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Left-Wing Extremism

Left-Wing Extremism

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Nobody shall glorify left-wing extremist violence. It needs to be decisively countered.

Thomas Haldenwang, President of the Federal Office for the Protection of the Constitution

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Concept and Problem

Extremism researchers have often and in critical debate with opponents of comparative extremism research sought to scientifically capture the multi-layered and multifaceted phenomenon of left-wing extremism. Left-wing extremist can be seen as a collective term for those actors (parties, groups, subcultures etc.) who, in their striving for more or general equality in a society, reject or call into question essential or non-negotiable basic principles and minimum conditions of democracies and democratic constitutional states (according to Pfahl Traughber).

Left-wing extremists – just like right-wing actors, including Islamists – are outside society’s tolerance zone, and challenge our democratic society and the democratic constitutional state. What unites them is their opposition to the existing liberal democratic basic order and the desire for a new form of society. The spectrum ranges from state-centric socialist to anti-state anarchist ideas. In some cases, however, the ideological foundation only plays a subordinate role when it comes to overcoming the “ruling system”.


We Need to Fight as Opposed to Downplay Left-Wing Extremism

Scarcely any phenomenon in public presentation and discussion is in greater danger of being seized upon by mainstream society. Although the last major terrorist acts committed by left-wing extremist actors such as the “Red Army Faction” (RAF) were a long time ago, left-wing extremists’ propensity for violence is still high and on the increase.

Damage to property is commonplace for left-wing extremist groups, in individual cases also with the acceptance of danger to life and limb. Attacks on their political opponents, bodily harm and frequent escalation of violence against the police cannot and must not be trivialised in our society either. The fact that left-wing extremist violent acts are now clearly on the borderline and in a grey area of terrorism again, needs to be a cause of concern for all democrats and must evoke corresponding rejection by society as a whole.

Dr Eckhard Jesse, political scientist emeritus from Chemnitz, succinctly summed up the necessary demarcation in a guest article for the Tagesspiegel: “Everyone should turn their backs on demonstrations displaying mummery or violence. A selective perspective is out of the question. We need an anti-extremist consensus […]”.


Mission Democracy! Us Against Left-Wing Extremism

As the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, we stand against all forms of extremism and align our work accordingly. In cooperation with experts, politicians, associations, organisations, and citizens, we encourage discussion on this phenomenon of left-wing extremism and play our role in preserving democracy.

Extremism Project

In collaboration with experts, we have drawn up a series of different articles in a comprehensive extremism project, which aim to inform and educate about a wide range of aspects, such as left-wing extremism.




The editorial gives you a short thematic introduction to the project. Here you will find, among other things, a list of all authors who have been involved in the texts of the five chapters “Fundamentals”, “Structural”, “Goals”, “Self-conception”, and “Communication”.


On the editorial




The “Fundamentals” chapter deals with the political term “left”. With introductory articles, we provide information on fundamental questions arising in connection with this term. What is left-wing extremism and what distinguishes it? What is communism and anarchism really about? What forms of left-wing extremism exist? We also address questions on right-wing extremists’ image of humanity or their relationship to violence as means of politics in this section.


On the “Fundamentals” chapter




In the “Structural” chapter, we clarify the special features of left-wing extremist milieus. How does one even become a left-wing extremist? How do left-wing extremism and terrorism relate to each other? This section will also provide relevant information about politically motivated crimes or violence against the policy by left-wing activists.


On the “Structural” chapter




In the “Goals” chapter, the main focus is placed on the long-term objectives pursued by left-wing extremists. In this context, we discuss common questions on the design of political and economic conditions as sought by left-wing extremists, e.g. whether direct democracy can work or socialism could also be a goal for democrats.


On the “Goals” chapter




In the “Self-conception” chapter, you will find articles that deal with the role models of left-wing extremists, among other things. Who were, for example, Ernesto "Che" Guevara, Mao Tse-tung or Vladimir Ilyich Lenin? Yet, this section also provides extensive information on the GDR in its self-conception as a socialist state, as well as the “leading role of the party” closely linked to state socialism.


On the “Self-conception” chapter




The “Communication” chapter is mainly dedicated to the language, slogans, symbols and forms of communication of left-wing extremists. In this context, typical scene music, left-wing sources of information and ideologically closed argumentation patterns of left-wing extremists are also addressed.


On the “Communication” chapter


Publication Projects

Democracy cannot be taken for granted. It needs to be lived, cultivated and, if necessary, actively defended – whether that be against left-wing extremist tendencies or other dangers. Our publication project on “Defensive Democracy” is devoted to the protection of our democracy, and illustrates topics such as extremism, radicalisation or populism, to name a few.

Defensive Democracy

Illustration des Reichstagsgebäudes shutterstock/Carabus • Karl-Michael Constien und racken GmbH, Berlin • yellow too, Pasiek Horntrich GbR


Russia’s attack on Ukraine has catapulted the question of the defensibility of democracy to the fore of public interest. Yet, tanks and rockets are not the only threat to our free society. Our democracy is exposed to many dangers, which are addressed in our book of essays and a major campaign.


Learn more about the topic “Defensive Democracy” or go directly to the essay collection “die wehrhafte(re) Demokratie” (The (More) Defensive Democracy).


Didactic Offers

With our DigitalAkademie Pupil and Teacher Academies, we present pupils and teachers with a specific offer when it comes to preventing extremism online.


DigitalAkademie Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e. V.


The digital world presents great challenges to teachers and pupils alike. Even though digitalisation opens up a plethora of opportunities and harbours diverse potential for new, varied or unusual methods and concepts of teaching, the internet is also a space of uncertainty, fake news and seduction.

Extremists in particular exploit the internet in order to influence young people. Within the framework of our Pupil and Teacher Academies, we warn to warn against it and raise awareness of the issue. With our services, we contribute towards extremism prevention by educating about extremists’ methods on the net, helping to recognise extremism on the net and providing teachers with the tools to confidently address incidents in the classroom.


Learn more about services offered by the DigitalAkademie


Working Group

In 2015, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung established the Working Group Terrorism and Domestic Security. It sees itself as a network for experts on these issues.

Working Group Terrorism and Domestic Security

The focus of the Working Group Terrorism and Domestic Security also lies in the threat posed by Islamist, left-wing and right-wing extremism. Members of the Working Group regularly get together to exchange views on current problems and political developments and to work out solutions.


Learn more about the Working Group Terrorism and Domestic Security

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Felix Neumann

Felix Neumann

Counter-extremism and counter-terrorism +49 30 26996-3879
Facts and Findings
© picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Willnow
July 27, 2021
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Facts and Findings / Tim Wagner / flickr / CC BY 2.0 /
November 6, 2020
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Facts and Findings
May 14, 2020
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Publications to the topic

Person trägt Weste mit dem Aufdruck Climate Revolution drop
Radicalisation as last resort?
The disorientation in the “climate fight” and the limits of activism in extremism
Deeskalation oder Sonderkommission Tim,
Deeskalation oder Sonderkommission?
Zum Umgang mit verfestigt autonomen Szenen in deutschen Großstädten
Radikalisierung und Extremismus – vom schwierigen Umgang mit roten Linien
Radikalisierung und Extremismus – vom schwierigen Umgang mit roten Linien
Handlungsempfehlungen für eine wehrhafte Demokratie
© picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Willnow picture alliance/dpa | Sebastian Willnow
Auf dem Weg in einen neuen Linksterrorismus?
Linksextreme Gewalteskalation und die Antwort der Sicherheitsbehörden am Beispiel der Leipziger autonomen Szene
Thomas Haldenwang und Horst Seehofer reuters/Fabrizio Bensch
Einschätzung zum Verfassungsschutzbericht 2020
Die Gefahrenlage durch Extremisten jeglicher Couleur nimmt zu
"Positive Ungleichheit"
Über den Umgang mit Linksextremismus in der Polarisierung
Protestierende in einem Kohle-Abbau-Gebiet / Tim Wagner / flickr / CC BY 2.0 /
Klimaprotestbewegung: „Neue“ Gefahr von Links?
Radikalisierungstendenzen im Kontext der Klimaprotestbewegung
Partei DIE LINKE Reuters
Die Linke - (k)eine normale Partei
Zu den extremistischen und populistisch-antiliberalen Zügen der Linkspartei
Der Konflikt in Nordsyrien und die Kurdensolidarität im Linksextremismus
Stacheldraht-Spirale Tom Woodward / flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Feindliche Nähe
Über die wechselseitige Radikalisierung zwischen Islamismus, Rechts- und Linksextremismus in Deutschland
In Hamburg nichts Neues?
„Antikapitalistischer Krawall” und seine gesellschaftliche Wahrnehmung
Gewaltsame Ausschreitungen bei einer Demonstration gegen den G20-Gipfel in Hamburg 2017 Montecruz Foto / flickr / CC BY-SA 2.0
Linksextreme Gewalt und Linksterrorismus in Deutschland und Europa
Reale Gefahr oder bürgerliches Schreckgespenst?
Politischer Extremismus im Vergleich (Cover)
Politischer Extremismus im Vergleich
Beiträge zur politischen Bildung
"Staatliche Unterdrückung funktioniert noch perfekt"
Kuba-Experte Stefan Jost über Hürden und Chancen der Annäherung an die Vereinigten Staaten
Politischer Extremismus in Griechenland
Zulauf am linken wie vor allem auch am rechten Rand
Klare Kante gegen reale und virtuelle Gewalt
60. Jubiläum des Rings christlich-demokratischer Studenten Nordrhein-Westfalen
„Totalitarianism in Europe. Fascism – Nazism – Communism“
Die Internationale Ausstellung in der Akademie befasst sich mit totalitären Ideologien in Europa
"Solange die Menschen neugierig sind auf das, was geschah, wird die Aufarbeitung anhalten"
Hildigund Neubert im Interview mit
Mobilisierung des größtmöglichen Protestes
Gestaltungsanspruch und Zielsetzungen der Linkspartei
Für eine bessere Welt?
Linksextremistische Argumentationsmuster

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Event Reports on the topic

Event Reports on the topic

RA 3
„Politischer Extremismus“, Besuch von KAS-Stipendiaten.
Eine Lehrstunde in Sachen Meinungsfreiheit
Veranstaltungsbericht zum Gespräch mit Stephan J. Kramer am 22.06.
Enthemmung linker Gewalt im „Kampf gegen Rechts“ KAS Bremen
Enthemmung linker Gewalt im „Kampf gegen Rechts“
Online-Abendveranstaltung mit Prof. Dr. Klaus Schroeder
Roman Grafe
Zur Aufarbeitung der DDR-Diktatur in Schulen
„Verbotene Autoren“ – „DDR-Bilder“ – „Zwischen Anpassung und Widerstehen“
Marian Wendt, MdB KAS
Die Zukunft der Extremismusprävention im digitalen Raum
17. Auflage der Ahauser Schlossrunde mit Wolfgang Bosbach
Für Demokratie - Gegen Extremismus
Linksextremismus in Deutschland – Eine unterschätzte Bedrohung für die Demokratie?
Bessere Vernetzung der Sicherheitsbehörden notwendig
Drei Experten diskutieren in Berlin über Terrorismus durch NSU, IS und RAF
„Aus Gewaltverherrlichung wird Gewaltanwendung!“
Gewalttätige Ultras in die Schranken weisen
Politischer Extremismus im Internet
Verbindung von kommunistischer Ideologie und Gewalt-Praxis
Bericht vom 10. Hohenschönhausen-Forum
Aktiv für Demokratie und Toleranz – gegen Extremismus und Gewalt
Eine Bilanz der Frankfurter Tagung 1. November 2017
Der wehrhafte Rechtsstaat und seine Auseinandersetzung mit Rechtsextremismus, Linksextremismus und Is...
Extremismuskongress des Politischen Bildungsforums Sachsen-Anhalt der Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung e.V.
Verharmlosung der Linken
Jürgen P. Lang über die fortschreitende Radikalisierung der Linkspartei
Extremismuskongress: Wie gefährdet ist Deutschland?
Einteilung in Gut und Böse
Das 9. Hohenschönhausen-Forum diskutierte über antiwestliche Ressentiments
Baberowski-Vortrag: Debakel für den AStA der Uni Bremen
AStA als "friedlicher" Gewaltbefürworter, Gegner der Meinungsfreiheit und als "maulfaul" enttarnt
Antisemitismus als verbindendes Element von Rechts-, Linksextremismus und Islamismus?

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Media library

Jugendpolitiktag 2018
Welche Merkmale hat der Linksextremismus?
Der Extremismusforscher Dr. Rudolf van Hüllen klärt im Rahmen des Jugendpolitiktages 2018 „Für Demokratie - Gegen Extremismus“ über typische Merkmale des Linksextremismus auf.
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