by Marco Malaguti

The 13th congress of Alternative für Deutschland held in Riesa, Saxony, halfway between Leipzig and Dresden, ended a few hours early. The cause of the unexpected event was the Ukrainian conflict, which ended up representing yet another opportunity for a clash between the German sovereignist party's two components: on the one hand, the liberal-conservative one, called Alternative Mitte (i.e., "Alternative Center," AM), prevalent in the west of the country, and on the other hand, the national-identitarian one, called Der Flügel ("the Wing"), particularly rooted in the east and fresh from electoral successes at the recent federal consultations.

Turning to the right-east

Before splitting over Ukraine, the real hot potato of the moment, the movement's delegates re-elected the diarchy that already led it. Indeed, both Tino Chrupalla and Alice Weidel were reappointed as party co-chairs, defeating their respective opponents. Chrupalla, close to the Flügel, defeated the moderate Norbert Kleinwächter, while Alice Weidel, also now considered to be increasingly close to the party's radical wing, nimbly beat the other candidate, Nicolaus Fest, known, however, for even more radical positions.

Soon after, the three vice presidents were also elected, in the persons of Stephan Brandner (Flügel), Peter Boehringer (close to Flügel), and Mariana Harder-Kühnel (close to the moderates). In a nutshell, the party veers decisively to the right, bolstered in part by the indisputable victory in the federal elections of Flügel candidates (17 elected to uninominal constituencies in the East) against those of the Alternative Center (no elected to uninominal constituencies in the West), and the most identitarian current wins four of the five offices up for grabs.

The resolution of discord

But the real rift, the one that brought the congress to an early close, involved the resolution "Europa neu denken" (" Rethinking Europe"), prepared by AfD leader in Thuringia Björn Höcke. It contains positions that the Alternative Center finds unacceptable. The document (page 8) also includes the usual appeals to German identity and the fight against mass immigration, issues on which there is an all-too-shared consensus in the party; however, it has caused discussion regarding its geopolitical orientation. In particular, two passages sowed discord.

The first (pages 12-36), mentioning the ongoing crisis in Ukraine, points out how the interests of the United States and those of Europe, and consequently Germany, are now no longer overlapping. Against this backdrop, the looming future is one of confrontation between large cultural blocs (Kulturräumen) such as the United States and the People's Republic of China, in which Europe, right now, could be nothing more than the theater of a nuclear conflict. The definition of "cultural blocs," which is reminiscent of the celebrated concept of "civilizations" (and the clash between them) theorized by Samuel Huntington, recalls, however, unlike the U.S. political scientist's theories, the need for a Europe strategically autonomous from the United States and its geopolitical interests. Europe would thus need, according to Höcke, to find its own modus vivendi not only in terms of cultural rediscovery of its roots, but also in terms of geopolitical projection, so as to generate a strong European pole "that can protect us" ("einen starken europäischen Pol in der multipolaren Weltordnung, für ein Europa, das uns schützt," pages 30-31). Positions, these, unwelcome to Alternative Mitte, which instead is skeptical, not to say firmly hostile, to the idea of forming an alternative pole to the Atlantic alliance.

The Russian-Ukrainian war is fought even within AfD

But the real stumbling block is Flügel's position on relations with Russia, which should take the form, according to the document, of a balance (Ausgleich) with Moscow (pages 166-172). Generating controversy is, even before what the document contains in these points, the absence of any condemning words toward the actions of Russia and President Vladimir Putin. Indeed, the document analyzes the situation, moreover without ever using the word "war," according to a coldly realist perspective, focused exclusively on the geostrategic interests of Germany and Europe. The latter, and Berlin with it, should seek equal and mutually beneficial relations not only with Moscow but with the entire Eurasian Economic Union (which besides Russia also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan and Armenia). As for Ukraine, the paper argues how it should be neutral and play the role of a non-aligned bridge-state (Brückenstaat), in a neutral stance that seems reminiscent of that of Austria or Finland during the Cold War decades.

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A position that is close to, not to say absolutely congruent with, that proposed by Putin on the eve of the military intervention against Kiev; a fact, this, which triggered controversy not only from the Alternative Center, but also from the rest of the German parliamentary arc, with the exception of Linke.

A temporary truce

The Alternative Center delegates, with a strong dialectical barrage, attacked the resolution, deeming it "toxic in its content" and "linguistically disturbing," and called for its deletion by the assembly - a motion, however, rejected by 55 percent of the delegates. Chrupalla and Weidel, intervening to throw water on the fire along with Honorary President Alexander Gauland, pointed out that the document does indeed contain some phrases that need to be revised, but that overall it "goes in the right direction." Chrupalla also cautioned that a document as important as Europa neu denken should not be approved by too narrow a majority as the one that was looming at the congress, thus proposing to send it to the narrower Federal Board of Directors, which will have the task of readjusting it collegially so that it can be approved with a broader base at the next Parteitag.

With the climate now poisoned by controversy, a little more than half of the Riesa delegates, 56 percent, therefore voted to terminate the congress early so as not to extend the ill-feeling generated by the discussion on Ukraine to other issues as well, with a deleterious effect on party unity. Thus, we will probably see a new Parteitag in a few months (the fourteenth in just under eight years of the party's history), in which old and new issues will be settled.

Meanwhile, out of two games, Höcke and the identitarians score one and a half.

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Research fellow at the Machiavelli Center. A philosophy scholar, he has been working for years on the topic of the revaluation of nihilism and the great German Romantic philosophy.