After the AfD party convention – Germany in a craze for campaigns?

by Karl Müller

On their federal party convention on 30 April, the still young party “Alternative für Deutschland” (AfD, Alternative for Germany) has passed its basic programme. The programme, which has over 70 pages, is starting, after a preamble, with the chapter “democracy and basic values”, followed by the chapter “Euro and Europe” and the chapters “inner security and justice”, “foreign and security policy”, “job market and social policy”, “family and children”, “culture, language and identity”, “school, university and research”, “immigration, integration and asylum”, “economy, digital world and consumer protection”, “finance and taxes”, “energy policy”, “nature and environmental protection, agriculture and forestry” and finally “value preservation before modernisation and new construction”.
All these issues could be reported on; there can, may and should be other opinions; there should be discussions, factual and controversial. But in mainstream Germany, this is not the case. Instead there are dismissive labels like “clumsy populism” (Gerda Hasselfeldt, CSU), “confused right wing party” (Ralf Stegner, SPD), “reactionary” (Katrin Göring-Eckardt, Bündnis 90/Die Grünen). To prevent misunderstandings: this is no advertisement for the AfD. This is about requirements of political culture. In Germany, political barbarism is spreading. Just read the commentsand politicians’ statements in the German media after the convention.
There had been a guest speaker at the party convention: the former President of the Czech Republic, Vaclav Klaus. He is not really liked in the EU mainstream because he has his own will, because he has a critical view of the EU and the euro and because he has hesitated for a long while before signing the Lisbon Treaty. On this occasion, Martin Schulz (SPD) and Daniel Cohn-Bendit (Bündnis 90/Die Grünen) had travelled to the Hradcany Castle in Prague in order to put the President massively under pressure. This is how they demonstrated their understanding of the sovereignty of a state and the independence of a head of state. This Lisbon Treaty was nearly the same as the one rejected in referenda by majorities of the citizens of France and the Netherlands. The EU had widely left the text intact, gave it another name and stopped letting people vote over it – except the Irish, since Ireland is the only EU country where this is mandatory. At first, the Irish had rejected also this text. Then the screws were put on the Irish, also with a massive campaign against the Catholic Church there. Not completely unjustified, but the timing was pretty suspicious. The Irish surrendered and had to say yes.
So this Vaclav Klaus was guest speaker at the AfD in Germany. What he said is thought-provoking: mainly not with respect to the AfD but with respect to Germany.
The former President of the Czech Republic said: “The level of demonisation of your party in German politics, in the German media and in the academic and intellectual sphere is absurd and excessive, wrong and fraudulent, but unfortunately effective with many people.” And he further stated: “The brutality of the assaults demonstrates that you are right and that your critics are frightened. These people do not want a plurality of thoughts and no democracy. This is why you have to fight for plurality, which is the basis of democracy and for the justification of various, even controversial views. Your party has to reject the devastating political correctness. It needs to label the current de-democratisation of the German society as the fatal threat to civil freedom in Germany.” And then: “Your congress of today has […] to say fundamental things. Not all the details, not all topics and subtopics, not all areas of political discourse, but the frame of party ideology has to be marked very clearly. This includes, for example, saying something about Europe, about migration, about the continuously growing regularisation and manipulation not only of our economy but also of our private life, about the devastating attacks on our traditions, customs, practices and values which are part of us, which we have inherited from our parents and grandparents. You have to describe the hopeless impasse of the current European development and show us a way out.”
It is not relevant here if the AfD has succeeded in this. But Vaclav Klaus is starting from an analysis which should make us sit up and take notice. And he characterises a political style of conduct which has lost all decorum and all democratic foundation.
Now the “Bild” newspaper reported on 3 May: “In face of the AfD’s electoral successes, CDU leader Angela Merkel was for the first time hinting at a change of course. ‘Bild’ heard: According to participants, Merkel said in the CDU headquarters that the party had to come again towards conservative voters at the right of the political centre. It would not make sense to permanently lambast the AfD and its voters. This would only lead to solidarisation effects.”
A new tactics in view of the disastrous election results of the past months?
However: only one day later, the “Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung” reported that the Chancellor had been misquoted: “[The news agency] AFP was told by participants [of the CDU meeting] that the statements cited [by ‘Bild’] had not been made. The CDU headquarter confirmed also: ‘There is no change of course.’”
Thus the upshot is: Just like in some other European countries, the hitherto dominant political circles also in Germany do not really know how to deal with citizens who are no longer willing to follow them. All defamations have failed to prevent that more and more citizens do no longer trust the “lack of alternatives” of current politics and start to look for alternatives. “Cudgel in the sack” towards these positions beyond the “political correctness” is no longer well received. This kind of politics will harm also Germany and bring about severe losses: in reputation, but also in inner peace. Can anyone have an interest in this?    •