSNBC was trotting out Bill Kristol and it appeared senior management flipped a switch in terms of talking points. Daily Kos likewise used to be reasonable but around 2014-2015 likewise rolled out a new script (and their infamous get-with-Hillary or GTFO stated policy).

  2. Meddle

    Would love to comment in detail, but only time for very brief note. I live in Germany and follow politics closely. I stand (well) to left of Left Party.
    Piece is all good as far as it goes. Explains why AfD gets big protest vote.
    But there is an important piece mssing. The core of the party’s membership and leadership has two strands, one of which is genuinely fascist (the other national conservative).
    Fascist not in the sense of unpleasant, but in the genuine sense of having or seeking to build paramilitary structures. With which to physically suppress the left and the unions and physically attack immigrants. These are present but not large yet. Fortunately. See for example Björn Höcke.
    Also, Left Party is in disarray over the war but should not be written off. Maybe a split coming. See esp. Sahra Wagenknecht.
    They try their best to keep this out of sight but it is definitely there. Gotta go… If there is interest I can write more later.

    1. LibbyB

      Yes, please write more. I live in Germany also (I am an American), and while I agree the Ampel coalition is weaponizing the AfD for its own ends (in part, distraction from the terrible job it is doing of governing), I also see – as do my left/progressive old-enough-to-know German friends – that one strand of AfD is fascism.

      1. Weil

        Building hate is far more work than building a wall.

        It takes grooming, time, institutions that support hate and of course a ruling class that allows it to be announced.

        “Beatrix von Storch, a leading AfD politician who helped to draft the manifesto (she is a leading player in the international fascist movement and could be seen meeting with Bolsonaro and other fascists), has argued that the AfD should move beyond its opposition to the euro and asylum-seekers, to concentrate instead on opposing Islam.

        The manifesto says the state should set “limits” on the practice of the Muslim faith. Minarets should be banned along with the wearing of the burka and niqab in public. Muslim organisations should have tax benefits cut. Male circumcision should be outlawed and a ban be imposed on the slaughter of animals without anaesthetic.

        Commentators and politicians in Germany’s mainstream parties have accused the AfD of resorting to language and terminology once used by Hitler’s National Socialists. However the AfD has yet to defend its leaked manifesto in public.

        Frauke Petry, the AfD’s leader, who recently sparked outrage after she insisted that firearms should be used to deter migrants at Germany’s borders, was at the centre of a row on Friday after apparently refusing to appear on a breakfast chat show on Germany’s ZDF public television channel. She had been due to answer questions posed by an award-winning Iraqi-born journalist, Dunja Hayali.

        Hajo Funke, a Berlin university expert on the far right, said: “We must confront the AfD on its racism and its extreme right-wing policies. These endanger the community rather than support it.”


        “What Leon Trotsky wrote in May of 1940, some 10 months into World War II, could, with minor updating, be used to describe present migration conditions:

        The world of decaying capitalism is overcrowded.

        The question of admitting a few hundred extra refugees becomes a major problem for such a world power as the United States…

        Amid the vast expanse of land and the marvels of technology, which has also conquered the skies for man as well as the earth, the bourgeoisie has managed to convert our planet into a foul prison”

      2. PelhamKS

        If we broadly define fascism as political, deep-state and corporate collusion to bring about certain ends regardless of the will of the people, there’s plenty of that firmly in place in existing centrist governments, including the US. I’m not questioning whether there’s a fascist strand in AfD, but if there is it’s aspirational rather than entrenched and probably crude rather than slick and media-supported.

        In the US, the notion that Trump is a threat to “our democracy” voiced by the establishment is a parallel example. Trump and his MAGA followers may indeed have fascist aspirations. But the spook-enabled and media-heralded “our democracy” crowd, it can be argued, poses a greater threat.

        1. Piotr Berman

          I am not sure if equating authoritarianism, utilizing deep state structures or not, with fascism is productive. It is sinister in a different way, and it definitely predates historical fascism that together with communism arose from collapse of the popularity of the elites in the aftermath of the Great War, mass slaughter of WWI.

        2. Roger

          In WW1, the Democratic (and utterly racist) President Wilson sponsored the American Protective League of 250,000 citizens from 1917 onwards which was loosely connected (semi-official) to the US Justice Department. They harassed German-Americans, unions, and anyone who was considered “disloyal”; a US brown-shirts before Mussolini had brown-shirts. There had already been three years of the US mainstream press publishing British propaganda as facts (just like they do now with Ukrainian propaganda), and in 1917 all mail and periodicals were placed under state censorship. The Espionage Act etc. was used to jail anyone who stated anything negative about the war (e.g. Eugene Debs being jailed).

          The parallels with the present, short of the explicit brown-short organization (we just have other versions of extreme harassment) are redolent.

          1. Giandavide

            the fascism doesn’t rise from the bottom: the italian and german cases shows that a fascist government is possible just with the agreement of higher institution (respectively the dwarf savoia king in italy, and the president hindenburg in germany), and the collaboration with the economic gotha of a country. and the main ingredient is a system that’s declining on his own, and it’s not perceived as able to defend the established order. without all that stuff the use of the term fascism is nonsense, a bit like the famous chewbacca defense. a “big man”, cannot subvert the existing order without the backing of this order, and neither a party can do that. but the narrative of the rise of fascism lays on a ridicoulus metaphore: an healthy organism infected by “the virus of fascism”. a fairytale like that surely helps to not analyze the context of this “healty organism”, but not analyziong the context is propaganda. and it’s not a case that the sinister look that the notion of propaganda have now is historically derived from ww1: citizens of winner countries were outraged to discover that the often absurd news of the years of war, that depicted germans as violent subhumans, were proofed as false. it was also the end of the preminence of socialist parties in many european countries, and the rise of communist parties. not cause people loved stalin, just beause they loved even less the lies for wich people risked their life at the front.

    2. The Rev Kev

      If we are going to be honest, there are fascist threads in western countries as well who also want to crack down on people who disagree with them, introduce mass censorship, imprison journalists for talking about all this, let loose spooks to spy on any organization above two members, etc. I would call that the acts of fascist. Look at Germany itself. Annalena Baerbock came out a year or so ago and said that she could care less what voters wanted and was going to do whatever she wanted. To me, that reeks of fascism more than democracy and she does not belong to the AfD but to a party that forms part of the government. A government, should it be said, that is wondering if they can get away with banning the second most popular party in Germany today.

        1. The Rev Kev

          I have a horrible feeling that the only way to fight monsters is by using the same methods that monsters use. The trick is to leave all that behind when you have won. The French Revolution is a good example of what happens when you don’t.

          1. panurge

            That could turn “interesting”: banksters fascists against classic thugs. A rare occurrence but not unheard of.
            However, whenever it does, there is the strong feeling the ruling fascists are quite in a hurry to defuse the situation and save resources for a common enemy rather than wasting them with internecine infighting.
            Classic thugs could be useful later.

            Maybe in Germany the extremes will come full circle, set aside their differences and join forces against the neo-libs, like 5 Stars in Italy.

          2. zach

            I disagree. The trick is to keep it all in perspective, and remember the wisdom of our forebears –

            This too shall pass, and

            Better a century of tyranny than a year of chaos.

            1. CarlH

              We don’t have the time to sort this out properly like we did in the past due to climate and environmental collapse in our near future. What to do?

      1. divadab

        Yes – good point. How is the Ukraine war not an extension of the Hitler project for Ukraine? And its proponents not fascists of the first water?

        Fascists R Us……..sad to say…….the empire’s favorite compradors were and are frequently unabashed fascists (eg. Chile’s Pinochet and his sponsors – I mean, “Operation condor” should be a clue) and the fascist regime is well advanced domestically also.

    3. Schopenhauer

      Some short remarks from Germany to the AfD and “The Left”:

      As Meddle wrote, the AfD has two strands. From my point of view, one strand is national-conservative, represented on the federal level by Alexander Gauland, a former high ranking and well known member of the CDU, and on the regional level in the eastern part of Germany by the likes of Björn Höcke (who is not at all from the german east but an import from the west). While Gauland is an anglophile burkean type of conservative (with some prussian, Bismarck-style preferences), the thinking of the Höcke faction consists of the problematic political romanticism of the 19th century and a good pinch of “Kathedersozialismus” like Gustav von Schmoller and the likes. Neither the first nor the second faction of the national-conservatives qualify for the label “fascist” (if you look for a party with fascist tendencies – the effective merger of administrative and monopol-capitalist power – then the green party is in the front row.) The second strand of the AfD is represented by Alice Weidel who is a hayekian-neoliberal type of economist.
      Apart from all internal contradictions, the AfD was the only consistent and steady opposition in the parliament against the neoliberal EU-policy (aiming at a supranational technocracy ruling Europe), against the disastrous migration policy, against the “Corona coup”-policy, against the “dumbest energy policy of the world” and against the “Zeitenwende” (which means participating in the suicidale proxy war against Russia).
      “The Left” is not only split internally in a camp longing for a place at the government table while giving up all the high-held principles from the early years of the party and the Wagenknecht camp who tries to hold the line (against war and for a popular, keynesian- style economic approach), but there is a high probability that the party will dissolve (there are a lot of rumours of a Wagenknecht-Party which would be the end of the “Left party”).

      1. Tom67

        Unfortunately I have no time to comment. But please regard that I consider Schopenhauers comment to be right on the spot. Furthermore I might add that the politics of the present goverment are such that a few days ago Dieter Dehm, an avowed Marxist and prominent member of the Left party has come out with a call to explore common ground with anti-war and anti-Nato conservatives. The sh*t is hitting the fan in Germany…

      2. Ignacio

        Thank you Schopenhauer. Speaking of contradictions talking a look at Argentina’s rising star Milei considered the Trump/Bolsonaro alternative is a bag full of those (a recent post by Gallagher here). Problem is if they ever were to win anything, there is no way to know in advance which way the wind would blow.

        1. Roger

          Milei is a product of one of the leading Argentinian oligarchs (just like Zelensky before he transferred to US tutelage) who provided him with both funding and a media platform. If you look at his history he is a pure neoliberal elite serving courtier. He will be another Menem, selling of the state silver for pennies to his bosses, slashing taxes for his buddies and state benefits for the rest, facilitating capital flight before a currency crash, and giving up sovereignty to the US by dollarizing (Menem was getting very close to this before he was removed).

      3. Mario

        Thanks to the “Corona-Coup” policy of the german Government the AfD leaders and their supporters are still alive. And thanks to the “disastrous migration policies” they are taken care of when old and moribund.

        1. Schopenhauer

          Thanks to the Corona-coup-policy a lot of helpless eldery citizens were at first left alone in their small rooms in their retirement homes, isolated from their relatives, and a lot of them were afterwards vaccinated by administrative force with not properly tested and unreliable vaccines (a lot of them died because of that comforting treatment).
          And that the migration policy of the ruling german class will lead to a better health and care policy is a ridiculous fairy tale: most of the migrants come from Syria & Afghanistan and are – because of their low education level – not able to absolve the hard and ambitious education for medical and health care or elderly care.
          You do not know what you are talking about.

    4. Meddle

      ((This has become muuuch too long for a comment, and was written on trains and a ferry terminal, so is rougher than I’d have liked. Maybe I’ll find a time and place to knock it properly into shape…)) ,.
      Wow. Great thought-provoking piece, lots of discussion, many questions. And one of the many many topics where making any sense of developments is hard enough when they are at home, even harder when viewed from abroad. (I would love to know what is really going on on the ground in France, after the gilets jaunes and the pension protests…)
      Afraid of the AfD? The powers that be not really I think. No problem if protest votes go to a formation that poses no real threat to capitalist relations. The Neoliberal Unity Party (Greens, Social Democrats, Free Democrats, Christian Democrats) squawks and screeches. The AfD might want a share of their loot.
      Should we treat it as a threat? (avoiding the term “afraid”). If the AfD is essentially a right-populist formation, we can treat it as we do the other right-wing parliamentary parties Democrats, Republicans, Tories, Christian Democrats. An annoyance but not really relevant to a politics of radical change. If it is a fascist project (and I would argue it is at its core) we must crush it before it can grow. This is where the question “What is fascism?” acquires practical significance. And here I think we have a problem…
      Currently, and particularly in the US it seems to me, the term “fascism” is used so broadly as to have lost any real meaning. Anything I dislike is “fascist”. That will get us nowhere. None of the following are necessarily fascist (however horrible they are): right-wing parliamentary democracy, authoritarian state, martial law, military rule, police state, police brutality. People can be bad, even evil, without being fascist. Governments and systems ditto. Neither Trump nor Biden nor Obama are fascists.
      I would argue that if the term “fascism” is to have meaning in the sense of identifying and delineating a specific phenomenon to which we must respond – at our peril – with specific actions, then it is this: a racially exclusionist authoritarian political formation that seeks absolute power and possesses its own paramilitary forces, which are (largely) autonomous of state control.
      The archetype of fascism is of course the German NSDAP. Before bandying the term about, take a good look at what fascism meant in the period 1929-33. In 1932 the SA had 400,000 streetfighting members, smashing up meetings of left-wing parties and trades unions. Hundreds were killed in the 1932 election campaign, thousands injured. In summer 1933 unofficial prisons run by the SA – in principle outside the formal state structures – held 50,000 prisoners, mostly communists, social democrats and trade unionists. That is the essence of fascism. Not when the barista gets your strawberry latte wrong.
      That is why we compete with right wing democratic parties at the ballot box, but must crush fascist organisations through popular action – before they crush us.
      So where are the AfD’s paramilitaries, you may be asking (you should be if you’ve been paying attention…). Fortunately they are not yet marching the streets. The Nazi squads that do exist are comparatively small in number (miniscule compared to 1932). And they are kept in check by broad political mobilisations when they do try to march. Moreover, the AfD has to keep them at arm’s length for reasons of political hygiene (while maintaining close informal contacts behind the scenes – and occasionally in front of them). Protest voting is popular in Germany, Adolf is not, fortunately.
      Yes, I’d agree that it is the AfD’s vocalisation of popular anger over inflation, worry about the war, the alienation of neoliberalism, simply having had enough, that’s what the Greens and SPD are reacting to in particular (as well as its explicit open racism, sexism, boorishness etc.). But that’s not what makes the AfD fascist.
      What makes it fascist is its networks of openly Nazi thugs and arsonists, both the respectable type and the uncouth. Gauland is (or was) central. Höcke too. Kalbitz an interesting case, officially thrown out but still around. The parliamentary researchers from openly Nazi organisations, the firm but informal ties to neo-Nazi squads and gangs. The neo-Nazi think tanks. They have to keep this side out of the public eye (even officially ending a memberhip now and then for appearances). But often communicating with a nod and a wink so to speak. A complex web, not easy to put in a nutshell. To lay it out properly would require time I don’t have this evening. This article from Spiegel is a start.
      Hitler fascism has a bad reputation Germany (outside of very small circles). The AfD is not going to trumpet neo-Nazi leanings. Its manifesto and public face are tailored to garner broad acceptance among the dissatisfied. But the manifesto is largely irrelevant. The protest voters aren’t reading it, they are simply voting for the only party that isn’t responsible for the current state of affairs (as it is excluded from all coalitions). The bulk of them are sticking up two fingers to the powers that be. And the AfD’s leaders and a large part of its membership know that the manifesto is simply window dressing for their butcher’s shop.
      There would be more to say on this, and on the Left Party, and on Wagenknecht. And plenty to be optimistic about. But for now this “comment” is already much too long, and the ferry I’m travelling on is about to set off, after which I’m cut off from the internet. So that’s my tuppenceworth for now.
      PS I’d love to be in touch directly with NC readers in Germany. I’m north of Berlin

      1. Basso profundo

        Mr. Meddle, you made some great historical points whose relevance has been forgotten by the first post-war generation that did not actually live through, or were touched by, that epoch. The role of big industrial conglomerates in the rise of the NSDAP were quite present in the minds of the new West German polity, with even conservative parties urging at least some form of nationalization. Such dangerous thoughts were effectively dispelled by the US with its Marshall Plan and NATO structure. One of last of the old hold-outs was Oscar Lafontaine, who served briefly in Gerhard Schröder’s newly elected government in 1998. Branded “the most dangerous man in Europe” by the conservative British tabloid press, he vehemently opposed Schöder’s hardcore neoliberal economic reforms and soon resigned. He is also the husband of Sahra Wagenknecht, who has basically given up on the Left Party yet for years has been quite a regular on the German TV talk show circuit and remains one of the more popular politicians nationwide. Should she form her own party (and polling has already been made on this point) she would apparently receive up to 9% of the vote. Your probably know all of this, but I just wanted to get it out there, e.g. for “jobs”. (I also live in Northern Germany).

    5. jobs

      Write more, bitte! I’m especially interested in the situation around Sahra Wagenknecht; whether there’s a chance she might lead an actual left, pro-worker, anti-imperialist movement.

  3. timbers

    AfD will be banned on orders from Washington if it gets to much traction (removing US occupation troops). Didn’t know that part.

    1. Weil

      Welcome to parts of Germany today.

      They understand Gramsci all too well.

      “The Battle of the Nibelungs is a “central point of contact” for right-wing extremists, according to German government intelligence reports. The organization has been explicit about its political goals — namely to fight against the “rotting” liberal democratic order — and has drawn adherents from across Europe as well as the United States.

      All told, there are at least 54 Facebook profiles belonging to 39 entities that the German government and civil society groups have flagged as extremist, according to research shared with The Associated Press by the Counter Extremism Project, a non-profit policy and advocacy group formed to combat extremism. The groups have nearly 268,000 subscribers and friends on Facebook alone.


      It’s the premier martial arts group in Europe for right-wing extremists. German authorities have twice banned their signature tournament. But Kampf der Nibelungen, or Battle of the Nibelungs, still thrives on Facebook, where organizers maintain multiple pages, as well as on Instagram and YouTube, which they use to spread their ideology, draw in recruits and make money through ticket sales and branded merchandise.

      Click on the big blue “view shop” button on the Erik & Sons Facebook page and you can buy a T-shirt that says, “My favorite color is white,” for 20 euros ($23). Deutsches Warenhaus offers “Refugees not welcome” stickers for just 2.50 euros ($3) and Aryan Brotherhood tube scarves with skull faces for 5.88 euros ($7). The Facebook feed of OPOS Records promotes new music and merchandise, including “True Aggression,” “Pride & Dignity,” and “One Family” T-shirts.

      The brand, which stands for “One People One Struggle,” also links to its online shop from Twitter and Instagram.

      All told, there are at least 54 Facebook profiles belonging to 39 entities that the German government and civil society groups have flagged as extremist, according to research shared with The Associated Press by the Counter Extremism Project, a non-profit policy and advocacy group formed to combat extremism.

      The groups have nearly 268,000 subscribers and frienhttps://www.aol.com/news/neo-nazis-still-facebook-making-041916637-083058914.htmlds on Facebook alone.

      CEP also found 39 related Instagram profiles, 16 Twitter profiles
      and 34 YouTube channels, which have gotten over 9.5 million views. Nearly 60% of the profiles were explicitly aimed at making money, displaying prominent links to online shops or photos promoting merchandise.

      The people and organizations in CEP’s dataset are a who’s who of Germany’s far-right music and combat sports scenes. “They are the ones who build the infrastructure where people meet, make money, enjoy music and recruit,” said Alexander Ritzmann, the lead researcher on the project.

      “It’s most likely not the guys I’ve highlighted who will commit violent crimes. They’re too smart. They build the narratives and foster the activities of this milieu where violence then appears.”

      CEP said it focused on groups that want to overthrow liberal democratic institutions and norms such as freedom of the press, protection of minorities and universal human dignity, and believe that the white race is under siege and needs to be preserved, with violence if necessary.

      None has been banned, but almost all have been described in German intelligence reports as extremist, CEP said.”

    2. Weil

      Welcome to parts of Germany today where the understanding of Gramsci’s’ contribution to cultural hegemony has been taken seriously.

      “The Battle of the Nibelungs is a “central point of contact” for right-wing extremists, according to German government intelligence reports. The organization has been explicit about its political goals — namely to fight against the “rotting” liberal democratic order — and has drawn adherents from across Europe as well as the United States.

      All told, there are at least 54 Facebook profiles belonging to 39 entities that the German government and civil society groups have flagged as extremist, according to research shared with The Associated Press by the Counter Extremism Project, a non-profit policy and advocacy group formed to combat extremism. The groups have nearly 268,000 subscribers and friends on Facebook alone.


      It’s the premier martial arts group in Europe for right-wing extremists. German authorities have twice banned their signature tournament. But Kampf der Nibelungen, or Battle of the Nibelungs, still thrives on Facebook, where organizers maintain multiple pages, as well as on Instagram and YouTube, which they use to spread their ideology, draw in recruits and make money through ticket sales and branded merchandise.

      Click on the big blue “view shop” button on the Erik & Sons Facebook page and you can buy a T-shirt that says, “My favorite color is white,” for 20 euros ($23). Deutsches Warenhaus offers “Refugees not welcome” stickers for just 2.50 euros ($3) and Aryan Brotherhood tube scarves with skull faces for 5.88 euros ($7). The Facebook feed of OPOS Records promotes new music and merchandise, including “True Aggression,” “Pride & Dignity,” and “One Family” T-shirts.

      The brand, which stands for “One People One Struggle,” also links to its online shop from Twitter and Instagram.

      All told, there are at least 54 Facebook profiles belonging to 39 entities that the German government and civil society groups have flagged as extremist, according to research shared with The Associated Press by the Counter Extremism Project, a non-profit policy and advocacy group formed to combat extremism.

      The groups have nearly 268,000 subscribers and frienhttps://www.aol.com/news/neo-nazis-still-facebook-making-041916637-083058914.htmlds on Facebook alone.

      CEP also found 39 related Instagram profiles, 16 Twitter profiles
      and 34 YouTube channels, which have gotten over 9.5 million views. Nearly 60% of the profiles were explicitly aimed at making money, displaying prominent links to online shops or photos promoting merchandise.

      The people and organizations in CEP’s dataset are a who’s who of Germany’s far-right music and combat sports scenes. “They are the ones who build the infrastructure where people meet, make money, enjoy music and recruit,” said Alexander Ritzmann, the lead researcher on the project.

      “It’s most likely not the guys I’ve highlighted who will commit violent crimes. They’re too smart. They build the narratives and foster the activities of this milieu where violence then appears.”

      CEP said it focused on groups that want to overthrow liberal democratic institutions and norms such as freedom of the press, protection of minorities and universal human dignity, and believe that the white race is under siege and needs to be preserved, with violence if necessary.

      None has been banned, but almost all have been described in German intelligence reports as extremist, CEP said.”

      They are true Gramscian fascists.

      1. Roger

        Gramsci was very clear that Italian fascism came into place when the cultural hegemony of the capitalist elite under the guise of “liberal democracy” failed, as happened during the Biennio Rosso (two red years) of 1919 and 1920 when the capitalist elite had to make extensive concessions to the working class. The result was the alignment between the large industrialists and Mussolini.

        Currently the capitalist elite in Germany are working at maintaining their cultural hegemony (e.g. banning alternative sites, suppressing and perhaps even banning an “extremist” party, removing power upwards). If this fails they can easily flip sides and co-opt the AfD (as the German ruling class did with Hitler after the Nazi vote actually fell in the Nov 1932 elections), just as the most recent version of the Italian fascists quickly became NATO and EU friendly on taking power.

        Only after that option fails will we see explicit brown-short style intimidation and fascism.

    3. venice12

      “Why and by what means is the exercise of the full state sovereignty of the Federal Republic of Germany hindered?”

      I cannot translate the entire article that explains this point. If you are interested in the legal reasons, pls. use a program to translate it.


    4. Feral Finster

      AfD will be banned on any pretext, and no orders from Washington will be necessary. That is baked in the cake.

      Still, If Afd would come around with regard to US hegemony in general and the war in Ukraine in particular, they could advocate feeding migrants to sharks and nobody in the political class would raise a peep, as long as the alternative bucked American interests.

  4. Colonel Smithers

    Thank you, Conor.

    Over the week-end, the BBC featured an interview (by Stephen Sackur) with the AfD’s Peter Boehringer. What could / should have been a robust, but informative Q&A, was at times spoilt by Sackur obsessing with issues that only his PMC tribe cares about.

    1. dandyandy

      Sackur never misses a chance to talk over his “guests” so to show them that he knows everything much better. But in fact he is nothing but a rude neocon shill, flooding his “hard talks” with endless repetition of propaganda points. AND, I have to pay for this nonsense otherwise BBC takes me to court. Can just as well watch CNN; it’s free.

      1. digi_owl

        got to say, i loved how Lavrov didn’t play along when Sackur tried that with him.

        It was easy to see why HRC and the US state department didn’t like Lavrov, because he cut straight through their bafflegab.

        1. Colonel Smithers

          Thank you, both.

          As my origins are in Zone B, it has not gone unnoticed how Sackur and his predecessor, Tim Sebastian, treat guests from down there. It was also noted how and why Sackur was put in his place by the ANC’s secretary general when Sackur (recently) complained that South Africa was not taking Ukraine’s side.

        2. Ludus57

          Lavrov did an interview with Steve Rosenberg, the BBC’s chief Moscow correspondent, in which he took no nonsense, and no prisoners.
          Lavrov speaks excellent English, but he answered the questions in Russian, and in considerable detail. In effect, “the interrogator was roasted”.
          It was never broadcast by the BBC, for obvious reasons,but might still be found on You Tube.
          How Rosenberg has the nerve to say much of what he says in his so-called “reporting” from Moscow, escapes me.

  5. Ignacio

    One cannot stop noticing the frankness of A. Baerbock:
    1) We are at war with Russia
    2) We don’t care about the populace because there is no alternative. And if there appears to show up one we will find our way to knock it out.

    The state of current Western “democracies” in a nutshell.

    1. Colonel Smithers

      Thank you.

      On the BBC’s The Context last week, featuring Christian Fraser and an execrable panel of Republican and Democrat former White House officials, Fraser kept saying “we’re at war” with Russia, without explaining who’s we, why and how.

      This said, a year ago and at a dinner of ministers and development officials, Andrew Selous said the UK was at war with Russia and all aspects of government were on a war footing.

  6. Hochiminh_enjoyer

    Great points about Russia, China and neoliberalism but the fascist rhetoric cannot be overlooked I dont understand how you can brush over the rabid islamophobia of this party. There is a significant muslim and arab minority in germany and they deserve not to be harassed in mainstream politics. Whats next: “whos afraid of Vox?”

    1. .Tom

      If a significant number of German voters are islamophobic and want consequential policy then the democratic way to deal with it is to allow them political expression, which you then counter with debate and your preferred education and organization.

      I don’t think it’s going to work in the long run to call something “rabid islamophobia” and use that name-calling to justify banning discussion. I actually think that approach will, in a period of economic decline, be counterproductive, encourage what you want to discourage, and will further de-legitimize those who do the banning.

      1. JBird4049

        I don’t think it’s going to work in the long run to call something “rabid islamophobia” and use that name-calling to justify banning discussion.

        I am thinking that the political establishment across Europe and North American knows that what they want is unacceptable to those that they are governing. This is because that that the current policies are injurious to the people as a whole and this includes all those refugees whose countries the collective West has been economically destroying. If what I just said is true, it would be hard work to convince people using debate of the righteousness of the cause especially if it done while they have an empty stomach and cloudy breath.

        1. cosmiccretin


          So is your comment to be construed as stating that – in your opinion – banning discussion *is* justified if “…it would be hard work to convince people using debate of the righteousness of the cause especially if it done while they have an empty stomach and cloudy breath”?

          Just wondering…

          Because if so that seems to me to be about the most supine position imaginable, and moreover one completely at odds with our German (or resident in Germany) commenters’ far more activist ones.

    2. Kouros

      I think european populations are as islamophobic as muslim populations would be “-phobic” if overwhelm by waves after waves of overbreeding atheists (albeit Christians would also do the job) pushing their perspective on their societies with a lot of intransigence.

    3. Victor Sciamarelli

      To Hochiminh: First, I think Islamophobia is the wrong word. A phobia is an irrational fear like arachnophobia or acrophobia: fear of spiders or heights.
      What we’re talking about is a prejudice and/or intolerance. The AfD’s position is not irrational. You might not agree with them, neither do I. You could say the AfD are anti-Semites because Arabs are Semitic people but that phase is totally associated with Jews.
      Then what to do? Take a page from Critical Race Theory (CRT). CRT is opposed to full integration. It asserts that minority cultures should be preserved because they can make valuable contributions to the general or dominate culture. Minority cultures can also make the society more interesting and creative than a monolithic society.
      Of course, if a Syrian family plants themselves in Germany they need to learn the language and culture, and prepare their kids for a German education. At the same time they can highlight where their culture and religion compliment the host country, and be willing to accept constructive criticism from the Germans and try to reach a rational accommodation.

      1. Polar Socialist

        That would have been the default in Europe since about a hundred and fifty years ago. Nothing to do with CRT.

        WW1 was the culmination of the national romantic “one state, one nation” idea, because it was the first war in Europe mobilizing the whole societies for the war effort.

        Before that many (perhaps majority of) European cities had what we could call a “multicultural” population. I’m old enough to kinda have grown up as a bilingual with the other one being a pidgin that was formed several generations earlier when kids from 3-4 different ethnic groups had to find a common language.

      2. Hochiminh_enjoyer

        Yes we are getting a little semantic but I understand your point and pretty much agree. To be honest its not like I view immigration as a beautiful thing in itself. If anything, alot of it is a result of alot of very messed up conditions and in a way it robs the countries of origin of its people, its youth etc. I would rather syria not lose so many of its people to live in often precarious lives in a new land, with all the friction that seems to create for them and the people of the host countries. I prefer syria to be for syrians. Without these wars and crisis, we can have regular healthy immigration in all directions, rather than people often dying to get to the first world. I do think we ought to examine the conditions that create this problem and be principled in rejection of any creeping racism. Thank you all for the discussion.

    4. Hochiminh_enjoyer

      We’re not liberals and are not willing to leave this to debate and the market place of ideas in my opinion. I dont want to counter racists with debate. France’s muslim and arab populations are not being debated into a corner. What happens is groups like these in Europe serve to normalize and further popularize (atleast to part of the population) their islamophobia and racism, as well as the rehabilitation of fascism (think of seig heiling vox fans and their appreciation of franco).
      As groups such as Afd, Vox and others gain more popularity so does the violence against “immigrant” families, people, and children.
      I understand and agree with points in the article and am not suggesting that the neoliberal class is an ally.No. but there is a callousness and an underestimation in this text of the danger this group of chauvinists and islamophobes (by their own definition theybare islamophobic). Fascists come in different forms and their politics change depending on their conditions, think of Azov now being part and parcel of the same nato alligned neoliberal forces that other fascist groups elsewhere in europe oppose. It doednt matter. The materialist view is to understand the conditions that cause crisis which in turn makes fascism viable, often as a bastardization of pain felt due to the crisis of capitalism. When you mix the failures of capitalism with an ingrained fascist and white supremacist tendency in society (be it thru outright racism of european liberal universalism) you get a toxic cocktail that is not a joke for people who are racialized or who come from the colonies. Afd, like vox, like meloni, like the dutch bafoon Geert spawn from the failures of the neoliberal order of the centre left and right leadership of the previously colonial countries. They all need to be disposed of.

  7. ZenBean

    The German state’s harassment of the Left Party appears to have worked in getting it to abandon its previously “radical” goals

    Nuh, no need to blame the state here. They did that all by their own by focusing exclusively on the cultural and sexual neuroses of the urban PMC. Funny how those things always go hand in hand with a devoted pro-American foreign policy.

    New leftwing projects will have to divorce themselves from this social milieu because it always just ends up liberalizing organizations and alienating its working class members.

  8. salvo

    the afd is surely not a true alternative to the dominant German neoliberalism model, it’s just its most right-wing expression. Also, it is not true that the afd is “is the only party in Germany making the connection between Berlin’s bellicose policy towards Moscow (and increasingly Beijing as well) and the worsening economic conditions for Germans.” the Wagenknecht wing in Die Linke has made that connection early and has been a vocal critic of the sanctions policy and the submission to US interests. Wagenknecht herself has been heavily targeted by her political opponents (inside her party as well) and the mass media for her anti sanctions and pro negotiations approach.

    1. digi_owl

      My impression is that she has gotten targeted just as much for raising valid questions about the current German immigration policy, because on the surface they seem to overlap with those coming from the xenophobic right.

  9. The Rev Kev

    I sometimes think that the main appeal of parties is that at least they are listening to voters. Here is a section from their policies-

    ‘In order to fight the effects of this negative demographic development, political parties currently in government support mass immigration, mainly from Islamic states, without due consideration of the needs and qualifications of the German labour market.’

    The big parties will fob of such concerns but maybe they should at least listen to people’s concerns. A coupla years ago the German government opened up the doors and let in over a million people of unknown origin and loyalties. Because so many of them were Muslims, Saudi Arabia stepped forward and offered to build for free some 200 mosques to be manned by their very own Wahhabi preachers. Some Islamic leaders actually came out and said that they wanted to convert the whole of Germany in the long term to their brand of religion – Wahhabism but the German government at the time wisely said no thanks. But it could have gone the other way as Merkel at the time was only listening to herself.

    But my main point is this. When you have a country like the US, UK, Oz, Germany or wherever whose main parties refuse to listen to their own people, those people will have to go somewhere and it does not matter if it is the AfD in Germany or Trump in America. The big parties are leaving most of their voters with no other choices simply by not listening.

    1. divadab

      “Not listening” covers a lot of ground……perhaps more of a symptom than an outright cause….these Green fascists are people filled with an ideology that they are imposing on people who do not like it and are resisting and the AFD is giving them voice.

    2. digi_owl

      In the end though, Islam gets scapegoated because while we recognize that Christianity has a myriad of sects we treat Islam as a single unit.

      The crazy part is that much of the insanity of “Islam” is coming from the west major Arab trading partner, thanks to industrial economy needing all that crude.

      A while back i belive i read that women had started donning the scarf in the Balkans, where as previously you could hardly tell a muslim from a christian. This because of KSA sending Wahhabist preachers to the mosques.

      And other problems can be traced to the eternal problem of “teenagers”. Alienation and having no productive outlet for all that energy. Germany used to be better at this by having vocational schools and early apprenticeship tracks. But they seem to be supplanted by either immigration (ironic to the max) or offshoring.

      1. The Rev Kev

        Of course Islam gets treated unfairly as they made easy targets. Certainly the history of Christianity is not one to be proud of when you go into it. Seems that it does not matter what the religion is, when you have the radicals take charge, that is when the trouble starts. The Wahhabis, for example, have not yet gotten to the point where they think that they will be safe excavating the bones of the Prophet and burying him in an unmarked grave somewhere at night time like they want to do, but how messed up is that idea.

      2. hk

        I think there is a peculiar and extremely toxic racism that undergirds so-called “multiculturalism” of Western elites.

        First, it refuses to acknowledges that each group making up the “non-West” is highly diverse, with so many factions in dispute over where it comes from, what it is, and where it should go, and so forth. Instead, on one hand, it tries to force one-sided caricature on it: eg Western PMC declaring Islam or Buddhism “religion of peace” and lecturing the believers what it should be, based on their own (mis)conceptions. On the other hand, they are afraid to confront extremists who are openly violating the norms and even laws in the West out of fear that they might offend “the Muslims” or whoever, as if a particular faction represents the whole of whatever that community is.

        Neither of these turns out well. The first, even if it is mostly limited to words, are deeply offensive to almost all members of that community. The latter aids obscurantist, anti-integrationist forces in a given community. Both impede an actual understanding with that community and instead empowers shysters who play to preconceived notions of powerful outsiders–I tend to think, for example, Ahmed Chalabi and Wahhabis belong to that camp, by playing on seemingly opposite, yet widespread beliefs about “Muslim” populations–that, at the same time, they really want to be just like Americans or that they are so exotic and inscrutable, respectively. (It doesn’t really need to be that “foreign”: one might also think of the “queer” activists selling to the mainstream exaggerated and wholly made up versions of gay stereotypes to the consternation of most gays, for example, or, on the other side, “gay conversion” activists who act like all gays suffer from some form of false consciousness that “Word of God” can break–notoce how they play to the existing worldviews of their respective audiences.)

        It might actually be nice if they were treated like how typical Westerners treat other typical Westerners, and the other funny bit is that the typical Westerners–at least middle Americans (I don’t know too many “typical” people from other countries)–generally do: there are occasional mistakes, but usually not too serious and understandable, and mostly well meaning. It’s really the elites and their extremist de facto allies that seem to have issues.

        Maybe the trouble with multiculturalism is that it’s not really “multicultural” enough–in the sense of recognizing that “foreigners” are diverse, too.

        1. digi_owl

          Yeah i guess you could say it is a variant of noble savage.

          I think Adam Curtis has a blog post on BBC’s site somewhere that talks about how the post-WW1 British administrators sent to the then recently claimed Iraq had this romantic notion of landed gentry they wanted to implement.

          Thus they sidelined the Baghdad middle class that had built up during the Ottoman empire, and instead empowered rural sheikhs that had become basically a ceremonial position during the Ottoman rule. Sheikhs that were completely unprepared for the power and responsibility heaped on them.

  10. dandyandy

    I read the AfD manifesto a few years back (way before Ukraine happened) and I thought what they were saying was all reasonable stuff. Shame that Frauke Petry left she looked like a plausible face to front the party.

    I don’t know of any details that “Meddle” above lists and it would be interesting to hear some more from him. Living in UK there is a blackout on any meaningful information on AdF other than they are fascist racists degenerate rightwingers who should be all lined up against a wall.

    Having said all this, at least, they exist. In an important country like Germany. What is pitiful is that their counterparts are nonexistant or few and far between in all other European Countries.

    We in UK get three flavors of UniParty – Labour, Tory and LibDems – there is absolutely no point in voting. I wish we had AfUK to try and talk for actual people.

  11. John Beech

    Sitting in the smugness of central Florida, watching events unfold from afar, but with an interest my thoughts about AfD are quite simple. I don’t believe there’s anything to be afraid of . . . not if you confront the ideas head on instead of running from them.

    For example, politicians should call out the idea of forming paramilitary groups. Ask, for what purpose? Ask your citizens point blank, do we really want a return of the forces which led to Kristallnacht? Is this what Germany stands for? After all, there likely remains shame for the aberrant behavior of what happened 85 years ago. Simply put it to the people . . . was staying quiet then, a good thing? Is staying quiet now, in any conceivable way different?

    And introspection is good. Ask out loud, ‘What is appealing to good Germans to want something so abhorrent as a return of paramilitary forces?’ Maybe an honest discussion regarding the wisdom of the wholesale import of Turks, a people wholly incompatible with German Christianity and work ethic, needs another look. Like, whose idea was this? And was it ever put to the vote? And if not, then small wonder getting rid of these guest workers won’t be put to a vote, either. I’m thinking the window of opportunity to do things by democratic vote is closing.

    After all, if the people don’t like the influences of the Muslims so much they become susceptible to an argument to form paramilitary to rid themselves of these people by force, then maybe it was a bad idea from the get go. But one thing is sure, finger pointing and saying their desire to maintain their white race and ethnicity as too wrong to even discuss, is certainly not going to end well because it will just harden attitudes.

    Don’t believe me? Try getting a Trump voter to change his mind by saying he is a stupid and venal person for supporting the former President. As Scooby Doo would say, Rotsa Ruck with that!

    Bottom line? Discourse is my suggestion. Find a middle path.

    Right now, memories are still aflame of military age Muslim men making their way into Germany a few years back. Memories are still aflame of reports of rape by minority men. These memories, and more, are still aflame and they’re being reinforced by economic suppression. If this is about holding down wages, as the open borders of the American border with Mexico are seen by many, then these demands are either addressed honestly . . . or with regard to the future forcible de-Muslimfication of Europe, here we come!

    At least in America, the vast majority of economic migrants share a religion with the nation. Moreover, they have an excellent work ethic. And they assimilate well and become good Americans. Europe? As nearly as I can tell, not so much.

    Of course, maybe I just can’t see it but the assimilation doesn’t seem to be happening in Germany. Or elsewhere within Europe. For example, in Paris, there are arrondissements (large swaths of the 18th spring to mind, e.g. La Chapelle, Porte de Clignancourt, Château Rouge, and more) which the cops avoid. So what of the citizens? Think they go to these parts of Paris in which the police themselves fear to tread?

    Nordic countries like Sweden have a similar issue. The Muslim from enclaves and do not assimilate. So a dislike for the newcomers is palpable.

    At least in America we have a tradition of people from all nations being welcome (except the Chinese, they have been specifically excluded as a race at one time). But Europe isn’t America. I don’t think it’s too late, but politicians need to ask their citizens what they want. But first, educate them to the benefits of cultural diversity because if you put it to a vote without positive propaganda, and then put it to the vote, this won’t end well.

    Oh, you don’t want to vote? An argument AfD makes when chaffing under the external rule of Brussels, then don’t be surprised if this unwillingness to put things to the vote results in political forces being set loose that result in the horrors of ethnic cleansing being writ large across the continent.

    The tinder is dry and plentiful. Heads up.

    But there’s more. In NY, FL, CA, and TX it’s not widely discussed how tax revenues flow to Mississippi, Montana, and other less populous and poorer states. But it does. The European north sees itself funding the south. And of course, central Europeans can’t hold up their end of the stock yet, economically. What of Turkiye when they finally meet all the demands? After all, they’re an untapped economic powerhouse that will be akin to adding an Italy, France or Germany in terms of economic output, a net plus. But they’re a Muslim nation and that must be resolved before the continent tears itself apart. Again.

    1. hk

      My suspicion is that there “might” be something to be afraid of, but not necessarily specifically about AfD or even so-called right wing (or left wing for that matter) populism generally.

      I think a “populist” movement depends on 4 elements none of which is really “ideological.”

      1. There is a widespread discontent based on real problems that vast numbers of people are well-aware of and are deeply concerned about.

      2. These problems don’t have easy solutions, but will require unpopular decisions and huge costs to address…if they can be addressed at all.

      3. There are institutional barriers that seriously curtail entrance of new politicians into the arena.

      4. There are problems (whatever they are) with conventional politics that even trying to address these problems is verboten, lest it’d step on some sacred cow or another that would cause some internal political bargains (again, whatever they are) to unravel. This emerges from a combination of 2) and 3): if you can erect institutional barriers to keep troublemakers out and trying to deal with big problems substantively is risky, you don’t deal with them and instead rely on manipulating the institutions to keep yourself in power.

      I think this combination is unavoidable in any political system: the real message of Arrow’s Theorem, after all, is not so much that “democracy” doesn’t work, but any “formulaic” political system can be gamed and manipulated (so, in a sense, Kouros’s (I think it was him) idea about sortition does make sense (in the sense of throwing non-formulaic monkey wrench into the mix), but that doesn’t need to be the only one (especially since people will not trust what basically amounts to random toss of dice to rule over their lives (just coming fresh out of a discussion with a colleague who recently did consulting work with the lottery commission who wanted to make sure that the system was not only “random enough,” but that it “looked random enough” lest people get suspicious–and political power is far more contentious than just lotteries). So there will be political entrepreneurs who exploit these discontent not based on some ideology, extreme or otherwise, but simply based on the recognition that there are real problems that are not being addressed by the status quo politics which wouldn’t even acknowledge that they exist. Whatever flaws they have (including extreme ideologies) would be overlooked because they are the only non-blind politicians. So, yes, this is a potentially dangerous path where otherwise dangerous people can find their way to power. BUT this happens only because other, potentially even more dangerous people are already in charge as far as the voters are concerned, or, in other words, politics has already failed.

      The only way to address this is “functional democracy,” (not the procedural kind–which too many people are hung up on), where political processes can address the public discontent before they become too serious, regardless of how they do it. Trying to come up with a set of set procedures to do this is doomed to fail–Arrow’s Theorem and all that.

    2. chris

      You sure about the taxes thing when it comes to the US? We heard lots of talk like that in 2020 during the election craziness. I still hear about it from family and friends and work colleagues. Of course, if you ask them how much we’ve spent to bail out wall street over the years they get really quiet.

      I think the situation in the US is different than the EU. But I wouldn’t say it’s better. That’s why so many people are openly discussing the Great Divorce or Civil War or whatever.

  12. Victor Sciamarelli

    I think a few words about EU democracy, or lack of it, might add to the discussion and why the AfD suggests, “The EU has become an undemocratic entity, whose policies are determined by bureaucrats who have no democratic accountability.”
    For example, President Ursula von der Leyen of the EU was not elected by the European public.
    Europeans are allowed to vote for the EU Parliament. However, it’s my understanding, the parliament does not initiate legislation, it can only ratify legislation that originates in the EU Commission which is, in fact, the executive branch. The Parliament creates the EU Commission, again not the public.
    Then there is the EU Council which is composed of the heads of state of all EU member nations. The Council recommends a Commission President and the Parliament votes on their recommendation.
    The ECB is, like the US Fed, supposedly independent. I think a number of better informed readers might have something to say about who the ECB really serves.
    Where I agree is the EU Court of Justice which, unlike the US, has a system of 3 and 6 year renewable terms rather than lifetime appointments.

  13. Not Jason

    Neoliberalism has to end, die, vanish after the damage it continues to perpetrate on the world. Clearly the only winners are oligarchs with double citizenships – just in case. That said, I don’t see any meaningful movements among progressives or the left to replace it and educate the people.

    Re Ukraine: People should be aware that, if Zelensky was “forced” to replace his defense minister due to corruption, all aid must scrutinized by donor countries. Eventually, Zelensky himself must be replaced.

    As for Germany, if the AFD is the answer, what questions is it answering? Not sure this is it, though German public unease will continue to grow and, hopefully, demand, change. I know that the absolute neoliberal control of the US economy and institutions is destroying, not only the country, but world, and is unsustainable – notwithstanding what the Jason Furman and Larry Summers crowd say. After all, historically, these communities passing as soi dissant victim interests haven never succeeded.

    A multipolar world with thuggish criminals Putin and Xi ( he even disappeared scientists and people critical of China’s Covid response) can’t be the answer to US kosher neoliberalism. It’s simply can’t. But change is urgently needed. Pity that no one challenged neoliberal Biden and his extraordinarily corrupt key Cabinet appointments: Yellen, Blinken, Nuland et al.

    1. hunkerdown

      > thuggish criminals Putin and Xi

      Keep your grand white epic dramas to yourself until you have made personal material restitution for your part in Pinochet and posted your receipts.

      1. Polar Socialist

        Kinda funny that both of the “thugs” have decided to pass the G20 meeting to avoid the boorish US president. Since the The West refuses to negotiate on anything, it’s really not worth their while to get “ambushed” by Biden for some prime time news “tough guy” soundbite.

        1. hk

          Well, absence of Putin and Xi likely ensures that Biden et al will do something that would insult and/or otherwise offend their host whom they don’t seem to like in the first place (and they did it the last time)…

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      ” if the AFD is the answer, what questions is it answering”

      Isn’t the fundamental question whether Germany will continue being a cultural, economic and political colony of the United States? Italians may have hoped they were voting for some independence, but that didn’t work so well. Somebody had all the bases covered in that election. France would probably be no different. It would take a completely off-the-wall party to even attempt–what’s it called in polite company?-a “decoupling” with the U. S..

      As for Xi and Putin being thugs, I tend to judge them more by their effectiveness than how closely they hew to Thomas Jefferson’s idea of civil liberties. The question to me is even more fundamental than the question of liberty and goes to survival. Are any of these governments capable of looking after their people? Xi and the Chinese had their limitations revealed by Covid, but at least they tried. Their building codes really got exposed, along with the inability to even get people fed during the lockdowns that were really lockdowns.

      Putin has some big ones in my estimation. Yes, the Empire is declining, even literally stumbling rather frequently, but as George Hanson pointed out to Billy, it don’t make ’em scared, it makes ’em dangerous. It has seemed to me since Munich that Putin and Lavrov were trying to conduct an intervention with a United States about to hit the wall. It didn’t work, and the SMO was the option that let Russia choose the time of confrontation. Sort of. He had his country remarkably prepared with growing autarky, quality military hardware made at home and the right alliances. It looks like something planned from at least ’14, and can you imagine this country planning anything over that long a term unless it made rich people even richer?

      But still, the challenge of it continues to amaze me, and generally, the Russians with Putin’s leadership, have been able to stand the test to this point. Putin seems to believe that wearing down the Empire gradually is the best approach, and so far, no nukes flying. With the nut cases in the State Department, that’s no mean feat.

    3. chris

      Whoa whoa whoa. Slow down!

      First, all the data we have says that Putin is legitimately popular in Russia because he’s pro-Russian. If you want to see thugs wait until Putin leaves office. Xi isn’t tremendously different from the past premiers. Those who follow won’t change much either. Not sure why you think he’s a thug. He actually fought to keep as many of his people alive for as long as he could. Unlike some Presidents I could name (sigh…Biden).

      Second, we tried in the US. The parties that control the electoral choices on offer literally took every other option besides Biden away. But even if they hadn’t, there’s no evidence that Nuland and other horrible people wouldn’t have found a place in the new Admin. There’s a reason why Trump railed against the Deep State in the US. Because it’s real. And as long as the Deep State exists nothing will change in the US. It gives me a sense of peace though, because even if Bernie had won and even if he was sincere in what he said about trying to change things, the difference between that scenario and this one would be minimal.

      We have been told there is no alternative. They have cut all the lines to the brakes on this crazy train. We will keep speeding ahead until we crash. When the crash comes, the people in charge will act as though it was an act of God. They will try to put things back on the rails so business can continue as usual. If we let them do that, then we’re truly to blame for what comes next.

  14. Butch

    Thank you Conor for this timely and brilliant post.
    “…the US playbook for dealing with Trump and unruly voters in general: ignore the voters, blame the voters, and then release spooks.” needs to go viral.

  15. LN

    As others have said, this is all well and good, but an ever more significant component of the AfD is the group around Björn Höcke and Andreas Kalbitz previously known as Der Flügel. This group is a true far-right faction and has ever growing importance in the broader AfD. These people must be taken seriously. Without them, I would consider the AfD a very real alternative, though a very conservative one.

    1. digi_owl

      For a second there i thought the group called themselves the grand piano.

      Looney Tunes this sadly ain’t.

      1. LN

        Well, at least you didn’t think of a chicken wing. That would be seriously underestimating them. I imagine someone will try to play them like a piano.

  16. Hugo

    “Why not choose this nice little dog with this cosy night cap on”, little Red Riding Hood said. “My grandmother did like him, too.”

    Rightwing parties are gaining more and more votes in different european countries and if they are not outmanoevered or overtaken by those who call themselves centre-parties they will gain political control not only in Italy.

    I remember some ancient saying that capitalism on the whole tends to facism – and in crises even more…

    1. JBird4049

      Rightwing parties are gaining more and more votes in different european countries and if they are not outmanoevered or overtaken by those who call themselves centre-parties they will gain political control not only in Italy.

      Aren’t the ruling parties already center-right or conservative as it is? Just how does an already conservative party outmaneuver a more conservative party?

  17. Michael Hudson

    I’ve spent a lot of time in East Germany. I had an enjoyable lunch and interview with Sara Wagenknecht for the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung, whose editor was trying to popularize our views. Sara quit the Linke party when it was taken over by NATO Cold warriors. And my backers who had invited me to address the party’s annual meeting (via the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung) have been fired for opposing the war. So it’s really gone the way of Britain’s Labour Party.
    I’ve also been attending the “third” German party group, the Social Democrats, for many years via their annual Boeckler Stifling meetings, all well attended along with my UMKC and MMT colleagues. They seem stunned the last few years, and the meetings that we had planned to emphasize the debt and financial restructuring issues have had to be shunted aside for more pressing concerns.
    So the AfD is seemingly the only alternative to the common front of these three parties with the Greens. I wish Sara success, but the emotional trauma of my East German friends who suffered under Stalinism is so deep that I’m afraid that nothing can lead them to try to normalize relations with Russia

    1. Barnes

      East German here:

      Prof. Hudson you are right in pointing out that the AFD is only seemingly an alternative.
      Unfortunately it does have a truly fascist and die hard neo nazi wing, which makes it a very risky bet for political pressure, let alone change. The mere fact that the AFD has a few opportunistic, oppositional standpoints does not make it a viable alternative imho.
      Indeed East Germans suffered a trauma during GDR times and arguably an even bigger trauma for a non negligible number of former East Germans due to the turbulent years of 1989-1991. But by and large we are doing so much better now, both in terms of material wealth and freedom of mobility.
      I believe the reasons why so many former East Germans and their offspring vote AFD is trauma combined with fear of loss of our standard of living, which is after all only 30 years in the making and did not yield a significant wealth accumulation for many East Germans (no cushion for hard times), and a visceral feeling of being second grade citizens.
      Besides and oddly enough people from East Germany (mainly Saxony apparently, but not necessarily AFD voters) show a surprising amount of sympathy for Russias official point of view and there have been voices to negotiate for peace since the war began. Much to the dismay of many other Germans.

      I would put it this way: I see no viable alternative at all to the mainstream neoliberal oriented parties in Germany, yet. I wish it were different but the same is probably true for all western democracies.

      1. Futility

        West German here (lived for a while in Dresden, though)

        Even though some of the positions of the AfD described in the article definitely resonate, I am deeply suspicious about the AfD’s true intentions since as Barnes pointed out there is an ugly current of racist fascism within the party (known as Der Flügel which has been somewhat marginalized lately but Höcke can still be seen demonstrating with outright Nazis on his side) and quite a few of their leadership are/were connected to the Mont Pelerin Society. Parts of the AfD’s program are clearly neoliberal. The party is also full of anti-climate change nuts.
        Were Sarah Wagenknecht to create her own party, quite a few of the current AfD voters would defect to this new project because it could offer a better alternative without the inherent racism.
        Moving to Dresden in 2003 there was definitely a feeling of optimism and openness present (the number of foreigners was clearly much smaller than in comparable West German cities). As I left in 2015 (for the second time, as I moved in between to the US 2006-2009), the mood definitely changed. Foreigners were not welcome anymore. Initially, the AfD’s stance towards immigration seemed to have attracted the East German voters. The Afd’s position towards Russia, sanctions and the economic downturn now also attracts more West German voters who do not see their plights and worries represented in any other party.
        Since the GFC it seems to me that Polanyi’s countermovement is in full swing and the AfD is its German manifestation. But there also seems to be a deeply undemocratic current in all the other parties with their propensity for censorship and outright disdain for their voters.

  18. Carolinian

    Thanks for this. They sound like a nationalist party rather than right wing. Of course here in the US the Dems like to use immigration as a wedge to tar all their opponents as racists and, yes, right wing. But there was a time when there were labor union members demonstrating on our southern border against immigration and the resultant dilution of labor power. But then the current “left” as represented by the Dems don’t much care about labor either.

    Given our me too faction among the Euro elites maybe the current German government can follow the Dems’ lead and indict the AfD leadership.

    1. Felix_47

      The Greens and the SPD and FDP (the current governing coalition) are working on criminalizing the AFD jsut as the democrats have criminalized the MAGA people. During the Berlin anti war demonstration last November Wagenknecht could not say anything about the war nor could any other speaker because the government would arrest them. The trick they used was to broadcast on a giant screen a video of Jeffrey Sachs speaking about the war with subtitles. Additionally, Wagenknecht could not accept the participation of AFD supporters in the demonstration out of fear of the government reaction legally and through the media. A few AFD supporters showed up and Wagenknecht was accused of everything including being a fascist and racist. Just like America. The Bundesamt für Verfassungsschutz which investigates and infiltrates and prosecutes those thought to be extreme right and left could not do anything about it. Germany is a good mirror image of the USA except it is more burdened with migration because of a far more generous social safety net and non Christian migrants that enjoy the privileges of a patriarchal, woman suppressing Abrahamaic religion that spoils men above work and endorses extreme violence against those who are non believers.

  19. concordia

    Surely you could make the same apology regarding some proposal of the NSDAP. There were also “legitimate” grievances and the economic policy was “successful”.
    No one should ever make the mistake again, not in Germany, not in any other part of the world, of enabling Nazis.

    1. Swamp Yankee

      I’m in strong agreement, concordia. This is a post with which I strongly disagree. Neoliberalism being a cruel and corrupt failure does not justify the AfD or any other far right faction’s retrograde and cruel politics. Particularly if one associates oneself with the political left.

  20. Detroit Dan

    @Not Jason

    You give one throwaway line to dismiss Russia and China: “A multipolar world with thuggish criminals Putin and Xi (he even disappeared scientists and people critical of China’s Covid response) can’t be the answer to US kosher neoliberalism. It’s simply can’t.”

    One man’s Alexander the Great is another’s thuggish criminal.

  21. Jynxie

    Hey, this post really isn’t cool.

    I get that towing the alt-media line on “self-harming sanctions,” “anti-democratic elites,” deluded Western misperceptions of Russia power / lack thereof, and so on is this author’s “beat” and has increasingly made up this blog’s editorial direction and coverage of Europe as a whole. Fine. As Meddle said, that perspective — or rather its absence in the mainstream of Western politics helps one to understand the appeal of various “populist” parties in the West, including the AfD — regardless of the, shall we say, finer points of their political program.

    But you’re running cover for the Nazi party here. Literally. I’m an immigrant in Germany; I follow German politics quite closely; I cannot hold my tongue here. This is not some ho-hum Meloni situation, like the ignorant equivocation you’re making. The East German branch of the AfD is as close as Germany has gotten to a viable revival of the NSDAP since the Socialist Reich Party. The already sufficiently abhorrent quotes you’ve shared about Islam (and minimized by the overall framing of this post) are just the tip of the iceberg.

    I feel compelled to speak out because I am disgusted by the glowing remarks from presumably non-German readers celebrating this analysis — not to blame them — from a non-German author, recklessly attempting to apply quotidian “populist party rags on NATO, gets protest votes, inflames credulous liberals” analysis to a situation not at all comparable to the rise of other right wing parties in Europe.

    The AfD actually is “that bad,” and only a cursory amount of research into the issue — other commenters have mentioned Björn Höcke and Der Flugel — should immediately reveal it to be so.

    You want to continue down this angle, here’s an interesting lead — a recent poll showed that a hypothetical Wagenknecht breakoff-party would poll about at par with the AfD, significantly eating into its support:


    Why do I bring this up? Because Wagenknecht is a member of Die Linke, someone whose electoral success one could actually celebrate (with reservations). Because the favor she has bought among potential voters shows that opposition to the mainstream of German politics — opposition to NATO, reversion to some qualified flavor of Ostpolitik — indeed cuts across the political spectrum and would find equal success were it to manifest in an authentically left-wing political party.

    One does not, in other words, have to write an apologetic for the AfD as though it were anything other than an outright ethno-fascist party — an actual danger — really and truly the boogieman liberals are describing it as.

    1. Swamp Yankee

      Thank you, Jynxie. I think you really hit the nail on the head. I am deeply puzzled by the line of argument which goes: the Dems/Labour/SPD/Der Linke/The Greens are not left wing enough, therefore I will support, whether tacitly or overtly, the far right.

      One of my problems with this piece is at the level of argument. If AfD is done the argumentative courtesy of ignoring negative public utterances its leaders make, and of merely examining what it says in its platform, why should not, say, the US Democrats, or UK Labour, or the SPD, or the German Greens, not be given afforded precisely the same procedural favor? If some politicians get a “get out of rhetorical jail free” card with respect to not having their public statements “count,” all of them get that card equally, if we are going to be procedurally fair.

      That would mean critics, whether left, right, or anything else, would simply have to attack Democrats on their platform alone, rather than revealing public utterances, like Biden’s “nothing, fundamentally, will change,” remark.

      Ditto Baerbock and the German Greens. Just her platform would be subject to critique, rather than her worrying public remarks re: Ukraine about lack of respect for the popular will of her own voters.

      I am curious to see if these same procedural standards will be in evidence when these parties — the Democrats, Labour, the SPD, Der Linke, the Greens — are discussed in the future.

    2. Conor Gallagher Post author

      Jynxie, it appears you have misunderstood the point of the piece, which neither comes out in support of nor opposes the AfD. It’s an attempt to examine why the AfD is gaining support and why that’s causing alarm in Berlin and Washington. Maybe a large chunk of the German population has discovered their inner fascist over the past year, but I doubt it (which you also point out with your mention of Wagenknecht and her positions cutting across the political spectrum). I also doubt that the reason Berlin (and therefore Washington) are so bothered by AfD has nothing to do with any fascist elements in their ranks. After all, look at who the West supports in Ukraine.
      If indeed the AfD harbors fascist ambitions and is simply taking advantage of widespread voter dissatisfaction, well, the answer is simple: Offer these voters something that will benefit them economically so they’re not so inclined to support the AfD. Instead, the answer is surveillance and potentially banning the party, which will almost certainly backfire.

      1. Schopenhauer

        Thanks, Conor, for your excellent article which caused an interesting and informed discussion in the commentariat. I would like to underline your comment that you doubt that “a large chunk of the German population has discovered their inner fascist over the past year”. The real danger for democracy, the rule of law and the wealth of the german society cannot be found within its citizens, the real threat is located in the german government and the policy “Zeitenwende”-Scholz and his comrades pursue on behalf of the national and transnational monopol-capital. The german government is not only waging war against Russia (Baerbock was so dumb to speak it out loud) but it is waging war against its own citizens (it is the class war Warren Buffett spoke about it in 2006 very openly) through outright stupid and harmful international, economic and energy policy. In 1915 the brave and clear-thinking Karl Liebknecht said: “Der Hauptfeind steht im eigenen Land!” In 2023 the “Hauptfeind” can still be found in the german government and the imperialist elites backing it.

      2. caucus99percenter

        Late weighing in here, but yes, thanks, Conor, very good overview of the AfD situation! At least in the opinion of this long-time resident of Germany (been here since the mid-1970s), who lives in Dresden now and isn’t afraid of the AfD at all (NSDAP ≠ AfD, come on, folks, don’t be ridiculous).

  22. Susan the other

    Why do we need political parties, someone please remind me. Merely to spread confusion? Is it impossible to achieve consensus without party manipulation? My guess is yes. And that’s the very reason parties, in all their contradiction, have been entrenched as the basis for politics. But informed consensus needs to be a free-floating state of mind. We need flexibility to adjust. Like an immune system.. Because it should never be policy for the body politic to go along with chronic political reactions that are so debilitating. And pointless. Where is the grand experiment on referendums, frequent and varied? How do we know that would not work? Just imagine the honesty, “We need a war to take over the production and sale of oil, do you agree or disagree?”

    1. Barnes

      disagree. I believe the most pressing need is for us to systematically ensure that everyone in any position of power, and those are a great many, has their proverbial skin in the game and no one has so much money or power to be outright malevolent or simply careless with their own skin. Then we need to support a certain degree of creative destruction by design, because evolution is stochastic.

    2. Henry Moon Pie

      “Where is the grand experiment on referendums, frequent and varied?”

      They tried to head the opposite way here in Ohio in an election held at the beginning of the month. The state has a decently robust referendum provision which is being used by abortion rights advocates to protect the right in the state constitution. So the other side tried a referendum to change the constitution to make it much harder to get a referendum on the ballot along with some other measures. The effort failed miserably, and the abortion rights advocates will get their vote. But other states have tried cutting off referenda on pot and some favorite conservative issues. The Establishment’s approach is to further shut down those avenues.

  23. a_geist

    Now I need to comment here for the first time (being a lurker for sometime)! While the article hits the nail quite correctly on the head with regards to people who vote AfD, it essentially doesn’t really go down into the weird melange forming it (and around it!) and also downplays the fascist tendencies. Talking to european peers this seems to be very common in international discussion of these modern rightwing/libertarian parties (Fratelli in Italy, ND in Greece, Vox in Spain). From these conversations I would say that a) none of these parties really opposes neoliberalism/unfettered capitalist exploitation (just, please hide the immigrants and make sure a white guy sells the oil…) and b) their main difference indeed seems to be which nuclear power they want to subjugate themselves too.

    So as a first: no, the people with the coup-plans were not geriatrics, see this list (and assume only 50% are true) (note: a lot of the links will be in german, use your favourite neural network): a 50 year old trained commando will still be able to do quite a lot of damage especially using a firearm… They were a lot of crazies though – see this documentary (which is mixing things up a bit), but showing clearly likeminded people are neither geriatrics nor right in their head.

    On my German POV: parents first-gen university-degrees, sheltered suburbian childhood (stay-at-home-mom, unionized employee), got a STEM degree at the uni my dad went to, went on Erasmus for fun and thus got the first true PMC in the very wide family I guess, now working in a weird environment where jobs posting seemingly consist of an endless stream of bodyshops for car companies (thankfully I don’t work there), engaged in a fringe party where I unfortunately have to battle Covid-denialist but at least those are anti-Jackpot too (which is a really rare specimen and its own crazy)…

    Now storytime (some timesteps might be garbled):
    As you might be all aware the AfD essentially grew up from Euro-scepticism – in the beginning it was the party of Bernd Lucke and his professor friends and they didn’t want to share anything with those lazy greeks. Naturally this wasn’t really exclusive to the general rightwing and xenophobic person and the odd grifter and so those joined too (sometimes in personal union – this nice ghoul also did provide for a gold-shop the party used to generate startup revenue). Then while our friends and allies from the IS and its precursors made Syria and Lybia a living hell and we stopped giving foodstamps to UNCHR (actually read this on wikipedia right now ?!?), we had those pretty refugee treks. Naturally those xenophobes got very loud and the party split, because Bernd Lucke – in true ivory tower spirits – was only concerned with giving those PIIGS a lesson…
    No big problem, with Frauke Petry and Jörg Meuthen two excellent successors appeared – the former a seemingly grifty (quite a lot of state-sponsoring in her CV for her complaining so much about the state…) chemist whose company went bankrupt right on time before AfD became a thing and gave her a job and the latter a spineless professor type who was just right to manage the following transition period of going from a “liberal” xeno-averse party to proto-fascist melting pot.
    While those two were not the very xenophobic ones, the ones who flocked to the party in droves were. They followed the calling of Björn Höcke – a high-school teacher allegedly writing for the magazine of the actual nazi party – whom you are allowed to call a fascist and who once stood on an east german market place urging the reinvigoration of the “1000-year Germany” (no joke, videos got scrubbed though….). He was supported by Alexander Gauland, a former member of the conservative party (CDU) who once said that the 3rd-reich was just “birdshit” in Germany’s great history. That guy explicitly supported Höcke reaching out to the “new right” and Höcke did. “New right” means people you can call antisemitic on youtube (not the most subtle guy).

    The next two year years a powerstruggle developed, with the more opportunistic, less xenophobic people (essentially Frauke Petry) in the party trying to stop the “völkisch”-national “Flügel” taking over (there was a big commotion to remove Björn Höcke). People like Beatrix von Storch (anti-abortion activist, nobility who wants state restitution for land lost in the east, also would machine gun refugees (not much difference to now…)) and Tino Chrupalla (also former CDU, east-german facade-paintshop-owner) provided merry support for him and Alice Weidel (Goldman Sachs, lesbian, lived in Switzerland until 2017, …) played both sides cunningly.

    Fast forward to now and the party has given up any facade of being “bürgerlich” (appealing to the ones still feeling middle class), axing Jörg Meuthen last year. After some initial hiccups they are now happily allied with some covid-denialist parts of the political spectrum (as I mentioned, these are complicated), the “woke war on russia” (WWR?) gave them a nice boost from people in angst (also not helped by the left splitting in “my friend putin” and “we need to do more antiracism seminars for 80 year olds”) and they all but replaced the real nazi party (which now gives out AfD ballons to schoolchildrenthere is another nazi party, the kind allied to azov though (don’t find their actual blog documenting their fight anymore)). The youth wing is also openly hosting people labeled rightwing extremist by military intelligence now.

    Their program is not better than any neoliberalism for most people voting for them, while their talking points are just going through all the fears: heatpump-scare, nuclear is great, climate change isn’t real, cheap energy!!!, taxing land will remove your family home, …. Granted, you can discuss the energy topics, but on the level “we won’t have the copper for all the powerlines” it is FUD (when the powerlines are mostly steel and aluminium and medium-voltage also has aluminium options…). You can see a recent sampling of debate-style here.

    What is really worrying me here is that (except for the crudest xenophobia) the talking points are not that different across the entire rightwing spectrum. FDP (formerly a civic-liberal party, now bought and paid for by every individual or company coughing up cash) is pushing e-fuels and building more Autobahn instead of public transit and humane commutes, going into organized climate change denial (Atlas network aka Koch-brothers) and generally corrupt (fun, how the low-cred son of a lobbyist who claims friendship with Agnes Strack-Zimmermann turns up at a defense startup (led by a McKinsey of the Berateraffäre – together with the office-manager of the party chairman of course!).
    The conservatives of CDU essentially got a mini-AFD inside, called the “Werteunion”, led by the former head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (just read his Wikipedia, he is not subtle). The mediaarm looks like this (anti-public TV, antiwoke, antigreen). They are led by a Blackrock-executive and two-engine private plane owner who thinks himself middleclass (some satire show, subtitles are extremely good nowadays!). There’s also a niche party in Bavaria the head of which got into the news because he allegedly wrote a pamphlet searching for the “volksverräter” and offering Shoa-treatment in highschool. He didn’t distance himself, but said: “well we shouldn’t be so hard on kids and interpretation, but no, today I’m not an antisemite anymore“. The CDU-derivative using them to rule essentially wobbled around a bit, conservative media was visibly appaled, but apparently this is ok now and conservative media is very, very keen on making this ok all of a sudden (exhibit A, B – an oped by the owner of the paper)

    These parties get around 50-60% of those who vote and I’m sure as long as you can do business they are fully onboard with fascism if you give them a little time to adjust (like we saw with the “not an antisemite today”-guy)…

    As for their voters – I can understand their frustration… A relative owns a nice rowhouse in a village overrun by the klept and elite-PMC (3M€+ for a house). His kid won’t be able to live there and so he sits drinking beer with the few remaining people living there for longer (3-4 big farms and farm-villages outside) who essentially form AfD in this very green zone (unsure if the klept votes already). An acquaintance’s family also has a rowhouse in a town, but family is complicated and he is not a high-performer. He is also strictly rightwing because he essentially doesn’t have a future. In the same town an afghan logistics “entrepreneur” with cypriotic passports buys large plots to develop. The same persons cleanses his name from WSJ and The Nation corruption reporting 10 years after the fact (essentially what Cory Doctorow writes about). In another federal state that guy shakes hands with the green party prime minister and promises to organize fossil supplies for Germany like he did for NATO in Afghanistan. Sure, AfD will solve these thing with the local politicians consisting of grifters and people who write half their webpage about the need for homeless-shelters with pets allowed and extending funding for animal shelters x-fold. Meanwhile the party of Mr. Dementia, ah no chancelor (!) Scholz reduces the time needed to wait for a german passport to 3 years of employment (which is less than any election cycle! – what are these people thinking?). I guess the klept now buys German passports too.

    All this now turned from talking about AfD to a pretty grim overview of German politics. I guess we are on a nice ride to fascism – did you know Bavaria jails climate activists now so they don’t disturb the car fair? For me I have to admit that if the majority wants to live towards the Jackpot within an autocracy it’s not much use resisting… If I survive my political engagement in this environment I guess I better nourish my failing, encrypted disks and keep my head down for if we survive the Jackpot someone needs to tell the story (and I am not a street-agitator) – having a degree and likely benefitting from the orifice lottery slightly I have to think of Brecht looking around: “Die dümmsten Kälber wählen ihre Metzger selber”.

    1. Barnes

      What a rant! Sad but true…
      But hey, if we as Germans manage to pull off the exact same thing twice within a century, we definitely will have earned what’s coming for us.
      The sad thing, in an interconnected world, this likely could not remain regional and would further distract from much needed change towards a living planet suitable for human co-habitation.
      But as an acquaintance of mine – a top 10% wage earner (German), working from “home” while spending months on end wind-surfing the world since years, yet highly depressed, cynical and hopeless – likes to point out:
      people learn through pain and pain only.
      Or as Žižek likes to say: “It will get worse, before it gets better!”

  24. Johnny Conspiranoid

    ” Meloni has turned out to be a pretty run-of-the-mill corporate stooge who toes the line on the EU and NATO.”
    It is the job of the West’s security services to see that this is the only kind of party that wins elections. Afd will be the same.

  25. gunter failinger

    it is extremely funny hearing these guys throw the word ‘woke’ in there randomly. China and Germany have been making solar panels cheaper to produce and buy for how many years now? So, if I wanted to be “woke-green agenda” or whatever, I would cooperate with China to make more ‘green’ energy, instead of trying to start a new cold war with them, so I guess that makes AfD pro-‘woke green’ or whatever panic words people say these days to rile up the normies.

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