You React: The AfD Enter The Bundestag
Alternative für Deutschland will enter German parliament today — according to Deutsche Welle, this constitutes “the first time in nearly six decades” that a far-right party has entered the Bundestag. As Die Zeit has already observed, even before the AfD made it into the Bundestag, they’d already managed to push political discourse further right through their senior officials’ provocative statements and through their presence on television debates, prompting concern about what this will mean when the party actually makes it into the official governing body. So how does Germany feel about the AfD entering parliament? Hard to say — DADDY has limited its survey to people we know and as such, those working in the media and those who live in Berlin are overrepresented here. Still, we hope that we’ve managed to provide a snapshot of both expat and German feelings at this time.
I didn’t want to believe what I saw – just around the corner of my apartment I was confronted with a poster showing a very white blonde pregnant woman, breeding – and this was the actual claim – real new Germans. This looked way too familiar to my memories of what Nazi propaganda looked like in my school books.
I recognise that having the capacities and resources to be socially and politically active is a privilege. Lately, I feel like no matter where you look, big ideas like the EU seem to be too abstract for lots of people to believe in them. Instead nationalist and fascist leaders, borders and racism seem to do the deal and satisfy those who want more for themselves. I’ve worded it this way, because I want people – especially fellow journalists – to stop hiding behind terms like „fear“, when relating to the motifs of racist violence. Racists aren’t afraid of the people they other. Nazis aren’t victims of bad social backgrounds that made them into hateful predators. There are no scared racists just like there are no homophobes, only anti-queers. There are people who hate, destroy and shame everyone who do not fit into their idea of a human.
Valerie-Siba Rousparast, 29, journalist/photographer
I grew up as a black man in Saxony-Anhalt, a region in the east of Germany which has historically had a lot of right-wing voters and whose right-wing component has only grown over the last few years. Most AfD voters (even from families that I know) justify it with their dissatisfaction with the established parties. There’s some truth in this for me, but, on a closer look, this is a bullshit excuse. I mean I’m all-in for my east German people or people in general who get left behind from established politics and society, but never in cases where they proactively decide in favour of racist morons. Another big reason for the AfD’s success has been the blame of critical or left-wing thinking by established parties and the biggest media outlets in the country, especially after G20. When you attack the left wing more than the right wing or put them on the same diabolical level and when you already have a lot of people who are frustrated with your politics, their own life situation and who don’t have to care or think about racism in the first place, because they have some obvious privilege… then don’t be surprised when they opt for what’s left and decide they could give a fuck about the inhumane tendencies in that party that don’t affect them personally.
One of the biggest concerns I have now is that the AfD being in the Bundestag may lead to an increase in racist or xenophobic incidents, such as in countries where right-wing movements have already been successful. I definitely don’t have a solution for those big problems. The only idea I have is to prepare for some rougher times to come and promote solidarity between those kind of people, groups and movements that already have experience in engagement against right-wing ideas, xenophobia, homophobia, racism and all that other bad stuff, instead of discussing who is the better leftie or having arguments about who uses the best correct political term. Don’t get me wrong, this is super important too and shouldn’t be stopped. But it seems we don’t have much time left for those discussions because the assholes are already back. Let’s get our priorities in order to tackle the big shit first so that in the future we can have room to breathe again for the little stuff that is important, too.
Soriba Dembélé, 30, out of work
That the AfD has managed to become the third most popular party in the Bundestag doesn’t really surprise me. The party was so hyped by the media that any other result would have surprised me. It’s often said that we live in “turbulent” times, I believe this overwhelms many people and these people want to solve this sensation of being overwhelmed somehow. Only the easiest solution — trusting populist voices — is rarely the best. I acknowledge their success but I’m not freaking out about it. Because I’m sure that the AfD won’t do well in the Bundestag, they’ll make a fool of themselves each day and ultimately, all of their voters will end up asking themselves how they could be stupid enough to give their voices away.
Jeanne Nzakizabandi, 22, student
First of all, in a wicked way we Germans were lucky: we already had a quite politically conservative landscape, otherwise in my opinion, we certainly would’ve faced at least double the support for the AfD to what the actual result was. The major German parties had no problem with shifting to the right, and while Merkel seems like a level-headed, rational and sometimes even progressive leader, she’s mostly a very skilled strategic player with a focus on retaining her own power.
After her 2015 summer of empathy, she silently re-interpreted „Wir schaffen das“, and exacerbated the conditions for refugees: for instance, shortening residence permits, allowing deportations to Afghanistan, impeding family reunifications. Not even to mention that the housing and job situation for asylum seekers is dire, and not by accident. The only reasons the terribly named „Flüchtlingskrise“ isn’t a pressing issue right now, is us paying the Turkish government to keep the majority of refugees, plus the violent closing of the borders to Greece, where many refugees are now trapped, far away from the concerned German citizen.
In Saxony, the state I was born and raised in, almost 25% gave their vote to the AfD, the strongest result out of all German states (this made the AfD the second strongest party in Saxony). And while the reasons are complex, I can’t say I’m surprised: I grew up with that. Germany has huge issues with racism and nationalism. For most white and Christian Germans it’s emotionally unimaginable that a non-white, non-Christian person can and should be considered entirely German. Most wc-Germans still refuse to talk about this, and about our colonial past, the failure of denazification, the miscarried reunification, and the systemic racism rampant in public structures. In short: Germans, even the progressive ones, often aren’t „woke“. That’s why they cling to that reassurance that „87% didn’t vote for right wing extremists“, which is a) statistical bullshit, and b) completely irrelevant – the NSDAP started with 18% in 1930 and look where they got.
Mary Scherpe, 35, editor at Stil In Berlin
Like many others, I was disappointed to see AfD win seats in parliament. As someone from Japan, a country that accepts very few asylum seekers or immigrants in general, I’ve always been impressed by the power of immigrant communities here and the country’s effort to welcome refugees. The election results and the ugly campaign AfD ran ahead of it were an important wake-up call for me. I think people are right to feel concerned about the rising power of AfD and what it means for Germany. But I think it’s also important to remember that an overwhelming majority of Germans still voted in favor of open borders at a time when many countries are turning inward.
Mari Saito, 29, freelance reporter/writer
If before the federal elections the prevalent question tied to the AfD was the how and why of their rise, it changed to a who afterwards. Some people weren’t shy about looking for a scapegoat to hold responsible for the success of a party who thrives on scapegoating. Drawing lines between an us and a them, casting blame on the other — be it refugees or migrants, the so-called Lügenpresse, or Gutmenschen — is the essence of the party’s program. Yep, that’s populism in a nutshell. That’s the attempt to dismantle a democracy by posing as its last saviour.
And that is why I was irked to see headlines like “Is the media responsible for the success of the AfD?” after the elections. The question was first posed by high-profile politicians from the of CDU and SPD – parties who have lost a lot of their voters to the AfD – and was quickly picked up by media outlets, including some who’ve debunked the allegation. But it was out there, a special focus being laid on public broadcasters which played into the hands of AfD politicians who’d love to see them dismantled.
While I believe that any form of media, especially public broadcasting services, cannot survive without regular criticism and reform, I oppose the use of populist rhetoric for this purpose. And that’s exactly what everybody who utters “Is THE MEDIA responsible?” does – they jump the us vs. them-bandwagon. They look for an easy target to cast blame on. They reduce the diversity of people, ideas, and debates that make up media institutions to one nebulous entity. And they do the same to AfD voters.
Luise Vörkel, 28, editorial assistant
As a naturalized German citizen who was born to Turkish parents and raised in Berlin, the AfD’s election into parliament leaves a bad taste in my mouth. But it also doesn’t come as a surprise to me at all: I’ve experienced various forms of racism in Germany throughout my 30 short years living in this country; sometimes blunt, sometimes indirect, too often institutionalized. The fact that this party and its supporters try to deflect their racism and hate being called Nazis is a joke, considering the fact that they clearly use tried, tested and proven tactics that have worked for the NSDAP before. This election made one thing very clear for me: You and I will need to call out and name racism in every single instance it’s presented to us — it’s time to take off the gloves.
Ufuk Inci, 29, producer
I can’t say the election results came as any sort of surprise to me, nor was I surprised by the fact that some Germans expressed great surprise that they apparently were surrounded by racist twits. The local advertising had prepared me well. If you’re from a more visually literate culture, German advertising, including campaign posters, comes across as rather blunt and ever unfunny. The number of housewifey characters selling homemaking supplies — or the number of people of color only ever selling stuff that’s supposed to be frivolous and fun — remains staggering. This means that German visual culture reinforces stereotypes almost across the board, which cannot but say something about how the locals actually see women and people of color — not to mention how naturally they accept the centrality of the white man in all things.
All this to say that when I found myself confronted with AfD posters using women’s bodies for fearmongering (and, equally horribly, “sexing up” said fearmongering, for instance with their “Bikinis Not Burkas!” campaign), I said to myself: of course. Then I took pictures and sent them to my friends. Without comment, of course. What comment would be necessary?
Of course there is no immense outrage – no shitstorm, as the Germans like to say – over posters showing a pregnant belly emblazoned with the slogan “New Germans? We’d rather make our own!” Of course reducing the female body to a breeding machine is not immediately condemned. After all, the connection to Nazi-era “Lebensborn” ideals is too distant, the echo somehow not clear enough. And even if these posters are upsetting to some people, tearing them down or painting over them is considered a grave crime here. Freedom of political speech, and all that. So when the painfully retrograde Frankfurter Buchmesse this week proclaimed the assault of one publisher by a gang of squeaky-clean alt-righters a mere scuffle between leftists and rightists, their dum-dum statement took none of the expats in my circles by surprise. “All sides need to be heard”; we are all too familiar with that kind of bullshit.
Yet it apparently needs to be said here, and loudly: Freedom of speech does not mean we need to “hear both sides”, if one of those sides is made up of literal or aspiring Nazis. It does not mean we need to offer this vile white scum a platform, whether that’s a book fair or our very streets. Our mission here in Germany with the AfD (just as it is in my home country with the ridiculously coiffed PVV) is to take these broflakes down a few pegs, to denounce and creatively dismantle their propaganda, to argue against their anti-science, anti-feminist, anti-refugee rhetoric at each possible opportunity with an avalanche of facts and joy and fury.
Consider this election our woke-up call.
Florian Duijsens, 39, fiction editor