Where are all the intellectuals


Uwe Backes

To person

PD, Dr. phil., habil., born in 1960; Studied political science, history and German at the University of Trier; since 1999 Deputy Director at the Hannah Arendt Institute for Totilitarism Research at the Technical University of Dresden.

Address: Hannah Arendt Institute, Mommsenstr. 13, 01062 Dresden.
e-mail: [email protected]

Publications including: (together with Eckhard Jesse) Political Extremism in the Federal Republic of Germany, 4th edition, Bonn 1996; State Treasury, Opladen 1998; Liberalism and Democracy. Antinomy and Synthesis, Düsseldorf 2000; (Ed. With Stéphane Courtois) The legacy of communist ideologies, Cologne-Weimar 2002 (i. E.).

Intellectual right-wing extremism has remained a political fringe phenomenon even after the unification of Germany. Incidentally, contrary to the fears of many observers.

I. Introduction

Dealing with the topic of right-wing extremism is subject to business cycles. Solve electoral successes and media-relevant events - e.g. B. due to spectacular attacks - waves of public debate. The persistent intensity of mostly xenophobic motivated violence makes the question of organizational and ideological backgrounds particularly explosive. In addition to the discussion about the NPD ban, the discussion of possible dangers of the intellectual "New Right" forms a focus. Questions like the following arise: What is meant by the "New Right"? How long has it existed? What ideas and concepts does she represent? Do desk criminals provide the blueprints for juvenile arsonists and killers? What influence do extreme right-wing intellectuals exert?

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  • Answering these questions is made difficult, if not impossible, by the vagueness of the formula of the "New Right". The "new right" has been spoken of for so long [1] that doubts about the novelty of the phenomenon arise. And what does "rights" mean? Does this mean everyone who does not see themselves as "leftists"? What "left" is, in turn, depends on the viewer's political position. The further "left" he locates himself, the more "rights" he perceives. The formula is often used as a fighting term with collective ascriptions of blame on the address of "national conservatives", "neoliberals", "globalization advocates" or advocates of increased immigration control.

    To avoid this problem, the following description only speaks of a "new right" when it comes to forms of intellectual right-wing extremism. This term covers political discourses, programs and ideologies that are implicitly or explicitly directed against fundamental values ​​and procedural rules of democratic constitutional states (extremism) and - in contrast to radical-egalitarian currents (left-wing extremism) - do not recognize the ethos of fundamental human equality (right-wing extremism) . [2] The classification of ideas and systems of orientation as right-wing extremists is based on the standard of the democratic constitutional state and initially says nothing about intellectual qualities (measured, for example, in terms of originality, logical stringency and explanatory power) nor anything about moral integrity (measured, for example, in idealism and loyalty to conviction) of those who represent them. In view of "Auschwitz", the obvious assumption that these are intellectual monsters is misleading for several reasons. It assumes a simple relationship between thoughts and deeds, reduces the - mentally diverse - extreme right to National Socialism and ignores the particular danger of the group of "perpetrators with a clear conscience" known from totalitarian dictatorships and indispensable for them [3].

    II. Development of intellectual right-wing extremism

    In contrast to eastern Germany, where the Soviet occupying power, together with the "Socialist Unity Party of Germany" formed in 1946, strangled the initially tolerated attempts at a multi-party system, the western occupation zones and the Federal Republic of Germany that emerged from them in 1949, with their political pluralism, despite all restrictions (such as NSDAP - Prohibition, licensing requirement, prohibition of right-wing extremist organizations) comparatively favorable conditions for the re-formation of right-wing extremist associations and - in their environment and catchment area - intellectual circles. [4] In this context - following the spectrum of Weimar right-wing extremism - in particular German national (nationalistic, ultra-conservative, bourgeois), völkisch (ethno-nationalistic, biological-racist) and conservative-revolutionary (nationalistic, social-revolutionary, community-egalitarian) Distinguish typifying currents. [5]

    The intellectually dazzling "Conservative Revolution" of the Weimar period exerted a certain spiritual attraction after 1945 - because of the higher topicality of its concepts and the lower (compared to the Völkische) burden of National Socialism and its crimes. [6] The most important publication organ that opened up to these ideas early on was the "Nation Europa" magazine, founded in Coburg in 1951 by the former Waffen-SS member Arthur Ehrhardt, which still exists today [7]. Those circles that first formed around the Hamburg magazine "Junge Forum" (founded in 1964) as "Neuerechte" (the name itself appeared from 1966/67) gained access to a broader readership here. One of the founders, Wolfgang Günther (pseudonym "Gert Waldmann" [8]), called in "Nation Europa" in August 1969 to take the student movement as an example: "We have to learn from the New Left. Learn, for example, that society must be revolutionized, that no tradition is sacred in society, that the state is never good from the outset, that the establishment is also our opponent. Also learn that unrest is the first civic duty, that only actions bring success. " [9] A consensus had already been formed between the various circles on other issues. Overcoming the "mass society", an "organic socialism" and the "national rebirth of Germany" were important points on the program. [10] But while the New Left came into the center of public attention, the New Right circles remained an insignificant and unknown fringe phenomenon.

    While in January 1969 in France with the "Groupement de Recherche et d'Etudes pour la Civilization Européenne" (GRECE) an effective organizational basis was created, which made possible temporary journalistic breakthroughs of the "Nouvelle droite" in the following decade, the German one remained "New rights" in the seventies completely in their shadow. In view of the electoral decline of the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), the "Aktion Neuerechte" (ANR), launched in 1972, did not have a long life due to personal and ideological conflicts. The splinters that emerged from it could be assigned to three directions at the end of the 1970s: the national revolutionaries oriented towards left-alternative models ("Aufbruch"), the ecological value conservatives ("we ourselves") and the conservative revolutionaries with Armin Mohler as a spiritual pioneer. [12]

    The journalistic fuss about the "Nouvelle droite" in the French media increased its international resonance at the end of the 1970s. [13] On the right-hand side, publishers like "Grabert" (Tübingen) and "Sinus" (Krefeld) published books by "Nouvelle droite" representatives like Alain de Benoist, and in Kassel Pierre Krebs founded a kind of GRECE with the Thule seminar -Dependance. However, she never received her license to practice medicine from Paris. Instead, the pathetic-pompous-looking magazine "Elements", which he edited, offered intellectually meager fare. Instead, informal circles of "conservative revolutionaries", encouraged by the political "turnaround" at the beginning of the eighties, recorded certain gains in the transition area from established conservatism to right-wing extremism. The strategic goal of achieving "cultural hegemony" borrowed from Antonio Gramsci was still a long way off.

    III. Forums of intellectual right-wing extremism

    The unification of Germany and the decline of "real socialism" - contrary to the fears of some observers - did not bring about a renaissance of nationalism. The intellectual right-wing extremism, deprived of important agitation issues (German division, anti-communism), remained in the journalistic ghetto. The "intellectualization" of regionally successful right wing formations such as the "Republicans" (REP) failed because of the bulkiness (e.g. neo-paganism) of new right-wing concepts, which is difficult to exploit in a populist way. The Freiburg student paper "Junge Freiheit", founded in 1986, which moved for a long time in the wake of the Schönhuber party and received intellectual supplies from the new right quarry of ideas, [14] became a weekly newspaper in 1994. With a sold circulation of 36,000 copies (end of 2000; own information), however, it only achieved a modest distribution. In addition, the editorial staff had to moderate politically in order to enlarge the reading public, increase the information content and dismiss stubborn advocates of nationalistic combat journalism. In view of the split in the French "Nouvelle droite", as it emerged in the discussion about the "Manifest 2000" published in 1999, the paper opened up to those representatives like Alain de Benoist, who favor ethnic determinism in favor of "differentialist anti-racism" ("neither apartheid nor melting pot, but rather the acceptance of the other as the other in a dialogical view of mutual enrichment" [15]).

    In addition to "Junge Freiheit", the more strongly fundamentally oppositional Coburg monthly "Nation Europa" remained a journalistic field of resonance for right-wing authors without being limited to this intellectual segment. Rather, it continued to function as a forum for the entire "national camp" to the right of the Union. [16] At the end of 2000 it appeared with an (estimated) circulation of 15,000 copies. The former REP chairman Franz Schönhuber, who has been a regular columnist for several years, tirelessly promotes a "national collection" of all "patriotic forces" in the magazine.

    Beyond "Young Freedom" and "Nation Europe" there are numerous sectarian circles and papers with sometimes esoteric, sometimes dogmatic and combative style. The report of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution for the year 2000 stated a "desolate situation for right-wing extremist intellectuals" [17] in view of the continuing ailments of several publications. The magazine "Signal - Das Patrioted Magazin" (until 1998: "Europa Vorn", estimated circulation 2000-5000) published by Manfred Rouhs in Cologne appears only quarterly instead of every two months and increasingly uses reprints of articles already published elsewhere. Pierre Krebs' magazine "Elements" ("Thule Seminar"), named after the "Nouvelle droite" magazine of the same name, was never published in 1999 and 2000. Instead, the 20-page organ "Metapo - Metapolitics in the Attack for the New Birth of Europe" was launched at the turn of the year 1999/2000. In view of the split in the French "Nouvelle droite", it took sides with the 'hard-nosed' around Guillaume Faye, who refused to open up to "so-called communitarianism" and "uncompromisingly fought against the system" [18]. The national revolutionary think tank "Synergon Germany", which was founded in 1995 and sees itself as the German branch of the "European Synergies" founded in 1993 by Robert Steuckers and the former GRECE Secretary General Gilbert Sincyr, joined the "German-European Study Society" (DESG ; founded 1972) together. It publishes the DESG-inform newsletter, which is published irregularly (2000 edition: around 1000 copies). [19] "Synergon" began a collaboration with the small Dresden publishing house "Zeitenwende" and the neo-pagan magazine "Hagal", which has been published there since 1998. [20] The "Staatsbriefe" Hans-Dietrich Sanders (since 1990; Castel del Monte publishing house in Munich) had no notable influence due to their quirkiness (imperial idea of ​​the Staufer period) (2000 edition: 1000 copies). Even the magazine "Opposition", founded in 1998 under the editorship of Karl Richters (Verlagsgesellschaft Berg), did not make the hoped-for breakthrough in a broader readership. The paper is aimed at everyone who wants to "participate in opposition": "For Germany. Because the others have all failed. Oppose with: against Bonn, Brussels, against the daily disaster. Until things change again." In order to cross the borders of the "scene", Franz Schönhuber demanded in the second edition to take an example from the hit course at the beginning of the twenties and to strengthen the "left wing of the right" [21].

    Nationalist sectarianism has been "enriched" with new varieties by a number of "right-wing people from the left" in recent years. At the state party conference of the Baden-Württemberg NPD in 1998, the lawyer and former RAF activist Horst Mahler gave a keynote speech: "Globalism as the highest stage of imperialism is forcing the resurrection of the German nation." It culminated in the wishful thinking prophecy: "The Federal Republic will perish. ... Only a tight regime can lead out of a democracy that has perished in anarchy. It must gather a sufficient number of men and women who are able and willing to work Phase of an upcoming interregnum to take the slipping state helm out of the hand of the ailing system. " [22] In view of the discussion about the ban, Mahler joined the NPD in 2000 and founded the "For Germany - Yes to the NPD" initiative in Berlin. In December 2000, the NPD federal executive commissioned him to represent the lawyer in the Karlsruhe prohibition process. [23] For his entry into the NPD, Mahler had recommended himself with a lengthy treatise on the political situation addressed to party chairman Udo Voigt, in which he developed a Hegelian-inspired anti-Semitic conspiracy theory. [24]

    For some time now Mahler has been working with the former Hamburg activist of the "Socialist German Student Union" (SDS) Reinhold Oberlercher and his "German College" (founded in 1994). Together with Günter Maschke (also ex-SDSler) they published a "Canonical Declaration on the Movement of 1968" in the "Staatsbriefe". In it, the student movement is interpreted as a social and national revolutionary awakening that has kept its distance from both Eastern and Western community of values. After National Socialism, the 1968 movement was the "second German attempt at revolution against world domination by capital" [25]. With their appeal, the old SDS members who had converted to nationalism wanted to win over their former new left companions. Most of the time, however, it met with sharp rejection. [26]

    IV. Ideological characteristics of the "New Right"

    The intellectual "New Right" is an ideologically diverse phenomenon. Finding a common denominator is difficult. As the "right" it can be distinguished from the "left" by emphasizing what makes people - to tie in with Norberto Bobbio's definition of the term [27] - appear unequal instead of the same. In particular, she emphasizes the integration of the individual in grown - national, ethnic, cultural - communities and meets the universal concept of "humanity" with skepticism or even rejection. As a "new" right, it relativizes the anti-gallitarianism peculiar to the traditional ("old") right through its strata and "classes" overarching, capitalism-critical and social-revolutionary conception. The sociologist Stefan Breuer speaks of an ideological-programmatic "inclusion". [28] The "New Right" distinguishes from the moderate right the fundamental criticism of central values ​​and procedural rules of democratic constitutional states, especially the ethos of fundamental human equality.

    As a "right" it also has something in common with the moderate right. It can be seen, for example, in the anthropological skepticism and the emphasis on community ties. This explains inter alia. Intersections with regard to the appreciation of the nation state and the distrust of immigration and its consequences. Anyone who illuminates "gray areas" and transitional forms from the "new right" to democratic conservatism must not overlook the intersections with the "new left" if they want to capture the ideological profile appropriately. [29] This quickly becomes clear if one visualises some recurring positions: [30]

    - The modern mass society promotes a flattening and spiritual erosion of the content of life. Naked materialism triumphs. The "Homo Bundesrepublicaniensis" is a "saturated consumer slave" [31]. This loses all sense of "higher values" and "great goals". A return to traditions and buried cultural content is required.- The overlaps with the recent left criticism of "consumer terror" and the spreading Anglicisation are obvious.

    - The egalitarianism in its different variants: Christianity, Judaism, Marxism and liberalism is the main cause of the deep decadence of the modern world. The "leveling of the differences" and the "extermination of the origins" [32] (eg Germanicism) gambled away the cultural wealth accumulated for centuries and undermined the creative power of the peoples. - On this point, the "New Right" stands in opposition to the "New Left". This also applies to the following:

    - The pathetic invocation of human rights is an empty phrase. "There is no" human race, only different "races", "peoples", "ethnic groups". Cultural creations are only produced by intact communities. If they are destroyed, atomization and isolation proceed, decadence and moral decline are inevitable. Mixing of peoples means "ethnocide". The "melting pot" is not viable in the long run and at best produces mediocrity. The solution lies in a coexistence and coexistence of intact "ethnic groups" ("ethnopluralism").

    - The European peoples were and are victims of a cultural imperialism on the part of "foreign powers". The paternalism of the Americans, which extends to the present day, prevents Germans and other Europeans from developing their "identity". There is a "third way" between failed communism and ruinous capitalism. - On this point, there is again a large overlap with the (new) left: anti-Americanism and third-way concepts are not specific to the (new) right.

    - Anyone who wants to conquer political power must first occupy the cultural space. Beyond power, the primary task is the formation of a counter-elite, which with its future-oriented concepts penetrates the realm of published opinion, carries out a "revaluation of values" [33] and prepares the intellectual ground for the revolutionary overcoming of the existing. - The Italian communist Antonio Gramsci, imprisoned by Mussolini as a political opponent, developed the concept of "cultural hegemony" for those countries in which - as in Italy - a seizure of power along the lines of the Bolsheviks seemed impossible due to a developed civil society. Pioneers of a "new right" followed on from this, as did various varieties of the (extreme) left.

    Some of the positions outlined - presented in a moderate form - must be regarded as fundamentally legitimate criticism within the framework of political pluralism. However, if they are bundled and fought relentlessly, they gain a thrust that delegitimizes the democratic constitutional state. [34] The political doctrines in question then show that intellectual "architecture" that one encounters in all extremisms - regardless of what color -: the absolutization of one's own point of view, the claim to exclusive access to historical-political truth and the resulting tendency towards beliefs To disqualify those who think differently, intellectually and morally, across the board; the tendency to subject the status quo to total criticism and to perceive the present only as an expression of "crises"; the dogmatic rigidity of the orientation system and its partial isolation from reality; finally, the fanatical zeal in the pursuit of goals and the tendency to attribute failures to the work of conspiratorial powers.

    V. Influence of the intellectual extreme right

    The thesis of "extremism in the middle" [35], which haunted the feature pages, can be interpreted in different ways. One reading says that topics and program elements from the intellectual extreme right penetrated the political majority culture. As the overview of the relevant publication media has shown, their low attractiveness suggests the opposite. Anyone who thinks that the increased circulation of a paper like "Junge Freiheit" is an unmistakable indication of a positive response in the political spectrum to the right of the "new center" argues one-sidedly. He overlooks the loss of profile and the ideological diffusion, which are the price for the undeniably increased acceptance among parts of the conservative camp. The thesis of the advance of the "New Right" is based in many cases on an overstretching of the term. No wonder that those who mean neoliberal political concepts or the appeal to the nation state by new right tendencies will find what they are looking for. Then it makes sense to look for her not only on the "right fool's seam", not only on the "right wing" of the CDU / CSU and FDP, but also among the Greens and the SPD. [36]

    Although intellectual right-wing extremism in a united Germany has not had any measurable success in terms of membership or circulation, nor does it spiritually ammunition successful electoral formations, left-wing intellectual observers tirelessly warn of a renaissance of nationalism. [37] At the same time, Germany's intellectual landscape has been determined far more by "negative nationalism" than by its opposite. [38] Slogans such as "Never again Germany" or "Der Irrweg des Nationstaats" enjoy widespread use. It is only against this background that the lavish literature, which deals with illuminating the "gray areas" between right-wing extremism and established conservatism, can be explained. Certainly the authors engaged in this way sometimes hit sore points. Those who seek votes with slogans like "Children instead of Indians" have to put up with the accusation that they stir up xenophobia and provide young violent criminals with models of justification for their atrocities.

    Rash or populistically calculated words from politicians can possibly cause greater damage than the often unworldly and esoteric outpouring of intellectual right-wing extremism. Anyone who deals with the biographies and motivations of xenophobic juvenile violent criminals will not overestimate the effects of new right concepts in view of their lack of spirit and their low level of reflection. Instead, the communication of feelings of hatred and simple worldviews through a flourishing music scene deserves much greater attention. [39]

    Newly right contents of the outlined form have penetrated the political majority culture to a far lesser extent than some observers assume:

    - An intellectual "armament" of right-wing extremist parties failed to materialize, and they were unable to post any political land gains. Certainly the exploitable potential of nationalistic and xenophobic attitudes in the population goes beyond their potential to vote. Empirical studies show, however, that "excessive nationalism has so far only appeared as a marginal phenomenon" [40]. This seems to be even more true of the younger generation. All in all, it is a question of "critically attentive youth who are neither susceptible to euphoric hurray patriotism nor to inferiority complexes or negative devaluations" [41]. These results are only slightly different in eastern Germany.

    - Warners of "new nationalism" fixated on the past often take full-bodied statements from the right wing at face value. The views of influential sectarians are sometimes seen as "evidence" of such a non-existent political "movement". Alarmism often leads to the opposite of what is supposedly desired: Those attacked in this way receive welcome publicity, their bizarre to malicious theses attract the attention they could never have received if they were more relaxed.

    - The increased reflection on the meaning of the nation state and "national interests" is a consequence of Germany's new role since its unification. Even the Federal Foreign Minister Joschka Fischer, who is a member of the "Greens", cannot avoid attaching great importance to the nation state for the foreseeable future as part of his federal conception of Europe. The "political class" of Germany is faced with the particular difficulty of rethinking long-suppressed national approaches against the background of a "torn and battered identity" [42] and advancing European integration and globalization. If this succeeds, patriotism is likely to increase, but nationalism will continue to decline.

    - Confusing verbal derailments of democratic politicians and populist strategies to maximize votes to the right in large democratic parties with signs of a new nationalism does not testify to analytical sharpness. They are essentially the wrong means for a - from the perspective of the democratic constitutional state - the right end: to dig the water out of new nationalism.

    - National conservative or national republican positions (of the kind represented in France by Charles Pasqua and Jean-Pierre Chevènement) are subject to high marginalization pressure in Germany, even if they move within the constitutional arc. In view of the widespread hypersensitivity to all traces of nationalistic thinking, it can happen that personalities, whose constitutional conformity there is no doubt about in a benevolent and realistic view, are forced into isolation and induced to cooperate with forces that actually aim to undermine the constitutional order. In this way, the warners of a renaissance of nationalism create their own facts. Some of those who negligently deal with the formula of the "new right" and invoke dangers to democracy, deliberately or unwillingly, delegitimize it. Because the democratic constitutional state offers space for a variety of interests, opinions and views. Anyone who carelessly sticks exclusionary labels on the political opponent undermines the minimal consensus of the pluralistic society. The inflationary use of the stigma word "new rights" amounts to a trivialization of those currents and groups that negate human rights, pluralism and the rule of law, that is, question the liberal order itself.