How to Kill an Idea: An American’s Observations on the NPD Party-Ban Proceedings
How should a democracy protect itself from forces that seem intent on destroying freedom and open discourse? The German constitution (Basic Law) establishes a “militant democracy” that is prepared to take undemocratic measures to ensure that the Federal Republic does not suffer a repeat of the cynical—and ultimately murderous—rise of the National Socialists. Chief among these constitutional measures is the Federal Constitutional Court’s authority to ban political parties, a “nuclear” option it has invoked only twice in postwar German history (to ban the Socialist Reich Party and the Communist Party in the 1950s). Party-ban proceedings are exceedingly rare, but on January 17, 2017, the Court ruled to reject the recent application seeking to ban the extreme right-wing National Democratic Party of Germany. Russell Miller—an AICGS non-resident fellow, law professor at Washington & Lee University, and editor of the German Law Journal—attended the hearings in the case in March and last week published an English-language photo essay at the Verfassungsblog reflecting on the historic case.