Anti-racist campaigners in Germany have pushed the Islamophobic Pegida movement into crisis. Five of Pegida’s leading members resigned in the past week, saying that they were worried the organisation was being taken over by fascists.
They plan to set up a splinter organisation called the Movement for Direct Democracy in Europe. Pegida had a meteoric rise over the past few months with demonstrations for “European” values.
It first appeared as a street movement that organised demonstrations blaming refugees—and specifically Muslims—for Germany’s social and economic problems.
But outside of the eastern city Dresden, anti-racist counter protests consistently outnumbered it.
Phil Butland is a socialist who lives in Berlin. He told Socialist Worker, “With the exception of Dresden and maybe Leipzig, counter-mobilisations meant that those locals who had been to the early demontrations stopped going, leaving a Nazi core.”
Pegida was forced to cancel more and more of its protests. Its current crisis began when its first leader was forced to resign. He was pictured on his Facebook page posing as Adolf Hitler.
The others on the leadership committee claim they hadn’t realised his far right beliefs.
But even inside the organisation many accepted that its sister organisation in Leipzig, Legida, was a far right grouping. And Leipzig was the one place outside their stronghold in Dresden where they believe that they have real grassroots support.
Yet 30,000 anti-fascists countered their 5,000-strong demonstration. Each subsequent Pegida march has been smaller, while the anti-fascist protests have grown.
Dirk Stegemann from the anti-Nazi VVN group said, “Pegida emerged as a symptom of bad developments in wider current policies.
“Neither racism nor social chauvinism will disappear if Pegida and its offshoots disappear. But in any case we shouldn’t be too hasty to predict their disappearance.”
He added, “On top of this, the question remains as to whether playing down the Pegida problem has not already caused a shift to the right. The fact that right wing and racist attacks have doubled speaks for itself.”
Phil said, “It’s too early to tell if Pegida is finished as an organisation, but the ground on which it grows is still fertile.
“The right had two marches planned for Monday evening, the main Pegida one and a parallel demo in Marzahn, east Berlin, against a local refugee centre.
“The organisers have announced that the Marzahn march is off, presumably so they can gather together on the main demonstration.
“This is a sign of their weakness, not their strength.”