In recent days, the German Constitutional Court refused to ban the NDP and the AfD from gathering at Koblenz as part of the European National Populist Convention. The historian Nicolas Lebourg, a member of the Foundation’s Research Centre on political radicalism has conducted an analysis of these two events in light of the varied development and growth of the extreme right across Europe.
On 21 January 2017, the Alternative für Deutschland (“Alternative for Germany,” AfD, founded in 2013) welcomed their national-populist and neo-populist counterparts from around Europe, including Marine Le Pen who emphatically explained the ideological realignment of what had once been a sovereignist tendency of the German right. Yet, a few days prior, the German Constitutional Court had refused to ban Nationaldemokratische Partei Deutschlands (“National Democratic Party of Germany,” NDP). The convergence of these two events only serves to further emphasise the varied development of the extreme right movements across Europe as well as the true purpose of international nationalist relations.
I – FROM HISTORICAL EVENTS TO MODERN DEVELOPMENTS
Founded in 1964, the NDP brought together all the German neo-fascist movements until 1970. At that time, the historical connection was evident in the militant resources: two-thirds of the Politburo came directly from the former Nazi party. The NDP attempted to gain government seats in 1965 under the slogan “Germany for Germans, Europe for Europeans” in an attempt to fill the gap between reinstatement of the traditional Nazi rhetoric and the conservative populist program designed to unite the disenchanted. Consequently, National-Socialist orthodoxy has never been the line. In the late 1960s young German radicals opted for a modernised formulation of their thinking and this development reflected that change. The “Resistance” campaign launched by the NDP in late 1969 was the turning point. A political strategy intended to illustrate an ideological realignment through the semantic reversal of the word ‘resistance.’ The campaign enveloped most of the nationalist structures to such an extent that a year later a common front, Aktion Widerstand (“Action Résistance”) was founded. The name is not without meaning for German radicals who will recognise it as a reference to the national-Bolshevik theorist Ernst Niekisch, who ultimately rejected Adolf Hitler and remained critical of the Nazi party from his socialist position, considering them to be too liberal. Adolf Von Thadden, leader of the NDP and former member of the Nazi Party theorised on the activities in December 1969 in a document entitled “The Conservative Revolution” (a reference to the nebulous nature of the far right in the 1920s). The document affirmed the need for an uprising in order to preserve the ethical and biological forms of the German people, which involved both the structuring of movements by the executive and revolutionary violence – it is for this reason that certain elements of the NDP formed the terrorist group European Liberation Front. In any event, the document is very pluralistic. One of the principal leaders of Action Resistance and one of the most important neo-rightist bulletins: Neue Anthropologie, thereafter linked to the New Right in France. The Nazi raciologist theses gained global justification through the Neue Anthropologie, whilst their application was deemed excessive and there was some revisionism. We also find the classical myth often perpetuated here as well; globalism organised by endogamous Jews, that shall soon make them the world’s intellectual elite.
II – NEW POLITICAL RIGHT
In a political inversion, the most ardent supporters of Action Resistance then split from the NDP in 1972 to found the Aktion Neue Rechte (Action New Right) movement. They consider the question of ideological penetration and reject the party shape which would benefit from the use of the language of their adversaries, and the constitution of a trans-party network through grassroots groups. Some of its members, including intellectual Henning Eichberg, remove themselves completely from the far right and move left. As a collaborator at Nation Europa, Eichberg participated in the Federation of Nationalist Students (Fédération des étudiants nationalistes, FEN) summer camp in 1966, where other Belgian and German militants were also present – the FEN at that time included such leaders and doctrinaires as Dominique Venner and Alain de Benoist. He subscribes to the ideological shift advocated by French leaders: in order to abandon worship of the Saviour, an ideology based on what he refers to as “a realistic conception of race”. On his return, he popularised many FEN theses amongst German nationalist circles and then, as a German correspondent for the New School, he conducted the same activity for the Research and Study Group for European Civilization (GRECE), particularly within the Junges forum. He also is responsible for a concept which has become central to the idea of the New Right across Europe: ethnopluralism (anti-racism which states that each individual is connected to an ethno-cultural group which preserves their identity by preserving themselves from interbreeding – similar to the neo-racism of NOE, but with a human element). The increasing rise of German nationalism, however, was not confined to the periphery of the NDP. In 1973 the NDP youth movement declared that nationalism was opposed to American imperialism and Soviet capitalism, arguing that they serve as a means to crush those who are facing a struggle for “national liberation” and to support the struggles of Africans, Asians, Basques, Bretons, Flemings, etc. “through an international and ethnopluralistic framework”. German NDP students also form Germany’s first nationalist rock band in 1974.
III – THE NEW ORDER AND GERMAN NEO-FASCISM
The development of relations between radicals on both banks of the Rhine only serve to underline the usefulness of these connections. In 1969 one of the most important neo-fascist movements in France emerged; the New Order (NO) (Ordre Nouveau) which highlighted the importance of international relations. At the outset, the NO announces participation in a meeting with the neo-fascist movement Movimento Sociale Italiano (MSI), Spanish Falangists, Portuguese Salazarists, etc. This is a deliberate move intended to provoke the wrath of the left and indignation from the press allowing them to benefit from a free advertising campaign, a tactic you may say they learnt from the NDP. The NO posters declare that the NDP will also be present. Again this is deliberate as the NDP were not notified in advance and so feel unable to reject the invitation.
This question of transnational links is put forward by François Duprat at the NO constitutive congress who declares “our fight extends beyond the need to create a supra-nationalist Europe. Nationals around the world is now a reality with our ties that unite us to the German NDP and the Italian MSI”.
Relations are going well. On 10 June and 17 June 1971, NO officials held talks in Paris with two NDP Bavarian officials before two senior executives proceed to attend an NDP meeting in Munich. A joint poster campaign for the anniversary of the Berlin Wall is under consideration. At this time the NDP are also proposing to hold a Paris meeting with Fuerza Nueva, the MSI and Greeks from the 4th August Movement. NO decides it is best not to attend such a meeting for fear that those in attendance would complicate matters.
However, when NO decides to alter direction by launching the National Front in 1972 their relationship with the NDP is at risk of becoming counter-productive in the eyes of many French nationals. As a result, three European groups are present at the NO congress in 1972 for the launch of the National Front: the MSI, the Belgian NO (founded in 1971 with the approval of the New Order, but relying on ethno-regionalist militants, whilst the French attempt to defend a European federation of nation-states), and representatives from the Action Nouvelle Droite (Action New Right) represent Germany at this meeting. Relations with their new partner remain quite good as evidenced a year later when despite being dissolved by the State, the Action New Right sends the NO a message of support and offers advice on how best to survive the political repression – they invite the NO to avoid responding to any provocation, to maintain their links with militants, to “partition their activities, differentiate themselves from their title”, and “to continue printing a newspaper as a rallying point.” This sound advice was applied by the leadership whilst it is also true that they already undertook subversive action. Consequently, the French extreme right sought a marker of radicality from the other side of the Rhine, but as soon as it became a question of politics and the electoral process, the NDP proved to be more interested in compromise. European alliances are ideologically self-justifying, but as a result they often alter according to matters within the national public opinion of the country in question.
IV – DEVELOPMENT AND OPPONENTS
The activities undertaken to recentralise the NDP and respect the democratic framework only weakened the party, and from 1976 it was competing with many newly formed groups, in particular the Republikaner (“Republicans”), which was formed in 1983 after dividing from the CSU (“Christian Social Union” in Bavaria). Their leader Franz Schönhuber adopted the strategic model of the French National Front (NF). However, his past as a former member of the Waffen-SS has presented a major obstacle to the group’s normalisation. Amongst the bourgeois and elderly, the Republikaner achieved not inconsiderable results in the areas between the Rhine and the Alps and 7.1% of the votes in the 1989 European elections. Nevertheless, once Germany was reunified, which had been one of their central campaign issues, and moreover as this had been achieved by a conservative chancellor, those who supported the extreme right were situated in the East and typically were the youth of the working classes.
This radical change led to the marginalisation of the Republican movement and, once again, the NDP gained momentum, which had previously seemed to be increasingly limited to stereotypical skinhead followers and supporters of white supremacy as seen in the United States. They sought to bring together politicians united by revolutionary-conservative ideas. However, after 1997, their claim that Germany should return to their territorial borders of 1938 was not reflected amongst the masses. On the other hand, they reaped the benefits of their groundwork in the eastern Länder (States) as they reached out to the small groups which had developed following the fall of the Wall. Since their establishment in Saxony in 1989 they obtained a 9.2% share of the vote and had twelve deputies in 2004. But there does not appear to be a nationalist sociological trend taking root: the NDP owes their ability to obtain a European deputy in 2014 with only 1% of the voteto German law. On the other hand, if the NDP is restricted to a small social area, there are social and political changes which may provide support to the extreme right.
V – NEO-POPULISM
Since Autumn 2014, particularly in Dresden (a city which includes a 2% Muslim population), the social movement Pegida (“Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West”) has continued to gain popularity and grow by several thousand (up to approximately 25,000 supporters in January 2015). The demonstrators are typically educated middle class people but can include members of the radical extreme right. Anti-immigrant slogans are prevalent at such marches and can often be seen alongside slogans that brought down the Wall in 1989. Campaigning on the issues of Islamisation and a need for a more direct democracy, that is to say the principal issues central to all European populist right movements, Pegida successfully gained 9.6% of the votes in Dresden in the Municipal (Mayoral) elections in June 2015. But, above all, the movement aligned behind the sovereignist ideas put forward by the Alternative for Germany (AfD) party who previously obtained 7.1% of the votes in the 2014 European elections.
In 2017, an electoral year in Germany, the AfD appears increasingly able to gain further ground as the neo-populist trend gains momentum amongst the German electorate. This success can be attributed to the fact that it adheres to the mould of the extreme right of the 21st century, where the admonition of a multicultural society is made in the name of defending liberal values and not the establishment of a fascist regime. As a result, the NDP is considered to be lawful, but there is a possibility that the extreme right shall reposition itself in Germany as represented by the AfD without support from the NDP or any of their values.
On 21 January 2017, the leaders of the AfD and the NF were both present in Koblenz. The former has gained their electorate support following the demarcation of their policy from the Christian Democratic right in power. The latter has chosen to develop policies which normalise the right-wing to the French electorate. In short, each party remain determined to demonstrate that the European right can be reconstituted around sovereignism and an ethno-cultural identity. Whilst there may be no Franco-German nationalist pairing, both parties are on the fringes of the right and, equally face difficulties when presented with conservative opposition vis-à-vis the social crisis in 2008 and the influx of refugees in 2015. This ultimately lead them to take steps to reposition themselves to their respective electorate as part of a broader readjustment of the right and allow them to become the trans-partisan movements of tomorrow and not the extreme right movements of the past.
This article was originally published in French by the Fondation Jean Jaurès.