Originally invented in Milan in the year 1919 by Benito Mussolini as FasciItaliani di Combattimento, fascism is making a comeback in the 21st century. One recent sign are Germany’s Neo-Nazisholding a rally of about 8,000 in Chemnitz (East Germany) in August 2018. With that, Germany’s newish crypto-Nazi party, the AfD, seems to getcloser to the ‘fascist turn’ it has proclaimed for so long. The Neo-Nazi march in Chemnitz was applauded and cheered by ‘ordinary people’ as violent Neo-Nazis attacked anyone not too German looking. As always, fascism searched for scapegoats. It directs attentions away from the crisis of capitalism. From Germany in 1933 to Chile, to Turkey, to Poland, Hungary and the USA, increasingly capitalist regimes become openly terroristic. In these systems, fascism becomes a mass movement that offers an escape route out of the looming capitalist, neoliberal and environmental crisis.
In Germany, the impact of a more recent economic crisis was handed downwards resulting in severe cuts to welfare provisions. This occurred under a Green and social-democratic coalition government that adjusted Germany’s once mighty welfare state downwards to the ideological dictate of neoliberalism. True to neoliberalism’s main ideology of increasing competition, this shift also reinforced worker against worker competition, spiked with an ‘aggression against the losers of the economic crisis’. Rising fascism is not a break with neoliberalism. Instead, it is a continuation of a ‘gradual down sliding into barbarity’.
The new radical right is breeding the ideological legitimacy needed to sustain the constant downward sliding towards barbarity. It does this by shifting resentment towards ‘racism, cultural conservatism (Social-Darwinism) and –this is central– towards Anti-Semitism’. Much of this is directed against those that the ideologies of capitalism and fascism view as ‘surplus labour’. These are people for whom capitalism has no further use. For them,rising fascism, nationalism and the ideology of the Volksgemeinschaft offers the illusion of security. Challenged by increased competition and neoliberal capitalism, this applies increasingly to the middle class as it is about to be converted into the precariat. The economic onslaught on the middle-class spits this group into two sub-groups. Both can be governed by fear. The first group includes those who have already become part of the precariat (the working poor, the poor, the Lumpenproletariat, etc.) while the second group includes those still inside the relative affluent middle-class but who are afraid of joining the precariat.
This is the key to understanding what mainstream media like to mislabel as populism. Many so-called populist parties are not populist parties. They might use populism’s main idea of setting the pure people against the corrupt elite. If anything, populism is more of a propaganda method than a full blown political ideology. In any case, it is only part of the picture. In reality, the rise of fascism in the 21st century is a reaction to the ever-rising economic insecurity delivered by neoliberalism. This increasingly challenges, if not destroys, the once mighty middle class. The deliberate shifting of wealth from the middle class toward the capitalist class under the ideological heading of neoliberalism is set to shrink, if not annihilate 20th century’s middle class. To re-direct potentially revolutionary energies of this process, 21st century fascism’s forces are called up once again. The hope is that they will deflect forces that might challenge capitalism. In this process, new scapegoats (migrants, refugees, etc.) are invented while old ones are dusted off (Jews).
A key ideology of this is a mythical ‘return to the nation’, hyping up ultra-nationalism. The hope is that this will keep the crisis of capitalism outside of the nation. As a consequence, an idyllic picture of the nation, the homeland, the Volksgemeinschaft is presented. For that, one of older enemies has re-emerged, namely the ‘Jewish World Conspiracy’. In this Anti-Semitic conspiracy theory, there is a secret group planning the dissolution of Germany, Italy, Hungary, Poland, etc. In each country a new kind of ‘Baby-Hitler’ claims to protect its population against the likes of Rothschild, Soros, etc.While all this is on the way, mainstream media are at ‘extreme pains to avoid any association with the pre-fascist period of the 1930s’. BjörnHöcke is the ideological Führer of the AfD. ‘Even someone like him who, as a quasi-Goebbelsdouble, uses outright Anti-Semitic hate speech, is not called a Nazi’.
While Anti-Semitism remains prevalent inside the AfD, it is camouflaged by a pretended pro-Israel policy that aligns the neo-fascist AfD with Bibi Netanyahu’s arch conservatism. Since German Nazism has murdered millions of Jews, the AfD is at pains to divert attention away from its own Anti-Semitism. As a consequence, the its new and by now far more visible enemy is the Muslim refugee. But the AfD’s move towards fascism is by no means plain sailing.
After a speech by the AfD’s court-certified Nazi Slut Alice Weidel, the boss of Siemens had enough. He said that he preferred ‘the headscarves of Muslim girls tothe headscarves of the BDM girls’. The BDM was the Nazi’s youth organisation for German girls. Siemens boss Joe Kaeser also said that ‘the nationalism of the AfD damages the reputation of our country’. Since German capital is part of what is known as a global supply chain and heavily depends on exports, the core of Germany might not agree with the AfD’s ultra-nationalism. In addition, Germany is not facing a strong enemy. Germany’s communists are at the margins, its social-democratic party favours neoliberalism, and its trade unions organise rather than challenge capitalism. With them out of the way, the AfD can freely work towards changing Germany’s political culture towards fascism.
Much of the shift of Germany’s political culture to the right started with what might be called the radical right’s big bang. Typically for a country like Germany, it came with a book. It was the publication of Sarrazin’s book Germany abolishes itself.It is a book that sold millions of copies. It features crude Social Darwinism while hyping up fear of a looming economic decline impacting on Germany’s still large middle class. Like nobody in Germany’s post-war history, Sarrazin installed xenophobic fear into the middle class. Simultaneously, he offered a scapegoat, namely ‘genetic sub-humans like social welfare recipients and Muslims’. It insinuated that those can be ‘transported into concentration campsand that we do not want to know what happens after that’. The book and its ideology stabilised capitalism.
The ultimate historical consequence of such early themes was the death factory of Auschwitz. But 21st century fascism is not there yet, if it ever will. Today, fascism is still at its pre-fascist phase. The second break through for the AfD was its 2017 election to Germany’s federal parliament. But already a month before that, the AfD showed its true authoritarian face in the state parliament of Lower Saxony. It installed a commission to examine left wing terrorism. By this, the AfD means virtually anyone who disagrees with the party itself. This came at time when,
- the Neo-Nazi NSU had just murdered ten people,
- 8,000 Neo-Nazis marched in Chemnitz,
- attacks on refugees are a daily occurrence,
- Neo-Nazis openly hunt anyone not too German looking,
- Neo-Nazis attack a Jewish restaurant in Chemnitz, and
- BjörnHöcke delivers almost carbon copy Goebbels speeches.
This is why one of the founding members of the AfD and former president of Germany’s powerful employer association (BDI), Hans-Olaf Henkel who left the AfD in disgust, said Höcke talks like Goebbels.Perhaps one of the strongest barriers against rising fascism in Germany might turn out to be Germany’s economy and its extreme dependency on exports. This might even prevent a ‘final solution of the refugee question’. What it does not prevent are the calls of AfD supporters cheering ‘drown them, drown them, drown them’ at an anti-refugee rally when told about refugees drowning while crossing the Mediterranean Sea. These are the first signs of fascist fantasies of an impending annihilation of human beings. The AfD calls the open advocacy of fascist terrorismthe ‘courage to break taboos’.
All this is linked to AfD slogans like ‘close the border, foreigners out, and forced labour for useless parasites’. This is, of course, extended to ‘scapegoats like southern Europeans, Arabic people, Jews, Russians, and Americans’. Right-wing supporters read about this in their very own echo chambers that have become ‘the digital home of the new right’. Inside their echo chambers, people will never read the truth. They will never read about the ‘concentration camp like conditions in refugee camps in Libya where people are tormented while others simply disappear deemed to be of no further use’. If they get lucky,captured refugees are traded on open slave markets.
If you seek to help refugees,as Germany’s chancellor did in 2015, the AfD abuses you. The AfD’ssecond in command, Alice Weidel,calls the government a ‘puppet of the Allied Forces’. They are the AfD’sinvented enemies, used to collect voters and supporters.Much of this forms the ‘existing fascist potential in Germany’ today with Neo-Nazisdreaming of a ‘clearing storm of steel, blood, sweat, and tears’. Much of the distribution of such right-wing ideologies is financially supported by the businessman ‘August von Finck junior.He is the son of August von Finck senior who was a Nazi party member while stealing Jewish banks in a process called Aryianization’. Today, his son finances the AfD.
Then as today, these people fight Jews. Among them is one of Europe’s number one right wingand Neo-Nazi hate figure, George Soros. By 2018, the merger between Anti-Semitism and anti-Islamism had progressed most substantially in Hungary where one even finds conspiracy theories such as the dangerous hallucination that ‘the Jews are the enforcers of the refugee crisis’. Obviously, this goes hand in hand with the ideological rehabilitation of Nazi collaborators like Miklos Horthy. Being a lifelong Anti-Semite, Horthy is now seen as ‘an exceptional statesman’. Still, Hungary’s right wing and Anti-Semitic Victor Orban appears to be closer to the nationalist Benjamin Netanyahu than to the Hungarian liberal Soros’. Hungary’s extreme right wing strongly believes in aneternal ‘Soros Empire’ as well as dark ‘international forces’ that are behind the country’scurrent misery. Orban said, ‘we fight enemies that have no homeland…they are cunning, vicious and mean’.
Similar to Hungary’s crypto-fascists, Germany’s very own semi-fascists of the AfDalso seek to eliminate virtually all memory of the Holocaust. By July 2017, the Central Council of Jews in Germanymade a statement saying, ‘one gets the feeling that the AfD has lost all inhibitions to engage in hate speeches against Jews’. It marked the return of the ‘hallucination of the eternal Jew seen as a parasite’. The imagined Jew is set against the ‘racially pure nation’. Such fascistic ideologies are ‘high on the agenda during times of social and economic crisis and whenever the continuation of the entire structure is in danger’. This marks‘the time of marginalisation, discrimination and ultimately the destruction of entire sections of a population’.
Historically, all this is not new. What is new is that decades after Auschwitz, we know what happened, who did it and who the victims were. Today, we can look back in the knowledge that the assessment made by the New York Times on the 21st of November 1922 was tragically wrong. The NYT wrote,‘Adolf Hitler’s Anti-Semitism shouldn’t be overrated. Anti-Semitism is only used to collect voters. Hitler is just another patriot. Those who carry his swastika flag might not even know themselves what they want’. People believed that nobody could have foreseen the Wannsee Conference of 1942. Who could have thought, in 1922, that barely twenty years later, ‘a small group of irrational madmen and right-wing extremists would actually do what they had preached all along’. Today, many see the AfD as just another populist party. Is the real danger of the AfD to underestimate it?
, ‘the situation in Germany is comparable to the time of pre-fascism during the 1920s and 1930s when increasingly successful reactionary parties were capable of influencing, if not directing, the political situation in Germany’. Even one of the founding members of the AfD (a party member until 2015) has seen the truth behind the AfD’s populism. The former president of Germany’s powerful employer association BDI called the AfDNPD light.The NPD was Germany’s real Neo-Nazi party until the AfD took over. Like the Nazi’s eternal Jew and the Jewish world conspiracy, the AfD also thinks that ‘everything bad comes from outside’ of the Volksgemeinschaft. In slightly different variations, this ideology appears in the Ukraine (Wolfsangel – the fascist wolfs trap,in Poland– ‘Neo-Nazi and clerical fascism’, in Hungary (Pfeilkreuzer), Austria (former Neo-Nazi Strache),etc.
It becomes increasingly more difficult to see the AfD as just another populist party when, for example, in the East German city of Jena AfD supporters shout they will build a new ‘railway from Berlin to Auschwitz’. The sheer volume of Nazi statements coming from the AfD and its surrounding network indicates that the party has long ago left behind the concept of being just another populist party. One of the many examples is the AfD’s Ulrich Oehme. His slogan is ‘Everything for Germany’. This is the very same slogan that was engraved on the dagger of every SA man. After he was told that the use of the slogan is illegal, Oehme declared that he stood by what he said. He reformulated the old SA slogan to ‘have a heart for Germany’. Like the real Nazis, today’s AfD voices mean what they say:
- the AfD’sBjörn Höckeand former Neo-Nazi author (fake name LandolfLadig) believes in Nazism;
- the court found that certified deputy AfD boss Alice Weidel can be called Nazi Slut;
- the AfD’sWolfgang Gedeon thinks the Protocols of the Elders of Zionare literally true;and
- the ‘AfD’s Sebastian Koch was an active Neo-Nazi for many years’.
Conceivably, the AfD is ‘just another normal (Nazi) party’ inside which political staffers like Marcel Graufcan have a ‘closed fascistic worldview’. The AfD’sGrauf also glorifies Hitler and Mussolini. He believes that Germany’s state can solve financial difficulties by ‘taxing the Jews’. Grauf said, I ‘prefer to rape Sophie Scholl rather than Anne Frank’. He dreams of a civil war so that he can piss on the graves of his enemies. Grauf also wants to shoot and kill Germany’s former vice-chancellor and foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel. The AfD man worships the Norwegian Neo-Nazi killer Breivik who killed 77 people in 2011. His AfD boss Andre Poggenburg holds similar views. He believes that the left is ‘a tumorous cancer on Germany’s Volks-body’. Perhaps these (and many more) are not just mishaps. Perhaps they establish a pattern – the pattern of Neo-Nazism.
Not surprisingly, the AfD likes to present itself as just another populist party – a party that fights against political correctness whenever it can. But when challenged, the party goes to court. In one case, it tried to act against those who called ita ‘right-wing extremist party’. The AfD lost in court. The AfD was eager to prevent this because Germany’s political law distinguishes between a right-wing radical and a right-wing extremist party. The former is against Germany’s constitutional state, e.g. democracy, the latter is set to destroy Germany’s constitutional state. It can be made illegal.
Conceivably, all this fits to what the AfDorganised in Chemnitz in late August 2018 when 8,000 Neo-Nazis, AfD supporters, etc. marched in the biggest Neo-Nazi show of force seen in Germany since Adolf Hitler’s real Nazis marched in Germany’s streets. The AfD’s Chemnitz march included Neo-Nazis hunting everyone not too German looking, Pogrom-like violence, showing off the Hitler salute, and openly fascist street terror. For the first time in post-war Germany, violent Neo-Nazi militia brought its terror to German streets. AfD boss Gauland later commented it was just a ‘normal reaction’ of the people. As a consequence, Germany’s ‘right-wing extremist forces are getting more confident by the month’. All this might indicate that we indeed live in times of pre-fascism.
Tomasz Konicz’s Fascism in the 21st Century – Outlines of the Coming Barbarity is published byHeise Press.
German born Thomas Klikauer(Pol. Sc. Bremen and Boston): https://klikauer.wordpress.com/