Should We Be Worried By The Rise Of Far Right Beliefs In Germany?


Apparently we should all be very worried by the rise of far right beliefs in Germany. Some significant portion of them are showing a less than welcoming attitude towards Muslim immigrants for example – how appalled should we be by this?

It’s certainly, and obviously, true that a certain eye has to be kept upon German attitudes concerning race and religion. There’s an historical background to the creation of the country which means it’s likely to always be something of a problem. Don’t forget that up to 1870 – and in the details of governing structure to 1945 in fact – it wasn’t actually the one country. There was a certain aspiration that it would be, united by a common language and culture, but that was an aspiration. The Kaiser didn’t in fact conquer the place purely through military might, that was more the working out of who was going to be top dog in the system. Bismark and the rest were definitely riding a wave eager for the unity that already existed.

This in turn prompted a great deal of discussion about who was a German and that answer came back as one of the Volk. That Jews, for example, weren’t was not a Nazi invention, it was a common enough insistence in 1900 too. And the country had naturalisation, citizenship, defined by blood, jus sanguinis, until very recently indeed, certainly no more than two decades back. The children, even grandchildren, of Turkish gastarbeiter born and bred in Germany had no certainty of citizenship because of that blood thing, that definition of who is a German.

At which point:

Far-right beliefs on the rise in Germany

It rather depends what one defines as far right really:

More than half of Germans say they feel like strangers in their own land because of Muslim immigration, according to a study of the country’s rising far-right tendencies.

Researchers also found that one in nine believes the German population is “naturally superior to other people” and that one in three thinks the state has been “overwhelmed by foreigners to a dangerous degree”.

“Xenophobia is becoming ever stronger and more widespread across the whole country,” said Oliver Decker, one of the directors of the University of Leipzig report.

Right-wing extremists remain a fringe group in Germany, accounting for 8.5 per cent of the population in the east and 5.4 per cent in the west, but illiberal and anti-migrant views appear to be much more widespread.

You can take all of that as you wish. My own starting point is that “far right” or, as it is actually being used here, “views we ought to disapprove of,” is usefully defined by statements like no Muslim can be a good person, or we don’t want any Muslims here and the like. Expressing concern about shipping in a million of anything at all in just the one year isn’t what I would all far right. But, you know, that’s just me.

However, what really interests here is that definition of what is a far right view. What’s being done here is anchoring. Those who claim that “the state has been “overwhelmed by foreigners to a dangerous degree”.” is a far right view are claiming that it’s a fringe belief, so far from the acceptable middle that it can be rejected without further consideration. Something that just doesn’t gel with the “one in three thinks.”

By the time we get to 1 in 3 thinking something that’s a mainstream belief, not some fringe. Note that this is entirely independent of the validity of the view, nothing at all to do with whatever should be done about it. It really is to insist that it’s not “far” anything at all if it’s so commonplace.