The entire AfD threatens to be classified as a suspected right-wing extremist. That would be the beginning of the end, says right-wing extremism expert Alexander Häusler.
The AfD: Soon just an annoying marginal phenomenon? Photo: Hans Christian Plambeck / laif
taz: Mr. Häusler, there is much to suggest that the AfD as a whole party will soon be classified as a suspected right-wing extremist case by the protection of the constitution and that this will sooner or later become publicly known. What would that mean for the AfD?
Alexander Häusler: A classification as a right-wing extremist suspected case brings the AfD into the most difficult situation since its existence. The situation for them is disastrous. So far, the party has had a fairly unprecedented series of successes, it went from electoral success to electoral success, also through new populist provocations. This series of successes collapsed due to the corona pandemic.
And the AfD has also turned the populist escalation screw over. As a result, it has moved further and further to the right in its development and almost inevitably came into the sights of the constitutional protection authorities. The consequence for the AfD is devastating.
In what way?
The AfD will lose with its national conservative electorate, because they do not want to get the reputation of being right-wing extremists. It will have to give up its staff because people in the civil service – such as police officers, teachers or soldiers – face consequences if they are active in a party that is led under the heading of right-wing extremism.
And she will have financial collapses because she also lives heavily on private donors and an entrepreneur will now think twice about donating to the AfD if he has to fear counter-campaigns because he supports a right-wing extremist party. The success story of the AfD should be over.
The Saxon Office for the Protection of the Constitution has classified the AfD regional association as a suspected right-wing extremist. It is the fourth regional association after Thuringia, Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt. In this case, too, the authorities see sufficiently weighty “actual indications” for suspicion of extremist activities.
According to the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the “wing”, the officially disbanded stream around Björn Höcke, has even been proven right-wing extremist, the young alternative organization, as well as the four state associations, are suspected cases.
According to information from the taz and other media, the Federal Office has also planned to classify the entire party as a suspected case. According to several reports, however, the AfD sued the Cologne administrative court as a prophylactic measure. Until a decision is made on the urgent matter in Cologne, the legal situation is now like this: The authority may classify the party, but it is not allowed to talk about it. But because it will probably inform the state offices for the protection of the constitution and also the parliamentary control body in the Bundestag, it could well be that this information will leak to the media sooner or later. This is exactly what happened again in Saxony.
Why are you so sure about the slump in electoral favor? The AfD has already given the so-called bourgeois voters numerous occasions to turn away – for example through Gauland’s statement about the NS as “bird shit”. In fact, little has happened.
The right-wing populist taboo was still working: You could stage yourself as an alleged representative of the will of the people and say that you don’t belong in the right corner. With this scam, the AfD achieved its success. But that no longer works when the right-wing extremist classification is pronounced.
The “people will be allowed to say that” milieus, which have something to lose socially, will distance themselves. Then the avowed right-wing extremist voters remain.
The AfD likes to counter this with the argument that the other parties are politically instrumentalizing the protection of the Constitution, a Stasi 2.0, so to speak. Can that get caught?
The right-wing pioneer Karlheinz Weißmann once feared something right from his point of view: The AfD threatens to relapse into a “League of the East” if it continues to radicalize. This story of the Stasi 2.0 might get caught in the east, but not nationwide. Weißmann and Co rely on the gap between the CDU / CSU and the right wing. And not on avowed right-wing extremism.
You know: the history of the right-wing parties in the Federal Republic was a history of failure up to the AfD: All these parties, like the Republicans or the League of Free Citizens, have gone the way of marginalization. You can only be successful if you also mobilize conservative milieus.
Speaking of which you are referring to the Republicans: The 1992 surveillance by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution went hand in hand with their decline: Do you see parallels?
It’s hard to compare. The situation today is completely different, both in terms of the political situation and the situation in the right-wing camp. The Republicans still had competition back then, the AfD has developed into the roof of the right-wing camp. But of course there were and still are internal contradictions in these parties, which are exacerbated by external pressure and the protection of the constitution.
What does that mean for the AfD?
The AfD is a kind of collecting movement from different core milieus: the national liberal direction with market-radical economic views, the national-conservative-minded milieu of former Union supporters and the völkisch nationalists and openly right-wing extremists. The three currents have concluded a kind of truce, and thanks to the permanent success in elections, the conflicts have been swept under the carpet. But now they’re breaking out.
58, is a social scientist and research associate with a research focus on right-wing extremism / neo-Nazism (forum) at the Düsseldorf University of Applied Sciences. One of his main areas of work is the AfD.
What role does the protection of the constitution play in this?
He increases the pressure. The classification as a right-wing extremist suspected case acts like a sword of Damocles, it is existence-threatening. The AfD gained its success from the approval of these different milieus. If the bridge to the bourgeois camp breaks, then that’s it for these successes. With East German protest voters and openly right-wing extremists alone, no major electoral successes can be achieved.
There are still people in the party who still have something to lose, who have a social position – they are important for the external impact of the party. Otherwise there are only the right gamblers who have nothing more to lose anyway.
So the decline of the AfD would have heralded?
Yes, at least the end of their successful streak so far.
However, this has been said several times in the still relatively short history of the AfD.
Yes, I have often thought that this is the end of the flagpole. And then it wasn’t. So you have to be careful. But if you think about where in the Federal Republic the place is for a right wing party, you come to the conclusion: With its populist escalation screw, the AfD has dug its own grave. Interestingly, many of the successful far-right parties in Europe have developed the other way around.
From right-wing extremism to the center.
I agree. Like the former Front National, the Lega or parties in the Scandinavian region, they emerged in the right-wing extremist corner and have undergone a tactical civilization. You have moved to the center to reach larger segments of the electorate. The AfD went the opposite way and now has the stigma of right-wing extremism.
What do you think: what will happen then?
The AfD will continue to try to defend itself legally. Of course, it would be fatal if their lawsuits were successful and the Office for the Protection of the Constitution had to withdraw their classification.
But if the AfD fails and the party is classified as a suspected right-wing extremist, the end of the Meuthen era would automatically be initiated. His competitors from the far right could rejoice that the whole adjustment course has failed and prevail. Meuthen could then pull the rip cord, leave the party and take part of the AfD with him. You could then play Republicans 2.0 in the western German states.
So if you follow you, there would be a kind of Republican 2.0 in the West and a “League East”. How successful could such parties be?
Not much. They would probably have to fight for the five percent hurdle, at least in the west of the republic, and the decline would be very likely. But at the moment this is of course still an open-ended process.