By Peter Schwarz in Germany:
The rise of the AfD and the rightward lurch of official politics in Germany
25 September 2017
For the first time since the fall of the Nazis, a right-wing extremist party is entering Germany’s national parliament. With 13 percent of the vote in Sunday’s federal election, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) became the third largest party in parliament, finishing behind the governing Christian Democratic Union/Christian Social Union (CDU/CSU) and the Social Democratic Party (SPD), which suffered an electoral collapse. The CDU/CSU obtained 33 percent of the vote, its worst result in over 60 years.
The AfD has acquired political influence far beyond its actual strength. It set the tone in the election campaign with its agitation for a crackdown on refugees and the strengthening of the state’s repressive apparatus. All of the establishment parties sought to outdo the AfD with pledges to hire more police and deport more refugees, thereby bolstering the far-right party. Why vote for the more established parties’ versions of the AfD’s chauvinist and authoritarian politics when you could vote for the real thing? The CDU/CSU lost more than a million voters to the AfD, while the SPD lost 470,000 …
That being said, the AfD’s right-wing extremist programme does not enjoy mass support. Even among AfD voters, 60 percent said they backed the party as a protest and not because they support its policies. The AfD’s rise is, above all, the result of the rightward lurch of all of the established parties, which, with the support of the media, are doing all they can to channel mounting social discontent in a right-wing direction.
In the past, nominally left parties would be expected to benefit from a social crisis such as that which is gripping Germany, including the explosive growth of low-wage jobs, the rise of poverty and homelessness, the lack of affordable housing, the catastrophic conditions in the schools and hospitals, and the growing danger of war. …
The SPD is politically bankrupt and reviled. Having imposed the Hartz laws, tax cuts for big business and the rich, and an increase in the retirement age to 67, the SPD bears chief responsibility for the outrageous levels of social inequality.
CSU leader Horst Seehofer declared that the AfD won votes because the CDU and CSU “left open their right flank.” He pledged that they would change this in the future and take a “clear stand.”
The historian Michael Wolffsohn rejected describing the AfD as “Nazis.” It is, he said, a reaction to “major social problems” such as the flood of refugees, for which the other parties have no answers. Political scientist Jürgen Falter warned against overdramatising the AfD’s entry into parliament. Far from being a “cause for concern,” it represented “a normalisation of German politics after our history.”
The established parties’ horror at the AfD’s right-wing extremist policies was hypocritical from the outset. This is shown by the case of Jörg Baberowski. The professor at Berlin’s Humboldt University, who cleared the way for the AfD with his agitation against refugees and his downplaying of the crimes of the Nazi regime, received unanimous backing from the established parties and the media when the Sozialistische Gleichheitspartei (SGP—Socialist Equality Party) publicly criticised him. The SPD, whose leading member Sabine Kunst is the president of Humboldt University … played a prominent role in the defence of Baberowski. Even when a court confirmed that Baberowski could be described as a right-wing extremist, they continued to support him.
The AfD’s rise is the result of the rightward shift of the entire ruling class, which is responding to the global capitalist crisis and the growth of internal and external tensions by returning to its most despicable traditions. In the 1930s, business associations, the military, bourgeois politicians and academics reacted to the intensification of the class struggle by backing Hitler and supporting his appointment as chancellor.
Similar developments are taking place in other European countries. In France, the right-wing extremist candidate for the National Front, Marine Le Pen, made it to the second round of the presidential election. In Austria, the participation of the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) in government following elections in October is seen as all but certain. The social democrats as well as the conservatives are ready to form a coalition with it.
Meanwhile, Frauke Petry, ex-AfD leader, of the ‘moderate’ wing of the AfD, newly elected to parliament, has announced she will sit as an independent, not as an AfD caucus member. Ms Petry thought it had been not tactical of her successor Alexander Gauland to openly praise Emperor Wilhelm II’s militarism in World War I and Adolf Hitler‘s in World War II and to say that white Germans did not want African German national team footballer Jerôme Boateng as a neighbour.