The National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) is the oldest right-wing extremist party in Germany. It was founded 1964, not even 20 years after World War II. But while it certainly is nationalistic, it is not that much oriented at democracy.
Since the NPD’s establishment there have been regular calls in Germany for this party to be banned, and rightfully so. The NPD’s ideology is very similar to that of Adolf Hitler's Third Reich. They are anti-Semitic and xenophobic. They also want to rebuild an ethnic community.
But at the same time, if the NPD were disbanded, other institutions need to step up and help those poor and impoverished areas of Germany where the NPD holds most of its influence.
It is not that easy to just ban the NPD. There has to be proof that the NPD is actually acting anti-constitutional. A few years ago the attempt to do so juridical failed and the ongoing debate about banning the party calmed down.
But last year some events spurred it on again. A series of murders happened in a small city in the Eastern part of Germany. Nine immigrants were killed and so was one policeman. In the of Fall 2011 it became publicly known that a right wing organization with connections to the NPD was behind the murders and that the crimes were part of its anti-democratic agenda. More than ever a big part of German society now wants the NPD out of the country's political landscape. Doing so is an important step but at the end of the day it won’t be enough to fight right-wing extremism. The government also has to start building democratic structures in areas where these sorts of political institutions are lacking.
The NPD is reviled in most parts of Germany. Nevertheless, in some parts of the country, they do have a lot of influence. Their political influence doesn’t necessarily come from people who identify with their philosophy or their positions on national policy. Rather, they often get those votes because they build organizational structures in regions where there aren’t any. The places they have influence in are those with a high rate of unemployment, with people that have a low socioeconomic status, and where youth organizations are missing. In other words, the NPD flourishes in places that lack democratic structures because the government is not taking care of them.
Democratic parties don’t put too much effort into those regions. So it is easy for the NPD to fill the vacuum. "We’ll stay, we’ll tackle it" is one of their campaign slogans. They give people the impression that they will be taken care of whereas the state doesn’t. Put another way, they often get in through the back door.
In those regions, the NPD manages to radicalize people, which in the end leads to violence against migrants or people who openly criticize right wing ideologies. This violence usually is not as extreme as in the series of murders last year and not every case goes public. But it happens at a reduced level on a daily basis.
Banning the NPD would be one way of fighting violence. But it should not be the only way. A ban on the party wouldn’t mean that its way of thinking is gone just like that. Instead, its members would still exist and they would rebuild their organization one way or another. To really fight them, the government and the whole society has to pay more attention to those areas where the NPD is currently standing in for social structure. Money needs to be spent on meeting places for teenagers or anti-racism programs at schools. Infrastructure has to be built and jobs have to be created. If regions in eastern Germany are continually ignored, nothing will change.
Building a more democratic country, reducing and eliminating violence and anti-democratic movements from the right should be a two-part plan. First, get rid of the party. But second, approach people who were marginalized and left outside of a democratic society. With these two steps, extreme right movements can be defeated and they will stay defeated.