The ability to publicly inform about right-wing extremism, racism, and anti-Semitism and to decide on adequate strategies of counter-action constitutes an indispensable instrument of civic society. It is therefore all the more important to guarantee that this discussion can take place in a safe environment.
What was the issue?
The so-called strategy-of-speaking-out, or „Wortergreifungsstrategie“, has been part of the extreme right’s repertoire of action for more than a decade. NPD party officials, members of Kameradschaften, as well as autonomous nationalists try to take over discussions at public events. They aim to dominate the debate by contributing their point of view and hence influencing the direction of the discussion. This happens oftentimes at events in the field of right-wing extremism, but also at events concerning further sociopolitical topics. Again and again, public debates cannot be carried out at all, or only with disruptions, which makes the extreme right reach their goal of weakening the democratic civil society, if only temporarily.
To facilitate events without the participation of right-wing extremists, organizations like Friedrich Ebert Foundation (Friedrich-Ebert-Stiftung (FES)) need adequate means. As many of their events are concerned with the topics of right-wing extremism, racism, and anti-Semitism, the question was raised how to effectively and distinctly deal with right-wing extremist, racist, and anti-Semitic articulations in the audience.
How could we help?
MBR conducted trainings with the staff where the strategy-of-speaking-out was discussed as well as possible general approaches for public debates. Guidelines were set up together which have since been implemented for all events. Counter-strategies to confront the strategy-of-speaking-out were tailored to FES’ situation. It was agreed that proper preparation constituted the most effective opportunity to inhibit strategies-of-speaking-out.
Furthermore, the installment of a clause was discussed to reach impact on numerous events in Berlin as well as nationwide. On the website as well as on invitations, FES now uses the following statement which was developed in 2005 by MBR in collaboration with lawyers and Kulturbüro Sachsen:
The host organization reserves their right to exercise property rights and exclude persons from the event who are members of parties or organizations of the extreme right, who are attached to right-wing extremist scenes or have in the past made racist, nationalist, anti-Semitic, or further inhumane statements.
Once the exclusion according to paragraph 6 of the law concerning assemblies is announced in all public invitations and other means of communication, the leadership of the assembly has the right to exclude said persons to attend the event and is able to enforce the exclusion with the help of the police, if needed.
What did we achieve?
The exclusion clause does not guarantee absolute safety. However, experience shows that right-wing extremists are more liekly to refrain from attending events which are announced using the exclusion clause, as they most likely will not be permitted to attend. Furthermore, the host organization signals their preparation that right-wing extremists might attend, who in turn lose the moment of surprise which is typically working in their favour. The implementation of the clause thus shows success and raises probability of an event without disturbance. The employment of the clause is just as important as the proper preparation to the potential attendance and disturbance of and by right-wing extremists. Our brochure offers advice and checklists (German only): „Wir lassen uns das Wort nicht nehmen – Empfehlungen zum Umgang mit rechtsextremen Besucher/innen bei Veranstaltungen“.
The exclusion of right-wing extremists is not undemocratic, but allows everybody who feels threatened by the presence of right-wing extremists to attend events without fear and to openly participate in discussion. It prevents right-wing extremists from publicly staging and spreading their anti-democratic and inhumane views.
Even if the exclusion clause is employed by several actors, it is not yet standard practice. That is why MBR continues to offer counseling and trainings for the successful preparation and realization of events, discussions and panels, covering organizational as well as legal questions.