Categories: Europe

Smash fascism in Germany – and around the world

Although it is 90 years since Hitler took power in 1933, Germany is witnessing a resurgence of overt fascism. According to polling released earlier in June, the far-right Alternative for Germany Party (AfD) has the support of almost 18% of the electorate.

The 18% ties the AfD, along with the ruling Social Democratic Party (SDP), as the second-most popular German parliamentary party, after the “moderate” right-wing Christian Democratic Union (CDU). Support for the AfD has risen by at least 4 points from 14% just in the last three months.

Much of this support stems from AfD’s appeal to resentment about the ongoing economic crisis in Europe, caused by the imperialist war in Ukraine and the capitalist state response to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Die Linke (The Left) party, much of whose leadership has abandoned its traditional anti-imperialist and antiwar commitments and refused to oppose U.S./NATO aggression against Russia, has failed to muster effective opposition to the fascist threat.

Exploiting the situation, the AfD is attacking migrant, Muslim and LGBTQIA+ communities — calling for a ban on immigration from Africa and the Middle East, the prohibition of same-sex marriage, and restrictions on Islamic worship. Using timeworn scapegoat tactics, the party blames oppressed communities for the conditions caused by the very capitalist system it seeks to preserve.

This month, Björn Höcke, the AfD leader in Thuringia state, used the Nazi Stormtrooper slogan “everything for Germany” at a campaign rally. In the past three years, neo-Nazi violence has surged in Germany, with over 24,000 hate crimes committed by far-right groups recorded in 2021 alone. Most of these attacks have targeted migrants and asylum-seekers, who experience systemic racism as well as xenophobic and Islamophobic discrimination. Fascist attacks on Jewish people have also increased.

Instead of addressing this Nazi violence, the German state is targeting Palestinian activists and allies such as Pink Floyd founder Roger Waters, whom Zionist groups have falsely smeared as “anti-Semitic.”

Anti-fascists the target of repression

While police have done nothing to respond to the threat posed by neo-Nazis, many socialist and other left-wing groups are carrying on active resistance. On May 31, a court tried an anti-fascist activist known as “Lina E.” and three of her comrades, who were charged with attacking neo-Nazi groups in Dresden. (Lina E.’s legal name was withheld to protect her identity.) Leftist anti-fascists packed the courtroom’s public galleries in solidarity, cheering on the defendants.

German Anti-fascist demonstrators demand freedom for Lina N, May 6, 2023.  Photo: Peoples Dispatch.

As the judge sentenced Lina E. to five years in prison, a chorus of boos drowned him out. Many of the activists chanted “fascist friends,” a reference to the leniency German courts have shown Nazis dating back to the 1920s. In the years before Hitler was named Chancellor in 1933, fascist paramilitary stormtroopers attacked communists in street battles, mostly with impunity. After the Nazis took power, their racist armed force, the SchutzStaffel (SS) and their secret police (Gestapo) joined these thugs to attack, arrest and imprison communists, other leftists and anti-fascists, Jews, Roma and LGBTQIA+ people.

Following the verdict in the Lina E. trial, thousands of activists mobilized across Germany. Major demonstrations took place in many German cities, including Leipzig, Hamburg and Berlin. These protests were met with a brutal response from the police, who turned water cannons on demonstrators.

Roots of Nazi resurgence

Though horrific, the Nazi resurgence in Germany should not come as a surprise. Often praised for “coming to terms” with its genocidal past, the West German Republic, which annexed the socialist German Democratic Republic in 1990, was in reality a haven for Nazism.

A recent study found that former Nazi Party members made up 77% of the West German Justice Ministry between 1950 and 1973. The data show that there were more Nazi Party members working for the judiciary after 1945 than during the Nazi regime itself. (csmonitor.com, Oct. 11, 2016)

The ex-Nazis in the West German government didn’t just have low-level jobs; some occupied the highest rungs of state power. Adolf Heusinger, a chief of the Wehrmacht General Staff during World War II, went on to chair NATO’s Military Committee. Hans Globke, a civil servant who supervised the drafting of the 1935 Nuremberg Race Laws and later authorized the deportation and murder of 20,000 Greek Jews, became Chief of Staff for the U.S.-backed German Chancellor Konrad Adenauer.

Although bourgeois historians hail Adenauer as “the father of German democracy,” other observers view Globke, who himself had close ties to NATO and the CIA, as the “true architect” of the West German state, with Adenauer acting as figurehead. (Der Spiegel, English, March 6, 2012)

By contrast, the GDR organized sweeping anti-Nazi campaigns, which largely succeeded in eradicating Nazism from East German society. In 1963, an East German court tried Globke in absentia for his crimes and sentenced him to life imprisonment.

The re-Nazification of Germany was part of a broader campaign by the U.S. after World War II to recruit Nazis and Nazi collaborators and let them back into European governments, militaries and industries, mainly in West Germany, or to use in the U.S. secret services. In these roles, they served as accomplices to keep Europe under U.S. hegemony and free from the “threat” of communist worker revolutions.

How to fight fascism

As this history indicates, the resurgence of Nazism in Germany and the struggle against it reflect global trends. Throughout Europe, as well as in the U.S., far-right movements are gaining traction. In Italy, the new Prime Minister, Giorgia Meloni, has repeatedly celebrated fascist dictator Benito Mussolini’s regime, while demonizing migrants and asylum seekers. In recent months, French, Spanish and Austrian far-right parties have picked up support.

The right-wing Ukrainian government, installed by the U.S.-backed Euromaidan Coup in 2013, has built a cult around the Nazi collaborator Stepan Bandera, who helped orchestrate the mass murder of Ukrainian Jews in 1941. Much of the hundreds of millions of dollars in aid and weapons that the U.S. sent to fuel its imperialist proxy war ended up going to the openly Nazi Azov Battalion. Azov Battalion soldiers wear SS insignia and have committed numerous war crimes in the Donbass region of Eastern Ukraine.

In covering the anti-fascist trial in Germany, as well as the broader rise of far-right movements, the bourgeois media has bemoaned “political extremism on both sides.” As this false equivalency demonstrates, the bourgeois society giving rise to open fascism cannot guard against it. To defeat fascism once and for all, workers and oppressed peoples around the world must take to the streets, defend one another and mobilize against the fascist threat — and the system of capitalism that is its root cause.

Will Hodgkinson

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Will Hodgkinson
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