from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Former European Commissioner and former Italian Foreign Minister Emma Bonino from the Radical Party

As radicalism is called a political setting that fundamental changes in a controlling society aspires. The adjective “radical” is derived from the Latin radix (root) and describes the endeavor to get to the root of social and political problems and to solve them from there as comprehensively, completely and sustainably as possible.

The term “radicalism” originally comes from the liberal freedom and democracy movement of the 19th century and for a long time stood as a political directional term for the bourgeois left (the left-liberal political spectrum). The radical democrats advocated universal suffrage , a consistent disempowerment of the church and the republic as a form of government . Especially in Romance countries (such as France and Italy) the term still stands for left-liberal and radical democratic parties .

In the German-speaking area in particular, a change in meaning took place over the course of the 20th century, so that today the term can mean currents of all political stripes that pursue their goals uncompromisingly and often in opposition to the ruling order. In this sense one speaks of left or right radicalism .

In the parlance of the state security authorities in the Federal Republic of Germany , the term “radicalism” used until then has been replaced by the term “ extremism ” since 1975 . This refers to the outermost positions in relation to the assumed middle of the political spectrum , which include a rejection of the democratic constitutional state and, as a rule, a willingness to use violence .

Liberal radicalism

The radical revolutionary of 1848, Friedrich Hecker , leaned partly towards socialism .

In Europe in the 19th and early 20th centuries, “radicals” were the supporters of political liberalism who belonged to the left wing of the liberal movement . The willingness to enforce liberal-national goals in the context of a revolution against restorative state systems , possibly also by force, cannot initially be assessed as a special characteristic that would have differentiated the radicals from other liberal groups. Rather, all liberal approaches originally aimed at a lasting change in the political situation. In the foreground stood in particular the demand for a constitution ( constitutionalism ) and the rejection of an absolutist and autocratic understanding of rule.

Significant differences between the components of the liberal bourgeoisie, which were heterogeneous from the outset , only emerged in the course of time and in different ways from country to country, with the radicals differing essentially from more moderate liberals in their particularly far-reaching political goals and the sharpness of the dispute . In many cases, a differentiation of the liberal spectrum of this time can be determined in particular by whether a constitutional monarchy is called for or the radical goal of a republic (abolition of the monarchy ) is being pursued.

In general, the Liberals saw (in German-speaking and "Freedom", " Advanced " or " liberalism " called) since the Congress of Vienna in opposition to the conservative order of the Restoration period and called by the princes more or less vehemently general liberties one. A noticeable differentiation within the liberal camp occurred for the first time during the reign of the "citizen king" Louis-Philippe in France , who was initially assigned to the liberal movement and who came to power through a bourgeois-liberal revolution ( July Revolution of 1830 ). which overthrew the reactionary Bourbon regime. The French bourgeoisie, however, were increasingly disappointed by the July monarchy and the radicals particularly demanded that census suffrage be replaced by universal , free male suffrage, and wanted to achieve the complete and immediate replacement of the feudal basic burdens. The discontent of the more radical liberals ultimately led to the February Revolution of 1848 and the revolutionary upheavals it triggered across Europe .

Seat of the “radical socialist” liberal party. After their address in Paris, they are also called Parti radical valoisien .
Christine Taubira was the French presidential candidate in 2002 and later also became vice-chair of the small Parti radical du gauche . The “Left Radicals” belong to left liberalism and had split off from the older radical party.

This wing of the liberals was “radical” both in terms of its goals (radical democratic) and the means employed (overthrowing governments). The radical spectrum was also generally open to social revolutionary tendencies, which had increasingly dominated the political discussion of the left since 1871 ( Paris Commune ), although in contrast to the labor movement and social democracy (with which the radicals often formed alliances) it was always open his bourgeois origin remained shaped.

In various cantons of Switzerland , shortly after the July Revolution of 1830, there were decidedly “radical” overturns, the so-called liberal “ regeneration ”. In 1844/45 the radicals organized so-called free marches against the conservatively ruled canton of Lucerne to bring about a violent overthrow. After 1847 the terms “radical” and “free-spirited” or “liberal” were often used with the same meaning in Switzerland. In French-speaking Switzerland, the Free Democratic Party still calls itself Parti radical-démocratique Suisse and is popularly known as les radicaux (“the radicals”).

Radicalism was particularly pronounced in France , where it co-determined politics for many decades in the form of the Radical Party and was the dominant political force between 1900 and 1940. Due to its positioning between the labor movement and conservatives , the Parti radical was mostly indispensable for forming a majority and therefore participated in the government in a wide variety of political constellations. Coming from a strongly republican, anti-monarchist and anti-clerical tradition, the radicals from 1898 repeatedly sought alliances with socialist and communist groups in order to implement their ideas, such as the laws separating state and church in 1905 or in the Popular Front of 1936 In contrast to its allies, who came from the labor movement, the Parti radical represented the radical liberal bourgeoisie, a movement that looks back on a much stronger tradition in France than in German-speaking countries.

In Catholic countries such as Spain ( Partido Progresista ) or Chile ( Partido Radical ), in which the church functioned as the cornerstone of the conservative social order, the radical wing of the liberal movement (generally already secular ) stood for particularly strong anti-clericalism .

In Germany, radical democratic and early socialist revolutionaries were particularly well represented in Baden in 1848 . Later on, the left wing of the liberals, unlike the national liberals, was explicitly called radical liberals. The democratic-republican forces of the empire, which were bundled in the German People's Party , later the German Freedom Party, saw themselves as such .

The far-reaching realization of important radical goals such as the separation of state and church as well as the replacement of the critical bourgeoisie by the working class proletariat as the driving force of social change from the last quarter of the 19th century and the generally increasing democratization of the political systems of the western world in the first Half of the 20th century led to the incorporation of liberal radicalism into the established center-left spectrum. The leveling of the differences between workers and citizens as carriers of left-opposition currents in the course of the progressive bourgeoisisation of Western European medium- sized society in the second half of the 20th century ultimately brought about a change in the meaning of the political term "radicalism", which is generally not in German-speaking countries today serves more as a designation for an emphatically liberal and democratic political orientation.

Radical democratic currents

From the connection between radically democratically-minded bourgeois-liberal forces and grassroots and council- democratic aspirations of the political left based in socialism , the relatively open attribute “ radical democratic ” with regard to its classification emerged in the course of the 20th century , which is still a programmatic designation today is used to express the self-image of groups of quite different political orientations that want to emphasize their decidedly democratic understanding of politics.

The spectrum of this term ranges from groups that can be clearly assigned to the left-liberal “radical” tradition, such as the radical democratic party that emerged in the late phase of the Weimar Republic , to advocates of democratic socialism (e.g. the young democrats / young left ) who see themselves today as radical democrats.

Political radicalism as a threat

Even the radical endeavors of liberalism were based on their original self-image towards a fundamental restructuring, possibly even a violent overthrow of the existing (undemocratic) conditions and were therefore always seen from the perspective of the respective political rulers and their conservative supporters as a danger to the ruling political system .

The changes in the political landscape were accompanied by a change in meaning, according to which “radicalism” in the language of most media today is located in a gray area between “ democracy ” and “extremism” and is no longer understood as the epitome of a liberal and democratic political stance. On the contrary, the expression “politically radical” in the current, general understanding is even understood as a synonym for an anti-democratic attitude that aims to abolish the existing system or the rule of law in favor of an ideologically shaped authoritarian or even totalitarian social system. As a result, radicalism is seen again as a danger, but this time for the (today ruling) democratic order. Politically, it can be located on the left as well as on the right or it can also exist in the form of a political-religious fundamentalism .

In West Germany, the term “radical” came into use in this sense, especially in the 1960s and 1970s, when, from the point of view of the majority of the population, it was a matter of defending against Marxist or socialist-influenced currents, which were part of a left radical opposition - “ left radicalism ” were heading towards a restructuring of the social and political system of the Federal Republic of Germany. Such “radicals” were seen by the parties represented in the Bundestag and the state organs mostly as dangerous forces threatening the free democratic basic order of the Federal Republic. This mistrust was expressed by the radical decree passed in 1972 .

At the same time, the term began to be extended to include right-wing opponents of the democratic order and a distinction was made between “right-wing radicals” and “left-wing radicals”. Until 1974, the Office for the Protection of the Constitution used the term “radicalism” in the sense of “efforts regarded as anti-constitutional”. Thereafter, the term in this meaning was replaced by the term "extremism".

“Radicalism” still has a more positive connotation than “extremism” and is generally perceived as less “threatening” than the latter. The attribute “radical” can possibly even have a positive connotation and stand for particular consistency and decisiveness in the selection and in the pursuit and implementation of overarching goals. It is therefore used as a self-designation by some groups who fundamentally criticize and want to change the existing state and / or economic system. Even the APO of the 68s quickly took advantage of the derogatory external name for itself, as expressed in the ironically provocative sentence chanted at demonstrations: We are a small radical minority. Such "radicals" see their own (positively understood) radicality mostly in their goals, but not in their methods (overthrow, violence), while they see the attribute "extremist" as discrediting and reject it for themselves.

Radical religious, especially radical Islamic endeavors, which ultimately aim at the overthrow of the liberal order and the establishment of a theocracy in a radical rejection of the critical concept of reason established in Western thought with reference to the Enlightenment , determine the understanding of radicality more in the context of the 21st century as before. Many Western Europeans think of the word “radical” differently today than they did just a few decades ago, primarily of Islamist or generally religious extremism. In this context in particular, the word “ radicalization ” has spread, describing the sometimes difficult-to-explain process of members of free societies adopting anti-freedom ideologies.

The philosopher Helmuth Plessner (1892–1985) defines radicalism as “the conviction that truly great and good things can only arise from a conscious return to the roots of existence; the belief in the healing power of extremes, the method to oppose all traditional values ​​and compromises. Social radicalism is therefore the opposition to the existing, insofar as it always includes a certain balance between the conflicting forces of human nature and obeys the laws of realization, the compulsion of the possible. ”Plessner sees social mechanisms such as tact, diplomacy, prestige and Ceremonial as appropriate to the psychological structure of man and therefore effective in maintaining a humane society; Social radicalism is rejected by him as the "ethics of tactlessness".

Definition by the Federal German Office for the Protection of the Constitution

Right-wing radical advertising material of the
Republicans , confiscated from West Germany in the GDR , Leipzig 1990

In the Federal Republic of Germany , the distinction between the terms “radical” and “extremist” was mainly shaped by the Federal Constitutional Court and the offices for the protection of the constitution . In the meantime, it has largely established itself among the providers of political education and in schools.

In the young Federal Republic of Germany, the protection of the constitution used the term “radicalism” in the sense of “ endeavors regarded as anti-constitutional ”. In the 1960s and 1970s this meaning was increasingly taken over from the term “extremism”. The renewed change in meaning, in the course of which the negative connotation of "radicalism" as a state-endangering endeavor was gradually overcome, took place gradually since the years between 1966 and 1974:

“Until 1966, the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution described right-wing unconstitutional organizations as“ right-wing radicals ”, later right-wing extremists and right-wing radicals were synonymous. In 1974 right-wing extremism established itself as a generic term for anti-constitutional efforts by the right. "

Today the German Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution makes an explicit distinction between radicalism and extremism:

“The efforts that are directed against the core of our constitution - the free democratic basic order - are described as extremist . There is often confusion about the concept of extremism. It is often wrongly equated with radicalism. For example, critics of capitalism who express fundamental doubts about the structure of our economic and social order and who want to fundamentally change it are not extremists. Radical political views have their legitimate place in our pluralistic social order. Even those who want to realize their radical goals need not fear that they will be watched by the Office for the Protection of the Constitution; at least not as long as he recognizes the basic principles of our constitutional order. "

The suggestion of various authors, pointing to the essential difference between the tasks of the protection of the constitution and the social sciences , to “reserve the attribute extremist for the objects of observation of the constitution protection authorities and to use the term radicalism for the much broader social science field of activity” has so far not been successful.

Web links

Wiktionary: radicalism  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Mirko Heinemann: Jumble of terms. The differences between radicalism, extremism and populism ( memento of the original from August 28, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) Info: The @1@ 2Template: Webachiv / IABot / www.das-parlament.de archive link was inserted automatically and has not yet been checked. Please check the original and archive link according to the instructions and then remove this notice. , in: The Parliament , 45/2005
  2. Helmuth Plessner: Limits of the community. A Critique of Social Radicalism . Suhrkamp Verlag, Frankfurt / Main, 2002, p. 14. and p. 110.
  3. Federal Agency for Civic Education: Discussion: The classification of the REP by Florian Blank (2007)
  4. Mirko Heinemann: Jumble of terms. The differences between radicalism, extremism and populism ( Memento of August 28, 2009 in the Internet Archive ) , in: Das Parlament , 45/2005
  5. Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution: Frequently asked questions: What is the difference between radical and extremist?
  6. Gero Neugebauer : Extremism - right-wing extremism - left-wing extremism: Some comments on terms, research concepts, research questions and research results ( Memento of February 24, 2007 in the Internet Archive ) p. 3.