You could not possibly make this up. Amidst a legal-constitutional battle over the NPD’s survival, the General Secretary (top executive manager) of Germany’s oldest right-wing extremist party NPD resigns over what is by now affectionately known as the Saarbrücken Penis Cake Affair. The story (as ridiculous as it gets) also involves Miss Nationalist Santa, and a lot of backstabbing hidden behind the moral outrage. Publikative has the full story and the original reporting (in German), whereas Spiegel Online (also in German and apparently a bit lax on the reporting part) has the pictures (if you absolutely have to see them).
Blog posts on the Extreme Right
The Extreme Right (or Radical Right, New Right, Populist Right) is one of my main research interests. Here is a collection of blog posts on the Extreme Right (i.e. parties, voters, policies) that I have written over the years. If this is relevant for you, you might also be interested in the 400+ titles bibliography on the Extreme Right that I maintain and in this page, which summarises much of my work on the Extreme Right.
It’s been a boring three months without any offbeat news on the right-wing extremist NPD, but here is hope. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ), still one of Germany’s most respected broadsheets runs the story of the porn-star-and-escort-turned-nationalist-activist Ina Groll (“Kitty Blair”), who apparently is not longer welcome in the NPD (of which she allegedly never was a member). Groll single-handedly (if in doubt: each and every pun on this page is intended) tried to give nationalism a more – shall we say racy ? – image by distributing leaflets wearing a Santa costume that was supposed to be sexy (down that road, madness lies). The party themselves have tried to play that game in the past, with debatable results.
By and large, the FAZ article is a pastiche of older stories from the blogosphere, the social media, and the left-wing press, but the framing is slightly different: FAZ explicitly links the backlash against Groll/Blair within the NPD and the wider right-wing extremist public to the fact that some of her co-stars were black men.
“Rassenschande” (bringing disgrace to the Aryan race by having sexual relationships with non-Aryans) was a crime in Nazi Germany and could carry the death penalty. But the quote in the article that mentions right-wingers crying “Rassenvermischung” (mixing races) is not referenced by a link. It is summarily ascribed to an obscure east German right-wing website. Googling that quote, you will find a dozen hits for the exact phrase. Chances are that FAZ copied it verbatim from a blog or an agency report. The right-wing website itself, on the other hand, does indeed brazenly refer to “Rassenschande” further down the page, which is presumably punishable under anti-hate-speech legislation.
I’m not sure what I find more stunning/revealing/whatever: The way the Extreme Right handles their public relations, or the quality of investigative journalism in one of our leading newspapers.
Predictably, the Front National has done well in yesterday’s local elections in France, and predictably, everyone is very excited about. Much has been said about the FN’s performance, but not yet by everyone. Here is a bunch of useful links to bring your punditry up to scratch.
- First, the electoral system for the locals. It is slightly weird (no surprises here). La Jeune Politque has an explainer (not sure how complete it is), and also a map identifying some of the interesting contests. They were also live-blogging the first round of the French locals.
- EUobserver has a short summary of the results. The Guardian has some additional coverage.
- Writing ahead of the election, James Shields (over the LSE blog) thinks the FN will remain isolated and hampered by the electoral system.
- The 500 signatures blog by Messrs. Evans and Ivaldi has forecasts (now backcasts) of the national result as well as background stories on the races in the big three (Paris, Lyon, Marseilles).
- Euractiv has another short summary and outlook for the second round.
- Art Goldhammer looks at the (slightly) longer game, i.e. the implications for the Hollande adminstration.
Have I missed something important?
Germany’s National Democratic Party in Turmoil
The NPD ended 2013 with a veritable Christmas Panto. On December 19, Holger Apfel, who had become party leader in 2011, stepped down from this and other party offices citing his ill health – a proposition that seemed implausible to your humble blogger (and many others). On December 22, the party’s highest decision making body appointed Udo Pastörs as interim leader. They also published a communique that urged Apfel to ‘disprove allegations directed against him’ and threatened to expel him from the party. Within hours, the nature of these allegations emerged, first in the blogosphere, then in the mainstream media: One (or two, according to other sources) ‘young comrades’ (male) claimed that the (drunken) leader had sexually harassed them during the electoral campaign. Shortly afterwards, Apfel left the party for good.
Homosexuality and Ultra-Nationalism
Sexual harassment is a crime. Homosexuality is not a crime. But it is the latter which ended Apfel’s long and distinguished career within the NPD. During thecurrent legal proceedings against the NPD, it emerged that a quarter of NPD functionaries has criminal convictions, mostly for hate crimes. Apfel’s predecessor (and potential successor) Udo Voigt as well as the interim leader Pastörs were convicted for inciting racial hatred. Voigt’s predecessor Günter Deckert, who was leader in the 1990s, served several years in prison.
Back in the 1990s, Herbert Kitschelt, in his seminal study on the ‘Radical Right in Western Europe’, traced the electoral weakness of the German Extreme (or Radical) Right to its obsession with the past. Part and parcel of this obsession are the style and culture of the interwar right. The Extreme Right of the 1920s and 1930s, with its images of hypermasculinity, became the spiritual home for scores of young men traumatised in the trenches. The NPD’s insistence on comradery echoes the spirit of these all-male paramilitary organisations.
The Nazis purged homosexuals from their own ranks and killed them on a large scale in the concentration camps while turning women into breeding machines for Reich and Führer. It does not take a great deal of psychoanalysis to make you wonder.
The latest NPD electoral manifesto is an arguably much tamer version of these homophobic (and possibly schizophrenic) tendencies within the right. The party wants to ban single homosexuals (let alone homosexual couples) from adopting children and opposes the notion of ‘homosexual families’ or marriages. According to the NPD, there is a biological struggle between (ethnic) Germans on the one hand and ‘foreigners’ on the other, and Germans must be encouraged by all means (including mini skirts) to breed faster, and more.
Apfel is married with three children, and that was part of his political persona. But while ‘respectability’ was at the core of his personal brand and his strategy for the party, ‘allegations’ of homosexual acts involving consenting adults would kill any political career in the party. And Apfel came to power by a narrow majority vote and was always controversial during his term as leader, making more than enough enemies within the party.
The NPD is bankrupt, has very little electoral support and is embroiled in internal strife. The current leadership crisis will obviously not help the party. Apfel’s predecessor Voigt has already declared that he wants his old job back, while interim leader Pastörs will have his eyes on a more permanent arrangement. That is one lousy start of the European Parliamentary campaign.
I have often argued that trying to get the NPD banned by the Federal Constitutional Court is unnecessary and imprudent. Without the publicity brought about by the Court proceedings, it might simply have faded into virtual oblivion, just like the Republikaner party of 1990s fame. But even if the FCC refuses to ban the NPD (or, god forbid, if the ECHR overturns a ruling by the FCC), the NPD’s future does not look too rosy. While there is certainly a demand for eurosceptic and xenophobic policies, most voters find the NPD’s tarted-up version of grandpa’s fascism unpalatable. My medium-range prediction is therefore the emergence of a more modern anti-immigrant party in Germany.
NPD leader resigns in shock move
Holger Apfel, the leader of Germany’s right-wing extremist National Democratic Party (NPD), resigns, citing health reasons. He also steps down as head of the party’s caucus in the Saxonian state parliament.
Apfel’s move adds to the party’s many woes: The NPD is very nearly bankrupt as a result of financial irregularities. Moreover, the party’s constitutionality is currently being investigated by the Federal Constitutional Court. These proceedings could result in a ban of the NPD.
Following an acrimonious leadership contest, Apfel became party leader just over two years ago in November 2011. His main strategic aim was to slightly tone down the party’s radical ambitions in a bid to make it more acceptable to conservative voters. In this respect, he was not in any way successful.
Why, and why now?
Apparently, the party and its leadership were taken completely by surprise. Within minutes, it was leaked that Apfel suffers from ‘burn out’, which could boil down to ‘too much interaction with dear comrades’. [It is up to the reader to insert a silly pun on the NPD's obsession with "the Leader"/their leadership troubles at this point]
Apfel’s predecessor Udo Voigt, who was leader from 1996 until 2011 and then grudgingly became Apfel’s deputy, has certainly made life miserable for Apfel during the last two years. Also within minutes, Voigt has declared that he was ready to take the helm once more ‘under certain conditions’.
But citing health reasons and stepping down is not the way things are done in the NPD. And while infighting is common enough within the NPD’s national leadership, it seems odd that Apfel should also give up his position in Saxony, which is his power base, unless he is really seriously ill. Therefore, fellow anoraks and conspiracy theorists will contemplate another explanation: That Apfel could have been one of those informers (paid by the government’s many secret services) whose involvement with the leadership led to the collapse of the first bid to ban the NPD back in 2002.
Interview mit der Deutschen Welle zur Einordnung der Dänischen Volkspartei und deren Rolle in einem möglichen Verbund europäischer Rechtsparteien.
Interview with Deutsche Welle on the Danish People’s Party and their potential role within an alliance of right-wing populist parties in Europe.
Sometimes, things take a teeny-weeny bit longer. Thanks to a student asking for it, I realised that I had failed to deposit replication data for Liz Carter’s and my 2006 EJPR piece on the POS/Extreme Right nexus. This has been rectified.
Arzheimer, Kai; Carter, Elisabeth, 2013, “Replication data for: Political Opportunity Structures and Right-Wing Extremist Party Success”, doi:10.7910/DVN/23280 UNF:5:zWdBbOEjWqbNoUiRlLTKwg== Harvard Dataverse Network [Distributor] V2
The data, which cover Western Europe during the 1984-2001 period, are now obviously of historical interest in more than one sense. The micro information is drawn from a host of national election studies (this was before the ESS) that were lovingly harmonised under the auspices of EREPS. Clearly, those were the days. But hey, according to Google Scholar, this still attracted 25 citations in 2013 and is my second-most cited piece overall. More importantly, I’m still rather happy with it.
If you are interested and don’t have access to the EJPR, our pre-publication version is here.
During a momentary lapse of reason, Liz Carter and I decided to re-run our 2009 section on the New/Radical/Extreme/You Name It/Right. This resulted in two very agreeable days down in Bordeaux, with lots of interesting papers.
Compared to the last instalment four years ago, the most obvious change is that studying Radical Right parties in Central and Eastern Europe is now normal science, and that everybody is very excited about Golden Dawn. And everyone who is working quantitatively seems to do multi-level modelling now, which must be a good thing.
The papers are preserved here for eternity (or at least until the next major overhaul of the ECPR website). We would like to thank everybody involved, particularly the panel chairs and paper-givers.
Extreme Right buffs rejoice, right-wing populist anoraks exult: The summer (?) 2013 edition of the Extreme Right Bibliography is out. Since its last instalment, I have added 19 new titles (mostly journal articles), bringing the total count up to 437. As always, please do remember that this is one man’s obsession. If you think that there is something missing, please drop me a line.