In this week’s readings, especially those centred around Germany, key points came in direct conflict with the conceptions we may have made in regards to populism throughout the course. As we’ve discussed to great lengths, populism and fascism were closely tied to racist or pro-national ideology. However, Mamonova et al. and Molnar’s articles provide us with two different perspectives that somewhat come to clash with these notions.
In their focus on East Germans, Mamonova et al. explore the growth of far-right movements in the part of the country which was formerly communist. Rather than based on racial motives, however, we see that these movements are primarily based on discontent with the socioeconomic situation of East Germans, who felt themselves as “second-class citizens” (Mamonova 1504.) Further supported by the lack of anti-Muslim sentiment in the protests that took place in Dresden (Ibid 1504), we can suppose that the rise of far-right is not especially tied to their racist discourse. This comes to throw a first wrench in the cogs of our understanding of racism as a key component of populism and authoritarianism.
This is further complicated through Molnar’s exploration of the general sentiment in Germany at the time. In fact, it would suggest that anti-Muslim sentiments were more present in the general public and in government, as one could gather from the support towards Helmut Kohl’s plan to pay Turks to leave the country (Molnar 497). The growth of anti-Muslim sentiment, especially supported by the Chancellor of the CDU, becomes hard to pin as exclusive to populist or authoritarian far-right ideals. Rather, our understanding of the ties between far-right movements and racism needs to be reconsidered, perhaps especially due to the uncertainties present at the time.
2 Replies to “Perceptions of the far-right and racism”
I think that your post raises some really interesting points. I personally agree that both Molnar and Mamonova complicate our understandings of the relationship between Fascism/Far-Right Populism and racism, namely as you pointed out by highlighting the socioeconomic underpinnings. The socioeconomic dynamic, I feel, highlights how racist discourse, much like populist and authoritarian discourse, is multifaceted and ever-evolving. I think that pointing out the fluid nature of racist discourses, meaning that, as you noted, it cannot be pinned to either populism or authoritarian narratives is incredibly important, as it reinforces the ‘thin’-descriptions of these ideologies.
The Mamonova/Franquesa/Brooks article is definitely useful for showing the impact of socioeconomic conditions. While it does complicate Molnar’s article, I found that it really compliments it rather than contradicting it. Poor socioeconomic conditions are one of if not the main reason for islamophobic sentiments. This is highlighted by Germans’ focus on “economic refugees/migrants” who supposedly weren’t legitimate but were just looking for work – the whole “they’re taking our jobs!!!1!” sentiment. This could explain why the general population and government played into that paranoia despite not necessarily being far-right. The far-right can also not spread very far through explicitly racist beliefs, so the economic argument helped them but also muddied the waters.