Adolf Hitler, Herman Göring, Joseph Goebbels and Rudolf Hess attending a military parade in 1933. The Nazis came to power because of the threat of working class power, but also the failure of the wor

Where next for Germany?

Thomas Klikauer paints a picture of ‘democracy’ being saved from neo-Nazism because of AfD’s lack of business, army, bureaucratic and judicial support and the absence of non-state fighting formations. The working class is only seen as an electoral group

In just one month’s time, Germany’s newest, most powerful and highly successful neo-Nazi party - the deceptively labelled AfD (Alternative for Germany) - will be 11 years old. Seemingly unstoppable, Germany’s neo-fascist party has gone from strength to strength in election after election. Something wicked this way comes.

It gets worse: most observers believe the AfD’s upward trend will continue in 2024, with European elections set for Sunday June 9, as well as upcoming state elections in the east German states of Saxony and Thuringia on September 1, and in Brandenburg on September 22 - if the AfD is not banned by then.

Geographically, the former East Germany (German Democratic Republic) remains the heartland of the AfD, with voter support in the region of 35% - compared to between 12% and 20% in the western parts. But the AfD’s demographic problem is that 67 million people live in the western parts of Germany, where the AfD is weak, while just 16 million live in the former GDR. In other words, without winning in the west, the AfD will remain just a regional party.

Virtually all election polls and public polls in 2023 and early 2024 see the AfD heading toward a historic high. Simultaneously, a radicalisation within it is taking place. In other words, while the AfD goes from success to success, it also goes from extreme right to more extreme right. Even the recent ‘Wannsee 2’ scandal that broke in January 2024 did not dent its popularity. Wannsee was the location where the Nazis made their plans to exterminate Europe’s Jews - ie, the original Wannsee conference of January 1942.

Despite its move into rightwing extremism there appears to be a ‘normalisation’ of the AfD. As is also happening in the United States, Hungary and other countries around the world (eg, India). In other words, the mainstreaming of fascism. This will have stark consequences for the future of Germany’s party system. 2024 is set to be the year in which the rightwing-extremist AfD will become a real force in Germany’s political landscape, undermining from inside the democratic system it hates.


In 2013, the AfD was formed from three rather diverse ideological currents, all of them to the right of Germany’s traditional conservatives (the CDU): the reactionary wing (formerly of the CDU); the neoliberal wing; and the outright neo-Nazi völkische (read: racist-Aryan and white supremacist) wing:

1. The reactionary wing (now declining) is nationalistic and chauvinistic. Its Führer back then was Alexander Gauland, but today, it is Beatrix von Storch of old Nazi stock. Storch’s maternal grandfather was Lutz Graf Schwerin von Krosigk. When this monarchist became a Nazi, he was promptly awarded with the Golden Nazi Party Badge. He was Hitler’s finance minister until the defeat of Nazi Germany in 1945. Beatrix Storch once advocated the shooting of refugees at the German border. But today this part of the AfD is in terminal decline.

2. The neoliberal wing was once centred around economy-oriented figures, such as Bernd Lucke. Today, this wing of the AfD is almost completely extinct. But neoliberal ideology has not disappeared.

3. The original neo-Nazi wing is at the centre of power within the party and is rising: There is also the völkisch (read neo-Nazi) wing that only came together after the AfD was formed. Its most prominent and most powerful Führer is Björn Höcke. In the beginning, the neo-Nazi-Aryan wing was marginal - both in terms of quantity and quality. Over time, however, it developed into a very strong current inside the party - eventually dominating the AfD. Today, it runs the show.

Ever since the AfD’s congress in 2022 in Riesa, there is no longer any doubt that the völkisch-neo-Nazi wing has taken over the leadership. Apart from the AfD’s neo-Nazi wing, only a fragmented remaining part of the reactionary wing continues to exist, but it too must subordinate itself to the über-authoritarian neo-Nazi wing. Any AfD official who fails to spit out racist buzzwords and adjacent conspiracy fantasies in speeches - like, for example, that of a ‘great replacement’ and the idée fixe of ‘national identity’ (read a race-based Herrenrasse, now called bio-Deutsche) - has next to no chance of getting anywhere in the AfD.

Interestingly, the rapid radicalisation of the AfD towards neo-Nazism has not harmed the party - on the contrary, it gives it muscle. Today, the AfD is more rightwing-extremist than ever before. At the same time, it is also stronger than ever before.

In 2022, the AfD somewhat replicated Hitler’s Night of the Long Knives - albeit with no killings that we know of. The cleansing of the party came in the east German city of Riesa. This party congress eliminated the neoliberals and severely weakened its reactionary wing, but at the same time it strengthened the radical right wing. The success at the party convention sharply increased the self-confidence of the party’s neo-Nazis: most members noticed the swing of the AfD towards rightwing extremism and either caved in - eg, the ‘Nazi Schlampe’ (‘Nazi bitch’), Alice Weidel - or happily joined it.

Unsurprisingly, Höcke praised the party’s ideological consolidation. The AfD’s European candidate, Maximilian Krah - who hallucinates about immigration as the “colonisation” of Germany and about “oriental land-grabs” - spoke of a post-Riesa AfD. It is a kind of ‘fascistisation’ - the process of adopting proto-fascism.

Meanwhile, in terms of public polling, the AfD’s 10.3% achieved during the last federal election in 2021 (down from 12.6% in 2017), has now increased to 23.6% in polls (January 2024). This is a very strong leap, which shows that the strategy of the right is working out rather splendidly.

At the same time, the high public polling figures for AfD are not unconnected to the unpopularity of Germany’s current progressive ‘traffic-light’ government. The current disapproval has been aided through the sustained media (read tabloid) barrage. It all adds up to a seemingly unstoppable normalisation, from which the AfD has been able to benefit. Despite debates about the legality or illegality of the AfD and police investigations, the party is increasingly perceived as a ‘normal party’.

According to a recent public poll, a whopping 27% consider the AfD to be a “normal party”. The mainstreaming of fascism is goose-stepping forward. This is further supported by the fact that the AfD appears - at least to the outside world - to be disciplined. Having eliminated the neoliberal wing and undermined its reactionary wing, it can pretend to be a unified force.

However, there are still some remaining power struggles between different factions. Beyond that, there is also the issue of the AfD’s current. rather non-charismatic mini-Führer and the many malignant narcissists waiting in the wings to replace Höcke. Temporarily suppressing these new potential dictators allows the AfD to unify the party which is further abetted by the AfD’s anti-migration and nationalistic stance - the most commonly approved policy.

Aided by CDU

Most recently, the AfD has also been aided by Germany’s traditional conservatives. The CDU is fighting a USA-style culture war - in other words, it is taking up AfD causes, even though it does not help the CDU at all. The traditional conservative party has been stagnating in recent polling, because it has no agenda which shows a clear way towards future prosperity.

Nevertheless, the CDU remains powerful and is either unknowingly or cynically seeding the political ground for Germany’s rightwing extremists. The fruits of this seeding will be harvested by the AfD, because nationalism and racism remain its core business.

In the ideological positioning of the AfD, and for tactical purposes, right now - at least officially - the party claims to be against billionaires and predatory capitalism. Nevertheless, its staunchly neoliberal ideology ensures it is dead against any tax increases. Surprisingly, perhaps also for them, the party’s economic policies have recently been rebuked most sharply by the think tank of Germany’s business owners, factory directors, companies and corporations (in short, Germany’s capitalism) known as the DIW (German Institute for Economic Research). Worse, the DIW analysis shows that AfD voters will be those who will suffer the most from the party’s neoliberal economic policies.

In any case, the AfD is not about class warfare: it is about the Volksgemeinschaft (a ‘people’s community’). Therefore the party needs to camouflage its true intentions, which it has done by focusing on national identity, race and migration.

To achieve Volksgemeinschaft, the AfD aims to unite very different electoral groups:

1. Workers: many are fighting against socioeconomic devaluation, as the cold intimacies of neoliberalism push ever more unskilled workers into the ‘precariat’;

2. Petty bourgeois: those who, above all, do not want to pay taxes, reject state interference in their business, are not friends of environmentalism and other progressive policies;

3. The elite: Germany’s radical rightwing-extremist non-oligarch rich.

As far as the voter groups are concerned, the core clientele of the AfD remains inside Germany’s petty bourgeois middle class (or what is left of it in the eastern states). They are neither elite nor lower class. They are mostly skilled workers and people with mid-range formal education.

After the ‘Wirtschaftswunder’ (economic miracle) of the 1950s they were transformed into the petty bourgeoisie and then exposed to the possibility of losing their social standing under the plague of neoliberalism. This is the group made up of the self-employed, skilled craftsmen and those with a one-person or other small business. Such people have begun to identify with the non-charismatic and simple-minded AfD potential micro-Führer, Tino Chrupalla.

Of course, even before the 1920s there were always rightwing skilled and unskilled workers for whom simple solutions - racism, anti-feminism, anti-environmentalism, hatred of progressives and simple nationalism - outshone everything else. But today most AfD voters seem to fall into the ideological trap of being dominated by something that Gramsci once described as a “diffuse sense of everyday life” - a rather chaotic collection of disparate views and interests that do not clearly fit into any neatly tailored party programme.

For workers with rightwing ideological tendencies, the fear of losing out is big - whether that is real or constructed. On the other side of the coin is the fading notion of being able to make gains under neoliberal capitalism. In short, they see themselves as losers, or at least as potential losers, and this is no longer linked to class-consciousness. Instead, it is linked to petty bourgeois aspirations, with individualistic solutions to economic problems. The AfD will never admit that the real problem is the super-rich: no, it is the foreigners and the unassimilated. This is the nationalism and racism that the AfD thrives on.

It is this, unfortunately, that emotionally overwhelms the class struggle, especially since everyone these days has basic consumer goods - cell phones, computers, fridges, washing machines, cars, etc. The AfD lullaby for the poor is ‘You can’t do anything against the rich anyway’, because they have all the resources. Redistribution policies by progressives have failed. The AfD is for those who have no faith in the feasibility of progressive redistribution policies and are ready to support a strong authoritarian who can bring those recalcitrant rich folks to heel.


The comprehensive destruction of any alternative to neoliberal capitalism is - paradoxically - one of the core ideologies of the AfD. In other words, the ‘Alternative’ for Germany is no alternative at all, because the ultimate goal of those vying for AfD leadership is to eventually ally themselves with the super-rich: in their ‘boss’ way of thinking, they like the idea of an autocratic leader keeping their workforce quiet and in line.

Linked to that is the fostering of the fear of losing out. This hopelessness can be attributed to the successful subversion and subsequent failure of progressive politics, but also to the corporate mass media that has - over decades - assured us all that a pro-business atmosphere must prevail and that capitalism is not the problem: socialism is.

Importantly, it cemented the idée fixe that there is no alternative to capitalism. That means that ‘Alternative’ for Germany is also an alternative to open-mindedness, and it wants to convert the populace into a racist mob: ie, the old and new Nazi Volksgemeinschaft. As a consequence, it has increasingly become possible to speak of a general shift to the right in Germany. In the past few years not only a rightwing radicalisation has taken place, but also a ‘normalisation’ of the extreme right.

Perhaps optimistically, it is not entirely clear whether more people today carry rightwing attitudes than, for example, a decade ago. The most recent so-called Mitte-Study by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation comes exactly to this conclusion.

Meanwhile, forms of (mostly online) public discourse in Germany have become more unconstrained. Aided by online platforms, there is a marked rise of hate speech. If one compares recent statements by politicians with those of, for example, eight years ago, there is a clear shift to the right in the language they use.

The CDU plays a particularly unsavoury role in this. For example, it calls its ‘official’ position on the AfD a “non-engagement policy” - the Brandmauer (fire wall). Yet in the east German town of Pirna an ex-CDU and now AfD-supported candidate won the local mayoral election.

Many observers have underestimated how quickly the AfD has become normalised. Grimly, not many people had expected, until recently, that the conservative CDU would fold so quickly and aid the AfD. Even more problematic is that, both under the ‘moderate’ Angela Merkel and today under the staunchly conservative Friedrich Merz, the CDU has been wavering and flip-flopping. In reality, it has been reiterating AfD positions. Not long ago, Merz suspected Ukrainian refugees of being “social welfare tourists” - the xenophobic language of AfD. He also described middle-Eastern youths as “little pashas” - also the language of AfD.

It needs to be pointed out that the CDU’s flip-flopping over the AfD will mainly benefit the latter, not itself. Publicly, the CDU facilitates the impression that the AfD is covering important topics.

Perhaps the real background of the whole thing is also a crisis of ideological hegemony. Germany’s established parties, democratic institutions and their political convictions seem to be losing their binding force. This is evident, for example, in the position of German conservatism. The CDU always had the (self-appointed) task of capturing Germany’s right, but those days are over. Today, the AfD woos voters who are to the right of the CDU and this creates a problem: there is now a real possibility of a split in the CDU, which applies even more in eastern states.

Of course, such a split would benefit the AfD. A break-up of the CDU would be the most serious implosion imaginable for Germany’s party system. Although a split is unlikely right now, it can no longer be excluded further along the line.

No 1933 repeat

In conclusion, 2024 is not 1933. Even though the neo-Nazi AfD is set to make gains in some significant elections, particularly in three east German states, it is unlikely that it will be in the government this year or in 2025, when the next federal election is due. There are three reasons for this:

1. No business support. Unlike in the 1930s - and this is the biggest problem for the AfD - Germany’s business leaders, its elite, the rich, its companies and corporations - do not support the AfD. The opposite is the case. Business strongly rejects the party. This is largely because of the AfD’s über-nationalistic and anti-EU stance. German capitalism depends on the European Union as its biggest market. Losing this - as Brexit has shown very instructively - would hit German capital extremely hard. This time around, German capital is not behind the new neo-Nazis and its parliamentary cohort.

2. No state support. The AfD cannot - unlike the Nazis during the 1930s - rely on an authoritarian state with anti-democratic civil servants that hate, reject and seek to abolish democracy. Today, Germany’s institutions are democratic through and through. Unlike during the 1930s, Germany’s court system has no Roland Freisler (or only a few). In other words, neither the German state nor its judiciary, police, army and public administration will support the AfD.

3. No movement. Thirdly, the AfD does not yet have the equivalent of the SA. There are no troops of Brownshirts beating, torturing and killing political opponents at will. Put simply, the AfD has no ‘die Strasse frei, die Fahne hoch …’ groups roaming the streets. Unlike Hitler and Mussolini, the AfD has no paramilitary fighting force and no death squads lurking in the shadows, like the rightwing forces in the USA and perhaps Italy.

In order to ascertain what will happen in Germany in 2024, it is useful to look at the 2023 election in the bellwether state of Hessen. In 2023, the CDU became a mid-30% party, but, as the strongest party in Hessen, it can run the show. This is set to be replicated at Germany’s federal level in 2025. The Social Democratic Party and Green Party will probably both win around 15%.

The neoliberal FDP and Germany’s most progressive party, Die Linke, will struggle to enter any parliament because they will most likely drop below the 5% hurdle that allows a party to enter parliament. What remains is the AfD. Polls indicate that the AfD will hover at around 15%-20%.

Beyond the projected success of the AfD in the European parliament elections in June, those in Saxony and Thuringia on September 1, and the Brandenburg election on September 22, one of the more interesting questions will come to the fore in 2025 - the year of the next federal election. The key question then will be: with whom will the CDU enter into a coalition to form the new government? If what happened in the bell-weather state of Hessen is replicated, the CDU has two options: it can govern with the SPD or with the Greens.

The horror scenario would be that it could, at least potentially, also govern with the AfD. This would be a deadly carbon-copy of Hitler’s first cabinet from 1933, when conservatives switched sides, running away from conservatism to support Hitler’s Nazis.

For the quite logical and therefore optimistic reasons outlined above, this is unlikely to happen. In other words, history will not repeat itself. We all know what came after Hitler rose to power in 1933. Germans know and the world knows. Catastrophe on a much larger scale this time around can be avoided.