Germany: Violent Far Right Demonstrations in Chemnitz
Steve Kühne, Dresden
The pictures were shocking: Over five thousand rightists move through the city centre of Chemnitz, in the eastern German federal state of Saxony, last Monday, 27th August. Some of the crowd beat migrants, threw bottles and stones at counter-demonstrators and attacked journalists. The police appeared unwilling or unable to stop the Nazi assaults.
The occasion was the tragic death, in the early hours of the previous Sunday, of a 35-year-old man at the Chemnitzer Stadtfest, the background of which is still unclear. Meanwhile, a Syrian and an Iraqi have been arrested for the crime. Immediately rumors of a second fatal assault went viral on social media.
The trigger for the fight that led to the death of the 35 year old man was said to be a dispute over “assaults” against several women. But all this came from the realm of fantasy, conceived, as the Antonio Amadeo Foundation put it, to stir up a pogrom atmosphere. The Bild newspaper, in particular, eagerly spread the tale of an assault on German women, which three Germans tried to prevent. Even the police strongly disagreed with this account of what happened.
Nazi groups, such as ‘Kaotic Chemnitz’, ‘NS Boys’ and also the right wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party, immediately called for, via social media networks, demonstrations on Sunday, just hours after the crime. Around one thousand people came to the protest, which soon saw migrants and anti-fascists attacked and chased down streets while the attackers were largely unhindered by the police. The following day, more than five thousand rightists rallied in Chemnitz, some of whom were mobilised nationally to come to the demonstration.
Claiming that this Chemnitz man’s death was the cause of this orgy of violence is dishonest. The victim had Cuban roots and was certainly not one of those people who wanted to tolerate Kaotic Chemnitz, the NS Boys or the AfD here. On his Facebook page the victim liked pages of “DIE LINKE Chemnitz” (Left Party Chemnitz), “FCK NZS” (FCK Nazis) and “Storch Heinar” (a satire on the right-wing clothing brand Thor Steinar).
It is not credible to argue that the death of this man led to these completely out of control right-wing demonstrations. Even Saxony’s Minister of the Interior, Wöller (CDU), had to admit that the far right’s approach to the use of violence had reached a new level.
Saxony: Right-wing incidents accumulate
Since October 2014, the racist PEGIDA movement has been regulary on the streets of Dresden, Saxony’s state capital. This has changed Saxony even if the PEGIDA marches currently mobilise only a fraction of the people they did at the beginning. Right-wing groups were given a tailwind and felt encouraged by growing support. As Franziska Schreiber, former regional chairman of the Young Alternative (JA), the youth organization of the AfD, notes in her recently published book, both the JA and AfD recruited new supporters at the Dresden PEGIDA demos. The subsequent AfD election success, along with its racist speeches and statements, gave the right-wing activists an additional boost.
An incident a few weeks ago, when an employee of the regional police agency (LKA), who was taking part in a PEGIDA demonstration against a visit of Chancellor Merkel to Dresden, got the police to obstruct a news team from the ZDF public television service filming the protest, shows how much the Saxon state apparatus seems to have been infiltrated by right wingers and racists. This off-duty LKA employee was filmed shouting “Lügenpresse” (“lying press”) before the police held the ZDF camera team for 45 minutes.
Above all, these events show one thing: We can only win the fight against racists, Nazis, right-wing populists and the ‘Reichsbürger’ (a movement arguing that the pre-war German state still exists with its 1937 borders) together. We cannot rely on the state apparatus, which is infiltrated by the right. Anyone who wants to stop the right and Nazis must take to the streets and also take action in workplaces, schools and universities. We must unite and organize ourselves, also to defend ourselves against Nazi violence, because the police cannot be relied upon.
The Minister of the Interior of Saxony emphasizes that he supports the police. But Heidenau, Bautzen, Freital and Colditz are all Saxon places are known for racist assaults. Burning asylum seekers’ hostels, assaults – the list is long and frightening. And in none of these cases did the police play a glorious role. The right wingers were tolerated, while, at the same time, a massive show of police were deployed against left-wing counter-protests.
Especially where DIE LINKE (Left Party) is seen more as part of the establishment – as in eastern Germany – the AfD is able to celebrate successes. But the AfD has no answer to increasing poverty or the drive to hold down wages. For example, according to its co-chairs, Meuthen, and Alice Weidel, the AfD wants to base pensions completely on private financing and this primarily harms those who cannot afford to make private pension provision because of their low income. Weidel is a member of the neoliberal Hayek Society, which has set itself the goal of freeing large companies from any social restrictions. The AfD does not stand for an end to social destruction, but for its radical continuation.
But, more than that, elements within the AfD cheered on the Chemnitz protests. One AfD Bundestag member, Markus Frohnmaier, tweeted, “If the state is no longer to protect citizens then people take to the streets and protect themselves. It’s as simple as that! Today it’s a citizen’s duty to stop the lethal ‘knife migration’!” Another AfD Bundestag member, Udo Hemmelgarn, reportedly sympathetic to the Reichsbürger, tweeted after the clashes: “The problem isn’t the peaceful protests by the brave people of Chemnitz against criminal Muslim migrants, it is the rapes and murders by illegal immigrants, migrant violence!”
We can win
And yet there is also hope: When the fascist Identity Movement mobilized in Dresden, on August 25th only about 400 people turned up, but almost two thousand took part in counter-activities. In the 2017 Bundestag elections, the AfD was always weaker where DIE LINKE was militant and offensively anti-racist.
This also means that the last word in the conflict with the right has not been said. If trade unions, DIE LINKE and social movements combine the fight against racism with a real alternative for the coexistence of all people, then great mobilizations can be achieved. If the fight for more care personnel, for better schools etc. and the fight against the AfD are combined, then the common social interests of the working people can be pointed out independently of skin color, nationality and religious affiliation. Tenants born here understand best that they have exactly the same interests as the family who fled Syria when they fight high rents together. This is the way to undermine the support the AfD currently has. Racism splits, which means it weakens us! Solidarity helps us to win!
But this also means that the trade unions and DIE LINKE must finally take up an active fight against the right-wing danger!
- Stop Nazis and racists!
- Fight together against social cuts and racism!
- For a campaign of the trade unions and the DIE LINKE against Nazis, AfD and racism!
- For committees of trade unions, social initiatives and migrant associations to supervise the police and LKA and BKA police agencies!
- Solidarity instead of racism
- Abolish capitalism