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October 30, 2012
October 30, 2012

Racism and Fascism of our times is “post-modern”

Author: Kostas Douzinas Translator: Alexia Giakoubini
Source: 1AgainstRacism  Categories: Antifascism, On the crisis
This article is also available in: esel
Racism and Fascism of our times is “post-modern”

It is true that there has been an increase of racist parties and ideologies all over Europe. In Hungary, the neo-Nazi party Jobbik has increased its quota from 2% in the 2006 election to 17% in the 2012 election. Geert Wilders’s Party of Freedom in the Netherlands gained 16% in the 2012 election, as opposed to the 6% of 2006 and in France, Le Pen’s National Front went from 11% in 2007 to18% in 2012. And of course, there is Golden Dawn in Greece. At the same time, unemployment rate in the EU is more than 10%, with youth unemployment rate at 22%. Greece has the highest youth unemployment rate, 55%. The crisis and austerity are eliminating a whole generation, causing a genocide or “generationcide”, for which human rights watchdogs do not seem to care much.

The decomposition of social infrastructure due to austerity measures is a common cause for the rise of racism and fascism. However, historical and political factors are affecting the way it is shaped. High unemployment rates in Spain has not led to an increase on fascism, while in France stability in work coexists with the rise of the National Front. In the Netherlands, France and the UK the extreme right-wing parties target Muslims and the Islam. In Hungary, where there is little immigration, the targets are Jews, Roma and homosexuals whereas in Greece it is immigrants and homosexuals. The common characteristic of all is the choice of a weak and vulnerable “Other” that is presented as the source of all evil happening to a society. However, unlike in the past when anti-Semitism united the extreme right all over Europe, racism and fascism of our times seems to be “post-modern”: it contains a variety of targets, which differ from place to place, even within the same country.

In the UK for example, the scapegoat pattern shifted from the Asians in the 60s and 70s, to the so-called “pseudo-refugees” of the 90s and the “illegal” immigrants and lately to Muslims. Modern racism is networked, horizontal and nimble; emphasizes common behavior rather than common views or logic. Norwegian murderer Anders Breivik may be an extreme case but, in his incoherent thoughts and his creepy murders, he does symbolise this field.

The variety of racism and fascism is also connected to the different strategies of bourgeois parties. Historically, there are remains of racism in all European countries. However, they are usually embedded in right-wing parties. This has lately changed though racist statements and actions by politicians that have led to the rise of extreme right. Viktor Orban, extreme right PM of Hungary, has targeted Romani people and homosexuals paving the way for the rise of the Jobbik party. The same happened in France where Nicolas Sarkozy has gone to extremes with matters concerning Roma and Islamists and reinforced Le Pen’s National Front. In a similar way, Nea Dimocratia is attacking immigrants and HIV-positive prostitutes creating an agenda for Golden Dawn. These are the direct results of the shift of politics towards technocratic governance and of political elites towards an extreme cynicism and nihilism. The moral decadence of the system of power is one of the worst characteristics of the “post-democratic state”. That absence of moral in the elites, revealed every day, is where fascism steps in to fill in the gap; with the most aggressive forms of immorality: nationalism, xenophobia and racism.

If we look into the arguments used by fascism and racism in order to convert more followers, we can easily detect two psychological strategies. The first one relies on the perception that the “Other” is stealing our pleasures. Although they are poor and downtrodden, the “Others” have better music and food, powerful communities and good sex, lovely children and leisure; all these things that we have lost. Resentment, envy and hate are the results of this psychological state. Hostility against those “inferior” others is a defense mechanism and a symptomatic inversion of the feeling that “we”, the natives and the pure ones are in fact inferior.

The second one is almost the exact opposite: an extreme attempt to “rationalise” the crisis we are going through. Based on the belief that there is a reason for everything, the second strategy is trying to discover a common cause for all the bad things that are happening to us. The large number of problems we are facing as individuals or collectively, such as financial difficulties, political incompetence, social decadence, family malfunctions and moral collapse are interpreted as having the same origin. Obviously the causes of the crisis are many, varied and not necessarily connected. However, the strategy of “rationalisation” claims that the “Other”, the “Stranger”, the “Foreigner” is behind our problems offering an explanation for all our mishaps. An evil presence is responsible for everything that is wrong. Here the “Other” functions as a connecting element uniting the pieces of the puzzle and creating the panorama of disaster.

However, there is also another factor especially important for the recruitment of the youth. Young men feel increasingly alienated and threatened by the uncertainty, the lack of opportunities, life on the limit. The family raises boys telling them that the future and the world is theirs. But now young women do better in studies and the traditional gender roles in the workplace and at home have started to change. A sense of inadequacy, even a hate towards themselves finds release in violent films and fantasies, in murderous electronic and internet games. That kind of fragile personal identity is exploited by the extreme right organisations. Not all men belonging to Golden Dawn are fascists and extreme nationalists; they do not know anything about Nazism, Hitler, the Nazi occupation and the resistance. Indeed their position is not particularly ideological at first. Maybe it becomes later under the guidance of the older members. Golden Dawn is offering to young men a community (rhetorically and actively) of violent men with identifiable goals. This helps in hiding this endemic self-hate behind the “fellow militancy” and the attacks against people that are said to be inferior.

The exposure of Mr. Kassidiaris and the other “boys” is the result of exactly such a culture of personal disappointment and cultural violence. The underlying social violence, expressed in the past through criminality and hooliganism, has found nowadays a legal, prominent and parliamentary cloth. In this way, those who are uniting under fascism are both the “traditional fascists” who until recently were forced to be expressed through right-wing bourgeois parties and the lovers of violence who might not have any ideology. It is an explosive mixture that is only temporarily, I hope, attracting some desperate and devastated by the crisis people. However, as we know from history and from Greece, fascists are capitalism’s storm troopers, the extreme form of defense when under threat. Thus, Golden Dawn is not anti-systemic but the system’s last line of defense. That of course means that the young supporters should not be dismissed as hardcore fascists; they may just be vulnerable people who are in need of help in order to realise their history and their place.

 

Kostas Douzinas is a Professor of Philosophy of Law at Birkbeck, University of London

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