Right-wing violence against the left

Fabian Virchow

The extreme right sees not only liberalism but also the political and social left as its main enemy. This is due in particular to the fact that the principle of egalitarianism represented there is fundamentally opposed to the world of thought of the extreme right. The idea of natural inequality – for example between the sexes or between ethnic groups – is deeply rooted within it.

Long history of anti-left violence

Accordingly, the history of anti-left violence is long, even after the Nazi dictatorship in Germany ended. Trade unionists, orthodox communists, left activists, but also symbols and institutions of non-capitalist states and their armed forces were the targets of planned violence. As early as the Technischer Dienst (Technical Service), an offshoot of the Bund Deutscher Jugend, lists were kept with names of female politicians of the social democrat party (SPD) who were to be ‘taken out of circulation’. In the late 1960s, there were numerous attacks on offices and bookshops of left-wing organisations; an assassination attempt on 11 April 1968 was directed against Rudi Dutschke, one of the most visible representatives of the student movement. He died of the after-effects of the attack in 1979.

In their brochure entitled ‘Die Gewalt der Vereinigung’ (The Violence of Unification), the group zweiteroktober90 used the 2nd and 3rd October 1990 events as an example to illustrate the extent of right-wing violence. Heavily armed, coordinated and often with the participation of neo-Nazis from other federal states, squatters, socio-cultural centres or alternative youth centres were attacked. In Weimar, for example, 200 neo-Nazis attacked the squatters’ house Gerber 3 with arson devices, gas pistols and paving stones. The attack was repelled, but in the ensuing public discussion the squatters and the leftists were blamed and the suggestion was made that an eviction could solve the problem after all. Political rallies of leftist groups were also cancelled because according to the police, they could not guarantee protection. In the following years, the number of attacks, which mostly took place in the East German federal states, in which neo-Nazis entered flats in order to beat up and intimidate the residents, is unknown.

We should also remember groups such as the Skinheads Sächsische Schweiz (SSS), who focused their activities since 1996 on intimidating and driving away people they classified as ‘left-wing’. These were sometimes forcibly detained for short periods of time in order to take photos and extort other information. The data was systematically stored in a digital ‘Zeckenerfassungssystem‘ (tick registration system). Sturm 34 (Storm 34), founded in 2003, also threatened and attacked the political left in particular. For this purpose, meeting places were attacked according to a plan, that ‘Punker’ (punks), ‘Ökos’ (ecos) and ‘Linke’ (left-wingers) also frequented. The later victims were partly selected in the course of so-called ‘skinhead control rounds’, during which members of Sturm 34 patrolled with cars in and around Mittweida. The practice of violence was usually extreme and resulted in members of the left-wing scene or alternative youths no longer being publicly visible in the Mittweida region in 2006 and 2007.

International parallels

Even a cursory glance at other countries makes it clear that terrorist violence against the left is at the core of right-wing terrorism: in Milan alone the 145 attacks carried out in 1969, the vast majority were directed against local sections of parties of the left and against trade union offices. In Finland in the 1970s, letter bombs and arson attacks were carried out against printers of the local Communist Party, the headquarters of the Finnish Democratic Youth League, the Bulgarian embassy and the newspaper Kansan Uutiset. In Spain, right-wing terrorist violence escalated immediately after the end of the Franco dictatorship; groups such as Batallón Vasco Español, Guerrilleros de Cristo Rey or Alianza Apostólica Anticommunista directed their violence in particular against people who were considered to be members of ETA, as well as against the left. For example, in the Atocha massacre on January 24, 1977, five members of a trade union affiliated with the Communist Party were murdered.

Second most common motive for violence

After racially motivated violence, anti-left violence is the most widespread type of violence from the right. The fact that a high number of unreported cases of violence against the political and social left can also be assumed is due to the fact that in many cases there is a lack of trust in the security authorities to deal with the situation appropriately, or because the police are (or have been) guided in their actions by the traditional image of the left as the enemy. Accordingly, right-wing violence was not always reported (and thus made countable); in organising protective measures, part of the political and social left also tend to place their trust in their own structures.