The petty-bourgeois threat of QAnon

What drives a celebrity chef to ally with the AfD?


What do progressives face in the phenomena of QAnon and QuerDenken? Who are they? How can we explain the motivations of people in these movements and their class basis? Both questions are addressed below, referencing their linkages in both Germany and the USA.

1. Origins of QAnon: What do they believe, and what are their political alliances?

By now, most people are aware that the beliefs of QAnon supporters are bizarre. However, their alliances with right-wing militias and individuals are under-appreciated. For example, QAnon clearly influenced the killer who launched the racist rampage in Hanau. In Germany, QAnon followers declare the state illegitimate:

“The gunman in the central German city of Hanau who killed 10 people and then himself in February alluded to topics circulating in the QAnon cosmos. In a YouTube video, he argued that there were subterranean military installations in the U.S. where children are abused and killed and where the devil is worshipped. QAnon followers also played a role in the storming of the Reichstag, the seat of German parliament, in Berlin in late August by a group protesting the authorities’ measures to control COVID-19. Naturopath Tamara Kirschbaum, who called on people to run up the building’s stairs to the entrance, is identified online as a “freelance employee” of Qlobal-Change, a portal of QAnon followers. She describes herself as “the voice” of the “X22 Report,” a YouTube show about QAnon-related topics… The Office for the Protection of the Constitution, the German domestic intelligence agency, in the western German state of North Rhine-Westphalia classifies her as a member of the Reichsbürger (or “citizens of the Reich”) scene, a group that does not believe in the legitimacy of the modern German state”. [1]

QAnon beliefs are stark:

“If you believe QAnon, everything that is going on right now in the world — from the COVID-19 pandemic to the #MeToo movement— boils down to one thing: a hidden cabal is working overtime to traffic (and sacrifice) children, enslave the populace, and enact a new world order.” [2]

Where did QAnon come from? In 2013, software developer Frederick Brennan started the website ‘8Chan’ after tripping on ‘magic mushrooms’. He then linked with James and Ron Watkins, to build a new un-moderated message board. In 2017, it grew by building on the myth of the ‘Pizzagate’ falsehood in the 2016 USA elections. This conspiracy theory alleged that Hillary Clinton was operating a child sex ring from a pizza parlour in Washington DC. [3]

Since then, QAnon led an attempted invasion of the German Reichstag, and the brief occupation of the USA Capitol. In addition to links with overtly political right wingers, they are intimately involved in the COVID deniers movement:

“From Stuttgart to Ulm, Gera, Düsseldorf, Munich, and Hanover, so-called hygiene demos against the lockdown have blurred lines between legitimate political expression, disorderly conduct, and conspiracy theories. An earlier such protest in Berlin—under the motto “Day of Freedom” – drew 20,000 attendees before it was preemptively broken up by police for not obeying public health measures. Organizers and their supporters—including some in the right-wing Alternative for Germany (AfD) party claimed that over 1.3 million people took part.” [4]

Another organisation in Germany in this potent mix is ‘Querdenken 711’. Both QAnon and Querdenken 711 are tied to open fascists. In Germany this is expressed in the “Pegida movement” and the fascist Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD):

“The leading organizer of Germany’s coronavirus rebellion is Querdenken 711, a diffuse and growing grassroots movement with origins in Stuttgart. Querdenken 711 has become the epicenter of Germany’s so-called Corona-Pegida movement—a reference to the Dresden-based anti-Islam, ethnonationalist Pegida movement that caught fire in Germany’s east. In fact, Pegida leader Lutz Bachmann has redirected his conspiratorial organizing away from Islamization and toward Merkel’s COVID-19 policies. The AfD has leveraged these sentiments by submitting parliamentary motions titled “Restoring fundamental rights despite corona,” implicitly claiming these rights have been taken from German citizens. Together with other movements such as the nationalist Zukunft Heimat in Brandenburg, some wings of the AfD and left-wing activists .. they have blamed shadowy elites, particularly the billionaire tech founder and philanthropist Bill Gates, for puppeteering the COVID-19 crisis. This loose alliance of right and left, conspiracy-fueled illiberal forces is eerily reminiscent of the Querfront cross-ideological affinities of extremists in the Weimar era.” [5]

Such cross-fertilisations make Germany an epicenter. In these connections, they also recruit articulate including ‘left’ elements such as the playwright Anselm Lenz. How large are these organisations?

“In recent months, Querdenken 711 has developed connective tissue with the Reichsbürger, Hildmann, and the growing German following of the QAnon cult of conspiracy. In fact, Germany has the second-highest number of QAnon believers after the United States. NewsGuard has identified more than 448,000 QAnon followers in Europe. On YouTube, Facebook, and Telegram, accounts dealing with the QAnon conspiracy have over 200,000 followers in Germany alone. Telegram Channels related to QAnon (such as Frag uns doch! WWG1WGA and Qlobal-Change) have gone from 10,000 to nearly 200,000 followers combined in the past five months. The German-language QAnon YouTube channel Qlobal-Change has over 17 million views.“ [6]

Daniel Koehner of the Stuttgart based ‘German Institute on Radicalization and De-radicalization Studies’ says the national database of the Federal Intelligence estimates there are now roughly 15-20,000 individuals – which has steadily increased over time. He makes the point that it consists now no longer only of the old trope (e.g. young skinheads), but has new forms of radicalization or sub-cultural forms. Every day the database estimates there are 2-3 violent hate crimes per day. [7]

This is clear when we see who leads this burgeoning apparatus. In Germany, two names have been indelibly linked, among others – are the celebrity chef Attila Hildemann and the pop singer Xavier Naidoo:

“Public figures such as the former national news anchor Eva Herman, the rapper Sido, and Hildmann have all expressed sympathy with the conspiracy theory. The German pop star Xavier Naidoo, a former judge on the German version of American IdolDeutschland Sucht den Superstar—regularly shares QAnon content and tearfully lamented the supposed shadowy globalist sex-trafficking ring on YouTube.” [8]

Despite a nearly identical ideology, both are manifestly not the prototype of the ‘Aryan’ Hitler-ian. One is of Turkish origin, and the other is clearly Black. They also have recruited technically useful idiots:

“One prominent example is Sucharit Bhakdi, German Thai epidemiologist, who has started a YouTube channel claiming that COVID-19 deaths are exaggerated, linking deaths in China and Italy to air pollution, and calling lockdowns unconstitutional. His coronavirus-related YouTube channel has gained over 100,000 followers in less than six months, and his videos have over 8 million views total. Another example is Wolfgang Wodarg, a former member of parliament for the Social Democrats and a virologist by training, who has linked COVID-19 to attempts by the pharmaceutical industry to sell vaccines.” [9]

I have written previously of the link between medical mis-information and COVID deniers, and the link of these elements with the conflict of interests. For example, if Attila Hildemann cannot have cookfests at restaurants, it naturally serves his economic interests to agitate against epidemiologically sensible lockdowns. Without much more delving, I cannot as yet easily explain the attachment of Naidoo.

What about the USA – who took part in the Capitol riots? It is well known that QAnon members played a pivotal role in the Capitol riots, [10, 11, 12] along with many milita groupings. I do not dwell on this. But, while many left observers have detailed the QAnon involvement in the Capitol Riots, their analysis often does not allow insight into the social bases and classes of the movement. [13]

However, the left observations by Strether do allow insight. He noted as did Daniel Koehner noted above – a wide movement of diverse ages and background. Nonetheless, he found a significant representation of what I will term as the ‘petite bourgeoisie’. We define this term below.


Using a careful search strategy, Strether looked at occupations of the 107 rioters who had been charged. He found there were 10 ‘owners’, 3 real estate brokers, 2 suppliers, 3 self-employed small arts people; 3 contractors or marketers; and a variety of other likely self-employed persons (e.g. arborist, chimney cleaner). [14]

Other observers also point to a ‘middle class’ participation:

“Although any crowd that size is bound to include people who are struggling financially, no one should be shocked to see the middle classes so well represented among the mob”. [15]

“Amid the ranks of the costumed and cosplaying (i.e. character dressing up – author) in the halls of Congress were CEOs, average Joes, small-business owners and elite travelers who flew private jets to D.C. and then stormed the Capitol. Civic leaders and religious activists also took part in the melee.” [16]

2. What is the class basis of this reactionary right wing?

Most people reading this will recognize that in a capitalist society such as Germany or the USA, there are two main classes – the ruling class and the working class. To what class do shop-keepers, chefs, restauranteurs and the like belong? I think it is apparent that these layers of the ‘middle class’ – are what Marx called the petty bourgeoisie. They stand in between the two main classes. As Marx and Engels put it: “In countries where modern civilization has become fully developed, a new class of petty bourgeois has been formed.” [17]

The petty bourgeoisie is defined as a class that owns or rents small means of production which it operates largely without employing wage labour, but often with the assistance of members of their families: ”A petty-bourgeois is the owner of small property.” [18]

As a worker, the petty bourgeoisie has interests in common with the proletariat; as an owner of means of production, however, he has interests in common with the bourgeoisie. In other words, the petty bourgeoisie has a divided allegiance towards the two decisive classes in capitalist society. Marx expressed this as: “Thus, the ‘independent’ petty-bourgeois producer is cut up into two persons. As owner of the means of production he is a capitalist; as a labourer he is his own wage-labourer”. [19]

Consequently this petty bourgeoisie vacillates, as they have a divided allegiance between the two decisive classes in modern capitalist society. Moreover, they are often in constant danger of becoming working class. Partly this is because they have such a limited capital resource:

“The lower strata of the middle class… sink gradually into the proletariat, partly because their diminutive capital .. is swamped in the competition with the large capitalists, partly their specialised skill is rendered worthless by new methods of production” 15 . This is an incessant process: “The working class gains recruits from the higher strata of society. A mass of petty industrialists and small rentiers are hurled down into its ranks”. [20]

In fact, as capitalist society develops, it becomes increasingly polarised into two basic classes– wealthy bourgeois and poor proletarians: “Society as a whole is more and more splitting up… into two great classes facing each other – bourgeoisie and proletariat”. [21]


It is not surprising that those being ground down by the process, resent their loss of independence and likely loss of their living. It is often they that form the pool of resentment that swells the ranks of fascist parties and forces. These forces revel in exploiting fears and divisions to gain forces – just as they did during Kristallnacht.

There are obviously modern wrinkles on this old story. One is obvious: Neither the celebrity chef Attila Hildemann and the pop-singer Xavier Naidoo – are white. I think that this shows that colour is over-ridden by other interests, which at bottom are likely class interests. Only a determined broad-based progressive alliance can overcome these myriad forces that have lined up alongside openly fascist forces. Build the anti-fascist front!



1 Patrick Beuth & others; The Most Dangerous Cult of our times Der Spiegel, 24.09.2020

2 September 23, 2020 by Bernadette Giacomazzo; The People Behind QAnon Have Been
Revealed — and Youʼve All Been Had

3 Benjamin Restle, Why the QAnon conspiracy theory is gaining popularity; DW

4 Tyson Barker, Germany Is Losing the Fight Against QAnon – The German government beat back the coronavirus pandemic—but has largely given up against conspiracy theories; Sept 2 2020; Foreign Policy

5 Ibid

6 Ibid

7 Daniel Koehler, Director of the German Institute on Radicalization and De-Radicalization Studies, Interview with Worldview with Trudy Rubin: Philadelphia Inquirer at 18- 22 minutes.

8 Barker op cit

9 Ibid

10 Laura E Adkins & Emily Burack, Neo-Nazis, QAnon and Camp Auschwitz: A guide to the hate symbols and signs on display at the Capitol riots; January 7, 2021. Jewish telegrpahic Agency,

11 Gino Spocchia, What role did QAnon play in the Capitol riot? ‘QAnon has been calling on this kind of madness for years’, says analyst, 09 January 2021, The Independent

12 Sabrina Tavernise & Matthew Rosenberg, These Are the Rioters Who Stormed the Nation’s Capitol’; Janaury 7, 2021

13 Daniel Bessner & Amber A’lee Frost, ‘How the QAnon Cult Stormed the Capitol’; 19 January 2021, Jacobin

14 Lambert Strether, The Class Composition of the Capitol Rioters (First Cut) January 8, 2021. ‘Naked Capitalism’

15 Adam Serwer, The Capitol Rioters Weren’t ‘Low Class’ -The business owners, real-estate brokers, and service members who rioted acted not out of economic desperation, but out of their belief in their inviolable right to rule. January 12, 2021; The Atlantic

16 Adam Chandler, ‘Capitol rioters weren’t just clowns and militants — they’re our neighbors’; The Seattle Times, Jan. 22, 2021

17 Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels, ‘Manifesto of the Communist Party’ in: Karl Marx: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 1; London; 1943; p. 231; 213; 205-6

18 Vladimir I. Lenin: Note to: ‘To the Rural Poor’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 2; London; 1944; p. 254

19 Karl Marx: ‘Theories of Surplus Value’, Part 1; Moscow; undated; p. 395.

20 Karl Marx: ‘Wage-Labour and Capital’, in: ‘Selected Works’, Volume 1; London; 1943′ p. 280

21 Karl Marx & Friedrich Engels op cit