The Great Recruitment Show
Germany’s right-wing has long desired a renaissance of Volksgemeinschaft. Fuelled by a craving for alternatives to the current liberal and centre-left Establishment, following sixteen years of Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Party’s (CDU) austerity and pro-migration regime, the right has mastered a pervasive overthrow. What started out as an academic movement of Eurosceptic economists – in context of a post-Euro debt crisis raising concern of market fragilities within the Eurozone – has now morphed into a cancerous abscess in German politics, inviting our country’s surviving segments of the far-right underworld to send their most fanatic and scandalous delusionists. The Alternative for Germany (AfD) has become associated with antisemitism, Islamophobia, and ardent undermining of Germany’s democratic values. The AfD is not a unique phenomenon of populism that drives the polarisation and radicalisation of anti-Establishment sentiment: the Netherlands’ Geert Wilders (PVV), Argentina’s Javier Milei (LLA), and Slovakia’s Robert Fico (SMER) are amongst the most recent victors of populists gaining control. Yet, the anatomy of populism’s roaring victories (in its most literal sense) seems compatible for almost any example.
Germany’s neurosis over the horrors of the Nazi regime or Vergangenheitsbewältigung has, rightfully so, stigmatised German far-right patriotism. Hate-speeches portray the disgusting appetite of many for a reiteration of what was once set out to become the European domination of the Herrenrasse – the superior ‘Master Race’. What Donald Trump awakened across the rural Midwestern and Southern former slave states – a dormant virus nesting within – is uncannily parallel to the AfD’s widespread approval in Eastern Germany since the Western ‘capitalist annexation’ post-1989, which disowned many Easterners, but crucially disgruntled even more towards neoliberal regimes. Their brave mouthpieces like Björn Höcke, unofficial leader of the German right, exhume our darkest past and carelessly attempt to rewrite and reinterpret historical facts, even legitimising the worst of all – the Holocaust.
For him, a merit of distinction, yet for other politicians an act of total defamation: his public resemblance with Joseph Goebbels (Hitler’s minister of propaganda) is testament of the skewness amongst his votership. Public approval for his grass-roots campaigning at PEGIDA (Patriotic Europeans against the Islamification of the West) and NPD (Nazi Party Germany) gatherings has become a bullet-proof recruitment strategy. Most of all, his ‘openness’ to the mainstream Lügenpresse is what makes him a legitimate politician across the ranks of German neo-Nazism. This helps him legitimise the AfD as a serious and fully constitutional contender for the upcoming state elections in 2025.
From other populists, we have learned that a key component ´getting your message across and not letting the evil mainstream media misrepresent your views is the use of alternative news outlets and above all social media. Famously, AfD’s founding father Bernd Lucke, an ordoliberal economist, fell victim to founderitis over an intra-party conflict ending with his demotion as head and eventual desertion from his organisation. The challenger, Frauke Petry, an East German chemist, surpassed Lucke in extremifying the slander targeted towards Merkel’s social reforms and welcoming attitudes for Syrian migrants fleeing civil war. Petry understood the power of social media and took advantage of Lucke’s antiquated style of disseminating his mission for the party’s future. His personal reservations to not ruin his academic credibility distanced him from any engagement within the fast-paced and ‘plebeian’ social media domains; thus Lucke failed to scoop out his full potential as a modern and sought-after 21st century politician.
Whilst Lucke scrambled for more support, Petry had done her homework, recognising the importance of platform reach to the modern voter. Contrary to the more commonly observed causes of intra-party conflict, such as electoral losses leading to the ‘blaming and shaming’ of party leadership, social media has created a sprawling bubble of digitised echo chambers that accommodate people from all walks of life. From politically-aligned activists to the politically-apathetic, Petry’s separatist counterforce capitalised on the Internet’s workings of algorithmic pluralism. People unfamiliar with Petry but engaged with alternative media outlets sympathetic to right-wing politics suddenly crossed paths with her views, generating a much bigger buzz. Political abstinence as protest towards the Establishment was replaced by the AfD’s burst into the political arena. The AfD’s panel of activists, imbued with a degree of political callowness yet driven by an urge for change, did not shy away from addressing societal taboos. This included advocating for a practical approach to migration politics, such as the arresting and deporting of ethnic non-Germans. Yet, Petry’s demise was later caused by the same backstabbers that catapulted her up the rigging. Her reluctance to radicalise further and head further right weakened her sphere of influence and pushed her out of the extremist ‘cult’.
Today, Petry’s legacy persisted and anchored social media propaganda as AfD’s most glorious weapon. Polls are led in all of the East German ‘new five states’, with Björn Höcke, AfD’s finest fascist, as chairman of Thuringia. It is here, in the Eastern states of Germany, where the country’s number-one fascist behemoth is most legitimised. Post-reunification, the neoliberal West Germany annexed large swathes of East German capital leading to large inequalities in pay gaps and lacking investment. Dissent grew as it appeared to many that the government was prioritising immigrant labourers during the Merkel era,further radicalising peoples’ frustration with the Bundestag. There, the AfD’s flagship youth recruitment agency – the Junge Alternative – has its headquarters from which it heralds their calls on Gen-Z to unify against the left. Brave journalism has unveiled that this plagiarised model of Hitler’s youth programme Hitler-Jugend materialises on one simple message to its younglings: truth is subjective, friends are your truth, don’t leave your echo-chambers.
Now, the recent exodus to the right only leaves one to ponder: how will German politics look with the radical right at the helm?
No other party is as obsessed with TikTok and Facebook propaganda. 64% of AfD members of parliament have an active social media account. This is only true for 12% of delegates from the centred CDU/CSU.
We should not forget the AfD’s historical intra-party fragility. Given its huge political breadth from centre-right Eurosceptics to a majority right-wing faction, the ironing-out of repeated scandalous publications or speeches of AfD’s radicals obstructs the party’s moderates from engaging in actual politics. The evolution of a once niche party constructively critiquing European monetary and fiscal policy derailed into anti-immigration and fascist derogation within years.
AfD members’ discordant views on geopolitical conflicts, like the Russian invasion of Ukraine and the Hamas terror attack on Israel, expose the party’s lack of direction and inconsistency in its most brightening light. Hypocrisy is integral to the party. Examples? In what became known as the “Höcke Affair”, the esteemed gentleman, Björn Höcke, described the Berlin Memorial to the Murdered Jews as a “memorial of shame” and Alexander Gauland – former leader of the AfD, now honorary member – desecrated the Holocaust as a mere historical “bird shit”. How could these antisemitic conspirators still be welcomed as brothers-in-arms?
In light of the most recent developments in Eastern Europe and the Middle East, the AfD enjoys passing itself off as pacifist and harmony-seeking — the soft flowerbed we all should be holding hands in. In the case of Israel’s resistance against Hamas, how can a party whose identity politics are heavily associated with minimising Rassenschande – a racist ideology of the disgraceful act of procreation between a non-Arian and Arian person – and the Islamification of the West, as well as being persistently Jew-hating have any credible stance on the topic?
Contradictions ,which highlight the party’s clear incompetence of deterministic leadership, should only frighten us about their rampant blaze across the nation. Camouflaging its true devotion to a radical realpolitik – Henry Kissinger’s idea of practical decision-making within the currently available possibilities of political action a country has – as justified pushback against a takeover of taxing socialism, lacking dialogue deprives us of civilised discourse and leads to barbaric rallying. Let’s prevent this tyranny and battle the demons we learnt to defeat almost 80 years ago!