But they’re kind to dogs and children, I hear

Some nazis won elections yesterday, and nobody in Germany is quite sure what to do about it. Should one adopt a tone of moral outrage? Or would it be better to make reassuring noises? (‘Germany is not moving towards extemism. This was merely a protest vote’. Repeat till you feel better.)

In the elections to the Landtage (state parliaments) of Brandenburg and Saxony, two eastern German states, the established parties took a bad beating1. The SPD in Brandenburg and the conservative CDU in Saxony remain the largest single parties in the parliaments of their respective L?nder, but saw an exodus of voters. The Saxon CDU was particularly hard-hit, losing 20 seats and their absolute majority.

Looking distinctly happy, by contrast, was the PDS, the successor party to the gang that ran East Germany in the old days. They’re now the second-largest party in both states, and in Brandenburg have only four seats fewer than the SPD.

But of course it’s the nazis who get the headlines. The NPD (‘National Democrats’) took 9.2% of the vote in Saxony, easily leaping the 5% hurdle that the Greens and Free Democrats barely managed to get past. In all, the NPD got only 0.5% less of the vote than did the SPD. In Brandenburg the browns’ success wasn’t quite so dramatic; the DVU (‘German People’s Union’), one of the NPD’s rival outfits, reentered the Landtag with 6.1%.

How could this happen? Well, if you’ve been following reports out of Germany at all, you’ll have heard that many Germans are scared and angered that the government, through the so-called Hartz IV reforms, is going to make it less attractive to be unemployed. The unemployed are not amused. On Friday Chancellor Schr?der called them ‘parasites’.2 On Sunday the parasites struck back. In Saxony, 18% of the jobless voted nazi (as compared with 13% of blue-collar workers and 6% of white-collar workers and civil servants).

So what is to be done? The very first thing, I should think, is for Wessis to carefully avoid congratulating themselves for being different to those awful nazi-electing Ossis. The prosperous burghers of Baden-W?rttemberg, for example, have put nazis in their state parliament more than once.

Guido Westerwelle, chief of the Free Democrats, put on his earnest frown and said the mainstream parties should deal with the extremists of both right and left in a constructive, rational manner. He’s wrong, I think, at least with regard to the nazis.3

So long as today’s nazi parties are careful not to cross the line that would allow them to be banned, those voters who wish to vote for them must be allowed to do so. That’s all they should be allowed, though. As after every election, spokespeople from all the parties were in the television studios last night for a round of questions. When an NPD man started to speak in Dresden, the representatives of all the other parties left the room. And they did the same thing when the DVU’s top candidate began to speak in Potsdam. Here, I think is the proper response to the presence of nazis in a democracy’s parliament. Let no one speak to them; let no one acknowledge them. Somebody will have to register their votes or abstentions, I suppose, but nobody need otherwise interact with them. Democrats of every stripe should make it plain to nazi voters that they have effectively spoilt their ballots.

1This and all other links in this post are in German, I’m afraid.

2 Well, he didn’t actually, though you’d never know that from the Bild-Zeitung. But he did complain that many Germans — east and west alike, and well into the middle classes — think themselves entitled to whatever they can get out of the state.

3The PDS are distasteful, irresponsible populists. And they’re hypocrites to boot; they are making great political hay out of the anti-Hartz protests, but in Berlin, where they sit in a coalition government, they are themselves helping to make swingeing cuts. But one must concede that they are not what they once were. I wish that nobody would vote for them, but I don’t think anybody would seriously suggest they be banned as ‘enemies of the constitutional order’. That’s exactly what the government have tried to do with the NPD. Alas, home secretary Otto Schily and his crew weren’t terribly careful themselves about constitutional niceties in their attempt, and the courts rejected the petition that the party be banned. I hope they’ll try again and get it right. There’s something invidious about ordering Germany’s nazi grouplets along a spectrum of evil, but the NPD are, in fact, the worst of the lot; the DVU and the Republicans at least made a half-hearted effort at bourgeois respectability.

43 thoughts on “But they’re kind to dogs and children, I hear

  1. I watched East German TV mdr yesterday; another telling statistics beyond the jobless-Nazi vote correlation in Saxony was of Nazi vote and age. I remember seeing similar stats from earlier elections showing two peaks – the youngest, the oldest -, now they showed a clear pattern of increased vote from the oldest (a few percent) to the youngest (again 18% IIRC).

    By the way, the old CDU tactic you mentioned, never acknowledging the neonazis as a separate and worse problem and always talk of them only as one half of the ‘populist/anti-constitutional extremists’, was employed by the CDU representative in the studio. He also uttered the unintentionally ironic sentence that “it is bad that we lost absolute majority, because we had good experience with that setup”…

  2. “When an NPD man started to speak in Dresden, the representatives of all the other parties left the room. And they did the same thing when the DVU?s top candidate began to speak in Potsdam. Here, I think is the proper response to the presence of nazis in a democracy?s parlaiment. Let no one speak to them; let no one acknowledge them.”

    I’m sorry for putting it blunt, but I think that’s arrogance in its terminal phase talking.

    A cordonne sanitaire (“la la I can’t hear you”) will only alienate their constituency even more, and pull others in because it shows how little the established parties, politicians and elitists think of democratic elections, -representation, and of the real issues that made these people vote the way they do.

    The mainstream parties would better compete for the vote of these people, because suddenly, before you know it, all political base are belong to an emerging populist who *does* seems to care.

  3. Hallo Mrs T., Thankyou very much for your recent entry. I hope that you will keep us informed as to such developments in Germany. Best wishes.

  4. it shows how little the established parties, politicians and elitists think of democratic elections, -representation, and of the real issues that made these people vote the way they do.

    What ‘real issues’ might those be, Cesperugo? Maybe you have a different and more nuanced set of nazis where you live. The NPD’s stock-in-trade, though, is blaming everything on foreigners and ‘international capital’ (and who ever can they can mean by that?), demanding German sovereignty over large chunks of non-German Europe and telling Germans they should be proud of their history (wink, wink). (Lest anybody accuse me of German-bashing: the Germans have a great deal to be proud of in their history; just not the bits the NPD is proudest of.) The NPD earn votes precisely by substituting their shopworn nazi cant for discussion of ‘real issues’. If you haven’t a job (for example), it’s not because of the effect of German labour laws or what have you, it’s because of the damned foreigners, and everything would be rosy again if only they were all expelled.

    People who vote for nazis don’t deserve to have their views listened to. To say this is not to advocate elitism, but merely to uphold a certain minimum standard of civilisation.

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    “People who vote for nazis don?t deserve to have their views listened to. To say this is not to advocate elitism, but merely to uphold a certain minimum standard of civilisation.”

    Hear hear! I’m tired of hearing the same old miserable nonsense about “arrogant elites” being used to advocate the mainstreaming of advocates of mass-murder and racism – for that is precisely what it amounts to when one says that Germany had something to be “proud” of about the years 1933-1945.

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  6. There are many reasons for people to vote for the these parties, ranging from racism to great-power nostalgia to a a pathological inability to face the horrors of 20th century German history to a tacit acceptance by most of the massive ethnic cleansing of Germans from Eastern Europe after World War II.

    But I think by far the main reason is economic. So what exactly are people in Germany planning to do to improve the economy and decrease unemployment and prevent the economic hollowing out of the villages in eastern Germany?

    I don’t think cutting unemployment benefits is going to handle it. What exactly are the government’s plans to create more jobs?

    This seems to be the real problem, and since I have trouble finding discussion on that, I’d like to see an article on that as well.

    I think if you fix the economy, this problem can be contained.

  7. for that is precisely what it amounts to when one says that Germany had something to be “proud” of about the years 1933-1945

    Oh, I don’t know. Germany did have things to be proud of in those years — Willy Brandt, Marlene Dietrich, die Weisse Rose, the conspirators of the 20th July, etc. — but I imagine those aren’t the things the NPD are thinking of.

  8. Mrs T – This is hardly the medium for in-depth elaboration, so I’ll keep it short:

    Going by the statistics you posted, we learn that these are generally people who have few options and little going for them in our modern day societies. They’re on or close to the side line. In consequence, these people are unhappy, anxious, and are looking for sources of identity, security, respect and sense of achievement.

    There is no sound reason to ignore their representatives, at all. The best we can do is to recognize and address the underlying issues (unemployment, education, criminality, multi-cultural anxiety, etcetera) in open debate and expose the fallacies. And, simply put, compete with better and more solid perspectives than the competition -whether neo-Nazis or Muslim fundamentalists- offer.

  9. I’m going to a post of my own about this later on. My take is – this is actually not as bad as I had anticipated it would turn out.

    Here’s another important comtribution to the debate. It’s the current homepage of Germany’s leading satire magazine, Titanic, and it’s in German, so I’ll translate for your convenience: The image reads, Schroeder shocked, Holger Apfel (main NPD candidate for the election in Saxony) wins in the Paralympics.

    http://www.titanic-magazin.de/startseite.php

  10. Hektor Bim: “But I think by far the main reason is economic.”

    …combined with naivety; based on the age distribution of NPD voters in Saxonia, I agree.

  11. “Going by the statistics you posted, we learn that these are generally people who have few options and little going for them in our modern day societies. They’re on or close to the side line. In consequence, these people are unhappy, anxious, and are looking for sources of identity, security, respect and sense of achievement.”

    I think there are a lot fewer people with few options and little going for them than ended up voting NPD. And I am certain there are lot fewer such people than ended up in the the combined numbers of people who voted for the SPD and NPD.

    But if this really is about economics, those voters are choosing economic unreality.

  12. cesperugo: There is no sound reason to ignore their representatives

    I think we should distinguish between the motives and views of NPD voters and NPD party members. The latter might have become representatives because of their voters’ unhappyness, anxiousness, feeling of lack of identity, security, respect and sense of achievement – but that’s not their agenda.

    You can’t discuss with racists. I learnt this as foreigner in Germany. For example, If a racist hates Turks, it doesn’t matter that you in fact aren’t a Turk. If he believes you’re one, you are a damn garlic-stinking Turk. Even if, heh, Germans eat more garlic per capita than Turks. (And, dear CDU or whoelse, it is no excuse to do nothing that they’re just a small minority – even if only 5%, a foreigner meets one or two every day – and doesn’t know in advance.)

  13. “I think there are a lot fewer people with few options and little going for them than ended up voting NPD.”

    Last I saw, Germany has 13% poor people, most in the East. Tough, the statistical definition used is below 60% of the average income.

  14. All around Germany populist parties have arisen.
    Is it reasonable to assume that Germany will remain an exception in that regard?
    It seems to me that representatives of those feeling left behind must be allowed within reason to work for their voters and show the benefits or, more likely, irrelevance and failure of their policies.

  15. Sorry DoDo (interestingly you have chosen the non-cyber nickname of my little sister ;)), but I can’t. It seems they use a rotating script for the welcome-page image like we do for our banner…

  16. What is surprising is that Mrs. T spends quite some time excoriating the Nazis, without spending equal time on the continuing threat from the far left, which seems to have a more desultory effect on German economic policy. I presume that this is because of the continuing emotive effects of the ideals of socialism on those that are liberal in their views.

    Doubtlessly the rise of these new Nazis will be used by the left in Germany to justify opposition to free-market labor reforms, when it is clear that both the Nazis and the socialists are equally clueless as to what needs to be done.

  17. What is surprising is that Mrs. T spends quite some time excoriating the Nazis, without spending equal time on the continuing threat from the far left, which seems to have a more desultory effect on German economic policy.

    I don?t think this is surprising at all. It is quite obvious from Mrs T.?s article that her main concern isn?t economic policy but that she (and apparently many with her) that the NDP is ?enemies of the constitutional order?. That is that NDP wants to overthrow democracy.

    While I don?t agree with Mrs T?s conclusions about what to be done (I tend to agree with Oliver?s position), I think it is completely unfair jump to unwarranted conclusions when reading note 3 in the text states clearly why she considers NDP worse than PDS.

  18. I am indeed ‘liberal in my views’, RSN; but then if I recall correctly, you are posting from America and hence misusing the word ‘liberal’.

    Doubtlessly the rise of these new Nazis will be used by the left in Germany to justify opposition to free-market labor reforms, when it is clear that both the Nazis and the socialists are equally clueless as to what needs to be done

    A well-chosen word, that ‘clueless’, though not for the reason you think. If you had been bothered to learn a little about what’s going on in Germany before showering us with your wisdom, you’d've known it’s the ‘socialists’ of the SPD who are trying to impose free-market labour reforms, and the nazis who are leveraging opposition to these reforms to pick up votes. One can argue that the SPD are not going far enough with reform, or not implementing it well; but the fact remains that this is where the impetus to reform, such as it is, is coming from. (The PDS are certainly closer to being socialists than are the SPD, and they too are profiting from fear of reform. But, unlike the SPD, they play no role in the federal government and indeed are no longer even represented in the Bundestag.)

  19. But you do have to listen to people who vote for Nazis, because they might do it again. Look, I’m not even in favour of these labour marke reforms. Unemployment is someting discouraged by offering decent jobs, not by beating up the unemployed. As loathesome as I find the NDP, responding with “screw the unemployed if they’re going to vote for Nazis” is not going to accomplish much.

    The good news is that, like most far right parties, their support is actually very fickle. The same people who make right-wing protest votes now can easily enough make left-wing ones next election. The victories of the PDS should demonstrate that. The essence of the protest vote is that it is a protest, and the thing being protested is probably real enough. A lot of east Germany thought things were going to get better for them after unification, and things got worse. This is real. For all the talk over on Crooked Timber about the wisdom of crowds, in terms of policy decisions crowds are dumb as logs. Immigration is not the cause of unemployment. If anything, it is more likely to work as an antidote. But the frustrations being expressed deserve some attention.

    I think Europe should move to a system that encourages part-time work and perhaps even subsidies some employment, along the lines of what’s been going on in Holland and Denmark, rather that reducing unemployment benefits and assuming that people will happily find jobs if you pauperise them first. The Hartz IV don’t seem to be moving in that direction and it seems that this is the consequence. Creating a German underclass is not a solution to unemployment.

    Germany has a long history of ignoring local frustrations at its peril. When it was the communists who actually talked about how crappy things were for German workers and the mainstream parties talked about unproductive reforms, the Nazis came to power as an alternative. The parallel isn’t quite the same here – the PDS is bad enough, but they aren’t Nazis – but the risk of seeing a large swath of Germany fall into the hands of obstructivist ex-communists because people dismiss the protest voters seems likely enough to me.

    Consider the recent surge of Ostalgie. There is a generation of eastern Germans for whom the DDR is a fond memory of stable work and dignity. This can easily translate into votes.

  20. In the despicable landscape of European right extremist parties, the NPD must be regarded as more troubling than most, and there may well be a qualitative difference that sets it apart from other right extremist movements in Germany and Austria that have previously managed to enter parliaments (as reflected in the attempts to ban the party). Translated from ‘IDGR Lexikon Rechtsextremismus’:
    http://lexikon.idgr.de/n/n_p/npd/npd.php

    “From 1992 the formal distancing from neo-nazi elements was loosened and lifted. … In the new [German] states the NPD attempted to establish itself as a meeting place of right wingers and as a ‘national extra-parliamentary opposition’. … This development became manifest in the ‘Three Pillar Concept’ agreed in 1997: The ideological ‘struggle for the heads’, the ‘struggle for the street’, and the ‘struggle for the parliaments’. Mainly skinheads were to be deployed for the ‘struggle for the street’. An NPD-student newspaper then introduced for the first time the concept of ‘liberated areas’, a strategy for everyday struggle, by which the social environment should be brought under the control of right extremists.”

    Shame on its voters.

  21. But you do have to listen to people who vote for Nazis

    Their solutions are dead wrong, but sure, some of their concerns are legitimate. And one does have to take note of those.

    But if by ‘having to listen to them’ you mean, treat the NPD parliamentarians they elect as serious about democracy, cut deals with them etc., then no, you don’t. The NPD offer no solutions. To the extent they exploit legitimate fears, they are only doing the same thing they do when they exploit illegitimate fantasies. When it comes to real politics they are cynics; an issue exists only insofar as it can be pressed into the service of their evil romantic god. Have a look at their website some time. These are not people with whom dialogue would have any purpose.

    As for the merits or otherwise of Hartz IV: people can talk about whether they go too far, or not far enough, or off in a wrong direction altogether. That’s what parliamentary talking-shops, and elections, are all about. But you may be certain that, if parties like the NPD thought they could exploit a proposal that was more to your liking to snare votes from malcontents and misfits, they would do so.

  22. SM:
    “But you do have to listen to people who vote for Nazis, because they might do it again.”
    Well in Australia a campaign of villification of One Nation (which even got into the realm of dodgey court cases) worked. The key point is that one has to have a large majority of opposing parties working together, and not trying to score political points.

  23. I wouldn’t be surprised at another effort to ban the NPD. Judging from comments in the Frankfurter Allgemeine, they’re relatively open about wanting to subvert and end the constitutional order in Germany. That’s a quick ticket to prohibition, and postwar Germany has an effective record of suppressing anti-democratic movements.

    The discussion, both here and in the media, suffers from not taking East Germany seriously enough. Koehler recently came close to puncturing this myth. It’s a little hard to see how to do that as a public official, but here on a blog, we’ll get better analysis if we think of East Germany as a post-communist society, like the seven others that are now EU members and the roughly half-dozen more candidates.

    Communist successor parties have held national power in every single one of them, at some time since the revolution of 1989. And they have been voted out of power, too. And sometimes back in.

    That’s why I think putting the PDS into some broader “extremist” category is utter nonsense. It’s a central European post-communist party. Comparing it with the SLD in Poland, MSzP in Hungary and, to a slightly lesser extent, CSSD in the Czech Republic is a much more productive exercise than trying to tar it with a totalitarian brush. (It might have worked in 1991 or so, but not now.)

    The PDS positions itself like other communist successor parties. And when in power, it governs like slightly more combative, slightly more opportunistic and slightly more populist social democrats. (See Berlin.) It’s now a permanent part of the East German party landscape, barring a total collapes in its leadership.

    The other point about taking East Germany seriously is looking a little bit into how the Nazi past was discussed in the DDR. Broadly speaking, the communist regime let themselves and the East Germans off the hook for the Third Reich. (Divided Memory by Jeffrey Herf is very good on the details.) In the communist schemata, it was the other, capitalist Germany that had been responsible for the rise of Hitler. Thus on one level, Eastern society is not as immune to the blandishments of the far right as Western Germany. At the same time, the communists had vilified fascism much more rhetorically. But when so much that the communists said turned out to be lies, says the far right, might they not have lied about fascism, too? Thus a second opening for the far right appears in East Germany, again as a direct legacy of the DDR.

    Sometimes, looking at the politics, it’s much more productive to look at Eastern Germany as the old DDR, and not as individual states in a unified German state.

  24. that as a public official, but here on a blog, we’ll get better analysis if we think of East Germany as a post-communist society, like the seven others that are now EU members and the roughly half-dozen more candidates.

    I agree, but where’s the significance with regards to the NPD? If I look at the Saarland’s recent vote, I must conclude that at the Saxon level of unemployment, the NPD would have had similar results even considering that the Saarland is not right on the border to a low wage country.

  25. But if by ‘having to listen to them’ you mean, treat the NPD parliamentarians they elect as serious about democracy, cut deals with them etc., then no, you don’t. The NPD offer no solutions. To the extent they exploit legitimate

    Germany has been spending 4% of GNP on East Germany for 15 years. It hasn’t reduced unemployment. It is likely that the number of discontent people with a bleak future will not significantly fall. So the potential NPD voters are here to stay for at least ten years.
    If the NPD has any staying power, ignoring it will mean the CDU in the East has to sign its own death warrant. That is not going to happen. It’ll decline a coalition twice, maybe three times, but not more often. They are running to form a government and cannot accept a permanent disadvantage.
    In the mean time the established parties are showing clearly to everyone how a protest vote hurts most and the extremists can make a lot of promises without fear of having to make good on them.
    Either the NPD has to banned, which has been tried and failed and would very much hurt German internal unity as it would be seen as silencing the eastern voices, or the Austrian example should be followed.

  26. Doug made an excellent point about neo-Nazism in East Germany being some sort of reaction against heavy anti-Nazi rhetoric of the old Communist regime.

    Here in Croatia we saw the same process in public perception of Ante Pavelic and Ustashas.

  27. Dragan:

    How much of that is just perception?
    How are FP?, SVP, Vlaams Block, FN, Pim Fortuyn et alia to be explained?
    And if you are refering to HDZ, can you really compare a governing party with a newly represented party?

  28. If the NPD has any staying power, ignoring it will mean the CDU in the East has to sign its own death warrant. That is not going to happen. It’ll decline a coalition twice, maybe three times, but not more often. They are running to form a government and cannot accept a permanent disadvantage.

    I don’t have a lot of time for the Union, but in my worst nightmare I would never dream them capable of coalition with the NPD. Some of them — some, mind — might possibly consider it with the Republicans, esp. if these managed to reinvent themselves as something no worse than Haider’s mob. But the NPD? I just don’t see it. For one thing, this would lose the Union a horde of core CDU voters who would be genuinely and implacably outraged. (Not all would be, but a lot would.) And it would be an absolute gift to the SPD. No, I think an eastern-state CDU politician who even publicly broached the idea of coalition with the NPD would very quickly find himself expelled.

    The CDU is much likelier to react to the NPD’s strong showing by turning up the volume of its own right-populism. That’s what they’ve historically done when faced with a threat from the right. And the thing is, it often works. As many have pointed out, electoral support for the extreme right in Germany is a fickle and transitory thing, and the Union has a habit of picking up the strays. The Reps and the DVU have had their 15 minutes, now it’s the NPD’s turn. With any luck, this election will have been their high water mark. It’s sad to have to say so, but if the Union helps to keep das v?lkische on a leash, they are performing a service.

  29. I wonder about the optimisim on display all around that “electoral support for the extreme right in Germany is a fickle and transitory thing”. Luckily that has been the case in the past, but DVU did stay in this time and historical situations are always and again different. I understand this as a marketing-slogan to defend the ‘investment climate’, but as an analytical tool it’s weak. When Haider rose to 9% in 1986 in Austria, who expected him to be at 27% in 2000? And who, in 2000, expected him to be at 10% in 2003? Nervousness keeps us awake.

  30. I don’t have a lot of time for the Union, but in my worst nightmare I would never dream them capable of coalition with the NPD. Some

    They won’t do it now. And they won’t do it the next time. But sooner or later, after too many coalitions with the SPD, the pressure will be there. And something would have to be done. Both large parties must be able to form governing coalitions without the help of the other large party, if the system is to work.
    Very similar arguments were made about coalitions of SPD and PDS, but the eastern SPD drew the correct conclusion that it was either the PDS or no government of their own at all.
    In the end state politicians will care more about their state than the federal party.

    This all depends on nationalist parties making it to more state parliaments and being reelected. But Brandenburg has proven that even a disorganised rabble can be reelected if unemployment is high enough. Plus, populist parties are on the rise in much of Europe.
    Of course the CDU can go to the right, but you cannot be pro-Hartz and anti-Hartz at the same time. Unfortunately, the time of cuts in social spending will last a long time. The solution of waiting and throwing money at the problem is no longer possible.

  31. Oliver: This TPM piece gives a punchy expklanation of why political parties can’t just court any constituency they feel like.

    In general, one of the reasons that West Germany was so successful in its denazification was because it made so clear the line between the acceptable and the unacceptable. Looking at the NPD as a party that we can do business with is opening the backdoor to this element in the East.

    RSN: Lousy though the politics of the PDS are, they are not anti-democratic, and they are not Holocaust deniers.

  32. “The prosperous burghers of Baden-W?rttemberg, for example, have put nazis in their state parliament more than once.”

    You’re calling the Republicans nazis?
    I think calling Radovan Karadzic a nazi would be deeply inappropriate, never mind the Republicans.

    I’d say:
    Republicans: more extreme than Haider, less nasty than Le Pen
    DVU: Le Pen level of nastiness.
    NPD: Actual nationalsozialisten, at least partially, pretending to be bog-standard extreme nationalists.

    Right? Obviously you know more about German politics than I do.

  33. Charles Stewart: This is a good article and I believe it to almost fully make my point.

    Germany, like many countries in Europe, as Ronald Schill has demonstrated, has a sizeable voting potential for a nationalist, populist, law and order, anti-immigrant, anti-EU, stronge state, protectionist party. But you cannot infer from that that the people willing to vote that way would vote for an overthrow of the constitutional order, if they were given the choice.
    But there is no such choice. In the distant past the CDU filled much of that niche. It no longer does, hasn’t done so for a long time and offers little hope of doing so in the future. Elections are won in the center and the CDU has learned the lesson well.
    Eg. there was no political home for the eurosceptics throughout the 1980es and 1990es. That there’s no such vote in Germany is simply unbelievable.

    Yes, there is a limit of what is acceptable and what is not. Full neofascism is not acceptable. But drawing the line sharp at the right of the CDU is too far left.
    It would have been better had Ronald Schill’s party or the Republikaner party survived, but complaining after the fact won’t help.
    Now the true neofascists of the NPD have captured that vote and it seems to me that they are likely to keep it. It seems to me that the best option left is to engage the NPD nevertheless and wean it from neofascism. That’s not pretty, but ignoring the problem won’t help.

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    “It seems to me that the best option left is to engage the NPD nevertheless and wean it from neofascism.”

    And how successful do you think it would have been to attempt to “wean” Adolf Hitler from his beliefs? Not everyone spouts policies simply for the sake of power-grabbing, you know; some really do believe in what they’re trying to accomplish with every ounce of their person, and are unwilling to sacrifice an iota of their “principles” for the sake of politics. You seem to imagine that these NPD types aren’t willing to play a long-term game to attain their objectives, even though that is just what Hitler did, toning down the antisemitism as the 1930s approached, and waiting until 8 years into his rule to implement the “Final Solution” he’d been promising for more than 20 years.

    No, there cannot be any talk of “weaning” monsters from their beliefs. Semi-closeted Nazis may not be in the Osama bin Laden league, but that’s just a question of degree, and it makes as much sense to work with them as it would to invite him into a parliamentary cabinet.

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  35. There are true believers in fascism. They are few in number. And they cannot be converted.

    However, there are not enough to dominate a party that has a membership typical of a 10% party. They’d be a minority.
    Looking at the Italian example we see a neofascist, even in name, party reforming itself. It is possible.

    The NPD got about 10% of the vote. That’s the problem, not a few thousand people in all Germany that form the present party. There will always be a lunatic fringe. They are well under control. The likelihood of a coup is essentially
    nil and will stay there. Engaging a party will either reform it or expose its solutions as folly. Ignoring it will allow it to grow on discontent.

  36. David and Oliver,

    I would agree that one can place Reps, DVU and NPD along a spectrum of nastiness, in that order. But I am not persuaded that the Reps are ‘merely’ right-wing xenophobes. With the very utmost in charity, they would have to be classed as ‘sneaking regarders’. And the DVU are not simply germanophone Le Pens. Their patron, Gerhard Frey, has a long career as a whitewasher of nazi crimes and stirrer-up of nostalgia for ‘damals’.

    What can be said of the DVU and, especially, the Reps is that they have been much more careful than the NPD to avoid waving the old Reich flag, using bands of skinheads as ‘security forces’ at rallies and other outward, ‘cosmetic’ German fascist behaviours. (I don’t know enough about Austrian politics to speak with anything like authority, but bad as Haider is, he always struck me as less bad then the Reps, let alone DVU or NPD. I always thought his emphasis was much more on crass populism than on a return to fascism.)

    I think we need to draw a distinction between Sch?nhuber/Frey/Apfel and their like on the one hand and Schill, Fortuyn and (possibly even) Le Pen on the other. The latter are godawful, yes, but they are not the same thing as the former. (Well; maybe Le Pen is. Perhaps I am just especially sensitive to this sort of thing in a specifically German context; wehret den Anfang and all that.) I was pleased as punch to watch Schill self-destruct, but I could wish that somebody more responsible and constructive could have given voice to the concerns his supporters had. And, pro-Europe though I be, I certainly agree it’s a shame that there is no party of committed democrats in Germany that can take the antifederalist side in the public debate. It’s a debate that I hope they would (on many if not all points) lose; but the political health of the country would be improved if the debate could be had.

    David is absolutely right, BTW; I should have been clearer for the sake of readers in the USA that ‘Republican’ in Germany has a meaning of its own.

  37. I would agree that one can place Reps, DVU and NPD along a spectrum of nastiness, in that order. But I am not persuaded that

    So I would order them.

    I think we need to draw a distinction between Sch?nhuber/Frey/Apfel and their like on the one hand and Schill, Fortuyn and (possibly even) Le Pen on the other. The latter are godawful, yes, but they are not the same thing as the former.

    There is the old line, basically “if you are on the right of Alfred Dregger you are a fascist”
    If redrawing the line is to make sense, somebody has to switch sides after redrawing it. Mr. Schill is a discredited egomaniac. Unfortunately the voters select their organ of protest and nobody else. We can hope that somebody will arise and ignore the NPD for now. That might work, but time works for the neofascists. The strategy of ignoring depends on them disgracing themselves every time. Such strategies eventually are bound to fail. It seems to me that reforming what is there makes more sense then simply hope for the future.

    And, you have to consider the damage done in the mean time. In Saxony the formation of the government will now proceed exactly contrary to the vote. In Brandenburg it is already impossible to vote out the prime minister. Whoever gains the nomination of the SPD is virtually certain to become prime minister.

  38. One sure way to make sure that the votes for these sort of parties increase would be to admit Turkey to the European Union. If mainstream parties do not offer a choice about policy issues people care about, new entrants will opportunistically pick up the votes. Maybe the best thing to ensure that the CDU keeps the fringe parties at bay would be a public declaration that the CDU will veto Turkish entry both if it wins an election and, if not, in the Bundesrat, and that it will continue this veto in the face of US and other European pressure.

    Maybe admission to the EU would be good for Turkey, but its not good for mainstream party politics in Europe. Make your choice.

  39. Georg is right to focus on the question of agency. It is not a law of nature that the far right in postwar Germany self-destructs. The center-right has to actively work to regain some of those votes. The pointlessness of having three or four deputies in a state parliament tends to drive protest voters away from voting entirely.

    The tendency of far right parties to splinter, or to have their leaders fall out may be a bit closer to a law of nature. Schill is just the latest example. They fall afoul of each other, of one law or another, or just wind up looking like buffoons.

    But given some action from the center-right, and given some incompetence from the extreme, this latest bout is likely to fade. As Georg implies, this won’t happen on its own, but people’s interests will compel them to take the actions that will sap the support of the extreme.

    More here:

    http://fistfulofeuros.net/archives/000807.php#6270

  40. The tendency of far right parties to splinter, or to have their leaders fall out may be a bit closer to a law of nature. Schill is just the latest example. They fall afoul of each other, of one law or another, or just wind up looking like buffoons.

    Are we seeing a behavior of fringe parties without a chance of meaningful representation or something specific to the right wing? If the former, the argument has just lost validity.