Monday, May 2, 2016

The convention of Alternative for Germany (AfD) - a program of German conservatives of yore

The "populist right", or "far right", or <add your own value judgement here> party AfD held its national convention in the southern German city of Stuttgart. The big item on the agenda was the adoption of a national program, a compendium of policies and plans for the upcoming German national elections in 2017 and beyond. 

The event brought lots of predictable images, as well as some surprises. There were demonstrations against the convention with the requisite brawls and police overreach. On the surprise side, the names and home addresses of convention participants were published on a left wing website, and everybody is wondering if there was a leak or a hack.

And there was the big wrap-up in the media.

That wrap-up focused on the AfD's "anti-Islam" platform and "individual freedom ends where it contradicts a supposedly German majority".

Indeed, as reported, the AfD does not consider Islam to be "part of Germany", it does not want Islam to be given the same privileged legal status Christian religions enjoy, it wants to ban the burqa, and it wants no minarets on mosques (Draft program, pp. 38).

The Zeit Online commentary casting the AfD as the party of "limits of individual freedom" quotes the program (unrestricted freedom of religion and conscience) but emphasizes the party leader's statement "Unser aller Identität ist vorrangig kulturell determiniert und kann nicht dem freien Spiel der Kräfte ausgesetzt werden." [Our translation: our identity is determined primarily by culture and can not be left to the free interplay of forces.] The commentator sees this latter statement as evidence that the AfD is against change and yearns for a lost golden age.

The problem with this comment is that the AfD leader's statement is not different from the conservative Christian Democrats/Christian Social Union. They proclaim the existence of a "guiding culture" ("Leitkultur", Synopsis of CDU vs. SPD programs, p. 3), and there is ample mention of guiding and framing society*.

The overriding problem with the AfD's program is that it simply contains statements made by mostly conservative politicians over the past several decades. Look at what established conservatives have said about Islam in Germany: there are so many statements that Islam does not belong to Germany, you can see where the AfD's roots are.

The ever so harsh no minarets on mosques is merely an emotional appeal, its outrage justified by pointing out that nobody wants to ban bell towers on Christian churches.
Go the United States, and you will find plenty of mosques without minarets as well as plenty of Christian churches without the romantic bell and clock tower.

How can you fault the AfD for insisting that the German language is central to German identity when you made a law that mandates foreigners to learn German and pass an exam before you allow a German citizen to bring his or her third world spouse into the country?

The AfD program also contains environmental protection statements that are virtually identical to the established parties' views. The nasty proposal to scrap tough energy requirements in building codes has been put forward by CDU/CSU/FDP politicians, so?

The program is 78 pages long. Picking two or three is not a very comprehensive approach to reporting if you insist - as do all mainstream media and the established parties - that the AfD is a threat to be reckoned with.

Again, there are points in that program that have been made before and that call for more democratic participation: for example, Swiss style referendums and changing the system of making candidate lists as described in The List - 2014 German voting roundup part II.
Or fixing the leftovers of the feudal "caste" system in 21st century German society.

Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung focuses on the possibility to seek an exit from the EU in a short pieces stating that AfD is back in the 19th Century. No mention of the UK having a referendum on that very same question in June.
The author of that commentary obviously has no historic memory at all. Or maybe he knows that the true goal of the AfD is to revoke the voting rights of women despite having female party leader?

If you do want to be afraid of AfD, what you should be worried about is that the overwhelming content of the program is straight up 1970s/1980s West German conservative thinking.

In the future, the AfD's program writers may very well go the way of the established parties: make the program so smooth that your opponents have a hard time to nail down your true convictions, thus giving you the opportunity to accuse them of distorting your true and good intentions.

* For example: Es ist Aufgabe der Politik, dafür die richtigen Rahmenbedingungen zu setzen. (Synopsis of CDU vs. SPD programs, p. 4)

[Update 5/3/2016] The "yes, but" conservatives of the Christian Democrats/Christian Social Union (CDU) are waking up. For example, as in "yes, some CDU politicians said in the past that Islam did not belong to Germany, but we fundamentally accept freedom of religion".

[Update] Typos. Added "No mention of the UK..."

No comments:

Post a Comment