Kemper’s core thesis: it is dangerous to underestimate the AfD as a populist right wing party. Rather, the AfD has three agendas converging into an ultra-nationalist orientation, drawn by the desire to cement privilege for the chosen few, with inequality or alienation for the ‘unworthy’.
The first torch carried within this party is for extreme Neoliberalism/ Libertarianism, which pushes policies such as the full privatisation of unemployment benefits / healthcare as well as minimal government. The second torch is carried for a clerical-aristocratic ethos, supported by ultra conservative Catholics (think Opus Dei) and the former landed Aristocracy. The third pressure point comes from the ‘New Right‘ who are more aligned with a fascist ideology (according to sociologist Roger Griffin) than to traditional conservatism.
These three trends dovetail into each other and are not mutually exclusive, although there are some tensions to be held in check (for eg, the New Right have concerns about extreme Liberalism, as do the Liberals about aspects of overt racism). Someone leaning towards racism probably doesn’t have much time for gender politics, for instance. The bewildering success of the AfD in Sachsen-Anhalt with 25 directly elected candidates has helped to establish the AfD in ‘Mitteldeutschland’; this lecture series is therefore timely.
The context of Sachsen, Sachsen-Anhalt and Thüringen will have a marked impact upon the federal Party’s membership meeting in Stuttgart on April 30. There it shall be decided how far the second (and official draft) of policy should be accepted by rank and file members. It is important to note that the third ultra-nationalist strand (spearheaded by Björn Höcke with support from federal board member and leader of the AfD in Sachsen-Anhalt, Andre Poggenburg) support an alternative program with harsher and nationalistic demands than the official draft. Also to be decided is whether or not the AfD are willing to accomodate overt neo-Nazi links (Saarland). Björn Höcke criticised the unilateral decision to sweep Saarland clean through his faction’s website (Der Flügel). By month’s end we should know more about the political fate of Petry and Meuthen, and whether the ultra-national playmakers continue in their ascendency.
The second half of Kemper’s lecture focussed upon Höcke’s strategies to promote his vision for the AfD’s future.
Höcke likes to frame the AfD as having a historical mission: to win a ‘clash of cultures’ through linguistic and political strategies to save Germany from a real and existential danger. He has spoken about the times prior to a civil war, of heroism and revolution for the ‘Fatherland’; the use of Nazi-era terminology and concepts (with significant borrowing from the writers who influenced Goebbels and Hitler in the 1920s-30s) is his rhetorical bread and butter. Examples include ‘gesundes Volksempfinden’ (healthy sense of the people’s will), ‘Tat-Elite’ (heroic deeds), ‘tausendjährige Zukunft’ (thousand year reign), ‘Volksverderber’ (pollution of the people as a race), the ‘Sein oder Nicht-Sein’ (the preservation or destruction) of the German people. These terms are based on the principle of exclusion for the sake of survival. The rhetoric is therefore echoed in calls to end multiculturalism in Germany, as it is likened to a disease / virus which infects and weakens the body of the people. These terms work metaphorically to incite emotions rather than thought. With Brandenburg-based Alexander Gauland riding shotgun with his ‘Volkskörper’ (body of the people) talk and protection of Höcke at the highest levels, this strand should not be underestimated.
What does this all mean for us here in Leipzig? Watch this space regarding policy pressure for Frauke Petry, her Sachsen AfD party members, and the frantic networking with locals behind Legida, Pediga, die Offensive für Deutschland, Die Rechten, One Prozent, former NPD members and and and …