Recently, the German government moved to place the AFD, or the Alternativ Fur Deutschland Party under surveillance. While a German court has temporarily blocked the move, it could very well go forward. If it does it would constitute the first time that the German government has moved to monitor a party since the end of the Cold War. The government’s decision is only the latest event in a trend of increasing political polarization within Germany and across Europe as a whole.
The AFD is a far right-wing German party which was founded in 2013. The party grew amid the European Migrant crisis of 2015 with calls for German nationalism and restrictions on immigration. In 2017 it became the third-largest party in the German parliament with 94 seats. In the past year its support has waned slightly while its extremism has only increased. Last year, supporters of the party attempted to storm the German parliament. The party has called for a return of conscription, has criticized the construction of holocaust memorials on German government property, and has maintained a skeptical view on climate change. The party is generally friendly towards Russia, opposing sanctions put in place by the EU and the US, and supports Israeli interests. There are two wings of the AFD, and German officials state that the radical wing led by Bjorne Hocke has only gained power over the past several years to the point where it has gained control over the party. In reaction to the increase in radicalism the German government last year listed 8,600 members of the AFD as individuals suspected of far-right extremism. It will add another 24,000 names to that list as a result of its decision.
While the AFD poses a threat to political stability and even the preservation of democracy within Germany, the German government should be careful in policing its citizens. Certainly, those members of the AFD suspected of breaking the nation’s laws should be prosecuted, but whether attention should be extended to all members of a currently legal party is I think a question without a conclusive answer. A government should not need to resort to surveillance to convince its population not to support extreme parties. Direct legal action against opponents is, if anything, an admission of failure on the part of the CDU. What’s more, the use of such action against an entire party might only further radicalize its members, and thus accomplish the opposite of what was intended. German authorities should remember that once Adolf Hitler was an agent of the German government sent to monitor radical parties.