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Issue 51, October 2000

Germany's neo-Nazi upsurge

EVERYDAY THE German media reports far-right attacks on immigrants, left youth or trade union activists. While in 1998 no murders by fascists were officially registered, three were recorded in 1999. This summer alone, however, eight people have been murdered by fascists. Overall, in the first half of 2000, 5,223 far-right criminals have been registered - a rise of 10% on the previous year.

The official figures for fascist violence, however, do not give a full picture. According to one television report there have been 117 far-right murders since 1989. The previous government headed by Helmut Kohl, however, reported that there had only been 34 victims, while today's chancellor, Gerhard Schröder, reduced that figure even further, to 24!

The capitalist media have supported this hypocrisy. They had been downplaying the extent of far-right attacks until the bombing of an underground station in Düsseldorf, where nine immigrants from Russia (mostly Jewish) were hurt, compelled them to break their silence.

Especially in the former East Germany, immigrants and young people have faced daily attacks by neo-Nazis for years. Some areas are now known as 'liberated zones', where the fascists control the streets, and the social and cultural life. They have forced left-wing people or immigrants to move away. Since the mid-1990s the fascists have been able to grow in the East because of the failure of both the trade unions and the ex-communist Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) to seriously fight and show an alternative to the continuing decay of large areas of this region.


But the growing fascist activity is not exclusively an Eastern Germany phenomenon. In June a member of the National Party of Germany (NPD) shot dead three policemen near Dortmund. In Ludwigshafen (another west German town) far-right thugs threw Molotov cocktails into a house of refugees. Near Hamburg fascists hung a banner over the motorway which offered a reward of 10,000 DM (£3,100) for the killing of the local IG Metall union leader. He had organised a concert against racism and fascism. Since this 'reward money' was offered, there have been nine attacks on his trade union office.

After the ban on several far-right organisations (like FAP, or the former Hitlerite youth organisation, Wiking Jugend) in the middle of the 1990s, the NPD became the most important reservoir for far-right extremists in Germany. Formerly a party of old Nazis, the NPD had an influx of young male members and developed connections with violent para-military organisations, the Kameradschaften.

The NPD mixes racist and fascist ideology with anti-capitalist and anti-globalisation propaganda, mobilising reactionary youth to their rallies. Because of the lack of a broader left alternative, increasing social polarisation and continuing high unemployment rates, especially in eastern Germany (where unemployment averages 17% and in some areas is over 25%), many workers sympathise with the NPD and blame immigrants for the social problems.

Even though it is a positive development that fascist attacks are now being covered in the media and by politicians, this should not obscure the fact that the capitalist ruling class is responsible for the racist mood which exists in some sections of society, as well as for the growth of the fascists. Politicians of the Social Democratic Party (SPD) and the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) talk about 'masses of asylum seekers' coming to Germany to 'take advantage of the social system'. Then, in an attempt to recruit computer specialists from other countries, the government stated that the German economy needs more immigrants who are trained in IT skills. This divided immigrants into two groups: the good and the bad. Against the background of the neo-liberal offensive and massive social cuts of the 1990s, the bourgeoisie plays the race card in order to distract attention away from their own responsibility for the social problems which exist.


So why do these racist politicians (including those in the Bavarian conservatives, the Christian Social Union - CSU) suddenly appear to be the most determined in the fight against the fascists and call for the banning of the NPD? One of the main reasons is the failure of their 'green card' campaign for IT specialists. Because of the racist attacks very few computer experts wanted to move to Germany. Another factor was that the capitalist politicians were surprised by the large amounts of weapons seized in police raids on fascists. At times the ruling class needs the fascists to bully the left and union activists and to prevent the working class fighting together against the system. At other times, the fascists pose an economic threat and are difficult to control.

The outlawing of FAP, Wiking Jugend and other groups in 1995 shows how limited a ban on the NPD would be. Fascists don't stop being fascists because the state bans their organisations, especially when they are given two years before the ban comes into full effect - two years in which they can re-organise. Since 1995, for example, over 150 far-right Kameradschaften have been formed.

Anything that handicaps the neo-Nazis is advantageous for the left and the workers' movement. However, it is not only wrong but also dangerous to stir up illusions in the bourgeois state. The capitalist state is not neutral. It is the product of the divisions between the classes in capitalist society - fundamentally, the divide between the ruling class and working class. The state enables the ruling class, which has economic control, to maintain itself as the political ruling class. If the state is expected to provide solutions, the working class is passive. The best protection against the fascist threat is the independent, organised workers' movement.


Any measures used by the state machinery to 'fight the Nazi terror' will be used at another time against the left and the workers' movement. In Berlin the bosses want to put an end to the 'annoying' demonstrations organised by trade unions and left groups against social cuts and unemployment (in 1999 there were on average seven rallies a day). In this context, the discussion about banning far-right rallies suits the bourgeoisie.

To stop the neo-Nazis a broad mass mobilisation is necessary. It is impossible to fight racist violence in an alliance with the establishment because the capitalist system is itself responsible for racism and social and welfare cuts. Sozialistische Alternative Voran (the German section of the Committee for a Workers International - CWI) stresses that the unions, the PDS, and school and student organisations, have to mobilise against the fascists. Moral arguments and calls for 'civil courage' will not counter the fascists' slogans. It is vital to link the fight against fascism with the fight against the social problems and to explain that in order to get rid of the fascists and unemployment it is necessary to get rid of the capitalist system.

Leonie Redler,
Sozialistische Alternative Voran,

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