By Stefan Bollinger
[This book review of Christoph Butterwege, Rechtsextremismus, Freiburg 2002 originally published in: Utopie kreativ, May 2003 is translated from the German on the World Wide Web.]
Rightwing extremism has become a quiet subject. The wave of rightwing violence in Germany, particularly in the East, has died down somewhat after its spectacular climax in 2000/2001... The rightwing extremist parties in Western Europe elected in the governments of Austria, Italy, Denmark and the Netherlands have also been quiet. The "rebellion of the respectable" failed because important positions of rightwing extremists take their place "within society". These positions, particularly "the boat is full", are part of the accepted self-image of "democratic" parties.
As an expert of the material, Christoph Butterwege, political scientist at the University of Koln, summarizes the foundations and mechanisms of rightwing extremism in his latest book. He rightly criticizes that this "complex phenomenon" as divided up in ideologies, organizations and acts of violence. The emphasis in the relevant literature was mostly on the organized rightwing extremism. The ideological foundations were ignored: racism, nationalism, biologism, social Darwinism, sexism, authoritarianism and militarism. The author turns to those structures that were often faded out "that enabled its conversion in policy or political authority."
Butterwege analyzes hostility to foreigners or xenophobia, racism and ethnocentrism, rightwing radicalism, -extremism and -populism as well as neo-fascism and -nazism in its historical genesis and its theoretical and political configuration. As his working definition, rightwing extremist are those currents and efforts to limit or abolish basic democratic rights - under threat and/or application of force. As a rule they are socially disadvantaged themselves on account of bodily characteristics like skin color, physique or hairstyle, descent, worldview, religious or sexual orientation, excluding or exterminating - in the extreme case - minorities differing from the "standard norm" and "seek to eliminate or weaken those forces championing their integration, the goal of social emancipation and mechanisms of democratic participation."
Different varieties operate in established parties. Rightwing extremism includes those "populist" currents in which "populism" aims more at political strategies and propaganda than at the equivocal contents. In contrast, the author regards the terms neo-fascism and -nazism as only conditionally valid in the early DDR (East German) literature. With these terms, "a part of present rightwing extremism is described that is different from traditionalism, special militancy and greater fanaticism. Every rightwing extremist is not a neo-nazi but every neo-nazi is a rightwing extremist."