E.t was not just Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU), who in July declared right-wing extremism the “greatest threat to security”. The FBI also named 2019 the “deadliest year since 1995 due to domestic extremism”.
This year the American Federal Police raised the danger level for the threat of right-wing extremism and “racially motivated, violent extremism” to the same level as for foreign terrorist organizations such as the terrorist militia Islamic State.
It has been known for years that the right-wing extremist scene organizes itself at least across Europe through music events, martial arts and shooting training. But how the scene is networked internationally has so far only been insufficiently illuminated.
Joint EU status report planned
For a while it looked as if the EU member states wanted to cooperate more closely in dealing with right-wing extremism in the future, but a planned joint situation report has still not been published.
The Federal Foreign Office commissioned a study this summer as part of the German EU presidency. The analysis entitled “Violence-oriented right-wing extremism and Terrorism – Transnational Connectivity, Definitions, Incidents, Structures and Countermeasures “ deals with the connections of violent right-wing extremists in Germany, the USA, France and Great Britain as well as in two Scandinavian countries. The study of the Counter Extremism Project (CEP), an international non-profit think tank, was able to see WELT in advance.
Since 2014 in particular, a new “leaderless, transnational, apocalyptic-minded, violence-oriented right-wing extremist movement” has emerged, the authors write. The right-wing extremist scenes in the individual countries are linked across borders by narratives such as the “Great Exchange”, the “White Genocide” and “Day X”.
According to ideology, the “white race” can only be saved if the scene overcomes its ultra-nationalist attitudes and goes into battle together. The study shows that the violence emanating from this movement has steadily increased.
Festivals, mixed martial arts (MMA) events, marches and demonstrations are regular occasions where actors from different countries meet, exchange experiences and recruit new members.
The right-wing extremists have increasingly made contact with representatives of Eastern European and Russian groups – for example because they took part in paramilitary camps there.
In order to maintain their “warlike mentality and attitude”, they need financial means. This is another reason why music and martial arts events are an important characteristic of the scene across borders. The goal is sustainable financing. The co-author of the study and Senior Director of CEP, Hans-Jakob Schindler, described the income as “exorbitant”. This is also possible because events of this kind are often declared as political events and entrance fees are given as donations.
In recent years, a separate structure with companies and companies has developed in this area. There is still room here, according to Schindler, to control the state’s activities more intensively and thus to hinder these financing structures.
Income in the millions
In Germany there is a network of right-wing extremist music labels and mail order companies, whose turnover in 2012 in Saxony alone amounted to around 3.5 million euros. Experts estimate festival income for the right-wing extremist scene at up to two million euros. In recent years, German right-wing extremists have repeatedly traveled abroad for concerts.
Federal Foreign Minister Heiko Maas (SPD) sees the study as a starting point for political approaches: “The scene is increasingly acting and networking internationally. So far, little research has been carried out into how and through which channels right-wing terrorists connect, ”Maas told WELT.
The study now provides valuable information on this. “In order to be able to take better action against right-wing terrorist structures with our partners, we have put the topic on the agenda during our EU Council Presidency and at the UN and will continue to pursue it intensively. “
The study also states that the corona pandemic in particular makes it possible for right-wing extremists to expand their “mobilization efforts around anti-government conspiracy myths”, which are intended to criticize the current restrictions. This would be interpreted as the establishment of a “police state”.
The scene would also try to take advantage of the debate about an imminent corona vaccine to harness vaccine opponents for their purposes. However, this approach is not the same for all actors. Sections of the Swedish scene initially expressed surprise at the initially unsuccessful strategy of their government in the fight against Covid-19.
The authors of the study also expressed unequivocal criticism: the transnational right-wing terrorism is not sufficiently disrupted by the authorities despite bans and fines.
And: The violence emanating from this scene is often not classified as terrorism. The so-called individual perpetrators, who often do not belong to any of the more established organizations, refer to online manifestos or right-wing extremist attacks in other countries.
In recent years, states have begun to increase their capacities to combat right-wing extremism, but there is still some catching up to do in key areas.