(or “cross-position”) a Weimar era German-language term used to describe the political extremes of the Left and the Right coming together (historically to strengthen the moral legitimacy of the Right; similar dynamic to “fishhook”). Discussed on the pod by German critic Anke Dyes to describe the anti-mask “hygiene demos” in Berlin in 2020. Related to HORSESHOE and a possible symptom of COMPRESSION.
Daniel Keller: I think we could talk about the horseshoe thing now. I think it's sort of related. We are definitely lacking the vocabulary or visual signifiers to understand mapping through the political climate right now. Maybe Empire is a good way of looking at it.
LIL INTERNET: Z [from Black Socialist of America] posted a really good deep debunk of horseshoe theory, because a lot of people were talking about Kantbot being on Red Scare and [Steve] Bannon was on Red Scare. It's odd. With COVID time, suddenly it felt like things were different, and all of a sudden left [and] right reactionary guests could go on left-wing podcasts, or no-platforming was over. I don't know if it was just a recalibration because we had bigger problems to worry about. But anyway, a lot of talk has been going around about horseshoe theory. But Z posted this great debunk about it, about how ultimately it’s a useless term. The first really good point it had was that the horseshoe model in itself, of course, calibrates everything in relation to centrism, which is a pretty shitty model.
DK: I saw this one virgin/chad meme which I thought was really effective, which was “virgin centrism” versus “chad centrism,” and the virgin one was just all the dots in the middle, and then Chad centrism was just dots kind of evenly surrounded in like the far left/right hand corners. I mean, if centrism looked like that, if it was actually pragmatically looking for solutions on ideology that would be a more interesting version of centrism, but the horseshoe theory, of course, makes it look like all those ideas are clustered in the middle of acceptable, you know, Overton window ideas. So yeah, radical centrism would look very different, I guess in that.
LI: Right. [The essay] mentioned this interesting term: Querfront.
Carly Busta: So we now have Anke Dyes on the line. Anke was my colleague at Texte zur Kunst, and she also is a writer and an artist, and she's calling in so we can get a better sense of a German perspective. Anke, can you explain to us what the coordinates are in Germany, or at least in Berlin?
Anke Dyes: Yeah, I can try. Mostly, you will be referring to the “Hygiene” demo, this “hygiene demonstration” in front of the Volksbühe [theater at Rosa-Luxemburg-Platz] every weekend. It's kind of an interesting thing to look at, because a lot of people talk about it as being an example for something that has led to Querfront or represents a Querfront.
CB: And a quick definition of Querfront?
AD: Well, what the German press means by it right now is the Left and the Right in these extremes coming together. What it means in more precise terms—and also what it means in this case—is that the Right takes over any position that doesn't clearly declare itself against it. So you have these people that are basically theater people that start this hygiene demo. And they do it in a particularly stupid way, where they basically don't say that they are not Nazis in the beginning, and then the Nazis sweep in and take over their momentum. They have this like, AP level history knowledge, so they write about the Republican Revolution that failed in 1848, and relate their own story to that, and it's a bit annoying, it's very bildungsbürgerlich. It's very like, bougie German abiturienten story. And then and then they kind of made this pretty stupid mistake by not clearly saying from the beginning, oh, and we totally are for migrants, and we totally respect LGBTQ rights, or whatever you would have to say. They didn't. And now it's full of Nazis. And now they're a bit shocked. And now at the demos they stand there with a newspaper that they're producing and say, “Nazis raus!” [Nazis out!], and then the Nazis shout at them “Feigling!”, like, “you coward.” Yeah, well...
CB: Right. You asked for it. What is the thing that they are asking for? And where was the space available for the Nazis to jump in?
AD: Well, I think they're against the current measures that are taken. They're basically saying this is anti-democratic. A friend of mine is living on Rosa Luxemburg Straße and he can basically see the proper hooligans. There was a moment of this being fun, anti-authoritarian, pseudo-smart anarchist or whatever. They were also thinking like the “free democrat” or something.
CB: A libertarian you would say.
AD: Yeah, exactly. That’s what they want, these theater guys. It's also disgusting in itself. Like, it's not like a good idea that got corrupted or something. They're just idiots from the beginning.
CB: Right. Okay, so now there are Nazis and there are theater people and are they okay with this?
LI: That's kind of more of my question. It seems like, suddenly, Neo-Nazi factions started showing up, and they both had the same, on the surface level, agenda, the same goal. At what point did, suddenly, they kind of look over and be like, oh wait, there's Nazis here? I mean, was there a moment where there was a bit of confusion and they were actually in proximity together?
AD: I think it happened pretty quickly. And I think you can see it now in the reaction in videos that are shared on YouTube.
CB: I wonder — I don't want to put you on the spot with your German history, but Querfront is interesting historically. If it's something in your knowledge base, do you want to give us a brief history in regards to the Weimar Republic [and its development in the 1920s]?
LI: Also how it emerged, and how these two sides who we generally think of as being really opposed to each other, how they decided to work together, or meet in the middle or create a third position?
AD: I think this is the defining thing about it. It's never two parties meeting, but one side, the Right, exploiting the sentiments on the left. So I think that historically, it's quite clear that it's a project from the Right to get the people on board that might also be against the rich people, then the Right would say, well, they're also all Jewish. I'm making a very rough version of this. I just read this, that even the Green party in the early 1980s, when they were starting out in Germany, they had this idea of we are neither Left nor Right, we are in the front, or like we are up for it. Something like that was their slogan. And immediately the Right swept in. They had Neo-Nazis in their party, because they were not Left. And this is what happens, you cannot position yourself as not a leftist when you do anything, because then you have the Nazi involved.