WSI Mitteilungen

: Issue 03/2019

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2019, pp. 159-167

Dieter Sauer, Richard Detje

Right-wing populism in companies. Manifestations, background, political handling


What is the background and what are the influencing factors of right-wing populist perceptions amongst wage earners? Why do above-average numbers of union members vote for the AfD? The article elaborates some answers to these questions, based on empirical research. An insidious normalisation of day-to-day racism and growing xenophobic resentments can be observed in factories, service companies and administrations. Searching for the causes leads to the theory of an intensification of the deterioration of conditions in the working world itself, even beyond the areas of precarious work. The demands of working life challenge the foundations of the meritocratic framework of capi­talism. When these demands lead to a loss of security and recognition at work and to a loss of work perspectives, then they become a breeding ground for right-wing populism. Therefore it is not only the arenas of civil society where the fight against the populist and extreme right has to be promoted ; it is the struggle against the poor and insecure conditions of working life which is essential to overcoming right-wing populism. These are challenges for trade unions in the labour-policy field of action. more... (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2019, pp. 168-176

Klaus Dörre

“We want our country back!” Workers, devaluation and the AfD party


The article addresses right-wing populist orientations occurring among unionised workers. On the basis of empirical studies, it examines a set of collective devaluations which generate the problematic issues which the radical right uses to fill the social question with its own content. It reconstructs the deep history of active trade unionists and works councils who openly sympathise with the AfD party or even more extreme right-wing organisations. Workers in east Germany often feel that they belong to a special class that results from collective devaluation. Breaking through this logic of devaluation can become a starting point for trade union ­counter-strategies. more... (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2019, pp. 177-184

Wolfgang Menz, Sarah Nies

Fragile security and legitimation problems.
Right-wing populism from the perspective of the sociology of work


Discussing common explanations for the rise of right-wing orientations from the perspective of the sociology of work, the article elaborates three arguments: (1) The objectification of economic forces results in a “de-legitimisation” of labour politics and leads to an imaginary shifting of action capacity to the politics of migration and borders. (2) New forms of authoritarian orientations can be interpreted as a fear-driven submission under systemic imperatives (“partial market authoritarianism”). (3) Work-related insecurities are countered with reference to the principles of meritocracy while their validation becomes simultaneously fragile. Right-wing populist arguments make it possible to refute this fragility and to legitimise exclusion and devaluation by referring to “achievement and merit”. more... (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2019, pp. 185-192

Wolfgang Schroeder, Samuel Greef, ­Jennifer Ten Elsen, Lukas Heller

Right-wing populist activities in company contexts and trade union reactions


The increased attractiveness of right-wing populism is not only a test for democracy, but also a challenge for the DGB unions, which see themselves as a “bulwark against right-extremists”. This article examines the actors, issues and goals of right-wing populist activities in company contexts and possible trade union counter-reactions. The new right-wing populist activities follow a path-dependent logic. They connect vertical and horizontal lines of conflict. In this way, the anti-establishment perspective of left-wing trade unionists against co-management will be linked around a right-wing, sealing-off location logic of yellow trade unions to form a new mobilisation strategy. The decisive factor for this strategy is an opportunity structure made up of structural developments and social challenges. The works council elections in 2018 opened up a window of opportunity for a stronger anchor-hold on the shop floor. The trade unions are responding to these interventions in a context-bound manner with reactions ranging from conflict to demarcation. more... (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2019, pp. 193-201

Martin Kronauer

Right-wing tendencies among workers and the need for social transformation


The article discusses two explanations for the rise of right-wing (xenophobic and nationalist) allegiances of workers in various European countries and the USA and considers the consequences of those explanations for urgently needed social transformations. The first explanation refers to the “imperial mode of living” at the expense of the global South in which the working classes are also entangled, and which is expressed in the rejection of refugees and migrants. The second explanation refers to the symbolic and political “marginalisation of the working class” particularly since the 1970s. According to this argument, workers support the nationalist right in order to bring to bear their interests that have been blocked out of the public sphere. In the light of these arguments, the article explores the question whether there might be a chance to forge new alliances that are able to promote the urgently needed social transformation in the direction of a more egalitarian and open society – far from nationalism and xenophobia – and even to address the pressing issues of global social exploitation and ecological devastation. more... (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2019, pp. 202-211

Ulrich Brinkmann, Maren Hassan-Beik, Lukas Zappino

Solidarity and skepticism. Flight, migration and the social question from the viewpoint of active unionists


In this article the relationship between trade unions and right-wing populism is examined on the basis of a previously little researched group of active unionists – members who, according to the theory, operate between the structure of union employees and members in the workforce and thus exercise a specific pivotal function. The study is exploratory and combines qualitative and quantitative survey methods. Despite clear signs of growing precarity and uncertainty, and in addition to an eroding basis of trust in poli­tics, an unbroken (or newly re-kindled) conflict orientation can be identified. Thus, trade unions are the major hope in the fight against labour-related unreasonable demands and social downgrading. Moreover, the survey brings to light ethnically oriented conflict interpretations and reservations expressed towards refugees, indicating three lines of interpretation. However, the sample as a whole is heterogeneous, which is illustrated by a cluster analysis identifying three groups, each with different worldviews. more... (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2019, pp. 212-219

Jörg Flecker, Gudrun Hentges, István Grajczjar, Carina Altreiter, Saskja Schindler

The extreme and populist right and the social question.
Developments in France, Austria, Hungary, and the Netherlands


This article addresses the question of the extent to which the move from neo-liberal to pro-welfare state programmatic can be seen as a recipe for success for extreme and populist right-wing parties in Europe. Parties combining authoritarian socio-cultural positions with a support for the welfare state in their socio-economic positions are often labelled “left-authoritarian” or “exclusivist solidarity”. They rely heavily on welfare chauvinism, i. e. the exclusion of a nationally defined marginal group. Taking France, Austria, Hungary and the Netherlands as country examples, this article discusses the extent to which extreme and populist right-wing parties actually show such new orientations. In doing so, it summarises the development of far-right parties, describes changes in their programmatic and portrays the parties’ electorate. In places where these parties are in government, the implementation of their programmes is assessed. more... (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2019, pp. 220-224

Claudia Peter, Michael Brecht

Right-wing populism in companies and regions: A Herculean task for management and trade union policies


It is not a new problem for trade unions to be confronted with cases of discrimination, exclusion or racism in the working environment. The state elections in Baden-Württemberg in 2016 however reflected a turning point (as did the later parliamentary elections in 2017). In the administrative district of Rastatt 17.6% of voters chose the right-wing party AfD, in some constituencies voting being as high as 30%. In the parliamentary elections 2017 it was 11.5%. Since spring 2018 three of the works council members of the 35-strong Mercedes Benz works council are from the right-wing grouping ‘Zentrum Automobil’ in Rastatt. This article presents the work of the metalworkers’ union IG Metall in Gaggenau and how it positions itself against right-wing populism and its influence in companies and the region as a whole by the promotion of trade-union, democratic values. more... (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2019, pp. 225-228

Ulli Schneeweiß

Right-wing populism as a challenge in establishments represented by ver.di and ver.di administrations


Right-wing populism has arrived in the union ver.di, to varying degrees depending on the sector. Cases of open racism have so far remained a rarity. The confrontation with right-wing populism in the everyday life of trade unions in establishments and their administrations has largely been characterised by having to get used to right-wing populist narratives, repression of the political mandate and uncertainty amongst the officials. The author appeals for a quick and clear decision by the union leadership in the handling of sympathisers and officials of the right-wing political party AfD. Only in this way can the trade unions make credible their struggle for a humane and fair society in the future. more... (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2019, pp. 229-231

Thomas Fischer

Inclusive solidarity – the trade unions’ answer to right-wing populism


The article demonstrates how right-wing populist actors that are to be found not only in the Alternative for Germany party (AfD), but also amongst trade union members and interest representation, try to capitalise on existing problems in the world of work. By linking ‘national’ and ‘social’ questions, they achieve division within society which consciously focuses on the exclusion of non-German nationals and a turning inwards, closing off external influences. The DGB and its member trade unions are demonstrably in favour of inclusive solidarity as the maxim of trade union action. This encompasses: resolutely combatting group-focused enmity in companies and within society, fighting racism and social exclusion, improving trade union support for the improvement of working and living conditions for all employees and displaying trade-union solidarity beyond the limits of company and organisation. The initialised trade-union dialogue is an invitation to all democratic forces to join together and set a clear sign that the exclusive understanding of solidarity as demonstrated by the right-wing populist groupings is unacceptable. more... (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2019, pp. 232-234

Michael Fischer

Trade union strategies to counter right-wing ideologies


The right-wing populist party AfD (Alternative for Germany) has become firmly established in all of Germany’s Länder (federal states) and since the last federal elections in 2017 are the third strongest party in the Bundestag. These right-wing populist successes, which also have an effect on other political parties, present an enormous challenge for unified trade union action. Not least in the struggle to interpret these right-wing populist successes. Trade unions are called upon to oppose these developments at varying levels; as regards values at the workplace, in enterprises and on the streets; as a lobby for decent labour, social security and an effective and competent state; as well as in their core business of dealing with the company, industries and collective bargaining policy. more... (in German)

WSI-Mitteilungen 3/2019, pp. 235-237

Hans-Jürgen Urban

The duty of proactivity in democratic politics


Social deprivation, individual insecurity and shortfalls in social recognition are found to be drivers of contempt for elites and also of right-wing populism. Extending the search for causative factors to the world of work has proved productive. Above all, the fears induced by the constant restructuring of work engender receptiveness to elements of far-right agitation within companies. This seems to call for a new democratic social reformism, one which trade unions should also participate in shaping. Their interest politics would be served by an inclusive class policy which balances out and groups the interests of both native and migrant wage-earners in companies, in the systems of the welfare state and in wider society. At the same time, trade unions should redefine their tradition of internationalism to counteract the danger of narrow nationalism restricting the concept of solidarity. more... (in German)