ExtremismWho is Germany's 'New Right'?

By Ben Knight

Published 28 June 2021

For the first time ever, the Bundesverfassungsschutz (BfV), Germany’s domestic intelligence agency, included a section on the “New Right” in its annual catalog of political extremists in Germany. The BfV said that the tag refers to an “informal network” of individuals and organizations which don’t openly organize or call for violent attacks, but rather focus on nurturing a far-right “cultural revolution” which threatens the German constitution and democratic institutions. The BfV says that the New Right movement promotes racist, xenophobic, and anti-democratic ideologies by subtle and slick professional means.

A short subchapter in the domestic intelligence agency’s latest report suggests a new sensibility is beginning to penetrate the German security forces. 

For the first time ever, the Bundesverfassungsschutz (BfV) included a section on the “New Right” in its annual catalog of political extremists in the country. This tag has come to denote, the BfV said, an “informal network” of individuals and organizations that don’t organize violent attacks but feed a right-wing “cultural revolution” that threatens the German constitution.

The term New Right is anything but new: First coined in France to describe a countermovement to the left-wing student demonstrations of the 1960s, today it has become a current on the right-wing spectrum that seeks to bridge the gap between far-right extremism and democratic legitimacy.

Subtle and Strategic
The New Right is defined by its subtlety, according to the BfV. “Right-wing extremist associations are not always obvious,” said the report, published in mid-June. “But they often make themselves known through violations of the principles of human dignity, the rule of law and democracy in various expressions.”

Axel Salheiser, director of research into right-wing extremism at the Institute for Democracy and Civil Society (IDZ), welcomed the new inclusion in the report. “These were certainly blind spots of the Verfassungsschutz up until now,” he told DW. “We’re talking about a gray area or a continuum between the bourgeois center and hard-right extremist margins, and this shows that the categories relevant for state protection are being reexamined.” 

According to Salheiser, the New Right is characterized by its conscious strategy of presenting itself as middle class, patriotic and conservative while at the same time pushing what he calls “radical anti-democratic, ethnic-racist and anti-liberal positions.”

Prominent among these is the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, which holds that a powerful, hidden Western elite (often coded as Jewish) is trying to displace ethnic white people by mass immigration from Africa and the Middle East. 

But which organizations did the BfV put in its new subsection, and what do they stand for? None of them have been banned or even put under secret surveillance, but all of them are described as “suspicious cases” by the BfV. Only one, the Identitarian Movement, was mentioned in previous BfV reports.

Identitarian Movement Germany (IBD)
The Identitarian Movement is a Europe-wide right-wing organization that made a name for itself less than a decade ago with public stunts such as flash mobs, specifically aimed at mobilizing young people.