Afd cultural policy: battles to come

The German language is the "center of our identity" – many would probably sign this sentence. Even if it comes from the AfD.

According to AfDers, diverse cultural offerings would probably go empty Photo: imago/imagebroker

In terms of cultural policy, it currently looks like one last breath. Take another deep breath before the AfD plays in the Bundestag.

The open letter that is currently going around demanding that the chairmanship of the Bundestag Committee for Cultural Policy not be given to the AfD under any circumstances shows that people are bracing themselves for a lot. Large parts of the cultural policy establishment have signed it. Although no one had planned anything like this before, the AfD will have to be granted some kind of committee chairmanship. And the cultural politicians are already standing on their toes.

Indeed, it would be foolish to leave such a stage to the AfD. Just imagine if a confidant of Mr. Gauland could proclaim his pride in the German Wehrmacht soldiers as the chief cultural politician of the German parliament, which he would then be. In terms of past politics, much damage can be done from this post. At least as challenging, however, can be shifts in which, far into the bourgeois camp, the demarcations are by no means so clear-cut.

After the election, Gotz Kubitscheck, one of the masterminds of the new right, drew up a kind of catalog of measures for a cultural struggle from the right in Der Spiegel, interestingly omitting history policy altogether anyway. For Kubitscheck, four other points will determine whether the AfD will be successful. Consistent questioning of the West connection, fighting neoliberalism, fighting the "left-liberal social experiment" and back to "Germany for the Germans," abolition of mass universities.

Cultural politics from the far right

These four points should be remembered. It takes little imagination to picture an AfD cultural politician rolling up his sleeves with this agenda in mind. Inquiries will come as to why German customs are not promoted instead of Western modernism, or – as an alternative to Western ties – Russian folklore? Questions might also be asked about what the German government actually intends to do to keep the German language pure.

And as far as the mass universities are concerned, education policy is a matter for the states. But in terms of cultural policy, the federal government could do a lot. Why not convey a picture of society in which, as the right-wingers so eloquently put it, everyone stands in their place? That means: the leaders and thinkers at the top, the common man at the bottom.

An AfD cultural policy could try to rehabilitate a supposedly more stable, pre-modern society. Including exhibitions about the beauties of antiquity, congresses about the strenuous downsides of self-determination and emancipation – you name it. And the question is whether the AfD wouldn’t find appeal with this even far into bourgeois circles.

In terms of past politics, a lot of damage can be done from this position.

a lot of damage can be done from this position

Ultimately, the greater danger lies in such possible shifts than in direct confrontation, for example, in matters of past politics. A sentence in which the German language is understood as the "center of our identity" will be signed by many people. Even if it comes from the AfD’s basic program.

And in the response that AfD member of the Bundestag Siegbert Droese – is someone warming up for the Culture Committee? – to the open letter from cultural politicians, many of the phrases make you think: I’ve heard that before in Sunday speeches from CDU or SPD politicians. From the phrase "culture provides self-understanding, cohesion and orientation, in short: identity," to the turn of phrase that "especially in times of massive upheaval, the power of culture must be strengthened for the preservation of our democratic values.

As I said, the quotes come from the AfD. In order to distance oneself from this party, it is therefore by no means enough to sweepingly invoke art and culture as good powers. You have to explain which culture you mean. The cultural struggle with the AfD will also consist of closely observing when an open, emancipative concept of culture turns into an exclusionary concept of culture that promotes fantasies of what is supposedly "one’s own".

The "we" in culture

Many observers assume that even under a Jamaica coalition, Monika Grutters will remain Minister of State for Culture. She is as far away from the AfD as one can get in the CDU. However, "We have to find a good way of reflecting on our own roots, then you can also give the necessary space to the foreign," Grutters recently said.

This text comes from the wochenende. Always from Saturday on the newsstand, in the eKiosk or immediately in the practical weekend subscription. And around the clock on Facebook and Twitter.

With a sentence like that, it’s all about the details. Who is "we"? What is a "good way"? What are the "own roots" (blood descent or republican thought)? What is the "foreign" (not always also our projection?)? Obviously, her phrase is aimed in the direction of using culture to satisfy the ominous conservative needs of which there is much talk at present. But of course culture can by no means be a safe space for old-style educated citizens. Especially since there are many of them in the AfD as well.

And what about a cultural policy that doesn’t always end with the nation – as is often the case in Germany, even among progressive cultural politicians – but points toward the European or even the transnational? Such ideas could also be important for the Culture Committee.

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