update: 03-10-2017           wildcat.zirkular.thekla.materials

translated from: wildcat.aktuelles, 29/09/2017

Many people from abroad have asked us to explain the outcome of the German election 2017. There was an important shift: In previous elections, were always left majorities« (at least if we briefly take the SPD and the Greens to be »left« parties) – this time the majority was clearly on the right. With all the uproar about this fact, perhaps something decisive is overlooked – as Georg Fülberth1 pointed out (junge Welt, 26.9.2017): »The market fundamentalist AfD – which in 2015 was taken over by [the much more rightwing leadership crew] Gauland, Höcke, Meuthen and Petry – is back, although under another name: FDP. By adding their votes – and those of the likeminded CDU/CSU voters – to those of the AfD, you can see a strengthened potential for economic and social right wing politics.«2

Something is seething in Germany

The »normalization« continues. For a long time the FRG (Federal Republic of Germany)was an anomaly in Europe: the only parliament without a radical right-wing party. But in the September election the AfD became the third strongest party (12.6 percent), the second strongest in the German East, and the strongest in Saxony (0.1 percent ahead of the CDU/CSU). For the first time since 1961 a nationalist-völkisch3 party is in the Bundestag – and will get a lot of money from the state: 16 million Euros a year for being in parliament plus a few million Euros for party funding; plus a part of the 450 million Euros that the state provides annually for the party-affiliated foundations in the Bundestag - donations will also rise... In addition there also are well-paid jobs outside of parliament, for example on administrative boards.

In Bavaria the SPD, CDU and CSU all achieved their worst federal election result since 1949.4 The CDU lost 8.6 percent.

The voter turnout has risen slightly again, but non-voters are still the second-strongest party with just under 25 percent.

Voter Migration

The AfD got over 1.2 million votes from people who didn't vote in the last election, a little over a million voters from the CDU, half a million voters from the SPD, and at least 400,000 from the Left Party. The FDP has won 1.3 million voters from the CDU and 700,000 non-voters, so just a few more CDU voters moved to the FDP than to the AfD.

Older people

For years the party system was saved by the loyalty of older people to the two former mass parties (a similarity to the situation in France or Italy). This time old voters – especially older women – made sure that Merkel will become Chancellor for the fourth time. But even their votes are melting away: The number of voters over 60 who voted for the CDU/CSU decreased by eight per cent compared to the last election, the number of women over 60 decreased by six percent.

The CSU is the loser of the election

Although the CSU has won in all electoral districts in Bavaria, it is the real loser of the election because it is in a difficult strategic situation: Its strategy of pushing the topics of the AfD did not work out. In Western Germany, the AfD achieved its best election result in Bavaria, while the CSU lost the most votes of all parties and went down from 49.3 to 38.8 percent. In Saxony and Baden-Wuerttemberg the situation is roughly the same. In Saxony the CDU – the most right wing regional CDU – has been in government since the turn of the century. Now the AfD has become the strongest party with a share between 40 and 46 percent5, while the CDU dropped from 42.6 to 26.9 percent. In Baden-Wuerttemberg, the CDU lost 11.3 percent and fell to 34.4 percent. Its most important point in the regional electoral campaign was anti-immigration: More and faster deportations. The CDU lost mainly »male voters on average incomes«; 21 percent of the workers have voted for the AfD (presumably many of them were Russia-Germans disappointed by the CDU , see below).

Nevertheless the lesson for the CSU is »more of the same«. On the day after the election, chairman Seehofer said: »We have an open flank on the right which we must close.« Thus the CSU is trapped. The CDU and CSU cannot keep up with social change, and do not want to be limited to being the party of the rural areas. The CDU tries to get young, urban, hip academics involved. But with topics such as »marriage for all« it loses its traditional clientele (and with it many old people, see above!). Many say they voted AfD because it represents today what the CDU once represented – this argument is not all that far from the truth.6

Therefore, the »struggle against immigration« is part of the struggle to keep the traditional voters. But for many (legal, political and social) reasons mass deportations are not possible. The AfD as a protest party can weaken the CDU/CSU even more by taking more radical anti immigration positions countering the cultural modernization of the CDU with cheap anti-PC propaganda.


Since the strategic turn of Social Democracy 20 years ago,7 away from the traditional working class base towards the »global class« (Dahrendorf),8 the SPD has halved its share of votes. It is astonishing how stubbornly it maintained this course (Hartz laws, deregulation of the financial industry, privatization). After Schulz became the top candidate, there was hope at the base the party would return to social democratic positions. Many people joined the party and surveys showed a SPD victory in the election. But EU-bureaucrat Schulz stayed firm in defending »Agenda 2010«9and neoliberal politics.

On the night of the election the SPD declared that they would go into the opposition. Even this announcement brought about renewed euphoria and new SPD members. Hope dies last for the base of the SPD, but a return to the politics of Labor Reformism is impossible for this party.

The AfD

The AfD has relatively few members (about 28.000 in the summer of 2017), but a lot of voters. Most of those choose the party mainly out of frustration with the other parties, which they regard as being too alike. (Which is even true after the SPD's turn mentioned above and the so-called »Social-Democratization« of the CDU under Merkel.)

Although the AfD won its votes against »those up there« against »the elites«, etc., the Afd itself has this problem. There is a big divide within the party: its members are well-off citizens and entrepreneurs, its voters are workers and the unemployed.

For AfD voters, ideology does not play a major role and they have no strong bond: only one in four voters who voted for the AfD in 2013 voted for them now; 20 percent votes for the CDU/CSU instead, ten percent for the SPD, six percent for the Left Party, three percent for the FDP.

The AfD was able to profit from the widespread hatred of Merkel. Indeed, Merkel's political style played a major role in the rise of the AfD: Merkel proclaimed that »there are no alternatives« to her politics, but took many sudden u-turns (exit from nuclear power, the opening of the borders for refugees, marriage for all ...), and she continued the de-politicization of politics which Chancellor Kohl had already begun...

Jamaica: a Revival of Neoliberalism

There are only three alternatives left after this election if the SPD does not change its decision to stay in the opposition even after the regional elections in Lower Saxony in mid-October: »Jamaica« – a coalition of CDU/CSU, FDP and the Green Party (together they have 393 of 709 seats) –; a minority government, or new elections. The capitalists are concerned that the AfD is »against everything that make Germany strong« (meaning the export industry and free trade). They are in favour of a Jamaica coalition and they want it quickly. The head of the industrialist's association is calling for a »sustainable federal government«. New elections mean »chaos«;10the FRG is »the last guarantee of stability« in a chaotic world and should stay that way. If a government cannot be formed quickly, the stock markets will crash and investors will withdraw from Germany. But there are difficulties for a Jamaica coalition: CDU and the CSU are so shocked about their weak electoral results that they want to start negations only in mid-October after the next regional election. This means there will be no functioning new government before January 2018.

In the meantime, there will be much debate on how to reconcile the opposing positions of FDP, Green party and CDU/CSU on issues such as climate politics, asylum, immigration, etc. What will be overlooked is that the Jamaica coalition will be formed by attacking the working class (pension age of 72, energy policy, more privatizations, conversion of the car industry11, etc.) – every other problem has only minor weight and can be solved easily.

Jamaica will also be the end of the reform of the EU pushed by Macron and Juncker. On the night of the election, FDP chairman Lindner repeated that there will be no deepening of the monetary union. (The Greek stock exchange has been falling since the election.)

Still, the compromises necessary for a Jamaica coalition will massively increase the CSU's strategic dilemma.

Reasons for the AfD's election success

The rise of the AfD begins with the Euro crisis and the rescue of the banks. It continues with Pegida and has readched two-digit polling results since the refugee crisis. Its potential of mobilizing stems from a mixture of fears of cultural losses and social frustration – after seven years of boom there has been little rise in wages or in the general conditions of the bottom two thirds of the population. The mixture is supplemented by the »Peace (with Russia)« rallying cry, which receives hardly any coverage in the media. Many polls support the view that the AfD is backed by about one quarter of convinced adherents. The others are protest voters or disappointed party-switching sympathizers: »Social injustice« is almost as important as the »refugees«.


There are people who have a hard time avoiding parties who claim to be supporting their interests. The Greens, SPD, CDU, FDP and of late the PDS,12 too, are competing to attract the academic urban class which ist ripe with the virtues ascribed to openness, diversity, colourfulness. Apart from them there are at least as many who manage to survive without Tofu and Twitter and still live where they were born. Here, the AfD appeals to the »disconnected«, the losers of reunification/"The turn" (»Wende«) and globalisation, who are at the periphery (the so-called »structural weakness« in the Ruhr area and the East).

In poor West German neighbourhoods in Cologne or the Ruhr area, the AfD comes right behind non-voters and the SPD. In comparison to the last election the AfD electorate has changed very much. Four years ago it was elected by people of all income groups, but this time it was most successful among poorer people and in regions with high unemployment rates.

Three percent of German voters are Russian-Germans, but they make up a large part of AfD voters. In regional elections in the last years, the AfD held up to 40 percent of the vote in communities with a large share of Russian-German inhabitants.

The mainstream of society

Germany-wide, the AfD scored 15.5 per cent, more than its average, in the two medium age cohorts (30- to 59-year-olds). From all occupational groups, it scored highest among blue-collar workers at 19 per cent (only slightly less than the SPD). Germany-wide, 15 per cent of union members voted AfD which is also more than average. In East Germany, 24 per cent of union members voted CDU, 22 per cent the Left Party, 18 per cent SPD – and 22 per cent AfD.13

The same structure became clear in the previous Landtag (regional) elections: the AfD is especially strong among the 35 million voters between 30 and 60 years old. They account for 70 per cent of the active workforce and earn 82 per cent of taxable income. The insurance industry pays a lot of attention to this age cohort, regularly doing doing large-scale studies. According to a recent study 70 per cent of this age cohort complain about growing income and wealth disparities, two thirds think that income and wealth distribution in Germany is unjust. Policy options most often chosen by them are equal pay for equal work (72 per cent), the closing of tax loopholes (72 per cent) and a higher minimum wage (48 per cent).

This “middle generation” has deeply meritocratic values. Economic success is to be based on personal (work) performance: those who perform better should earn more (72 per cent), the unemployed should earn much less than active workers (66 per cent), old age pensions should be dependent on contributions paid (52 per cent).

According to sociologist Patrick Sachweh, “different strata have starkly divergent conceptions about what constitutes performance and who are the high-performers. According to people from the lower middle class, workers standing on an assembly-line or behind a shop counter are high-performers, executives are not.”14 Meritocracy has always been an ambivalent part of working class “conciousness”. It defines upward borders but also downward ones. Parties like the Front National or the AfD can relate to it by “ethnicizing” the downward borders (“we have to work hard and the refugees get everything for free”).

Sociologist Klaus Dörre also sees social justice, apart from the refugee topic, as the most important driver for voting AfD. Early on he had noticed that blue-collar workers and union members were leaning towards the AfD more than white-collar workers and non-unionized workers. He explains it like this: “The more hopeless it seems to change an income distribution, which is seen as unjust through democratic redistribution from the rich to the poor and from the strong to the weak, the more waged workers spontaneously tend towards exclusive, excluding solidarity. This makes them receptive for right-wing populist invocations.”15

East Germany: A male crisis?

In all of Germany twice as many men voted for the AfD than women (16 compared to nine percent), among men in East Germany it is the strongest party with 26 percent.

Almost 22 percent of all voters in the East cast their vote for the AfD. The Left Party lost heavily and is now only the third strongest party with 16,2 percent. Four years ago the Left Party had 22,7 percent in the East, the AfD only 5,9.

Angry white appalachian men are to Donald Trump what angry East German men are to the AfD. Many men who still remember the days of guaranteed full employment in the GDR, lost their blue collar jobs after the fall of the wall and are the real losers of reunification. Their skills are worthless on today's job market, they have no jobs and there are no women around (parts of East Germany have the lowest share of women in all of Europe).

Men are in crisis, particularly in the East. Unemployment rates are higher for men than for women; more women have university degrees. Deindustrialisation in the East has hit men particularly hard because in the East, too, the majority of industrial workers were male. And they dealt with the loss of their jobs far worse than women. Many women migrated to West Germany, others were able to expand their skills and be promoted into jobs with better pay. The majority of men dropped into unsklilled jobs or permanent unemployment. In Saxony-Anhalt women earn more than men on average today. This is hard to swallow for those men who see themselves as the breadwinner of the family.

The motives of AfD-voters: frustration and worries on the one hand, protest on the other

Worries have decided the election; the AfD was able to polarise particularly on the subjects of security, integration and social cohesion. There is fear of social descent and the loss of cultural identity. The protest is sparked by growing social inequality and by elites that appear to be far removed from reality. Such protest voters are volatile, the Left Party has lost 400.000 voters to the AfD since the last election.

The media

In the months before the election the media has been full of the AfD's main agenda points: refugees, »criminal foreigners«, Turkey and security. The negative highpoint was the so-called chancellor duel between Merkel and Schulz on public TV. Nico Siegel from pollster infrastest dimap said that media and political parties were doing »the agenda-setting for the AfD«. All pollster agreed: The AfD could gain double-digit results only because refugees were the subject dominating the last phase of the election campaign. »All political parties have discussed those AfD themes at length, so that the AfD could gain a significance that it did not have in the months before« said Renate Köcher of pollster Allensbach. She applies the argument to political parties instead of the media, and correctly so (the CSU for example has tried to outpace the AfD and has failed spectacularly).

From criticising bail-outs to crusades against Muslims

The AfD bundles several political currents together: (neoliberal) Euro-criticism, nationalist supremacist ideologies, hate of elites, xenophobia. After long debate, the AfD took the demand for a national minimum wage into its programme in the spring of 2016, previously a no-go for the party.

The different currents are deeply contradictory and are only kept together by constant radicalisation. During the election campaign the AfD has again drifted to the right, with heads of the party using nazi expressions like »Umvolkung«, speaking of their pride of the »performance of German soldiers in the World Wars« and calling for a u-turn in commemorating the past. Their strategy was to push the boundaries of what can be said (and thereby integrating fascists and identitarians) and to concentrate fully on fighting migration (in the beginning the AfD candidate Alice Weidel tried to hold on to the old line of criticising the Euro and the EU, but that did not work and was then completely abandoned).

The same dynamics that keep the AfD together bring about constant changes: One day after the election, head of the party Frauke Petry declared her exit from the AfD parliamentary group; in the parliament of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern four MPs left the party. This is mostly party infighting; politically it is a quarrel about how to come to power. Höcke16 wants to take the road of a national socialist coup, smarter people like Petry know this has never worked and want to procede via parlamentary majorities. The same debate is staged within the Front National in France with much more force.

What must be done?

The September 2017 Bundestag election results belatedly reflect the social and cultural divisions that have deepened in Germany over a period of years. The AfD is partly a racist ethno-nationalist [völkisch] party, and outright fascists organize within it. Therefore it is crucial to understand the reasons for its success, the prior conditions in which its appeal resonates. The election result is fairly easy to explain socially« (the unemployed, the »left-behind« or culturally (the Russian-Germans vote, a perceived »a male crisis«). The AfD strategy consists of making social conflict cultural (»fighting Islam and gender-mania«). Our stragegy must make cultural conflicts social, without ever ceasing to take seriously the cultural dimension. The left must abandon the notion that the wish to protect a particular way of living is per se incipiently fascist or racist. A left perspective is no less able than any other to respond to those concerns and the people who raise them. This also means confronting those who spout xenophobic or religious-fundamentalist opinions.

Overall social sensibility in Germany is not moving to the right, but public political discourse certainly is. The AfD was able to increase its vote because the CDU and SPD legitimised it, but this is not, as Jörk Nowak put it in ak17, some 'cool' game played by the powerful: rather, it reflects their crisis and in part also their panic. No party can 'solve' the refugee crisis. Representative parliamentary democracy is as much in crisis as the capitalist system it is supposed to represent. This is where we must start! Instead of worrying about election results and party democracy, we need to find new ways of organizing social change and making decisions collectively. Gezi Park, Nuit Debout and other occupations of public space are examples, but this must become more than an urban and middle-class movement.

We are not interested in the AfD as such, but in those of the party's current voters who are by no means 'fascists'. Most of these people are no further to the right now than they were four or eight years ago when they voted for the CDU, SPD or the Left Party. »The AfD's upturn«, wrote Thomas Schmid in Die Welt (20.10.2016), »may have less to do with conventional right-wing extremism than with a generalized loss of inhibition, a rejection of convention, rules and respect. There is a new enjoyment … of wallowing in the forbidden and offensive.« This is not something reassuring at all, quite the contrary. Italian fascism began as menefreghismo [literally something like »to-hell-with-it-allism«]. A cynical indifference towards everything – an attitude with origins in the experience of the war – was channelled into D'Annunzio's legion and Mussolini's Black Shirts.

Also on the left »more of the same«: On september 27 the spokesperson of IL (Interventionistische Linke – Interventionist Left)18 gave an interview to the press: »Nazis should be afraid. We are going to hunt the AfD. … But to be clear about this: We from the IL want broad alliances.« She spoke about intensive debates in the extraparliamentary left, if to do such alliances »with SPD or even CDU« »against fascism«. And: »We organized the biggest demonstration at Hamburg since the eighties [what is se talking about??] Our blockades were much more succesful than we had thought, because of us Melania Trump could not leave her hotel [phenomenal!]« »Nazis won't go away, by ignoring them. For this reason we begin already now with our mobilization against the AfD party conference on December 2 at Hannover.«

There is reason to fear that Hannover will burn on December 2, perhaps fuelled by a more conclusively right-wing election result in Austria. Such symbolic politics (plumes of smoke over Hamburg) plays into the hands of hardliners like Maiziere19 and Höcke.

Why is historical costume play the sole activity of the so-called »radical« left? We are not facing the »danger of a new ‘33«. Why do they avoid radical analysis, preferring to get excited about campaigns and alliances? The so-called »radical« left is definitely not radical enough to appeal to anyone fed up with the current system. All their campaigning shennanigans make them indistinguishable from Greenpeace. With their moralizing discourse (no opponent of same-sex marriage has the right to speak; every supporter of closed borders is a racist individual, etc.), they contribute more to the consolidation of the AfD than it could ever accomplish for itself.

Klaus Dörre ends the article cited above as follows: »We must bring class struggle back onto the agenda.« Unless we »start from conflict and dissent in factories and the world of work«, we leave the field to »right-wing populism and its authoritarian ideology«. The radical left must stop using anti-racist arguments as an excuse for turning away from the working class.


[1] Professor emeritus at Marburg, member of DKP.

[2] See: junge welt

[3] The German word »völkisch« doesn't equal »populist«; it refers to the German people as »Volk« who must defend his own culture.

[4] The first elections to the Bundestag after WWII were held in 1949; CDU/CSU got 31,0%, SPD 29,2%, FDP 11,9% and KPD 5,7%.

[5] See Der Tagesspiegel

[6] To tell only one example: In the years 1998/99 the CDU/CSU organized a campaign against the reform of the right to citizenship which the SPD/Green-government wanted to enact. That campaign was seen as a collection of votes against the immigrants. It was launched between others by Wolfgang Schäuble and highly contested in the streets. see: wikipedia

[7] Tony Blair, Gerhard Schröder and others theorized »the third way«. The government of schröder has realized the differnt plans of reform under the name of »Agenda 2010« (the parts regarding the so-called job market are known as »Hartz«, which was the name of the manager of Volkswagen who presided the committee); see: wikipedia

[8] Ralf Dahrendorf (1929 – 2009) was a German sociologist who became British, he was quite influential on the students' movement in the sixties.See New Statesman

[9] See note 7.

[10] See: Der Spiegel

[11] See wildcat.actual

[12] Yes of course, this party calls itself from 2007 on »Die Linke« (The Left), but that's too much pretension! Its electorate has changed a lot in the last years; they gained popularity in the milieu university urban, but they lost a lot in their former strongholds: rural zones in the East and people with little money.

[13] See dgb.de

[14] See Süddeutsche Zeitung

[15] Fremde – Feinde; Der neue Rechtspopulismus deutet die soziale Frage in einen Verteilungskampf um. (»Strangers – Enemies; the new populism from the right is re-interpretating the social question as a struggle about resources« // wordplay in German: »Strange – Enemies«); See: junge welt

[16] Grammar school teacher, elected to the Landtag of Thüringen, best known representative of the »völkisch-nationalist« wing of AfD; he speaks for about one third of AfD party members. See: wikipedia

[17] Formerly AK »ArbeiterKampf«, today ak »analyse & kritik«, see: akweb.de

[18] IL is a left group of activists in Germany and Austria, which runs behind everything which is moving and participates at every demonstration. Found in 2005 with the declared intention to support the PDS with voters from the social movements in exchange that the PDS became antiracist. See www.interventionistische-linke.org

[19] Thomas De Maizière was the actual minister of the interior. Man of the secret services, rabble-rouser, connected with all schemings of the last years since the fall of the wall.See wikipedia

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