There is a parable to be drawn from the far right mob rampage in Germany ~ there is no immunity from fascism though Mussolini and his National Fascist Party have lapsed in the limbo of history. The protection that was sought to be provided in the post-war era now looks dangerously diminished with the emergence of extreme right wing extremists, indeed the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) which performed reasonably well in the recent federal elections and is expected to do better in the state elections next year.
The challenge is not confined to Angela Merkel’s Germany; it is no less forbidding for Europe in the wider canvas. The immediate provocation for last week’s rampage in German cities is not Ms Merkel’s open-asylum policy towards the migrants, though it is palpable that the Arab factor has lent the spark. It was the stabbing of a German, allegedly by assailants of Syrian and Iraqi origin, that have brought matters to a head. As it turned out, the extremists have used the crime as a catalyst for mass mobilisation from across Germany, and the people’s backlash has quite totally unnerved the government in Berlin.
The racist violence has been indiscriminate and the police have been unable ~ or, some suspect, unwilling ~ to contain the raging turmoil. In Saxony, for instance, the Christian Democratic Union (CDU) seems paralysed by the rise of the AfD, compelling Ms Merkel to forge a fragile coalition with the Social Democratic Party.
The patchwork quilt has rendered the far-right the main opposition in the Bundestag (parliament) ~ a legislative reality that poses a major challenge to
coalition governance. It has been a consistent cavil of the xenophobes that alone in Europe, Germany’s hospitality towards the migrants is being abused
by potential terrorists.
On closer reflection, however, the far-right threat in Germany predates Ms Merkel’s humane gesture during the 2015 refugee crisis. It is most severe in areas of the former German Democratic Republic, which still bear the scars of economic dysfunction as a Soviet satellite and of rapid de-industrialisation when the two Germanies were united. In terms of cultural marginalisation, Saxony is seen as the easternmost part of the left-behind east.
The crisis, therefore, is more deep-seated than has been evident during the latest outrage of the far-right. Immunity from emergent fascism has been
denuded throughout Europe. Of course, Ms Merkel personifies stability and is an advocate of moderation in matters of policy, domestic and international.
And yet there is no semblance of what they call a “Merkelist” movement that can hold the reins if she steps down in the face of the far-right resurgence. The German Chancellor did sound fatalistic when she said recently, “When the generation that survived the war is no longer with us, we’ll find out whether we have learned from history.”
Those lessons ought not to be forgotten.