July 4, 2019

The Assassination of Walter Lübcke: A Murder Years in the Making

The assassination on June 2 of German politician Walter Lübcke, allegedly by a far right extremist, surprised many German politicians, who appear to have suddenly become aware of the threat far right terrorism represents. It could be argued that Lübcke’s murder may have been more shocking for many than the decade long killings perpetrated by the far right terrorist group National Socialist Underground (NSU).

One of the interesting reactions to the assassination is how many politicians pointed the finger to the German far right party AfD, blaming the party’s rhetoric as inciting the far right to violence and fostering extremism. What is forgotten and barely mentioned in the aftermath of the attack is that not only is the far right violence seen in Europe and specifically Germany since 2015 – Lübcke’s murder was the third assassination attempt on a German politician since October of that year – a part of a process that developed steadily over the last twenty years. Furthermore, the rhetoric of all mainstream parties contributed to fostering a climate where far right extremists feel compelled and justified to act violently.

As a sample of this development I uploaded a paper which I wrote for the WISC conference in Ljubljana in 2008, where I argued that the over-emphasis on security in political discourses and the co-option of topics present in far right parties’ programs provided a platform and a sense of legitimacy for such ideas, which in turn lead to stronger support for them.

The climate of fear and extremism currently prevailing did not suddenly appear. It was decades in the making and a gradual accumulation of small details and dismissals, shortsightedness and the prioritization of short-term gains. Hence, if we are to change the mood, it is important to be aware of its history and development. I hope my still current paper can contribute to this understanding.

“This in turn has led to a resurgence of western ethnocentrism enhanced by an over-emphasis on security that also creates a zone of tolerance and legitimacy for far right political parties and their ideas, thus leading to their increase in appeal. Finally, it is suggested that the increase in far right support potentially represent a greater danger to domestic security than terrorism.”

Yan St-Pierre, 2008