The rantings of self-confessed mass murderer Anders Behring Breivik as his trial begins in Oslo for the 22 July 2011 massacres Norway offer a stunning reminder of the thread of racism that lies at the heart of all extreme right wing movements across the globe.
The last time racist extremism surged to the fore in Europe was in the years of the 20th Century’s Great Depression, and the targets of the Nazis were Jews, the Roma and Sinti peoples [“Gypsies”], and Slavs.
The Sinti and Roma were targeted for total annihilation along with Jews.
In the 21st Century collapse, Jews have been replaced by Muslims, while Europe’s wandering peoples have again been singled out and the Slavs are rarely mentioned.
Both former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi and French President Nicolas Sarkozy launched mass arrests of Sinti and Roma and expelled them from their borders.
Brazilian cartoonist Carlos Latuff drew the parallel:
Europe’s security services neglect Far Right
This should come as no surprise.
Way back in 1966, when we were reporting on radical politics for the Las Vegas Review-Journal, we interviewed a member of the Minutemen extremist group who worked at a secure government nuclear facility, where he’d been vetted for atomic-level secrets.
The Minutemen actually published a guidebook by founder Robert Bolivar DePugh [subsequently arrested and jailed for diddling young boys], which included instruction on assassination techniques suitable for deployment against government officials.
Had the guy been a communist, he’d have never been cleared, but the far Right was neglected by security agencies because they were deemed to pose no threat.
Now the same sort of selective blindness is happening in Europe, reports one human right group.
From Nikolaj Nielsen of EUobserver:
Security services in Europe have neglected the kind of right-wing extremism which inspired Norway’s Anders Behring Breivik to commit mass murder, a UK-based rights group has warned.
“Post-911, all major authorities have themselves in the EU focused on the direct threat of Islamic terrorism while they took their eye off the ball on the radicalisation of Europeans,” Daniel Hodges, a campaigner for Hope Not Hate, a London-based NGO, told EUobserver on Monday (16 April).
“EU authorities have been lagging on radicalisation in Europe. They’ve been slow to grasp the power of the Internet and social media that encourages and helps co-ordinate the activities of the groups,” he added.
Hope Not Hate in a report out on Sunday said the ‘counter-jihad’ movement has become the new face of the far right in Europe and North America. The survey identifies some 300 disparate groups and individuals behind the trend.
Greece’s racist fascists out from under their rocks
The latest example of a neofascist party to rise in Europe is Greece’s Golden Dawn, which espouses a policy of ethnic cleansing and has adopted explicitly Nazi elements into symbology.
Here’s one example you can purchase at their website, the Golden Dawn hoodie:
Here’s Evangelos Venizelos, head of the Greek “socialist” party [PASOK] commenting on the rise of Golden dawn, via Greek Reporter’s Marianna Tsatsou:
He said that the Greek Political party Golden Dawn “longs for fascism and nazism of the past.”
Golden Dawn and other similar chauvinist parties became popular with Greeks, due to the great number of illegal immigrants coming to Greece everyday. In the centre of Athens, residents and businessmen are terrified by their actions.
When citizen’s listen to Golden Dawn’s officials saying that “we need Greece with only Greeks living in it,” a proportion of them feel safe so they choose to vote for them.
The issue, of course, is immigrants, and the party is already having an impact, as the New York Times’ Rachel Donadio and Dimitris Bounias report:
[E]ven if Golden Dawn fails to enter Parliament, it has already had an impact on the broader political debate. In response to the fears over immigration and rising crime, Greece’s two leading parties — the Socialist Party and the center-right New Democracy Party — have also tapped into nationalist sentiment and are tacking hard right in a campaign in which immigration has become as central as the economy.
Experts say the group is thriving where the Greek state seems absent, the most virulent sign of how the economic collapse has empowered fringe groups while eroding the political mainstream, a situation that some Greek news outlets have begun comparing to Weimar Germany.
“Greek society at this point is a laboratory of extreme-right-wing evolution,” said Nicos Demertzis, a political scientist at the University of Athens. “We are going through an unprecedented financial crisis; we are a fragmented society without strong civil associations” and with “generalized corruption in all the administration levels.”
With what critics say is a poorly policed border with Turkey, Greece is seen as an entry point for illegal immigrants, some of them asylum seekers but most intent on moving to more promising economic terrain in Northern and Western Europe. But many of the immigrants remain in Greece or are returned there after being deported from other countries in Europe. This has stoked fears here of an onslaught of illegal immigrants, who economists say bear little or no responsibility for Greece’s economic troubles but who make easy scapegoats for politicians across the spectrum.
More from Foreign Policy’s Allison Good:
Golden Dawn joins the ranks of dozens of nationalist-populist fringe parties all over Europe whose enflamed euroskeptic reactions to the “cuts to wages and pensions imposed in order to secure aid from the EU and the IMF” have resulted in political shakeups. The Dutch Party for Freedom (PVV) , led by Geert Wilders, won 24 of the 150 parliamentary seats in the 2010 general election, and came in second in the Netherlands in the 2009 European Parliament elections.
Golden Dawn also espouses a particularly anti-German sentiment:
“It’s right to hate Germany, because it is still the leader of the banksters and the European Union,” Mr. Michaloliakos, the group’s leader, said, using a derogatory term for bankers.
Of course, Golden Dawn is still transitioning from a street-fighting group into a political party, but it remains to be seen whether it can become a well-oiled machine like France’s National Front, whose leader, Marine Le Pen, is still campaigning for the presidency. Even so, its increasing popularity is evidence of a dangerous trend that only promises to worsen.
Interesting choice of words: You can hate Germany, but only because of the power of German banks. And note that he doesn’t say it’s alright to hate Germans.
As the party’s symbols make clear, there’s another Germany, now vanished, that they very much like. And note their official logo, which strongly resembles the flag of that other Germany, right down to the choice of colors [black and white on a red background] and the strongly angular central figure.
Another warning on the spread of racism
This time from a European monitoring group.
Areti Kotseli of Greek Reporter:
The RED (Rights Equality and Diversity) Annual Report for Europe 2011 sounds the alarm for Greece who seems to be , along with Spain, the most acute example of racist violence cases.
The bigger increase in crime cases against immigrants in Greece and Spain is partly attributed to the fact that “these countries present the highest unemployment rates among young people,” explains Miltos Pavlou in the findings of the report.
The report findings underline the inconsistency between the political correctness of the EU and the previous European legislation for the protection of minorities’ rights on one hand, and the rise of xenophobic rhetoric and racist violence in the Member States on the other.
“The EU seems to be cut out from national governments,” Miltos Pavlou, RED Network Coordinator, points out. In almost all EU countries of the RED Network, problems concerning the implementation of national legislation prohibiting discrimination and combating racist and hate crime are reported. The situation is deteriorating even in countries which didn’t exhibit such problems in the past,” he added. A special emphasis is put on the Roma children being segregated in education in most EU countries and immigrants.
The January annual report of the European Commission on Human Rights takes note of the persecution of Roma and Sinti peoples and the Travelers, who have been singled out for prosecution in Britain:
As a result of persisting serious challenges in the field of securing the enjoyment by Roma and Travellers of their human rights throughout Europe, the Commissioner continued to target special efforts in this area in 2011. In a speech he delivered at a Conference in Chis,ina(u on “The Romani Holocaust and Cotemporary Challenges: Tackling Discrimination and Human Rights Abuse of Roma” in October, the Commissioner underlined the links between the history of Roma people, the deeply-rooted anti-Gypsyism to which they are still overwhelmingly subjected and the discrimination and marginalisation which characterises their position across Europe today. Given the interdependence of the factors that result in the seriously sub-standard human rights situation of many Roma in Europe, the Commissioner concluded that an effective government’s response can only take the form of systematic human rights work, which addresses all aspects in a manner that is both comprehensive and long-term.
Which brings us to Anders Behring Breivik
The confessed Norwegian mass murderer remains defiantly proud of the slaughter he unleashed in Oslo and a nearby socialist party youth camp, as he told the court prosecuting him for murder yesterday.
From Agence France Presse:
Anders Behring Breivik, on trial for the massacre of 77 people in Norway, Tuesday told the court he would do it again if he could, while a judge was removed for calling for the death penalty.
“Yes, I would have done it again,” Breivik told the court on the second day of the trial, adding that spending his life in prison or dying for his people would be “the biggest honor.”
In his testimony Breivik described his July bomb attack and shooting spree as “preventive” attacks to defend ethnic Norwegians and avoid a European culture war with Muslims, and asked the court to acquit him.
The judge interrupted his testimony after he spent his allotted 30 minutes presenting his Islamophobic and anti-immigration ideology.
The gunman had received permission to address the court from a prepared text, but was reminded by the judge to tone down his cynical, political rhetoric.
He described Oslo as a “multicultural hell,” said “Christians today are a persecuted minority,” and claimed that “rivers of blood caused by Muslims” are now flowing in European cities, citing Madrid, London and Toulouse.
“Multiculturalism is a self-destructive ideology,” he said, expressing disdain for Norway’s generous immigration policy.
More from the BBC:
“I have carried out the most spectacular and sophisticated attack on Europe since World War II,” Anders Behring Breivik told the court.
Breivik said he would do it all again and asked to be acquitted.
Although he admits the bombing and attack on a youth camp, he has pleaded not guilty to terror and mass murder.
“These acts are based on goodness, not evil,” he said, adding that he had toned down his rhetoric out of concern for the victims.
Germany’s fascists adopt a green guise
In Germany, the immigrant-bashing far right has adopted a new guise, abandoning the black, white, and read for a cloak of green.
From Christian Pfaffinger of Spiegel:
Jens Lütke opposes genetic engineering and the expansion of roads. He also protests against the construction of new power plants and volunteers once a year at an environmental action day. “I often get asked if I’m a member of the Green Party,” he says. But Lütke doesn’t support the environmentalist party – he backs the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD). He’s the party’s top candidate for state parliament in elections in the northern state of Schleswig-Holstein to be held this May.
When Lütke collects trash as a volunteer on an environmental action day, it’s hard to tell which party he belongs to. “We don’t bring an NPD banner with us when we participate,” he says. Still, he isn’t alone within the party with his efforts on behalf of the environment. The party regularly coopts the issue of environmentalism in an insidious attempt to make the party more acceptable in German society. Often, it’s difficult to recognize the right-wing extremist ideologies behind these efforts.
The tactic is visible in an environmental affairs magazine published by right-wing extremists entitled Umwelt & Aktiv, or “Environment & Active,” which resembles a normal magazine focusing on the environment – at least at first glance. And although the publication’s articles on biofuels, genetic engineering, gardening tips and children’s songs may seem legitimate, further examination yields pages on Germanic myths and pagan rites. Under the heading “homeland security,” readers of last year’s March edition learn that the German people will perish both biologically and spiritually if they procreate with people of other ethnic origins.
The so-called environmental magazine also stirs up hatred about religion, claiming that the slaughter of animals without anesthesia is the barbaric custom of Jews and Muslims. “So that all migrants feel at home,” the January 2007 issue reports, other “religion-based customs” such as genital mutilation, stoning and hand amputation from the “Orient” could also be imported into the country.
Even though the editorial staff describes itself as “politically independent,” this kind of nasty, right-wing extremist propaganda crops up repeatedly. And a closer look at the people who produce Umwelt & Aktiv shows just how dubious that claim is. The masthead includes the Midgard e.V. association, which the southern German city of Landshut’s municipal court lists as having members with NPD connections. Among them are board member and publisher Christoph Hofer, who has held two official NPD positions in Bavaria. Then there is the organization’s secretary and the magazine’s head editor Berthild Haese, whose husband Peter Haese was the head of the NPD’s Lower Bavaria chapter and regularly runs in elections as a party candidate, most recently in federal parliamentary election in 2009.
It’s not the first time the racist right has attempted to co-opt environmentalism. The Nazis did it too, in part because two leading party members had environmental views, Herman Goering and Heinrich Himmler.
But their views weren’t concerned with the environment as a thing in itself, but as the setting for their peculiar strains of racism, founded on a blood and soil mysticism. The environment, in other words, was simply the stage on which the Aryan superman was destined to flourish.
For that reason, the German environmental movement all too avidly embraced the Nazi cause.
Frank Uekötter of the Research Institute of the German Museum, writing in German Studies Review in 2007 notes that:
The conservationists of the Nazi era were not ideological bloodhounds who acted out inhuman ambitions that they had been harboring for decades—quite the contrary, they were, in a way, “perfectly ordinary conservationists” who, to their own surprise, were handed unprecedented opportunities during the Nazi era, and they tried to use these opportunities to the greatest extent possible. But there was a price to be paid, a price that conservationists of the Nazi era were willing to pay only too readily. It is only now that environmental historians are discovering its full extent.
Read the rest [PDF].
And as British researcher Garry Garrard noted two years ago in the journal ISLE: Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment:
some senior Nazis were enthusiasts for ecological ideas. The Nazis’ ideology promoted a mystical link between “Blood and Soil,” while their legislative program included progressive measures on nature conservation, protection of small farms, and animal welfare. These uncomfortable truths have generated a certain anxiety among historians and ecocritics to disassociate modern environmentalism from Nazism, as well as enormous debate about the relationship between both of these and Heidegger’s thought. I will argue here that we need not worry because ecocriticism can and should do without Heidegger—so his political affiliations are of merely antiquarian interest—and furthermore that Nazism was never seriously ecological.
We suspect the modern neonazi environmentalism is more of a Trojan horse, a tool for infiltrating and attempting to co-opt a flourishing movement that is, at its root, antithetical to their racism.
Meanwhile, in France, the right stirs
As we noted before,
Marine Le Pen, presidential candidate and the far-right Front National Party, grew up in a home where her dad referred to Hitler affectionately as “Uncle Dolphie.”
Her father, Jean, was a founder of the party in 1972 and served as its perennial presidential candidate until he abandoned the stage for his daughter, a much more telegenic and media-embracing personality.
The combination of changing economic times and a new standard-bearer is giving the party the party a boost among French youth.
From Radio France Internationale:
In a recent survey by pollsters Ifop, almost 25 per cent of first-time voters declared their intention to vote for far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in the first round of French presidential elections on 22 April.
Just over half of those polled said they intend to vote, and among that group, of those who have chosen a candidate, the highest number would vote for Socialist François Hollande, followed by Marine Le Pen and then incumbent Nicolas Sarkozy.
Academic Joël Gombin, of the University of Picardie is the author of a thesis on the Front National vote in the south of France.
He notes that many first time voters do not perceive the Front National the way their parents do, as a newish party with a different status to the other political formations.
For first time voters, says Gombin, the FN “is a party which is rooted in the political landscape, an important player in politics on the same level as the others”.
Sylvain Crépon, Sociologist at Paris-Ouest Nanterre University, notes that Marine Le Pen is much more popular among young people than her father Jean-Marie was.
“There’s an extraordinary identification with this twice divorced woman, who lives with her partner and their respective children. There is a rule-breaking side to her character and her speeches, which makes her the leader of a party which is rebellious, against the system,” he says.
And to sum up, some words from Matthew Arnold
A summing up, poetically
We close with the concluding lines of the British poet’s “Dover Beach,” the first modern English verse poem, published in 1867:
And we are here as on a darkling plain
Swept with confused alarms of struggle and flight,
Where ignorant armies clash by night.