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Meet Germany’s Alt-Right

In September, Germans will head to the polls to elect a new parliament. One of the parties expected to enter the Bundestag for the very first time is the Alternative für Deutschland (or Alternative for Germany). Over the course of two years, as AfD has transitioned from an agenda of economic reform to one of nationalist populism, they have morphed into something resembling the American alt-right.

In 2012, a group of German conservatives and classical-liberal economists who had defected from Angela Merkel’s center-right and the traditional liberal-democrat party found themselves associating with independent-voter groups in order to run for office on the local level. Soon, these conservatives, who were heavily critical of the European Union’s economic interventionism and especially the European common currency, found themselves alienated by these existing platforms, and in 2013 they founded the AfD.

Soon after its creation, the party began to struggle with internal disagreements about the priorities of its political message: the classical liberals were keen on developing a German brand of Euroscepticism—which, relative to the Anglo-Saxon brand, would appear less aggressive and more academic—while nativists and those who were religiously inspired pushed for more nationalism and social conservatism on issues like gay marriage (which remains illegal in Germany). These were internal fights over these differences during the 2013 election, which contributed to the AfD narrowly failing to enter parliament.

In 2014, the party continued its rise in the polls. It won electoral success in the European Parliament, local parliaments, and municipal councils. Former AfD chairman Bernd Lucke [1], a classical-liberal economist known for his numerous appearances on German TV shows dedicated to debates on the Euro and its effect on the European debt crisis, became the target of the nationalist wing of the party. But AfD’s moment in the spotlight was short-lived. As the issue of Greece leaving the Euro was swept off the table and the Euro-crisis became uninteresting for the German media, so did the focus on the AfD.

Meanwhile, the stream of Syrian refugees coming into Germany intensified and a new right emerged. The so-called Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West movement, or PEGIDA, rallied thousands of people throughout the country against the permissive immigration policy of Chancellor Merkel. Some PEGIDA demonstrations contained controversial chants, including [2] the iconic media slur Lügenpresse, or featured speeches [3] that smacked of modern-day Nuremberg rallies. The AfD split over some of its members’ support for PEGIDA, marking the beginning of the alt-right takeover of the AfD.

In fact, these gatherings bear strong similarities to what commentators in the United States refer to as the alt-right. What is all the more remarkable is that protagonists of the American movement, such as Richard Spencer [4], seem to follow the AfD handbook. Instead of starting their own political movement, they parasitically infest other groups and turn them inside out. This is precisely what happened to the AfD.

In 2015, one the AfD’s most controversial high-ranking members, Björn Höcke, co-authored the Erfurter Resolution [5] requesting a major policy shift in the party. According to this manifesto, the new focus of the AfD should be “A movement of the German people against the societal experiments of the past decades (like Gender-mainstreaming, multiculturalism).”

Höcke [6] is no stranger to controversy: he has described [7] Judaism and Christianity as being in opposition to one another and has wished [8] Germany a prosperous “1,000-year future,” a well-known Nazi reference.

The party’s moderates, appalled by the support behind the nationalist takeover, defected from the AfD and splintered into insignificant groups.

The now-radicalised right-wing party quickly backed off of any economic liberalism. The new chairwoman, Frauke Petry [9], performed complete u-turns on major policies. For instance, while she had previously called the newly introduced minimum wage a product of “neo-socialism” and loudly suggested abolishing it, today the AfD insists [10] on its existence in order to “protect workers.”

In this fashion, the nationalist right of the party is dismantling preceding leaders’ small-government approach in order to morph into a German version of the French National Front or Geert Wilders’s Freedom Party in the Netherlands. This is the alt-right in practice: not only do they reject social democracy and pursue nativism, but their political goals have turned them into socialists and opponents of limited government.

Bill Wirtz is a law student at the Université de Lorraine in Nancy, France. He blogs in four languages and has been published by the Foundation for Economic Education, the Mises Institute, the Washington Examiner, and daily Luxembourgish newspapers.

17 Comments (Open | Close)

17 Comments To "Meet Germany’s Alt-Right"

#1 Comment By Conewago On April 11, 2017 @ 10:24 pm

Could never understand how an authoritarian white state without public virtue is any better than the present liberal white state that lacks public virtue. The Alt Right says that the ends justify the means and we’ll give you virtue later. Uh huh. This from people who defend as pious a man – Putin – who assassinates opponents and presides over a country with 13 abortions to every 10 pregnancies (but, you see, he “defends national sovereignty”).

Well, obviously none of the Alt Rightiest of the Alt Right are at all conservative. Many conservative leaders are playing the game, so to speak, to get power and enact reform. But the means don’t justify the ends, and the ACHA failure here signifies the sacrifice of clear conservative principles of local government and self-government to ill-defined ideology that, in America, merely confirms the dominance of FDR’s federal monster. In fact, most Alt Right ideologues concede that the massive state is necessary.

The weakness of “right-wing racialists” is that they focus on identity without examining virtue. That, and they far and away place race over religion.

#2 Comment By German_reader On April 11, 2017 @ 10:32 pm

This is a nasty hit piece that gets a lot of things totally wrong (e.g. it’s factually incorrect that PEGIDA attracted “thousands of people throughout the country”, it’s a phenomenon totally centred on the city of Dresden, -GIDA groups in other cities were marginal affairs that never took off) or interprets them in the most tendentious way possible. Kind of depressing something like this appears on the site of a magazine that was once founded by Pat Buchanan.

#3 Comment By design patent On April 11, 2017 @ 11:04 pm

Congratulations, with Dresden in “Silicon Saxony” and in neighboring Saxon Switzerland I live in the very epicenters of these movements and I can say that this is one of the few articles from outside Germany which gives a true and fair view. It’s surely not easy to get the situation when even national and regional reports are usually highly biased or overly politically correct which quickly leads into misunderstandings when reports are reported, translated and transported. Björn Höcke is an intelligent and intellectual man. It was a dim and woozy evening and the atmosphere, in hindsight, was borderline near the knuckle. Höcke said nothing unlawful or even close to that but as a smart man hew must have known that those who want to misunderstand him would do so, his speeches are prepared and reactions are calculated before. That what’s the controversy is about between the different wings in the new party. Their followers are typically but not only male and financially well or even very well off, that so far seems different to similar movements which share similar fears about uncontrolled globalization in other countries. While the 1000 years of an empire were often referenced to in the Third Reich, the very origin of these 1000 years period is found in older religious rhymes.

#4 Comment By John Gruskos On April 11, 2017 @ 11:22 pm

It cracks me up when TAC writers try to act like the Alt-Right is some scary menace.

The American Alt-Right is basically the people who used to write for TAC, who still write for Unz.

The best thing that could happen for Europe would be the electoral victory of National Front in France, AfD in Germany etc. Moderate nationalism + economic centrism is the best defense for freedom against globalist cultural marxism.

#5 Comment By David Naas On April 11, 2017 @ 11:51 pm

Aaaannnddd….

I suppose the tl;dr version would reduce to: Meet the New national socialists, same as the old National Socialists.

The alt-right is many unsavory things, but Nazis?

#6 Comment By Telh On April 12, 2017 @ 12:41 am

Sounds great – I hope they win.

#7 Comment By Patriot On April 12, 2017 @ 2:31 am

The end of the article makes them sound like a bunch of disgruntled pinko commie “faux intellectuals” that hate people of color for taking their jobs, but yet, want to suckle on the teet of entitlements from the state. There is a reason why Germany will never rise to the monolithic prominence of a state that truly affects the status of all chips on a global stage. Whatever. Their weaknesses are American strengths, and they can all go to hell.

#8 Comment By The Autist Formerly Known as “KD” On April 12, 2017 @ 7:18 am

Let’s propose a hypothesis: perhaps groups like the AFD are cynical, and recognize that there is no mass constituency that supports classical liberalism, and therefore they eschew an electoral dead end.

As Pareto I believe pointed out, in mass democracy, you can choose either socialism or nationalism. Further, if you don’t like the ultimate telos of mass democracy, junk the Classical Liberalism and come straight out for monarchy, throne and altar style.

#9 Comment By mark_be On April 12, 2017 @ 9:14 am

Wait, you want small government in Western Europe? Now there’s a political position even less popular than the introduction of communism in the United States.

#10 Comment By collin On April 12, 2017 @ 9:36 am

not only do they reject social democracy and pursue nativism, but their political goals have turned them into socialists and opponents of limited government.

Haven’t we seen the polls for single payer health care system for Republicans shoot up to 45%? We know this falls apart immediately but this appears to be a big problem with Trump’s victory and the failure of the Ryan’s health care plan. Republicans won with the Democrats of 20 – 40 years ago and these voters do not Ryan’s vision VERY LIMITED Government. (The Democrats are internally having disagreements with Bernie v HRC voters as well.)

The alt right is not necessarily doing as well in Europe as multiple Parties system splits the vote 3 ways: Alt-Right, Hard Left and Right Center. The Right Center are winning most elections right now.

#11 Comment By Kevin On April 12, 2017 @ 10:14 am

The one thing about the AfD is the extent to which it is rising is dubious. Both opinion polls and regional elections seem to indicate that it already receding from the 12-14% support is seemed to enjoy last year ,to about 7-8%. (and yes, polls are inaccurate, Trump won, etc. Still, if the same flawed measurement captures result X in 2016, and result Y in 2017), the measurement tells us something.

#12 Comment By Greg On April 12, 2017 @ 11:31 am

It is not possible to take anything said by a Libertarian seriously as they inhabit an alternative reality. While I would love to have reliable insight into what is happening on the continent, we need some sources without ideological axes to grind please.

#13 Comment By German_reader On April 12, 2017 @ 11:46 am

This article contains a lot of inaccuracies (e.g. PEGIDA didn’t attract “thousands throughout the country”, it’s mostly centred on the city of Dresden, -GIDA movements in other cities didn’t take off) and is highly tendentious in its interpretation. I don’t get the impression Mr Wirtz really understands the situation in Germany, he’s viewing it through his American-libertarian lens which is rather inadequate.

#14 Comment By John Lord On April 13, 2017 @ 6:08 am

The problem with libertarianism is that it can only exit in a society where individualism is the default position. Libertarianism grew up in and is a creature of the West.But modern Multiculturalism (itself paradoxical a creature of the West and not universalist, and an ideology retrospectivly created to try and explain and put the best face on the unwillingness of some recently arrived cultures to integrate and assimilate into Western culture.) allows for, tolerates and protects cultures which are in many ways the very antithesis of Western individualism. Multiculturalism and Libertarianism can not live comfortably side by side for any length of time. Something’s gotta give. And you could argue that all of the giving and walking backwards, so far anyway, is coming from the Western side.

#15 Comment By J.R. On April 13, 2017 @ 2:33 pm

I am not sure what this magazine even stands for anymore. Sometimes I feel like I am reading National Review, and other times like the Atlantic.

Europeans, especially the Germans, are being systematically replaced in their own homelands, and people are still peddling the same old “limited government” line. This is existential. Abstract ideas are not going to stop the bulldozer that is Islam.

For people self-righteously wringing their hands of the AfD and like-minded movements, there is one question you must answer. Given the choice, who would you rather see gain the reins of power in Germany, the AfD or Islamists?

#16 Comment By Lee On April 14, 2017 @ 5:46 pm

As I recall, the alt-Right movement actually began in France, well before there was much or any traction in the US, much more Germany and Scandinavia.

To be properly understood, Governments and political parties and interest are irrelevant.

#17 Comment By Professor Guntram F. A. Werther, Ph.D. On April 15, 2017 @ 10:51 am

What other major social movement upsetting to the “globalism” and global powers of its time emerged from Thuringen/Erfurt?

Hint: the word “protest” is in the answer.