The “Alternative for Germany” began its political life as a softly eurosceptic breakaway from the political mainstream but has changed beyond all recognition. Using a very large dataset covering the full 2013-17 period, Carl Berning and I trace the transformation of the AfD’s electorate, which now fits the somewhat stereotypical radical right template. Read the full article, or watch the highlights in just under 90 seconds.
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.
The AfD was founded near Germany’s financial centre of gravity (Frankfort) by members of the old western elites. But early on, the eastern states of Brandenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia became important for the further development of the party. It was here, during the 2014 state election season, that the AfD began to toy (very reluctantly at first) with anti-Muslim sentiment. And the ensuing radicalisation of the AfD was pushed by leaders from these three states (Gauland, Höcke, and Petry).
In the process, the south-east of the former GDR has become the AfD’s heartland. When Andre Poggenburg, another hardliner, broke away over the AfD’s alleged compromises (and his personal finances and conduct), he set up a new party for “Mitteldeutschland” – the ill-defined and sometimes ill-reputed part at the south-eastern edge of the country.
In the 2017 federal election, the AfD did extraordinarily well here. Most of the wards in which the AfD is the dominant party can be found in this corner of Germany.
The results of yesterday’s European election are similarly revealing. While their national performance – almost two points below their 2017 national result – must look disappointing from their point of view, they polled up to 33 per cent in some of the south-eastern districts, making them by far the strongest party. And the next round of voting (and government formation) in Brandenburg, Saxony, and Thuringia will be interesting, to say the least. If the cordon sanitaire holds, it could result in truly awkward coalitions. And if it doesn’t, all bets are off.
But quite apart from these more practical consequences, such levels of disparity are quite something to behold.
Germany – no EP electoral threshold for the last time
There are currently 111 ‘political associations’ registered with Germany’s federal electoral commission. 41 of them (counting the CDU and the CSU separately) are fielding candidates in the upcoming European elections.Why are they doing it? Narcissism aside, this is a national election that is held without an explicit electoral threshold (this is going to change), so even fringe parties have a real chance of winning a seat. Plus (and this is a big plus), if they manage to win at least 0.5 per cent of the vote, they qualify for Germany’s very generous system of public party funding.An even bigger plus is that regular participation in elections turns a mere ‘association’ into a proper party that enjoys a special privilege: it can only be banned by a super-majority in the Constitutional Court.This latter point is particularly relevant for parties at the the far-right of the far-right end of the political spectrum.
Who is more right-wing than the AfD?
There are several parties to the right of the AfD. The most prominent of these parties is the NPD. The Constitutional Court has ruled that their ideology closely resembles that of the original Nazi party but still refused to ban them, essentially because they are electoral irrelevant (they still managed to win a seat in the EP in 2014). In 2014, they garnered 301.139 votes (1%), which was enough to secure them a seat – currently their last one outside of local councils. Their lone MEP is former party leader Udo Voigt, a convicted Holocaust denier and Nazi apologist. I’m not in favour of using terms like “neo-fascist” with abandon. It’s misleading and hence bad science. But the NPD is literally a neo-Nazi party.
And then there is “Der Dritte Weg” (“The Third Way” – sorry, Anthony Giddens) – a party for people who think that the NPD is too modern and wimpish. Many of its ~500 members used to belong to militias that could be dissolved much more easily by the authorities than an organisation recognised as a party. They are a bunch of hyper-traditional right-wing street-fighters.
In terms of electoral support, the Third Way is less than irrelevant. They don’t even exist as a party in the northern states. In the most recent state election down here, they scored a cool 0.1 per cent, and I don’t think they have any candidates in this year’s local elections. But they have managed to draw up a list for the EP 2019. And, more specifically, they managed to put up a number of posters around our commuter rail station.
Right-wing extremist campaign posters from hell
These posters make it wonderfully clear what the Third Way is all about, and so I’ll cap off this year’s election posters from hell series with them. They are truly hellish, but in a different way. Here is the first one:
“Defend Europe – close the borders”. This one is a bit of disappointment. First, why defend “Europe”? Sure, there is the blackboard-style font which dropped out of favour in adverts ca 1955, urging as to “vote German”. There are also the oak leaves around the Roman numeral, but they are still in use by German authorities today. The silver-black thingy could be the muzzle of a gun or a surveillance camera or perhaps a modern take on the Volksempfänger radio. But all in all, the message is a bit too 21st century. So let’s move on.
This next first exhibit is much more exciting. We learn that the Third Way is both ‘national’ and ‘socialist’. So national-socialist. It does not get any clearer. And they are also ‘revolutionaries’ – all super obvious references to ‘leftist’ wing of the Nazi movement. Extra points for the hammer/sword combination, which represents the unity of workers and soldiers. It was used, inter alia, by left-leaning Nazis and the Hitler Jugend. Then, in the 1990s, it was adopted by the autonomous neo-Nazi groups (“freie Kameradschaften”) from which the Third Way emerged. Unlike other extreme right symbols, its use is also legal in Germany.
Next is this one:
So: multi-culturalism kills. How exactly? Presumably by diluting the pure blood of the in-group. Because apparently, it also leaves bloody hand-prints on freshly painted walls. A very similar poster by the NPD (“immigration kills”) was banned by the authorities for inciting hatred. Presumably, the Third Way got away (hah!) because they were overlooked.
Speaking of reasons for banning, there is this one:
A picture of a prison cell that it reserved for “traitors of the people” – yet another term that was used by he Nazis to justify violence and murder. I was mildly shocked that they stopped at the German version of “lock her up” and refrained from depicting a gallows.
If you are equally shocked and also confused to who exactly the traitors might be, in a bid to clarify the situation they present a handy list of traitors that need to be stopped:
The dots refer to the colours usually associated with German parties. And so the CDU/CSU are traitors b/c “asylum flood”, the SPD introduced the “Hartz IV” flexicurity legislation, the Greens are behind “gender madness”, and the Liberals want to unleash capitalism. So they want to put almost anybody in prison. Somewhat surprisingly, the Left and the AfD were not given any attention, perhaps because the colour-in thing became too confusing?
Two questions remain. First, how are these guys legal? The short answer is that banning a party is complicated and risky, and so for the time being, they are kept under observation and members will be prosecuted individually for stuff like breaking the peace. Second, where are your youthful neighbourhood anti-fascists when you need them? I have no answer to that.
What’s new in the bibliography?
It’s that time of the year again. Once more, I have updated the Erratic Extreme/Far/Radical/Populist Right Bibliography. After the book-chapter heavy winter update, we are back to normal: the spring update brings four books, two chapters, and 45 journal articles. Most of these were published in 2018, but some are almost two decades old. Please keep pointing out relevant publications to me.
Who has written all the new stuff?
You know what they say about pictures and words. I thought I should give the new-ish wordcloud2 package a spin. Here is the result. Before you get too envious (or too haughty), please remember that scale is proportional to the number of publications, not the word count, and that additions to the bibliography happen on a non-systematic and utterly eccentric basis: if I come across something that interests me, it gets in, whether it is your very first article or your whole back catalogue.
What is this new far right research about?
I stuffed the titles and (where I had them) abstracts into a dataset, forgot some obvious stop words (among? much? however?) and tried some lemmatisation (with mixed success). “Party”, “populist/populism”, and “radical” come out tops. Unsurprisingly, “immigration” is also prominent. But I find some of the smaller words more interesting. “Leave” is certainly a nod to Brexit. “Nord” is considerably smaller than “Lega”, reflecting the nationalisation (or at least the aspiration) of the former regionalists. “Unemployment” is certainly smaller than it would have been a decade or two ago. So is “extreme”. If you are interested in the fine print, click on the image for a larger, high-resolution version.
Follow the robot
If you care about Extreme/Far/Populist/Radical Right research and if you are on Twitter, consider following the Radical Right Research Robot for random updates, serendipitous insights, and the occasional awkward pun.
So: what titles exactly?
Here is the update, in all its glory:
Ackermann, Kathrin, Eros Zampieri, and Markus Freitag. 2018. “Personality and Voting for a Right-Wing Populist Party – Evidence from Switzerland.” Swiss Political Science Review 24 (4): 545–64. doi:10.1111/spsr.12330.
Albertazzi, Daniele. 2006a. “‘Back to Our Roots’ or Self-Confessed Manipulation? The Uses of the Past in the Lega Nord’s Positing of Padania.” National Identities 8 (1): 21–39. doi:10.1080/14608940600571222.
———. 2006b. “The Lega Dei Ticinesi. the Embodiment of Populism.” Politics 26 (2): 133–39. doi:10.1111/j.1467-9256.2006.00260.x.
———. 2016. “Going, Going, …Not Quite Gone yet? ‘Bossi’s Lega’ and the Survival of the Mass Party.” Contemporary Italian Politics 8 (2): 115–30. doi:10.1080/23248823.2016.1193349.
Albertazzi, Daniele, and Duncan McDonnell. 2005. “The Lega Nord in the Second Berlusconi Government: In a League of Its Own.” West European Politics 28 (5): 952–72. doi:10.1080/01402380500310600.
Albertazzi, Daniele, Arianna Giovannini, and Antonella Seddone. 2018. “‘No Regionalism Please, We Are Leghisti!’ the Transformation of the Italian Lega Nord Under the Leadership of Matteo Salvini.” Regional & Federal Studies 28 (5): 645–71. doi:10.1080/13597566.2018.1512977.
Albertazzi, Daniele, Duncan McDonnell, and James L. Newell. 2011. “Di Lotta E Di Governo: The Lega Nord and Rifondazione Comunista in Office.” Party Politics 17 (4): 471–87. doi:10.1177/1354068811400523.
Arzheimer, Kai. 2018. “Conceptual Confusion Is Not Always a Bad Thing: The Curious Case of European Radical Right Studies.” In Demokratie Und Entscheidung, edited by Karl Marker, Michael Roseneck, Annette Schmitt, and Jürgen Sirsch, 23–40. Wiesbaden: Springer. doi:10.1007/978-3-658-24529-0_3.
Bale, Tim. 2008. “Turning Round the Telescope. Centre-Right Parties and Immigration and Integration Policy in Europe.” Journal of European Public Policy 15 (3): 315–30. doi:10.1080/13501760701847341.
Blok, E.A. Lisanne de, and T.W.G. Tom van der Meer. 2018. “The Puzzling Effect of Residential Neighbourhoods on the Vote for the Radical Right an Individual-Level Panel Study on the Mechanisms Behind Neighbourhood Effects on Voting for the Dutch Freedom Party, 2010-2013.” Electoral Studies 53: 122–32. doi:https://doi.org/10.1016/j.electstud.2018.04.003.
Carter, Elisabeth. 2018. “Right-Wing Extremism/Radicalism. Reconstructing the Concept.” Journal of Political Ideologies 23 (2): 157–82. doi:10.1080/13569317.2018.1451227.
Dennison, James, and Andrew Geddes. 2018. “A Rising Tide? The Salience of Immigration and the Rise of Anti-Immigration Political Parties in Western Europe.” The Political Quarterly, online first. doi:10.1111/1467-923x.12620.
Downes, James F., and Matthew Loveless. 2018. “Centre Right and Radical Right Party Competition in Europe: Strategic Emphasis on Immigration, Anti-Incumbency, and Economic Crisis.” Electoral Studies 54: 148–58. doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2018.05.008.
Eger, Maureen A., and Sarah Valdez. 2018. “From Radical Right to Neo-Nationalist.” European Political Science. doi:10.1057/s41304-018-0160-0.
Elsas, Erika J. van. 2017. “Appealing to the ‘Losers’? The Electorates of Left-Wing and Right-Wing Eurosceptic Parties Compared, 1989-2014.” Electoral Studies 50: 68–79. doi:10.1016/j.electstud.2017.09.013.
Ford, Robert, and Matthew J. Goodwin. 2014. Revolt on the Right. Explaining Support for the Radical Right in Britain. London: Routledge.
Froio, Caterina. 2018. “Race, Religion, or Culture? Framing Islam Between Racism and Neo-Racism in the Online Network of the French Far Right.” Perspectives on Politics 16 (3): 696–709. doi:10.1017/S1537592718001573.
Green-Pedersen, Christoffer, and Pontus Odmalm. 2008. “Going Different Ways? Right-Wing Parties and the Immigrant Issue in Denmark and Sweden.” Journal of European Public Policy 15 (3): 367–81. doi:10.1080/13501760701847564.
Kaufmann, Eric. 2019. “Can Narratives of White Identity Reduce Opposition to Immigration and Support for Hard Brexit? A Survey Experiment.” Political Studies 67 (1): 31–46. doi:10.1177/0032321717740489.
Krekó, Péter, and Gregor Mayer. 2015. “Transforming Hungary – Together? An Analysis of the Fidesz-Jobbik Relationship.” In The East European Radical Right in the Political Process, edited by Michael Minkenberg, 183–205. Routledge.
Olsen, Jonathan. 2018. “The Left Party and the Afd.” German Politics and Society 36 (1): 70–83. doi:10.3167/gps.2018.360104.
Rooduijn, Matthijs. 2018a. “State of the Field: How to Study Populism and Adjacent Topics? A Plea for Both More and Less Focus.” European Journal of Political Research, online first. doi:10.1111/1475-6765.12314.
Salzborn, Samuel. 2018. “Antisemitism in the ‘Alternative for Germany’ Party.” German Politics and Society 36 (3): 74–93. doi:10.3167/gps.2018.360304.
Wirz, Dominique S., Martin Wettstein, Anne Schulz, Philipp Müller, Christian Schemer, Nicole Ernst, Frank Esser, and Werner Wirth. 2018. “The Effects of Right-Wing Populist Communication on Emotions and Cognitions Toward Immigrants.” The International Journal of Press/Politics 23 (4): 496–516. doi:10.1177/1940161218788956.
Last year, I did an interview with Luca Manucci for the Populism Observer blog. Luca had some great questions, and I did my best to answer them, based on other people’s and my own research. Though this is certainly not “all you need to know about radical right parties”. All in all, it was a very good experience.
The interview was well received on the interwebs, but I somehow never managed to link to it. Time to correct this omission!
Does local decline drive the radical right vote? Are recent immigrants and other minorities blamed for problems that have nothing to do with them? And, most importantly, how should policy maker address these problems?
My colleague Sarah De Lange presents and discusses headline findings from our SCoRE project at the European Policy Centre in Brussels. Also on the panel are Jolanda Jetten (University of Queensland), who looks at these questions from a social psychology perspective, Marie De Somer, who is Head of the European Migration and Diversity programme at the European Policy Centre, and Judith Sargentini, who is an MEP for GroenLinks.
The full policy brief including our main findings and recommendations is freely available from our website.
How do people in cities & the countryside react to the presence or absence of immigrants? How does local decline further radical right mobilisation? Are immigrants becoming convenient scapegoats for developments that have nothing to do with them?
Or does the daily interaction between immigrants and the native population foster positive contacts that lead to pro-immigration attitudes? And what role do self-selection of liberal-minded individuals into multi-cultural neighbourhoods on the one hand and “white flight” on the other play?
These are (I think) fascinating questions that have occupied me for a long time. Thanks to my fantastic colleagues in the SCoRE project, we are a bit closer to answering them. Tomorrow, we’ll present first findings and a couple of policy recommendations at an EPC event in Brussels. If you can’t/couldn’t make it to Belgium, watch this short video and read either the full policy brief or the executive summary.
As (West) European election years go, 2017 was quite something. The French party system changed beyond recognition. The radical right entered Germany’s national parliament for the first time. UKIP was wiped out, but May still managed to lose a comfortable majority. And very high fragmentation resulted in a coalition that looks improbable even by Dutch standards.
SCoRE is our multinational project that explores the link between local and regional living conditions on the one hand and radical right attitudes and behaviours in these four countries on the other. Sometimes, serendipity is really a thing. Because we had our individual-level data collection scheduled for this year anyway, we gained some unique insights into all four big Western European elections of 2017.
But perhaps you’re pressed for time or not sure if you really want to read four (fairly short) reports? With the European Parliamentary elections on the horizon, I made a short explainer/teaser video about them to bring you up to speed in just over two minutes. I have a hunch that afterwards, you will want to read all four pieces.
What is the “winter school” for Germany’s New Right?
This weekend, Alexander Gauland, co-leader of the AfD, will give a lecture at the annual “winter school”, a weekend seminar that is organised by the “Institut für Staatspolitik” (IfS). The IfS is a Wannabe-Nouvelle-Droite think tank based in Schnellroda, a tiny village in Saxony-Anhalt. Its mastermind is Götz Kubitschek, a far-right publisher, author and self-styled “New Right” intellectual.Kubitschek believes in meta-politic: a conscious attempt to alter the meaning of words and establish new frames, to shift discourses and to form the minds of new generations, all in a bid to change the course of the nation. He and his associates borrowed this concept from the French Nouvelle Droite, who in turn got some ideas from the German “Konservative Revolution” of the 1920s and 1930s and mixed them, ironically, with a bit of Gramsci.
Their “winter school” is a crucial part of the meta-political strategy. It is run exclusively for people under the age of 35. Students pay just 60 € for two nights, including full board and access to all lectures. If they subscribe to “Sezession”, a highbrow right-wing magazine published by Kubitschek and the IfS, this is further discounted to 40 €. Getting to Schnellroda is definitively the most costly part of the weekend. But why is Gauland going to Schnellroda as a speaker?
Schnellroda: Götz Kubitschek, the IfS, and the AfD
Kubitschek lives the Altdeutsch dream. More specifically, he lives in the local manor house, together his wife Ellen Kositza (also a far-right author) and their many children, who bear traditional Germanic names. We know all this from the newspapers. Kubitschek’s elite brand of far-right politics has attracted an unhealthy interest from mainstream journalists, who are occasionally allowed to visit the couple in exchange for half-gushy, half-disgusted home stories. Scientists are similarly intrigued, and there is a lot of research (in German) about the “New Right” networks Kubitschek and his ilk form. I sometimes wonder if his influence and importance are seriously overestimated.
In the past, Kubitschek’s radicalism and elitism made for an uneasy relationship with the AfD. In 2015, when the party’s transformation from soft-eurosceptic to radical right came under way, he and Kositza applied for membership. They were initially accepted, but within days, the national executive, then still controlled by Bernd Lucke, intervened and rejected their applications. Nonetheless, Kubitschek is closely involved with the most radical Eastern circles in the party, whose members regularly attend events at Schnellroda. It was here, at an IfS meeting, that Höcke made his infamous speech about “Africans”, and it was Kubitschek who put a video of that speech online.
In his characteristically cringeworthy style, Höcke has praised the manor house as a sort of spiritual home for the AfD’s hardliners. In turn, Kubitschek and Kositza have attended conferences organised by the “Flügel”, the far-right network that is now under scrutiny by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), i.e. the secret service.Kubitschek has also spoken at “Pegida” and “Legida” events. At the invitation of Matteo Salvini, he has attended a Lega conference, but he also has contacts to the neo-fascist Casa Pound and has even published a Casa-inspired book in translation. He is friends with Martin Sellner, one of the most prominent figures in the “Identitarian” movement, and works closely with Jürgen Elsässer, one of the most prominent figures of the German far-out-right. Kubitschek is no neo-Nazi – that would be far to vulgar. But he puts himself into the succession line of the “Konservative Revolution”, the young, revolutionary and above all anti-democratic movement that operated at the fringes of conservatism in the Weimar Republic and helped to pave the way for the real Nazis.
What is Gauland doing at the Schnellroda “Winter School”?
In short, the IfS’s “winter school” is a remarkable event for Gauland to attend, let alone to give a lecture. Gauland is by no means the first AfD politician to speak at Schnellroda, but as national co-leader and co-leader of the AfD’s caucus in the Bundestag, he is by far the most prominent one. Gauland has attended “Flügel” meetings in the past, and has repeatedly defended Höcke. But he is still widely seen as “bürgerlich”, because as a former high-ranking bureaucrat, CDU member and conservative journalist, he is a card-carrying member of the elite that has run this country for seven decades.
In a press conference this week, the BfV announced that they would put the Flügel under enhanced scrutiny, which can even include measures such as phone tapping. When a journalist asked whether this could also affect Gauland, the BfV’s president said that would depend on what kind of information they would come unearth in the coming weeks and months. In this situation, speaking at Schnellroda is either particularly brave or extraordinarily stupid. Either way, we have reached the point where, within a single week, we have learned that the leader of the biggest opposition party in the Bundestag a) may come under observation by the secret service and b) is the headline speaker at a notorious far-right gathering. What a time to be alive.
Andre Poggenburg, a prominent hardliner from Saxony-Anhalt, has left the AfD. He has already founded a new party. What does that mean for the AfD and German politics in general? I’ve made a short explainer video. Or, if you’re not the visual type, you can read an old-fashioned post on the latest breakaway from the AfD.