No tolerance for Third Positions and New Right-Wing – Boycott Conne Island!
Conne Island in the south of Leipzig, Germany is renowned as an alternative youth and culture center. It is a meeting place for left activists and a venue rich in tradition. Professional concerts take place here and it is an important starting point for the music scene of hip-hop, punk or hardcore. Furthermore, discussions and panels organized by the left and alternative scene take place here. The center advertises a clear stance on racism, antisemitism and sexism. One might suppose that this is an important institution in a region of Germany that has been struggling with increasing neo-Nazism and right-wing populism.
But appearances are deceptive: Conne Island is showcasing speakers who celebrate Germany’s right-wing party AfD (Alternative für Deutschland), who rant against a supposed “left cartel” and fulminate about Islam. While today’s right wing is on the march ideologically and in the streets, the supposedly anti-fascist Conne Island is helping making right-wing positions socially acceptable.
Staging AfD fans
On May 24th, German journalist and “Islam critic” Thomas Maul was allowed to present his theses at Conne Island. Everybody knew that Maul has great sympathy for the new right wing and detests so-called “political correctness”. Two weeks prior, he shared a speech of AfD-chairman Alexander Gauland, who said “time and again the AfD objectively appears to be the only voice of reason in the German parliament”. He denounced the “unreason of the ruling left cartel” and the “demonization of AfD”.
At Conne Island he went even further, saying the AfD is “the only party in Germany that stands in solidarity with Israel, that criticizes antisemitism and – at least regarding Muslim patriarchy – criticizes patriarchy”. Affirmatively, he cited Pro-Israel speeches by Beatrix von Storch (AfD) and claimed that before AfD made it to the German parliament there were “no speeches against antisemitism and in favor of Israel, in any case not shared by the whole parliamentary group”. He is in no doubt about the real problem: The “left cartel” and its “pro-Islamism and anti-Israelism”.
Shortly after, political scientist Werner Patzelt from Dresden explained to German BILD-newspaper that CDU (German conservative party) has to build a coalition with AfD, “in order not to be open to blackmail by parties left of CDU”. That’s how normalization of neo-right-wing ideology works, and Conne Island willingly plays its part in this: Some are encouraging AfD coalitions in order to be independent of left postitions, others give their support hosting vulgar remarks at Conne Island against “left cartels” and against the “demonization of AfD”.
Conne Island’s plenum is applauding
In any anti-fascist center Maul’s right-wing statements would have caused outrage and official dissociation.
In Conne Island we observe quite the contrary: At their weekly plenum, the most important meeting of the venue, Mauls assertions were vindicated, as they were polemic, but important interventions – specially by Conne Island’s permanent employees, who are responsible for bookings. To this day, Conne Island denies dissociating from Maul’s crude theses. Managing director Hannes Schneider persistently remains silent and shirks clear positioning. Apparently they reserve the right to organize further promotional events for AfD. We’re searching in vain for a sharp stance against the political right.
However, there are different standards for left artists critical of capitalism. If you speak up against western wars, the right-wing government in Israel or the power of transnational corporations, you might be called anti-Semitic or anti-American and will be refused to perform at the venue. They refuse opponents of war, capitalism or globalization to perform on their stage, they are examining their lyrics meticulously – while calling the ones “ideology critics” that imagine the AfD to be a “voice of reason” and fantasize about a “left cartel” conspiracy theory.
Years of shifting to the right
A “left” cultural center, that helps to trivialize AfD? This might seem strange to external observers, but it is no surprise. It is the sad low point of years of shifting to the right. Conne Island and Thomas Maul are part of the “anti-German” spectrum that is “critical of ideology”. This political spectrum has been praising right-wing populists for many years now.
Herein, the German magazine Bahamas is a true pioneer. It is “critical of ideology”, it is compulsory reading at Conne Island and Thomas Maul is one of its authors. Bahamas praised Italian journalist Oriana Fallaci in 2002 for her statement that Muslims are reproducing “like rats”. In 2010 permanent author and former managing director of Conne Island Sören Pünjer promoted the extreme right-wing hooligan group English Defence League and downplayed the participation of Neo-Nazis. Pünjer appreciated the “Declaration of Jerusalem” at a keynote in Leipzig in 2011. This declaration was initiated by European right-wing populists like Austrian FPÖ head Strache, Belgian Vlaams Belang and German party “Die Freiheit”.
Hating “Islamic fascism” and the anti-racist left, while frenetically supporting the government policy of Israel form the basis for a radical shift to the right, that lead to many overlaps in personnel between the “anti-German” spectrum and authentic right media: German weekly newspaper Jungle World provides a stage for authors of Bahamas like Thomas Maul (it features the most articles of Bahamas authors in Germany), but also for contributions from right-conservative blog Die Achse des Guten (the Axis of Good). Alex Feuerherdt for example, author at both Jungle World and Die Achse des Guten held a speech two weeks after Thomas Maul at Conne Island.
Third Position for Israel
Increasingly often, we can observe the closing of ranks with original right-wing forces: Frankfurt’s publicist Jutta Ditfurth organized a pro-Israel rally with CDU last year, where slogans like “Shut up Palestine!” were tolerated. Bahamas-editor Justus Wertmüller held a speech at a manifestation “critical of Islam” in Berlin in December 2017, where not only AfD-members took an active part, but also activists from the far-right “Identitarian” movement (German, “Identitäre Bewegung”). Thomas Maul’s praising of AfD is only an outcome and so far the highpoint of an ideological turnaround to the right that has been going on for years.
The modern Right is observing this trend in bright enthusiasm: Martin Sellner, chief ideologist of the “Identitäre Bewegung” and self-proclaimed subscriber of Bahamas calls the magazine a “highly interesting print” and dreams of joint alliances. He understood that in spite of some differences there are more and more commonalities.
Those in Leipzig who pretend to be surprised about this and dismiss Maul’s statements and call it “right-wing anti-German” tolerated this trend over the course of many years. They know each other very well and have been cooperating optimally: In the “Alliance against anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism” Leipzig and several pro-Israel events, linXXnet-head Juliane Nagel, Leipzig’s “linksjugend”, party people of techno club Institut für Zukunft and experts in understanding AfD from Conne Island meet up. The “Antifascist Women’s Block Leipzig” reserves a menu item for “criticism of Islam”. Maul’s praise of AfD might (up to now) be too much for some of these players, but they all support the basic ideological agenda. Therefore, it’s not surprising that nobody is addressing the problem openly.
Enough is enough – boycott Conne Island!
We will not tolerate this any longer. Especially amid the current dramatic shift to the right in German society and removal of taboos of radical right political stances in the public debate, we must be clear about Conne Island’s true character: It is a Third-Position-project, which makes new right positions socially acceptable under the guise of “left” politics!
We call upon artists, cultural workers, labels, booking agencies, lecturers, political groups and initiatives to take a clear-cut anti-fascist stance:
Boycott Conne Island and its premises! Cancel your performances and events or relocate to other locations! No support for Conne Island!
We urge the culture department of the city of Leipzig to stop the financial funding of the project. No financial aid for projects that provide a platform for right-wing positions!
No tolerance for trivialization of the New Right in “left” centers!
Initiative for a left counterculture