Folgend die englische Version meines Vortrag auf der Jahreskonferenz des Bündnisses „Unite against Facism“ in London. Speech held at the United Against Fascism national conference, 21 february 2015 in London.
The political right in Germany is taking on a new form – both in parliament and on the streets. To the right of the CDU, there has been the founding of ‘Alternative für Deutschland’ – with its neoliberal slogans against bank bailouts during the euro crisis. Employing racist election campaigns targeting Muslims and refugees, the party gained between 10-12 percent last autumn in Thuringia, Brandenburg and Saxony. The growth of AfD in surveys has stalled since the emergence of an anti-racist movement against Pegida. In Hamburg it entered the first parliament of a westgerman federal state.
Further right than AfD, the fascist right is also experiencing success on the streets. At the end of October 2014, ‘Hooligans against Salafism’, or HoGeSa, a collective of Nazi groups and right-wing football fans, organised the largest Nazi march since Dresden in 2011, with 5,000 participants – here, too, picking up on incitement of hatred against Islam. The HoGeSa demos appealed primarily to a hard core of Nazis, a fact made clear by the violent incidents that occurred and which elicited negative reactions.
Pegida – ‘Patriotic Europeans against the Islamification of the Abendland (i.e. West)’ – took a different approach. It tried to appear less ‘Nazi-like’ and more like a citizens’ initiative, in order to garner broader appeal and mobilise the generally prevalent dissatisfaction with the political system and fears of social marginalisation in order to turn these against Muslims and refugees. In Dresden, at its demonstrations over a number of weeks, Pegida brought up to 25,000 people to the street. At the same time, Nazis and right-wing populists across the country seized the opportunity to create Pegida offshoots.
However: Pegida and other right-wing movements have not succeeded on turning the shock following the attack on Charlie Hebdo and the jewish supermarket to their own advantage.
It was the mass demonstrations against Pegida and for an outward-looking society which influenced the political climate. People demonstrated in numerous cities in the run-up to Christmas and on 5 January, before the attack in Paris. On 12 January – after the attack – around 100,000 people took to the streets nationwide. In sheer numbers, this was the largest anti-racist movement for a long time.
The Muslim associations did not allow themselves to be backed into a corner and called on German politicians to hold a vigil protesting hate and violence 6 days after the Paris attacks. At the event, Merkel said “Islam is part of Germany”.
The mass demonstrations across the country created a divide in Pegida between hardcore Nazis and ‘fellow travellers’. The populist wing ended its association with the openly right-wing Nazi offshoot ‘Legida’ in Leipzig, as well as with Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann, who was revealed as a Hitler sympathiser. The departure of this ‘AfD wing’ of Pegida and its subsequent creation of the initiative “Direct Democracy for Europe” flopped with its first rally drawing 200-500 participants. The Pegida movement has been weakened by the split. At the most recent demonstrations, only around 2,000 took to the streets with openly right-wing speakers. At the second demonstration on 16 February, the Monday after the anniversary of the bombing of Dresden, that is abused by the Nazis for their purpose each year, however, 4,000 attended.
The threat of racism has not vanished with the decline of Pegida, however – the latter is just the tip of the iceberg, with anti-Muslim racism and hatred of refugees remaining widespread. Pegida also acted as a propellant for radicalisation of the right: violent incidents against Muslims and refugees have increased by 130 percent across Germany since the Pegida marches.
In Germany, the wave of racism against Muslims since 11 September 2001 has been driven to a major extent by firebrands such as Thilo Sarrazin, a social-democratic, former finance senator in Berlin and member of the Executive Board of the Bundesbank, who wrote an anti-Muslim and racist bestselling book. Also liberals, like the well known feminist Alice Schwarzer, are backing pegida, because they think Islam is the main problem.
But: Islam is not the Problem, Racism is the problem!
It is not acceptable that refugees and Muslims don’t go on the street in Dresden on a Monday afternoon, because they fear the aggression that is caused by pegida. And it is not acceptable that – as I was told, parents switch to German if their kids talk to them in Arabic in the tram, because they fear to be identified as Arabs or muslims.
The utilisation and incitement of anti-Muslim racism will continue. There is a risk of new outbreaks. Even though the ruling class has largely been forced to take a critical stance against Pegida, certain factions within persist in playing with fire: Stanislav Tillich, the conservative Minister President of Saxony, recently declared that Islam does not belong in Saxony.
The readiness of some in the dominant class to play the racist card endures. The war against terror and the war in Iraq maintains the threat of terror attacks in Europe. The war in Iraq which provides fresh impetus for IS and its affiliates.
The government is not doing enough to support either refugees or local authorities. This allows those on the right to routinely make scapegoats of those who have fled war and poverty.
The crisis creates a climate in which scapegoating can work. Racism serves its purpose both domestically and on an international level, as a means of legitimising military intervention.
From a political standpoint, the movement against Pegida represented great progress. At the same time we still have to work hard to create broad alliances that are willing to confront the far right.
The next steps for the anti-Pegida movement are now as follows: continued local mobilisation wherever Pegida and its offshoots appear; on 28 February we have a central demonstration for refugees’ rights in Dresden. We don’t leave the streets to the racists! We will send greetings of Solidarity to your mobilisation against the first Pegida-Demonstration in Newcastle. Time over, Pegida! And of course we are reluctant to receive your greetings of solidarity aswell!
Finally we will have decentralised action on 21 March, the international anti-racism day. We can learn so much from each other. I wish you success for your mobilisations. Together we stand against Islamophobia, Antisemistism and Facism in Europe!