Recently, I went to a speech on conservatism in Germany today. Dr. Schapkow’s discussion of the rising conservatism and populism among the German population dealt with an intriguing and timely topic, one that has far-reaching consequences. In his speech, Dr. Schapkow gave a brief history of German politics following WWII, specifically dealing with the divide between East and West Germany and how that changed German political ideals. The East Germans, having learned a twisted history of the Holocaust through the USSR and dealing with economic hardship following its fall, developed a more nationalist-focused consciousness and a resistance to immigration than the West.
Today, that consciousness is embodied by the AfD (Alles für Deuschtland, or All for Germany), a heavily anti-immigration and nationalist party that focuses on the anger of the German working due to feelings of “losing out” economically due to globalization and the flood of refugees. Dr. Schapkow detailed how the AfD is growing across both West and East Germany. His focus was on how the anti-Islamization ideals of the AfD and their spread will have a major impact on German and world politics in the coming years. Put broadly, the rise of nationalism in Germany is both paralleled by and will have major ramifications for the growth of populism across Europe, and even in the United States.
Personally, I found this lecture to be a well-thought out and impactful warning about the wave of populism sweeping the world. He commented on how nationalism has not been studied heavily following the Cold War, much like how Sovietology fell off after 1991. Such widespread nationalism has led to some of the most devastating events in Western history, most notably the rise of Adolf Hitler and the Third Reich through the idea of “Das Volk”, or The People”. Worryingly, this idea has been resurrected by the AfD, and history unfortunately shows us how such ideas can lead countries to horrible places. The lack of study on this idea could be devastating in the coming years, and his call to study it further certainly rang true.
As for Dr. Schapkow’s personal views on the subject, he and I saw nearly eye-to-eye on almost everything. His worry and disdain for the politics of the AfD rang true with my thoughts towards support for Trump and his “America First” policy, and I saw a lot of parallels between our countries’ political climates. His disdain, however, was tempered by the understanding that simply deriding these people for having hateful views would never work; rather, those of us on the other side need to start a dialogue and try to understand their views. This struck a chord with me because there do not seem to be many people in America today who want to cooperate. Unfortunately, such cooperation is going to be the only way to bridge the divide seen in modern American politics.
Overall, this lecture was an excellent overview of current German politics and clarified how nationalism has affected Germany so far. I am even more convinced of the fact that the world needs to further investigate the dangers of populism, while simultaneously trying harder to understand and solve the reasons for its resurgence. Studying nationalism will only become more important in the future and discussions like this one will be critical to stop it from spiraling out of control once more.