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Pegida: a German Right-Wing Anti-Foreigner Populism Emerges

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Deutschland PEGIDA Demonstration in Dresden

10,000 – 15,000 people  marched on Monday the 15th of December  through the eastern German city of Dresden in an anti-Islamisation demonstration.

The march was the largest yet for the far-right populist PEGIDA movement.

This demonstration and its background were given great prominence in le Monde yesterday (En Allemagne, le discours raciste se banalise). Le Monde emphasised how the numbers attending weekly marches have grown and grown.

The media had not brought up the eternal ‘German neo-Nazism’ hook but the result of the emergence of a growing anti-immigrant/migrant movement in the Germany, a country that has hitherto been immune to the appeal of UKIP/Front National politics. In other words xenophobia knows no European political borders.

The first signs of these developments was in the rise of  Alternative für Deutschland.

“Alternative for Germany received 4.7% of the vote in the September 2013 federal election, narrowly failing the 5% threshold for representation.The party won 7 of Germany’s 96 seats for the European Parliament in the 2014 European election, and joined the European Conservatives and Reformists group in June 2014. The party exceeded forecasts in gaining its first representation in state parliament elections in Saxony, Brandenburg and Thuringia during 2014.”

The party is anti-Euro and against any transfer of sovereignty to the European Union. Its anti-immigration policies, and its ‘socially conservative’ (that is, reactionary) social stand, marks it even more firmly on the hard right.

Commentators (including Le Monde) observe an “overlap” between the AfD and PEGIDA,

 Der Speigel is one of many media outlets to cover the story  including those in the UK (Guardian)

15,000 march in anti-Islamisation PEGIDA (Patriotische Europäer Gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes) demonstrations in Dresden.

A record number of demonstrators turned out on Monday to march in support of the far-right populist PEGIDA group. The name loosely translates to “Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West.”

“The people are with us!,” the group’s founder Lutz Bachmann shouted at the crowd. Monday’s turnout was 50 percent greater than that of a week ago. The rallies started in October in response to clashes between Kurds and Sunni Muslims over the West’s intervention in Syria.

But the nationalist group has largely been protesting over the immigration system in Germany, which has become Europe’s number one destination for asylum seekers – whose lands of origin include Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan, as well as several African and Balkan nations.

The emergence of the movement has stunned politicians, one of whom – Ralf Jäger, the Social Democratic (SPD) interior minister for North Rhine Westphalia state – described PEGIDA’s members as “neo-Nazis in pinstripes.” While some neo-Nazis have been seen among the crowds, those gathered have mostly been disenchanted citizens.

More than 1,200 police kept a close watch on the non-violent crowds. Nearby, about 6,000 counter-protesters – made up of civic, political and church groups – marched under the banners “Dresden Nazi-free” and “Dresden for All.”

Chancellor Angela Merkel condemned the wave of PEGIDA marches and cautioned Germans against falling prey to xenophobic “rabble rousing.”

An associated right-wing BOGIDA protest took place in the western city of Bonn on Monday. While approximately 300 of the group’s supporters turned up, they were met by 2,000 counter demonstrators who called for peace and tolerance.

Der Spiegel.

Taz carries more details about Pegida’s opponents whose counter-demo moblised 5.500.

Reaktionäre Verrohung Europas!

The report by Michael Bartsch says that in response one marcher said that the threat was not the Islamisation of the West, but that of a reactionary and barbaric continent ( „Es droht nicht eine Islamisierung des Abendlandes, sondern eine reaktionäre Verrohung Europas!“) He notes however that this alliance against Pegida is “fragile” – it is composed of many very diverse groups, from the ‘anti-dogmatic’ far left, migrant and asylum groups, human rights organisations, religious bodies, to the established parties. The first group, prominent over years of anti-fascist activism, cannot easily co-operate with the later, particularly the governing CDU one of whose representatives, Martin Gillo, turned up at the end of their march.

British Conservatives.

This (from Wikipedia) relating to  the way the Tories have reacted to the rise of AfD is interesting:

During David Cameron‘s prime ministerial visit to Germany in April 2013, the British Conservative Party is reported to have contacted both Alternative for Germany and the Free Voters to discuss the possibility of cooperation, which was supported by the European Conservatives and Reformists group of the European Parliament.

In June 2013, Bernd Lucke gave a well attended question and answer session organised by the Conservative allied Bruges Group think tank in Portcullis House, London.

ConservativeHome, a British political website, viewed the AfD’s policies as, “wholly unremarkable,” in response to the AfD’s more cautious reception among the German public. The website also voiced the opinion that the party shouldn’t be compared to the UK Independence Party which calls for a British exit from the EU. According to the conservative grassroots site the AfD’s policies are much closer to those of the British Conservatives, who also reject the euro and wish to implement reform of the EU.

The Conservative MEP Daniel Hannan was speculated to have been advocating for the British Conservatives and AfD to link following the 2014 EU elections via the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists with possible membership in the EU parliament grouping European Conservatives and Reformists, which was formed after the Conservatives withdrew from the European Democrats sub group of the European People’s Party, to which Angela Merkel’s CDU belong.

Some British Conservatives such as Timothy Kirkhope were more reluctant to be seen as too openly courting the AfD, should it damage relations with Angela Merkel’s CDU, which they speculated could hinder attempts by the Conservative Party to renegotiate treaties before a proposed referendum on British EU membership in 2017. Hans-Olaf Henkel stated that the AfD had heard rumours that Angela Merkel had told David Cameron to keep his distance from the party during the run-up to the 2014 European Election.

Response from the political journalist Andrew Gimson writing at ConservativeHome was broadly positive about the possibility of the Conservatives working with AfD. Paul Goodman, editor of ConservativeHome has also been welcoming towards cooperation with AfD, playing down the risks that cooperation would affect the relationship between David Cameron and Angela Merkel.

Before the European Election Bernd Lucke had been in talks with the Czech and Polish parties of ECR, but acknowledged the concerns the British Conservatives had about the admission of the AfD into the group.


German Elections: Die Linke Beat Die Grünen .

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8,6% to Greens’ 8,4%

Angela Merkel’s re-election is not the only news out of Germany (Hat-tip Dagmar).

The results showed that the liberal Free Democrats (FDP) won only 4.8%, which correspondents say is a disaster for the junior coalition partner, leaving it with no national representation in parliament for the first time in Germany’s post-war history.

Party chairman Philipp Roesler called it “the bitterest, saddest hour of the Free Democratic Party”.

The FDP was beaten by the Green Party (8.4%) and the former communist Left Party (8.6%). It almost finished behind the new Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD), which advocates withdrawal from the euro currency and took 4.7%, just short of the parliamentary threshold.

There was at one point speculation that Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister CSU might even win enough seats for an absolute majority – the first in half a century. BBC

Comment: so the Greens have been outrun by the Left Party. It is good news that Alternative fuer Deutschland (AfD)  “Alternative for Germany” – the country’s UKIP – did not get in.

Final percentage of the vote

  • CDU bloc: 41.5%
  • SPD: 26%
  • FDP: 4.8%
  • Left Party: 8.6%
  • Green: 8.4%
  • AfD: 4.7%

Der Spiegel comments on the result,

Is the scene now set for another grand coalition? The leadership of the SPD are putting the brakes on speculation over a potential pairing with Merkel. Following its weak performance, the party wants to avoid internal disputes over what would be an unpopular alliance.

Sigmar Gabriel is usually very adept at beating around the bush, but after Sunday’s election result he decided to take a more direct tack. “We would have expected a little bit more,” the leader of the center-left Social Democratic Party (SPD) said.

No, it was not a good outcome for the Social Democrats, and they know it. The party made a bit of a recovery compared to 2009, but talk of a resurgence is out of the question. The conservatives, consisting of the Christian Democrats (CDU) and their Bavarian sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), have rode off even further into the distance. To the chancellor and her party colleagues, the SPD looks tiny, a party left far behind.The Social Democrats are facing some testing weeks. Angela Merkel has fallen just short of an absolute majority; she needs a partner to govern. The Greens, after their own debacle, are likely to have enough to worry about without testing a potential coalition option that is already internally highly controversial, so the chancellor will likely court the SPD. After four years, the Social Democrats could once again be in government.

But few in the party have much enthusiasm for a new alliance with Merkel. The gap between the conservatives and their closest competitior is sizeable. A CDU/SPD coalition would not be on a level playing field — that at least is what the Social Democrats suspect. In the end, so the fears go, everything would pan out as it did in 2009. Or even worse. Back then, SPD politicians felt Merkel got the credit for anything positive that happened within the government, even if it was the Social Democrats’ own work.

Written by Andrew Coates

September 23, 2013 at 10:47 am

People’s Assembly and Left Unity.

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Real Left Unity.

Marxist Dentists around the UK leave copies of The Lady and Country Life to stir up class hatred.

At least that was my theory on reading Rachel Johnson’s magazine this morning waiting for an appointment.

One article about a Lady of the British Empire who could not boil an egg,  had crossed the planet, swum with dolphins,  holidayed in the Savanna,  struck me.

I doubt if she was prepared to walk to Liddle to get 15 pence off a tin of sardines.

This, I suspect, is not a lone reaction.

Margaret Thatcher’s death and the rise of UKIP brought back a cold draft of class politics to this country.

Many realised that the Thatcher project, to make everybody stand or fall in the gales of competing on the market, and the pumped-up loathing of foreigners |(notably excepting the USA)  that went with it, is alive and well.

Like many on the left, trade unionists and anti-cuts activists, I am committed to the People’s Assembly Against Austerity.

This is a grand occasion for us to get together on issues that affect us all, to build a constructive left-wing alternative to the politics of hate and the priorities of the wealthy.

It will unite us with our fellows across Europe in opposing the financial forces that have imposed cuts and more privatisation in the UK, and destitution and mass unemployment in countries from Greece and Spain to Portugal – not to mention the misery brought upon UKIP’s bogies in Rumania and Bulgaria.

There is a serious debate to be had about the European Union, and the role of the ”Troika’ in pushing through austerity.

The French left is divided between those who think that Angela Merkel is at heart a pragmatist and will – eventually – see sense and launch an expansionist drive. French president Hollande’s intervention yesterday, in which he proposed a European economic “governance” went in this sense. Some on his side believe in federalism, a politically united Europe.

Others are sceptical. They want a radical overhall of the EU. A few want greater national sovereignty restored.

In the UK we have by contrast, as Seamus Milne noted in the Guardian this week, a debate on Europe whose agenda is set by the right.

This is a threat,

a successful Tory-led campaign to pull out of the EU would risk unleashing a carnival of reaction, anti-migrant hysteria, more attacks on social rights, and a further lurch to the right.

Milne states, rightly,

What has been almost entirely missing from the mainstream British public debate has been the progressive case for fundamental change that has been central to the struggle over the EU and its treaties in mainland Europe. In the 1975 referendum, the left case against the then common market was that it was a cold war customs union against the developing world that would block socialist reforms. But the modern EU has gone much further, giving a failed neoliberal model of capitalism the force of treaty, entrenching deregulation and privatisation and enforcing corporate power over employment rights.

He concludes,

What would be fatal would be to allow the nationalist right to continue to dictate the EU agenda and wrap itself in the mantle of democratic legitimacy. The terms of debate have to change – for the sake of both Britain and Europe.

Much of the British left remain dominated by the anti-EEC ideas of the 1970s.

They have not confronted this menace.

Indeed they think their tiny forces can intervene to make the “progressive” case for a sovereign UK outside the EU.

We need a real campaign in place of this: for a united social Europe!

The People’s Assembly could be a place to make the case of this.

Left Unity.

Some of the left think there is a mileage in the Left Unity appeal of Kate Hudson and Ken Loach.

Recent prominent members of Respect , who failed to protest against George Galloway’ s politics, they are not in a position to preach unity to anybody least of all the ‘left’.

I merely cite this report by Tina Becker from the Weekly Worker to show that this is a dead-end,

Kate Hudson and Andrew Burgin (important driving forces) would have liked the proceedings to have gone differently. After all, the Stop the War Coalition and Respect – organisations both comrades were prominent in – were far more choreographed. But, ironically, bureaucratic coherence in fronts like these was provided by the likes of the Socialist Workers Party, part of the organised left to which LU is to a great extent a reaction. The politically decrepit Socialist Resistance – the one ‘insider’ group – is no substitute.

The proposed political platform written by Kate Hudson was circulated three days before; a proposal for the electoral procedure to the national coordination committee was sent out 20 hours before; the chairs seem to have been pre-chosen on the basis that they had no previous experience of handling big meetings (one chair was actually introduced as someone who had “never attended a political meeting before”). No wonder that quite a few times people in the room (the chairs included) did not actually know what exactly they were voting on. It was pretty chaotic, in other words.

This was also reflected in the rather uneven attendance. Local groups were supposed to send two delegates each, but where more people expressed an interest in coming, they were advised by the interim leadership to simply divide their group into smaller parts. For example, Manchester comrades – all sitting together in the same meeting, in the same room – selected five delegates from different parts of the city. Elsewhere, groups had not even met yet. Andrew Burgin admitted that about half of the “90 or 100” local groups exist only in so far as one person had volunteered to be the local contact. So the reality was that pretty much anybody who wanted to come could do so.

Unless, of course, you happened to be a representative of a political organisation. The interim organising committee had decided to bar existing groups from even sending observers – apart from a representative of the Red-Green Alliance from Denmark, who showed up halfway through the meeting. Obviously it would have been a little harsh to send this poor comrade packing after he had made such a long journey, presumably on a well-informed hunch.

Followed by the latest TUSC (Left involving the RMT, Socialist Party and SWP) election result.

Election of a Borough Councillor for Rawmarsh Ward (Rotherham)  on Thursday 16 May 2013

Baldwin, William George British National Party 80
Gray, Andrew Tony Trade Unionists and Socialists Against Cuts 61
Meharban, Mohammed Liberal Democrats 28
Parker, Martyn Lawton The Conservative Party Candidate 107
Vines, Caven  UK Independence Party 1143 Elected
Wright, Lisa Marie  Labour Party Candidate 1039

Will the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste Continue its Lonely Path?

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Left Alternative to French Socialist Government.

French politics are in turmoil. Opinion Polls show both the Socialist President, François  Hollande and his Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault on a slide. They have dropped to backing levels of  35 and 37%.

Thier handling of the Mittal group’s  plans for the Florange steel plant, which many believe will not save jobs or the furnace, has been widely criticised on the left and by trade unions. 

Left-wing sections of the Front de Gauche have issued a joint declaration on the wider aspects of the present situation.

They note that the strategy of the Ayrault government is far from their electoral promises of “« changement maintenant », change now.

The Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls has not hesitated to crack down on Roms,  has decided to fight by police repression, protests against the construction of the airport at Notre-Dame-des-Landes, and the Cabinet is wobbling about the promise to give immigrants the vote in local elections.

St the root of this, they states, is a failure to confront the austerity measures incarnated in the European Treaty drawn up principally by Sarkozy and Angela Merkel.

The European Union agreement on increased ‘compeition’, a mainstay of “ultralibéralisme”, remains unchallenged. Austerity policies, based on this outlook, are being implemented by the Ayrault government, with President Hollande’s approval.

Against this they call for a campaign in 2013 for an alternative to austerity, based on concrete measures, to help resolve the crisis. They propose that the Front de Gauche takes every possible means to mobilise protest, to show that there is an alternative on the left,a nd that cuts and austerity are not in inevitable . In this way they propose to broaden their campaign to include all those who share this strategy.

Pierre Laporte (FASE), Stéphanie Treillet (Convergences et alternative), Alain Faradji (Gauche unitaire), Ingrid Hayes (Gauche anticapitaliste)

How is the Nouveau Parti Anticapitaliste (from which both the Gauche Unitaire and the Gauche anticapitaliste broke away) reacting?

On the Gauche anticapitaliste site this has just been posted.

Le NPA va t-il choisir un isolement supplémentaire ? Samy Johsua.

Johsua notes that the former NPA Presidential Candidate Olivier Besancenot does envisage some kind of general cooperation between different left forces opposed to the present Socialist-led government’s policies. But that in the documents for the NPA’s next year Conference there is no mention of any real « front social et politique » that could give this shape. The  NPA remains fixated by hard-line opposition to ‘social liberalism’, which in its view is incarnated in the Socialist Party (PS).

If the NPA now stands for ‘left opposition’ to the Ayrault government, that is not sufficient for real unity.

Instead we see a repeat of the old – antique – opposition between  « les réformistes » (Front de Gauche) et « les révolutionnaires » (the NPA). The FdG which stands for change “through the ballot box”, is not, in this view, really ‘anti-capitalist’. It does not stand for real united struggle, nor their self-organisation.

To Joshua the NPA remains stuck in the past. Its appeal for a party in which one could see “cohabiter des traditions différentes” draws narrow limits. Only the traditional far left is welcome to join.

By contrast for the Gauche anticapitaliste, a “front social et politique ” of the left of the left remains essential.

But, as yet, the NPA appears not to want to be a full part of such a united response to the crisis.