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Dietrich Thränhardt

The Political Uses of Xenophobia in England, France, and Germany

If you talk and behave as though black men were some kind of virus that must be kept out of the body politic, then it is the shabbiest hypocrisy to preach racial harmony at the same time. 1

1. Preliminary Remarks

In this article, I want to look into the relationship between the political process and

the origins of extremist political tendencies. Why are racist, xenophobic, and fascist tenden-

cies successful at a given time, and nearly dead at another? Why do some extremist parties

which are hardly organized and not too attractive, suddenly get so many votes? Why do

youth gangs strike out against minorities in the early nineties? And why is it that in other

times they become unimportant in a sudden?

Scientific explanations of the new racism have been highly diverse and often con-

tradictory. Social deficits and discrimination have been explained by lack of state inter-

vention on the one hand and by too much state intervention, leading to a culture of depen-

dency, on the other. Racism has been explained in the Adorno tradition as part of the

authoritarian character, particularly in a type of capitalism with strong remnants of pre-

capitalist traditions. Contrary to this, however, some recent explanations focussing on the

loosening of all bonds, rising individualism, and subjectivism have become popular. "Pro-

cesses of desintegration

the causes of two interactive developments: on the one hand

they are a central cause of xenophobic orientations and ways of behaviour accepting violen-

ce, and on the other hand they are the sources of a political paralysis that hinders action

against that." 2

The frustration-aggression-hypothesis, another well-known approach, has become

so popular in the last years that it has sometimes been used to belittle real crime, depicting

as a sort of victims the poor little gangsters who commit atrocities. Clearly, such thinking

is out of proportion, and critics pointed to the fact that it is not just deprivated people who



are racist. In some times and countries, the best and the brightest believed in racism, in- cluding important scientists. 3 In 1992 and 1993, one discrepancy between England and Germany appeared parti- cularly puzzling: the public awareness and agenda on the one side, and crime indicators on the other. This discrepancy can serve as a warning against easy explanations. Following the world-wide news on the xenophobic riots in Germany, the Financial Times correspondent in Bonn, Quentin Peel, comparing the violence in both countries, found 6,559 acts of violence motivated by racism in England & Wales in 1991, three times more than in Germany, in a country of 50 against 80 millions. He also reported that a num- ber of more than 6.000 violent racist acts has been reported in England & Wales since years. 4 The Economist reported 7.780 "racially motivated attacks" for Great Britain in 1991 on account of the official statistics and added the Newham Monitoring Project's evaluation that "the real total is between three and ten times higher". 5 Racist attitudes by the British police often give reason for complaints. 6 Other reports give examples of grave criminal acts that do not feature prominently in the British media, unlike the IRA murders. 7 Racist groups in Britain seem to have specialized on using force against minorities, after experiencing defeat at elections. 8 How far detached such facts are from the public agenda, can be shown by pointing to an interpretation from the British minister of home affairs, Kenneth Baker. Speaking on the BBC in november 1992, he argued for further restrictions in the granting of asylum in Britain. If nothing would be done, he said, violence and racism would spread from the con- tinent to Britain. 9 He did not mention the fact that Britain was no longer a major immi- gration country in the eighties, and in some years even had an emigration surplus. How should we interpret such discrepancies? Is it the famous stability of the British system to keep on business as usual and good style under any circumstances? Is it hypocri- sy? 10 Are there different methods of defining racialist or xenophobic crime? (As far as I can see, there are no indications for a more rigid awareness which could be represented in the British statistics, at least in the last years). 11 Is agenda setting in the media largely indepen- dent of the facts? Is the world discussing problems of the past instead of the present ones?, In particular: Is the German left masochistic? In the following article, I shall discuss the working of one important part of the political sphere: the party system. What is the influence of parties, party systems, and


particularly party competetion on the public awareness of minorities, on their definition, their relations with the majority, and their position in politics? Is agenda setting in electoral and other campaigns relatively independent of the situation in a given country? And what about similaties and differences of party systems, strategies, and individual leaders?

2. First Phase: Conservatives Bring Down Leftist Governments

In the three largest European immigration countries, England, France, and Germany, conservative parties have successfully used xenophobic issues against social democratic governments, and in all three countries this was important in bringing them to power. In the end, however, this did not result in radically new immigration policies. Established eco- nomic interests, the legal positions of the immigrants and the countries' international reputations and obligations did not allow for radical change. In contrary, conservative governments were responsible for some of the bigger take-ins of migrants. In all three countries, there was some intra-party opposition against such demagogi- cal course, against making scapegoats of immigrants and minorities, voiced by liberal or Christian elements inside the conservative catch-all parties. CDU secretary general Heiner Geissler, ousted in 1990 by chancellor Kohl, and the French UDF politician Bernard Stasi, also no longer a leading figure of his party, were the most prominent examples. In England Thatcher's predecessor Edward Heath cultivated a more tolerant line, and in his time Conservatives tried hard to gain support among minorities. 12 During the elections, the three Conservative parties or alliances deliberately created the expectation that decisive changes would take place and that the numbers of settled minorities or immigrants would be cut sharply. In all three countries, the climate for adapta- tion and integration was spoiled in bitter and emotional campaigns. In the related context of public xenophobia, some extremists committed atrocities against minority communities, and this again was used as an argument to show that the people had to be appeased, to avoid even greater danger. The media sensationalized the problems and created the images of dangerous floods of foreigners rolling against the dams of English, German or French lands. 13 This was relatively independent of the actual numbers. 14 In all three countries, related rightist theories by academics or other experts could easily be traced to the racist


tendencies of the thirties. England: The first national opposition leader to introduce the issue was Margaret Thatcher in 1978. 15 Deliberately, she discontinued the tradition of a moderate consensus and in a speech carefully designed to attract prominence for the anti-immigration stand of the Conservative Party, denounced the "swamping" of Britain by too many immigrants. 16 Before this speech, only some political entrepreneurs from the party's right wing had gone so far, beginning with Enoch Powell in 1968. Powell's racist approach had built up a large awareness among the electorate, and he successfully racialised British politics. 17 The issue had not been neglected in the public by a silent consensus among the large parties, but opi- nion polls showed that this would appeal to large parts of the public. As more than eighty percent of the electorate thought that too many "immigrants" (meaning "non whites") had come to Britain. 18 The new strategy prove immediately successful. Whereas they had been neck to neck with Labour immediately before, the Conservatives gained a lead of nine percent following the speech. 19 Thatcher's predecessor Heath attacked the new policy, explaining that "she was deliberately misleading people". 20 In the electoral campaign of 1979, the Conservatives promised to strengthen controls against further immigration and by their tough language they created the expectation of a thoroughgoing anti-immigrant stand. Conservative politicians also pleaded for a voluntary return of the "immigrants", although these held British citizenship and half of them had been born in Britain. 21 Indeed, the electoral support for the National Front collapsed and was absorbed by the Conservatives. They were also able to attract a large working class vote, and their anti-immigration stand was important for the Conservative victory. 22 This imagination - Conservatives being more "tuff" on immigration - can be found in opinion polls up to this day.

In Germany the issue was brought up by the Bavarian CSU and the right wing of the Christian Democrats. A massive campaign developed, concentrating on Turks and asylum seekers, and carried on by many media, particularly the influential élite paper Frankfurter Allgemeine in an interplay with CDU politicians. 23 In some Land elections it became a central issue, and the Hessian CDU proposed a law to reduce the number of foreigners by one million. In Baden-Württemberg, the CDU campained for a "rotation system" or "Swiss system" for foreign workers, which would bring "young, fresh" guest workers to Germany, and lead to return of the old ones. 24 Polls revealed that a majority of Germans, regarding


immigration, were "between tolerance and anxiety". 25 The Christian Democratic leadership kept a low profile, and limited itself to accusations that the government were not handling these problems well. Chancellor Helmut Schmidt took great pains to avoid introducing a stand of his social democratic party for local elections rights for foreigners in the party manifesto of 1980, fearing that this would play into the hands of Franz Josef Strauss, his rival in the elections of that year. 26 Strauss made some rather demagogic statements on immigration, e.g. on "Kanacken", but his campaign still focussed on the traditional issues of the Cold War and "freedom versus socialism". After winning the elections, Schmidt commented that working for a better integration of foreign immigrants went against the "in- stincts of our core voters". 27 After the election the defeated opposition concentrated on the issue of "foreigners". Again and again a reduction of numbers was brought forward, and in the end the govern- ment gave in, and announced a law to encourage the return of non-EC-workers and their families. A few weeks before the federal government fell in 1982, CDU leader Helmut Kohl himself demanded a reduction of the number of foreigners in West Germany. 28 In the programme of his first government he announced that Ausländerpolitik would be one of four key problems that his government would tackle. This was before the elections. However, during the Christmas break in the campaign 1982/83 the issue suddenly disappeared by silent consensus between the parties. After winning the elections the government program- me of the second Kohl government in spring 1983 mentioned Ausländerpolitik only scarce- ly. Nothing was announced except a programme for "voluntary return" that in effect changed rather the date of return of some foreigners than the amount of those who left the country. 29 The issue had been successfully used, now it was dropped. The debate on "foreigners" died down.

In France the Socialist victories in the elections of 1981 left the right in disarray. The conservative right, which had been in power since 1958, and relied on the state appara- tus and their president's leadership, did not have any popular issue against the triumphant left. Therefore the immigration was used as a chance. Since the late seventies, latent misgivings had sometimes been translated into poli- tical action in local politics, especially by some Communist mayors who felt that their working class towns were particularly exposed to immigration. 30 In 1982, the right took up


the issue in great style, first concentrating on the Socialist election promise to introduce local voting rights for foreigners living in the country for five years. They successfully campaigned against this plan. The first electoral breakthrough occurred in the local election at Dreux, a small city in Northern France, where a large group of Harkis had been settled - Algerians who had fought at the side of the French. They had been the Allies of the French right - the Ultras -, and now became the first target of its xenophobic campaign. With the help of the extremist Front National, the right overtook the left in Dreux. Next the Gaullist leader Jacques Chirac became mayor of Paris after a campaign that stressed the rising numbers of immigrants, under the slogan "ni racism, ni laxisme". 31 He used his new function to introduce a pattern of bureaucratic harassment of non-European immigrants who, at every interface with the city services - police, kindergarten, schools, social care - had to prove that they were in the country legally. In 1985/86, immigrants were the main issue in the elections that restored a conservative majority in parliament. 32 In a short perspective the three conservative parties or blocs were equally successful in their electoral strategies. Focussing on minorities contributed largely to their regaining of power. In the long run, however, politics in the three countries developed quite diversely.

3. Second Phase: Conservatives Govern after Xenophobic Campaigns

The British Conservatives were able to keep hold of the right wing electorate. In the following years, they exploited other confrontative issues like the Falklands' war and the crushing of the miners' strike, "Mr. Scargill's Insurrection", as Margaret Thactcher calls it in her memoirs. 33 and thus were able to hide the fact that not so much was changing in the effective policies. Characteristically the report on the first eight years of Conservative rule contained only a brief passage on "Better Race Relations". It was by far the shortest para- graph, saying only that the number of immigrants had declined. As the immigration was old, and the immigrants were British citizens, it was only at the borders that restrictions could be applied. This, however, symbolically hit the "immi- grants" in the country, too. Even at the borders, a decision of the Strasbourg European court for human rights forced the British government to abolish British gender discrimination in


immigration (e.g. the famous virginity tests). Other ideas which had been put forward in the

manifesto were not practical as they would also have hit "white" Britons. The curbing of

immigration resulted in a last minute panic, leading to high numbers of applications and im-

plementation problems. Two waves of race riots were a symptom of the crisis of the inner

cities on American patterns that has not been solved to this day. All these problems, howe-

ver, were visible in the media, and kept the issue alive, helping the Tories in effect.

By contrast, the issue became desastrous to the French right. After winning the

elections of 1986 they proposed a law to discontinue the automatic naturalization of

children of foreigners born in France, and carried it through the National Assembly. It was

repealed, however, as unconstitutional by the Conseil Constitutionel that still had a Socialist

majority. Also, students of indigenous and foreign descent (the beurres), organized a grand

solidarity campaign against the law. They got support from the Socialists which in this way

won new credibility among the young generation, under the motto "Ne touche pas mon pôte"


Table: French Electoral Developments 1981-93


Mitterrand, candidate of the united left, elected French president after 23 years of rightist presidents, dissolves parliament and


obtains a Socialist majority, instals a Socialist cabinet including four Com- munist ministers.


At the local election at Dreux the conservative-liberal right allies with the newly formed extremist Front National, and with their help is able to gain a majority, focussing on an anti-Arab campaign. With 16.7% of the local vote, the FN starts its electoral success.


In the regular parliamentary elections, the right regains the majority. Chi- rac becomes prime minister in a RPR-UDF coalition. Cohabitation bet- ween him and the Socialist president.


Mitterrand reelected president against Chirac, with Le Pen achieving 14.5% of the vote in the first ballot. Mitterrand dissolves parliament, and the Socialists defeat the right and become the strongest party again.



In the elections to the European Parliament the Front National carries ele- ven percent. In the same year, they make inroads into the electorate of the moderate right and the Communists and establish themselves as the coun- try's fourth party instead of the Communists. FN is included in many local government coalitions with the rightist parties RPR and UDF.


Large majorities in the parliamentary elections for the conservative coali- tion, after extremely xenophobic remarks by party leaders Giscard d'Estaing and Chirac. Front National consolidated as the third force, ahead of Communists and Ecologists. Second party in some parts of the country.

touch my buddy). The death of one of its followers by the police at a big demonstration in

Paris scandalized the racist overtones of the government's policies. In effect, the issue

polarized the public. Liberal humanitarians and some devoted Catholics found it difficult

to follow such policies, and tended to back the Socialists. They felt especially estranged by

a great number of the local alliances between the traditional right and the Front National.

On the other hand, xenophobic people felt the government's policies had not brought

about any significant change, and consequently many of them switched to a more vocal and

aggressive alternative: the Front National, led by the populist Jean-Marie Le Pen who at that

time had become a sensation in the French media that at first had ignored him and then

suddenly gave him a chance to present his anti-Arab and extremist views in entertaining TV

talks shows. Despite some shocking opinions (like calling the extinction of Jews a mere

episode of history) and the proof of his participation in torture during the Algerian war he

succeeded in becoming more and more popular, making large inroads into the Conservative

and Communist electorates. Personally, he won 14.4% as a presidential candidate in 1988,

and was the front runner in Marseilles. The FN won eleven percent in the European elec-

tions of 1990, more than the Communists, or any other extremist party in Europe at the

time. 34

West German electoral politics developed between the British and the French

models. The government had been able to drop the xenophobic issues successfully around

Christmas 1982, and to switch to other themes like the missile debate and creating jobs for

the young generation. For four years, only the two smaller coalition partners, Liberals and


Bavarian Christian Social Union, quarreled about Ausländerpolitik without any result. The suicide of a Kurdish refugee out of fear of being handed over to the Turkish authorities brought an outcry of the liberal public against repression against foreigners. 35 It took a second approach of the conservative media and parties to bring about an effect comparable to the French Front National, and it was remarcable that they did it with the French example in mind which at that time was prominently featured in the media. Before the Bavarian Landtag elections, the Christlich-Soziale Union started a campaign against refugees, particularly from the Third World, which brought about a nationwide hysteria during the summer 1986. The debate was centered around the passage of asylum seekers through the Berlin wall. After some weeks an agreement on closing this backdoor was reached with the East German authorities. This resulted in a further CSU victory which, however, was accompanied by a limited three percent success of a new party that had split from the CSU: the Republikaner. Since that time, they have been active particularly in Bavaria, largely imitating the Front National model. Their slogan Deutschland zuerst is a direct translation of the FN's La France d'abord. Compared to Le Pen, their populist leader Franz Schönhuber, a long time associate of Franz Josef Strauss, cultivates a more moderate tone. They were not successful in the Bundestag elections of 1987 and 1990, but surpassed the five percent hurdle in the 1989 European elections. Their electoral strength has always been heavily concentrated on Bavaria. The Republikaner were first founded by two estranged deputies of the CSU. In the words of conservative election researcher Kaltefleiter, they are "a legitimate daughter of the CSU and of Franz-Josef Strauss". 36

4. Xenophobia in the Third Round

In the early nineties, a third round began. The British and the German Conservatives were still in government. Kohl achieved an outstanding victory in the unification elections of 1990. The Thatcher government, in contrast, was troubled by economic problems. Margaret Thatcher resigned, only shortly before the Gulf conflict could have given her renewed standing after her successful wars against Argentina and against the miners. She was followed by John Major, a rather moderate premier with regard to his style.


The Thatcher government had taken the decision to grant proper British citizenship to 50-80,000 elite Hong Kong citizens in connection with the handing over of the crown colony to China. This was highly controversial, with the right wing of the Conservatives opposing the move as too much of immigration, and Labour opposing it as too elitist. Besides that, however, the government tried to halt any immigration completely. This im- plies passport controls even for EC citizens - in violation of the single market agreements. The British government did not follow the other EC countries in lifting the visa require- ments for Poland, Czechoslovakia and Hungary and profited from the British island situa- tion. In the pre-election campaign of 1991, a draft law for a further tightening of asylum was brought before the public. After some weeks, however, the government withdrew the draft, announcing a new one after the elections. The papers commented that all this had been intended to show the public a hardline approach without offending liberals too much. In the elections of 1992, this anti-asylum stand seems to have refreshed the public aware- ness of the Conservatives anti-immigration stand, without, however, disgusting the more liberal public, and spoiling the public climate. 37 After the elections, the law was again introduced into parliament and passed. In effect, almost no asylum seekers came to Britain after this. 38 However, immigration issues were quite influential in the elections, particularly in the influential British tabloid press. On saturday before the elections, the Sun published a large map of the world, with figures and arrows, demonstrating how much immigration a Labour government would tolerate. Consequently, the public still has a definite idea of a "tuff" Conservative stand against immigration. Critics argue that immigration is largely a symbolic issue in Britain today, as there is almost none. However, is steadily undermining the social position of the minorities of non-European origin, as they are designed as less legitimate than people of European origin. The "Bolton speech" by Winston Churchill M.P. in summer 1993, a sort of renewed "rivers of blood" approach reminiscent of Enoch Powell's stand in 1968, seemes to indicate a hardened approach at the right fringe of the Conservatives, again emphazising "repatriation". Such new xenophobic or racist zeal comes as prime minister Major is loosing authority. 39

In France, by contrast, xenophobia continued to be an open and visible issue in party competition. It was Le Pen's number one campaign issue anyway, and other politicians


competed with him. Although the UNR and UDF ranks still included some liberals, like Simone Veil, there remained not much difference between Le Pen and many conservative politicians. In the local elections of 1991, the Front National made important inroads, and some conservative leaders joined their racist, xenophobic, and particularly anti-Arab stand. Even UDF leader Giscard d'Estaing who had cultivated a liberal and progressive image during his presidency in 1974-81, jumped on the bandwagon and in some carefully publici- zed remarks about "invasions" of immigrants tried to be even more radical then Le Pen. 40 Jacques Chirac also made such remarks, other politicians spoke of the two as a "couple infernal". 41 On the other hand, the socialist government could not keep the aura of morality that it had acquired through its anti-racist stand. They tried to reassure the xenophobic fears of some of their voters, and lost credibility on both sides. Xenophobia, however, may not have been the main reason for the loss of trust, economic problems and scandals being more important. The misgivings culminated in the scandal on AIDS infected blood provided by a government agency, with prime minister Fabius being held responsible. 42 Consequently, in the elections in march 1993 the Socialists lost half of their vote and were reduced to 17.6 %, with the conservative right winning a majority, this time even larger. However, they again had to govern under Mitterrand. The Front National has not been able to make new inroads, but with 12.4 % it is now definitely the third force in France. In more than hundred constituencies it holds the second place. In Dreux, where they had achieved their first big success with the help of the Conservatives, the FN candida- te Marie-France Stirbois got 36.84 % of the votes. 43 It was only the French majority voting system that gave them not a single seat in parliament. Following the conservative victory in the elections, the new majority changed several laws on naturalisation, asylum, and security. The minister of the interior, Charles Pasqua, declared that France would no longer be a immigration country. The police shall be allowed to check people on any grounds except race. Commenting on the new police law, a Christian observer spoke of the beginning of a "hunt" of the second generation beurs. 44 However, it is doubtful that the new laws shall bring down the numbers of im- migrants decisively, because for the most important group of immigrants, the situation in country of origin, Algeria, is deteriorating even more than in France. Consequently, the situation of the minorities might worsen, and inter-community relations as well as minority-


police relations be further strained.

In Germany, rightist extremists lost their appeal during the unification process in 1989/90. Nobody was talking about refugees or immigrants. Just the contrary: crowds were standing at the borders where young East German couples riding on their Trabi cars came in - a great TV show producing solidarity with young German refugees in the same age as most of the asylum seekers. Consequently, the anti-asylum campaign died down. Right wing extremists did not have a chance in the elections, under the appeal of unification chancellor Kohl who became widely popular with the German public for the only time in his career. Even in Bavaria the Republikaner could not enter the land diet in 1990. Giving unification to the Germans, Gorbachev at the same donated a chance to get rid of the waves of xenophobia. For more than a year, immigration and asylum became a non-issue. Gorbachev's second donation, however, was not accepted. In the summer of 1991, one year after unification, the campaign was renewed. More than ever the sensationalist four million selling tabloid, Bild-Zeitung, other media and the "Christian" parties worked hand in hand, denouncing the asylum seekers. Bild produced large posters on asylum seekers in the various regions. The secretaries general of both "Christian" parties, CDU and CSU, announced that they would concentrate their public relations activities on "asylum" problems. As in 1986, a massive campaign got under way during the summer holiday season. It spoiled the political environment and resulted in aggressive acts against refugees and in a 6.2 % result for the extremist Deutsche Volksunion (DVU) in the autumn 1991 elections in Bremen, the smallest Land. Asylum was the No. 1 issue. The CDU accused the city government and the Social Democrats in general of being too lenient towards asylum seekers. The SPD mayor responded with some symbolic tuffness, but his party lost its absolute majority. Half a year later, during the land elections in Baden-Württemberg and in Schleswig- Holstein in spring 1992, the CDU continued with these tactics. Again asylum was the prime issue in the elections, broadly covered again by Bild and other media. This time, however, the CDU did not gain anaythings out of the dirty campaign. In the contrary, they lost their majority in Baden-Württemberg, whereas the SPD kept their majority in Schleswig-Hol- stein. The Republikaner achieved 10.9% in Baden-Württemberg and the DVU 6.3% in Schleswig-Holstein. Looking back on the campaign, the leader of the liberals, Walter


Döring, commented on the tactics of the CDU prime minister: "Herr Teufel quasi became the Republikaner's megaphone". 45 The Süddeutsche Zeitung reported that part of the Republikaner campaign had been done by simply copying and distributing Bild articles. 46 Thus the dem- agogic campaign had backfired, bringing not only success to the extremists but also losses to the CDU. Analysts concluded that the big majority of the rightist parties' voters were protest voters who normally considered themselves as followers of one of the major demo- cratic parties. 47 In parliament, a liberal speaker quoted the bible: "They dig a trap for me, and fall in themselves". 48 Teufel himself commented: "A shame for the land". 49 He did not mean his own campaign, but its results. Some time later, the federal minister of the interior, Seiters, sourly commented: "The CDU/CSU, too, does not profit from the asylum discus- sion." 50 The majority party found itself in its own nets, and it was not easy to get free. Even in autumn 1992, however, they did not reverse their strategy, hoping at least to hurt the opposition more, by denouncing them as soft in asylum problems. The secretary general made an appeal to all party branches to focus on asylum problems, under the motto "Every additional Asylant is a SPD-Asylant." 51 To some extent, they were successful. As in the cam- paigns of 1982 and 1991, the CDU overtook the SPD in the second half of 1992 in the opinion polls. In contrast to earlier periods, however, there was also a definite change in the number of asylum seekers and immigrants. The numbers of asylum applications rose to 250.000 in 1991 and 450.000 in 1992. 52 This was more than all other countries of Western Europe together. In earlier years the issue of too many asylum seekers had been played up deliberately and without much foundation. Because Western Germany had had more than a million net influx of all kinds every year from 1989 to 1992 (including East Germans, the population had risen from 60 to 65 million between 1998 and 1993), massive housing problems arose. Another problem was the understaffing of the refugee agencies, and the additional complication of the procedures out of the various changes in asylum laws. There were many signs that a tactic of letting the problems go worse to increase pressure underlay government attitudes. The riots in Rostock in August 1992, where neglect of the asylum situation, com- placency by the police and the land government, and sympathy in the population encoura- ged bands of skinheads at their arson attacks against refugees and immigrant workers, were


the high point of xenophobia in Germany. Even after these attacks it took a long time until all political authorities in the country became aware of the necessity for a clear stand against xenophobia. This was complicated by the ongoing debate on asylum that resulted in a compromise between the parties on december 6, 1992. After this, all parties tried to play down the asylum debate, reminding of the Christmas developments of 1982. Whereas in 1982 some pressure came from the Catholic church, this time it was from the Federal President. Following a further tragic attack on a Turkish family in Mölln, Richard von Weiz- säcker called for a public rally in Berlin, inviting all important politicians, businessmen and trade union leaders to participate. Nearly everybody came, except the Bavarian CSU, to gather with 400.000 Berliners. Despite some ultra-left-wing disturbances the demonstration was considered a success. On december 6, 1992, a few journalists, started the Lichterkette in Munich, to demonstrate for tolerance and an open Germany. They wanted to set signs against a widespread sense of resignation among the liberal public after the party com- promise. The Lichterkette became the largest demonstration in Munich since 1945, and was followed by lots of Lichterketten in other cities, with millions participating. After the success in several cities, many more politicians and media wanted to be included in the new moral endeavour. Even Bild was there. The clima changed a lot. The sudden changes in the opinion polls in these months are impressive. All the polls taken during this time show this tendency. Between july 1992 and january 1993, the percentage of open rightists ("bekennendes Rechtspotential") in Hamburg was down from 16 to 8 percent. Between october 1992 and january 1993, the percentage of people with under- standing for forceful aggression against asylum seekers in East Germany was down from 17 to 8 percent, and between june and december 1992 sympathy for extreme rightist parties under East German youth came down by half. 53 The Republikaner were down in polls from 8 to 3-4 per cent. At the same time, the number of violent actions against foreigners and other minorities was also down dramatically. Even politicians who had instigated anti-asylum-feelings for a long time, and had made extreme remarks on them, now tried to switch to the safe side. The federal minister of the interior and his Bavarian collegue were particularly eager to clump down on the Republikaner and other rightist organizations, and tried to tell the public that the falling rates of crime against foreigners was their merit. 54 To some degree this is bizarre because


their political positions had not been far from the Republikaner ones for a long time, and sometimes had been brought forward more aggressively. Morally, this sudden change of heart gives ground to some doubt, but it indicates a change of the public climate. However, after the passing of the laws on restrictions of asylum in parliament a new arson attack in Solingen was committed, followed by a high number of similar attacks. This time, the government reacted clearly. Contrary to the reaction on the arson attack in Mölln, when government spokesman Vogel had ironically used the term "condolence tourism", this time government ministers atttended the services. The chancellor himself, however, did not.

These developments show that the public climate and political rhetoric have had a tremendous influence on voters and particularly volatile youths. Crime mostly had not been organized, it was rather spontaneous. Aggression had been perceived as necessary action to defend Germany against illegitimate intruders - on the background of the public discour- se. Police statistics show that 70 percent of the criminal actions came from youngsters under twenty. 42 % were East Germans, and their level of education was rather low. There was not much organisation behind it, they were largely driven by the public climate 55 and came "from the centre of society" 56 . After these tragic events, racism and xenophobia in the public debate have died down. It is, however, not sure that the tolerant atmosphere will last. Finance minister Waigel, chairman of the CSU, has announced that his party will focus on problems of "national identity and fear of foreigners swamping the country". 57

5. Comparative Reflections

Despite underlying problems - the exclusive definitions of nations, illogical concepts of return migration, or deeply rooted racist ideologies - parties played a important role in activating xenophobia and putting it on the agenda. In competitive systems, this seems to be a reliable weapon of last resort for conservative parties competing with social democrats, particularly in relatively quiet times without outside challenges (An interesting deviant case is the first oil crisis in Germany, when, despite unforeseen economic problems, trust in the government actually increased under the new chancellor Schmidt, against the background


of the outside danger from "the oil sheiks"). The use of xenophobia as a political weapon, however, is not without danger. It can get out of hands, as it did in France so early. It can explode, as it did particularly in Germa- ny.

Knowing that this weapon is at hand, is very tempting in competitive party systems. Politicians need a definite sense of morality if they do not use it. In all three countries, there are examples of such politicians, some of them in high places. One of them is Kurt Bieden- kopf, who decided not to use this weapon as the opposition leader in the industrial core land of Northrhine-Westphalia. However, he lost the elections, and had to step down after intra- party conflicts with chancellor Kohl. An explanation why the Conservatives under Thatcher did not loose the issue is the confrontative style of the Thatcher government. "Mrs. Thatcher was essentially a protest politician, even when she was in charge." 58 She was able to exploit the resentment of the people against external or internal foes, and reduced politics to some kind of "battles". In this she was singular, and it would be difficult to copy her style. Even Franz Josef Strauss who once spoke of himself as "the German Thatcher" could do that successfully only on the regional level. The resentment strategy as such may be particularly successful in the envi- ronment of a country in economic decline. The special feature of the developments in Germany in 1991/92 in comparison with England and France is a government initiating a broad and aggressive campaign against refugees and the status quo. In the other two countries and in Germany in the years before, the campaigns had been initiated from the opposition and then played down when the conservatives had taken over government. It is obvious in the role distribution of government and opposition that a government should not campaign against the status quo, or it should do this only with great care and sophistication. In the German system with its checks and balances, it may be tempting to campaign against the opposition, since the constitution can be changed only with a two thirds majority, and the opposition is entrenched in some Länder. The main campaigning party, additionally, was the Bavarian CSU which has always had a populist style, and wanted to continue with this after the death of its outstanding populist leader Franz Josef Strauss. The government campaign spoiled the atmosphere much more than an opposition


campaign. It had greater vigour and power, since the government has much more means of

agenda setting, even in a liberal democracy. It left the voters who believed in "present

dangers" no choice but to vote for ultra parties since it was evident that the government did

not "solve" the "problems". It gave brutal gangs a pretext and legitimation to commit

crimes and atrocities, feeling themselves as the heroes of the nation, and the executors of

the national will. Crowds felt the same way, particularly in East Germany, when the

government sent over asylum seekers, massed them in some heavily populated city quarters

and at the same time told the people that they were illegitimate in Germany. 59

Lastly, the phenomenon of a government campaigning in a populist style against

minorities also explaines the paradox from the beginning of our article. There seems to be

more racist crime in Britain than in Germany, at least before 1992. However, racist and

xenophobic crime has been made a central political issue by the German government's

campaign, and highlighted worldwide. Whereas governments usually try to play down the

negative sides in their countries' image, the German government played them up. Conse-

quently, they were interpreted worldwide, and also inside Germany, in the context of Na-

zism and dangers to German democracy. It was a great achievement of the anti-racists to

reclaim the streets of the German cities. Their actions, however, could not create as much

sensation as the ugly crimes had done.


1) Bernard Levin, in: The Times, 14 february 1978.

2) Wilhelm Heitmeyer, Gesellschaftliche Desintegrationsprozesse als Ursachen von fremdenfeindlicher Gewalt und politischer Paralysierung, in: Aus Politik und Zeitge- schichte. Beilage zur Wochenzeitung Das Parlament 2-3, 8.1.1993, p. 5 (my translation). Heitmeyer's approach is highly popular these days in the concerned German public. See also his Bielefelder Rechtsextremismus-Studie. Erste Langzeituntersuchung zur politischen Sozialisation männlicher Jugendlicher, Weinheim/ München: Beltz 1992. In a more crude form, this explanation is formulated as a consequence of the breaking of all taboos (see Joachim Fest's leader in Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung 25, 30 january 1993).

3) 'For the American case see Martin Schain, Immigration, Race, and the Crisis of citizens- hip in the United States (1880-1924) paper, ECPR workshop, Paris 1990, for the United States. For the concept of racialisation (and also de-racialization) see Robert Miles, Racism. The Evolution of a Debate about a Concept in Changing Times, in: Dietrich Thränhardt (ed.), Europe - A New Immigration Continent, Münster/ Hamburg: Lit 1992, p. 75-104.


4) In: GP-Magazin, february 1993 (organ of the Industriegewerkschaft Chemie-Papier- Keramik). The numbers for Germany are 1,483 for 1991, and 2,285 for 1992, and the fifty per cent rise has been reported as shocking in Germany (Süddeutsche Zeitung 31, 8.2.1993). Most af the English and all of the German violence (here by definition) in violence of the indige- nous population against "immigrants" or "foreigners". For the evidence in Britain, see Paul Gordon, Racial Violence and Harassment, London:

Runnymede Trust 1986; K. Thompson, Under Siege: Racial Violence in Britain Today, Harmondsworth: Penguin 1988. In contrast to Germany, Britain has experienced racist riots as early as 1958, and there has been a long and intense debate on racialist violence and also police and other official biases. Statistics in Britain show that "the risk of being a victim of crime still tends to be higher among the ethnic minority groups, with Asians particularly at greater risk of vandalism and robbery/theft from the person. Afro-Carribeans and Asians see many offences against them as being racially motivated. Being threatened and assaulted because of race is common. For Asians, evidence or suspicion of a racial element in offences against property is relatively frequent." (Social Trends, UK, 1992, p. 214, cited after: Monica den Boer, Moving between Bonafide and Bogus: The Policing of Inclusion and Exclusion in Europe, paper, ECPR Joint Session of Workshops, Leiden, 2-8 April 1993).

5) The Economist, 5 December 1992, p. 45-46.

6) Monica den Boer: Immigration, Internal Security and Policing in Europe. Working Paper, Februar 1993, University of Edinburgh, p. 31.

7) Focus 7/1993.

8) Zig Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration, Oxford/ Cambridge 1992, p. 206.

9) Monica den Boer, Immigration, p. 45 (The Refugee Trail, BBC Panorama Documentary


10) So says Linda Bellos, Racism? We never talk about it, in: The Independent, Dec. 2,


11) Leading police officers as well as scientists doubt the meaningfulness of police sta- tistics. Even in the inner German comparison, it is an open secret that the criminal statistics are estabished in different ways, e.g. showing less crime in Bavaria than in other Länder.

12) See Layton-Henry, Immigration, p. 180 ff. The chapter's title is "Mrs. Thatcher's racecraft".

13) "The tabloid press have consistently been willing participants in stereotyping immi-



is Layton-Henry's summary for Britain, p. 205.

14) Germany, where the rising numbers of asylum seekers have been scandalized in 1980- 82, in 1986 and 1989, is particularly interesting in this respect. When they amounted to up to 100.000 per year. After the peak of more than 400.000 in 1992 and the related political crisis, however, there is conspicuous silence and a certain acceptance of the fact of more


than 200.000 asylum seekers in 1993. In the contrary, there is even some discussion of the closing of certain accomodation facilities and the related job losses. Compared to other countries, these numbers are still quite high.

15) There is of course a long history of racism in all three countries. In Britain and France, it is directly related to the colonial past, whereas in Germany it is more difficult to trace the continuity from Wilhelmine imperialism through Nazism to modern xenophobia. In contrast to Britain and France, "race" is not considered a legitimate term in Germany today, although it is clear that the concept is still in minds of the people. When the Bavarian minister of the interior, the present pprime minister Stoiber, tried to introduce the term "race " into the political discourse ("durchmischte und durchrasste Gesellschaft"), he met strong resistance everywhere and had to draw back. In Britain the term "race" is now omitted in the social sciences, or put in quotation marks. In the public, however, it is still widely used, including the "race relations" agencies. Routledge's catalo- gue of spring 1993 speaks of "race and ethnicity", whereas in some of the books in this section the term is strongly critizised.

16) The statement said "that people are really rather afraid that this country might be swamped by people with a different culture. And, you know, the British character has done so much for democracy, for law, and done so much throughout the world, that if there is a fear that it might be swamped, people are going to react and be hostile to those coming in" (Martin Barker (1984), Racism - The New Inheritors, in: Radical Philosophy, vol. 21.).

17) Shamit Saggar, Black participation and the transformation of the 'race issue` in British politics, in: New Community Vol. 20, No. 1, 1993, p. 27. See also Anthony M. Messina, Race and Party Competition in Britain, Oxford: Clarendon Press 1989.

18) Layton-Henry 1985, p. 122.

19) Layton-Henry 1992, p. 185.

20) Layton-Henry, p. 186.

21) Michaela von Freyhold: Rassistische Mobilisierung in England, in: Christoph Butterwegge/ Siegfried Jäger (eds.): Rassismus in Europa, Köln: Bund Verlag 1992, p. 173.

22) Zig Layton-Henry/S. Taylor (1980): Immigration and Race Relations: Political Aspects No. 4, in: New Commonwealth VIII, 1-2/1980; Zig Layton-Henry (1978): Race, Electoral Strategy and the Major Parties, in: Parliamentary Affairs, XXXI, 3, p. 268-81.

23) A climax in this campaign was the article of the astromist Schmidt-Kahler on immigra- tion which was openly racist and biologistic (Frankfurrter Allgemeine, September 30, 1980). See also Jürgen Schilling, secretary general of the German Red Cross, on the "repatriation" of all "non central Europeans" (Die Zeit 51, 12 december, 1980). During that time, the new derogative term Asylanten was created which since has been used for unwanted refugees, particularly from the Third World. See Jürgen Link: Medien und "Asylanten". Zur Geschichte eines Unworts, in: Dietrich Thränhardt/ Simone Wolken (Eds.), Flucht und Asyl. Informationen, Analysen, Erfahrungen aus der Schweiz und der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Freiburg: Lambertus 1988, p. 50-61.


24) An idea particularly promoted by the Baden-Württemberg prime minister Hans Filbin- ger. See Karl-Heinz Meier-Braun, "Freiwillige Rotation". Ausländerpolitik am Beispiel der baden-württembergischen Landesregierung, München: Minerva 1979.

25) Institut für Demoskopie Allensbach: Zwischen Toleranz und Besorgnis. Einstellungen der deutschen Bevölkerung zu aktuellen Problemen der Ausländerpolitik, Allensbach 1985.

26) Wahlparteitag in Essen, Grugahalle, 9.-10.Juni 1980. Unkorrigiertes Protokoll. Ed. by Vorstand der SPD, Bonn 1980, vol. 2, 10 june 1980, p. 48, 50.

27) Münstersche Zeitung 260, 8 november 1993.

28) Frankfurter Rundschau 203, 3 september 1982.

29) See Dietrich Thränhardt (1988): Die Bundesrepublik Deutschland - ein unerklärtes Einwanderungsland, in: Aus Parlament und Zeitgeschichte, B 24, 10 june 1988, p. 3-13. Some years later, the government conceded the return of some of the returnees, particularly those who have grown up in Germany. They are now labelled "Remigranten". See Gaby Strassburger, Offene Grenzen für Remigranten. Wiederkehrwünsche türkischer Remigrantinnen und das deutsche Ausländerrecht, Berlin: VWB 1992.

30) Gilles Verbunt: France, in: Tomas Hammar (Ed.): European Immigration Policy. A Comparative Study, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press 1985, p. 127-164, 159 f. A detailed analysis in Martin Schain: Policy-making and defining ethnic minorities: the case of immigration in France, in: New Community, Vol. 29, No. 1, p. 66.

31) Chirac told the public: "Le France est bonne mère, mais elle ná pas de plus les moyens d'entretenir une foule d'étrangers qui abusent son hospitalité. Avec le moyens dont elle dispose, la Ville de Paris a décidé de lutter contre la prolifération des étrangers en situation irrégulière. Sa politique se situera entre deux extrèmes: ni racisme ni laxisme" (Le Monde, 15.7.1983). Later, when Chirac had become prime minister, at a visit in Morocco he spoke of "ni racisme ni xénophobie".

32) Dietrich Thränhardt: Politische Inversion. Wie und warum Regierungen das Gegenteil dessen erreichen, wofür sie angetreten sind, in: Politische Vierteljahresschrift, 25. vol. 1984, p. 440-461. See also the various books by Cathérine Wihtol-de Wenden, and Rogers Brubaker, Citizenship and Nationhood in France and Germany, Cambridge Mass./ London: Harvard University Press 1992, p. 145-164.

33) Margaret Thatcher, The Downing Street Years, London: Harper & Collins 1993.

34) See Martin A. Schain: The National Front in France and the Construction of Political Legitimacy, in: West European Politics, vol. 10, 1987, p. 234; E. Plenel/ A. Rollat: L'effet Le Pen, Paris: La Découverte/Le Monde 1984; James G. Shields: Campaigning from the Fringe: Jean-Marie Le Pen, in: John Gaffney (ed.): The French Presidential Elections of 1988, Dartmouth: Aldershot 1990, p. 140-157.

35) For an evaluation see Simone Wolken: Das Grundrecht auf Asyl als Gegenstand der Innen- und Rechtspolitik der Bundesrepublik Deutschland, Berne/Frankfurt: Lang 1988.


36) Dictum at his lecture on German electoral developments at the German-American conference on elections in Cologne, september 28-30, 1989.

37) For developments in Britain, see J. Solomos, Race and Racism in Contemporary Britain, London: Macmillan 1989, and Zig Layton-Henry, The Politics of Immigration:

'Race' and 'Race' Relations in Postwar Britain, Oxford: Blackwell 1992.

38) Monica den Boer, Immigration, p. 32 f.

39) For Churchill's speech see Sunday Times, June 6, 1993, and his "Letter to the editor", in the Guardian, 12 June 1993, p. 19. On Powell see Gary P. Freeman, Immigrant Labour and Racial Conflict in Industrial Societies. The French and the British Experience, Prince- ton N.J. 1979, p. 60 f.

40) Christopher T. Husbands: The Other Face of 1992: the Extreme-Right Explosion in Western Europe, Parliamentary Affairs, vol. 45, 1992, p. 267-84.

41) Le Figaro, 22 march 1993, p. 10.

42) Even president Mitterand pointed to the scandals to explain the loss of confidence for the socialists, see his interview in Le Monde, 2 february, 1993.

43) Le Monde, 30 march 1993, with a detailed overview of the election results.

44) Christian Delorme, La chasse au beurs est ouverte, in: Le Monde, 15 may 1993.

45) Die Zeit 16, 10 april 1992, p. 2.

46) Wulf Reimer: Generalstabsmäßig der Toleranz den Boden entziehen, in: Süddeutsche Zeitung 89, 15 april 1992.

47) Matthias Jung/ Dieter Roth, Der Stimmzettel als Denkzettel. Der Rechtsruck muß nicht von Dauer sein, in: Die Zeit 16, 10 april 1992, p. 3.

48) Psalm 57, 7. Das Parlament, vol. 42, no.20, 8 may 1992, p. 6.

49) Die Zeit 16, 10 april 1992, p. 2.

50) Süddeutsche Zeitung 187, 14 august 1992.

51) Letter of CDU secretary general Volker Rühe to all CDU party branches (Die Zeit, 4 june 1993).

52) Playing up numbers was an important part of the campaigns. Whereas in former years the monthly unemployment statistics had been at the centre of public attention in the prime news, now the monthly asylum application figures were given this place. Some of the applications are a second, or even a third attempt, sometimes encouraged by local authori- ties who by this way can get off the financial burden. Another central point in government announcements is the small percentage of accepted applications, which is used to demon- strate to the public the small numbers of "real" refugees. The additional acceptances by


court decisions which effectively double the percentages, is not mentioned at all. There are no official data on de facto recognitions on the criteria of the Geneva convention, although this wakes up the larger part of the refugees in the country. Further, thre are no official data on returnees. As the census of 1987 has shown, the official figures of foreigners in Germa- ny are likely to be too high.

53) Norbert Kostede, Erleuchtung für die Politik, in: Die Zeit 5, 29 january 1993, p. 3.

54) "Seiters verwies auf einen Rückgang der ausländerfeindlichen Straftaten seit vergange- nem November. Mit 70 Fällen liege der Januar im Monatsmittel deutlich unter dem Vor- jahr. Der Minister führte diese Entwicklung unter anderem auf die von ihm ausgespro- chenen Verbote dreier neonazistischer Gruppierungen zurück. Diese hätten einen 'starken Verunsicherungs- und Lähmungseffekt im rechtsextremistischen Lager` bewirkt." (Süddeutsche Zeitung 31, 8 february 1993).

55) Data from a fortcoming study by Prof. Eckert and Dr. Willems, of Trier university.

56) Aus der "Mitte der Gesellschaft". So the president of the state security service in Ham- burg, Ernst Uhlau, cited in: Der Spiegel 24/1993, p. 25.

57) "Zu den harten Themen, die im Wahlkampf bearbeitet werden sollten, gehöre auch die Frage der nationalen Identität und die `Angst vor Überfremdung'", said Waigel (Süddeut- sche Zeitung 281, 6 december 1993). Überfremdung is a Swiss term of the sixties, used by the anti-foreigner initiatives there.

58) Alan Ryan, Yes, Minister, in: The New York Review of Books, 2 December 1993, p.


59) The former CDU minister of the interior in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Kupfer, has explicitly acknowledged the interrelation of government policies and the riots in an inter- view of the Westdeutscher Rundfunk. "Question: Have you not been successful? The asylum seekers are away and the cons- titution will be changed. Kupfer: Yes, you could look at it like this. However, we have said before the events in Rostock that colutions must be found to stop the uncontrollable flow of foreigners towards East Germany. Question: Now others have found the solution for you. Kupfer: The rightists have made a sensitivity among the the politicians as to limit the right for asylum, and to put the security needs of the population at the first place - not only in East Germany." Westdeutscher Rundfkunk, ZAK, 25 september 1992).



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