Well over a million people demonstrated against the far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) in January. Huge demonstrations of hundreds of thousands took place in Berlin, Hamburg, Munich and Cologne – so large that in some cases they had to be ended early. However, large mobilisations took place not only in the major cities, but also throughout the country and in many small towns. Concern about the rise of the far right has turned into protest. That is good and important. But that alone will not stop the AfD.
The trigger for the protests was a secret meeting of fascists, AfD and CDU (conservative party) members at which the participants discussed deportation plans for millions of people with a migration background. This is in a country where 13.4 million of its 84 million residents are not German citizens. As outrageous and dangerous as such extreme nationalist fantasies are, they were just the straw that broke the camel’s back. But perhaps many people were just waiting to be called out for a mass demonstration against the right. After all, the rise of the AfD has been steadily increasing in the opinion polls for months, it is currently the second strongest party, and is causing concern not only for those who would be the direct victims of AfD policies, but also for the powerful capitalist organisations and bourgeois parties. For the eastern German states, the possibility of ungovernability or coalitions between the CDU and the Left Party or the new Wagenknecht-led party, BSW, is already being discussed for the period after the state elections in September this year.
Protest is not enough
Accordingly, these demonstrations were also characterised by the participation of politicians who actually pursue right-wing policies – if one understands right-wing to mean what it has historically been understood to mean: policies against the interests of the working class, women and discriminated minorities, militarism and the dismantling of democratic rights. In other words, policies such as those implemented by the CDU/CSU, but also by the SPD, Greens and FDP in the so called ‘traffic light’ coalition government. However, it is precisely these policies that are driving more and more people into the arms of the AfD, which – in complete contrast to the reality of this being a party of entrepreneurs and aristocrats – presents itself as a party of the “little people” and against the establishment.
Fighting the causes
If you want to stop the AfD, you have to tackle the causes of its rise. If we demonstrate together with the perpetrators of unpopular policies – under a banner of unity across all classes – this is impossible and the effect of the mass protests will be limited. For the time being, the AfD has thus gained a headwind and its opponents will (hopefully) take a more self-confident stance against racism and the AfD. However, those who have fallen for the right-wing populists out of justified anger at the anti-social capitalist conditions and arrogance of the ruling elite will hardly be convinced in this way that they are on the wrong track. At the same time, the traffic light coalition and the CDU/CSU are continuing to prepare the ground for the AfD with their anti-working class, anti-middle class and racist policies. Even if the AfD’s poll ratings now fall by a few percentage points, this will not have a lasting effect.
The discussion about banning the AfD points in the wrong direction. Firstly, a ban would not solve the problem, but would consolidate and probably even strengthen the AfD camp. At the same time, the AfD could quickly reorganise itself under a new name, just as the far-right Vlaams Blok did in Belgium – it is now called Vlaams Belang and nothing else has changed except that currently it tops the Belgian opinion polls. Secondly, although there are many Nazis in the AfD, it is not a fascist party and the vast majority of its voters are not fascists either. It must be defeated politically. A ban would be grist to the mill of AfD propaganda.
Class struggle against the right
The best means in the fight against racism and the AfD are, firstly, the joint struggle of German and non-German workers and socially disadvantaged people for their common interests, i.e. for adequate wages, better working conditions, affordable housing, investment in education, health and social services. The trade unions have the task of organising this struggle and consciously involving migrant workers in it. Secondly, there needs to be a mass political alternative from the left, a political representation of the interests of the working class.
When the leader of Die Linke (the Left Party), Martin Schirdewan, now calls for an “uprising of those responsible”, he is handing over responsibility for the fight against the right to those who cannot lead it because they are part of the problem instead of confidently pointing out a way to fight the right from below. This adaptation of the Left Party to the establishment is one of the reasons why the AfD is able to rally the protest against “those at the top” behind it. What we need, however, is a mass socialist workers’ party that does not play by the rules of the system and takes a clear stand – against the SPD and the Greens (as Die Linke does not do sufficiently) and against racism and hostility towards migrants (as the BSW does not do). And which leads the fight for a socialist democracy, because “you cannot have capitalism without racism” (Malcolm X).
Sozialistische Organisation Solidarität (CWI in Germany) are committed to this wherever we are active: in trade unions, the Left Party, social movements, companies, schools and universities. We invite everyone to do this together with us!