by Natascha Strobl and Julian Bruns
On April 14th, activists of the Identitäre Bewegung Österreich (Identitarian Movement Austria) entered the stage during a performance of Elfriede Jelinek’s play “Die Schutzbefohlenen” (The Wards) in the main hall of the University of Vienna. Some of the 30 persons showed a banner soaked in artificial blood that said: “Ihr Heuchler!” (You hypocrites!). Actors – among them refugees and children – were shocked. It was the intervention of some antifascist audience members that ended the disruption. This media-attracting act ranks among several incidents caused by New Right actors which have received increasing attention in the German and Austrian public. From the early 2000s on, the New Right established new specialized forms of media and institutions – and increasingly took to the streets. The Identitarians are the spearhead of this new strategic development. At first glance, this might look like a contradiction since the very definition of New Right is the one of a movement which has shifted from action to intellectual debate. But this is only one side of the story.
by Holger Marcks
When it comes to change in social environments, a parable of philosopher Charles Handy gets pulled out quickly. If you drop a frog in boiling water, it jumps out immediately; but placed in cold water slowly warming up, it acclimates itself and falls to sleep, unaware of being boiled alive. The parable reminds us of the perceptional relativity of change: Within communities creeping developments cause habituation, abrupt breaks an arousing shock. In terms of social movements this truism becomes apparent in a double way: On the one hand, erupting crises may destabilize social orders and create the necessary space for dissident actors to gain momentum – while they would fail to mobilize outside the scenario of an anxious community gasping for a new guarantor of order. On the other hand, the rise of a dissident actor with unconventional performances may work as a shock triggering withdrawal reflexes in the broader society – while dissidents with relative habitual sentiments can find resonance in communities disappointed by the ruling order.
Does this perspective offer a potential to explain the rise of far right movements in Europe? Let’s examine it by the example of Germany where, in the last two years, far right actors have experienced a remarkable gain in political acceptance – on the streets, in the booths and in the talk shows. In this case, it could be argued that their success in protest and electoral mobilizations as well as their disproportionate high presence in the media rests on communication politics that effect a normalization of far right positions previously disreputed in public discourse. Through this creeping habituation by society, they are able to gain momentum in situations of crisis, producing themselves successfully as a legitimate agent of the “anxious citizens” disappointed by the government. To test this little argument, a finger exercise in frame analysis seems to be proper, a tool common in social movement studies to explain why certain ideas in certain contexts are potent to mobilize audiences – and are not in others.
by Oliver Saal
Germany’s political culture currently faces a shift to the right as anti-immigrant violence and attacks on refugee camps are on the brink of becoming a daily routine. The populist party Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany) did achieve successes in every recent federal state election. Through their success politics gained a new political quality. Anti-immigrant groups such as PEGIDA in Dresden regularly mobilize hundreds and sometimes thousands of people. The increased number of refugees that came to Germany in 2015 is instrumentalized to fuel racism and to spread nationalist sentiments.
by Bernhard Weidinger
Since around 1990, the state of the Austrian far right has been characterized by the strength of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ – Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, more precisely translated as Freedomite Party of Austria) and the relative weakness of extra-parliamentarian far right activism. Far from a mere coincidence, these two features are to be understood as closely linked: the FPÖ’s electoral successes have brought far right causes and talking points unto the political center stage on a national level, given them ample media coverage and made street militancy increasingly pointless. Insofar, the Austrian far right spectrum could – at least until recently – be described as a photographic negative of the situation in Germany: successful party politics, weak bottom-up mobilizations and a comparatively low incidence of street violence. Currently, however, the long held hopes of German right-wingers for a party both in the mold, and strength, of the FPÖ are apparently being fulfilled by the emergence of the Alternative for Germany (AfD). Conversely, both legal and illegal street activism have been on the rise in Austria in recent years, particularly since the start of the asylum crisis in Europe. Numerous violent incidents were reported in 2015, including a minimum of 25 attacks on housing facilities for asylum seekers.