The wise priest Laocoön, old legends say, vainly warned against the famous “Trojan horse”. A hostile god sent giant serpents which strangled him when the big wooden present was opened. The soldiers hidden inside opened Troy’s gates so the Greek battalions could rush in, kill the men, enslave the women and destroy the city. Its ruins are still being uncovered.
In Germany, it is worth remembering Laocoön, especially in its eastern states of Saxony, Brandenburg, and Thuringia. Within weeks they face not a wooden horse but the steely fascist-minded AfD, the Alternative for Germany. And warnings are in order!
This party, polling 13 percent in all Germany – worrisome enough – is vying for top ranking in opinion polls in three East German states now facing elections. In Saxony it is tied in first place at 26 percent, and in Brandenburg at 19 percent. Both states vote on September 1. Thuringia votes on October 27 where, at 24%, it lacks only one point for first place. Luckily, even if it comes out first, it cannot form state governments. For that, a 50 percent majority of parliamentary seats is necessary and any coalition with the AfD is still strictly taboo. But that pariah status is weakening; there is subdued muttering among Christian Democrats (CDU): “Maybe, if no other choice seems available, under some circumstances, well, aren’t AfD legislators also elected democratically?”
In addition to that danger, most of the media generously continue to give AfD leaders manifold opportunity to spout their vicious “Hate Foreigners” propaganda. Some AfD leaders and spokespeople, like nose-tip-bespectacled old Prof. Alexander Gauland, 78, and jolly, friendly Jörg Meuthen, 58, may seem almost harmless or reasonable – until they hit out at “those Muslims” who are endangering the purity of German blood and culture – or killing Germans.
In an awful incident a week ago a mentally unstable man of Eritrean descent pushed a woman and her son under a train in Frankfurt. The boy died. Such horrors are grist for the AfD, which had fully ignored the shooting of an Eritrean only days earlier by a German, at random from his car window – perhaps the trigger for the later tragedy. The killing of the boy was committed by a man who was not in the refugee wave welcomed by Merkel in 2015 but had arrived years earlier, in Switzerland, not Germany. Yet one of the 91 AfD deputies in the Bundestag was quick with blame: “Angela Merkel, I curse the day you were born!”
Asked about the demand by a state AfD leader for “a revolt by the generals,” Meuthen smiled amusedly and said that was no call for violence, merely a criticism at the naming of a new, militarily inexperienced woman as Defense Minister. His associate, he said, “was the very last man who would ever incite a revolution.”
A far less-smiling face is now gaining increasing notoriety. Bjorn Höcke, 47, the AfD leader in Thuringia, made his views all too clear when, referring to the Holocaust Memorial in Berlin, he said: “Our people, the Germans, are the only people in the world who have planted a monument of shame in the heart of their capital… We need a 180-degree turnaround in our political memorializing.”
He demands a “renovation” of Germany to be achieved by a “people’s opposition” on three fronts: strengthening the AfD in the federal and state parliaments, joining in the streets with fascist groups like like PEGIDA, who marched regularly in Dresden against the “Islamification of Europe” and with violent gangs of thugs like those which attacked immigrants in Chemnitz last year and, thirdly, with rebellious elements within the armed forces, police and judicial apparatus.
Speaking to a thousand-strong, mostly male crowd at the Kyffhäuser Meet, named after a nationalist pilgrimage site, Höcke used the same analogy as Nazi-boss Goebbels eighty years earlier: “The question today is; either ‘sheep or wolf’. And here, my dear friends, I believe we decide on ‘wolf.’ The time of the wolf has arrived, which means that if opponents hinder an AfD rally the police will be given five minutes to intervene – but then 1,000 patriots should assemble in back of the opposing demonstrators.”
The reasons for AfD strength in eastern Germany are all too clear. The disillusionment of so many with German unification and all the false hopes connected with it, the anger that even after thirty years they are second-grade citizens, taken over by the “Wessies,” with fewer jobs, little security and worrisome prospects for themselves and their children, the feeling, nourished by the media, that refugees and immigrants are getting better treatment than they are, have all led to the rapid growth of the AfD, with its proclaimed social demands.
This is paired with the failure of the LINKE (Left) to turn this disappointment into active struggle against the political “establishment” if not the system.The beautiful but disturbed city of Dresden, Saxony’s capital, has become the center of this rightward turn, with Höcke proclaiming last May, then too to an audience of a thousand, that it had become “the capital of justified resistance.” A victory in the September election would re-enforce this claim.
There is always resistance – often strong – to the AfD and to all fascists. On August 24, a week before the vote, people from all over Germany will go by train, bus, and car to Dresden to back up antifascists there in a final appeal against a vote for the AfD. Such rallies have had their effects in the past; at that late date it would be surprising if they can make a big dent – but who knows?
The writer is a freelance journalist. Views are personal.
- Victor Grossman