Founded in October 2014 in the East German city of Dresden, Pegida (Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) has been regularly attracting thousands to its weekly demonstration each Monday against what it considers to be the islamisation of the West.
However, the resignation of two of its leaders, Kathrin Oertel and Lutz Bachmann, has underlined the growing uncertainty surrounding the group’s future. Despite its bold claims and for the most part strongly anti-immigration and above all anti-Islam speeches and intentions, Pegida appears to be unsure of what it is, what it wants and where it is going and as a result cracks are beginning to show in the group. However, what is dwindling in Germany may be just about to begin in the UK.
What started out in October last year in Germany as little more than a Facebook page with a few hundred members, has grown into a group of thousands of supporters taking part in their ‘evening strolls’. Pegida has tried to be something for everyone, which may have led to its rapid increase of popularity, but is now leading to its demise. It presents itself as being both radical and moderate offering a political space for those disappointed with mainstream politics.
It has also revealed itself to be a group of contradictions, with supporters carrying signs bearing the words ‘Beware of Ali Baba and his 400 drug dealers’, yet its leader, Lutz Bachmann, has a criminal record for drug dealing as well as breaking and entering. They are a group who claim to be in no way connected with Nazis, yet attract many Lonsdale-clad neo-Nazis (Lonsdale is a popular label for neo-nazis as it has the letters NSD in it).
Moreover, Lutz Bachmann resigned as leader after photos emerged of him sporting a Hitler moustache and hairstyle. Supporters ‘walk’ for a huge variety of causes as wide as the abolition of the TV licence, to campaigning against battery-hen farming.
Asking a Pegida supporter what they stand for also won’t necessarily help ascertain their aims as demonstrators have been urged not to talk to what they call the “Lügenpresse”, a word used by the Nazis to condemn the free press.
Through its ambiguity and contradictions, Pegida seems to have dug its own grave in Germany. The number of people prepared to leave their homes on a cold evening to chant about whatever they feel like is rapidly declining. Indeed 4,000 took to the streets in Dresden this Monday, a stark contrast to the 17,000 the week before and still less than the record number of 25,000.
However, although Pegida seems to have lost its very moderately radical battle, the fight in the UK could be about to begin. The Facebook page Pegida UK has attracted over 15,000 supporters and the group is planning its first ‘walk’ through British streets in Newcastle.
In Germany Pegida demonstrations have been met by anti-demonstrations, which have often been supported by politicians and have consistently outnumbered those of Pegida. In Berlin an anti-demonstration even blocked the street preventing Pegida from progressing on their planned ‘walk’.
It is possible to say that Germany has a greater responsibility to protect minority groups and stamp out racism due to its history, but some in the UK might follow its example and stand up against Pegida UK.