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ANALYSIS: Should Germany be worried about the far-right 'Identity Movement'?

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ANALYSIS: Should Germany be worried about the far-right 'Identity Movement'?
Supporters of the Identity Movement in Berlin's Brunnenstraße in June 2017. Photo: DPA
15:02 CET+01:00
Officially under surveillance by German intelligence, this far-right group has been seen protesting throughout Germany, including at liberal media outlets last week. But just what do they stand for?

Last Monday, attention was drawn towards a group of young men from the Identity Movement (‘Identitäre Bewegung’) who assaulted a taz newspaper employee in Berlin, who confronted them as they posted flyers outside their premises. 

SEE ALSO: German newspaper employee attacked Monday by far-right group

They also carried out other activities at other media and political sites throughout Germany in the hours that followed. This has raised a numbers of questions about the movement and their beliefs. Here, we attempt to answer a number of these. 

Who are the Identitäre Bewegung?

The ‘Identitäre Bewegung’ is the German branch of the pan-European Identitarian movement. Originating in France with ‘Generation Identitaire’, the movement takes its leads from a number of ‘New Right’ thinkers such as Alain de Benoist, who reject the progressive changes that have occurred throughout Europe over the past twenty years. Instead, they advocate a range of nativist and traditionalist ideas. 

The IB in Germany are particularly influenced by the 2013 text ‘Generation Identity’, written by Markus Willinger, an Austrian activist now studying in Stuttgart, and consider it their manifesto. 

What do you mean by ‘nativist’ and ‘traditionalist’?

The IB and their sister movements like to concern themselves with the idea of a specific national heritage and way of life under threat from a variety of ‘ills’, unleashed by the ‘baby boomer’ generation. 

Their big bugbear is unchecked migration, particularly of the Islamic variety, though they also rail against what they deem ‘cultural marxism’ - the degeneration of society perpetrated by academics and other ‘establishment’ figures. 

Does that mean the Identitäre Bewegung are right-wing? 

Undoubtedly, although the IB will bend over backwards to disassociate themselves from Germany’s Nazi past, and indeed, many other Far Right German groups. 

They describe themselves as a ‘non-violent movement’ that seeks to use public ‘actions’ to spread their message - most memorably draping a banner condemning Islam from the Brandenburger Tor. 

That said, many anti-racism groups and watchdogs have described the IB as having disturbing parallels to fascist groups across Europe - even the Nazis themselves. 

Their rhetoric certainly does echo some aspects of National Socialism’s ‘Blut and Boden’ - the idea that certain peoples are essentially and eternally linked to ancestral homelands, and that this is central to the functioning of society. 

It also treats ‘Western’ or ‘European’ civilization as inherently superior to others, and sees it as under constant attack by both outsiders and elements within - a pillar of National Socialist belief. 

Their rhetoric of ‘street patrols’, ostensibly to prevent violence from ‘Muslims’ or ‘the Left’ echoes the Sturmabteilung, or ‘stormtroopers’, of the twenties and thirties, that the Nazis used to intimidate their opponents, albeit on a far smaller scale.

Finally, their simple and stark iconography - the Spartan ‘Lambda’, yellow on black - used on flags, t-shirts, stickers, badges and other materials seems a deliberate throwback to many, towards the totalitarian symbolism of the 20th century.

Are they a large movement?

Not really, there are groups in most German cities, but they usually consist of a small circle of activists - 20 or 30 odd - and the IB are far outnumbered by other Far Right groups. The difference is, the Identitare Bewegung are much savvier when it comes to the online world, and have a sophisticated network of websites, Discords and other platforms to communicate with one another.

What does the government think? 

They are already under surveillance by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution (BfV), and several state police forces have investigations related to their activities. Needless to say, a very close eye is being kept on them.

Should Germany be worried? 

Alert, but not alarmed. While the Constitution does grant them their due freedom of expression, they are closely monitored and scrutinized, and their ‘actions’ are more meant as provocation than anything else. More than other groups, a degree of skepticism and a sense of humour helps when coming across them. 

Mike Stuchbery writes about the Far Right in both the United Kingdom and across Europe and works with several groups monitoring their spread and influence in a voluntary advisory role. 


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Arman Flint - 22 Jan 2019 18:29
Somebody has to protect Germany from Muslims and Merkel.
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