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.

Nov 282015

Following the meeting in July that led to a split of the party, the AfD is holding another party conference this weekend. Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung


reports that the assembly has just voted down a position paper on asylum drafted by the national exec and backed by the new leader. Internally, the paper was seen as moderate. In its stead, the conference approved another paper that calls for what would amount to an end of the right to asylum. More internal strife lies ahead.

Nov 112015

I got some flak for my piece on the Pegida movement, which I wrote for the Monkey Cage, but it was mostly surprisingly polite (my favourite one was “Professor of Fairies”. That one will definitively go on my new calling cards). Most of the commenters suggested that I was trying to brownwash Pegida when I suggested that the movement is radicalising, and that there are links to the Extreme Right. Well, here is another one.

dresden 1938 photo

Photo by nemodoteles

Last Monday was the 77th anniversary of the nation-wide November pogroms directed against Jewish citizens, business, schools, hospitals, synagogues, and private homes that preluded the holocaust. While the day itself enjoys no special legal protection, it is widely seen as an occasion for quiet introspection and public remembrance. In this context, many had appealed to the Pegida organisers to cancel their usual Monday night rally.

The demonstration went ahead nonetheless, including the usual rituals. It was capped by a speech by Tatjana Festerling, a former member of the AfD. Festerling channeled the spirit of the day by demanding an end to “Nazi paranoia” and the “cult of guilt”. “Cult of guilt” (Schuldkult) is a phrase that was coined in the early 1990s. It is a highly loaded term that is used almost exclusively by the NPD and other right-wing extremist groups whenever the crimes of the Nazis are mentioned. That Festerling would use that word, on that day, and that the crowds would cheer, is significant.

Nov 072015

The (conservative) union of grammar school teachers in the east German state of Sachsen-Anhalt has appealed to their members to discourage “girls from the age of 12” from “casual sexual encounters with certainly attractive Muslim men” (page 2). In the same editorial, the association’s president and his deputy voice concerns about “an immigrant invasion”, hint that many of the new arrivals are “young, strong, and often Muslims”, and observe that it is only natural that “young, often uneducated men” want, well, sex. Preferably with East German grammar school girls, it would seem.

Obviously, you have to be a leading member of a “Philologenverband” to be casually xenophobic and misogynistic in a single short statement (and who let all those foreign words sneak in from the Eastern Med?). But for anyone studying racism and ethnic conflict, it sounds awfully familiar. More interesting perhaps is the level of public backlash that has been building up since the story broke yesterday (see link below).

Oct 252015

cologne photoOn the coattails of the Pegida anniversary, here is another far-right jubilee: A year on, self-declared hooligans have gathered once more for a “Hooligans against Salafists” (HoGeSa – those guys clearly love their acronyms) rally in Cologne. The two events could not have been more different. While Pegida is a largely regional weekly fixture that seems to feed on local networks, HoGeSa was supposed to be a national gathering in a very hostile environment. While Pegida claims (or claimed) to be a citizens’ movement that ruled out any connections with neo nazis, the HoGeSa organisers boast their uncivic credentials (click the link below to see what I mean).

And while Pegida seems to be on the rebound, counter-marchers ountnumbered a thousand hooligans by a factor of at least ten. Just as Dresden has become a focus for right-wing mobilisation since 1990, Cologne is very good at left-wing counter-mobilisation. The use of water canons against left-wingers made some international headlines, but that is good sport in Germany. Incidentally, there were no Salafists to be seen.

The larger issue, however, is that right-wingers of all shades are back on the street, trying to build networks. In that sense (and I think only in that sense), it’s like the 1990s all over again.

Oct 222015

This week’s Pegida-style AfD march in Erfurt was a bit underwhelming, but Björn Höcke had a much bigger stage when he appeared in a popular talk show. It was probably the first time that a national audience was exposed to the more radical streams within the AfD. It was also the first time that Frauke Petry, the new leader, semi-publicly criticised Höcke (in an email she sent to all party members) and asked (ordered?) the man whom her predecessor wanted to remove from the party to take down his rhetoric a few notches. Höcke’s patriotic platform (whose support was instrumental for Petry’s election) has now launched a counter attack. Time for another putsch?

Oct 132015

In Dresden, the style of political conflict has plunged to a new low yesterday night when Pegida marchers carried gallows “reserved for Merkel and [vice chancellor and SPD leader] Gabriel” – a classic extreme right prop that nicely complements the usual rallying cries of “lying press” and “traitors of the people”. At first I was a bit sceptical about the authenticity of the pictures on twitter, but this one was snapped by a journalist for public broadcaster Deutschlandfunk, who retweeted it, together with the backstory. It’s now another case for the prosecutor (incitement, which carries a penalty of up to five years – still better than a high treason charge, I guess).

With all the excitement about Pegida (they are back to 8,000-10,000 marchers each Monday, still considerably lower than the 25,000 they could muster in January), it’s easy to overlook that Pegida is still is, and has mostly been confined to Dresden and the surrounding area, which has a disturbing history of extreme right mobilisation. Outside of (southern) Saxony, the various -gida branch organisations quickly collapsed.pegida

But remarkably, the AfD state party in Thuringia is hell-bent to become Pegida’s structural equivalent, with thousands sometimes violent protesters marching the streets of sleepy Erfurt on Monday nights (as always, the Blick nach Rechts blog has the juicy details). That just goes to show that the Lucke-less AfD is still a pretty heterogeneous bunch, with powerful, largely independent state-level leaders representing different brands of rightism. In the case of Thuringia, the local leader seems to be gunning for that tiny spot just to the left of traditional right-wing extremism.

To end on a more heart-warming note, Frauke Petry (boss of the state party in Saxony and newly minted national leader) has informed the party faithful that she and Marcus Pretzell (ally, leader in North Rhine-Westphalia, UKIP admirer and formerly one of Lucke’s bug bears) are now officially “more than just friends”. Yet, while there is such a thing as too much information, there is no such thing as an unmixed blessing: In an act of apparent revenge, Petry’s soon to be ex-husband has joined the CDU and began tweeting pro-refugee messages.

Oct 012015

One major asset of the pre-Petry AfD was its disconnect from the Extreme Right. But the AfD in Thuringia has always been a funny bunch, and Lucke tried (without success) to remove its leader Björn Höcke from the party.

erfurt photo

Photo by Tekniska museet

With Lucke gone and asylum applications at a record high, Höcke is now organising large-scale anti-refugee demonstrations in front of the Thuringia state parliament, which, by strange coincidence, attract sizable numbers of hooligans, neo-nazis, and NPD supporters. For more details, have a look at this article on the very useful Blick nach Rechts blog (in German).

Aug 282015

The latest iteration of my paper for next week’s APSA 2015 conference has just converged (some things never change). Click on the image for the full-fat 21-page PDF.

german-right-wing-internet-1“For obvious reasons, radical right mobilisation in Germany faces formidable institutional, political, and cultural obstacles. Previous outfits such as the ‘Republicans’ (REP), the ‘National Democrats’ (NPD), or the ‘German People’s Union’ (DVU) were occasionally successful at the local, regional, or EU level but were quickly stigmatised as neo-Nazi’s by mainstream political actors and the media and taken over by backward-looking political extremists who could not hope to attract a broader constituency.

The new ‘Alternative for Germany’ (AfD), however, was created by a group of disaffected right-wingers from Germany’s centre right parties and has so far avoided any involvement with the past. While the party stops short of embracing outright right-wing populism and hard-core euroscepticism, its somewhat ambivalent stance at the very margin of Germany’s party system has attracted a large number of activists from various right-wing backgrounds within a very short span of time, and has mobilised a substantial number of right-wing voters in five subsequent national and state-level elections.

Social media plays a crucial role for the party’s mobilisation strategy, with a reach that goes far beyond the party faithful: The AfD’s Facebook wall has become one of the largest right-wing forums on the German-speaking internet. While a ban on overt extremism is enforced by the party, the wall a platform for homophobes, immigration sceptics, Christian fundamentalists, Prussian nostalgics, anti-feminists, Islam critics, and just about everyone who opposes diversity and the policies that support it. While the wall directs activists, attention and resources towards the party, it also provides an echo-chamber for those who disagree with the relatively moderate policy proposals and general appearance of the current leadership. This exploratory paper looks at the role this page is playing not just for the AfD but more generally for the dynamics of the wider, highly diverse right-wing subculture in Germany.”

Jul 222015

A mere two weeks after being sacked as the AfD’s supreme leader, Bernd Lucke is back as presumably undisputed chair of the new “Alfa” (Allianz für Fortschritt und Aufbruch ~ Alliance for Progress and a New Beginning) party. Apparently, he already envisions a resounding success in the 2017 election and a possible role for Alfa/himself in a new centre right coalition.

Taking a more short-term view, what are Alfa’s assets? During the first week after the Essen conference, about 10 per cent of the AfD’s 22,000 members have left the party. Let’s assume that another 2,000 will follow, and that up to 90 per cent of those dissidents will eventually join Alfa (which is set to operate a complex system of black-balling and book-keeping to prevent infiltration by right-wingers, which, according to Lucke, was responsible for a lamentable transformation of “his” AfD). That would leave Alfa with a membership base of just under 4,000, which would be minuscule by any standard: less than a quarter of the rump-AfD, and less than ten per cent of what even the ailing FDP can still muster.

But you might argue that not all party members are created equal, and that Alfa will take on a disproportionate share of the (Western) AfD elites (and donors?) that used to support Lucke. Lucke himself is clearly the most important player: He still has access to the mainstream media, reputation, and connections. With him, four other of the seven MEPs have left the AfD. Trebesius and Kölmel (who were state party leaders in Baden-Württemberg and Schleswig-Holstein, respectively) have co-founded Alfa. Starbatty and Henkel, two market-liberal heavy-weights, are likely to join Alfa, too. The new party will clearly benefit from their standing, but also from the resources and privileges MEPs enjoy. In the city state of Bremen, the state party leader and two of four MPs have joined Alfa, and a third one might follow suit. In Hamburg, an MP who is also a former state party leader might join eventually, just like the dissidents in the AfD’s delegation in the state parliament of Thuringia. On the other hand, the AfD appears to remain united in two other Eastern strongholds, Brandenburg and Saxony.

Five reasonably prominent MEPs, seven members of state parliaments, and a potential 4,000 rank and file members are not too bad a start for a party that is less than a week old, but then again, Alfa is operating in a very crowded space: The FDP seems to be rebounding, and what remains of the AfD will put up a fight. Moreover, Lucke’s new message – very softly eurosceptic, protecting refugees from right-wing populists, and in favour of GM and biotechnology – is likely to confuse potential voters. The next set of Land elections (Rhineland-Palatinate, Baden-Württemberg, and Saxony-Anhalt) will be fun to watch. At least for the two western states, I expect that Alfa’s main result will be to further weaken the AfD.