Dec 192013

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.

daklebtwat / / CC BY-NC-SA

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.

Dec 042013

Following the revelations about the forces’ disastrous failure to uncover (let alone catch) the murderous ‘Nationalsozialistischer Untergrund’ terror group, federal investigators have launched a fresh probe into some 3300 unsolved cases of (attempted) murder. According to Neue Osnabrücker Zeitung, they have identified 746 crimes that that could have been committed by right-wingers for political reasons. Official records. These cases will be referred back to regional police forces for further investigations. So far, the official number of right-wing murders since 1990 was in the region of some 60 cases. Seriously (though many people doubted this figure).

Ross & Cromarty Constabulary
conner395 / / CC BY

Here is the link to the original story (in German).

Apr 252013

German political parties enjoy a special constitutional protection. Only the Federal Government, the Bundestag (parliament), and the Federal Council can apply for a ban, and only the Federal Constitutional Court can declare a party unconstitutional and subsequently dissolve it. Over more than six decades, the court has banned two parties: the neo-Nazi SRP in 1952 and (slightly more controversially) the communist KPD in 1956. In both instances, it was the government who initiated the process.

Back in 2001, the then Red-Green government sought to ban the NPD. The attempt failed spectacularly because a qualified minority of the judges raised procedural concerns about the very large number of informers within the party, and the unwillingness of the state to provide the names of these people. While the whole thing was ill-advised, it is best seen as part of a larger symbolic drive against right-wing extremism, which was rampant after unification and fuelled a whole host of violent hate crimes. Back then, the government cajoled the CDU/CSU and FDP into supporting the cause, and all three institutions jointly applied for a ban, thereby raising the stakes and putting a lot of pressure on the court.

This time round, the Federal Council (dominated by the SPD and Green, but with support from the centre right-led state governments) pushes for a ban, while the government has long dragged its feet and finally came up with a statement saying that they would not co-sponsor the bid but still provide assistance. While this sounds half-baked, it might actually be a sensible position, given what sort of evidence against the NPD has been collected.

The most bizarre performance, however, was delivered in today’s debate in the Bundestag. CDU/CSU and FDP tabled a motion not to support the ban and won with their majority, while the opposition voted against. Then the SPD table a motion in favour of a ban. The government parties voted against, the Left and some Greens supported the move, of course to no avail. Next came the Left with their own motion, which was supported by the SPD while the Greens abstained. Finally, the Greens argued that issue should not be rushed through parliament. Now the government and the SPD voted against, while the Left abstained. Throughout the day, everyone agreed that the NPD (which, although bankrupt and electorally battered beyond recognition held their party conference last weekend) was indeed a very nasty party. Five months to go until election day.

Jan 132013

Every now and then, I spend a merry evening pulling half-forgotten manuscripts/preprints into this not-so-new website. So here is tonight’s potpourri:


Mar 122012

Colleagues/friends Matt Goodwin and Jocelyn Evans have created quite a stir with their report on the attitudes of BNP and UKIP supporters/voters. Obviously, UKIP is not happy at all about being lumped together with what remains of Nick Griffin’s party. Being introduced as a ‘polite alternative’ to the BNP (albeit with a rhetorical question mark) does not help, either. Today, Matt responds to their critics over at the Guardian’s ever more popular Comment is free section.

Whether UKIP likes it or not, this is fascinating stuff (for us aficionados). That their respondents predominantly young, male, undereducated and deeply worried about Muslims/immigrants hardly comes as a surprise. But there are some real innovations in this paper.

  • First, the N is huge (you need yougov or a very solid skull to interview ~2000 right-wingers). The sheer number of interviews makes it possible to differentiate between members, identifiers, supporters, and voters, something that is not normally possible.
  • Second, comparing BNP and UKIP supporters on the basis of a large sample makes a lot of substantive sense, whether UKIP likes it or not.
  • Third, Goodwin/Evans cleverly included items tapping into attitudes towards politically motivated violence in their survey. This allows them to connect existing research on voters with the sparse literature on militant activists.
Nov 142011

Unless you spent the last couple of days under a rock, you will have heard about the terrible series of (at least) ten neo-Nazi murders that has stunned Germany. In my view, three things are particularly remarkable about this crime.

First, the mainstream media including the public broadcasters and the left-liberal press refer to the series as ‘Dönermorde’, i.e. ‘Kebab Killings’, because most of the victims were small businessmen of Turkish origin. This is impious at any rate, and not exactly sensitive in the context of ethnically motivated violence.

Second, for most of the media the victims are ‘foreigners’ (‘Ausländer’), although they spent much of their lives in Germany. The BBC and other English-speaking media refer to ‘ethnic Turks’ or ‘persons of Turkish origin’. Much food for thought here.

Third, Germany has seventeen offices for the protection of the constitution (one in each state as well as a federal institution), effectively secret services that are given the task to observe extremists. Add to that the same number of federal and state criminal investigation offices, plus seventeen crime prosecution services, plus countless special branches and task forces who are supposed to keep an eye on Neo-Nazis.

These agencies are not understaffed or underfunded, and their employees are not lazy: In 2003, an attempt to ban the NPD collapsed because the party leadership had been infiltrated by so many undercover agents that some of the judges sitting on the Federal Constitutional Court were not sure the NPD had any political life of its own. How could the killers possibly escape this machine?


Three possible answers spring to mind:

  • Parts of the left claim that the state still turns a blind eye when it comes to right-wing extremism. That may or may not have been true in the past but is certainly not a correct description of the situation today. The various agencies’ performance has much improved over the last decade, and much of the increase in the number of reported hate-crimes is due to the fact that officers are now trained to look very carefully for extremist motives, and that the rules for collecting statistics have been harmonised.
  • Quite predictably, the right (and many politicians who specialise in Home Affairs) argue that coordination and communication between the various agencies need to be improved. While this may seem reasonable, this is a perennial and very delicate issue in Germany. For historical reasons, the constitution puts strict limits on the cooperation between secret services and the regular police. Moreover, policing is generally the domain of the states, which jealously guard their rights.
  • Finally, many observers just begin to wonder if one or more agencies were involved much closer with the killers than they let on at the moment. Nobody really seems to know how many Neo-Nazis are moonlighting as undercover agents for whom. Is it possible that agencies did not share their information with other institutions in order to protect their sources? Given the scale of the NPD disaster in 2003, it seems quite possible. I strongly
    suspect this is how the story will pan out over months to come.
Mar 202011

I’ve just finished a review of Tim Spier’s new book on the electorates of the Western European populist right for a yearbook. Since the yearbook is not due to appear before September, here’s the text for your edification (in German)

Tim Spier: Modernisierungsverlierer? Die Wählerschaft rechtspopulistischer
Parteien in Westeuropa. Wiesbaden: VS. 2010, 302 Seiten.

In fast allen westeuropäischen Ländern sind in den letzten drei Jahrzehnten elektoral relevante Parteien entstanden, die als „rechts“ einzuordnen sind, aber sich in ihrer Programmatik, ihrem politischen Stil und oft auch in ihrer internen Organisation deutlich von den bereits existierenden konservativen oder christdemokratischen Parteien abheben. In der Literatur wurde eine Vielzahl von Bezeichnungen wie „rechtsradikal“, „rechtsextrem“ oder „rechtspopulistisch“ vorgeschlagen, um die Besonderheiten dieser Parteiengruppe zu charakterisieren, ohne daß sich ein einziger Begriff hätte durchsetzen

Mindestens ebenso umfangreich wie die deutschsprachige und internationale Literatur zu diesen Parteien selbst ist das Schrifttum, das sich mit ihren Wählern beschäftigt. Neben einer nicht mehr überschaubaren Zahl von Länderstudien wurden seit den Pionierstudien der 1980er und frühen 1990er Jahre (Beyme1988Betz1993Kitschelt1995) eine ganze Reihe von vergleichenden Analysen publiziert, die die Gemeinsamkeiten und Unterschiede zwischen den Elektoraten der neuen Rechtsparteien in den Blick nehmen. Dabei zeigte sich immer wieder, daß die Parteien der Extremen Rechten in den verschiedenen Ländern eine vergleichbare soziale Basis haben und von denselben Themen – vor allem der Frage nach dem Zuzug von Nicht-Westeuropäern – profitieren.

In den Reigen dieser Analysen reiht sich nun die 2008 abgeschlossene Dissertation von Tim Spier ein, deren Buchfassung im letzten Jahr bei VS. erschienen ist. Der Aufbau des Buches entspricht der fast schon kanonischen Struktur einer Wähleranalyse: Auf die Einleitung folgt die Diskussion von Grundbegriffen, Indikatoren und Hypothesen, an die sich ein Überblicküber die verwendeten Daten (in diesem Fall die beiden ersten Wellen des European Social Survey von 2002 und 2004) und die eigentlichen Analysen anschließen.

Von vergleichbaren Arbeiten unterscheidet sich Spiers Beitrag vor allem dadurch, daß er sich auf eine einzigen Ansatz zur Erklärung der Wahl rechtspopulistischer (dies ist der von ihm bevorzugte Begriff) Parteien, nämlich auf die sogenannte „Modernisierungsverliererhypothese“ konzentriert und wesentliche Teile dieses Ansatzes in einer Vielzahl von Operationalisierungen empirisch überprüft. Dabei gelangt er zu dem Schluß, daß fast unabhängig von der exakten Operationalisierung bzw. Definition das Merkmal „Modernisierungsverlierer“ in allen acht untersuchten Ländern (Belgien, Deutschland, Dänemark, Frankreich, Italien, Niederlande, Norwegen,Österreich, Schweiz) die Wahrscheinlichkeit der Wahl einer rechtspopulistischen Partei
signifikant erhöht.

Die Zahl der von Spier überprüften Operationalisierungen ist beeindruckend: Neben eher naheliegenden Größen wie Arbeitslosigkeit und Klassenzugehörigkeit untersucht er den Effekt sieben weiterer Variablen, darunter die „soziale Exklusion“ der Betroffenen oder die Arbeit in einem „prekären“ Beschäftigungsverhältnis. Diese konzeptuelle Vielfalt ist kein Ausdruck von Beliebigkeit, sondern resultiert aus Spiers umfassender Lektüre der Literatur zum Modernisierungsverlierer-Ansatz.

Als dessen bekannteste Vertreter können zumindest im deutschen Sprachraum Scheuch und Klingemann (1967) gelten. Neben diesem Klassiker berücksichtigt Spier aber noch eine ganze Reihe ähnlicher Ansätze, die er zu einer (rekonstruierten) Modernisierungsverlierer-Theorie zu verbinden versucht.

Ganz generell verfügt Spier über einen ausgezeichneten Überblick über die deutschsprachige und internationale Literatur zu seinem Gegenstand. Sein Buch ist stringent aufgebaut und in weiten Teilen sehr gut lesbar, wenn man einmal davon absieht, daß der parallele Test von neun in Teilen doch recht ähnlichen Operationalisierungen, die sich alle auf denselben Gegenstand beziehen, zwangsläufig gewisse Redundanzen beinhaltet.

Zu bemängeln wäre im theoretischen Teil des Buches allenfalls, daß der Autor aus dem komplexen Verkettung kausaler Mechanismen, die Scheuch und Klingemann skizzieren (Arzheimer und Falter2002), nur das letzte bzw. vorletzte Glied, nämlich die – eventuell über „rechtsaffine“ Entscheidungen vermittelte – Verknüpfung zwischen Gruppenzugehörigkeit und Wahlentscheidung betrachtet. Dies führt im Ergebnis zu einer extrem fokussierten, aber auch sehr braven Analyse mit vorhersehbaren Ergebnissen.

Auch die empirische Überprüfung der Hypothesen bewegt sich im Rahmen des Erwartbaren. Einige der Kreuz- und Mittelwerttabellen hätten ohne weiteres in einen Anhang verschoben oder ganz entfallen können.

Die multivariaten Analysen beschränken sich auf binäre logistische Regressionen über den Gesamtdatensatz von acht Ländern, in denen Wähler der rechtspopulistischen Parteien allen anderen Wählern gegenübergestellt werden.
Richtigerweise schließt Spier die Existenz von Ländereffekten nicht a priori aus, sondern rechnet stets eine Variante seiner Modelle, die entsprechende Dummy-Variablen enthält. Dabei zeigt sich durchgängig, daß Unterschiede in der Zusammensetzung der Elektorate (etwa ein größerer Anteil von Modernisierungsverlierern oder politisch Unzufriedenen in einem Land) die großen Unterschiede in den Erfolgen der rechtspopulistischen Parteien etwa zwischen Deutschland und Österreich nicht vollständig zu erklären vermögen.

Wodurch diese Unterschiede zustande kommen bleibt weitgehend unklar und ist mit dem European Social Survey auch nicht zu klären. Dies ist nicht dem Autor anzulasten: Für eine weitergehende Analyse werden neben den Individualdaten auch längsschnittliche Makro-Daten benötigt, deren Analyse über Spiers Zielsetzung hinausgeht und eigene Probleme mit sich bringt.

Trotzdem hätte man sich an vor allem im letzten Teil der Arbeit gewünscht, daß der Autor analytisch noch etwas stärker in die Tiefe geht und beispielsweise prüft, ob die Variablen, die den Status als Modernisierungsverlierer repräsentieren, in allen Ländern den gleichen Effekt haben. Vor allem hätte man aber die von Scheuch und Klingemann postulierten Mechanismen, nach denen objektiven Eigenschaften und subjektiven Einstellungen bei der Wahl der Rechten zusammenspielen, noch etwas differenzierter betrachten können.

Spier nähert sich dieser Frage, in dem er nach der ausführlichen Betrachtung objektiver Merkmale analog dazu die Wirkung von Einstellungen untersucht und schließlich beide Variablengruppen in einem Gesamtmodell kombiniert, das – zusammen mit den Ländereffekten – die Wahl der rechtspopulistischen Parteien recht gut erklären kann. Positiv hervorzuheben ist hier vor allem, daß Spier die Wirkung eines generalisierten Mißtrauens gegenüber anderen Menschen („Misanthropie“) berücksichtigt und so eine Verknüpfung mit der Sozialkapitaldebatte und der älteren Diskussion über soziale Desintegration und Rechtsextremismus herstellt.

Darüber hinaus zeigt sich, daß sich die Effekte der Mondernisierungsverlierer-Variablen gegenüber dem Ausgangsmodell deutlich abschwächen, wenn die Einstellungen kontrolliert werden. Dieser Befund bedeutet, daß ganz im Sinne der Theorie die Einstellungen der befragten Wähler zumindest teilweise als eine intervenierende Variable  wirken. Zugleich gibt es aber (1) Effekte des Modernisierungsverlierer-Status auf die Wahlentscheidung, die unabhängig
von den hier betrachteten Einstellungen sind und (2) Antezedenzien der Einstellungvariablen, die nichts mit dem Modernisierungsverlierer-Status zu tun haben. Mit Hilfe eines Pfadmodells hätte man die entsprechenden Kausalpfeile direkt abbilden und ihre Relevanz über die acht Länder hinweg vergleichen können, was das Argument noch einmal etwas stärker gemacht hätte.

Dies alles tut der Leistung des Autors aber keinen Abbruch. Tim Spier hat mit akribischer Gründlichkeit den zentra len Aspekt einer der prominentesten Ansätze zur Wahl der neuen Rechten operationalisiert. Daß Modernisierungsverlierer eine überproportionale Neigung zur Wahl der neuen Rechten haben, wird in der wissenschaftlichen und politischen Diskussion allzu oft als selbstverständlich vorausgesetzt. Spiers Verdienst ist es, daß er auf breiterempirischer Basis gezeigt hat, daß dies in acht wichtigen westeuropäischen Ländern tatsächlich der Fall ist.


Arzheimer, Kai und Jürgen W. Falter (2002): Die Pathologie
des Normalen. Eine Anwendung des Scheuch-Klingemann-Modells zur
Erklärung rechtsextremen Denkens und Verhaltens, in: Dieter Fuchs,
Edeltraud Roller und Bernhard Weßels (Hrsg.): Bürger und Demokratie in
Ost und West. Studien zur politischen Kultur und zum politischen Prozeß.
Wiesbaden, Westdeutscher Verlag, S. 85–107.

Betz, Hans-Georg (1993): The New Politics of Resentment. Radical
Right-Wing Populist Parties in Western Europe, in: Comparative Politics
25, S. 413–427.

Beyme, Klaus (Hrsg.) (1988): Right-Wing Extremism in Western Europe.
London, Frank Cass.

Kitschelt, Herbert (1995): The Radical Right in Western Europe. A
Comparative Analysis. Ann Arbor, The University of Michigan Press.

Scheuch, Erwin K. und Hans-Dieter Klingemann (1967): Theorie des
Rechtsradikalismus in westlichen Industriegesellschaften, in: Hamburger
Jahrbuch für Wirtschafts- und Sozialpolitik 12, S. 11–29.


Apr 262009

Here is the (almost) finalised program for the our section on the Radical Right in Perspective, organised under the auspices of the ECPR’s 5th General Conference (Potsdam, September 10-12), boasting about 50 papers.

  • Post-Soviet Russian Nationalism: Ideology, Context, Comparison
    • The ‘New Political Novel’ by Right-Wing Writers in Post-Soviet Russia
    • Ethnic Conflict and Radical Right in Estonia: An Explosive Mixture?
    • How far is Moscow Weimar? Similarities and Dissimilarities between Inter-War Germany and Post-Soviet Russia
    • From Communist Totalitarianism to Right-wing Radicalism: The Dynamics of the Crimean Peripheral Politics and Its Impact on the Ukrainian State
    • Moderating/Mediating the Extreme: The Accommodation of Xenophobic Nationalist Views on Vladimir Pozner’s Vremena Programme
    • Right-wing extremism among immigrant adolescents from the FSU in Israel and Germany
  • The causes for the success and failure of the radical right in Central and Eastern Europe
    • Are there opportunity structures for the Radical Right? A comparative analysis of the Visegrad Group countries.
    • Explaining the failure of radical right parties in Estonia
    • Manoeuvring for the Right: Atypical Features of a Bulgarian Radical Right-Wing Party
    • The Diffusion of Radical Right Ideology in Central-Eastern Europe: Cultural Resonance and Issue Ownership Strategies as Factors Behind Electoral Support Takeover
    • The Radical Right in Bulgaria
    • From Alienation of the Working Class to the Rise of the Far Right? Party Strategy and Cleavage Evolution in Post-Communist Societies
  • On the Borderline Between Protest and Violence: Political Movements of the New Radical Right
    • Radical Right and the Use of Political Violence: Idealist Hearths in Turkey in the 1970s.
    • Extreme Right and Populism: a Frame Analysis of Extreme Right Wing Discourses in Italy and Germany
    • “Armed spontaneism”: an independent revolutionary way in the Italian extreme right-wing groups
    • Movement Against Illegal Immigration: analysis of the central node in the Russian extreme-right movement network
    • Mobilizing Activism: A comparative analysis of the contemporary Right-Wing Extremists and Islamists in Germany
    • Why There has been Little Violence among East European Radicals? Transformations of Tolerance in Post-peasant Eastern Europe
  • Consequences of the surge of anti-immigration parties
    • Anti-immigrant party support and newspaper coverage: a cross-national and over-time perspective
    • A Populist Zeitgeist? Populist Discourse among Mainstream Political Parties in Western Europe
    • The Surge of the Swiss Peoples Party: Implications at Switzerland’s Subnational Level
    • Immigration policy and the populist radical right in office: The policy impact of the FPÖ/BZÖ, 2000-06
    • Rhetoric or reality? Platforms and actions of anti-immigration parties
  • The Radical Right in Western Europe
    • A Matter of Timing? The Salience of Immigration and the Dynamics of Radical Right Electoral Success
    • Old Cleavages and New Actors in the Formation of a New Cultural Divide: Why a Right-Wing Populist Party Emerged in France but not in Germany
    • The Programmatic Positions of Established Parties and their Influence on Extreme Right Parties Vote Share
    • The Influence of the Programs of Far Right Parties on the Electoral System
    • Radical Right, Populism and the Fear of Democracy
    • Explaining anti-immigrant party support in Western Europe: individual grievances, elite failure or social context?
    • Comparing radical right party ideology and the voters’ profile and attitudes: a study on the Danish People’s Party, the Northern League and the Austrian Freedom Party
  • Inside the Radical Right: An Internalist Perspective
    • The Public Image of Leaders of Right-Wing Populist Parties: the Role of the Mass Media
    • ‘This rally is a must’ – Which factors lead neo-Nazis to take part in demonstration marches?
    • Right-wing extremist groups and Internet: Construction of Identity, Source of Mobilization and Organization
    • “Enemy from inside” the party and … inside us? What the researcher does to the local teams of the radical right in France: return to a possible controversial relationship
    • Pan-German student fraternities and the Austrian Freedom Party: A reciprocal relationship
  • Party-based Euroscepticism in Western and Eastern Europe
    • europeanization of euroscepticism? the significance of european parliament groups and factions for the typology and ideological classification of party-based euroscepticism
    • euroscepticism of turkish political parties
    • hellenes-barbarians and european civilization: a conceptual approach to the ideologies of the greek far right.
    • hungary – between euroenthusiasm and euroscepticsm
    • radical right euroscepticism and the theory of strategic choice
  • neighbourhood effects revisited: the visualisation of immigrants and radical right-wing vote
    • Presence of Migrants and Radical Right Support across Different Levels of National Institutionalisation
    • Exploring the Contextual Determinants of the anti-immigrant vote: The Case of the LPF
    • Explaining the extreme right resurgence in English local elections 2002-8: a spatial model of aggregate data
    • Ethnic Identity of Second Generation Immigrants across German Regions
    • Radical right’s neighbourhoods: considering meso level explanations for its success through a case-study at the local level
    • Is Local Diversity Harmful for Social Capital? A Multilevel Research on Flemish Data
    • Immigration, diversity and civic culture in Spain
  • The radical right and the debate over immigration policy
    • After Fortuyn: new radical right-wing populist parties in the Netherlands
    • Plataforma per Catalunya: emergence, features and quest for legitimacy of a new radical right party in the Spanish autonomous region of Catalonia
    • The impact of anti-immigration parties: a comparison between the Flemish VB and the Walloon FN
    • The (de)politicization of immigrant integration and policy outcome in Belgium.

The program is still somewhat in flux, and any omissions are accidental.

Mar 192009

Colleagues Andrea Römmele and Thorsten Faas have set up a new blog that will cover the many German elections of 2009 (seats in the federal parliament, several state parliaments, local councils as well as the presidency are all up for grabs) and asked me to contribute. How could I resist them? “Wahlen nach Zahlen” (voting by numbers) is not yet public, but since it is already indexed by Google et al., why not spill the beans? There are already four posts (in German), and the list of (potential) contributors looks pretty good. And here is my inaugural post on right-wing extremism amongst German youngsters.