Political programme and profile

The AfD adopted a programme for the 2014 European elections and a programme of principles in the spring of 2016. Probably more important for producing…

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Chapter : Political programme and profile

The AfD adopted a programme for the 2014 European elections and a programme of principles in the spring of 2016. Probably more important for producing the AfD as a brand, however, are the statements of leading representatives of the party.

In line with the neoliberal agenda that was brought in by many leading AfD personnel from the very beginning, not least by several professors of economics and high-ranking business representatives like Hans-Olaf Henkel, the former president of the Federation of German Industries, the party favours tax reductions for companies, the liberalisation of the labour market and the “cutback of bureaucracy” that often is just a cipher for cutting state services essential to those with low incomes.

In contrast to the European elections programme, the more recent basic programme makes clear that the party is for a minimum wage, but this position is contested inside the party.

The latest statement is widely seen as an attempt to reach out to working class people. The party has three subgroups claiming to work in the interest of employed people. So far, though, they do not play any relevant role inside or outside the party.

On a social level, the AfD campaigns energetically against a plurality of family models and gender arrangements, favouring very traditional ideas of family patterns and fighting against gender mainstreaming programmes. Using the term “gender craziness”, it aggressively confronts feminist ideas.

Beatrix von Storch

The organisational basis for such campaigns is a network of NGOs called Civil Coalition run by Beatrix von Storch. Fundamental Christians have gathered in two subgroups – the Pforzheim Circle and Christians in the AfD – the latter blaming the Christian churches for being too liberal in welcoming and supporting refugees who seek shelter in Germany. Prolife positions are also especially strong in the AfD’s branches in the south and the south-east of Germany.

Man-made climate change is, almost inevitably, widely denied by the AfD. Thus, any law by which financial support for an increased production and use of renewable energy is provided would be abolished according to the party. Instead, the life span of nuclear power plants should be extended.

The AfD is a right-wing populist party that propagates clear-cut opposition to what it holds to be a corrupt and lying elite consisting mainly of politicians, journalists and the EU bureaucracy and supposedly extends its hand to “hard-working people”.

According to its statements, the latter group is also challenged by the lazy underclasses in which long-term unemployed, the homeless, refugees and Roma people are counted.

In addition, in the AfD’s worldview, immigration in general, but refugees in particular, are a deadly threat to German society when they come from non-European countries and are of Muslim faith. Visions of decadence and insecurity are directly linked to immigrants and asylum-seekers. This has led several high-ranking party representatives to argue that shooting at refugees, including women and children, who are about to cross the border is a legitimate and necessary act.

The most extreme position on issues of migration argues that an annual number of 200,000 should be forced to leave the country. In this repressive schema, Muslim believers are to be denied equal rights to practise their religion.

In line with many conservative and right-wing political forces throughout Europe, the AfD demands closure of borders combined with a highly selective decision-making process on who might be accepted for entry.

Refugees applying for asylum should do so outside Europe and the right to apply for asylum should be denied for people coming from states deemed to be secure by either the German government or the European Union.

Regarding international politics, the AfD demands a “re-nationalisation” of foreign policy and decision-making. This includes leaving the EU that is portrayed as a juggernaut, only serving the interests of a small international elite but not those of the wider population. It is also argued that Germany is a net payer into the EU.

The German army, argues the AfD, should be much better equipped and trained not only to give Germany more weight in NATO and international politics but also to make it a powerful tool to serve “German interests”.

The far right wing of the party, especially, demands a withdrawal from NATO and suggests a closer cooperation with Russia. A majority currently argues for staying in the alliance if German interests are considered more in cases of military intervention.

With its stance so hostile to Muslims, party representatives like Frauke Petry have claimed that the AfD is “a guarantee of Jewish life” in Germany, a view immediately challenged and rejected by Charlotte Knobloch, president of the Israelitischen Kultusgemeinde München and Oberbayern. She accused the AfD of abusing the legitimate concerns of Jewish people about antisemitism among Muslims in Germany for its own purposes.

In fact, antisemitic statements by AfD activists have hit the headlines several times. Most prominent was the case, in 2016, of Wolfgang Gedeon who is a member of parliament in Baden Württemberg and author of antisemitic books and articles in which he called Holocaust deniers “dissidents” and spread the idea of a Zionist conspiracy.

There was no clear majority to kick Gedeon out of the party and, while he later left the AfD group in Baden-Württemberg, he still served as an elected delegate to the national party convention in Cologne in April 2017.

While the party portrays itself as being anti-establishment many of its leadership, in fact, had their careers in politics like Alexander Gauland who played an important role in a government in Hesse, led by the Christian Democrats, in the 1980s, in the media, in the business sector or in the universities.

Election campaigns are supported massively by a supposedly independent lobby group that refuses to explain who is funding its campaign in favour of the AfD.

Every week, another racist, antisemitic or revisionist statement by AfD representatives, officials or members of parliament is reported in the media. In April 2017, Ralph Weber a professor of law and MP in Mecklenburg-West Pomerania presented ideas that political observers saw as being close to the Ariernachweis (certificate of Aryan descent) insisted upon by the Nazis.

In 2016, he invited a member of the revisionist Reichsbürgerbewegung to speak at a university seminar. The AfD branch in the Saarland, led by Josef Dörr, was judged as extreme right even by the AfD’s own federal executive board. No measures were taken but financial resources were provided for the election campaign there in early 2017.

Petr Bystron, head of the AfD in Bavaria, is currently under observation by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (the internal secret service) as are several members of the AfD in Saxony.

On a day-to-day basis, AfD members of parliament mainly focus on migration and domestic security by using instruments such as parliamentary questions to demonstrate activity but also to gather information that might help in their racist and nativist campaigns against refugees and migrants.

Professionalisation of parliamentary work so far is sluggish, partly because several AfD MPs are not really interested but try, instead, to use parliament as a stage with the aim of promoting political action outside parliament. Instead of controlling the government as is the task of the opposition in a parliamentary democracy, it is more about protest and provocation.

Of those who became a member of parliament until the end of 2016, 46% had been in the Christian Democratic Party before, another 12% in the Liberal Party and 10% are former members of the Social Democrats. 21% had been active in extreme right and right-wing populist parties before joining the AfD. 85 % are male.


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