Berlin, January 17th, 2017. Once more, an attempt in the Bundesfassungsgericht (German Supreme Court) to outlaw the right-wing extremist German National Party (NPD) has failed. For far too long, the attempted prohibition of the NPD has been the focus of societal confrontation with right-wing extremist parties. For that reason, says the Amadeu Antonio Foundation’s director Timo Reinfrank, the failure of the prohibition attempt also represents the failure of the current strategy against organized right-wing extremism. Civil-societal initiatives and academics first called for a new wave of engagement against right-wing extremism, racism, right-wing populism and their causes just weeks ago, and endorsed an act supporting democracy present in the current coalition contract but not yet adopted: “Democracy must be renegotiated and protected every day. We therefore need the act supporting democracy already provided for in the coalition contract to be passed in this legislative period.” With this act, civil-societal initiatives and measures in the fields of prevention of, awareness of, and education about right-wing extremism will be strengthened for the long term.
Prohibitions are not the solution
“Over and over again, since the beginning of the NPD prohibition trial in 2012, we have made clear that the growing challenges our democracy faces cannot be met with prohibitions,” said Reinfrank. Reinfrank refers to the ideological similarities between the NPD and parts of the AfD (Alternative for Germany), most of all in the coming parliamentary elections:
“The Federal Assembly chiefly referred to the ideology of an “ethnic definition of Volk” and the “denial of constitutional rights” present in the NPD platform. The Supreme Court has confirmed the unconstitutionality of this ideology. However, the platform of the AfD also contains, for example, demands to restrict the right of Muslims to practice their religion. Politicians and broader society must be resolute in their defense of our democratic values.”
Hate will always find a platform
The sociologies Matthias Quest, director of the Institute of Democracy and Civil Society in Jena, welcomed the judgement of the Supreme Court:
“This means more than anything the end of a decade-long phantom discussion. The NPD is—and was even when the trial began—an enormously weakened party in stasis. Many of its activists have already moved to other parties and groups. The state parliament elections in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern showed that a large part of the former NPD base now vote for the AfD. The hate will always find a platform. Fighting the symptoms will not suffice—we need to confront the causes of right-wing extremism. These do not lie on the “extreme” edges, but are part of the fabric of our society.”
Reinfrank and Quent emphasize that although the NPD may be meaningless at the parliamentary level, it nevertheless endangers democratic culture in some regions in former East Germany. The court’s verdict should not be understood as a carte blanche for racism, anti-Semitism and antidemocratic activism.
Since its founding in 1998, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation has sought to strengthen democratic civil society and oppose right-wing extremism, racism and anti-Semitism in all their forms.
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