Friday, September 24, 2021
How “far” is “far right”?
This weekend there are the main federal elections in Germany, which will determine who the next chancellor after Angela Merkel will be. Unlike the one-party system of China, or the two-party system of the USA, German voters get a choice between many different parties, from the far right to the far left, everything in between, and a couple of kooky ones, like the Pirate Party. And The Atlantic has an article about the main far right party, Alternative für Deutschland.
Now, while I don’t live in Germany anymore, I am still a German national, and I still vote (by mail, obviously). And while I did vote center left, I would like to correct some views that foreigners might have about a German “far right” party.
Politics in Germany now, and for the past decades, have been very centrist compared to most of the rest of the world. The current government is a coalition of the main center right and the main center left party. “Far” right in this context means a party that is against immigration, doesn’t like muslims very much, and is sceptical of the European Union. In other words, they are pretty much indistinguishable from main stream politicians in other countries, like Donald Trump, or Boris Johnson. Of course, given the Nazi history of Germany, people worry a lot more about such politics in Germany than elsewhere. But still, this is “far” right only on a relative scale, or on a scale designed by woke media.
Which brings us to Voltaire, and the quote often mis-attributed to him of “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Which is pretty much the exact opposite of the current cancel culture. I am very much pro-immigration, being basically an immigrant myself. But I do believe that in a multi-party system, a party that is against immigration should exist. Multi-culturalism is something to work towards, it doesn’t come to everybody naturally.
Alternative für Deutschland is named as a counter-argument to something Merkel once said, that there is no alternative to her policy. And as much as I prefer Merkel’s policy in this case, I am pretty certain that I don’t want to live in a political system without alternative. What we need is political dialogue and open discussion, not demagogy. Even policy that is morally right needs explanation and persuasion. Because if we don’t do that, we end up with a political system in which there is no center between the “far” right and the “far” left, and no possible compromise.