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HomeDeutschlandWho is the new "We"?: The Anti-AfD Protests Raise Uncomfortable Questions for...

Who is the new “We”?: The Anti-AfD Protests Raise Uncomfortable Questions for the “Silent Majority”

All across Germany, people are taking to the streets. This time, it’s not the farmers protesting against the policies of the traffic light coalition government, nor is it the activists of the “Last Generation” fighting for more climate protection.

It’s people who are rebelling against right-wing extremism. Chants like “Nazis out!” or “All together against fascism” resonate through the streets of Germany. Some protesters also shout “We are more!” or “We are the firewall!”.

In Munich alone, over 100,000 people gathered over the weekend. A similar scene unfolded in Berlin and Hamburg, with some protests even being interrupted due to overcrowding.

Correctiv Investigations Cited as Trigger

It seems like many people have had enough of right-wing ideology, especially that of the AfD. It’s as if the “ordinary people” have finally gotten off the couch and decided to stand up for a good cause.

The protests are often attributed to revelations from the investigative center Correctiv. According to reports, right-wing extremists are said to have met on November 25, including AfD politicians and individual members of the CDU and the very conservative Werteunion.

While the coverage may have caused a stir, the momentum that has now emerged and the protest of many people taking to the streets cannot be solely explained by the platform’s investigations.

“Societal Atmosphere Dominated by Negativity”

Berthold Vogel, Managing Director of the Göttingen Institute of Sociological Research, says: Several things are coming together. “The obvious connection of the AfD with militant neo-Nazi circles. The cross-front around Sahra Wagenknecht. And a societal atmosphere dominated only by negativity and destructiveness,” he explains in an interview with FOCUS online.

In his view, many people have had enough. “They believe it is high time for critical optimism. They think: We have something to defend and we want to defend it. Not only in the ballot box, but publicly audible and visible.”

According to Vogel, the movement, which is represented nationwide, is driven by concern for the stability of our democracy. It’s about human rights and the social rule of law. That’s why he doesn’t see the rallies as a flash in the pan, but as a longer-term trend.

Protest researcher Alexander Leistner also told Stern that the demonstrators perceived the protests as “encouraging.” “It strengthens one’s feeling of not being alone in the concern for democracy.”

Who is actually the new “We”?

The joy over the so far “silent majority,” the “new We,” now taking to the streets is great. And yet, the protests raise many questions. About their protagonists, their goals, their future.

Starting with the fact that it’s not even clear who actually belongs to the new “we,” to the community “against the right.” Or rather: who is allowed to belong.

In Munich, for example, Lisa Poettinger, the initiator of the “Together Against the Right” demo, declared CSU politicians as unwelcome individuals. On platform X, she wrote: “But what do CSU politicians want to do here? As the organizer, I can say that I have no desire for rights of any kind!”

Shocked was Bayern’s anti-Semitism commissioner Ludwig Spaenle (CSU). He stated to FOCUS online, “She apparently does not realize the impact of her political heckling, by pushing the democratic spectrum into the right-wing corner.”

If even CSU politicians are being uninvited – what does that mean for craftsmen, farmers, hauliers, and other individuals who recently protested against the traffic light coalition? Those who in part support the subversion fantasies of the AfD? Are they also unwelcome at a demonstration like the one in Munich?

Additionally, many protesters share the desire for a ban on the AfD. Large segments of the Union and FDP oppose this. In a current analysis, “Zeit” asks, “Do they and their followers still belong to the ‘we’ of the democracy fighters? Will they march if they do not support the demand?”

The AfD cannot simply be stigmatized as anti-democratic

“Us against them” – observing the current protests gives the impression that this is exactly what it is about. Democrats are fighting against anti-democrats. Civil society against the AfD. However, this demarcation is much more challenging than it appears.

The AfD has been part of the political landscape for many years. Branding them as anti-democratic does not work, even though they are classified as securely right-wing extremist in several federal states and are under observation by the domestic intelligence service.

Their leading politicians are highly professional and, to some extent, slippery, adeptly maneuvering on the border between “just democratic” and “already right-wing extremist.” Political scientists repeatedly emphasize that no unconstitutional inclinations can be found in the party’s official program.

At the local level, the CDU, as well as other parties, have worked with the right-wing populists on several occasions. Furthermore, oftentimes, the enemy and friend are closer than one might think.

The remigration fantasies from the Potsdam secret meeting are not comparable to “large-scale deportations” mentioned by Chancellor Olaf Scholz a few months ago. But parts of the SPD, FDP, and the Union also advocate a tougher approach to refugee policy.

What exactly is being protested against?

Upon closer examination, it remains unclear against whom the demonstrations, in which so many citizens are participating, are actually directed. “Against the right,” against “the AfD” – it does not get much more precise.

Is it about the party program? The members? The functionaries? The voters? Or about anyone who does not at least completely reject the AfD? The Magdeburg political scientist Thomas Kliche stated to “MDR”, the demonstrations lack a clear objective: “Resisting is not enough to establish a long-term movement.”

Statements like “The whole of Munich hates the AfD” were also repeatedly heard in the past few days. They may be easy to chant, but are factually incorrect.

Surveys show that more than one in five would vote for the blue-white-red party if the federal election were next Sunday. In federal states like Thuringia or Saxony, it is even every third person. The AfD has become a part of mainstream society. The “opponent” sits at many kitchen tables or at least belongs to one’s close personal environment.

The current protests mark the peak of societal polarization,die sich seit Monaten, wenn nicht seit Jahren abzeichnet. Falsch wäre, sich voneinander abzuwenden, findet Vogel.

„’Wir gegen die’ – das sollte nicht das Ziel sein“, äußert der Soziologe. „Auch von Seiten derjenigen, die nun gegen die AfD auf die Straßen ziehen, darf nicht die Verachtung dominieren. Dass Menschen autoritär wählen, hat ja Gründe – Sorgen um ihren Wohlstand, das Empfinden von Unsicherheit, von Überforderung durch das Tempo des Wandels, aber auch der Eindruck, gesellschaftlich mindergeschätzt zu werden.“

Demonstrationen können „konkretes politisches Handeln nicht ersetzen“

Solche Sorgen, erklärt er, reichen an vielen Orten bis weit in die Mitte der Bevölkerung. „Alle Demonstrationen werden am Ende kein Gewinn sein, wenn wir nicht zentrale gesellschaftliche Probleme wahrnehmen und anpacken. Und hier wird es Verluste und Konflikte geben, aber wir müssen sie gemeinsam angehen, jeder und jede nach seinen und ihren Möglichkeiten.“

Vogel betrachtet die Proteste zwar als einen konstruktiven Baustein hinsichtlich der Zukunft unserer Gesellschaft. Er gesteht allerdings ein: „Sie können konkretes politisches Handeln vor Ort, das auf Zusammenhalt und nicht auf Spaltung setzt, nicht ersetzen.“

Ob die Demonstrationen Menschen davon abhalten werden, der AfD ihre Stimme zu geben, ist eine andere Frage. Dieses Jahr stehen mehrere wichtige Wahlen an: die Europawahl, aber auch Landtagswahlen in Brandenburg, Thüringen und Sachsen. In allen drei Bundesländern liegen die Rechtspopulisten in Umfragen vorn.

Die AfD musste nur zuschauen, wie sich die Ampel zerlegt

Überzeugte AfD-Anhänger werden sich von den Protesten wohl nicht abschrecken lassen. Die Extremismusforscherin Julia Ebner sagte der „Tagesschau“, es könnte sogar zu einer weiteren Radikalisierung kommen. Vorausgesetzt es gelingt der AfD, ihre Opferrolle weiter auszubauen.

Gleichzeitig könnten die Proteste, durch die viele Menschen nun zeigen, dass ihnen am Erhalt der Demokratie gelegen ist, die Ampel motivieren, ihre Politik zu ändern. Denn die Probleme, die viele Menschen in die Arme der Rechtspopulisten getrieben haben, sind immer noch vorhanden.

Hohe Energiekosten, ungelöste Fragen in der Migrationspolitik und ein Mittelstand, der zu verkümmern droht, weil die Lohnkosten explodieren und die Kaufkraft sinkt.

Die Bundesregierung machte in den vergangenen Monaten vor allem mit Streitigkeiten und schlechter Kommunikation von sich reden. Eigentlich musste die AfD nur zuschauen, wie sich die Ampel selbst zerlegt.

Soziologe Vogel unterstreicht mit Blick auf die Proteste, an denen sich so viele Menschen beteiligen: „Sie wissen genau: Demokratie hat keine Ewigkeitsgarantie. Sie kann still und kaum bemerkbar von innen sterben, indem wachsenden Gruppen der Bevölkerung die Bereitschaft abhanden kommt, sich für Gemeinwohl, Gerechtigkeit und Gleichwertigkeit zu engagieren.“ Genau das gilt es jetzt zu verhindern.

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