Leader That the far-right AFD’s support is increasing in Germany right now is no coincidence. Dissatisfaction with the government shifts the game and plays into the hands of the far right.
According to the latest opinion polls would the far-right Alternative for Germany party become third largest if there were elections to the Bundestag today. In addition, the party is a few percent away from overtaking the social democratic SPD as the country’s second largest.
AFD was formed in 2013 as a breakaway from the Christian Democratic CDU and is rapidly moving from right-wing conservative to far-right. The lot is now under surveillance by the German security service because its ideology and programs “risk damaging German democracy”. The Youth Association, Young Alternative for Germany, is in turn classified as an extremist organization.
The party’s first election to the Bundestag in 2017 was a success: 12.6 percent. Four years later, AFD backs down and there is talk that the party’s support has hit the roof. But in eastern Germany – in cities such as Dresden, Chemnitz and Leipzig – success continues.
That it is precisely in the east that the radical right has the strongest support is no coincidence.
Parties like the AFD distort history by painting false promises about how it once was and how it can be again. Only Germany will be German again.
1988 publishes the East German civil rights activist, writer and filmmaker Konrad Weiß a compilation of the activities of the extreme right in the GDR. The conclusion is that at least since the sixties there have been more or less organized right-wing extremist groups. During the eighties, the activity has also multiplied. Weiß believes that fascism and right-wing radicalism are products of society and points out that Eastern Germany “never had the chance to carry on the democratic traditions from either the revolution of 1848 or the Weimar Republic [..] instead, a dictatorship of the proletariat with a Stalinist core was imposed.”
In other words, the breeding ground has always existed.
That AFD’s support is swelling right now is also no coincidence. The war in Ukraine. The controversial arms deliveries. The energy crisis. Electricity prices. The inflationary spiral. Dissatisfaction with the government’s handling shifts the game plan, playing into the hands of the far right.
Although more than thirty years have passed since the fall of the wall, the differences between East and West are evident in more or less all key figures: health, life expectancy, income, education. At the same time, the portrayal of East Germany as something fundamentally different, elusive, functions as part of the fuel of the radical right. Parties like the AFD distort history by painting false promises about how it once was and how it can be again. Only Germany will be German again.
The threat can only be met by the parties that are opposed to the extreme right’s programs and methods. It is, of course, about protecting human value and being able to stand up for the open society. But it is just as much about material issues. Electricity and food prices. Sensible welfare. Jobs and life chances. The recession can be tackled with policies that distribute burdens and challenges fairly. Which does not disproportionately affect groups already living desperately close to the margins.
History shows with rare blackness how fragile society is in the face of crises that divide people and erode trust in the common. The 2023 of inflation, war and recession is no exception.