The attack on the Bundestag also exposes the left. It needs to get out of the comfort zone in which it believes itself to be the only voice of reason.
On the steps of the Reichstag on Saturday Photo: Fritz Engel/Zenit
In Berlin on Saturday, tens of thousands of people demonstrated against the Corona amendments. Leftists, Greens, liberals and conservatives could only react with bewilderment to the picture presented to them: Imperial War flags could be seen next to rainbow flags, hippies next to Nazis, humanists next to Trumpists. In the end, neo-Nazis stormed the stairs of the parliament, while supporters of democracy looked on speechlessly.
The police also seemed completely powerless. At one point, only three police officers protected the parliament from the onrushing horde of fascists. These officers should be considered heroes of democracy. But beyond that, it must be asked what is going on with the police: because at the same time as the neo-Nazis openly attacked the central building of our democracy, a squadron of riders, specially detached for this purpose, guarded the meager remnants of the anti-fascist counter-demonstration. Previously, it had been deemed necessary to hold thousands of anti-fascists in a kettle for an hour, apparently to keep them from protesting against the Nazi symbols that were waved in droves at the main demonstration.
At a time when new scandals keep coming to light, suggesting intimate collaboration of parts of the state power with right-wing extremists and even with right-wing terrorists, we must therefore realize: This society has a gigantic problem. Sections of the state apparently see the real danger in anti-fascism – and not in fascists who conjure up the Fourth Reich.
But back to the actual protests: Here we can assume that most of the participants really only want love, peace and a harmonious world. But society must also find a way to warn these people about the naivete of their own self-image: Because they want to avoid taking a political position at all costs (because then they could no longer claim to speak for humanity as such), they cannot distinguish themselves from right-wing extremism at all. Those who pretend to be apolitical cannot exclude anyone politically.
Society creates its own Nazis through its policy of social coldness
The bitter irony is that it is precisely this belief in the good in people that is mercilessly exploited by the right-wing extremists. Here, ice-cold calculations of power prevail: One pretends to be bourgeois, because one recognizes a potential for radicalization in the unsettled people. Those who no longer know what to believe in the pandemic can perhaps be won over to the story, as old as it is false, of a very special people who, unfortunately, are suppressed by secret powers. And so the FRG suddenly becomes an occupation construct, refugees become an invading army controlled by the supposed "world Jewry" and homosexuality becomes an expression of cultural decadence that belongs to be wiped aside by the iron hand of Prussianism (fascism).
These are realities that we as a society must deal with if we are not to live with them. We must therefore not shy away from naming the causes of these conditions: We live in the age of a crisis of meaning brought on by neoliberalism, which has become even more acute in the wake of increasing economic insecurity, escalating inequality, and stagnating wages. The fact that there can hardly be collective meaning, community, and a purpose in life outside of consumption and profit under neoliberalism is thus directly related to the appeal of right-wing extremists who offer such a sense of life. Society creates its own Nazis through its policies of social coldness.
It is therefore time for the left to finally get its own narrative going again. In doing so, we can start from the hope that the perspective of a better and more just world will always be more attractive than the counter-narrative of ethno-cultural inequality, which implies the surrender of all personal autonomy rights to the great machinery of popular dictatorship.
But for this project to succeed, the left must overcome two crises. First, the crisis of its own communication: if you want to stand for the belief in a better world, you have to act like it. Shouting down people without masks and calling them fascists unfortunately fulfills all the stereotypes that these people have just been taught by their new comrades. Despite the necessity of militant resistance against fascism, the following applies: The left must get out of its comfort zone, in which it believes itself to be the only voice of reason – and doesn’t even talk to anyone else.
Shouting down people without masks and calling them fascists unfortunately fulfills all the stereotypes that these people are being taught by their new comrades.
Secondly, however, the left must also overcome the crisis of its theory and that of its division: For while some seem to have given up hope for fundamental change altogether, others persist in abstract concepts that have long since ceased to be effective.
Yet the crises currently being experienced – that of democracy in a globalized world, that of the changing world of work, that of social peace in a society increasingly open to the right, and that of the warming planet – demand left-wing answers. They call for unconditional basic security, for European democracy, for a Green New Deal. In order to implement all of this, the left must get out of its bubble, it must form alliances and it must get dirty. Then it will also be listened to, which will ultimately diminish the power of the volkisch demagogues.