Pegida, fear of the future ” “And Germany reacts

The populist, anti-Islamic movement founded in Dresden has a certain amount of backing. But the stability of the Federal Republic of Germany seems to prevail

The uninterrupted crisis has triggered the creation of populist movements and parties created in different forms in several Countries, with a certain degree of success. They equally come from the left and to the right wings, they oppose political establishment, they are against the EU and immigrants alike. Regardless of whether they identify themselves in left or right- wing ideologies, they carry out their battles jointly on different fronts, such as the battle against the euro and against Angela Merkel, but in favour of Vladimir Putin. In the meantime, this wave reached all the way to Germany. It’s called “Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West” (Patriotische Europäer gegen die Islamisierung des Abendlandes, which Pegida stands for), a movement which since past October has attracted a great deal of attention through a set of demonstrations in Dresden. At the peak of its success it managed to involve up to 25 thousand people in Monday “walks” across the city. With the battle cry “We are the people!” Pegida intended to establish a link with the civil rights movement, whose motto in 1989 had caused the collapse of the Communist regime in Eastern Germany. However, it’s a usurpation, as the spirit of the Pegida movement since the beginning presented itself as opposed to the liberal, democratic insurrection that had animated the civil rights movement of 1989. On the contrary, the watchwords of Pegida supporters are motivated by resentment. They are anti-democratic, anti-Liberal and xenophobic. They encompass refusal of loving others and showing solidarity. In short, it’s an anti-European, intolerant event, as experienced in other Countries. Who are the organizers, the supporters and the followers of this movement? Among them figure many “ordinary citizens”, and good people, who wish to convey their concerns. They interpret the changes as impositions and cultivate a fear of the future. Owing to their limited political background they fail to understand some of the processes affecting politics and society. They feel rejected by “politics” and excluded by decision-makers, in the belief that nobody wants to listen to them. This group of frustrated, anxious followers, are joined by supporters who identify themselves in the nationalistic, extreme right, which has set the tone of the movement’s slogans. None of the parties in Parliament supports Dresden’s initiative, nor do they show a mere interest to undertake a dialogue with their spokespersons. On the contrary, with differing degrees of intensity, the movement is countered by all major parties. It is rejected by the population at large, which signals the ample democratic consensus as well as the political stability of the Federal Republic. Only “Alternative for Germany” (AFD), a young party, for the moment represented only at the European Parliament and in some länder Councils, made known, through some of its leaders that there is a commonality of thought with the movement. Founded as a form of protest against the euro bailout politics, AFD rapidly became the political party that most represented euro-sceptic, anti-European forces of right-wing conservatives and nationalistic forces, as well as all those critical of the present system. However, its programmatic position is not yet defined. As of today, it is still lacking a programme shared by the various wings of the party and endorsed by its members. It has been tabled for planning during the year. Nor it is to be excluded that AFD, which according to surveys enjoys a 6% popular support, could use this movement ahead of the next national elections. Apart from the general political opposition, the PEGIDA’s xenophobic propaganda has caused widespread resentment and hostility across civil society. Also their self-definition as “European patriots”, perceived as arrogant and aggressive, has been reason for harsh condemnations. The fact that during the demonstrations a large black-red-golden cross was brought as a sign of Christian, national motivation, triggered strong indignation. The alleged “Islamization of the West”, which does not correspond to reality, certainly contributed to the perception of Pegida’s claims as rant talk. The mobilization of civil society forces, notably Churches and religious communities, was promptly heard. Cardinal Marx, president of the German Bishops’ Conference, immediately voiced a condemnation of Pegida. In the meantime, the movement’s virulence waned. In January the radical and the moderate fringes of the party broke up. The number of participants in Dresden’s demonstrations sharply decreased. Other cities, Leipzing and Düsseldorf, have followed its wake. Moverover – in terms of the number of participants – they have not been as effective as Dresden’s model. Their “walks” were systematically accompanied by the demonstrations of Pegida’s opponents, often attended by larger numbers of participants. The future of this populist movement in Germany, along with corresponding phenomena registered in other EU countries, will depend on the future course of the crisis, whose promising signs perceived already this spring are harbingers of hope.

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