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Saxony-Anhalt: hub of right-wing extremist networking


The year 2022 in Saxony-Anhalt was characterized by high dynamics in the spectrum of the extreme right. Without a doubt, the AfD acted as the dominant parliamentary and extra-parliamentary actor.

Saxony-Anhalt's "New Right

The state has long been a hub for the nationwide networking of the extreme right in Germany. In terms of ideology and organization, the milieu around the "Verlag Antaios" publishing house based in the Saale district and the "Institut für Staatspolitik" (Institute for State Policy, IfS) is a central driving force for the strategic orientation and formation of far-right structures, including and especially in the AfD environment. This also became clear in the year that was coming to an end. For example, the conferences and summer party of the "Institute for State Policy" in Schnellroda contributed to the AfD's development of theory and strategy (not only) in Saxony-Anhalt. They are primarily aimed at young academics in the AfD's environment, but also involve party officials and elected representatives. In 2022, for example, the topic of geopolitics was discussed in early September in light of Russia's war against Ukraine.

However, the multimedia activities of the right-wing intellectual network in Schnellroda are likely to have a greater reach than the IfS academies. Via vlog and podcast formats, the milieu is thematically, but also lifeworld-habitually bound and supplied with right-wing content. And the institute's summer party in July was aimed at binding the readers of Antaios Verlag and sympathizers, both in terms of acquiring customers and making new political contacts. The work of the IfS in recent years has played a significant role in making the AfD politically speakable and normalizing it.

Another segment of the extreme right, which nevertheless correlates with the one described above, is represented by the former AfD parliamentary group leader in the state parliament of Saxony-Anhalt, Andre Poggenburg, and his entourage. In cooperation with the right-wing monthly magazine "Compact" and the extreme right-wing regional party "Free Saxony," Poggenburg sought to give the starting signal for a "hot autumn" of protest longed for by the milieu at the beginning of August 2022 by inviting people to a party at his estate in Stößen in the Burgenland district, which was also attended by representatives of the lateral thinking milieu. The summer party in Stößen clearly served to prepare and mobilize for a right-wing demonstration in Leipzig in September, which was intended as a prelude to a new cycle of protests.

The role of the AfD

However, it was and is primarily the AfD in Saxony-Anhalt that is attempting to use the protests that are forming for its political purposes against the backdrop of the crisis situation in society as a whole. Thus, the party endeavored at an early stage to take up the issue of Corona and the associated political contradictions and to profit from them. In the summer of 2021, its actions in this regard had no real social resonance. This changed in the second phase of the Corona protests, starting in late fall 2021. In the regions of Saxony-Anhalt, the AfD had a presence within these protests, sometimes offensively, sometimes defensively. In some places (e.g., Bitterfeld, Querfurt), it officially appeared as the applicant and organizer of the protests.

Corona Protests and "Hot Autumn

At the turn of the year 2021/2022, there was a massive increase in both the number of thematic rallies and other forms of public gatherings, such as vigils and self-declared walks, and in the number of people taking part. Exact numbers cannot be given for the entire period because public demonstrations took place in too many places on too many days. At the end of July 2022, publications by the Ministry of Interior cited the number of well over 2,000 public actions by Corona deniers* within a year from May 2021 to June 2022. Many of these demonstrations were publicly advertised on social networks, but in many cases were not registered as a gathering on the ground. In addition to various conspiracy ideologues, all spectrums of the extreme right of AfD, NPD, Reichsbürger and völkisch neo-Nazis were represented. A distancing of the "bourgeois" demonstrators from openly appearing right-wing extremists was not observed.

After the end of the pandemic-related restrictions for the most part, protest activity initially decreased again in the second quarter. However, the Russian war against Ukraine temporarily gave social protests in Saxony-Anhalt new momentum. In the late summer of 2022, mobilization peaked in the wake of the debate over a gas price cap, with over 12,000 participants* in around 40 locations. The hotspots of the protest were the urban centers of Halle and Magdeburg. But there were also weekly rallies and demonstrations in cities like Aschersleben, Querfurt, Halberstadt and Salzwedel. As the fall progressed, however, it became apparent that the expectations of extreme right-wing milieus regarding the ability to mobilize around the complex of issues of energy costs, inflation and war were not fulfilled for the time being. The number of rallies and their participants in Saxony-Anhalt declined significantly and steadily after the beginning of September.

Against the backdrop of the Russian war against Ukraine, the protests were essentially supported by the same milieu that had already provided the political and organizational impetus for the Corona protests. This includes sovereignty-oriented ideologues of the "Reichsbürger", neo-Nazis, lateral thinkers and esotericists. In terms of content, the most recent protests continued to focus on conspiracy-ideological crisis narratives, this time in connection with the complex of issues of energy costs, inflation and war.

Central demands of the AfD and the extreme right were the opening of Nord Stream 2 and the lifting of sanctions against Russia. Open sympathy for Russia was also expressed, especially by representatives of the AfD. For example, AfD member of the state parliament Hans-Thomas Tillschneider announced that "our enemies are not in Moscow, but in Magdeburg and Berlin". The affinity to Russia was also shown by a trip of Hans-Thomas Tillschneider and Daniel Wald, both members of the state parliament in Saxony-Anhalt, together with members of the state parliament of the AfD from North Rhine-Westphalia to the Russian-occupied territories of Ukraine and Russia, respectively, which made headlines nationwide. The AfD representatives justified their trip by saying that they wanted to get their own picture of the situation. While the North Rhine-Westphalian members of the state parliament were sanctioned, the trip had no consequences for the AfD members from Saxony-Anhalt.

Overall, the rhetoric and argumentation of the AfD in Saxony-Anhalt came to a head in the context of the war against Ukraine. However, this reflects the openly right-wing extremist orientation that has been a consensus in the party's state association for years and thus does not represent a new stage of radicalization.

The blog post was also published at the end of September on Belltower.News, the online platform of the Amadeu Antonio Foundation.