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International Socialism, Spring 1967


Brian Ebbatson

West Germany


From The Notebook, International Socialism (1st series), No.28, Spring 1967, pp.6-7.
Transcribed & marked up by Einde O’Callaghan for ETOL.


Brian Ebbatson writes: The National Democratic Party’s (NPD) November victories in the Hesse and Bavaria Land elections followed successes in local elections in Schleswig-Holstein and Bavaria in March; the NPD percentage of the total vote increased in Hesse to 7.94 (8 seats) and in Bavaria to 7.4 (15 seats). If this performance was maintained in a Federal election, the NPD would gain over SO seats in the Bundestag (Federal Parliament), sufficient to hold a possible balance between the Social Democrats (SPD) and the Christian Democrats (CDU/CSU).

The policies of the party indicate its position. They are against foreign policy dependence on Paris and Washington, thus against NATO and a national nuclear force. They want national reunification on the 1937 boundaries; foreign workers to leave Germany; support costs for occupation troops not to be paid; they are against aid to underdeveloped countries, the ‘sell-out of German industry to the USA,’ and the ‘decline of small and medium enterprises.’ They protest at ‘national degeneration’ expressed in increasing crime rates, modern art, beatniks and communistic tendencies in TV; membership is open to ‘all good Germans’ – anyone who ‘puts the interests of the fatherland above his own.’

The social content too is revealing. A survey by Der Spiegel showed that of the membership (now 22,500) and supporters, 46 per cent are independent businessmen and employees of middle and lower income, 55 per cent live in small and medium towns, 48 per cent in Bavaria and the two northern Länder, 28 per cent are refugees and expellees (who make up 23 per cent of the total population). Figures for youth differ. Der Spiegel gives 18 per cent between the ages of 16 and 29; other figures give 30 per cent (this age-group consists of 28 per cent of the population). Whichever is right all observers have commented on the numbers of under-30s apparent during the election campaigns. December saw the first student group set up in Tübingen.

The appeal (and response) is clear – to the traditional source of fascism in the lower middle classes and small businessmen, the worker who fears unemployment while the foreign worker with a long-term contract is kept on, youth and soldiers weaned on nationalism, who see their masters selling out to foreign interests. In the political background, three points are worth noting: first the long restoration of the old bourgeois order after the war and the building up of the economy on a Cold-war basis, inevitably leads to an increasingly nationalist political atmosphere. [1] The NPD is not alone in its appeal to nationalism – in the last Federal elections all the major parties stressed claims to the 1937 frontiers and called for a new ‘national consciousness’ – it is just more strident. Second, it pinpoints an education system that is blatantly biased against those who cannot pay for it, and that is permeated at all levels by reactionary teachers. Finally it must focus attention on the gradual creation of a State machine on the French-Spanish-Portuguese model, exemplified in the main in the wish of all parties in the Bundestag to push through the Emergency Laws. [2] In this latter sphere the threat to the German working class is greatest.

Germany is not facing economic collapse as in 1928, rather a levelling out of a prolonged boom. Yet the existence of a large , body of neo-Nazis with grass-roots support can only serve to push the whole political debate further to the right and strengthen the power of reactionaries over the economic and political life of the country. These men are the real danger because they are already entrenched in powerful positions in the economic and political life of West German society. Fortunately there is an opposition – coming from the working-class movement and from students and youth who are not taken in by appeals to love of the fatherland. While the SPD leadership’s response is to try and outbid the NPD and form a ‘strong national government’ the DGB (the German TUC) and its member unions have other ideas. 20,000 trade unionists turned up to demonstrate against the NPD at its annual conference at Karlsruhe in July; and students fought the NPD in the streets in Munich in November. With the SPD compromised, this is where the opposition to reactionary tendencies in West Germany can build itself. It has relied for too long on Der Spiegel.



1. See J.-M. Vincent in Socialist Register 1964; and D. Childs in Contemporary Review, September 1966.

2. See The West German Emergency Laws, IS 22, autumn 1965.

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