On the day of the 80th anniversary of Germany’s Nazi-Wehrmacht rolling into Poland – 1st of September 1939, starting the antisemitic race war to total annihilation – two local elections were held in the East-German states of Brandenburg (2.4 million people) and Saxony (4 million people). In both states, Germany’s semi-Neo-Nazi party, the AfD made significant gains with about 2/3 of the voting population actually voting. In the East-German state of Brandenburg that surrounds Germany’s capital of Berlin, the AfD almost doubled its results from 12.2% to 23.5%.
Traditionally, Brandenburg has had a strong social-democratic (SPD) voting population. It also used to have a strong working class milieu as shown in Berthold Brecht’s Kuhle Wampe. During the 1920s, even Nazi leader Adolf Hitler was fearful of the strongly social-democratic Brandenburg. Hitler’s Nazis needed what the Nazis called the Preussenschlag to eliminate the strong social-democratic opposition. Today, whilst the once mighty SPD still remains the strongest political party in Brandenburg with 26.2%, it is closely followed by the AfD (23.5%) and after the recent election, the AfD is the strongest opposition party in Brandenburg.
Merkel’s conservatives, the CDU won 15.6% of the overall vote in Brandenburg, losing 7.4%. Germany’s Greens gained 4.6% ending up with 10.8%. The Greens continued their strong upward trend shown throughout Germany. Their strong showing came even though – or perhaps better: because of – the Greens have moved towards what is jokingly called Bio-FDP. Bio-FDP indicates that the Greens have merged neoliberalism (with the small FDP being Germany’s only neoliberal party) with environmentalism (bio). While embracing neoliberalism, many Greens have said farewell to their progressive origins.
Overall, Germany’s social-democratic party just scraped in with just two seats more than the crypto-Nazis of the AfD. A coalition government consisting of Brandenburg’s democratic parties will – most likely – keep the AfD in opposition even though its electoral win will give the AfD increasing powers. In a recent poll, 77% of Brandenburg’s AfD voters said “they feel like second class citizens”. Splitting German voters into them versus us and West-Germans against East-Germans assisted the AfD in addition to its usual themes of racism, xenophobia, ultra-nationalism, anti-Muslim, and Antisemitism, etc.
Looking at the electoral map shows that there is a strong East-West difference even within the two states of Saxony and Brandenburg. In short, the more East one goes, the more likely one finds AfD strongholds. Perhaps this is an indicator of the term Dim-Germany – Dunkeldeutschland, i.e. those parts of Eastern Germany furthest removed from Germany’s centre. These remote and often rural locations are also called ‘valleys of the clueless’. The valley-term hits the AfD voter on the head. Indeed, most AfD voters have no clue. They live inside AfD echo-chambers (Facebook) believing everything their leaders – Führer – say. Key to understand the AfD voter are: they are old, they are white, they are men, they use the Internet as the main source of information, and they are racist. More than indicators like unemployment, etc. it is plain racism that defines the AfD voter.
The electoral map of Saxony confirms this – the more East, the more likely the AfD triumphs. Unlike in the more social-democratic Brandenburg, in Saxony it is not the social-democratic SPD but Merkel’s CDU that holds up strong in the Western parts while Saxony’s Eastern parts are covered in AfD blue. By the way, blue. Blue is the semi-official and self-assigned colour of the AfD. It camouflages the AfD’s true ideology of right-wing extremism mixed with racism and spiced up with Neo-Nazism. A more truthful reflection came from one of Germany’s national newspapers, the daily – The Tageszeitung. The TAZ has started to assign the colour brown to the AfD. Brown is the traditional colour of the Nazis (Hitler) and Neo-Nazis (today). The colour brown is based on the colour of Hitler’s SA uniforms.
Unlike Merkel’s CDU that lost 7.3%, the AfD almost tripled its results in Saxony from 9.7% in 2014 to today’s 27.5%, gaining a whopping 17.7% – unmatched by any other party. Germany’s socialists – Die Linke – lost 8.5% and the social-democratic SPD lost 4.7% in Saxony. In other words, the AfD won stronger in conservative Saxony compared to the more social-democratic Brandenburg. In Germany’s far east, the SPD has been reduced to a micro-party holding a mere 7.7%. In Brandenburg as in Saxony, the SPD is continuing its overall decline that is recognisable throughout Germany. Recent leadership quarrels may exasperate the downward trend of the party.
In Saxony, the SPD will have just ten seats compared to Merkel’s CDU mainlining a substantial level of support with 45 seats. The second strongest party, the AfD, came in at 38 seats. Saxony’s present prime minister – Kretschmer (CDU) – believes that the AfD is a serious threat to democracy. A somewhat late realisation because the AfD has just become the second strongest party in parliament – just as it did in Brandenburg.
Still, many had predicted that the AfD would beat the CDU in Saxony and the SPD in Brandenburg to become the strongest political force in two substantial East-German states. This did not happen. In other words, Germany’s two main parties – the conservative CDU and the social-democratic SPD – were able to maintain their position in Saxony and Brandenburg albeit with heavy losses to the AfD.
Meanwhile at the AfD’s election party in Saxony’s capital Dresden, members and attending Neo-Nazis celebrated whenever losses of Germany’s democratic parties became visible at the TV screens. Celebrating was also Brandenburg’s populist AfD boss, ex-paratrooper and ex-Neo-Nazi camp attendee, Andreas Kalbitz. Kalbitz is ideologically linked to the AfD’s real Führer Björn Höcke. Kalbitz follows Höcke’s ultra-nationalistic and racist Flügel – most creatively called the wing. While Björn Höcke used to write under the false name of Landolf Ladig for Neo-Nazi papers, Kalbitz prefers to wave Hitler’s swastika flag from a hotel balcony together with attending Neo-Nazi Udo Vogt.
Kalbitz’s counterpart in Saxony is Jörg Urban who, unlike Kalbitz (born in Munich), Björn Höcke (born in Lünen), and Gauland (ex-CDU-Hessen), is actually from East-Germany. Why is this relevant? It is relevant because in Brandenburg as in Saxony, the AfD runs a strong ticket on what it calls Wende 2.0. It claims to complete the change from state-socialism (1949-1989) to West-German capitalism (1990) through what the AfD calls a second change – change 2.0 or Wende 2.0. In the dreams of many AfD politicians and Neo-Nazi supporters this so-called second revolution should lead to the mythical Aryan Volksgemeinschaft. Meanwhile, many people who have been instrumental to the real change in 1989 despise the AfD because of the party’s strong anti-democratic stance. Beyond that, West-imports like Björn Höcke (imported into the East-German state of Thuringia) tell his electorate, we East-Germans will complete the revolution – only Björn Höcke is from the West-German state of Hessen and not from East-Germany. But Germany’s right-wing and Nazi voters have never bothered with such details, believing Adolf Hitler when he spoke of our Germany – only Hitler was from Austria, not Germany.
What Happens Next
While the AfD has made very strong gains in both states – Brandenburg and Saxony – it failed to reach its target of becoming the strongest political party in both states. The next step will be the formation of coalition governments. Germany’s electoral system is based on proportional representation. This means coalition building. In both states, the still strong social-democratic SPD (Brandenburg) and the conservative CDU (Saxony) are unlikely to enter into a coalition government with an anti-democratic party.
As much as the AfD may seek a hazelnut collation that unites conservatives (black) with the AfD (brown), this remains a most unlikely option. However, in both states coalition building will become harder and parliamentarian work more difficult. Many studies have shown that the AfD is not interested in democracy and parliamentarian work. Instead, it sees parliaments as arenas for shouting matches, abuses, personal insults, and right-wing extremist propaganda. This will become worse as recent electoral gains will energise the AfD, right-wing extremists and Neo-Nazis.
Thomas Klikauer is the author of a book entitled The AfD to be published by Sussex Academia Press in early 2020.