The Domestic Politics of German Unification

By Christopher Anderson; Karl Kaltenthaler et al. | Go to book overview

Chapter 5
The Rise of Right-Wing Extremism in the New Germany

Gerard Braunthal

Right-wing extremism is on the rise in many parts of the world. In Eastern Europe and the Commonwealth of Independent States, ultraconservative, nationalist parties have gained numerous adherents. In Western Europe, right-wing parties have done well in local, state, national, and European Parliament elections in recent years. Building on the fears of voters about a wave of immigrants competing for scarce jobs and housing, political parties -- such as the Nationalist Front parties in Britain and France and the Freedom Party in Austria -- have pitched their electoral campaigns to racist and xenophobic views held by many citizens.

This chapter focuses on one West European country -- Germany -- where the political right has become the center of national and international attention as a result of a wave of assaults by right-wing youths against immigrants and leftists. Among older generations, their well-publicized actions, especially since the unification of West and East Germany in 1990, have rekindled memories of Nazi assaults on Jews and political dissidents during the Hitler era. To gain an understanding of the developments since 1990, it is first of all important to define what I mean by right-wing extremism; second, to trace right-wing developments in the Federal Republic; and, third, to assess right-wing activity in eastern Germany prior to, and since, unification. In such a survey, it is important to ask what the root causes for the rise of right-wing extremism are: Will it grow to such proportions that, in a worst-case scenario, the democratic system collapses and a neo-Fascist system triumphs? To prevent such a catastrophe, what means should be used to counteract the present extremist movement?

Right-wing extremism in Germany encompasses political parties and action groups whose members hold authoritarian, antiliberal, nationalistic, Volk, and racist views. They worry about their own future in a rapidly changing society; are intolerant of minorities, including foreigners and homosexuals; and reject a pluralist society that values democracy and human rights. They emphasize the need for law and order in a patriarchical,

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