Publication on the identitarian movement: identitarians downplayed as boy scouts

A professor at Saxony’s University of Cooperative Education describes the Identitarian movement as an "actionist youth movement." This causes criticism.

Police clear a sit-in by the Identitarian movement in front of the CDU headquarters Photo: dpa

The Saxony University of Cooperative Education (BA) is a state-run higher education institution that offers practical training in various fields of study. Since last year, the educational academy has been publishing the scientific publication series "Wissen im Markt." The current issue includes a text about the far-right Identitarian Movement (IB), which is causing an uproar on the Internet.

Under the title "The Identitarian Movement as Political Entrepreneur," author Falk Tennert describes the IB as an "actionist youth movement" that creates "political and cultural offerings for those Europeans" who have been "forgotten by the political establishment": "the youth without an immigrant background." The actors would be "worried about over-familiarization."

Tennert is a professor of empirical research methods at BA Saxony. The primary topic area of the IB, Tennert writes, is the "endangerment of Europe’s cultural identity," the starting point being "cultural leveling efforts in Europe." One searches in vain for a critical classification.

Instead, Tennert explains, the IB activists use "anti-migration campaigns" to "criticize the inaction or illegal actions of the German and Austrian governments. In essence, it is "a neo-national, alternative worldview as a corrective to an increasingly left-wing social center. Classic elements of right-wing extremism are "explicitly not" to be found.

The text was disseminated last week by Saxon state parliament member Juliane Nagel (Die Linke). "Saxony, where in a publication of the state vocational academy the neo-Nazi Identitarian movement as an actionist youth and student movement is downplayed," she wrote on Twitter.

Right-wing position was not discernible

The director of the Anne Frank Educational Center – Center for Political Education and Counseling Hesse, Meron Mendel, echoed this criticism. The IB members would be portrayed in the text as "over-committed boy scouts."

The Saxon vocational academy has since reacted to the criticism and deleted the publication from its homepage. "When the decision was made to publish the article, it was not apparent from the point of view of the responsible editor that a right-wing-oriented position was being represented," the president of the BA, Andreas Hansel, explained to the taz. A trivialization of the IB had not been seen on the part of the editors, since the problematic positions had merely been referred to and analyzed socio-psychologically.

"Obviously, however, this assessment was not comprehensive enough, which we noted with regret," Hansel said. There had also been critical voices within the BA after the publication. In the next two issues of "Wissen im Markt", space will therefore be given to other views on IB.

Author invokes freedom of science

For example, Tennert’s article omits the important information that the Identitarian movement has been monitored by the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution since 2016. "At the time, Hans-Georg Maaben, head of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution, explained that "we see indications of efforts against the free democratic basic order. Muslim immigrants are "defamed in an extremist manner" by the IB. The Austrian Office for the Protection of the Constitution also shares this assessment: the IB attempts "on a pseudo-intellectual basis to disguise its own racist/nationalist worldview," according to its 2014 report.

In a statement to the taz, the author Falk Tennert expressed "some surprise at the predominantly general political assessment" of his contribution, "since this purely scientific technical article neither contains nor intends a political statement or assessment." His contribution would have "no intention of expressing any expressions of sympathy toward the IB, but is a purely technical article within the framework of the constitutionally guaranteed freedom of science," Tennert continued. "I therefore expressly object to being politically close to the New Right to be located."

That the IB clearly pursues xenophobic goals is correct, he said. However, the subject of the article is merely "the application-oriented, sociological and social-psychological discussion on public identity construction. The article thus concentrates exclusively on this technical subject area and – in accordance with the requirement of neutrality in science – refrains from a socio-political classification and evaluation." An assessment is "neither the task nor the intention of an article in a scientific journal."

A non-judgmental professional article? The management of the University of Cooperative Education probably sees things differently and has drawn organizational consequences. "In order to ensure the scientific level of the articles with the inclusion of external know-how," says President Hansel, "an advisory board for the journal will be established by the end of the year, which will include scientists from universities, universities of applied sciences and research institutes. In the future, the experts will critically review articles before they are printed. There is no question of Tennert being dismissed.

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