X Close

German democracy is not under threat

Far-Right and neo-Nazi demonstrators in Halle, Germany. Credit: Getty

August 18, 2023 - 10:30am

In Germany, anti-EU, anti-Nato, pro-Right sentiment has been rising to 20% (the highest ever) for some months. So Germans have been understandably shaken by the revelation of official figures showing almost openly neo-Nazi activity mushrooming as well.

Groups like Die Heimat (“Homeland”) and the Free Saxons don’t even pretend to be loyal to the holy German constitution: they don’t actually sport the swastika, because that would be a crime in Germany, but they do pretty well everything else. And there were officially 162 meetings of such people, classed as “Right-wing extremists” (and therefore of interest to the security apparatus) in the first six months of 2023 — a 300% rise on the first six months of 2022.

Even more scary is the possibility of a continuum between these would-be paramilitary racist warlords and the AfD. The AfD insists that it has an “incompatibility list” of non-democratic extremists with whom it will not work, but three weeks ago, investigative journalists from Germany’s biggest news magazine, Der Spiegel, showed that some of the most senior AfD figures seem not to have read it. As the magazine reported a few weeks ago, AfD “contacts with Neo-Nazis” exist — and are most “intense” in the east.

In other words, Germany is being confronted with the deeply grim possibility that voters are not turned off by the AfD when the supposed divide between its members and open neo-Nazis is becoming increasingly blurred. And yet, the fact that this threat comes disproportionately from voters in the east should reassure democratic Germans, not scare them.

The east of Germany isn’t voting for Right-wing populist authoritarians because of immigration (or vaccination, or heat-pump legislation, or whatever). People there have been voting for Right-wing populist authoritarians ever since they got the vote. Bismarck’s Prussian Conservatives, the openly anti-democratic Deutsch-Nationale Volkspartei after 1919 and, of course, the NSDAP all depended for the national clout on votes from the East. It’s not about policies, it’s cultural history. The founder of sociology, Max Weber, saw this fundamental split back in the 1890s, and invented a special term for the German east of his day: “Ostelbien” (east Elbia).

Germany isn’t a homogenous nation-state, but a land split — like America — into regions with deep and ancient differences. While populist feeling is certainly on the rise, it has not spread throughout the whole country. The AfD may be on 21% now, but it was on 17% back in the autumn of 2018, when another 11% of German voters backed the Left-wing party, Die Linke — a party not all too different from the AfD (its supposedly polar opposite): anti-Nato, suspicious of the EU, with a distinct tendency to Russophilia — and far stronger in the east than the west. In other words, five years ago 28% of Germans nationwide were ready to back this classic political “horseshoe-formation” of hard-Right and hard-Left who meet round the back. But with the collapse of Die Linke, that figure is now only 24%.

Taken as a whole, the threat in the East is less than it was five years ago. And if would-be  political leaders there associate with people who clearly want to overthrow the state by violence, they will meet the same ends as the Baader-Meinhof did. It didn’t destroy German democracy in the 1970s — and it won’t do so today.

Correction: an earlier version of this piece stated ‘Red Brigades’. It has been changed to ‘Red Army Faction’ (Baader-Meinhof).


James Hawes’s The Shortest History of Germany is out in over 20 countries. The Shortest History of England is just out.

 

jameshawes2

Join the discussion


Join like minded readers that support our journalism by becoming a paid subscriber


To join the discussion in the comments, become a paid subscriber.

Join like minded readers that support our journalism, read unlimited articles and enjoy other subscriber-only benefits.

Subscribe
Subscribe
Notify of
guest

31 Comments
Most Voted
Newest Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
11 months ago

The ruling parties are losing support because they are importing millions of people from the most violent, corrupt, religiously divided parts of the world, from cultures entirely incompatible with modern western liberal democracy. They are also pursuing an insane fantasy that Germany, a major industrial and manufacturing nation can meet its energy needs from wind, solar and some non-existent technology that will solve the intractable intermittency problem.
People are voicing their opposition through the legitimate democratic process. The point of democracy is that is ensures that those in power do the things that the citizens want, and not what they want. If major parties in Germany want to stop the AFD there is a very simple, democratic solution: stop pursuing the policies that are making them increasingly unpopular.
What the author and others like him are suggesting, is that the major parties in Germany should be freed from the obligation to respond to the wants of the people. That they should be allowed to plough ahead with turning Germany in to a third world cesspit and destroy its industry and economy without having to moderate their policies. If voters object to these things, then they will just take the option to object away from them by banning political parties who oppose them.
This disgusting, undemocratic move towards totalitarianism is, to a large extent, an inevitable result of great follies such as Net Zero and open borders. The economic and social costs of these policies is extraordinary. They will impoverish nations and lead to ever increasing ethnic conflict. Naturally, at some point voters will reject them and vote out established parties. What are such established parties to do when democracy threatens to stop the response to the “climate emergency” that they claim will destroy the planet and lead to mass extinction? It’s not hard to see that for many the answer will be that saving the planet is far too important to allow democracy to intervene.
The impoverishment that Net Zero inevitably entails, and democracy, are wholly incompatible. Government can do what they are doing now, which is to indoctrinate children, seek to censor, socially outcast and criminalise “climate deniers”, but when people see their lifestyles degenerating and their wealth disappearing, they are going to vote against Net Zero. What happens now in Germany will be an interesting indicator of how far Net Zero zealots are prepared to go. If they are threatening to suspend democratic representation to opposition at these early stages, it does not portend well for the future.

Last edited 11 months ago by Marcus Leach
Jeff Watkins
Jeff Watkins
11 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

A very good summary of the situation facing most European countries including the UK. Sums it all up beautifully!!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

I agree. If established political parties keep pushing policies the electorate don’t want, and refuse to modify those policies, the outcome will be greater support for populist parties that will respond to the electorate.

However, the author illustrates some nuance to the political situation in Germany that I was not aware of and appreciate.

Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I would take the author with a pinch of salt. For example he states that East German’s :”have been voting for Right-wing populist authoritarians ever since they got the vote”.
Looking back at the results of German federal elections, until recently, East Germans consistently voted overwhelmingly for the mainstream centre-right CSU/CDU (Merkel’a party) union.
Further, the 2021 federal election saw the left wing SDP make large gains in the north east of Germany. Rather than moving to the right, large numbers shifted to the left.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Ya. Sounds like a pretty big fail there. Thanks for that info.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Ya. Sounds like a pretty big fail there. Thanks for that info.

Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
11 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

I would take the author with a pinch of salt. For example he states that East German’s :”have been voting for Right-wing populist authoritarians ever since they got the vote”.
Looking back at the results of German federal elections, until recently, East Germans consistently voted overwhelmingly for the mainstream centre-right CSU/CDU (Merkel’a party) union.
Further, the 2021 federal election saw the left wing SDP make large gains in the north east of Germany. Rather than moving to the right, large numbers shifted to the left.

Peter D
Peter D
11 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Spot on Marcus. It does not surprises me that many Germans are thumbing their noses at the government when the government is ignoring the people. The Ampel care more about immigrants who are vastly different from Germans and Net Zero than they do the German people.
I personally believe that the political establishment refusing to engage with large swathes of the society and branding them as the “bad guys” to be highly irresponsible, unless of course, they are seeking a conflict in the future.

Jeff Watkins
Jeff Watkins
11 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

A very good summary of the situation facing most European countries including the UK. Sums it all up beautifully!!

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

I agree. If established political parties keep pushing policies the electorate don’t want, and refuse to modify those policies, the outcome will be greater support for populist parties that will respond to the electorate.

However, the author illustrates some nuance to the political situation in Germany that I was not aware of and appreciate.

Peter D
Peter D
11 months ago
Reply to  Marcus Leach

Spot on Marcus. It does not surprises me that many Germans are thumbing their noses at the government when the government is ignoring the people. The Ampel care more about immigrants who are vastly different from Germans and Net Zero than they do the German people.
I personally believe that the political establishment refusing to engage with large swathes of the society and branding them as the “bad guys” to be highly irresponsible, unless of course, they are seeking a conflict in the future.

Marcus Leach
Marcus Leach
11 months ago

The ruling parties are losing support because they are importing millions of people from the most violent, corrupt, religiously divided parts of the world, from cultures entirely incompatible with modern western liberal democracy. They are also pursuing an insane fantasy that Germany, a major industrial and manufacturing nation can meet its energy needs from wind, solar and some non-existent technology that will solve the intractable intermittency problem.
People are voicing their opposition through the legitimate democratic process. The point of democracy is that is ensures that those in power do the things that the citizens want, and not what they want. If major parties in Germany want to stop the AFD there is a very simple, democratic solution: stop pursuing the policies that are making them increasingly unpopular.
What the author and others like him are suggesting, is that the major parties in Germany should be freed from the obligation to respond to the wants of the people. That they should be allowed to plough ahead with turning Germany in to a third world cesspit and destroy its industry and economy without having to moderate their policies. If voters object to these things, then they will just take the option to object away from them by banning political parties who oppose them.
This disgusting, undemocratic move towards totalitarianism is, to a large extent, an inevitable result of great follies such as Net Zero and open borders. The economic and social costs of these policies is extraordinary. They will impoverish nations and lead to ever increasing ethnic conflict. Naturally, at some point voters will reject them and vote out established parties. What are such established parties to do when democracy threatens to stop the response to the “climate emergency” that they claim will destroy the planet and lead to mass extinction? It’s not hard to see that for many the answer will be that saving the planet is far too important to allow democracy to intervene.
The impoverishment that Net Zero inevitably entails, and democracy, are wholly incompatible. Government can do what they are doing now, which is to indoctrinate children, seek to censor, socially outcast and criminalise “climate deniers”, but when people see their lifestyles degenerating and their wealth disappearing, they are going to vote against Net Zero. What happens now in Germany will be an interesting indicator of how far Net Zero zealots are prepared to go. If they are threatening to suspend democratic representation to opposition at these early stages, it does not portend well for the future.

Last edited 11 months ago by Marcus Leach
Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
11 months ago

I have to contradict the author, historically the biggest support for the NSDAP came from the South. Hitler himself was born in a small Austrian town bordering Bavaria. His “Bierkeller Putsch” took place in Munich and some of the fiercest Nazis were from Bavaria and Austria. There are currently some extreme right wing groups in East Germany, but in 2022 about 130 people, belonging to the so called “Reichsbürger”, were arrested all over Germany, supposedly planning a putsch to overthrow German Democracy. One former member of the AfD was amongst them. The leader of the group, a Prince Reuss, seems to be a meddled up aristocrat with plenty of conspiracy theories and so far no trial took place yet.
The AfD was started by some economists and Conservative politicians as an alternative to Merkel’s economic policies (against her endless “rescue packages” for indebted EU member states) and was mainly a reform party for the EU. But in the meantime many of the original founders dropped out, because the party began to integrate more rightwingnand nationalistic politicians, some of them from the East. But the reason, why those right wing members gained more traction in the party was also thanks to Merkel abandoning any pride in Germany as a Nation State ( dirty Word nowadays) as she let in literally millions of migrants and in her last days of government couldn’t stop shaking just listening to the German anthem and once even passed a German flag to a bystander in disgust.
Now the AfD is a medley of nationalistic members, some of them have socialistic tendencies, and more moderate politicians like Alice Weidel, who basically took over many of Conservative policies from the CDU, which Merkel abandoned. The 21% of the recent approval rate for the AfD comes from many disenchanted former voters from the CDU, FDP and even SPD. These main stream parties seem to disregard their voter base for the same woke/green policies and acceptance of an endless stream of migrants and happily accept any decrees from the top brass of the EU bureaucracy. Many German voters are sick and tired watching their country being basically deindustrialised. If the Ampel coalition survives this year, the AfD will swell even more till some sane politicians from the established parties will have “Alternative” policies to the current mess.

Last edited 11 months ago by Stephanie Surface
Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago

Great post.

Marianne Kornbluh
Marianne Kornbluh
11 months ago

Excellent post.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
11 months ago

Great post.

Marianne Kornbluh
Marianne Kornbluh
11 months ago

Excellent post.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
11 months ago

I have to contradict the author, historically the biggest support for the NSDAP came from the South. Hitler himself was born in a small Austrian town bordering Bavaria. His “Bierkeller Putsch” took place in Munich and some of the fiercest Nazis were from Bavaria and Austria. There are currently some extreme right wing groups in East Germany, but in 2022 about 130 people, belonging to the so called “Reichsbürger”, were arrested all over Germany, supposedly planning a putsch to overthrow German Democracy. One former member of the AfD was amongst them. The leader of the group, a Prince Reuss, seems to be a meddled up aristocrat with plenty of conspiracy theories and so far no trial took place yet.
The AfD was started by some economists and Conservative politicians as an alternative to Merkel’s economic policies (against her endless “rescue packages” for indebted EU member states) and was mainly a reform party for the EU. But in the meantime many of the original founders dropped out, because the party began to integrate more rightwingnand nationalistic politicians, some of them from the East. But the reason, why those right wing members gained more traction in the party was also thanks to Merkel abandoning any pride in Germany as a Nation State ( dirty Word nowadays) as she let in literally millions of migrants and in her last days of government couldn’t stop shaking just listening to the German anthem and once even passed a German flag to a bystander in disgust.
Now the AfD is a medley of nationalistic members, some of them have socialistic tendencies, and more moderate politicians like Alice Weidel, who basically took over many of Conservative policies from the CDU, which Merkel abandoned. The 21% of the recent approval rate for the AfD comes from many disenchanted former voters from the CDU, FDP and even SPD. These main stream parties seem to disregard their voter base for the same woke/green policies and acceptance of an endless stream of migrants and happily accept any decrees from the top brass of the EU bureaucracy. Many German voters are sick and tired watching their country being basically deindustrialised. If the Ampel coalition survives this year, the AfD will swell even more till some sane politicians from the established parties will have “Alternative” policies to the current mess.

Last edited 11 months ago by Stephanie Surface
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago

So let the east go its own way as Mrs Thatcher would have wished all those years ago.
There is some justification for a split, surely?
After all, to the layman’s eye, the old historical argument that a united Germany destabilises the rest of Europe carries some force.
Born of three aggressive wars, it went on to bid for world power twice within a period of forty years.
Currently, its peculiar tergiversations within the European Union – obliging the whole continent to abide by stringent monetary disciplines, albeit that these have brought economic contraction to the south; obliging the whole continent to abide by a loose migration policy, albeit that many countries being forced in this way just don’t want to do it – have brought that institution to the brink of collapse.
Indeed, Merkel’s typically dogmatic and unhelpful reaction to Cameron’s bid for a pause on migration into Britain helped push Britain out altogether.
So, in the spirit of true subsidiarity, let the east go free; split Germany, loosen the shackles of the EU across Europe, allow for various policies in all areas as voted for by the electorates and observe the protests fall silent.
But that’s sheer Thatcherism! No. It’s democracy.

Matt M
Matt M
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I think you might be right Simon. Certainly I get no comfort from the author’s reassurance that the AfD is only popular in the East, as the examples he cites – Bismarck and Hitler – who also drew their core support from the East, used this support to take over (or in Bismarck’s case create) the whole of Germany.
We have a Germany which is unified, in de-facto control of the EU and is rapidly rearming. Now it is in deep financial difficulties and has a party with Neo-Nazi links (if you believe this article) on the rise whose core support is among Prussians.
God help us!

j watson
j watson
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Governed by the centre-left, Olaf Scholz, for at least the next 2yrs having had German public vote for such a coalition in 2021. Hmm, alot of noise on the Right but seems most recent example of German elections indicates a v different centre of gravity does it not? Nonetheless no room for complacency and if there is one Country likely to grasp that it’s Germany.
Were you referring yesterday to the tendency to interpretation bias?

Matt M
Matt M
11 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Hi J.
I am not predicting it to happen, just saying the current conditions are eerily reminiscent. I am sure the German people are sensible and (hyper) sensitive to the dangers.
And yes, I know I have to be aware of my own prejudices. In this case, I am biased against another World War.

Ragnar Lothbrok
Ragnar Lothbrok
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Nothing like the conditions in 1933. Inflation was over 200% and the French had control over the Rhur. I think you must be watching BBC history.

Ragnar Lothbrok
Ragnar Lothbrok
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Nothing like the conditions in 1933. Inflation was over 200% and the French had control over the Rhur. I think you must be watching BBC history.

Matt M
Matt M
11 months ago
Reply to  j watson

Hi J.
I am not predicting it to happen, just saying the current conditions are eerily reminiscent. I am sure the German people are sensible and (hyper) sensitive to the dangers.
And yes, I know I have to be aware of my own prejudices. In this case, I am biased against another World War.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Well, you offer a splendid speech for the prosecution, in that all you say might be backed up and hangs together with great logical force.
However, for my money real reassurance could well be found not in the geographical limits of the AfD’s appeal but from the clearly very mixed and occasional nature of its support.
I have no doubt that the hem of its robe is muddy with sinister prejudice, but then – as Keynes pointed out years ago – parties of left and right will always attract opportunist infiltrators from far left and far right. Look at the garments of the Labour or the Tory parties with a beady eye and you will find stains and splashes aplenty. Why, one very muddy individual – Corbyn, J – rose to lead the Labour party for a while – another reason for the success of Brexit.
Now, it is true that the AfD are clearly nationalist in a way that many Conservative parties no longer are, but first, nationalism is not the same as totalitarian racial hatred. Second, it might well suggest to us that Conservative parties – and, indeed, social democratic parties – should actively seek to offer a disciplined, chastened nationalism, freer from the likely distortions and infiltrations to which an insurgent party is often open.
And “liberal nationalism” of this sort typically takes two forms currently rejected out of hand by influential policy makers:
One, a consistent immigration policy which does not countenance illegal subversion and carefully vets applicants under a number of criteria.
Two, a fair minded permission to the old, original ethno-culture (of whichever society is in receipt of immigration) to celebrate its past and pass on the bulk of it most essential norms – a moderate and flexible process of assimilation. This, I sincerely believe, is the prescription of such careful thinkers as Eric Kaufman; and were it to be acknowledged and acted upon, many voters would happily return the fold of established parties.

Matt M
Matt M
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I completely agree with you on all counts Simon. I well remember the papers discovering a new oddball every week in UKIP as they ramped up membership. The same happened to Labour in the Corbyn years.
As it happens I see myself as a nationalist too and know that it is easy for opponents to tar people who believe in custom and tradition, national sovereignty and immigration control as racist etc etc.

Matt M
Matt M
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I completely agree with you on all counts Simon. I well remember the papers discovering a new oddball every week in UKIP as they ramped up membership. The same happened to Labour in the Corbyn years.
As it happens I see myself as a nationalist too and know that it is easy for opponents to tar people who believe in custom and tradition, national sovereignty and immigration control as racist etc etc.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Haha, Germany is rearming….
This must be a joke or irony. Germany has a very poor army in every sense of the word, except vdL legacy as Defence Secretary: uniforms for pregnant women. Some good tanks and hundreds of helmets recently went to the Ukraine . “Deutschland Unter Alles” …

Last edited 11 months ago by Stephanie Surface
Matt M
Matt M
11 months ago

Good to know.

Matt M
Matt M
11 months ago

Good to know.

Niels Georg Bach Christensen
Niels Georg Bach Christensen
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

TRue. In the Local election a local rightwing got nearly 20% in Bremen, normal a Red city.

j watson
j watson
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Governed by the centre-left, Olaf Scholz, for at least the next 2yrs having had German public vote for such a coalition in 2021. Hmm, alot of noise on the Right but seems most recent example of German elections indicates a v different centre of gravity does it not? Nonetheless no room for complacency and if there is one Country likely to grasp that it’s Germany.
Were you referring yesterday to the tendency to interpretation bias?

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Well, you offer a splendid speech for the prosecution, in that all you say might be backed up and hangs together with great logical force.
However, for my money real reassurance could well be found not in the geographical limits of the AfD’s appeal but from the clearly very mixed and occasional nature of its support.
I have no doubt that the hem of its robe is muddy with sinister prejudice, but then – as Keynes pointed out years ago – parties of left and right will always attract opportunist infiltrators from far left and far right. Look at the garments of the Labour or the Tory parties with a beady eye and you will find stains and splashes aplenty. Why, one very muddy individual – Corbyn, J – rose to lead the Labour party for a while – another reason for the success of Brexit.
Now, it is true that the AfD are clearly nationalist in a way that many Conservative parties no longer are, but first, nationalism is not the same as totalitarian racial hatred. Second, it might well suggest to us that Conservative parties – and, indeed, social democratic parties – should actively seek to offer a disciplined, chastened nationalism, freer from the likely distortions and infiltrations to which an insurgent party is often open.
And “liberal nationalism” of this sort typically takes two forms currently rejected out of hand by influential policy makers:
One, a consistent immigration policy which does not countenance illegal subversion and carefully vets applicants under a number of criteria.
Two, a fair minded permission to the old, original ethno-culture (of whichever society is in receipt of immigration) to celebrate its past and pass on the bulk of it most essential norms – a moderate and flexible process of assimilation. This, I sincerely believe, is the prescription of such careful thinkers as Eric Kaufman; and were it to be acknowledged and acted upon, many voters would happily return the fold of established parties.

Stephanie Surface
Stephanie Surface
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

Haha, Germany is rearming….
This must be a joke or irony. Germany has a very poor army in every sense of the word, except vdL legacy as Defence Secretary: uniforms for pregnant women. Some good tanks and hundreds of helmets recently went to the Ukraine . “Deutschland Unter Alles” …

Last edited 11 months ago by Stephanie Surface
Niels Georg Bach Christensen
Niels Georg Bach Christensen
11 months ago
Reply to  Matt M

TRue. In the Local election a local rightwing got nearly 20% in Bremen, normal a Red city.

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

So Germany is going to break up to fulfil some kind of Brexit dream? Seems nonsensical.

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago

Surely an excessively reductive and partisan summary of the argument?

Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago

Surely an excessively reductive and partisan summary of the argument?

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

It wouldn’t surprise me if Germany split again at some point in my lifetime.

Last edited 11 months ago by Katharine Eyre
Matt M
Matt M
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

I think you might be right Simon. Certainly I get no comfort from the author’s reassurance that the AfD is only popular in the East, as the examples he cites – Bismarck and Hitler – who also drew their core support from the East, used this support to take over (or in Bismarck’s case create) the whole of Germany.
We have a Germany which is unified, in de-facto control of the EU and is rapidly rearming. Now it is in deep financial difficulties and has a party with Neo-Nazi links (if you believe this article) on the rise whose core support is among Prussians.
God help us!

Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
Mr Sketerzen Bhoto
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

So Germany is going to break up to fulfil some kind of Brexit dream? Seems nonsensical.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
11 months ago
Reply to  Simon Denis

It wouldn’t surprise me if Germany split again at some point in my lifetime.

Last edited 11 months ago by Katharine Eyre
Simon Denis
Simon Denis
11 months ago

So let the east go its own way as Mrs Thatcher would have wished all those years ago.
There is some justification for a split, surely?
After all, to the layman’s eye, the old historical argument that a united Germany destabilises the rest of Europe carries some force.
Born of three aggressive wars, it went on to bid for world power twice within a period of forty years.
Currently, its peculiar tergiversations within the European Union – obliging the whole continent to abide by stringent monetary disciplines, albeit that these have brought economic contraction to the south; obliging the whole continent to abide by a loose migration policy, albeit that many countries being forced in this way just don’t want to do it – have brought that institution to the brink of collapse.
Indeed, Merkel’s typically dogmatic and unhelpful reaction to Cameron’s bid for a pause on migration into Britain helped push Britain out altogether.
So, in the spirit of true subsidiarity, let the east go free; split Germany, loosen the shackles of the EU across Europe, allow for various policies in all areas as voted for by the electorates and observe the protests fall silent.
But that’s sheer Thatcherism! No. It’s democracy.

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
11 months ago

Describing Germany as a non-homogenous nation state and being more akin to the USA is laughable. Has the author ever visited different parts of Germany? He doesn’t offer up any evidence for this and seems to take regional differences (the East in this instance) as so different as to be ascribed status akin to the different American states. The fact that there are large “German” populations in other countries such as France, The Netherlands and Switzerland as well as an entire country made up of german-speakers (Austria) doesn’t help his case. Which other European nation has this sort of set up? I don’t think he would describe other European nation states like this (Poland or France) or downplay the legitimate desire of a nation to form a state in areas where it makes up a contiguous majority. What the author would like to see and the reality of healthy national feeling among Germans from different regions is completely at odds – you wouldn’t get a large group of people booing the national anthem like scousers for example and there isn’t any seccesionist movement (unlike in many european countries).

Milton Gibbon
Milton Gibbon
11 months ago

Describing Germany as a non-homogenous nation state and being more akin to the USA is laughable. Has the author ever visited different parts of Germany? He doesn’t offer up any evidence for this and seems to take regional differences (the East in this instance) as so different as to be ascribed status akin to the different American states. The fact that there are large “German” populations in other countries such as France, The Netherlands and Switzerland as well as an entire country made up of german-speakers (Austria) doesn’t help his case. Which other European nation has this sort of set up? I don’t think he would describe other European nation states like this (Poland or France) or downplay the legitimate desire of a nation to form a state in areas where it makes up a contiguous majority. What the author would like to see and the reality of healthy national feeling among Germans from different regions is completely at odds – you wouldn’t get a large group of people booing the national anthem like scousers for example and there isn’t any seccesionist movement (unlike in many european countries).

Stephan Quentin
Stephan Quentin
11 months ago

The „Red Brigades“ were an Italian outfit. I think the author means the “Red Army Faction” (RAF).

Stephan Quentin
Stephan Quentin
11 months ago

The „Red Brigades“ were an Italian outfit. I think the author means the “Red Army Faction” (RAF).

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
11 months ago

I’m not overly concerned by the prospect of democracy being overthrown in Germany even if these statistics are a bit worrying.
I’d be a bit more concerned about the number of normal German citizens who are simply losing faith in the state and are starting to doubt whether the democracy which they have been told exists actually does.
A weak state is what allows these other, truly anti-democratic elements to strengthen and become something more than a fringe phenomenon.

Katharine Eyre
Katharine Eyre
11 months ago

I’m not overly concerned by the prospect of democracy being overthrown in Germany even if these statistics are a bit worrying.
I’d be a bit more concerned about the number of normal German citizens who are simply losing faith in the state and are starting to doubt whether the democracy which they have been told exists actually does.
A weak state is what allows these other, truly anti-democratic elements to strengthen and become something more than a fringe phenomenon.

Peter B
Peter B
11 months ago

What is “undemocratic” about people freely voting for political parties of their choice ? We may not like those parties and may consider them to be “undemocratic”, but I really don’t think that’s any reason to constrain democracy to exclude those we don’t approve of.
If I remember correctly, that same experiment was tried in the DDR for around 40 years, resulting in only one party – and the results were rather disappointing.
The solution is not to condemn or censor. It’s to raise our game and provide a better alternative.
The author’s suggestion that the regions of East Germany have always been highly right wing and “undemocratic” doesn’t sound correct to me.

Last edited 11 months ago by Peter B
Peter B
Peter B
11 months ago

What is “undemocratic” about people freely voting for political parties of their choice ? We may not like those parties and may consider them to be “undemocratic”, but I really don’t think that’s any reason to constrain democracy to exclude those we don’t approve of.
If I remember correctly, that same experiment was tried in the DDR for around 40 years, resulting in only one party – and the results were rather disappointing.
The solution is not to condemn or censor. It’s to raise our game and provide a better alternative.
The author’s suggestion that the regions of East Germany have always been highly right wing and “undemocratic” doesn’t sound correct to me.

Last edited 11 months ago by Peter B
Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
11 months ago

I found this article to be close to hysterical. Immer mit der Ruhe!

Last edited 11 months ago by Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
Dermot O'Sullivan
11 months ago

I found this article to be close to hysterical. Immer mit der Ruhe!

Last edited 11 months ago by Dermot O'Sullivan
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
11 months ago

“Even more scary is the possibility of a continuum between these would-be paramilitary racist warlords and the AfD.”
Did we not face the same scenario with the IRA and Sinn Féin. It seemed to me at the time that most of the MSM were not too keen to make a big deal of it.

Ethniciodo Rodenydo
Ethniciodo Rodenydo
11 months ago

“Even more scary is the possibility of a continuum between these would-be paramilitary racist warlords and the AfD.”
Did we not face the same scenario with the IRA and Sinn Féin. It seemed to me at the time that most of the MSM were not too keen to make a big deal of it.

Bob Hardy
Bob Hardy
11 months ago

I visited the DDR during the mid-1980’s; I was in Berlin the day the wall came down; and I moved around what was commonly referred to as ‘East Germany’ back then frequently during the early 1990’s. So here’s my take on it – if anyone is interested.
Those opposed to the regime in the DDR were presented to the population at large there as holding extreme Right Wing views – which meant that they were effectively Nazi’s then.
The very real existence of the Stasi (the thought police), complete with neighbor spying on neighbor, plus the attempt to groom the up-and-coming population into believing the official party ideology – an essential component of education in any communist country of course (who were still caricaturing Capitalists as men in top hats with young children in rags as chimney sweeps in the 1980’s), resulted in there being only one real form of opposition there then – a primarily intellectual one. Which resulted in a mythical reverence for Mr Hitler and his ideas. Particularly when he was presented by grandparents as the architect of better days after the shame of WW1 and the great depression – which resulted in massive unemployment and starvation. And more particularly as many East Germans still had copies of Mein Kampf squirreled away, and so were equipped with a ready-made argument against the ‘Bolsheviks’.
The problem was further exacerbated by – to give you only one example – the fact that DDR youth were able to pick up music from Western radio stations, and to also pass around bootlegged rock music tapes etc (illegal activities BTW) and so as a result were convinced that, far from being oppressed, the youth of the West had an endless party going on. And if it was thought of as corrupt by their peers (that party elite) then of course that made this form of activity even more popular (And yes – I do know that they had their own ‘official’ rock bands)
A few weeks after the wall came down, I was up North around Rostock where I witnessed there at first hand my first parade of these right-wing politically motivated young men – these usually numbered around 50 or so – marching around complete with swastika armbands, flag, and salute. The Western Germans knew all about it, but had become so completely de-Nazified that they had no idea how to handle it, and were for the most part in complete denial.
I actually engaged one or two of the members of one group, who I would say were the organizers, in conversation. And it very quickly became very clear to me that they had studied these forbidden political ideas in great detail… And if – to move on into the 1990’s – you add to that the political happenings in German universities, particularly those like Bremen say, then this only served to harden these extreme right-wing views.
Most of those early ‘marchers’ and their supporters will probably be around 60 now, and so it is only reasonable to suspect that a statistically significant number of them will hold positions of influence. And as these former citizens of the DDR have had then a taste of living under an actual radical left-wing regime followed – for the past 30+ years – of living under the present style of government I would say that what is going on their is hardly surprising.

Last edited 11 months ago by Bob Hardy
0 0
0 0
10 months ago
Reply to  Bob Hardy

Yes, I’m baffled by the fact that the article above references ‘The East’ ‘s politics in terms of Bismarck and the 3rd Reich but not the more recent 30+ years of DDR capture. I too was in East and West Berlin and Germany mid 1980s-mid 1990s, saw much of what you describe, and am wondering now how much of that then v distinct east-west mentality/political divide persists. The article didn’t help me much.

0 0
0 0
10 months ago
Reply to  Bob Hardy

Yes, I’m baffled by the fact that the article above references ‘The East’ ‘s politics in terms of Bismarck and the 3rd Reich but not the more recent 30+ years of DDR capture. I too was in East and West Berlin and Germany mid 1980s-mid 1990s, saw much of what you describe, and am wondering now how much of that then v distinct east-west mentality/political divide persists. The article didn’t help me much.

Bob Hardy
Bob Hardy
11 months ago

I visited the DDR during the mid-1980’s; I was in Berlin the day the wall came down; and I moved around what was commonly referred to as ‘East Germany’ back then frequently during the early 1990’s. So here’s my take on it – if anyone is interested.
Those opposed to the regime in the DDR were presented to the population at large there as holding extreme Right Wing views – which meant that they were effectively Nazi’s then.
The very real existence of the Stasi (the thought police), complete with neighbor spying on neighbor, plus the attempt to groom the up-and-coming population into believing the official party ideology – an essential component of education in any communist country of course (who were still caricaturing Capitalists as men in top hats with young children in rags as chimney sweeps in the 1980’s), resulted in there being only one real form of opposition there then – a primarily intellectual one. Which resulted in a mythical reverence for Mr Hitler and his ideas. Particularly when he was presented by grandparents as the architect of better days after the shame of WW1 and the great depression – which resulted in massive unemployment and starvation. And more particularly as many East Germans still had copies of Mein Kampf squirreled away, and so were equipped with a ready-made argument against the ‘Bolsheviks’.
The problem was further exacerbated by – to give you only one example – the fact that DDR youth were able to pick up music from Western radio stations, and to also pass around bootlegged rock music tapes etc (illegal activities BTW) and so as a result were convinced that, far from being oppressed, the youth of the West had an endless party going on. And if it was thought of as corrupt by their peers (that party elite) then of course that made this form of activity even more popular (And yes – I do know that they had their own ‘official’ rock bands)
A few weeks after the wall came down, I was up North around Rostock where I witnessed there at first hand my first parade of these right-wing politically motivated young men – these usually numbered around 50 or so – marching around complete with swastika armbands, flag, and salute. The Western Germans knew all about it, but had become so completely de-Nazified that they had no idea how to handle it, and were for the most part in complete denial.
I actually engaged one or two of the members of one group, who I would say were the organizers, in conversation. And it very quickly became very clear to me that they had studied these forbidden political ideas in great detail… And if – to move on into the 1990’s – you add to that the political happenings in German universities, particularly those like Bremen say, then this only served to harden these extreme right-wing views.
Most of those early ‘marchers’ and their supporters will probably be around 60 now, and so it is only reasonable to suspect that a statistically significant number of them will hold positions of influence. And as these former citizens of the DDR have had then a taste of living under an actual radical left-wing regime followed – for the past 30+ years – of living under the present style of government I would say that what is going on their is hardly surprising.

Last edited 11 months ago by Bob Hardy
Laurian Boer
Laurian Boer
11 months ago

Of course that Germany is not a homogeneous country. But then which large European country is really homogenous? Italy? France? Spain? UK?
In any case, the author seems to divide the Germans into good, Western, democratic and undemocratic, bad, Eastern. This is a very simplistic approach.
From my experience you may say that Eastern Germans trust the government less, don’t buy as easily (as the rich “West” Germans from Baden Wurtenberg for instance) into the woke credo or climate propaganda. However this is more likely due to 45 years of communism than to a historically inclination towards far-right politics. Far-right has always been associated with Bavaria and Austria and not with Prussia. The author is biased somehow against East Germans (which is consistent with his previous work) but his (re)interpretation of German history is dubious to say the least.
He brings a hypothesis to Unherd and presents it as expert knowledge.

Laurian Boer
Laurian Boer
11 months ago

Of course that Germany is not a homogeneous country. But then which large European country is really homogenous? Italy? France? Spain? UK?
In any case, the author seems to divide the Germans into good, Western, democratic and undemocratic, bad, Eastern. This is a very simplistic approach.
From my experience you may say that Eastern Germans trust the government less, don’t buy as easily (as the rich “West” Germans from Baden Wurtenberg for instance) into the woke credo or climate propaganda. However this is more likely due to 45 years of communism than to a historically inclination towards far-right politics. Far-right has always been associated with Bavaria and Austria and not with Prussia. The author is biased somehow against East Germans (which is consistent with his previous work) but his (re)interpretation of German history is dubious to say the least.
He brings a hypothesis to Unherd and presents it as expert knowledge.