Germany: Shrinking NPD Overhauls Ideology in Saxony

red-rebel red-rebel at SPAMsupanet.com
Sat Aug 5 19:04:52 MDT 2000


(The comments regarding former SED members are rather disturbing - James)


  Shrinking NPD Overhauls Ideology in Saxony

By Peter Carstens

DRESDEN. The Saxony members of the far-right National Democratic Party are
particularly pleased by the sudden talk about banning the nationwide
organization because it gives them a new chance to get back on the public
stage.

Such opportunities have been limited lately after the party suffered a
string of election defeats and almost one-third of its members turned their
backs on the party within a year. For all the resignations, though, the NPD
in Saxony remains the largest of the extremist party's regional German
associations.

The NPD has about 1,000 members in Saxony and around 6,000 throughout
Germany, according to the federal Office for the Protection of the
Constitution. Like its membership rolls, the NPD's platform has been
undergoing changes, officials of the Saxony Interior Ministry said. As part
of the change, the party is describing itself as a nationalist organization
with a socialist, anti-capitalist slant. Within the party, politicians
connected to the former East Germany's communist party, the Socialist Unity
Party of Germany (SED), are emerging as leaders in place of those with
their origins in right-wing extremism.

The talk now is about "ethnically based German socialism" or "German ethnic
socialism." Leaflets call for an "ethnic community instead of European
Union dictatorship" or "work for millions instead of profits for
millionaires." The state officials have identified a former SED supporter,
Professor Dr. Michael Nier from Frankenberg, as the "chief ideologist" of
the Saxony NPD. He is described as having once been professor of
dialectical and historical materialism at a Saxon university. A working
group called "Socialists in the NPD" also was set up in the party in May
last year.

As part of the transition, the state organization is said to have abandoned
its reservations on admitting radical right-wing bruisers and skinheads. In
its election campaigning, the xenophobic party cooperated closely at local
level with right-wing radicals ready to resort to violence, although they
do not belong to the party. Members of the Sächsische Schweiz Skinheads,
which is classed as a criminal association, served NPD candidates as
auditorium security or guards at campaign stands.

The state party is now making more public appearances again in Saxony. On
August 13, for example, a "Silent march to commemorate the victims of the
Berlin Wall" is planned in Zwickau. Construction of the wall began on
August 13, 1961.

Saxon officials have identified tensions between the Saxon NPD and the
national party, caused partly by the two groups' different age structure.
The NPD in the west is still an "elderly gentlemen's party," the officials
said, but about 80 percent of the Saxony NPD's new members in recent years
have been younger than 30. The party's youth organization, the Young
Nationals, disbanded last year in Saxony after having a falling-out with
the national organization over the membership of a foreigner in the
national youth organization. The officials assume that youth group members
are now joining forces with other right-wing extremist groups. Earlier
members, who switched to the NPD from neo-Nazi societies after some of
these were banned, are forming small groups again, called "comradeships."

The state Interior Ministry said the number of militant right-wing
extremists in skinhead cliques and "comradeships" had risen from 900 to
1,100 since 1998. Comments by the national NPD leader, Udo Voigt, in the
party newspaper "German Voice Extra," show that the party does not care
where it recruits its support. It is only important, he writes, that new
members "join ranks in our common fight for a better Germany."

In Saxony, party members have been trying to cope with the blows they
suffered at the polls in 1998 and 1999. With 22 local organizations and its
own publication, the "Saxony Voice," the state party led by Winfrid Petzold
felt well equipped for the election campaigns. Furthermore, party officials
went into the elections with a new strategy in which the organization
outwardly dissociated itself from violent activities and neo-Nazi marches.
But the strategy backfired at the polls.

During the national elections in 1998, the NPD gained 1.4 percent of the
party votes in Saxony, less than the other right-wing extremist parties,
the German People's Union and the Republikaner. It performed equally
dismally at the state election in the late summer of 1999, capturing just
1.4 percent of the vote -- far below the 5 percent it needed to enter the
state parliament.

But, at the local level, the party racked up some exceptional results in
1999. Right-wing extremists won seats on the municipal and local councils
in Sebnitz, Riesa, Meissen, Wurzen, Trebsen, Hirschfelde and Königstein.
The NPD did particularly well in eastern Saxony, gaining 6.2 percent of the
vote in Bad Schandau during the national elections and no less than 11.8
percent in the local elections in Königstein.

The state of Saxony is using a time-tested concept to combat right-wing
extremist violence and ideas. Together, police and officials in the state's
Office for the Protection of the Constitution are giving young people and
school teachers detailed information on right-wing groups and their symbols.

Where education and information fail, a special commission set up 1991 by
the Saxony police to deal with right-wing extremism is put to work. It
consists of about 35 officers from the State Office of Criminal
Investigation detailed to investigate right-wing extremist offenses. The
commission also operates with mobile task forces and investigative units in
three precincts. Front-end work for the special commission and task forces
cover meeting places for youths with violent tendencies. Officials also
conduct regular vehicle and alcohol checks of persons whom police have
identified as belonging to the right-wing scene. Practically no "skin"
concerts featuring racist and extremely nationalist performances are staged
publicly any more in Saxony, but come in the guise of private birthday
parties. Often, visitors are informed of the venue by mobile phone only
shortly before the concerts begin.

The Saxony Interior Ministry says the number of offenses by right-wing
extremists in the first half of this year dropped, compared to the same
period last year: A total of 621 such crimes were committed compared with
589 in the first half of 1999.

In the period under review, the number of violent offenses registered --
attacks on foreigners, people of color or the disabled, for example -- fell
from 46 to 30. The majority of offenses (71.2 percent) were committed by
children and adolescents, according to the ministry. A ministry spokesman
said that, in general, right-wing crime had declined steadily since 1994.

Still, there are no grounds for complaceny. The state government called on
citizens in the state to ostracize right-wing extremists "as if they gave
off a repulsive smell."


August 3
Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 2000

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