Protesters in Berlin say the AfD’s Bjorn Hocke is a Nazi (Picture: Christian Schneider/r-mediabase.eu)

Around 300.000 people marched in Berlin on Saturday against the far right Alternative for Germany (AFD) party—and other regional demos took place throughout Germany. 

The demos followed the “remigration scandal” when AFD politicians met with open Nazis and members of the Identitarian movement in Potsdam. They discussed mass deportations of people “with a foreign background”

Since the Potsdam meeting became public knowledge, there has been growing concern about the AfD, where the Nazi Bjorn Hocke is playing an increasingly powerful role. 

Hocke is looking for a closer connection with the street forces. These forces have organised the anti-migrant Pegida demonstrations in the last decade, and are responsible for over 200 racist murders since reunification in 1989.

At the end of January, hundreds of thousands demonstrated against the AFD in Hamburg and Berlin. Many more demonstrations have taken place throughout the country. 

But these demos have not been without problems. Some have been dominated by members of the coalition government—the Labour-type SPD, the Greens and the free market liberals of the FDP. 

The coalition has doubled the military budget, raised fuel prices and failed to reach its own minimal targets for tackling climate change. 

While increasing poverty, the coalition has been attacking migrants. Last October, in an interview about Palestinian protests in Germany, SPD chancellor Olaf Scholz was quoted on the front page of best-selling magazine Spiegel. “We must finally deport on a large scale,” it said. 

This has led to a discussion in my branch of the left party Die Linke and elsewhere. Someone asked whether there is a difference between the deportation plans of the AFD and those of the German government. 

Many more argue that the policies of the Scholz government are paving the way for the AFD. But seeing the AFD as being merely about deportation underplays the real threat posed by a party whose Nazi core is becoming increasingly influential.

In many cases over the last weeks Palestinians—currently the victims of the most prevalent form of racism in Germany—were excluded from the demos against the AFD. Charges that the Fridays for Future climate group actively collaborated with the police to remove the Palestine block from last week’s demo appear to be unfounded. 

But the police excluded Palestinians anyway, and individual demonstrators, including stewards, and abused and spat at people in the block. Non-German demonstrators have had similar experiences on other demos. 

Egyptian activist Heba Attia Mousa, who lives in Bonn, reported being racially abused and accused of antisemitism for carrying a home-made placard. It read, “Arab in Deutschland, the AFD wants to deport all of us, SPD & Christian Democrats want to deport 50 percent of my friends. The Green Party and SPD are financing bombs that kill my friends in Gaza”.

This week’s demonstration saw the potential for similar divisions after the Berlin police banned Palestine flags from the demo at the last minute. But this time rally moderators welcomed the presence of Palestinians from the stage and there was a lively Palestinian block in the middle of the demo. 

One of the speakers correctly said, “At some demonstrations, the block in which many refugees and migrants were taking part, carrying Palestinian flags or wearing a kuffiyah, were excluded by the police and some of them were attacked by other demonstrators. We need to talk about this, criticise it, and learn from it”. 

This does not mean that Germany’s Palestine problem has gone away. Even on this week’s demo, Jewish socialist Rachael Shapiro reports, “in general the mood was very friendly—a lot of solidarity especially compared to the last few weeks where there were numerous extremely intense attacks on the Palestine movement and those in solidarity with Palestine from the police but also from Zionist demonstrators   

“Then an older German man came up to me and asked me quite aggressively, ‘What are the similarities between Zionism and the AfD?’ I could already see that he didn’t want to have a real conversation. Regardless, I tried to explain and after a few words, he rolled his eyes and half spit in my face, said, ‘What do you know?’ I said, ‘My family was exterminated by Nazis. I think I am perfectly capable of explaining the similarities between Zionism and fascism’.”

Such behaviour has caused some Palestinians and migrants to consider boycotting the anti-AFD demos. 

Socialists have a task. We have to persuade the victims of racism that their place is in the centre of the movement against fascism. But we also have  to carry an argument to the German left that we need unity to force back the AFD.

There is now a strong discussion about what the movement against the AfD should do now. Many people, including speakers at Saturday’s demo, are calling for a campaign to ban the AfD. 

This idea is attractive to many, as a banned AFD would lose the money which the state pays to its MPs and the people who work for them in parliament. There are, however, some problems with this strategy.

Firstly, any attempt to ban the AfD would take years and has the potential of demobilising a movement which is already on the streets. Secondly, it would strengthen the AFD’s ability to position itself as being outside the political mainstream, an alternative to the corrupt government parties. 

Furthermore, it would give power to the German state which has historically shown more interest in banning left wingers than Nazis. If we call for a ban on the AFD, we cannot be sure that it will not use this power to ban socialist organisations. There is a precedent for this in Germany. In 1952, the SRP—the successors to Hitler’s Nazi party—was banned. Four years later, the same ban was used against the German Communist Party.

The AfD is hoping for massive gains at the EU elections in June. In September, there are regional elections in three of the five states in eastern Germany—where the AFD has been so far most successful. The AfD could become the strongest party in some or all of these states. 

Despite the “remigration” revelations, the AFD is currently polling around 20 percent nationally. That’s higher than any of the parties in the coalition government and second only to the conservative CDU. 

In some eastern states, its polling figures are way over 30 percent. Membership has risen by a third in the last year and it now have 40,000 members.

Rather than hoping for a state ban, we must ensure that the movement against the AFD stays on the streets. It can’t allow the AFD to be normalised as a “party like any other”. Every time it attempts to show its face—whether through meetings, demonstrations or election stalls—it must be opposed and physically confronted.

Saturday’s demonstration was a great step forward, but one demo will not remove the AFD nor the conditions which caused them to rise. 

Germany still has a neoliberal government which is supporting genocide in Gaza and attacking living conditions at home. We need to intensify the fight—both against the rise of the far right and for politics that targets the bosses and rich. 

On Friday,9th February, the German socialist organisation Sozialismus von Unten is organising a meeting: How do we stop the AfD? German-speakers are invited to join the meeting by Zoom at 6pm CET (5pm GMT) https://us06web.zoom.us/j/84648703425#success

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