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Germany's Other Anti-Globalists: Neo-Nazis Against the G-8

Tuesday, June 5, 2007

With the international media focused on the violent clashes between left-wing "anti-globalization" activists and German police at the anti-G-8 protest in Rostock this past weekend, another component of Germany's broad "anti-globalization" consensus will have passed largely unperceived: namely, the neo-Nazis of the National-Democratic Party of Germany or NPD. Under the motto "There is no such thing as fair globalization," an NPD-sponsored anti-G-8 demonstration had been scheduled to take place in the nearby city of Schwerin on Saturday, the same day as the "leftist" demonstration in Rostock. The NPD protest was, however, cancelled at the last minute, as the state supreme court of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, citing the potential for violence, upheld a ban issued by the local authorities. In light of the entirely predictable rioting of the leftist "Black Block" in Rostock -- leading to the violence that left nearly 1000 injured, including some 433 police officers -- the court's grounds, it must be said, now seem rather feeble.

In spite of the ban, over 1,500 NPD members are reported to have taken part in smaller, "spontaneous" anti-G-8 protests in several German cities. Over 100 are reported to have marched through Berlin's central Brandenburg Gate. As documented on the NPD Web site -- but virtually ignored by not only the international, but also the German media -- some 50 NPD members, including three members of the regional parliament of Saxony, managed briefly to occupy the steps of the German Reichstag, unfurling anti-G-8 banners and waving NPD flags. "Under the gable of the western entrance to the Reichstag building with its inscription 'To the German People'," an NPD press release notes, "there now suddenly took place a national protest in favor of a world of free peoples and against the economically, socially and culturally disastrous consequences of globalization." The protest, the press release affirms, "met with much approval from tourists and passers-by."

Since the Iraq War, hostility to the G-8 and globalization has become a central theme of new Nazi ideology. According to the neo-Nazis, the "Judeo-American" West is locked in a struggle with so-called "autochthonous" peoples the world over. In neo-Nazi terminology -- and in keeping with the "blood and soil" criteria of classical Nazism -- "autochthonous" peoples could as well be the indigenous Amerindian populations of Bolivia or Peru as, say, the (supposedly equally "indigenous") ethnic Germans of South Tyrol or Germany itself. In terms not unlike those of left-wing "anti-imperialists," the neo-Nazis militate in favor of the "freedom of peoples" and against a globalization that they present as an expression of American imperialism.

For the NPD, the anti-globalization movement is to be understood as part of a "völkisch" uprising of the world's "peoples" [Völker] against the "rootless" capitalism system. [The German word völkisch is derived from the word Volk: which can be rendered as either "people" or "nation," but unlike the corresponding English words, typically carries a strong connotation of ethnicity. The ethnic idea of the "Volk" or nation was the core idea of the National Socialism of the 1930s and 40s, which was in many ways an outgrowth of a "völkisch" or "ethnic national" movement in German history that long preceded it. -- Translator's Note] "The world should know," NPD chairmen Udo Voigts said in May in anticipation of the anti-G-8 protests, "that the struggle against globalization is a struggle of peoples [Völker]. And this struggle -- all of Europe is waiting for this -- must start from Germany."

The central organ of the NPD, the monthly Die Deutsche Stimme ["The German Voice"], began preparing its readership for the G-8 protests early on. Thus, for example, one could read the following passage in the January issue of the paper: "For years now, the G-8 countries have been responsible for policies that undermine the living conditions of peoples all over the world and that, among other things, have brought about the migration of economic refugees from all over the world."

On first sight, such solicitousness of neo-Nazis for Third World refugees might seem rather surprising. But the intellectuals who are chiefly responsible for the NPD party program have taken their distance somewhat from the crude racism of the street brawlers. The NPD remains tightly interwoven with the street gangs in the so-called "national liberated zones" in German cities and towns. Pervasive racist violence in these "liberated zones" has rendered them largely off-limits for "foreigners" -- a concept that not only in neo-Nazi ideology, but also indeed in contemporary German law, can include, for instance, persons of Turkish origin who have been born in Germany and never lived anywhere else. But with its embrace of ethnic pluralism, the party leadership cultivates a far subtler form of racism. This subtler form of "völkisch" thought likewise sees no place for immigrants in Germany. But it places the emphasis not on the alleged superiority of any "race," but rather on the notion that every individual is somehow inextricably linked to his or her ethnic origins by way of "blood" and culture. Thus NPD ideology targets not so much "inferior" immigrant populations as the forces that it holds responsible for disrupting the unity and distinctness of all "peoples" ethnically construed: namely, the "globalizers."

Accordingly, the editors of Die Deutsche Stimme evidently have no fear of associating with a man who hardly gives the impression of being "Aryan" and who is, moreover, likewise a hero of the left-wing anti-globalization forces: namely, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez. Chávez's nationalization of mineral resources and his system of redistribution of oil revenues to the poor wins praise in Die Deutsche Stimme as a shining example of "national Socialism" just as the NPD conceives it. For people all over the world, the paper affirms, Chávez stands for the "revolutionary force of nationalism." Die Deutsche Stimme cites the words of Jürgen Gansel, a member of the NPD executive committee (and one of the three Saxon parliamentarians who occupied the steps of the Reichstag on Saturday): "Whereas the leftists assure their place as the pseudo-social repairmen of the capitalist system, the old anti-capitalist longing of the German people gathers its forces in the national opposition. The iron economic rule of nationalism runs: capital should serve the economy and not vice-versa."

The National Democrats are the "only authentic anti-Globalization party": this is the message that the NPD has wanted to convey during the G-8 summit. As against the "globalism" of the G-8, party chair Udo Voigt proposes his own notion of what he calls "an economy oriented toward a geographic space" [raumorientierten Wirtschaft]: an expression that echoes the traditional Nazi promotion of economic autarchy at the interior of what was called a "greater economic space" [Grossraumwirtschaft]. (It should be noted that in the original version, this economic space was supposed to extend beyond the borders of Germany proper: in its most ambitious variant, encompassing all of continental Europe.) Voigt explains the origin of his idea as follows: "This counter-model arises out of the insight that on the global level of the mega-corporations and supra-national institutions, all the institutionalized forms of political power are lacking that provide for social responsibility and democratic control. These forms of power would be necessary to provide protection against the excesses of the international competitive struggle."

As always when the NPD demonstrates, the left was prepared to stage a counter-protest at Schwerin on Saturday and will undoubtedly continue to take pains to register their disapproval as the anti-G-8 protests continue in the days ahead. It is far less sure, however, that the left-wing anti-globalization activists will be prepared to have a critical look at their own ideas. When, however, the NPD party chair can issue statements that could equally have come word-for-word from the leading European anti-globalization organization ATTAC, it would appear to be high time that they did.

Jan Langehein is a producer at StadtRadio Göttingen, Göttingen Public Radio, and a frequent contributor to the Berlin-based weekly Jungle World from which the present article is adapted. The English translation is by John Rosenthal.

Image: A poster advertising a June 2 NPD rally against the G-8 and globalization. The slogan reads "Not for Sale! Stop Globalization!"