British historian Ian Kershaw on the threat posed by the AfD – and how to deal with it wisely.
Professor Kershaw, in the polls the AfD is the strongest political force in the East; At the same time, it is becoming increasingly radicalized. Can you understand that their success is being compared to the rise of Nazism?
Of course I can understand the impulse. But such comparisons don’t seem particularly useful to me. What we are now seeing in Germany is a development that is also occurring in many other European countries. Populist movements are successful almost everywhere. Many countries then look at their own past. In Germany, of course, also on the Nazi era, especially with an event like this meeting between AfD people and the Identitarian Movement in Potsdam. But we have long known what harm the Nazis caused. One can even see that the extremists maintain a certain distance from the Nazi past, which also had catastrophic consequences for Germany. For them it is a balancing act: on the one hand, pursuing right-wing extremist politics, but at the same time keeping a kind of safe distance from the Nazis in order not to tarnish their own electoral chances.
After war and Nazi rule, the Federal Republic gave itself a constitution that was intended to make the new democracy more defensive than the failed Weimar Republic. In this sense, wouldn’t it be logical to initiate banning proceedings against the AfD, which is being hotly debated?
Even if there is a purely legal possibility of banning the AfD, that doesn’t seem to be a promising path to me. A ban probably won’t work for a party that has approval of perhaps 20 percent. If you want to hold the country together, it is necessary to adopt policies that reduce support for the populists.
A stricter immigration policy appears to be a means of countering the AfD – in other words, an attempt is made to reduce the attack surface in the policy area that is central to the AfD. Do you think this is a good idea?
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I have been working in the news industry for over 6 years, first as a reporter and now as an editor. I have covered politics extensively, and my work has appeared in major newspapers and online news outlets around the world. In addition to my writing, I also contribute regularly to 24 Hours World.