Right-wing authoritarians follow the simple concept: power is achieved through cultural hegemony. That’s what they want at the Leipzig Book Fair.
Talking to right-wingers? The need to find an answer to the question is great Photo: imago/Michael Schick
The concept that right-wing authoritarian actors and new-right publishers follow is loosely based on the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci: You gain political power through cultural hegemony. Every shift in discourse is therefore a small victory.
When the right-wing conservative writer Uwe Tellkamp now earns much applause at a discussion in Dresden with his dark vision of a repression machine, and a volkisch actor like the publisher and networker Gotz Kubitschek collects loud applause when he calls for the rift through society to become even deeper, then new-right ideologues have already covered a good distance in the battle for cultural hegemony.
What neo-Rightists want at the book fair is therefore no mystery. It is not about a pluralistic debate. Democracy takes place elsewhere. A dialogue with them therefore benefits neither democracy nor pluralism. As a cipher for tolerance, liberality and universalism, pluralism is precisely their enemy. Talk to such right-wingers? No. Should we talk about them instead?
At the Frankfurt Book Fair, there was clearly no strategy, at least not an effective one. But the need to find an answer to the question of how to deal with right-wing populists and the New Right is great. The question points beyond the book fair. Talking about these right-wingers. Yes, but please in moderation.
Continuity of the movement
The New Right discourse shift in the united republic is old. In the 1990s, a network in the media and politics had already tried its hand at restoring the national. The situation seemed favorable. Ideological references that one finds today on the volkisch right were all already there, whether in Carl Schmitt, Armin Mohler or Alain de Benoist. In think tanks like Kubitschek’s IfS, moreover, one can read a continuity of the movement. But 25 years ago, none of this really took off. Now it does.
New rightists and old nationalists, whether from Kubitschek’s Schnellroda or from another volkisch undergrowth, have now found a point of contact. There are many different explanations for what is happening to our society. One moves in a corridor between fear of decline and excessive demands, defensive reflexes against a very large number of refugees perceived as a threat, the search for identity as a result of singularization, and the sociocultural process of alienation between transnational elites and citizens who are disconnected in the national context.
Ignoring right-wing provocateurs or letting them roll off one’s back as best as possible means, on the other hand, engaging in conversation with those for whom the nationalist discourse expresses something right. It also means asking disliked and disgusted questions yourself. It should not be too much of a treasure hunt to find the appropriate topics. At the moment, there is a lot of demand to endure the differences and to engage in dialogue. Yes, we need this dialogue – and much more painfully than before.