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February 13, 2015
February 13, 2015

The thousand faces of the European far right

Author: Roger Suso Translator: x-pressed
Source: La Marea  Category: Antifascism
This article is also available in: eles
The thousand faces of the European far right

They condition those who govern. They fill up rooms and march on the streets. They tweet and seduce. Election after election, they are harvesting electoral gains. And they have even killed. Today, the far right is the greatest threat to democracy and to social diversity in Europe. In this sense, fascism is a much bigger risk than the most reactionary and fundamentalist Islamism, according to David Karvala, spokesperson of the platform Unitat contra el Feixisme i el Racisme (United Against Fascism and Racism – UCFR). Marine Le Pen, president of the French far right party National Front (FN), continues to be more dangerous for the social cohesion than a jihadist sleeping cell, no matter how big the impact produced by brutal attacks like the one against the editors of the magazine Charlie Hebdo or the high-jacking of a kosher supermarket in Paris. “The fact that a young Muslim person from a working-class district is attracted to radical Islamism shows that something is wrong in Europe. But those who believe that this person threatens democracy as much as fascism are driven by prejudice, rather than by analysis”, says Karvala.

This is why we have to talk about the far right. Because ignoring it is a useless strategy. It keeps advancing. The array of labels and adjectives used is vast: populists, Europhobes, ultra-nationalists, anti-immigration, Islamophobes, fascists, neo-Nazi… Behind their disguised discourses, hide apologists of authoritarianism and racism who appeal to the centre of societies that are devastated by the crisis. This amalgam of parties and alliances is the resulting plague of the abandonment of the working class and its neighbourhoods by the social-democrats and communists, the effect of neoliberalism and the fascist continuities, argues Johannes Kiess, professor of Sociology in the University of Leipzig (Germany).

Normally, public expression of xenophobia is kept latent, awaiting for elections, or of being capitalized on, just as it is happening right now. The far right stirs some citizens against others. This has been observed in Germany with the members of the Pegida movement (a German abbreviation for Patriots against the Islamisation of Western Countries) that revolutionised the European far right world by mobilising thousands in cities like Dresden. But behind its initial opposition to Salafism and the Islamic State, there lies xenophobia, racism, and political opportunism. Some of these attributes were personified in its leader, Lutz Bachmann, who was forced to resign after a picture of his posing like Adolf Hitler was leaked. A traumatic no-go in his country. The rise of Pegida has alarmed a large part of the German society and in the past weeks the demonstrations against Islamophobia continue to grow.

Loss of context

Intolerance and the nationalisation of social issues in the context of the loss of sovereignty bear fruits, according to professor Johannes Kiess. In France, the FN has set as its goal to come to power in 2017 with a campaign of “modernisation” that will put an end to the “demonisation” of the party personified in Marine Le Pen. Young, woman and, after all, Le Pen. Marine, the daughter of FN’s leader, Jean-Marie, an old nostalgic of the Vichy regime, who passed to the second round of the 2002 presidential election, but ended up losing to Jacques Chirac.

A study by Bielefeld University (Germany) –based on 1,000 phone surveys made in 2011 in France, Hungary, Italy, The Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Great Britain and Germany– showed that almost half of the respondents consider that there are too many foreigners in their country. Half of them also see Islam as a “religion of intolerance”. One third believes that there is a natural hierarchy between persons and ethnic groups, with the white one at the top.

The revival of the far right adopts multiple forms in Europe. Some embrace the tenets of Strasserism and anti-capitalism, like Golden Dawn, Jobbik, or the German National-Democratic Party (NPD). Some parties, claims Meh-met G. Daimagüler –lawyer of the families of the two victims of the terrorist neo-Nazi group National-Socialist Underground (NSU) –, are getting organised, sometimes secretly, in paramilitary free camaraderie groups. Another far right, more populist and neoliberal, opts for a frontal confrontation with the EU, immigration, and Islam, says Kiess. Both of them have been elected in the European Parliament (EP). This is the case of Alessandra Mussolini, MEP with her grandfather’s heir party, the dictator Benito Mussolini, and today part of Forza Italia, Silvio Berlusconi’s coalition.

Trivialisation and banalisation are characteristic elements of the new far right, remarks Daimagüler, German lawyer of Turkish descent. As is the rejection of pluralistic democracy, hatred against minorities and foreigners, racism, the principle of strong and individualistic leadership, and authoritarianism, adds Kiess. Propaganda and manipulation are their resources for inducing and attracting people against a magnified and exaggerated threat: “The Islamisation of the West or the Jewish control of the banking system”.

The economic and fiscal crisis is not the only cause of the rise of these formations. Many of them have their origins in each country’s political culture and historic experiences. Their success also depends on their capacity to attract votes, says Kiess. In Spain, for example, Falange (Franco’s party) is marginal and Francism relies in the structures of the Popular Party (PP).

Together with Le Pen, the leading populist far right parties are the other two extremist parties that won the European election in their respective countries: the British UKIP and Danish People’s Party. The discursive style of this current unifies very different and fragmented positions into a simplification of the political space. These parties mix a toxic anti-political and anti-bureaucratic discourse that contradicts itself by asking for less state and, at the same time, for more police and security.

Meanwhile, more traditional neo-fascist and neo-Nazi parties have adapted their discourse to modernity and the political circumstances. A new form of xenophobia is replacing at present the concept of race in the National-Socialist sense with the concept of culture and/or identity. While they are not using the same words as Hitler or Mussolini and additionally they are capable of camouflaging the apology of Nazism, their leaders use similar campaign methods and aesthetics. And they yield results. They have already taken power in various regional governments and are managing public funds.

Contagion to establishment parties

What is it, then, that makes the extreme and populist right dangerous? The real threat is that its discourse, propagated through fear, concerns, lies, resentment, chauvinism, and hate has been repeatedly adopted in various occasions, many times for electoral purposes, by the establishment parties, from Christian-Democratic to Social-Democratic ones. Both Nicolas Sarkozy, like Manuel Valls, tagging along with FN, have carried out deportations of Roma from France to Bulgaria and Romania.

In some cases, this also responds to personal convictions. Take Thilo Sarrazin for example, ex director of Bundesbank, ex senator of Berlin’s Finances, member of Germany’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) and author of the book “Germany Is Doing Away With Itself”, where he describes that “Muslim immigrants are the less intelligent, the worst integrated, but the ones with more children and this leads Germany to destruction”.

Another major pillar of the far right is its ability to unite and mobilise the most radical sectors and their willingness to commit violent acts. One example is the assault by the organisation “La España en Marcha” against the delegation of the Catalan government (Generalitat) in Madrid’s cultural centre “Blanquerna” in April 2014. Violence is extreme in other countries. Splinter groups, sometimes armed, have undertaken aggression and murder, like those by the German neo-Nazi NSU, or by their counterparts in Ukraine. In Hungary in 2011, a militia created panic when they organised a Gypsy hunt.

The radicalisation of a small layer of citizens does not occur by default, but is usually the response to different socio-political causes. “Since the bourgeois centre starts propagating that foreigners are destroying the country, there are people who think that action needs to be taken against them”, claims Daimagüler. And the extremists take on this cause. So, when we are talking about NSU, we must also talk about Sarrazin. “Of course he is not responsible for the emergence of NSU, but what he says has its consequences”, says the lawyer. “Not today, not tomorrow, but maybe in the near future”. Maybe with Pegida. The NSU and the Norwegian Anders Behring Breivik –who massacred 77 people in 2011 in Oslo and on the island of Utøy– have the same goal: to stop the alleged concentration of foreigners in their countries.

Fascist movements have emerged from the old seed of neo-Nazism and ultra-nationalism by selling ideals about leisure, music, sport and the defence of the homeland and nature, while simultaneously hiding a neo-fascist, xenophobic, and reactionary ideology in efforts to establish a totalitarian society. There are lots of names: Hogar Social Ramiro Ledesma of Madrid, Casal Tramuntana in Barcelona, Casa Pound in Rome.

The far right has succeeded in having neo-Nazi representatives in institutions. At the same time, it makes extra-parliamentarian advances and establishes international ties. Back then, they were doing so through organising events, attended by representatives from the whole of Europe, in honour of Rudolf Hess or Francisco Franco. Nowadays there are the concerts of racist rock and hardcore such as RAC (Rock Against Communism) that neutralises activists, strengthening bonds, and fundraising; the funeral marches in Dresden and Magdeburg in memory of the Allied bombings or in Warsaw, the biggest of all, a celebration of the country’s independence with hooliganism.

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