First as tragedy, then as a farce: AfD recalibrates the slogan ‘Germany first’ 

The far-right party’s ‘Germany first’ campaign in many ways resembles the Nazi campaign for German supremacy propagated during the Hitler era, marked with militarism and racism

August 01, 2023 by Muhammed Shabeer
Afd Conference - Germany
Anti-AfD protest in Magdeburg. (Photo: via Standing Up Against Racism)

As the far-right party, Alternative for Germany (AfD), kickstarts its campaign for the 2024 European Parliament elections, anti-fascist sections in Germany have warned against its recalibrated neo-Nazi approach. Various Antifa coalitions including Stand Up Against Racism, groups like Grannies against the Right, and Association of Persecutees of the Nazi Regime/Federation of Antifascists (VVN/BdA), progressive political parties like Die Linke, and activists from trade unions and youth organizations participated in a two-day protest named ‘Alliance For Solidarity’ against the federal conference of the AfD held in Magdeburg in the German State of Saxony-Anhalt on July 28 and 29. 

At the conference, the AfD decided to launch a full-blown campaign themed ‘Germany first’ against the ‘EU superstate’. The party also selected a list of candidates for the upcoming European Parliament elections next year. Controversial far-right leader Maximilian Krah was selected to lead the AfD list. The party also approved the leadership’s plan to officially join the far-right Identity and Democracy bloc in the European Parliament, which includes Matteo Salvini’s League from Italy and Marine Le Pen’s National Rally from France. While there was an inner-party campaign calling for a German exit from the EU, the party leadership seems to have retracted from it for the time being.

The focus of the AfD conference seemed to shift away from the anti-EU economic policies, and toward extreme far-right sentiments and proposals such as criticisms of the EU’s quota of refugees to its member countries.

Junge Welt reported that “In the opening speech on Saturday at the Conference, the AfD federal chairwoman Alice Weidel called for the main competences to be given back to the nation states. Together with the ‘European partners’, a ‘Fortress Europe’ should then be built. This was intended to ward off refugees, which Weidel combined with the ‘protection of our homeland’.”

According to a YouGov poll published in June, AfD currently enjoys a significant percentage of voting intentions among the people (20%), and is positioned second to the conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) which has 28% support and is ahead of the political parties in the incumbent ‘traffic light’ coalition which includes Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) (19%) and the Greens. AfD currently has 81 legislators in the German parliament, Bundestag, and nine Members of the European Parliament (MEPs).

Read: The rise and rise of far-right in Germany

Many have expressed outrage against the incumbent government’s austerity-driven policies which have exacerbated the ongoing cost of living crisis, marked by high inflation and an energy crisis, which peaked with the onset of the Russia-Ukraine war. The government’s continuing military and financial support for escalating the war in Ukraine despite a scenario of de-growth in Germany is also a major cause of people’s anger. Working class sections including the German left have organized massive protests against the cost of living crisis and the war. Meanwhile, the AfD has also hit the streets to protest the government policies and cash in on the people’s anger by unleashing an Islamophobic, anti-refugee, and racist campaign across Germany. 

Analysts and anti-fascist sections have noted that the AfD’s ‘Germany first’ campaign in many ways resembles the Nazi campaign for German supremacy propagated during the Hitler era, marked with militarism and racism. 

Dagmar Freyberg-Schumann from Grannies against the Right stated ahead of the protest in Magdeburg, “We want to show the delegates of the AfD that they are not welcome here with their right-wing, racist, anti-Semitic, and utterly inhumane policies. We stand for a cosmopolitan Magdeburg, Germany, and Europe that does not leave the populism of this increasingly fascist party unchallenged.”

The spokesperson of ‘Alliance For Solidarity’ Magdeburg said that the “AfD is not interested in a peaceful Europe and international cooperation, it pursues a radical nationalist course in which Germany should always come first. We’ve had that before in this country and we don’t need it again.”

On July 30, Luca Sfer from the Socialist German Workers Youth (SDAJ) told Peoples Dispatch that “the SDAJ considers the AfD as a far-right party which favors monopoly of the bourgeoisie. No way is it a workers’ party, not a party for the working or learning youth.“