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Right-Wing Extremism and Xenophobia: Political Counter-Strategies
The conference topic of the Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung "manifestations of right-wing extremism and xenophobia in united Germany as well as possible counter-strategies" is unfortunately very topical. Brutal, cowardly attacks on foreigners, for example in Eggesin (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania) and Kolkmoor (Bavaria), as well The recent entry of the DVU into the Brandenburg state parliament has also shown that, according to the Berlin State Commission against Violence in June of this year, the Berlin conference location, especially in the eastern part of the city, is confronted with increasing right-wing extremist attitudes among young people as well as adults.
Let me first say something to clarify the terminology. Then I would like to draw a current picture of the situation of right-wing extremism nationwide and especially in East Germany. The focus of my remarks will be the possibilities of politics to fight right-wing extremism and xenophobia - the political counter-strategies.
Right-wing extremism and xenophobia are topoi to which different, sometimes mutually exclusive, meanings are assigned in science, politics and public opinion. Some subsume xenophobia under right-wing extremism. Others see both as overlapping phenomena. Under extremism we summarize ideologies, attitudes and endeavors that are directed against the core of our constitution, the so-called free democratic basic order.
From the perspective of internal security, right-wing extremism is characterized by the ideological elements of nationalism and racism. The ethnic affiliation to a nation or race is therefore of the greatest importance for the individual. All other interests and values, including human and civil rights, are subordinate to it. Right-wing extremists
propagate an "ideology of the people's community". State and people merge into one unit - allegedly as a natural order. This anti-pluralistic system leaves no room for democratic decision-making processes.
Xenophobia describes behavior that, in word and deed, is directed against everything that is perceived as deviating from one's own imagination or that deviates and is viewed as inferior. As the President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, Peter Frisch, once put it: “The problem of xenophobia results from an appeal to a 'German being' who does not know or rejects certain non-German characteristics or peculiarities, but who definitely consider them inferior looks at. "
In German right-wing extremism, right-wing extremists who are prepared to use violence are currently attracting attention.
The right-wing extremist party landscape in the western federal states contrasts with a rather poorly organizationally developed spectrum of parties in eastern Germany, which is, however, repeatedly popular with politically independent voters. The scene of violent right-wing extremists and neo-Nazis is disproportionately developed in the East. All right-wing extremist efforts in East Germany can build on the lack of democratic traditions and specific GDR traditions such as anti-individualism, state authoritarianism, anti-pluralism, anti-Americanism and anti-Zionism.
The resurgence of right-wing extremist potential continued in 1998. The number of members and supporters rose to around 53,600. For comparison: in 1996 there were around 45,300. In terms of violence, the figures for the first six months of 1999 indicate a slight decrease. However, in the last few weeks there have been some right-wing extremist acts of violence in which the perpetrators have distinguished themselves through particular brutality and inhumanity and in which in two cases the victim even died as a result of his serious injuries. In all cases, according to the results of the police investigation so far, the perpetrators were under the influence of alcohol at the time of the offense.
East Germany remains the regional focus of right-wing extremist violence. In 1998, around 46% of all acts of violence took place there - with 21% of the total population - in 1999 it is currently 51%. Likewise, half of all right-wing extremists willing to use violence are concentrated in the new federal states. There are three times more violent right-wing extremists for every 100,000 inhabitants in the eastern regions than for every 100,000 inhabitants in the west of the country. The violent skinhead scene in East Germany grew in the 1990s and today surpasses the West German scene in terms of both politicization and mobilization and brutality. Right-wing extremism in the east is younger, more militant and more violent.
There is concern that in 1999 parts of the right-wing extremist scene increased willingness to pursue political goals with violence. So far, the tactical calculation has been that attacks only challenge state pressure. In the face of unsuccessful agitation, individual actors now demand a violence-oriented strategy. In particular the two bomb attacks on December 19, 1998 on the grave of Heinz Galinski and on March 9 on the traveling exhibition “War of Extermination. Crimes of the Wehrmacht 1941 to 1944 "heated up the discussion among militant neo-Nazis. Weapons and explosives in the right-wing extremist scene represent a potential danger. So far there has been no intention to use them for attacks. In view of the increasingly positive comments on the use of force However, increased vigilance from the protection of the Constitution is required: Individual right-wing extremists or small groups could feel that they were being addressed to imitation acts because of the great media coverage after the explosives campaigns.
In the right-wing extremist skinhead scene, violence and aggressiveness are combined with a vague neo-Nazi attitude. Many young people find their way into the right-wing extremist scene through music. The skinhead music scene has seen an upward trend in recent years. The number of right-wing extremist skinhead bands, skinhead concerts and skinhead distributors grew considerably. As a result of consistently practiced bans, the number of concerts in 1999 fell significantly.
Right-wing extremist behavior and symbols have penetrated youth culture in East Germany and are part of everyday life.
hens become. If right-wing extremist young people in the East German states manage to exclude those who think differently from community facilities through threats or violence, this happens without strategic planning, usually based on the local balance of power. Nevertheless, this tends to correspond to the conception of so-called "nationally liberated zones". Right-wing extremists understand this to mean political, social and cultural dominance over limited areas and institutions.
The situation in the neo-Nazi scene remains unchanged. This is assigned a potential of around 2,400 followers, 57% of them in East Germany. The intended informational networking of the warehouse has only partially succeeded despite the increased use of technical means of communication. Likewise, the tactical concept of "independent comradeships", with which the neo-Nazis wanted to undermine the effects of the association bans since 1992, remained only patchwork. Some of the comradeships work together under the motto "Free Nationalists". They offer themselves to the NPD and its youth organization "Junge Nationaldemokrats" (JN) as partners for effective media rallies. The neo-Nazi scene failed with its strategy for carrying out this year's "Rudolf Hess Action Weeks" in August. Isolated regional demonstrations were mostly prevented by the security authorities. The strategy of the Hess Action Weeks could not be implemented without effective meetings.
In the last few months, especially in relation to Berlin, "anti-antifa" activities of the neo-Nazis have repeatedly been observed. This contradicts the national trend according to which the "anti-antifa" currently only plays a subordinate role. Remarkably, these activities are also supported from outside Berlin - this shows the interest of the neo-Nazis in the federal capital. At the beginning of the year, a southern German neo-Nazi probably posted data from a member of the Berlin House of Representatives in the right-wing extremist "THULE network". He gave the hint, typical of the "anti-antifa", that the "left" is happy about telephone discussions or house calls At the end of August it became known through press reports that the "Anti-Antifa Kurpfalz" had sent a list of around 40 people from Berlin's political opponents to Berlin neo-Nazis.
has sent. A list with the same content had already been confiscated in Berlin at the end of December 1998.
Since the strong performance of the DVU in the state elections in Saxony-Anhalt on April 26, 1998, 12.9% of the votes and thus 16, now 12 members, the right-wing extremist party structure has been in motion. Even after the state elections in Brandenburg on September 5, 1999, the party can form a parliamentary group with 5 members with 5.28%. The DVU is thus represented in two East German and one West German parliaments (Bremen: 1 mandate). There are several reasons for the recent electoral success in Brandenburg, including the election agreement with the "Republicans", according to which the REP in Brandenburg would not take part in the elections and the DVU would not stand in Berlin in return. Another aspect was the strong financial commitment of the DVU. It spent 2.5 to 3 million DM on the Brandenburg election campaign alone. Ultimately, the populist election campaign leadership also contributed to the positive result for the DVU: With simple slogans such as “DVU - this time protest Vote! "," Don't let yourself be pissed off! ", an attempt was made to win over protest voters for the DVU. These protest voters were given competence by the DVU, especially in the areas of foreigner policy (" Criminal foreigners out! ") and the labor market (" German money for German jobs ") and public safety / fight against crime. According to election analyzes, this strategy was particularly popular with men under 30 (16% of them chose DVU), the under 30-year-olds in general (11%) and the blue-collar and unemployed (8% each).
Since 1998, the DVU has again had the largest number of members with around 18,000 members. Around 15% of its members are organized in six regional associations in East Germany. The DVU has the most members of the three right-wing extremist parties in the east. The establishment of a stable regional party structure with independent political significance fails, however, mainly because of the dominant position of the federal chairman FREY.
The isolated election agreements with the DVU always work to the disadvantage of the REP. The result of the state elections in Thuringia on September 12, 1999, continued several consecutive defeats: with only 0.8%, the party also missed the quorum
for entitlement to partial state funding (1%). At the moment the REP are still represented in the state parliament of Baden-Württemberg with 14 members.
Of the around 15,000 members of the REP, around 15% are also organized in East Germany. The federal chairman SCHLIERER and the majority of the party leadership, despite repeated criticism, continue to adhere to the decision to delimit other right-wing extremist parties. Regardless of this, the party made an election agreement with the DVU for this year's elections in Brandenburg, Berlin, Hesse and Bremen.
The NPD acts as an action-oriented group that distinguishes itself from the two right-wing extremist rival parties. The party draws attention to itself with a large number of major media events and demonstrations, often in close coordination with neo-Nazis. Yet it remained meaningless in elections. In the election in Brandenburg she received 0.7%, in Thuringia 0.2% and in her "stronghold" Saxony 1.4%. It is striking that 40% of the approximately 6,000 NPD members are organized in the East German regional associations.
This makes it clear that the right-wing extremist parties are anchored differently in East Germany: while the DVU receives the greatest approval in elections, the NPD has succeeded in gaining the most East German members as a percentage of the total number of members. The REPs alone still have an extremely weak position in the eastern German states.
The activities of right-wing extremists on the Internet are of concern. They have expanded their presence in all areas of the Internet by leaps and bounds. In the meantime, German right-wing extremists alone operate over 320 websites, and the trend is still increasing. They often save their websites, which are usually operated anonymously, on servers abroad, especially in the USA. Believing that they would be safe from identification, they carelessly post large amounts of content relevant to criminal law such as inciting songs and texts, bomb-making instructions and swastika symbols. As a rule, such offers are not accessible to the German law enforcement authorities. The Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution has recently been looking for time-consuming but ultimately
Successful research identified anonymous website operators who had included criminal content on their pages - including calls for murder against political opponents or those who think differently. The representation of the executive measures in the media over the past few weeks has, at first glance, led, in addition to increased curiosity in some cases, to uncertainty within the right-wing extremist Internet scene. Individual right-wing extremist Internet users were clearly surprised that the security authorities were able to identify operators despite the anonymization.
Before I turn to the political counter-strategies, I would like to briefly look at the possible causes of right-wing extremist and xenophobic orientations.
Because only when the causes are recognized can both phenomena be combated effectively and, above all, in a targeted manner.
Despite a large number of relevant studies, a scientifically proven, unambiguous and at the same time comprehensive statement about the causes of right-wing extremism and xenophobia is still missing - it probably cannot exist either. Research approaches causes and motives in many interrelated ways. Depending on the methodological approach, the focus is placed on a sub-area of right-wing extremism that appears to be central.
Psychological explanatory approaches, as they were founded in particular by a research group led by the sociologist Adorno, put the causes rooted in the individual in the foreground. They are closely related to the question of an authoritarian character structure mediated by the family. Prejudice is seen as an expression of an authoritarian character. These are characterized, among other things, by a rigid attachment to conventional values, authoritarian subordination, an aggressive turn towards those who live differently, disregard for sensitivity, orientation towards super-subordinate relationships, destructiveness and cynicism. The authoritarian personality proves to be submissive and obedient to the powerful; to all weaknesses it behaves superior and aggressive. Psychological explanations are particularly important for character structures of xenophobic offenders.
In contrast, social explanations are based on the effects of social development processes: right-wing extremism as a reaction to social upheaval. Particularly lasting effects are attributed to the upheaval in eastern Germany. The approach of the pedagogue Heitmeyer of victims of disintegration and modernization is of particular importance in this context. Right-wing extremism is therefore characterized by two interrelated basic elements: the ideology of inequality between people and the perspective and acceptance of violence. For Heitmeyer, the objects of investigation were right-wing extremist orientations among young people - a very important area, but still a sub-area.
Political explanations concentrate on manifestations such as the establishment and development of right-wing extremist parties and their response to elections. Right-wing extremist parties work successfully under certain conditions. Political dissatisfaction is the most important factor in this context.
Political dissatisfaction is often the result of social inequality in the distribution of mostly material, but also immaterial goods, which is perceived as unjust. It is not only the objectively given situation that is important, but its subjective processing - especially the comparison with other reference groups. Unemployment, poverty, but also economic regional structural crises give rise to feelings of disadvantage and exclusion and arouse or encourage prejudices against foreigners and the weak. They favor the search for authoritarian concepts. Abuses in the general living conditions of the people (housing conditions, neighborly relations, social contacts and social care, cultural infrastructures and leisure activities) are also significant.Since social crisis situations are predominantly economic, there is often a lack of sufficient financial resources for public institutions, which on the one hand improve the living conditions of those affected, but can also contribute to the indispensable development and promotion of social behavior.
But even this alone does not explain the turn to right-wing extremist views. This only occurs when the aforementioned social framework conditions meet a corresponding internal social attitude potential and thus the political direction
receive. A prerequisite is therefore a corresponding political culture, i.e. certain attitudes, views and behavior of citizens towards politics. The political culture is influenced by the respective history and by current political, social and economic processes. In East Germany, the authoritarian state constitution of the GDR continued to have an impact on the state with excessive expectations and a lack of understanding that democracy is characterized by tension, contradiction, conflicting interests and conflicts. An open attitude - also towards strangers - could not be practiced.
Viewed in isolation, these explanatory models remain ideal types - pure teaching. The phenomenon of right-wing extremism and xenophobia is so comprehensive that any approach that tries to explain the motives must be differentiated and integrate the individual factors of the different approaches.
This brings me to the possibilities and necessities of political action in the fight against right-wing extremism and xenophobia.
I have tried to describe how complex the causes and motives are: Target-oriented counter-strategies that start at the core of the cause require a corresponding degree of differentiation. Xenophobia and right-wing extremism are cross-societal and must be combated in the same way - cross-societal. Politicians and rulers are by no means released from their responsibility. I would like to point out, however, that politics can never - and should not - tackle all problem areas alone. Within the families, for example, essential foundations are laid for the personality of the adolescents. At this point I would like to limit myself to this reference. I will go into more detail later on topics such as conveying values.
If people, institutions from different areas of the state and society take their responsibility seriously - the majority do this - and take measures to contain and combat right-wing extremism and xenophobia for their own area of responsibility, only a combination of these individual approaches enables synergy effects to be used to do, to avoid friction losses and to exchange information and experiences.
If you read the impressive and systematically structured program of this conference closely, you will encounter a gap in the presentation of the levels of presentation of the strategies, alliances and initiatives against right-wing extremism and xenophobia: In addition to the European level, the state level, the municipal level and also the company level are dealt with. The national level is missing.
Let me take advantage of this loophole and make a few comments on the alliance for democracy and tolerance - against extremism and violence planned by the German government.
The idea of this alliance goes back to the coalition agreement of autumn 1998. The aim of this alliance was from the beginning to achieve a higher degree of mobilization of the population in the fight against political extremism and xenophobia through systematic linking of ongoing measures and projects and a correspondingly high-profile campaign. The federal government did not want to and does not want to reinvent the wheel, but it does enable synergies and mutual information gains through networking.
This network strives for the cooperation of different federal ministries, the state governments and above all NGOs as actors at the municipal level. At the same time, those civic initiatives are to be won for cooperation which are already active as actors on the grassroots in many places without the public having taken sufficient notice of them so far. The federal states are involved via the specialist ministerial conferences. An indispensable element of the desired alliance is the willingness of the churches, social umbrella organizations and other NGOs to participate. The willingness of the social organizations I have invited in particular fills me with great satisfaction.
In the alliance, the federal government will not be directly responsible for projects at the grassroots level. Rather, he sees his role in providing impulses and stimulating initiatives. The decisive actors are those on the ground, usually at the municipal level. We will hear concrete examples of this in the further course of the conference.
The federal government, and especially the Federal Ministry of the Interior, is making great efforts to avoid the danger of right-wing extremism
both in the minds of those who have gone through the past and of young people in the violence-prone scene.
For the federal area, which - as just described - forms one of the three levels of the alliance, my house has summarized specific fields of action in a cross-departmental conception to intensify the fight against right-wing extremism and xenophobia. As a federal contribution, these measures are part of the alliance.
I have described the importance of root cause research for the selection of control approaches. Research into the cause is a dynamic process of ongoing systematisation. In the future, we will network research results more closely between the federal departments involved - family, justice and interior ministries - as well as the criminological central office, a research and documentation office of the federal and state justice ministries. A database is to be set up in the Ministry of the Interior, which will contain statements and comments on the content of the individual research projects. This secondary analysis is also important insofar as it enables the generation of knowledge to give politicians sound advice at all times. At this point I would like to refer to a research project currently commissioned by us. With the support of the Volkswagen Foundation, a research project on the structure, biographical background and motivation of xenophobic, anti-Semitic and right-wing extremist criminals in Germany was awarded to the German Youth Institute in Munich. We are thus following on from a research project from 1994 on the analysis of xenophobic criminals. We hope that the empirical basis, which is broader than at that time, will provide further insights into the motives for racism and xenophobia.
The clarification of right-wing extremism forms a focus in the range of tasks of the protection of the constitution in the federal and state levels. Appropriate reaction and control require knowledge on the part of the state as well as the public. Providing this information is a matter for the Office for the Protection of the Constitution, which investigates criminal acts in advance and, as an interest-independent early warning system, is intended to help prevent criminal offenses. The violent right-wing extremist scene currently deserves special attention. The Office for the Protection of the Constitution will intensify their observation.
The extremist Internet activities put the security authorities before costly investigations. The corresponding work units of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution will be further strengthened in terms of personnel and technology. In order to facilitate the educational work of the security authorities - which has recently been successful several times - I have commissioned the Federal Office for Information Security with the development of a so-called intelligent search engine.
But not always - and I say this just as clearly - the result is not always satisfactory for us. The internationality of the Internet confronts us with a multitude of criminal justice systems that are hardly compatible, especially with regard to the areas of right-wing extremist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic propaganda. Like the security authorities, my house has repeatedly and successfully appealed to providers through the mediation of American partner authorities and through private initiatives to block websites with inflammatory propaganda. However, we would often like a more open ear on this question. On the other hand, we have to respect the outstanding importance of the fundamental right to freedom of expression, especially in the Anglo-American area.
The indexing, confiscation and seizure of CDs and other sound carriers with inflammatory content as well as the prevention of corresponding concerts is an important instrument in the fight against right-wing extremist and xenophobic orientations. From 1992 to the end of last year, the Federal Testing Office for writings harmful to minors indexed around 140 sound carriers with skinhead music. Cross-border searches in the business premises of distributors of right-wing extremist skinhead music led to the seizure of tens of thousands of right-wing extremist CDs in 1998. In the meantime, all federal states have agreed on a rigid practice on this issue. The distribution of relevant CDs is again and again considerably reduced by timely police access. However, such access requires early information and knowledge of the security authorities and a timely exchange of information among each other. This is all the more important as organizers deliberately disinform the authorities. We will consistently continue these executive measures, as we are aware of the dangers of this style of music.
The tasks of the Office for the Protection of the Constitution in the area of right-wing extremism mentioned here make it clear that politics would not be able to react appropriately to the dangers of right-wing extremism and xenophobia without the support of this early warning system.
The Office for the Protection of the Constitution works closely with the federal and state police. The police fight against right-wing extremism, both in the area of prevention and repression, is becoming increasingly important. In a special catalog of measures, the responsible bodies have compiled these fields of action together with internal police training measures. Concepts of basic and advanced training, social care and personnel management are an important part of this. The police are confronted with the phenomenon of right-wing extremist and xenophobic violence much more directly than others. The employees must not and will not be left alone with the numerous impressions. You are highly aware of the phenomenon.
A strong open police presence at hotspots plays a major role. This is a task of the special units set up by all East German states to combat right-wing extremism. The presence of the emergency services is a deterrent. Spokespersons and group members can be removed from their anonymity and spoken to openly. The formation of new groups is to be prevented as well as the consolidation of already existing groups of people. This thought is crucial when you see how many crimes are currently being committed from within groups. The xenophobic criminal offenses and acts of violence often develop spontaneously. Within the group, dynamic processes of disinhibition through considerable alcohol consumption, mutual reinforcement of aggressive affects, stimulation through music with right-wing extremist, xenophobic content play just as important a role as local conflict situations, but also the influence of right-wing extremist slogans on public opinion. Breaking up these groups, cliques and subcultures must be the primary goal. In order to be able to break up these group structures, which occasionally predominate personally and "politically" in certain areas and institutions, all available means, such as smuggling into potential groups of perpetrators, skimming off informants, observation, covert data discovery
ment, have to work together. The close contact between the security authorities and the local youth welfare offices, which often have knowledge of the relevant young people, is also extremely important.
Once a suspect has been identified, the deterrent effect depends crucially on how quickly the punishment follows. The accelerated procedure and, in the case of juvenile offenders, the simplified juvenile procedure, can achieve this deterrent in appropriate cases.
All of this is the subject of the aforementioned catalog of measures. I will work towards its consistent application in the conference of interior ministers.
With the criminal law of the state and general criminal offenses, the penal code provides us with sufficient legal instruments to use criminal law against right-wing extremism and xenophobia.
The perpetrator-victim compensation and reparation for the consequences of the crime are particularly suitable for exerting direct influence on the perpetrator. In suitable cases from the environment of xenophobia and in individual cases perhaps also from right-wing extremism, this opportunity should be used to show the perpetrator the specific fate behind his willingness to use violence based on schematic thought patterns.
Not only because of the currently large number of young right-wing extremist offenders - their share is 2/3 - but also out of responsibility towards the growing generation, it must succeed again, in kindergarten, in after-school care, in schools and in vocational training, openness, tolerance and respect to convey to foreign and different living people as a matter of course. Young people are particularly susceptible to ideological slogans, coupled with authoritarian claims. It's the same in West and East Germany. In the east, however, the upheaval for young people has also led to a fundamental change in the way they live and caused great uncertainty. Adolescent behavior always reflects social developments. The right-wing extremist, xenophobic propensity for violence among young people is also an expression of the fact that many people in the East live in the
pluralistic and democratic civil society of the Federal Republic "have not yet arrived".
In education policy, an open dialogue must be conducted and tolerance and humanity must be promoted. Above all, this requires a great deal of commitment in the training and further education of teachers.
At this point I want to address something that I call cultural prevention and that seems very important to me. For the character development of children and young people, for the consolidation of their character, an education in the arts is, in my opinion, indispensable. Just like the sport you do in your free time, it makes a decisive contribution to learning social behavior. This is essential for a prosperous coexistence.
An important prevention against violence and extremism is also a secure perspective in life. It is therefore urgent to reduce the high youth unemployment, especially in East Germany, to give young people the feeling that their skills and commitment are needed, that they are part of this society and are not excluded. The immediate program decided by the federal government to place 100,000 young people in training, qualification and employment measures contributes to this. At the end of August, well over 100,000 young people had already been placed, almost 40% of them in East Germany. We have decided to continue the program in the coming year and to provide DM 2 billion for this. The East 1999 training program agreed by the federal government with the governments of the East German states to promote additional training places for young applicants who have not yet been placed also helps to offer these young people career prospects.
Right-wing extremist potential is mainly found in young people with rather low educational qualifications, who suffer from high levels of insecurity, fear of the future, disorientation and disappointed expectations. For some, the frustration turns into aggression towards supposedly weaker people such as foreigners and repatriates. The aforementioned initiatives to secure career prospects are an approach to counteract this. Another important step are
Measures to improve the coexistence of foreigners and Germans.
The new citizenship model is an integration offer for our foreign fellow citizens. The option model enables children born in Germany to foreign parents to identify completely with their home country Germany right from the start. With the shortening of the naturalization periods for foreigners who have been living here for a long time, the signal is being sent that all those who profess a democratic constitutional state are welcome as citizens with equal rights. This reform provides the basis for foreigners living here to be able and willing to integrate. They can put aside the exclusionary "foreignness", feel like they belong in Germany and fit into society. This can reduce reservations and contribute to inner peace.We all know that integration can only succeed if there is the will on both sides - the foreign as well as the German population.
In order to encourage this willingness, it is important to inform people about the innovations. The Federal Government Commissioner for Foreigners' Issues does this with nationwide campaigns. In addition, it advocates the dismantling of structures that could be suitable for promoting xenophobia. The support of existing as well as the suggestion of new civil society groups is of decisive importance in this context, especially for East Germany.
But it is not only important to be informed about legal innovations. What is foreign is often rejected because nothing or far too little is known about the background of foreign cultures. It must be possible to create an understanding of the differences between cultures. This is the only way to remove the breeding ground for the prejudices fueled by right-wing extremists and to reduce the feeling they convey of a threat to collective and individual identity. Education policy offers the chance to counter xenophobia by educating people about other cultures. When dealing with people from another culture, their specific perception, thinking, values and actions are important. This intercultural dialogue must be sought.
The promotion of the linguistic, professional and social integration of foreign workers and their families is also an important step to prevent discrimination and ghettos.
In order for right-wing extremism and xenophobia to be combated across society, as large sections of society as possible must be informed and educated about the dangers posed by both phenomena - both directly and indirectly through multipliers from the fields of school, youth and social work. This is primarily the task of the public relations work of my house, the institutions for political education and the protection of the constitution. We want to address the target group of young people, who are particularly important to be reached, through school and youth magazines, information folders, computer games and discussion forums on the Internet. In addition, seminars and information materials for teachers and parents' representatives will continue to be offered.
I would like to close by referring to the regulations that the constitution itself provides for the protection of democracy. This set of rules cannot be understood without the unlimited tolerance towards even deeply anti-constitutional efforts in the Weimar Republic. The instruments of militant democracy are tied to strict conditions, and it corresponds to years of practice to only use them when preventive measures, primarily the argumentative discussion of anti-constitutional views and aspirations, do not work.
These instruments primarily include the prohibition of a party by the Federal Constitutional Court in accordance with Article 21, Paragraph 2 of the Basic Law or an association by the internal departments in the Federation or the Länder in accordance with Article 9, Paragraph 2 of the Basic Law, as well as the ruling by the Federal Constitutional Court of the violation of fundamental rights in accordance with Article 18 of the Basic Law . Article 79.3 of the Basic Law also declares, among other things, respect for human dignity and the principle of the separation of powers, the binding of legislation to the constitutional order as well as executive power and jurisdiction to law and justice as unalterable. This is to prevent the constitution from being used again as a sham legitimation for totalitarian endeavors.
A forfeiture of the fundamental rights of freedom of expression and freedom of the press, freedom of teaching, freedom of assembly and association, confidentiality of letters and property has been applied for four times - and in all four cases against right-wing extremists - but has never been pronounced by the BVerfG. In each case, the problem was the evidence of continued anti-subversive political activity - thus the danger of the person for the future. This is difficult to predict.
In 1952 the Federal Constitutional Court declared the National Socialist "Socialist Reich Party" (SRP) and in 1956 the "Communist Party of Germany" (KPD) to be unconstitutional in accordance with Article 21 (2) of the Basic Law.
The instrument most frequently used to protect democracy is the prohibition of associations under Article 9 (2) of the Basic Law in conjunction with the Association Act. Since the Law on Associations came into force in 1964, the federal government has banned ten right-wing extremist or neo-national socialist associations, half of them since 1992. During the same period, the federal states have issued 14 bans on right-wing extremist associations - ten of them since 1992.
The bans in the neo-Nazi area have had a paralyzing effect to this day. The stagnation in the neo-Nazi scene, which this year too was overwhelmed by the coordination of the Hess Action Weeks, proves this.
There is only one tried and tested reaction to right-wing extremist, xenophobic acts of violence: consistent, rapid punishment and prosecution. I say that very clearly. There can be no alternative to this.
The state has an obligation to enforce the legal system, and it must not allow itself to be deterred. There must be no legal vacancies.
But that alone is not enough.
On the one hand, because right-wing extremism and xenophobia cannot be reduced to acts of violence. On the other hand, because in addition to the state sanction in the form of criminal law, it is important that the perpetrators encounter a social climate in which their actions are resisted. Right-wing extremist and xenophobic violent criminals must not be given the impression that the motive for their violent behavior is shared by parts of the population. Differently
expresses: they did something that others think. This can only be achieved by a society in which there is agreement on fundamental values such as tolerance, moral courage, respect, personal responsibility and a sense of community. In such a climate, undesirable developments such as right-wing extremism and xenophobia are more difficult to spread.
What is required is a consensus among citizens about these fundamental values and principles of the democratic constitutional state - therefore a democratic, political culture. This is not yet sufficiently developed, especially in the east of the country. In view of the multitude of persistent difficulties associated with the transition from a dictatorship to a free democracy, this should come as no surprise. Their complexity is often underestimated.
Growing up in an authoritarian, decreed anti-fascist system, which has deliberately isolated the small number of foreign contract workers from the population, characterizes. These influences are inevitably passed on. The collapse of this system and the subsequent unification, and with it, in many cases, the unchanged transfer of West German structures to East German conditions, made people deeply insecure and stressed. The expectations of the state are in part inflated against the background of the experience of a state system that determines and prescribes everything. This creates disappointments.
These are the factors that lead to restlessness and anxiety right into the middle of society; outside the constitutional arc, they articulate themselves in an often violent extremism. Resistance to undesirable social developments such as right-wing extremism and xenophobia grows to the extent that a broad basic democratic consensus develops from individual convictions and personal role models. The question of whether and, if so, what the state has to contribute to such a basic consensus has often been asked and answered in conflicting terms.
This awareness of values cannot be enforced by means of state regulations. Rather, it must be experienced and lived. The role of the state is to stand up for the values of our order at all levels within its competence framework, as well as for families and schools, which are at the beginning of the development of the younger generation
Be active in a value-mediating manner, always providing support with positive impulses. The "Alliance for Democracy and Tolerance - Against Extremism and Violence" will provide such impulses.
This development demands a lot of patience and perseverance. We must not give up in the face of bitter setbacks - because there will also be such in the future. This awareness of values not only has to be developed - it also has to be kept stable over time. This long-term task arises in the same way in West and East Germany. Numerous examples of citizenship, commitment and moral courage in the recent German past give me the conviction that it is possible to develop a democratic political culture and to preserve it in the long term.
© Friedrich Ebert Foundation | technical support | net edition fes-library | March 2000
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