The Right-wing in the Middle
Right-wing Propaganda and Racist Attacks Thrive in this Social Climate
By Christoph Butterwegge
[This article originally published in: Ossietzky, July 13, 2002 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web, http://www.linksnet.de/drucksicht.php?id=687. Christoph Butterwegge is a professor of political science in Koln.]
Extremist right-wing propaganda and racist attacks thrive in a social climate marked by horror visions about the demographic change (alleged "aging" and shriveling of the population) and conflicts over forms of immigration and cooperative intellectual life. The ethnicizing of social relations and economic conflicts threatens in the debates. Controversies occur over modernization of the citizenship law ("double passport"), recruitment of foreign experts ("green card") and integration works expected of immigrants (adaptation to the "German culture").
Since time immemorial, right-wing extremists have relied on understandings, campaigns and programmatic options of established politics. Conversely the "middle" increasingly takes up positions first discussed in ultra-right circles. More and more overlappings or ideological intersections exist between themes of the right-wing and themes of the middle. Slogans like "farewell to the shadows of the NS past", the megalomania policy of a "self-confident nation", "national identity" and "more national pride" are derived from the intellectual environment of right-wing extremism or the so-called New Right. The election strategies of the established parties are also marked by a (re-) nationalization of the political jargon. Thus the Hesse prime minister Roland Koch suggested that "national identity" be the dominant theme of the 2002 Bundestag election. Every person has his or her personal character and is also bound in a web of collective relations and feelings of community. Why ethnic origin should enjoy a higher rating than membership in a circle of friends, hobby group, residence, region, vocational association or sports club is unclear.
Instead of immunizing against right-wing extremism, the emphasis on the national which loses importance in the "age of globalization" constitutes its foundation. Since (united) Germany is so emphasized on talk shows, non-Germans often experience intense rejection and racist violence. Nationalism is not a remedy - minimized as "patriotism" or taken in homoepathic doses - that strengthens democracy and - in higher doses - becomes a political poison. Rather nationalism must be encountered resolutely to avoid its negative ideological consequences that started two world wars.
In January 2002 Edmund Stoiber represented the SPD (Socialist party of Germany) and the Greens as dangers for the national cause and forced them to the defensive by concentrating on "immigration, foreigners and the multicultural society". He defined "the Fatherland" as "the middle" and justified his rejection of the red-green immigration law with German economic and demographic interests. The Bavarian interior minister Gunther Beckstein also urged clearly differentiating between "foreigners who benefit us" and "those who use us". Racist clichés were confirmed. Who is surprised that after the assassinations of September 11, 2001 one hears that Islamic fundamentalism/ terrorism threatens internal security, that foreigners are more criminal than Germans and must be punished more strictly and immediately deported, that immigrants should submit to local practices, that the German people will die out if the birth decline is not stopped and the Jews were guilty in anti-semitism?...
It is high time that the middle becomes aware and resists the right-wing danger.