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Look left and right

by In Wales Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:06:56 AM EST

 EUROPEAN ELECTIONS 

The Guardian has an extremely interesting discussion piece in the G2 supplement today asking if Fascism is really on the rise and trying to analyse what the Euro elections results really mean.

I'm going to take various snippets, which have all come from interviews with historians. The overall message seems to be, don't panic yet but don't be complacent either, especially in Eastern Europe.


Although there are analogies with the war, a number of historians were pointing out that conditions today are extremely different to 1930s Europe and there is not necessarily an automatic link with recession and the rise of the far right - fascists came to power in Italy before long before the Depression.

It is too early to say whether the rightwing parties that did well in the European election will have any historical significance, or whether they will offer a Europe-wide threat to mainstream politics. Although I suspect they may be better co-ordinated than leftwing parties, they are all subtly different. We should also be aware that rightwing parties can evolve. It is odd that the evolution of communist parties into Eurocommunist parties was recognised, but these rightwing parties are seen as mysteriously static and rooted in the 1930s. You just have to look at the BNP to see how it is trying to adapt its approach to changed circumstances, ramping up its hostility to the EU while playing down other aspects of its policy.

A number of those interviewed made the point of taking the BNP seriously, and not attempting to oppress them. Instead of giving them further opportunity to unite and play the martyr, "marginalise and ridicule them". The BNP are an overtly racist party, despite their protests to the contrary. Unlike fascism of the 20s and 30s, the BNP are not really proposing any new social order, they just play on fear. They can't legally campaign for an authoritarian regime to replace democracy.

Ask them about their other policies: how they would get us out of recession; what their foreign policy is. Launch an assault on the BNP brand, and don't let them appropriate symbols of Britishness - such as the Spitfire they were using on their posters in this election.

We shouldn't panic about these results. The real story is that the centre-right has done very well across Europe. Where far-right parties have been elected in the past they have tended to be woefully incompetent and lackadaisical, and on the whole they haven't been re-elected.

The issue of the success of UKIP was raised and discussed, and considered in many ways to be more interesting than the BNP, who actually didn't do all that well, really, even if it is unsettling that they managed to gain seats. Votes for the BNP, and UKIP, were seen as a protest vote

With the loss of public confidence in parliament, growing nationalism and alarm at terrorism, this is a moment when you might have expected votes to flow to the BNP. A loss of confidence in parliamentary institutions is characteristic of all periods when fascists have come to power - in Italy and Germany, for example - but on this occasion the BNP has not done especially well. People have preferred to vote for Ukip. It is essentially a protest vote at a moment of crisis in the political system. Parliamentary politics will eventually be restored, but almost certainly not under Gordon Brown.

But what of elsewhere in Europe?

I am more worried about the drift to the right in the rest of Europe, where the mood is fearful, anti-immigrant, anti-Islam and deeply hostile to the left. Europe clearly feels embattled because of factors such as terrorism and the rise of China, and has been moving to the right for some time.

Another historian's take:

What we have seen is the sort of protest vote that often happens midterm, and it won't occur at the general election, when real power is at stake.

The only countries in Europe that I would be apprehensive about are Austria, which did, after all, welcome the Nazis back in 1938; Romania, which has a nasty rightwing party; and Hungary, where the Roma are a big issue. Poland is encouraging in the way it has taken to membership of the European Union, and the election there has been won by a mainstream centre-right party. In general, this is not at all like the 30s: some voters are supporting alternative fringe parties, but I would be astonished if they were able to consolidate their power.

Perhaps what we should really be worrying about is the decline of the Left - of social democratic parties in particular - all across Europe.

The European left relied on a working class that no longer exists in its old form, and in order to recover it will need to find a new constituency. That may be hard.

The left is in trouble everywhere: Labour in the UK, the French socialists, the Italian democrats. The Spanish socialists, one of the few leftwing parties to gain in recent years, have also slipped. The SPD in Germany are not doing as badly as expected, but they are down to around 20%, and these losses are not compensated by the votes for the New Left party. We have seen the demoralisation of the French left and a degree of disintegration of the left in Germany.

Social democrats will need a new vision as well as a new constituency.

Then of course, discussion around the state of the political system itself - the rise in popularism and loss of faith in democratic politics:

Worse still, people are not just indifferent to politics, they are ignorant about it: the level of hostility to intellectualism in this country is deeply depressing.

...
There is something far more sinister about the BNP because it is an overtly racist party. This is a problem because liberal democracies are not good at dealing with extremism.

Somehow we need to find a way of exposing the BNP, while stopping it from manipulating the system to its advantage. It would help here if politicians from the main parties were more honest and treated the electorate like adults.

So what of allies - for the BNP from across Europe, but also for the Conservatives?

The BNP also has more natural allies among the far right in Europe - the Dutch Freedom party and the French National Front in particular - than Ukip. However, it is worth remembering that the one thing on which you can rely is that far-right parties will fall out with each other, so they are unlikely to form a mass European movement.

What we do need to be concerned about is David Cameron's current flirtation with the Polish rightwing Law and Justice party, led by Jaroslaw and Lech Kaczynski. Up until now the British media has been giving the Kaczynski brothers far too easy a time. The brothers, totally lacking in ideology, are falling over themselves with joy at being courted by the Conservatives.

A comparison of the BNP not with the rise of fascism in the 30s but with the success of Jean-Marie Pen in the 80s:

As the communists collapsed, Le Pen's Front National came in and took over. Now, in the UK, a portion of the vote that traditionally went to the Labour party has gone to the BNP. When Nick Griffin talks about the country being full and immigrants taking British jobs, he strikes a chord.

...
Even more worrying, though, is what will happen in other parts of Europe. The far right did badly in France and Germany, but areas of concern are Hungary and the Baltic states. Then there is the whole question of Italy. Berlusconi has strengthened his support and is a threat to civil liberties. He controls the media, and the left are weak and powerless against him. He is not far-right in the sense that Hitler was far-right, but he is a threat to democracy. Italy has become a western-European equivalent of the sort of guided democracy you get in Russia.

The key messages from this analysis? The far right have evolved from the 1930s, so direct historical comparisons with that era are perhaps not the most accurate. The rise of the far right is seen to be more of a threat in Eastern Europe but the decline of the Left is a worrying trend across all of Europe.

A new vision and a new constituency must be sought for social democrats.

The current economic and political climate is one of great unease and perhaps people feel more secure with authoritarianism than with democracy in such times.

In the UK certainly, politics is in a mess, all the mainstream political parties are caught up in the expenses scandal, and the protest vote has turned out.

I'm not sure what the political analysts would say and how closely this would match with the view of some of the historians interviewed by the Guardian but in my view the Left need to work to restore faith in democracy, to restore faith in the Left. Perhaps it is time for the return of ideology after all?!

Display:
Discussion on the meaning of the election results already in this election was not a massive shift to the right and in the election results diary
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:13:04 AM EST
I am more worried about the drift to the right in the rest of Europe, where the mood is fearful, anti-immigrant, anti-Islam and deeply hostile to the left. Europe clearly feels embattled because of factors such as terrorism and the rise of China, and has been moving to the right for some time.

The decency of the Brits will win through, but we have to worry about those fearful Europeans. Note Britain is not part of Europe.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:13:49 AM EST
No, in the UK the mood is neither fearful, nor anti-immigrant, or anti-Islam or deeply hostile to the left. Obviously.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:15:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Is there any other country in Europe where someone could write "Europe" rather than "the rest of Europe" with a straight face? I don't think it would work well here.
by Colman (colman at eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:23:47 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Colman:
The decency of the Brits will win through
Yup
I cannot imagine what cataclysm would have to happen for a far-right party not only to be able to grow but to win power in the UK. This is an extremely old country with old mores, and the great rump of the people are not going to be attracted by a far-right party. What we have seen is the sort of protest vote that often happens midterm, and it won't occur at the general election, when real power is at stake.


The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:17:53 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The overall message seems to be, don't panic yet but don't be complacent either, especially in Eastern Europe.

Make that Eastern EU... though among the worse-case, I'd include the South (Italy, Greece), the Netherlands, Denmark, and Austria in the centre, too.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:31:06 AM EST
Nitpick accepted!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:35:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Far-right parties in the...

  • UEN faction: 12 MEP-elects (People's Party/Denmark, Lega Nord/Italy, SNS/Slovakia)
  • ID faction: 3 MEP-elects (LAOS/Greece, Libertas resp. MPF/France)
  • Non-Inscrits, Euronat and/or ITL associates: 17 MEP-elects (Vlaams Belang/Belgium, Attack/Bulgaria, FN/France, Jobbik/Hungary, FPÖ/Austria, PRM/Romania, BNP/UK)
  • Non-Inscrits, other: 5 MEP-elects (True Finns/Finland, PVV/Netherlands, )

I didn't count UKIP or PiS as far-right.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:39:29 AM EST
Uh-huh, I may have missed some in the Baltic states.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:58:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Where did you count UKIP? They aren't as far right as the BNP but are a bit further right than the Tories.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 08:08:03 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well -- not here :-) Would 'hard-right' fit them?

(BTW, unlike for PiS, I don't know much about UKIP -- other than being nutty Eurosceptics and against immigration.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 08:10:38 AM EST
[ Parent ]
There's not much else to know. They're basically the Tories on crystal meth. (Sometimes literally, I wouldn't be surprised.)

They hoover up the anti-EU vote in EU elections, but I'd guess most of their supporters will vote Tory in the coming epic struggle for the warm beating heart of England.

Er, I mean Britain, obviously.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 08:14:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It is odd that the evolution of communist parties into Eurocommunist parties was recognised, but these rightwing parties are seen as mysteriously static and rooted in the 1930s.

I find this argument patently stupid. Of course they evolve, but what matters is the direction of that evolution.... and contrary to the authoers, I think that direction is just to other forms of being threatening. Basically: switching which minorities to incite hatred against; and which positive and then currently popular rhetoric to adopt superficially.

Unlike fascism of the 20s and 30s, the BNP are not really proposing any new social order, they just play on fear. They can't legally campaign for an authoritarian regime to replace democracy.

Well, yes: they won't until they don't have the numbers. And well, no: stuff these parties propose for hated minorities DOES constitute the actions of an authoritarian regime, be it mass deportations, rounding immigrants up, or segrergation of minorities. Some of them also advocate extreme police state measures (and love the death penalty).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:46:11 AM EST
Not only that, the BNP and others are new far-right movements whereas the Communists had continuity with the 1930's and through the "Eurocomunism" transition (which France, for instance, never went through).

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:48:30 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The BNP aren't new, so much as a split-off from the old National Front.

What makes them dangerous is that they're actually quite media savvy, in a lumpen way, and that they've toned down the public rhetoric and the confrontational militancy to make themselves appear respectable and indistinguishable from any of the other serious parties.

The old NF were much more obviously about starting fights and kicking doors in. Although they had occasional bursts of sporadic political success, they were always obvious extremists.

Over 30 years or so, the overall trend is static - the insane right remains present, winning the odd seat or two, losing it in the next round or two, and being persistently fringey and unpopular.

As I've said before, I don't think the BNP stand any chance unless they can find a media sponsor like Murdoch, or one of middle brow craploids, to sponsor them.

The UKIP have already filled the respectable racist niche, so I don't think the BNP are going anywhere.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 08:24:16 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Do the Daily Mail not already help out the BNP with pushing right wing narratives, fearmongering and scapegoating?  

Not quite the same as sponsorship since the rhetoric supports all centre right and right wing parties but I'd say the BNP do benefit from it and are able to manipulate that to an extent.

by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 08:32:54 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The Wail notoriously puts the boot into the BNP.

BNP Euro election candidate filled his Facebook page with race-hate remarks | Mail Online

A British National Party European elections candidate who set his Facebook status to, 'W**s go home Gurkhas very welcome', has denied being a racist.

Eddy O'Sullivan, who is standing for the Brussels parliament with BNP party leader Nick Griffin, posted a series of offensive comments on the website and even joined a group called F** Islam.

But he left his Facebook profile public instead of setting it to private.

Mr O'Sullivan, 49, Salford organiser for the party, admitted posting the comments but denied they were racist.

The everso respectable UKIP are the Mail's creatures, and I don't think they're too keen on competition from the oiks.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 09:10:55 PM EST
[ Parent ]
ThatBritGuy:
The UKIP have already filled the respectable racist niche, so I don't think the BNP are going anywhere.
The UKIP only poll well in European elections, whereas the BNP polls less well but consistently.

I don't think they're as equivalent as you paint them.

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 09:02:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
BBC NEWS | UK | UK Politics | BNP leader pelted in egg protest

BNP leader Nick Griffin has been pelted with eggs and forced to abandon a press conference outside Parliament.

... Mr Griffin was elected for the North West region - a result condemned by parties across the political spectrum.

Mr Griffin and Andrew Brons, who was elected in the Yorkshire and Humber region, staged a press conference on College Green, opposite the Houses of Parliament.

The BNP leader began the event by holding up copies of national newspapers and talking about what he said were media lies about him and his party.

Scuffle

He denied he had past links with Oswald Mosley, as the former fascist leader "was very hostile to the National Front from which I am from".

He had been speaking for about two minutes when about 50 to 100 protesters marched towards him chanting slogans and throwing eggs.

There was a brief scuffle as Mr Griffin was jostled by protesters - and a scrum of cameramen - before the BNP leader was bundled into the back seat of a waiting car by his security men...

'Sad day'

Members of Unite Against Fascism, which was behind the demo with trade union members, said they wanted to "defend democracy" against what they regard as the "fascist" and "racist" policies of the BNP.

One told the crowd his message for Mr Griffin was: "Wherever you go in this country we will make sure you are welcomed by demonstrations."

Video in link.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 11:19:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Nick Griffin, in front of the Houses of Parliament, states that he originally comes from the National Front.  Well done.
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 12:35:44 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I note that the discourse of the first historian (also the first you quote) strikes me as full of right-wing apologetics memes. Looking up the author on Wikipedia, I found this:

Michael Burleigh - Wikipedia

Recently his books have become controversial and accused of showing a marked dislike for all things Islamic. In his Guardian review of Sacred Causes, on 28 October 2006, John Gray wrote: "Burleigh is at his most unbalanced when discussing Islam. Much of his analysis is presented in a graffiti-like style that makes the tabloids look effete and precious. A photograph of the World Trade Center in flames is captioned with the statement 'This act of mass murder announced the onset of unlimited Islamist aggression against western civilisation', and there is much demotic rant against multiculturalism and what Burleigh describes as 'the grim prospect of "Eurabia"'. In this atmosphere of feverish emotion, facts tend to get lost and longer historical perspectives forgotten. [...]"[1]

Michael Burleigh serves on the advisory board of the new conservative magazine Standpoint and is a regular contributor.



*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 07:03:22 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I picked up on that in his piece - he writes columns for the Daily Mail!
by In Wales (inwales aaat eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 08:10:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Yeah, Burleigh has gone of the deep end in recent years. He is, however, an excellent historian.
by MarekNYC on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 09:02:29 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It appears that he is an expert on Middle Age history -- but also wrote books on the Nazis. Which part of his work are you familiar with?

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 01:42:34 PM EST
[ Parent ]
The stuff on the Nazis
by MarekNYC on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 04:15:21 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Italy - The wrong way round

It's been a great campaign because we have finally combed out a few knots, we have exposed various lies that Berlusconi has been telling us. The Noemi scandal showed up his lies and confirmed what his wife has been telling us, namely that he is not well in the head, he is completely off-balance, and he goes about with under-age girls. The matter of the State flights gave a lot of electors, from among the survivors of a right-wing that believes in the rule of law, pause for thought - people who had been indignant when Rutelli and Mastella used state flights to go to the Grand Prix [at Monza]. But even more became indignant seeing dwarves, dancing girls, minstrels and leeches being put on state flights by the dozen to the private residence of, and for the amusement of, the prime minister. The lies about the earthquake are coming out, and will probably explode in some kind of demonstration at the up-coming G8 meeting. The lies about rubbish in Naples have led to a new inquiry about deception involving that dangerous bit of nonsense, the incinerator at Acerra. Then there's the explosion of rubbish at Palermo, which Berlusconi has blamed on the previous centre-left governments under Orlando, which have not held power since 2001 - it must be fossilised rubbish by now. Milan has been described by Berlusconi as the new Africa, when Milan is governed by the centre-right practically since 1992 when Formentini came in, followed by Albertini, Moratti, Formigoni who since 1995 has always been the regional governor. Without mentioning that AC Milan seems much more like Africa than the city of Milan, as the team is mainly coloured. One of the few who wasn't, Kaka, has just been sold to Real Madrid, but they will announce it today because up till yesterday it was necessary to con the football fans into voting without letting them know what everyone knew, namely that Kaka had already signed up to Real Madrid.

There were even the lies contradicting the Governor of the Bank, Draghi, who had said something true, namely that there are 1,600,000 Italians who risk finding themselves completely up the creek if they lose their job, because there is no social safety net to soften the blow. Probably the number is even more than 1,600,000, but the fact that the Governor said this was already an interesting fact. Berlusconi, who was evidently asleep during Draghi's speech, as often happens, afterwards said: Draghi made an excellent Berlusconian speech. Later he found out that Draghi had said that there were 1,600,000 people who stood to lose everything while the government was doing nothing, and at that point Berlusconi says: the data are not true. Actually the data are true, and may even be underestimates.

Finally there are the lies about law and order. Two days before the election, two women were victims of rape attempts. One was actually raped and the other was saved by the providential arrival of a passer-by. The Questura covered up the fact for 40 hours, and was only forced to confirm it after a journalist, who came to know about it indirectly, had publicised it on You-Tube. The Questura were probably waiting to announce it after the elections. If they had announced it before, maybe even the Romans would have understood that it was not the case that the rapes were the fault of the previous City Council under Veltroni, and that all rapes had ceased once Alemanno had become mayor. Probably the problem of unpunished crimes is a rather complicated one, involving an impunity that has spread out like an oil stain by this infamous and illegal political class, which, of course in order to save itself, has completely ruined the justice system, and in this way authorised many others to commit crimes, in the near-certainty that they will never be punished. I dare say there would be fewer crimes if, instead of a justice system that is being completely destroyed by the politicians, we had one that was better financed and cared for. But they can't let that happen.

Information has played a decisive role in this election. Information via internet, but also through some newspapers. Why did the newspapers talk so much about the Noemi scandal, about the State flights, about the under-age girls and above all about the Mills case? Because the European press has its eyes on Italy in the run-up to the G8, and when the European press looks at Italy it asks the right questions. Even the Italian papers are obliged, if only by translating articles from the foreign press, to take account of what others think of us - even though we could say it ourselves, given that we ourselves are the protagonists in this drama going on under our noses.

Thank heavens that we have El Pais, the Economist, the Financial Times, the German press, even the Wall Street Journal, an ultra-free-market paper of the right, to tell us what we have learned not to notice. When information works properly, blood flows through the veins of democracy, and the results, as we can see, are that we have had a lucky escape!

Berlusconi was expecting a plebiscite that would give the last blow to the declining democratic forces in Italy, and he only got to 35%. That is still a massive number, but not one that will allow him to have his wicked way unpunished.

go read the rest, please, it's really good.

'The history of public debt is full of irony. It rarely follows our ideas of order and justice.' Thomas Piketty

by melo (melometa4(at)gmail.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 07:10:39 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The only countries in Europe that I would be apprehensive about are Austria, which did, after all, welcome the Nazis back in 1938; Romania, which has a nasty rightwing party; and Hungary, where the Roma are a big issue.

Because the Flemish, Danish, Bulgarian, Greek and Italian versions aren't nasty? ...or because the author doesn't know them and their actions/rhetoric that well?

the one thing on which you can rely is that far-right parties will fall out with each other, so they are unlikely to form a mass European movement.

They may fall out with each other, then again, they may join forces for tactical benefit. Their thirties-forties ancestors showed how that can be done. (Think of Mussolini's treatment of ethnic Germans in South Tyrol while they were best friends with Hitler, or the allies of Hitler during WWII who were to grab each others' teritories while fighting together on the Eastern Front.)

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 06:56:03 AM EST
Of course, the fact that Sarkozy has been riding on a wave of fearmongering and nasty anti-immigration dog whistles, and has managed to shrink Le Pen's voting block by pre-empting his ideas is not seen as a dangerous thing...

It's not a banalisation of hard right ideas, it's a victory of pro-capitalist parties, of course!

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 08:36:12 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Le Pen looked bad, but he was largely harmless. His voters could not reliably be counted for either the left or the right, and, in a partly first-past-the-post system, did not really matter. What counted to gain actual power was the relative ratio of the left vs the right, excluding the Front National. There was a sort of cordon sanitaire, and one of Chirac's better sides was his staunch refusal to have anything to do with Le Pen (even if it should be noted that his 2002 campaign was a really nasty fearmongering one).

Now, Le Pen's ideas have been swallowed and promoted by the right, and brought into the mainstream. And that's better?

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 08:39:46 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the current situation is a bit more complicated. First, none of these parties hold significant power, second, many of them are based on a premise of not only open hostility towards neighbouring countries, but mutual quasi-historical claims on large parts of the neighbours territory (especially in Central/Eastern Europe).

Mussolini and Hitler did IIRC fall out regularly over Hitler's designs on Austria (then also ruled by a fascist regime), which only ended as Italy became the clearly weaker state and sought a formal alliance with Germany to provide support for its failing wars of expansion.

by nanne (zwaerdenmaecker@gmail.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 02:19:57 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I think the current situation is a bit more complicated.

I did not attempt to draw a full picture in that comment -- in fact, I could say that I was trying to draw a more complex picture than that historian... As an overall point, you seem to argue against the position that there is an Europe-wide big expansion of the far-right right now, which I did not make. For a more detailed review of my views on this, see my loooong reply to Jeffersonian Democrat.

none of these parties hold significant power

Lega Nord is part of Berlusconi's government, with heavy influence on policy. The current Anders Fogh Rasmussen III cabinet in Denmark survives with outside support from DF (though JakeS is to say what is their influence on current policies). Though not among those making advances in the EP election, BZÖ rules Carynthia, while SNS is part of Slovakia's governing coalition (again with heavy influence, esp. education policy).

mutual quasi-historical claims on large parts of the neighbours territory

Elsewhere, I already argued that the cooperation of a subset of European parties is possible.

As for Mussolini and Hitler, do the final circumstances of cooperation really matter? Such imbalances of power and dependencies may emerge during an eventual future second rise of the European far-right, too.

What should count here is that Hitler 'allowed' the Italianisation of South Tyrol even when the Third Reich was dominant. Also, regarding quasi-historical claims on large parts of the neighbours territory, I referred to (without naming them) the Tyso, Horthy, Szálasi and Antonescu regimes; in Slovakia, Hungary and Romania respectively; which had designs on each others' territories (well, Horthy resp. Szálasi on the territories of the other two while the other two mostly on what they already lost to Hungary in Vienna I + II) while Hitler had designs on the territories of all -- yet they kept the alliance and fought on together on the Eastern Front.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 04:58:45 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I agree with Professor Bourke's assessment: The BNP's two seats are nothing to panic about, and the answer is to ridicule them.

We're talking about less than 7% of the vote.  I think it's fairly obvious, looking at polling and results from other countries, that a certain small segment of any electorate is simply going to wind up being racist and nuts.

The best thing to do is to ridicule them, not try to silence them.  Let them talk and make asses out of themselves.

Answer the more rational elements' -- portions of the Tories, UKIP -- calls on (say) immigration with reasons for why immigration is a good thing.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 11:46:22 AM EST
I don't see it... literally.  No NPD posters, no NPD presence on the street, even though there is supposedly a secret "Braunhaus" here.  There was nothing.

Personally, as an outsider, I really do not believe a braun movement could come back here in Germany, the memories are still too fresh and etched into the national psyche (and I can't believe I used the word national).  And the NPD is imploding in financial and porn scandals, also as Jerome said, their voters are not reliable.

But, as I told my -Kamerad-, er, colleague on Friday while I was passing out flyers for Die Linke; I said the party stand next to us were the real danger.  They were the Yellow Free Democrats.

And I stated they were a danger to society as their programme want to continue the neo-liberal policies that got us into this crises in the first place.

I am more concerned about the neo-liberals than I am about the neo-fascists.

But I suppose the ghosts of Hitler and Mussolini sell good sensational headlines.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Tue Jun 9th, 2009 at 12:13:26 PM EST
You incited me to write a diary-length comment.

I. The danger from the far-right

First of all: the NPD did not run in the current EP elections.

As for the danger emanating from the far-right (and I'm replying here to nanne too), that must be considered on at least three levels.

  1. There is the question of whether they have the potential for directly endangering democracy itself (and thus all of us) by a full takeover, like their ancestors did in the thirties.

    This question must be subdivided further. One question is: is there an immediate danger? (This, in effect, also translates as: is there a strong Europe-wide increase of the far-right?) Here I agree with you in answering no. (As for Europe-wide rise: as I wrote in a Salon last month, growths in some countries are offset by contractions elsewhere, not to mention that some of the growths [Austria, France, Romania] followed collapses and did not reach the onetime peaks.)

    The other sub-question is: is it possible that one day, the growth of some far-right parties doesn't stop at 10, 15, 30% but swaps over into a majority? In this, I vehemently disagree with you: I think arguments denying this possibility all rest on an extrapolation of current trends. But public opinion can change, can be changed. (That did happen during the fascist takeovers between the wars, too.)

  2. The second level of danger from the far-right is indirect influence corroding democracy and rights. Methinks there can be no question that that exists.

    One way this indirect influence can emerge is if the far-right is a junior partner in a coalition, or if the survival of a minority government rests on its vote. There are four examples for the former: the previous ÖVP-FPÖ/BZÖ coalition in Austria, the previous PiS-LPR-Samoobrona coalition in Poland, Berlusconi's coalitions in Italy, and the current Smer-HZDS-SNS coalition in Slovakia. Examples for the latter: Rasmussen's first government in Denmark, Barroso's first government in Portugal, Balkenende's first in the Netherlands.

    The other form of indirect influence is the adoption of far-right rhetoric and policies by mainstream parties even when those hold majorities on their own -- a move of the Overton Window. Examples are aplenty; I will just refer to the example cited upthread, Sarko adopting Le Pen's xenophobic discourse in France.

  3. The third level is whether the far-right endangers some people directly. Again, methinks the answer is a clear yes.

    Everywhere, the far-right endangers people identified as members of minorities they rail against. [Note: what matters is not whether you are actually member of a minority, but whether a racist believes your appearance fits the bill.] For these endangered people, the critical mass is not a government majority: you are bound to meet upon a discriminating asshole every day even if they aren't more than 5%.

    It is true that xenophobic rhetoric doesn't always swap over into violence. However, you can't separate the current series of murders of Gypsies by molotov cocktail and gun in Hungary from Jobbik's anti-Gypsy campaign, nor LAOS's campaign in Greece from what happened in the last two weeks, and so on.

To round up the section on the far-right, I want to warn against treating them in isolation, against treating their development as if it were autonomous process governed by static internal factors. The far-right's success or failure in growing to a critical mass is not independent from warnings about their growth.

It is not simply the historical memory of Nazism (which, BTW, is lacking to an apalling extent from the youngest generations, and also for older ones in formerly 'communist' countries) that keeps their heirs in check: it is just those thousands who are willing to make a stand against them, protesting, arguing, throwing eggs, campaigning, or digging up all dirt that exposes them for the scum they are. (Something in which, I note, the Left Party and the PDS before it had a good part.) It was the activism of a previous generation that got a dissection of Nazism into the education of the children of the sixties-seventies in the first place.

So I advise against stopping being vigilant about the far-right just because this vigilance was successful before; against dismissing all warnings as a call on ghosts to make sensational headlines, just because previous warnings were successful in putting the ghost back into the bottle.

II. The FDP and neolibs in Germany

I don't disagree that the present FDP is a bunch of loons advocating a dangerous utter-cloud-cuckoo-land ideology. However, they are by far not alone in doing so.

There are just as (if not more) dangerous neolibs on the pro-market wing of the Union parties. In particular, let's remember Friedrich Merz of the CDU; and also the previous boss of the CSU, Erwin Huber (and, arguably, the previous federal economy minister from the CSU, Michael Glos). Just as or even more important are advocates outside party politics: think-tanks and economic institutes, bankiers, Bertelsmann and its foundations and media, columnists (f.e. Wolfgang Münchau); most of whom are CDU voters BTW. Though he mixed his message with the critique of market fundies lately, a special mention is deserved for the just re-elected Bundespräsident, former IMF boss Horst Köhler, who was a CDU member.

Now, one would be justified to claim that this is analogous to the indirect influence of the far-right -- would the FDP not have been a relatively recent convert to neoliberalism itself; that is, would it have been the source of the malaise.

The FDP's neoliberal turn dates to the nineties, and the faltering of the social liberal wing was gradual. In 1994, one of them, Hildegard Hamm-Brücher, was the FDP's candidate for Bundespräsident. Another left-liberal, Sabine Leutheusser-Schnarrenberger, is still prominent in the party as law specialist and Bavarian boss (though with no influence on economic policy; but see what I quoted her with in this diary).

III. Neoliberalism and the far-right

As a final note: the dangers of neoliberalism and the far-right aren't necessaryly independent from each other. I see two forms of this:

  1. Neoliberalism and the far-right take turns

    It is a relatively well-known notion that far-right parties can bloom on the ruins of society created by neoliberalism; e.g. masses of desperate people. In effect, that also happened in Thirties Germany: the Great Depression was born from the irresponsible boom years of the Twenties. However, it can happen in the other direction, too: after the collapse of extremist nationalist populism, people may put parties advocating 'mainstream' policies and conformity to 'sane' 'Western' economic concepts into power.

    You'll find a good example of a move in both directions in Poland. In 2005, desperation in the wake of a series of governments with neolib policies (the last of them a corrupt and disintegrating post-communist centre-left one) boosted the votes of right-wing populists. The ideas and policies of the hard-right main party in the new coalition government, PiS, would count as far-right in some more advanced democracies; while the junior partner LPR (League of Polish Families) was just insane. Then this government disintegrated as they lost all credibility internationally and nationally -- and was succeeded by a PO government, elected by a majority of urban voters, and advocating even more radical neolib reforms than before.

  2. There can be symbiosis between neoliberalism and the far-right.

    Again, there is an example right at the start: Pinochet's Chile. In Europe, though the original fascists stole from Socialism, some of the current extremists are also tax-cut radicals. Examples include Austria's Haider (well, at least in rhetoric, even if not in Carynthian practice) and his parties, and the present Dutch 'anti-Islamist' formation, PVV, and the Republikaner in Germany (as opposed to the DVU and the NPD).


*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 04:34:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Why not make this a diary?

The brainless should not be in banking. — Willem Buiter
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 04:37:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Hm... OK, I'll try to make it a bit more self-coherent and less like a reply.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 05:01:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
excellent comment and rebuttal.  I'm moving over to read your new diary now.

Just wanted to say that I don't believe that groups like the NPD shouldn't be watched or ignored, quite the contrary.

But I had to comment on, for instance, hysteria over at big orange that Europe is moving to the far right in the Bullying Bonddad diary.  I thought is was a good example of ridiculous hyperbole.  I just don't see it here, on the ground.

However, there are a few signs for Die Republikaner a couple of hundred meters from my flat.

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"

by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 08:38:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
By the way, regarding where you live. I checked some figures for Thuringia and Jena. I wanted to see if there was any comparison for these prior far-right successes in other East German states; one of which lasting two terms:
  • 12.9% for the DVU in Saxony-Anhalt in 1998 (fortunately they could be eliminated completely, not even running in elections next time, then came back to only 3.0% in 2006);
  • 7.3% for the NPD in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in 2006;
  • 5.3% for the DVU in Brandenburg in 1999, growing to 6.1% in 2004;
  • 9.2% for the NPD in Saxony in 2004.

(You see that for two of these and Thuringia, a test will come this year (in August resp. September). Polls show both the Brandenburg and Saxony extemists near the 5% limit, but we'll never now until election night.)


Well, in regional elections in Thuringia, the highest score was a combined 4.1% (3.1% DVU + 0.8% Republikaner + 0.2% NPD) in 1999; followed by a combined 3.6% (Rep 2%+ NPD 1.6%) last time in 2004. So pretty resistant against the far-right so far, better than some West German states.

Now for some results in Jena.

  • In the present EP elections, in which the Linke beat the CDU for first place (woohoo!!!) and even Greens were just shy of 15% and Pirates 1.8%; the Republikaner got 1.6% and the DVU 0.5%.
  • In this year's municipal elections, the ratios of the major parties are slightly different (SPD is biggest), while the far right did not even run.
  • In the 2005 federal elections, 'won' clearly by the SPD, a combined 2.9% voted far-right (NPD: 2.4%, Rep: 0.5%).
  • In the 2004 regional elections, 2.8% (Rep: 1.5%, NPD: 1.3%). Even in 1999, DVU scored least just in Jena (total far-right vote 2.0+0.9+0.3 = 3.2%).

So I envy you -- you live in a good place! Pretty strongly on the left and never going far-right.

But, the FDP also got 9.2% in the EP and 11.0% in the local elections. In the last two regional elections, the FDP got the most votes just in Jena.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.

by DoDo on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 02:56:18 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I hope that I don't incite anything, LOL.  usually, that's not my style!

"Schiller sprach zu Goethe, Steck in dem Arsch die Flöte! Goethe sagte zu Schiller, Mein Arsch ist kein Triller!"
by Jeffersonian Democrat (rzg6f@virginia.edu) on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 09:54:10 AM EST
[ Parent ]
:-) Bad choice of words on my part -- I meant "inspire" or "provoke" (though the latter again has an innocent and a not so innocent connotation...).

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Thu Jun 11th, 2009 at 01:44:42 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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