Observations of an Expat: In a Potsdam hotel

Towards the end of last year a group of far-right German political leaders gathered in a country hotel on the outskirts of Potsdam.

They included key members of Germany’s Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) party including the personal aide to the party leader Alice Weidel.

The AfD is currently riding high in German opinion polls. It is number one in Germany’s five eastern Lander (states) and placing second or third in several Lander in the Western half.

The meeting was organised to hear a proposal from Austrian Martin Sellner, former leader of the Identitarian Movement. Sellner has been banned from Britain and the US. His Identitarian Movement is a proscribed organisation in Germany.

But the AfD politicians still wanted to hear his ideas, especially Sellner’s proposed “remigration” programme. The plan was simple: Should the AfD come to power it would forcibly deport to an unnamed North African country millions of “non-assimilated peoples” and asylum seekers, even if they had German citizenship or permanent residence visas. Sellner also suggested that people who campaigned against the measure could also be deported.

This is not the first time in German history that such a measure has been proposed. In June 1940 Adolf Eichmann persuaded Hitler that the SS should take over the French colony of Madagascar, turn into an SS-run police state, and deport Europe’s Jews to the island. The plan failed because of the wartime British naval blockade.

When details of the Potsdam meeting were published in the investigative journal Correctiv anti-AfD demonstrations broke out in Hamburg, Cologne, Berlin and Dusseldorf. The demonstrators demanded that the AfD be banned.

This is legally quite possible. The German constitution says that political parties “that seek to undermine or abolish the free democratic order should be deemed unconstitutional.” Advocating the forcible deportation of German citizens could be construed as undermining the democratic order.

And there is precedent for German courts banning parties. Just this week they banned the neo-Nazi party Die Heimat (The Homeland). The Identitarian Movement is also banned. It asserts the superior rights of European ethnic groups and White people in general in the territories claimed exclusively by them.

The Identiarian Movement, with which Martin Sellner is connected, also pushes the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory. This argues that liberal elites are working towards replacing White Europeans and European culture with non-Europeans.

Another organisation that has been linked with the AfD is PEGIDA (Pan Europeans against the Islamisation of the West). This organization is supported by White supremacists in America and Europe.

The AfD, Identitarian Movement and PEGIDA are all carefully monitored by Germany’s Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution. But the AfD’s popularity, especially in the eastern half of the country makes it almost impossible to ban the party no matter how outrageous its pronouncements and policies become.

The party was founded in 2013 and in its first federal elections failed to reach the five percent threshold required for Bundestag representation. But they quickly improved. After the 2017 elections they held 93 seats in the Bundestag and had secured representation in 14 out of the 16 Lander.

The AfD is particularly strong in East Germany. They have formed the governments in Saxony and Thuringia. Their strong showing in the territories of the former German Democratic Republic has been attributed to East Germany’s history of autocratic politics and the fact that the region continues to lag behind the rest of the country in economic terms.

The party dropped into fifth place nationally after the latest federal elections. But since then Germany has suffered a series of economic setbacks, the repercussions of the Ukraine War and a rather lack-lustre Chancellor in the form of Olof Scholz. The result is that the party is now in second place in the opinion polls, ahead of the SPD and just behind the CDU-CSU.

The respected German Institute for Human Rights said the AfD was implementing “racist and right-wing extremist goals” and “shifting the limits of what can be said so that people can get used to their ethno-nationalist positions.” The Institute concluded that the AfD had reached a “degree of dangerousness” that it should be banned.

Not surprisingly, the leadership of the SPD agrees. The CDU/CSU is more circumspect. Banning established parties, they argue, is difficult. The voting public is split. 47 percent of Germans say ban them and 47 percent say don’t.

 

* Tom Arms is foreign editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and author of “The Encyclopedia of the War” and the recently published “America Made in Britain". He has a weekly podcast, Transatlantic Riff.

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6 Comments

  • We should be asking ourselves why the Afd are polling significant numbers . Multiculturalism hasn’t been the success many of us like to think – couple that with neo liberal economics stagnating wages insecure work & housing & the failure of politicians to deal with immigration… Mette Fredrickson understands it..
    “For me, it is becoming increasingly clear that the price of unregulated globalisation, mass immigration and the free movement of labour is paid for by the lower classes,”

  • I imagine few will have read Tom’s assessment without shuddering, although the rise of the far-right in many European countries has been creeping up on us for a few years. Given the way the economic downturn in Germany the 1920s and 1930s gave birth to the Nazi Party, you might imagine Germans would be the last people to turn to right-wing solutions when the economy wobbled. Although Germany’s economic problems are nothing like as bad as those in the Depression, the ease with which people can be manipulated through modern media means discontent can now much more easily be ratcheted up into outrage and hatred.
    Banning political parties sounds wrong, and it may not even be possible, but if Germany has reached the point where it seems necessary, politicians of the left and centre are going to need to wrestle the narrative away from the populists. And the same is going to have to happen here, a country which now has only one thing on the political agenda: the boat people and Ruanda.

  • Steve Trevethan 28th Jan '24 - 9:15am

    Might the decades of neoliberal socio-economic policies, aka austerity, contribute to feelings of desperation resulting in voters giving up on parties which describe themselves as democratic?

    Alas, continuing/advancing neoliberalism can only operate with fascist control of the general populace. Thus, unless there is a real change in politicians and politics, we seem to faced with two routes to fascism:
    1) An indirect route offered by most current, orthodox, austerity friendly political parties.
    2) A direct route offered by supporting crypto fascist and fascist parties

    Alas, fascism. Is better at « show business » than liberal democracy.which may also be supported by some of the main stream media.

    However, when energetically and cleverly presented and really used to effectively affect government and to govern, liberal democracy is a sovereign antidote to fascism.

    Might our party face a demanding and necessary duty?

  • We can from the outside think about whether German reunification was a success and if it could not been done better. In particular there were many changes in staff in public institutions as people who had been known to be Stasi informers were moved on, and people from the West moved in. This all might seem a long time ago, but family memories go back a long time. Added to this was the fact that many, mainly young, people moved to the west.
    The issue of movement of people is interesting. At first it was the East which showed declines in population, but the depopulation spread. The situation is no doubt changing because of the numbers of immigrants
    Perhaps we should focus on our similar problems as without immigration we would have a below replacement birth rate.
    So what should we be campaigning on to fight for a society we should improve on?

  • Laurence Cox 28th Jan '24 - 3:26pm

    @Tom Harney
    One of the big decisions that doesn’t get mentioned was the decision by the West German government to convert Ostmarks into Deutschmarks at a 1:1 ratio.

    https://www.dw.com/en/german-german-monetary-union-caused-economic-shockwaves/a-5769854

    While the black-market exchange rate of 11 Ostmarks to 1 Deutschmark undervalued the former, it was not by a factor of 11 and the new valuation made virtually the whole of the former East German economy uncompetitive in the Common Market.

  • Peter Hirst 5th Feb '24 - 3:36pm

    Our continent needs to get a grip on immigration that can only increase with conflict, climate change and poverty. Doing otherwise will pander to right wing organisations. A common policy well resourced that is both fair and humane is needed. Countries that are on its borders need to be adequately compensated for the extra resources consumed.

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