Nobody understands Alternative für Deutschland. Okay, so they’re racist, and want to rehabilitate a lot of Nazi-era ideas. It’s legitimate to call them fascists, and criticize them for wanting to turn the clock back in Germany.
However, there’s more to them than that. They dispense with the rhetoric of socialism altogether. They care little for the poor, or redistributing wealth. Their economic politics are firmly free market, in an Anglo-American sense.
To be fair, the Nazis were never as socialist as their name implied they were. They indulged their own privatization programs, and saw the future of Germany in terms of entrepreneurship and corporate leadership.
However, the Nazis indulged a pretense to collectivism that is entirely absent from the AfD’s ideology, which emphasizes more in-group/out-group dichotomies than a full fledged notion of a volk, or people.
Though AfD co-leader Frauke Petry has proposed rehabilitating the Nazi-era term (“völkisch,” to be precise,) there is an air of after-the-fact awkwardness to her efforts. The prejudice associated with the term is her party already. There’s no need to make it sound more Nazi.
That’s where the party’s emphasis on ethnic hatred comes in, and why it’s so significant to Alternative für Deutschland’s political program. The collective is defined by what it rejects – the foreign, Muslims – more than anything else.
The following flyer, photographed in Berlin, touches on these topics in ways not normally handled by English-language media, and its categorization of the AfD as a traditional populist party, mixing elements of right and left politics.
The AfD, in this flyer’s view, are entirely contemporary in their commitment to class and hierarchy. The party is as loyal to ethnic Germans, in this sense, as it is to Middle Eastern migrants.
Once the hatred has gone, its followers are left with nothing. Quite literally.
The AfD: Party of the fat cats
The AfD likes to present itself as the party of the little man. It goes out of its way to pretend it cares about those having to pinch every penny halfway through the month. But when you look at the party’s manifesto, you quickly realise that it represents the interests of the rich. At the 2016 Berlin elections, a “Welcoming culture for entrepreneurs and companies” was mentioned.
The AfD stresses that it sees itself as an ally for businesses. Because it really wants to hang out with business leaders and will say whatever they want to hear. The AfD is for deregulation and tax relief for the highest earners.
Unsurprisingly then, the AfD trotted out all the normal prejudices levied at the unemployed when it came to those Berlin elections, with talk of a “social industry” and “welfare industry”. Of course the AfD blathered on about social hammocks as well.
When the AfD calls for a more flexible labour market, as most employed people know, what it actually means is more pressure on those who have little to start with.
The AfD’s policy statement really reveals who it is courting though, as it mentions tax relief in several passages. it wants to abolish property and inheritance tax. Specifically, this means that the rich should stay rich and that the poor of society don’t deserve any money. For the little man, everything should stay as crappy as it currently is. Things are only going to get better for the rich though.
Consequently, the party has called for the preservation of Germany’s tripartite school system. Studies show it regularly, and those who are concerned have known for some time, that working-class children have it much more difficult than the children of doctors. When it comes to choosing the children’s path after primary school, it normally isn’t the achievement of the child, but the occupation of the parents that counts. That’s the essence of the school system: working-class parents produce working-class children and rich entrepreneurs produce corporate earners.
These examples show that the AfD is trying to position itself as the champion of the little man against the elites. But ultimately their policies are in the interests of capital. The AfD just packages it with a bit of German nationalism and a dash of bourgeoise. The AfD is nothing more than an FDP wearing a spiked-helmet. It’s just an elite shithouse at the end of the day.
There are many reasons to feel like you are being shafted by the system. But the AfD is not the solution. They don’t want to change the existing social and economic order. It just wants to exploit these times of crises, using racism, nationalism and sexism to present itself as an “alternative”, when it is anything but.
The only thing that interests the AfD has in the common man is his vote.
Opinions from the Street
“The AfD wants unemployed people to earn even less money.”
56, unemployed, Berlin-Wedding
“The SPD and the Greens gave me Hartz IV; the AfD wants to take it away completely,”
Self-employed graphic designer, Berlin-Lichtenberg
“The German government sends more and more weapons to my country of origin and the AfD wants to deport me into the middle of that war.”
“The rich are getting richer and the AfD wants to abolish property tax, while we can barely pay the rent,”
The Quosi family
Affected by increases in rent, Berlin-Siemensstadt
“I think the AfD is super, because I can have a nice retirement while my taxes are optimised,”
Beatha v. Lüderitz,
51, retired/heiress, Berlin-Zehlendorf
“I support the AfD because they’ll let me better exploit wage workers.”
39, Head of a temporary employment agency in Berlin
“The AfD understands the property tax issue. That’s why I’ll support them.”
58, estate agent
“My children shouldn’t be held back at school. They need an elite education or they are not going to be able to go on to run our company.”
41, head of a medium-sized family-run business.
Translated from the German by Samuel Morgan. Photographs courtesy of Joel Schalit.