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Germany sees left-wing extremism becoming more clandestine, sophisticated, and violent


J Michael Waller / Center for Security Policy / September 17, 2021. Left-wing extremism is on the rise in Germany, with one in four groups prone to violence to overthrow the democratic constitutional government, according to the latest official Report on the Protection of the Constitution.

“There are no signs that left-wing extremists will end their use of violence. On the contrary, certain violence-oriented groups are committing more and more serious crimes and violent offences,” the report says.

Right-wing extremism has also risen, but its membership is a fraction of extremism on the Left, according to the report.

“More than one in four of all left-wing extremists can be classed as violence-oriented,” the annual report says.

Germany leads the Western democracies in tracking political extremism thanks to a legal provision to protect its post-World War II constitution from Marxism, Nazism, anarchism, and other dangers. A statutory Office for Protection of the Constitution, or Verfassungsschutz, operates as part of the German Ministry of Interior.

The Verfassungsschutz reports are of interest to the United States because they aid in monitoring international trends and movements, such as Antifa in the United States, that were founded and rooted in Germany.

We reported last year that these reports can “give a quick and easy guide to Antifa.” US authorities have maintained a strong relationship with their German Ministry of Interior counterparts for decades, but official FBI statements show no such understanding of Antifa and related groups.

Germany says ‘anti-fascism’ movement wants a ‘Communist system or anarchist society’

Leftist violence was up more than 34 percent in Germany last year, the report says.

“Left-wing extremists seek to do away with the existing state and social order, and therefore the free and democratic basic order,” according to an English-language summary of the report:

“In its place, they want to establish a communist system or anarchist society ‘without rulers,’ possibly with a socialist transitional phase, depending on their ideological orientation.

“With this in mind, issues such as ‘anti-fascism,’ ‘anti-repression’ or ‘anti-gentrification’ are, depending on the circumstances, relevant but ultimately interchangeable areas of action which only serve to advance left-wing extremists’ ideological notions.”

These groups specifically include Antifa, as the previous report specified.

‘Violent left-wing extremist’ increase

“Left-wing extremists are in principle also willing to use violence to achieve their ends,” the latest report says.

“The number of criminal offences motivated by left-wing extremism set a new record again in 2020. In the reporting period, 6,632 offences were recorded, representing an increase of 2.8% (2019: 6,449). A troubling development in 2020 was the increase of 34.3% in the number of violent left-wing extremist offences, to 1,237 offences from 921 in 2019,” according to the report.

The annual says that “left-wing extremists are very willing to use violence. After a big jump in the number of arson attacks in the previous year, the increase in 2020 was rather moderate,” but with no end in sight:

“This increase in left-wing extremist offences and violent offences, which in some cases was dramatic, is part of a trend that has lasted with some fluctuation for nearly 20 years.

“There are no signs that left-wing extremists will end their use of violence. On the contrary, certain violence-oriented groups are committing more and more serious crimes and violent offences.

“Some violence-oriented left-wing extremists display obvious indications of radicalization. This high level of radicalization among some members of the scene is also apparent from the way crimes are committed and from the groups committing them. The intensity of the violent offences has again increased further.

“At the same time, a few small groups set themselves apart from the rest of the violence-oriented scene by increasingly crossing apparent ‘red lines’ based on the left-wing extremist principle that violence should only be used to achieve a purpose.”

‘Increasingly violent, professional and personal’

“Left-wing extremist attacks are increasingly violent, professional and
personal,” the report says.

“Left-wing extremists long viewed escalating demonstrations as an expression of their desire for revolution. But in recent years, there has been an obvious shift away from the ‘mass militancy’ of demonstrations and towards violent acts by small groups acting covertly. Their violence has shifted to the sidelines of gatherings or is entirely independent of these events.

“Their violent acts are planned and carried out very carefully by a small group in isolation from the rest of the scene.

“The choice of targets has also changed: attacks are shifting from the institutional to the personal level. Victims are carefully selected and attacked in a highly aggressive manner.

“Their perpetrators are increasingly willing to risk inflicting serious bodily injury, even to the point of death, on their victims.

“Left-wing extremists are mainly interested in intimidation and in creating a climate of fear for their political opponents and others who disagree with them, with the aim of keeping those who are directly or indirectly affected from taking a specific action or freely expressing their opinions.

“These actions may include participating in events, acting on behalf of a political party or group, or disseminating political views. In other cases, serious crimes are intended to ‘raise the stakes’ for political or economic decisions, thereby influencing decision-makers.

Terrorist danger

If left-wing extremism is not stopped, the report says, “isolation from the rest of the scene and the increasingly professional, clandestine, planned and targeted action by individual groups can lead to a spiral of radicalization and ultimately to terrorist structures.”

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