Arianna persuaded me to go to the anti-Nazi demo in Gera today. The local fascists were having a sort of annual picnic.
Gera is quite pretty, not like the stereotype of a run-down East German town. If I were an artist I'd buy myself 1000 sq m of old warehouse, cheap as chips.
We avoided the Black Bloc, who looked like teenagers out for a fight, and joined the main crowd on the bridge. Tons of police. Some Christians playing samba. A couple of guys doing capoeira. Soon th Nazis come across the bridge, under heavy police escort. They have to cross in single file, accompanied by our chants of "Nazis raus!" Most are big, tough, aggressive-looking guys. A few scrawny girls. They look as if they enjoy the hate, so is it really effective? Maybe the point is to make sure that people who don't enjoy the hate are put off.
We go and eat at the Sächsische Bahnhof, a cool place in a beautiful old run-down building. When we get back, the demo is gone and the Nazis are listening to speeches. The world Volk appears a lot. We must not allow our Volk to be destroyed!
East Germany is really not a multicultural place: I don't know what they are afraid of. As it happens, I think there are some legitimate reasons to worry about immigration. But actual anti-immigration sentiment always seems to be irrational and driven by primal human fear of strangers.
If this is Europe's biggest Nazi-fest as the flyers said, we have little to fear. There were maybe 1000 people there. The event was a bit smaller than Wivenhoe village fête.
The demo was supported by Die Linke, Germany's Left populist party. I think they are a much bigger threat to European democracy than the neo-Nazis. But they play by democratic rules so they have to be tolerated. And the populist threat is not just from the Left. The French assembly is preparing to ban the Burqa. This is a direct assault on liberal freedoms. But some people misguidedly support it because of an ill-thought-out feminism. Have I quoted J S Mill before? Never mind: "His own good, whether physical or moral, is not a sufficient warrant."