Leipzig made the national news over the weekend for all the wrong reasons. Less than a kilometre¬†from the impressive Leipziger Weihnachtsmarkt, another reality was playing out: one that led to¬†69 police being injured and 23 arrests of¬†anti-Nazi demonstrators. The local AfD were quick to¬†jump on the riot, lamenting the violence from ‘Antifa’ (anti-fascists) that has¬†led to numerous¬†attacks on politicians’ offices, personal property and even Frauke Petry herself in a restaurant.
This follows a trend where opposition to the AfD in general is lumped into the ‘Antifa’ basket,¬†labelling any and every protest as anti-democratic. In one press release, Frauke Petry even¬†claimed that a return to the problems of the Weimar Republic needed to be remembered.
On the other hand, many news features have profiled the incredible increase of attacks on¬†refugees, foreigners, Muslims and refugee housing, with Saxony being a ‘standout’ performer (see¬†the infographic here). Any attempt to address¬†the crimes of ‘right-wing extremists’ is countered with the maxim, ‘Of course we are against¬†violence, but what about Antifa‚Ä¶’.
The offensive-countering by either side is reminiscent of a playground battle. Any statement which¬†is followed by a ‘but’ can be forgotten. Blame-shifting means no responsibility to change is¬†required by either side.
Many have come out and said violence in any form is unacceptable. Burkhard Jung (SPD Leipzig’s¬†Lord Mayor) also issued a prompt statement claiming that criminals took the opportunity to mix with¬†mostly peaceful protesters and that one cannot lump all the anti-Nazi protesters into one basket.
To an extent, that is correct. But the fact that bank windows were also damaged and that¬†Connewitz has a section of housing which has been occupied by anarchists who are by definition¬†sceptical of the state apparatus (including the implied force of a police presence) indicates that¬†there is an ideology behind the riot. Why else would police be¬†equipped with two armoured¬†vehicles in addition to water canons and tear gas?
There is a profound confusion regarding this Left-Right antipathy.¬†For instance, the¬†National Socialists undertook a program of capital works and protectionist economic policies which could be considered as a state-supported society.
Marine Le Pen (FN) also claims to have socialist goals. The AfD have been mute¬†regarding the¬†first round of electoral successes in France, with Petry claiming that beyond nationalism, the two¬†parties cannot be compared ‚Äď the AfD wants to pursue a liberal economic agenda.¬†In that sense, the National Front is closer to the Left than the AfD on the Left-Right ideological spectrum.
The fact is, that in attempting to sketch the profile of the Right and the Left, the ground rules seem¬†to have changed. That much can be seen in the AfD picking up votes from both Die Linke and¬†the CDU. At the same time, the¬†New Right are making use of a ‘Quer Front’ strategy, which attracts some from the traditional Left, as evidenced in the Montagsdemo movement prior to the emergence of Pegida.¬†Even the New Right‘s leading ‘intellectual’ Dr. Thor von Waldstein grasps at¬†Gramscian theory to justify a cultural battle in society.
The instrumentalisation of a ‘demo culture’ could be seen as an extension of extra-parliamentary movements.¬†The Thurigen-based AfD have also said as much: to pursue regular demonstrations in addition to parliamentary action.
It’s time to move past using problematised categories as a calling card for ‘the other side is doing¬†it too’. Otherwise, this dialectical oppositionalism will continue to be corrosive for democracy.