1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites

Germany's Greens become boogeyman at farmer protests

February 29, 2024

Urban, academic and cosmopolitan: The Greens could be seen as the natural opposite of many German farmers. Increasingly, however, the agricultural anger at the environmental party has been stoked by the far right.

A pitch fork piercing a German flag
Farmers and Germany have taken to the streets, and the far right is trying to capitalize on the unrestImage: Florian Gaertner/photothek/picture alliance

Ricarda Lange, the chairwoman of Germany's Green Party, received a rude welcome when she recently arrived in the city of Magdeburg to convene with her party. Waiting for her were 200 farmers and their 90 tractors honking, screaming, setting fires. Later, a crowd also blocked her path when she tried to leave the event.

Though comparatively small, the scene received much attention on social media. That's where far-right extremists like Austrian Martin Sellner cheer such protests and agitate against the Greens.

Sellner made headlines in January when a media collective reported on his mass deportation fantasies. Sellner, it was reported, had given a talk on the possible deportation of asylum seekers and migrants, even Germans, at a secret right-wing meeting in Potsdam.

Remigration - Rechtsextreme / Martin Sellner Österreich
Austrian Martin Sellner is a right-wing extremist known to support Germany's Alternative for Germany partyImage: Isabelle Ouvrard/SEPA/IMAGO

Far-right extremists seek to mobilize angry participants

Shortly after the Magdeburg event, Sellner took to Telegram to write, "The farmers aren't backing off! They get full support from me!"  

Neo-Nazi Michael Brück is also supporting farmers, dreaming that their protests might even topple the government. Brück is urging his supporters to learn from Chinese revolutionary Mao Zedong.

"What Mao knew," he wrote on Telegram in January, "applies to us here in Saxony … and shows us who we have to work with ... For Mao once said: We must support everything the enemy fights. And we must support everything that fights the enemy."

German intelligence and security agencies are closely monitoring right-wing influence on the farmers' protests. A speaker for the Interior Ministry of the state of North Rhine-Westphalia, the country's most populous state in the country, explained the right's tactics. "By spreading anti-government or even hostile content, extremists are trying to instrumentalize the farmers' protests to help them connect with the middle class."

Security agencies say they are not seeing much right-wing success

Security services in Bavaria, Germany's largest state, told DW, "Despite numerous calls from extremist groups to mobilize, and the great deal of attention they are giving the protests online, the expected push in attendance has yet to materialize."

German Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck sits with a fellow Green party politician at the party's national convention
Vice Chancellor Robert Habeck (left) has also been targeted by protestersImage: Kay Nietfeld/dpa/picture alliance

Bavaria's security services say farmers there have always clearly separated themselves from right-wing extremist influences, "and they utterly reject extremist speakers at their events," stated the spokesperson.

State agencies are not watching the farmers' protests themselves as there is no need, the spokesperson informed DW, adding that these are democratically protected under freedom of speech and freedom of assembly laws.

Vice-chancellor Habeck: 'Words become deeds'

The fact that right-wing extremists are attempting to fuel anger aimed at the Green Party's Economy Minister and Vice-Chancellor Robert Habeck. Farmers have targeted Habeck and extremists have joined them to harangue the politician.

Habeck spoke about attacks on his party at length as the federal Greens met on February 27, saying, "Brutalization is the weapon of populism. To exaggerate the problems a country has to resolve in such a way that people can only scream at one another and solutions are no longer possible." The ultimate goal, said Habeck, is to damage democracy.

Warning of the consequences of incitement, especially on social media, Habeck recently said, "Words become deeds" — referencing the 2019 murder of CDU politician Walter Lübcke, who was killed because he supported then-Chancellor Angela Merkel's asylum policies. The gunman was a right-wing extremist who had been radicalized online.

Habeck claims Green successes provoked backlash

But why are the Greens being targeted? Vice-Chancellor Habeck has a theory: "Populists don't target other populists. Instead, they go after those seeking compromise." Habeck says the Greens have helped make Germany more progressive over the past several decades, adding that the right to govern resulting from the party's political success has provoked its detractors.

Top Green politicians warn Germany could ultimately be undone by division and polarization. Habeck said that is what makes recent nationwide demonstrations for democracy and against right-wing extremism so important, adding, "And that's why I'm not scared." 

This article was translated from German by Jon Shelton.

While you're here: Every Tuesday, DW editors round up what is happening in German politics and society. You can sign up here for the weekly email newsletter Berlin Briefing.

Pfeifer Hans Kommentarbild App
Hans Pfeifer Hans Pfeifer is a DW reporter specializing in right-wing extremism.@Pfeiferha