The rise of a Mini-Me Hitler
Thomas Klikauer looks at the fruitcakes, loonies and out-and-out racists who inhabit the völkische wing of the AfD
In 2017, the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) - often mocked as “Alternative for the Dumb” or “A Fucking Disgrace” - entered the parliament with 92 MPs, having won 12.6% of the vote. The AfD’s carefully crafted public image is defined by a tweed-wearing old-timer and an attractive former Goldman Sachs manager. But behind the show lurks something much more sinister: the rise of Germany’s new Hitler.
Björn Höcke, the AfD’s leader in the state of Thuringia, represents the extremist völkische wing in the party. It was none other than the former president of the Federation of German Industries (BDI), Hans-Olaf Henkel, who noted early on in Höcke’s career: “This guy talks like Goebbels”. Henkel was a founding member of the AfD, on its neoliberal wing.
Early in his political career, Höcke had very close affiliations to Germany’s real Nazis. And today, inside the AfD, there are at least one to two thousand members who identify with his rightwing extremism. Germany’s ‘new Führer’ has learned from the old Nazis. Today’s post-modern Nazis do not go around shouting Sieg Heil. They appear as petty bourgeois wearing well-tailored suits and nicely polished shoes. While they are not the violent and vile thugs beating up anyone not too Aryan-looking, they still hate modernity, multiculturalism, feminism, modern democratic institutions, trade unions, the left, etc.
Björn Höcke’s politics consist of a skilful mix of conservatism and Nazism. Today’s Nazis are well aware that open Nazism would expose the AfD to the danger of being placed under close observation by Germany’s powerful Verfassungschutz - its secret police - and pose a serious threat to the existence of the party. And, of course, Höcke is aware that open Nazism would deter some people from voting AfD - over many years, he has mastered the craft of alluding to Nazism, while at the same time never openly appearing to be a Nazi himself. But all this demanded years of training.
A few years before the founding of the AfD in 2013, one of Germany’s leading Social Democrats, Thilo Sarrazin, published a book entitled Germany will abolish itself (2010), stimulating racist fears. Being originally a neoliberal anti-EU party, the AfD quickly took on Sarrazin’s fear-mongering. This played out well when thousands of refugees started arriving in 2015. The same year marked a turning point for the AfD: the neoliberals lost ground to the party’s xenophobic wing, which soon mutated into a völkische wing, favouring a racially cleansed Volksgemeinschaft, based on Germanic Aryanism and the so-called ‘Erfurter Proclamation’ (2015). While multiculturalism is denounced as a form of “totalitarianism”, there is also scornful contempt for humanism and the enlightenment. This is spiced up with Nazi glorifications and the quest for a mythical cultural hegemony. It is a thoroughly anti-democratic programme founded on the legend of a Germanic rebirth to overcome modern decadence.
Björn Höcke’s völkischer nationalism claims that it has to win back free speech - meaning freed from ‘political correctness’, which the AfD regards as a cancerous tumour. So free speech is not to be understood as a democratic civil right. Instead, it means the right to abuse and insult those political opponents whom Höcke calls “vicious do-gooders”. Höcke fights against them. The removal of political correctness is also designed to move political debate away from the exchange of ideas, from the possibility of reaching consensus and agreement.
Höcke sees what he calls “old parties” or “system parties” as representatives of the establishment: “They have robbed us of our state.” For him, Angela Merkel - “that malicious women” - represents the old parties to perfection. As such “she has lost the right to führen [lead] our Volk”. While thinking in terms of a Führer, Höcke also insinuates that Germany’s main parties are run by criminals. The AfD claims they rob and steal from society. Similar to what occurred in 1933, the AfD wants to remove these parties from the political scene. If need be, “Merkel has to be carried out of the chancellery in a straight-jacket”, says Höcke, implying that she is mentally deranged. “I no longer recognise those parties seeking to destroy Germany.”
According to Höcke, the bombing of Coventry during World War II was legitimate, while the following destruction of Dresden was a “bombing holocaust”. Not surprisingly, Höcke’s wing wants to revise history. It would also cut funding for holocaust memorials and school education on anti-Semitism and racism.
Höcke used to be in very close contact with Germany’s openly Neo-Nazi party, the NPD. Under the faked (but very Germanic) name of ‘Landolf Ladig’, he used to write in an NPD paper, where he explained his völkische ideology in great detail. He also was in close contact with a known criminal and Neo-Nazi, Thorsten Heisse, who was frequently referred to in court cases involving the ‘National Socialist Underground’ - a trio that murdered 10 people between 2000 and 2007.
He uses highly unusual words when explaining his ideology. For example, Höcke wrote something on what he called an “organic market economy” - a term derived from a Nazi text written in 1936 that is not used today. This “organic market economy” is opposed by “international financial capitalism” and as such it is part of Höcke’s beloved Volksgemeinschaft based on blood and race - to the exclusion of Jews and virtually anyone not deemed to be Aryan. This he calls “a third way” between capitalism and communism. Björn Höcke truly believes that the Nazis were the first ‘anti-globalisation’ movement.
He also talks of “the völkische will”, whereby the Volk is seen as a racially homogeneous mass. It is not understood to be a group of people with a plurality of opinions and ideas. The racially homogeneous Volksgemeinschaft is not a society, but a mythical community that needs to be protected from racial impurity. Höcke feels that he is called upon to defend Germany from the “African expansionists” - by this he means that African people outbreed Germans and so the German nation will eventually die a death, as floods of Africans enter Höcke’s homeland. The ‘flood’ in Höcke’s home state of Thuringia amounted to 3.8% of the total population in 2015, but it doesn’t need a Jew next door to make you a racist. Somewhat contradictorily, Höcke also claims that “very soon half of Germany will be inhabited by Muslims”.
Another threat to Björn Höcke’s Volksgemeinschaft comes from what he calls “Jewish-Christian antagonism”. This fits into the ‘them vs us’ ideology - Jews can never be part of the Volksgemeinschaft, as they are not of Aryan stock and Höcke uses the crypto-Nazi word, fremdstämming - of foreign stock - to describe them.
To defend Germany’s Volksgemeinschaft from foreign races, Höcke’s ‘Erfurter Proclamation’ is firmly established on his inner-party website Der Flügel - the wing. Höcke’s wing believes there has been a multicultural “re-education”, corrupting the German mind by infiltrating it with horrific ideas, such as individualism, modernity, democracy, equality, emancipation, etc. This has to end. Much of this is done to Germans by the “lying press” - a phrase reminiscent of Nazi propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels’ Lügenpresse. If Germany does not make a stand against foreign races, the “lying press”, modernity, etc, Höcke predicts there will be “civil war”. Currently, he claims, Germany is at the stage of pre-civil war (Vorbürgerkrieg). To avoid a full civil war, Germany needs to win the Vorbürgerkrieg. And to that end external and internal enemies must be invented. This is not new. Just as Goering once said,
The people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to danger. It works the same way in any country.
Höcke’s wing of the AfD met on June 6 2015 at the Kyffhäuser memorial - a symbol of Germany’s nationalist imperialism - to celebrate the re-awakening of the German Reich. A direct outcome of this first meeting was the AfD’s so-called ‘Autumn Offensive’, culminating in 400 rallies. During many of these rallies, AfD supporters screamed “Höcke, Höcke, Höcke!” in support of their hero. No other senior figure in the AfD receives such a level of admiration, but for the fanatics of the völkische wing Bjorn Höcke is the new Führer. And he never fails to address them using suitable crypto-Nazi phrases - after all, there are plenty of neo-Nazis among the people he addresses.
At such rallies, Höcke talks of “globalisation totalitarianism” and “ethno-pluralism”, which needs to be combated via the exclusion of other races. On racial purity, Höcke talks of “3,000 years of Germany history”. Of course, German unification occurred only in 1871 (and again in 1989), but for Höcke such facts are irrelevant. What is relevant is that Germany and Prussia are überzeitlich - beyond time. This is the hallucination that Prussia/Germany has always existed and will always exist. Just as Adolf Hitler said in 1934: “In front of us lies Germany; behind us is Germany; and inside us marches Germany.” Nationalistic virtues like order, duty, militarism, authoritarianism, chauvinism, anti-trade unionism, and anti-democracy will come to the fore when this German identity gains ascendancy once again.
Höcke’s imagined racial purity (das wesenhafte Deutsche) is to be defended against the contamination from foreign diseases that refugees and other outsiders bring to Germany. Höcke names tuberculosis, typhus and HIV among the threats to his Volksgemeinschaft. Once other races have taken over, “We have lost our homeland. And once we have lost our homeland everything is lost,” he bellows to the cheering crowds of faithful believers.
The threat is even more hyped up when Björn Höcke tells his listeners that there are “950 million migrants from Africa” waiting to overrun Germany. This is often mixed with the image of the black rapist: “More and more German women tell me that they are afraid to walk German streets. Especially blond women tell of such nightmares.” He adds: “It is five to midnight. After that only god can help us.” Such fear-mongering is also conjured up when Höcke talks of an impending “state emergency”. This recalls the 1930s, when the real Nazis dissolved democracy on the basis of an invented emergency.
But Björn Höcke does not really want the help of god to establish the Volksgemeinschaft in which the left has no place. In his “organic market economy”, trade unions are not needed either. Capitalism does not need democracy. Authoritarianism is a far better system for capitalism. But it is not just the left: all Germany’s parties are “no more than petty administrators favouring only themselves”, says Höcke. They subvert the will of the people. But this is not Rousseau’s volonté générale. Instead, it is the völkische will to power based on the racially inbred righteousness of the Volksgemeinschaft. Much of this, as Höcke endlessly claims, is based on “common sense”.
In a recent speech he also raved against “the elimination of the natural order of gender”. If Germany defeats political correctness, “it will be possible to talk about the third way again” - the way between communism and capitalism: ie, Nazism. We will escape the “opinion ghetto”, in which the political system has entrapped us. To end that speech, Björn Höcke screamed: “Germany needs to reawaken. I will give you a thousand years of Germany” - a clear reference to Adolf Hitler’s thousand years of the Third Reich.
Germany’s new Führer has spoken. Björn Höcke’s rants should sound the alarm for Germany’s workers and democrats.