Volkmar Wolk, right-wing extremism expert and book author, explains who is allowed to speak on the AfD ticket in the Burgerschaft.
Here there is a problematic AfD podium and counter-protest on Thursday evening: Bremen Parliament Photo: dpa
site: Mr. Wolk, you have been keeping an eye on the new right and neo-fascist scene for years and know the structures of the neo-Nazi scene in Saxony. Who is Benedikt Kaiser, the AfD’s panelist in the Bremen parliament?
Volkmar Wolk: Benedikt Kaiser comes from the extreme right and is still active there today. First, he was in the regional comradeship scene, then in the so-called "Free Network," an association of neo-Nazi structures primarily in Saxony, Thuringia and Franconia. Kaiser’s close contacts with leading representatives of the Chemnitz branch of the "Free Network," later known as the "National Socialists of Chemnitz," are well known.
What kind of associations are these?
They were highly dangerous, militant structures. It was not without reason that the National Socialists Chemnitz were banned by the Saxon Minister of the Interior in 2014. For years, this was the most important regional association of neo-Nazis; it also had considerable influence within the NPD of Saxony. It is precisely the group in Chemnitz, in whose immediate environment Kaiser moved, that shows that despite all the name changes, there was continuity in the scene in terms of personnel, which ensured stability.
What do you think could be the AfD’s motivation for inviting Kaiser?
One big advantage in this country up to now has been that we have the dumbest extreme right in all of Europe. Kaiser and his entourage are working hard to change that. The solution he is seeking for the extreme right to break away from neoliberalism could indeed lead to a renewed push for the extreme right, especially the AfD, at least in eastern Germany. That is, if the party survives the confrontations that this attempt would inevitably entail. However, since Kaiser and his entourage have learned to think strategically, they know that such a plan can only be realized in the medium term. But: nothing the extreme right needs more than fresh ideas. Kaiser is now one of the most important suppliers of this rare commodity.
Volkmar Wolk, 65, is a book author and right-wing extremism expert. Wolk monitors the right-wing scene in Saxony and was a research associate with the Left Party from 2001 to 2018. In a few days, his translation of Zeev Sternhell’s book "Fascist Ideology: An Introduction" will be published.
Are you surprised that the AfD is inviting him, of all people, to the Burgerschaft?
No, it’s not surprising and rather consistent. The Bremen state association is considered a clear right-winger in the AfD. Its ties to the Identitarians are close and notorious – despite corresponding incompatibility resolutions. On the topic of "One Year of the AfD in the Bundestag," he will take on the role of sympathetic critic, pointing out the areas in which the AfD still needs to raise its profile and where there are deficits in terms of content. I expect him to advocate Bjorn Hocke’s line of "social patriotism" there. And it is precisely the strengthening of this course that the Bremen state association of the AfD intends to do.
It is said that Kaiser also has connections to the NSU. Is that true?
Of course, it cannot be proven that Kaiser knew about the NSU before it disclosed itself. But it can be stated that important persons of the "Free Network" such as Ralf Wohlleben, Thomas Gerlach and others were involved in the NSU’s activities or had clear connections to its support scene. Eric Frohlich also moved in this environment. In 2013, Kaiser co-authored the book "Phenomenon of Island Fascism," which portrayed the corresponding movements in Ireland and Great Britain from 1918 to 1945.
The volume was published by Regin Verlag. What kind of publishing house is that?
It emerged in the environment of the new-right association "European Synergies" around the Belgian theorist Robert Steuckers, oriented ideologically to the Eurofascist and identitarian works of the French ideologist Guillaume Faye. Kaiser’s second book publication in this publishing house, which was based on his thesis at the Chemnitz University of Technology and dealt with the fascist writer Pierre Drieu La Rochelle, also aims in this direction. The publishing house also published the magazine "Hagal," for years one of the most important publication organs of the New Right in Germany.
Where is Benedikt Kaiser politically active today?
Kaiser can now unquestionably be described as one of the more important younger theoreticians of the New Right in Germany. And he sits at interfaces of this scene. He works as an editor for Gotz Kubitschek’s Antaios-Velrag, writes for the latter’s magazine "Sezession," and has close ties to Philip Stein, the head of the neo-Right lobby group "Ein Prozent," and his Jungeuropa publishing house. His focus is on right-wing ideas about Europe and, above all, on linking the "national question" with the social question. The latter under intensive reception of both the theorists of the European Conservative Revolution and the French Nouvelle Droite. His unique selling point in the scene is especially that he intensively receives the leftist literature on his topic and examines it for ideological building blocks that are useful to him.
The AfD podium ("One year AfD in the Bundestag – one year populist opposition in the Bundestag?") with Benedikt Kaiser, Werner Patzelt and Marc Jongen is scheduled to take place at 6 p.m. in the Bremen Burgerschaft. A counter-demo directly in front of the Burgerschaft has already been registered.