Dhe dissatisfied people are loud again. Thousands of them take to the streets, especially in eastern Germany, march with Pied Pipers from the far right edge and shout “We are the people”. As if they were the mouthpiece of all Germans and now on the street to express a nation’s displeasure; in the tradition of the Monday demonstrations and the peaceful revolution. That’s nonsense – and one that we now know only too well.
In 2014, it was the hooligans against Salafists who called for demonstrations and believed that Islamism as the enemy would bring them sympathy. In the same year, the “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West” appeared on the streets. A year later there were demos in front of refugee shelters, including in Freital and Heidenau. Then came the protests against the Corona measures. Now there are demonstrations against energy and Russia policies. And the right-wing extremists are always looking for solidarity with frustrated middle-class people.
The transfiguration at all these demos always works according to the same motto: the people rebel against the politicians, against the establishment, which is driving Germany into ruin and leaving the country to the refugees, Islamists or anyone else and is also filling their pockets in the process . In this way, the frustrated are lured outside the doors, groaning under the mask, the high energy costs or the refugee home next door. There are no solutions, but there is the opportunity to raise your fist towards Berlin with like-minded people – and to get attention.
The Limits of the Sayable
Pegida is the best example of this. From time to time, the whole country looked at the demonstrators in Dresden and asked week after week what was actually going on, how it was possible that right-wing extremists were working together with normal grandmothers. Pegida stood for the division of the country, and the great concern was that soon all those who would rather remain sitting on the sofa with their fears and needs would take to the streets.
In hindsight, the attention Pegida received is absurd. The allegedly dissatisfied people did not rise up, they did not march on Berlin. Even in Dresden, Pegida remained a relatively small group. More than 25,000 participants were simply not in the fight against the decline of the West. More people are drawn to the Leipzig football stadium at the weekend.
So no revolution emanated from Dresden, not even a little revolution. And it wasn’t based on the hooligans, the anti-refugee protests or the Corona demonstrations. It wasn’t the people who demonstrated there, but a small radical minority who hoped that at some point not only the limits of what could be said would shift, but also those of what could be done.
This is exactly what is happening again. In view of the current demonstrations in East Germany, Thuringia’s Prime Minister Bodo Ramelow speaks of a new Pegida, a new publicly visible fascist movement in which the entire spectrum of right-wing extremists has gathered and is trying to exploit people’s fears as an instrument. The movement may seem new, but the actors are the old ones. This time, too, they will not succeed in gaining a foothold in the bourgeois milieu. Just as Pegida ran into insignificance, this protest movement as a publicly visible group will sooner or later end itself. After all, only a limited number are willing to join forces with extremists.
The arson attack on a planned refugee accommodation in Bautzen and the alleged arson in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania show in which direction things are currently going. Encouraged by the protests, such crimes will probably increase, just as it did in 2015/16, when refugee accommodations all over Germany went up in flames, there were around a hundred in 2015. Anyone who previously shouted his hatred out on the street with thousands of like-minded people did can also convince himself that he is throwing the Molotov cocktail on behalf of these thousands.
Therefore, it would be a mistake to infer the danger from the visibility of the protests. The fact that the movement will sooner or later become meaningless does not mean that the problem will go away. On the contrary: the probability is increasing that individuals or small groups will become more radicalized – especially since they live under the delusion of acting for the people, who are only oppressed by those up there. When demos turn into terror, it’s not about a new Pegida, it’s about a new NSU.