‘Never Forget’ – yet fascism is still alive and kicking across Europe today

27th January, 2010 11:12 am

Anti BNPBy Sam Tarry / @SamTarry

Sixty-five years after the Soviet Army liberated the largest Nazi concentration camp – Auschwitz-Birkenau – it should be a wake up call not only to socialists and social democrats but to all decent, peace loving, democratic people across the continent to see that once again the far-right rears its ugly head in many countries across Europe.

As a once student of modern European history and now a full time anti-fascist campaigner, it fills me with deep foreboding as I see dark storm clouds gathering on the horizon in the form of nationalist, xenophobic, Islamophobic, misogynist and racist parties gaining ground and winning elections, not only in my home country, but in many others too – and with far greater degrees of success. As you read the articles today on websites and in newspapers to mark Holocaust Memorial Day I ask you to remember, but also to act.

Here in the UK, the British National Party – which is lead by a Holocaust-denier – was able in 2009, for the first time in British history, to make a significant electoral breakthrough. Winning two MEPs in last years elections, these fascists have now formally joined a new far-right bloc in the European Parliament.

The Alliance of European National Movements brings together three of the most hardline racist and fascist groups in the European Parliament. As well as the BNP’s two MEPs, it includes the three MEPs from Hungary’s Jobbik party and the three French National Front MEPs. Other supporting organisations are Italy’s Fiamma Tricolore, the Belgian National Front and the Swedish National Democrats, none of which have MEPs.

The Alliance was formed in Budapest on October 24th, 2009 and announced at a press conference held by Jobbik. The BNP joined on November 12th. Its political declaration was drafted by Nick Griffin, the BNP leader, and signed by representatives of the other supporting organisations. Zoltán Balczó MEP, Jobbik’s vice-president, told the press conference that the alliance would “be registered as an official ‘European National Party’ in Strasbourg or in Brussels”.

The Budapest agreement includes a demand for a Europe of “free, independent and equal nations” and rejects any attempt to create a “centralist European Super State”. The signatories claim they want to protect Europe not only against terrorism but also against “religious, political, economic or financial imperialism” and against “the destructive effects of globalisation”.

The date of the conference was chosen to mark the anniversary of the 1956 Hungarian Uprising, which began on October 23rd. The date is now a national holiday which has been used in recent years by right-wing nationalists and fascist extremists to whip up hatred against “‘Jewified’ socialists, liberals and liberal intellectuals.

In Italy, Holocaust-deniers are defying the law to get their views across to a new generation, helped by the historical revisionism so prevalent in the current political climate. By persistence in the face of weakening opposition in media circles, they seek recognition. Professor Antonio Caracciolo, a member of Berlusconi’s Party has been reported as having the opinion that the Holocaust is “a legend” based on “official truth, not subjected to historical verification or counterbalance”. Reported at the time in the Italian media, attention soon reverted to matters deemed more important – the bedroom antics of the Italian Prime Minister.

The Paramilitary Hungarian Guard, which now claims 3,000 members has been officially outlawed – but this didn’t stop them going ahead in September last year with a ceremony in which participants swore an oath “against gypsy crime”. Last year in this anti-gypsy climate eight Roma were brutally slain by racists.

The Netherlands, famed for its liberal attitudes on issues like sex and drugs has in recent years been more in the headlines for the activities and outbursts of Geert Wilders, leader of the Freedom Party (PW) as he leads an apparent crusade against Islam. The PW has grown rapidly in the past few years, calling for a total halt to immigration from Muslim countries, the denaturalisation of criminal Muslims, the deportation of Muslims who do not follow a strict “assimilation contract”. In a debate over last years parliamentary budget Wilders poured forth on the imagined Islamification of the Netherlands demanding “Let us reconquer our streets and make sure Holland looks like Holland again”.

France’s fascists in Jean-Marie LePens Front National are by no means a spent force despite their financial difficulties and recent lack of significant successes – they still have MEP’s and municipal level representatives. The lessons the BNP has learnt in how it presents its ideology in the language of ‘identity’ as opposed to the language of ‘race’ have been part of the explanation for the FN’s growing success.

The UK’s BNP also has links to Germany’s leading Nazi group the NPD, whose leaders deny the Holocaust took place and revere Adolf Hitler. The NPD shares many of its activists with the outlawed Blood and Honour skinhead movement. In August 2002 Nick Griffin, the BNP’s leader, attended a festival put on by the NPD’s newspaper Deutsche Stimme (German Voice), where he was photographed with Voigt and the former Ku Klux Klan leader David Duke.

Here in the UK, Griffin notoriously organised a BNP demonstration outside the German embassy when the German government tried unsuccessfully to ban the NPD. When Griffin and other BNP officers were arrested on suspicion of causing race hate, the NPD website called for support for them.

Fortunately in Germany the NPD – despite being active – have not moved forward to make significant electoral gains despite the economic crisis. However, the far-right in neighbouring Austria is another matter indeed.

Both the far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZÖ) have made notable electoral gains over the past decade – the FPÖ having even formed a coalition Government within the last ten years when they managed to take 27% of the national vote. In 2008 they garnered an even bigger 29% of the vote between them, again sending shockwaves across Europe.

And just as the Nazis gained power on the back of extreme nationalism and virulent anti-Semitism, the recent unprecedented gains in Austria were made on a platform of fear about immigration and the perceived threat of Islam. FPO leader Heinz Christian Strache, for example, described women in Islamic dress as “female ninjas“. Emboldened by the new power in Parliament, neo-Nazi thugs have desecrated Muslim graves. After the electoral success of the FPO in Hitler’s home town of Braunau, a swastika flag was publicly unveiled in the months following the 2008 elections. The FPO now wants to legalise Nazi symbols.

Common ideas on immigration, Islam, race, faith, and a deep strain of modern fascist thinking link many of these far right parties and organisations spanning the length and breadth of Europe. More disturbing still are the very real links between many of the organisations who cultivate relationships and share ideas about how to effectively, even respectably, propagate hatred for electoral gain.

‘Never Again’, therefore, cannot be a simple remembrance – but in fact a call to action. As we observe Holocaust Memorial Day, it is also worth reflecting on the people who risked their lives opposing the Nazis – people like Freya von Moltke, a prominent member of Germany’s anti-Nazi resistance during the Second World War, who recently died, aged 98, at her home in the US. She and her husband opposed the Nazis from the beginning and both were involved in a plot to kill Hitler in 1944.

Let their efforts and sacrifices be an inspiration to us all as we take on today’s fascists over the coming year.




Latest

  • Comment Featured It’s not the shared economy, stupid – but it does require a collective response

    It’s not the shared economy, stupid – but it does require a collective response

    It is often described as the sharing economy. It sounds very cuddly. All of us on a patchwork sofa, sharing a nice cup of tea… Or it’s the gig economy – because Uber drivers are all creative artists enjoying their freedom to perform… I prefer to call it the new intermediaries economy. Not as cuddly or cool but more accurate. When you get into an Uber cab the driver is not sharing her car with you, she is selling you […]

    Read more →
  • Europe News Blair: Brexit would hit living standards of society’s poorest most

    Blair: Brexit would hit living standards of society’s poorest most

    Tony Blair has weighed in on the debate over Brexit, warning that leaving the European Union would hit living standards and hit the poorest in society most. The former Prime Minister appears to make an appeal to Labour supporters – seen as an important swing demographic in the vote – in two interventions today. While Blair is a divisive, and even simply unpopular, figure in the modern Labour Party, there are hopes that he is still seen as a political “big beast” and […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Patronising people with patriotism will not win 2020

    Patronising people with patriotism will not win 2020

    Labour will need to win over the socially conservative voters of today in win in 2020 – but flag waving will not make up for a lack of credible policy on welfare and spending and a real understanding of the hardship faced by working people throughout the country. Widely reported research by Jon Cruddas this week suggested that since 2005, voters that were sympathetic to more socially conservative ideas have been increasingly more likely to select UKIP over Labour on […]

    Read more →
  • Comment Featured Dave Hill: Sadiq must mould the mayoralty into a Labour success story

    Dave Hill: Sadiq must mould the mayoralty into a Labour success story

    Sadiq Khan’s victory in the London Mayor election three weeks ago has been rightly hailed as a triumph for positive campaigning over Crosbyite negativity and a richly symbolic hammering of the privileged Zac Goldsmith by a council estate kid. Now the hard graft of delivering has begun. Khan’s policies on housing, transport, air pollution, community safety and economic growth present separate challenges, but the same political theme unites them – the need to show the capital and the country what […]

    Read more →
  • Europe Featured News Both EU and NATO vital to keep us safe, says Thornberry

    Both EU and NATO vital to keep us safe, says Thornberry

    Emily Thornberry has said that the UK’s membership of the EU is “indispensable” in helping keep Britain safe, following a visit to NATO’s headquarters in Brussels. The Shadow Defence Secretary met with a number of senior NATO officials over two days, and says that it was “repeatedly made clear” that the EU is considered an important ally of the security alliance. “In recent days, we have been told by Leave campaigners that the EU is irrelevant to British security, because […]

    Read more →
Share with your friends










Submit