How do political and religious fanatics differ?
born 1952; Professor of Political Science and Sociology at the Berlin University of Applied Sciences for Administration and Justice.
address: University of Applied Sciences for Administration and Justice Berlin, Alt-Friedrichsfelde 60, 10315 Berlin.
Publications including: Fundamentalism in Germany. God-fighters and political extremists threaten society, Hamburg 1998.
For all differences, there are a number of common features of modern political extremism. This includes the absolute claim of one's own conceptions, dogmatism, the division of the world into friend and foe, but also conspiracy theories and fanaticism (Backes 1989: 298ff.). Extremist ideologies are closed structures of thought that are applied or interpreted by their followers, but not reflected on and further developed. They have a quasi-religious status, they are not discussed but believed. Politics does not consist of a program, rather politics is a worldview that regulates all areas of life.
It is considered to be eternal or inherently true. Belief in the national community and nation or in the historical mission of the working class and the dictatorship of the proletariat or in the regulations of the Koran and the Islamic state of God take the place of political programs that are concerned with the discussion and implementation of rational goals. The eternal struggle for survival - against the "traitors" and "infidels" or the "Jewish-Bolshevik world conspiracy" or the "capitalist exploitation" and "imperialism" - and the utopia of a "homogeneous people's community", a "classless society" or a " God's State "are not considered programs worth discussing, but rather as substantial and immovable foundations of the political creed.
The democratic idea of temporary rule and the constant legitimation and control of political leadership through an institutional system of checks and balances is alien to political extremism because it undermines the image of a strong state. The leadership image of the extreme right is based on the idea of the organic development of the national community. A leader is someone who asserts himself, he deserves unconditional loyalty and obedience. The extreme left also acts with an image of the leader that is legitimized differently. The workers' leader is the most class-conscious among the workers, and the government should be in the hands of a body that monolithically embodies and represents the interests of the working class. The leadership image on both sides is elitist. The social Darwinist-organic model of selection through struggle, victory and defeat shapes right-wing extremist ideas. On the extreme left, the idea of a particularly class-conscious layer of professional revolutionaries dominates, as Lenin had proposed and propagated before the Russian Revolution in 1917.
Despite these similarities, there are considerable differences in terms of the history of origin, goals and means. They are particularly evident in their historical position at the beginning of modern democratic society, the French Revolution and the modern European constitutional history that originated from it. Socialist and communist movements share the liberal ideas of freedom, equality, fraternity, interpret them in their own way and see their goals in harmony with the revolutionary ideas. Above all, they expand the liberal demand for legal equality to include the dimensions of economic and social equality. The extreme left's image of man is just as strongly shaped by this as by the idea of the emancipation of man from the shackles of capitalist exploitation carried out in solidarity by the working class, as Marx and Engels have shown in their works. In contrast to reform-oriented democratic socialism, the extreme left sees capitalism in a deep crisis and strives to bring about the overthrow of capitalism through revolutionary action in order to then establish the socialist social order.
The extreme right rejects the ideas of the French Revolution. The focus is not on the idea of equal and self-confident citizens, but on the national community ideology. The people here are not the community of citizens, but a living organism. The individual is part of a people, but he also faces it in his individual existence. From this tension, the extreme right creates an image of man that is based on supposedly eternal laws of nature and the historical greatness and superiority of the people. Against the emancipatory movements since the Enlightenment and the French Revolution, the extreme right sets the roots of the individual in family, people, nation and tradition on the one hand and his genetic determination on the other. The individual is the servant of his people, to which he belongs ethnically and culturally irreplaceable. Biological, innate basic equipment and traditional behavioral patterns rooted in the people limit a scope of behavior that is mythically charged: Honor and loyalty, devotion to the leader, heroic virtues such as daring and willingness to make sacrifices aestheticize the right-wing extremist image of man into an ostensibly natural style of behavior that is beyond critical reflection.
Right-wing and left-wing extremism tend to have reserved or negative attitudes towards religion and Christianity, with both the primacy of politics. This is where the main difference to Islamism can be seen. He emphasizes the unity of religion and politics, the idea of the Islamic state of God is based precisely on the fact that there is no separation and that the religion of Islam permeates all areas of government and society. But right-wing and left-wing extremism reintroduce religious elements into their ideology in a different way: They could be viewed as political religions, namely by consolidating central ideological foundations quasi-religiously: belief in the leader, in the party's historical mission or of the working class. The political aesthetics of the mass events of the NSDAP before and after 1933, especially at the Nazi party rallies, are strikingly similar to church ceremonies.
Islamism emphasizes the unity of religion and state and it politicizes and instrumentalizes the religion of Islam. The basic principles of the western state and social order are not only alien to him, he militantly rejects them: basic and human rights, democracy and the separation of powers, the rule of law. One could go a step further and expand the differences to other areas of society. Already Max Weber in his famous treatise on "Protestant Ethics and the Spirit of Capitalism", published in 1905, referred to fundamentally different development paths: scientific-experimental thinking, rational administrative action, expertise, legal casuistry and economic-capitalist thinking and behavior - all of this existed it only in the Occident, but not, or only weakly, in other cultures (Weber 2005: 7ff.). It therefore makes perfect sense not to assume a politicized religion in Islamism alone, but rather a much deeper frontal position against the West, against the entire Western way of life.
From: Hans-Gerd Jaschke: Politischer Extremismus, Wiesbaden 2006, VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften. The volume from the series "Elements of Politics", ed. v. Hans-Georg Ehrhart, Bernhard Frevel, Klaus Schubert and Suzanne S. Schüttemeyer has been published as a licensed edition by the Federal Agency for Civic Education and can be ordered here.
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