The wave of anti-fascist protests in Germany represents the last chance to prevent a fascist crisis regime.
The currently unfolding anti-fascist mass movement seems to be a liberation from the leaden heaviness of years of fascization. Like a mass awakening, millions of people are realizing how far the New Right has already spread into the middle of German society and how much the current situation is reminiscent of the pre-fascism of the early 1930s. Record turnouts have been achieved at antifa demonstrations, some of which have had to be called off due to overcrowding. The Correctiv revelations about the AfD’s massive deportation plans, which triggered the wave of protests, simply made it clear that the new German right are indeed the political heirs of Nazi fascism. Millions of people are taking to the streets to protest against the AfD’s plans to destroy millions of lives through deportation.
Nevertheless, the political situation in Germany remains much more precarious than it appears. Nothing has been won yet. The right-wing is simply sitting out the outrage over its deportation plans. At some point, the anti-fascist momentum will flag and signs of fatigue will set in, leading to a return to „normality“. And the guiding principle of German normality has long since shifted far to the right. In the 2023 migration debate, for example, which is likely to result in a new, draconian deportation law, politicians from almost all parties outdid themselves in copying the AfD’s agitation against refugees – right up to the derailments of conservative CDU opposition leader Friedrich Merz, for whom refugees with healthy teeth are intolerable.
It doesn’t always have to be a Nazi: it is enough to listen to liberal members of government such as Christian Lindner, who blatantly incited against „lazy“ refugees and the unemployed at right wing farmers‘ protests, to gauge the strategic success of the right in gaining discourse hegemony. So far, the Correctiv revelations have not been reflected in falling poll ratings for the AfD. In Saxony, the right-wing extremists could become the strongest force in the elections in September, while the AfD at a national level can look forward to thousands of applications from new members who want to join the party, which is riddled with right-wing extremists, since the planned mass deportations were revealed. Who would have thought it: it is predominantly fascists who are attracted to the AfD – and they are multiplying very quickly.
And finally, the right-wing and far-right networks in the „deep state“ of the Federal Republic, in which plans for overthrow and mass murder have been hatched, have remained untouched, as the daily taz summarized on the occasion of its review of one of the „biggest right-wing extremism affairs in the German security apparatus“.1
The unpleasant truth is simply that time is working for the AfD. This is because the AfD has the systemic crisis behind it, which is boosting its popularity. Capitalism is not able to solve its economic and ecological crisis. The over-indebted capitalist world system is reaching its internal and external limits in its compulsion to grow; it is lurching towards climate collapse, social disintegration and global civil war. And the recipe for success of pre-fascism – from the AfD to Donald Trump – is to ideologically legitimize and practically execute this barbarism that is rising from the „center“ of society as a result of the crisis. This is why the march of the New Right seems so effortless, why liberals like Lindner so easily adopt their inhuman rhetoric – because this results from the destructive crisis logic of a system in agony.
In fact, the ideology of the New Right is a feral form of capitalist competitive pressure and neoliberal ideology, which is charged with resentment during the crisis in order to ultimately mark “foreign” groups for destruction. The outlines of impending barbarism in the 21st century are becoming abundantly clear. Especially on the basis of the AfD’s „deportation plans“. The late capitalist world system, sinking into climate chaos and global civil war, is effectively becoming a global slum. In the future, entire regions of the world will simply become uninhabitable. The northern centers, as the last islands of stability, are already increasingly encapsulating themselves from the sea of anomie, the structureless tyranny that capital is producing in its global rampage. The refugee movements of the future, however, will mainly be caused by the capitalist climate crisis – and fascism in the 21st century will use all means at its disposal to stop them.
What does this amount to in the eroding centers of the world system if their fascization is not stopped? All social groups that future fascist crisis regimes would deny the right to exist could simply be deported to the anomic decay zones.The rigidly sealed-off domed city will simply dispose of its unruly elements into the Mad Max desert. The plan discussed by the AfD with neo-Nazis to also „deport“ German citizens with a migration background is based precisely on this emerging, barbaric logic. Because AfD & Co. would determine what is „un-German“.
Emergency solution: banning the AfD
The fascization of the Federal Republic of Germany that has been taking place since the Sarrazin debate has reached its decisive tipping point. Everything is obvious. Literally millions of human lives are once again at stake in a hopeless capitalist systemic crisis. If the New Right is actually able to ride out the current wave of protests, it will have taken the decisive step towards barbarism. The whole thing could still end with an AfD victory. The next wave of outrage that similar plans could trigger in a few months‘ time would be weaker – this is the inevitable public wear-and-tear effect of right-wing taboo-breaking, which ultimately leads to the establishment of a new, barbaric normality. They have been doing this for years.
The bourgeois trivializers of fascism are already working on narratives to take the wind out of the sails of the Antifa protests. The daily Frankfurter Allgemeine, for example, warns that the demonstrations against the AfD will only make it stronger, as it will receive more applications for membership. In the conservative daily Welt, where the AfD was quickly reclassified as a „left-wing“ party, right-wing politicians are once again warning against exaggerating the fight against the right. Friedrich Merz, the conservative opposition leader who envied refugees healthy teeth in the migration debate, even warned against banning the AfD („martyr role“).
But this is precisely the only sure way to at least delay the fascization of the Federal Republic. The call for the AfD to be banned must become the focus of anti-fascist postulates. Precisely because the situation is truly dramatic. The AfD, whose politicians, together with Nazis, want to deport countless German citizens with a migration background (even Germany’s right-blind judiciary will not be able to avoid classifying this as anti-constitutional), can only be reliably kept out of power in the medium term by a ban – precisely because it has already gained a mass following and has achieved hegemony in many regions and fields of discourse.
And that works quite well for a while. The authoritarian character structure that characterizes the AfD’s mass following, which numbers in the millions, is receptive to authority. Bans impress the authoritarian subjects, who abandon their authoritarian revolt as soon as authority, rather than refugees or socially disadvantaged fringe groups, stands in their way. A ban would also put pressure on the right-wing and far-right factions in the state apparatus, who are already sniffing the air.
Of course, an AfD ban can only function as a temporary emergency solution, it is not a panacea. It is a testimony to the failure of the anti-fascist movement to date if only the call for the ambivalent means of state repression can prevent the advance of fascism. State power can very quickly turn against the left – for example as a „compensatory measure“ to satisfy the right-wing networks in the deep state of the Federal Republic. In addition, two potential successor organizations to the AfD are already waiting in the wings: the „Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance“ and the emerging right-wing party of former head of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution Maaßen. A party ban would therefore only amount to a postponement, as the fascist right would regroup.
Because fascism, as an extreme form of capitalist crisis ideology, has the crisis behind it. This is not an abstract realization. The interaction between crisis and fascism can be traced very concretely by looking at the Federal Republic of Germany, which has repeatedly been the world’s leading exporter. Germany’s export-fixated economic model, which was calibrated to achieve large trade surpluses in the era of globalization, is in a structural crisis in the new phase of the crisis, which is characterized by deglobalization and protectionism. The bubbling up of nationalism simply forms the ideological background music for this new quality of crisis, in which the era of neoliberal globalization and financial bubble formation is collapsing due to the global mountains of debt that it fabricated. The crisis that Germany has been able to literally export through export surpluses will now also fully unfold in the Federal Republic.
Anti-fascist transformation struggle
So far, it has „only“ been the fear of the crisis („German Angst“) that has brought the AfD its successes. Just how fragile capitalist democracy in Germany is was made clear by the fact that parts of the German business elite are now also openly supporting an AfD regime. It is not just the notorious middle class around the „family entrepreneurs “ – even billionaires such as the Müllermilch producer Theo Müller have already checked out AfD positions in talks with AfD leaders. The majority of the business community, especially the export industry, which is concerned about the image of „Made in Germany“, is still strictly opposed to the AfD’s participation in government. Mr Russwurm from the BDI does not want this. However, this branch of industry, which has a tangible economic interest in preventing AfD governments, is on the decline and its influence will tend to decrease due to deglobalization and increasing protectionism.
And fascism provides the ideology for this new phase of capitalist crisis, in which the global neoliberal debt tower is collapsing to make way for nationalism, chauvinism and resentment. Few things would be more wrong than to be intoxicated by the current wave of anti-fascist protest. The situation is far worse than it appears. It is necessary to take a sober look at the given crisis configuration – and fascism tends to be at an advantage because, as explained above, it is simply the ideological expression of the crisis of capital in its barbaric final stage. The mass Antifa demonstrations, as hopeful as they are, could therefore also be the last great uprising liberal anti-fascism. And this is precisely what the AfD is speculating on, insulting the mass anti-fascist protests as the „last stand“.
This perfidious calculation of pre-fascism, which wants to sit out the wave of protest, simply follows the logic of the crisis. As the crisis progresses, the bourgeois-liberal center will disintegrate along with globalization and the liberal-capitalist economic formation. But what comes next is still open. The victory of fascism is therefore not inevitable. It is therefore necessary to consciously fight for what will follow the permanent capitalist crisis – emancipation or fascist barbarism. The late capitalist system will enter into transformation because it is not in a position to overcome its ecological and economic crisis.
A transformation struggle will be waged over the course of this open transformation process. It is actually already taking place, as the AfD is obviously striving for a fascist transformation of late capitalist society, as revealed by the Correctiv revelations mentioned at the beginning. The crisis manifests itself in a dichotomy of right-wing ideology: on the one hand, the New Right propagates clinging to the status quo and a reactionary return to idealized former conditions, while on the other hand, it engages in a broad, structurally anti-Semitic and culturally pessimistic crisis discourse in which shadowy, dark backers are held responsible for the increasing crisis distortions and the renewed threat of the „downfall of the West“. The right-wing conspiracy mania – within the framework of the usual projections – only reflects the tendency to develop very real conspiracies that are inherent to fascism. For example, a secret meeting of Nazis and AfD members to plan the deportation of millions of people.
The best anti-fascist antidote to the murky crisis murmurings of pre-fascism is to openly address the crisis and the inevitability of system transformation – especially at anti-fascist protests, in order to contribute to the emergence of a broad transformation discourse. It is important to simply make people realize what a difficult situation we are in. Nothing will be OK, everything will change. The open discussion of the systemic crisis of capitalism, the conscious public discourse of emancipatory paths to the inevitable upcoming transformation – these are the means with which the unconscious fascist lurch into barbarism could perhaps still be prevented. Anti-fascism will thus indeed form the central field of struggle in the upcoming system transformation, in order to prevent the fascist crisis option in the short term, as well as a medium for a transformation struggle to promote the formation of a radical crisis consciousness in late capitalist societies.
The current wave of anti-fascist protests is, in a way, the last exit before the big right turn, which is not just the Federal Republic of Germany’s direction. The last chance to break the back of fascism is now. And this can only happen by recognizing and consciously avoiding the civilizational abyss that is opening up in the systemic crisis, into which fascism is once again lurching unconsciously in its dark death drive.
My most recent publication on the subject, the e-book „Fascism in the 21st century. Sketches of the looming barbarism.“
This is a translation of a German article: https://www.konicz.info/2024/01/31/ein-letztes-mal-antifa/