The extreme rightwing uses leftist terminology and penetrates deeply in the working class

By Christina Kaindl

[This article published in: Junge Welt, 9/25/2006 is translated abridged from the German on the World Wide Web,  http://www.jungewelt.de/2006/09-25/001.php?sstr=christina|kaindl. Christina Kaindl is editor of the journal “Das Argument.”]

[At the conference “Transnational Conditions: Rightwing Extremism, Capitalism and the State, September 6-8, 2006, the lecturers outlined developments of the extreme rightwing in Russia, India and Europe/Germany and showed the connections of these developments with the global chance of capitalism.]

In the 1930s. Ernst Bloch analyzed how the fascist movement gained its propaganda by means of “thefts from the commune” (1) including the red flags of the working class movement, its marches, songs etc. When social democracy changed its program in the nineties to a “reformed” neoliberalism, it could take over government power in nearly all European countries. Social democracy peacefully withdrew from the commune and provoked a situation that can be described with Gramsci as a crisis of representation. The dominant parties no longer defend the interests of important parts of the population, particularly the working class. “When these crises appear,” Gramsci said, “the immediate situation will be delicate and dangerous since the field is free for all violent solutions, for the activity of obscure forces represented by men of violence or with charisma.” (2)

On the background of this representation crisis, rightwing populist parties have had electoral successes all over Europe. They win with criticism of the effects of neoliberal globalization on the living and working conditions of people, not with a neoliberal program. Rightwing parties succeed in penetrating into the “gaps in representation” and stylizing themselves as the new advocates of workers, globalization losers and “good old honest work.” Bringing together different and partly divergent social milieus and interests give a political strength to some rightwing constellations even if that strength is based on inconsistent programs and theories.


The orientation in anti-capitalism, especially the criticism of liberalism, social cuts and globalization, is filled with themes connected to everyday problems and experiences. The French National Front changed its neoliberal denationalization program based on deregulation, lower taxes and trimming public service to a program that regarded “international economic ideology” as enemy number one. The voter base changed from a traditional radicalized conservative rightwing to the petty-bourgeoisie, the working class and then increasingly the unemployed and young voters.

Rightwing extremist political projects joined with neoliberalism criticize the social changes produced by globalization. Thus the Italian Lega Nord aggressively rejects the replacement of state regulations by market mechanisms as a central neoliberal ideology. Its economism is complemented with a positive reference to the life context in which the specific culture and ethnic group are melted down and estrangement neutralized.

The “ideological mixed relation” of the two traditions of rightwing extremist or authoritarian populist ideologies in the European rightwing depends on constellations between government and the opposition. The NPD in Germany, far removed from any involvement in government, permeates almost all parties as an “undercurrent” with its authoritarian populist positions. In 1996, its ideological orientation was corrected – from a German Nationalism focused on the property-owning middle class (3) to a populist socialism. A strategic reorientation went along with preferring demonstrations to election victories and parliamentary seats. The “battle for minds” was central. (4)…

Concerning campaigns and mobilizations, populist nationalism is the central theme of the JN/NPD (New National Democrats) subordinating racist arguments to arguments derived from neoliberalism. The foundation is an understanding of nation based on a uniform people with a common descent. The self-determination of the “people” is undermined by foreign influences called imperialism that acts on political, economic and cultural planes and has to be fought there. The “foreign influences” are external and internal enemies: external like multinational corporations and supra-national organizations (European Union, NATO) that do not exist on the basis of ethno-pluralism (5) and internal enemies like foreign populations. The battle against the “imperialism of the multinationals and the US” is central. Capitalist criticism and its populist reinterpretation is a strategy exploited by historical fascism.

Cultural diversity is seen as “destructive of culture” and “destruction of the people.” The presence of “foreigners” in society is judged similarly. The social processes of globalization, spreading traditional corporations and supra-national organizations are aspects of the same, existence-threatening process: the imperialist struggle against people opposed by nationalism as a “liberation movement.”

The unity and equality of the people are set against foreign influence. The people’s community promises social security. “Nationalism aims at social justice and national solidarity.” (6) In “cross-front strategies,” combinations are sought from right to left in working “against the system” “for the people.” Thus the extreme rightwing coddles to the globalization movement that generally understands itself as leftist or integrates them where possible and emphasizes common political possibilities.

Multinational corporations and the presence of refugees, foreign fellow-citizens etc. in Germany, are understood from the rightwing perspective as two sides of the same coin. One can be fought indirectly in the other. Racist violence is then indirectly anti-globalization policy. Racist violence is then indirectly anti-globalization policy. The complexity of the concrete connections between the two sides is repressed. The experience of political helplessness toward global processes can be converted in actions.

The JN started an “anti-capitalist and anti-globalist” campaign: “Future instead of Globalization.” (7) Reference points of rightwing extremist mobilizations are brought together and systematically reinforced. Unemployment, low wages and precarious employment conditions are seen as crisis manifestations of capitalism. In the “Manifesto on Privatization,” (8) the “people’s property” is defended against “plundering.” The practical necessity logic of dominant policy is attacked and a “possible alternative to the existing system” is urged. Against the US Empire, a “Eurasian block of peoples” must arise as an element of an anti-imperialist resistance and a new world order oriented in people. In a populist rearticulating of the Zapatista watchword “one world in which many worlds fit.” They urge replacement of the “one world of capital” by a “world of a thousand peoples.”

“Nazism is […] a protective space from unrest,” Bloch wrote about the contradictions of nascent German fascism that united the battle against antiquated ways of life and the longing for the past. The formation of the historical bloc succeeded at that time in subordinating the populist-, anti-capitalist fraction under the fraction of big capital. (10)


Neoliberal rightwing populism delegitimates criticism of social cuts. After being voted out of office, the rightwing shifted the social consensus to the right. What were the “contradictions” placated here? (11)… Individuals must rethink their position in the social world on account of changed social demands (for highly trained IT-workers and for precarious cleaning women). Feelings of injustice and frustration arise because people cannot reach their desired position despite hard work and painful subordination.

The sense of the “cancelled social contract” refers to the implicit notion that “hard work” brings social security, acknowledgment and a good living standard. The disappointed say they are ready to work harder and produce more but admit their legitimate expectations for different aspects of work, social status or living standards are permanently frustrated. The contract was cancelled unilaterally. This led to feelings of injustice and resentment toward other social groups that apparently are not equally subject to the toil of work are better supplied or (illegally) arranged: on one hand, managers, politicians with high incomes who promise generous pensions and on the other hand persons who live from charity instead of working or refugees supported by the state. “This disturbed balanc3e in their relation to work seems to be the key in many cases for understanding the connections of socio-economic change and political reactions. (12) Political messages and ideologies of rightwing populism emphasize the double delimitation “of the people” from the elites above and the expelled below. The delimitation from supposedly inactive benefit recipients, e.g. refugees, receivers of income support, the sick and disabled, is found in the highest hierarchical planes of employees (often described as prosperity chauvinism) and is also widespread in union circles.

The fear of anomie is central. Uncertainty and feelings of powerlessness are connected with industrial decline, precarious employment and devaluation of abilities. The experience of being a plaything of economic development or seemingly anonymous forces is allied with rightwing populist mobilizations that address the population as a passive victim of overpowering enemies. The nostalgic (high) esteem of the good old (worker-) times and the populist glorification of traditional communities `function’ similarly. The public acknowledgment of the problems of precarity and social descent is an advantage for the extreme right. Their thematicizing national or sub-national units as bearers of collective interests can also address the feelings of powerlessness referring to the individual plane and collective units like regions, the working class and the nation.

The extreme right thematicizes the everyday experience of subjects with the demands made on them by the globalized modes of production and dissolves this everyday experience in the direction of the people’s community. “Racist identity” includes the promise of social security and equality, solidarity and membership. The upgrading of one’s person counters the fear whether one belongs, whether one’s “activation” demanded in the new welfare state is enough. At the same time, the principle of competition in the intensified battle over social resources is used against “non-German” elements.

Rightwing extremist thinking makes possible an inconsistent association with the neoliberal demands on subjects. On one side, subjects are rejected and dissolved in the rightwing extremist model of the populist welfare state. On the other side, the demands of exclusion, brutalization and mobilization of subjects are applied against the socially marginalized. While this thinking understands itself as opposition, it nevertheless affirms the foundations of social competition and exploitation.


Speaking of “demagogy” and “instrumentalization” of the social question by the extreme right is hardly helpful. The important and substantive problematic consistency inheres in the rightwing argumentation for social policy and why that argumentation seems attractive for many people. Current rightwing extremism does not simply “lie” to people but takes up subjective experiences with social upheavals, offers a model for their understanding and their change that does not break with their own foundations, populist nationalism, racism and ideologies of inequality as well as rejection of democracy in favor of tighter leadership concepts.

Since experiences with the processes of social upheaval offer raw material used by the extreme rightwing, the left must provide alternative interpretations and socialization possibilities for these experiences. Elisabeth Gauthier reports from France that the communist party in the last election mobilized its followers and repressed the influence of the extreme rightwing where it appeared with a clear anti-capitalist program. Leftists must learn to wisely connect fundamental criticism of capitalism and rejection of its exactions with a concrete policy of defending democratic rights. Division of both aspects in abstract and fundamental criticism or orientation in concrete political steps does not allow connecting perspectives for a changed society with the experiences of remodeling ways of life for people and give them no reason to adopt this political project as their own.


1 Ernst Bloch: Erbschaft dieser Zeit [1934]. In: Gesamtausgabe, Bd.4, Frankfurt/Main 1962, S. 70

2 Antonio Gramsci: Gefängnishefte, Berlin/Hamburg 1991ff., Bd. 7, S. 1577f.

3 Arnim Pfahl-Traughber: »Globalisierung als Agitationsthema des organisierten Rechtsextremismus in Deutschland. Eine Analyse inhaltlicher Bedeutung und ideologischer Hintergründe«. In: Thomas Greven/Thomas Grumke (Hg.), Globalisierter Rechtsextremismus? Die extremistische Rechte in der Ära der Globalisierung, Wiesbaden, S.30–51, hier S.33

4 Aus dem Strategiepapier des Nationalen Hochschulbundes

5 Ethnopluralismus kann als »Rassismus ohne Rassen« bezeichnet werden; er stellt eine völkische Konstruktion dar, die vor allem auf die »Reinheit« von Völkern zum Erhalt ihrer Identität und Lebensfähigkeit abzielt. Vermischung von »Völkern« wird hier als Existenzgefährdung gedacht

6 www.jn-buvo.de/index.php?option=com_content&task=view&id=108&Itemid=33

7 www.antikap.de

8  http://snbp.info/files/Privatisierung.pdf

9 Ernst Bloch, Erbschaft dieser Zeit [1934], a.a.O., S. 60

10 Die völkisch-antikapitalistische Fraktion wurde allerdings bereits 1934 kaltgestellt und die Ideologieelemente im völkischen Rassismus der Nazis reartikuliert

11 Eine europaweite qualitative Untersuchung zu Veränderung der Anforderungen in der Arbeit und rechtspopulistischen Denkweisen, vgl. www.siren.at und Jörg Flecker/Gudrun Hentges: »Rechtspopulistische Konjunkturen in Europa«. In: Joachim Bischoff u.a. (Hg.), Moderner Rechtspopulismus, Hamburg 2004, S. 119–149

12 Ebd., S. 142
· Christina Kaindl ist Lehrbeauftragte der Fachhochschule Stendal, arbeitet im Vorstand des »Bundes demokratischer Wissenschaftlerinnen und Wissenschaftler« (BdWi) und ist Redakteurin der Zeitschrift Das Argument