We’ll begin with a video of an amazing performance in Oslo yesterday, where 40,000 Norwegians braved the rain and cold to sing the Pete Seeger song so deeply despised by mass murdered Anders Behring Breivik:
From the Norwegian Culture vlog:
Oslo, April 26 2012: What started out as an initiative to gather a few dozens of people to sing the song Anders Behring Breivik told in court that he disliked the most, turned out to become a gathering of 40 000 people.
The song is the Norwegian version of Pete Seeger’s “My Rainbow Race,” rewritten in Norwegian and released in the early 1970s by singer/songwriter Lillebjørn Nilsen who is the lead in this recording from the Norwegian Broadcasting corporation (NRK).
This extremely well known and popular song was sung by the crowd at the Youngstorget square before they all walked to the court building, still singing, laying down roses outside while court was still in session.
More on the event from Deutsche Presse-Agentur’s Lennart Simonsson:
The “rose rally” in central Oslo was a private initiative by two women who used social media to organize the event.
Lill Hjonnevag told NRK television it was necessary to “reclaim the song,” which is well-known among Norwegian children, and which Breivik had attacked in his testimony as an example of “Marxist indoctrination.”
The crowd then walked from Oslo’s central Youngstorget square to the court, where they placed roses around the building.
Christine Bar, another organizer of the Oslo gathering, told NRK she had been left “speechless” by the turnout, which was far higher than the 5,000 that had been expected to attend.
Musician Lillebjorn Nilsen, who translated Seeger’s text into Norwegian, led the 40,000-strong crowd and conveyed a greeting from 93-year-old Seeger.
Labor Party youth wing leader Eskil Pedersen its members had often sang Seeger’s song at Utoya island. When survivors returned to the island in August, they sang “My Rainbow Race” once more as they walked from the quay.
So much for the good news. Now for the latest from the dark side, including some xenophobic pandering by the French Socialist [sic] presidential candidate.
Rise of French right worries eurocrats:
The third place finish of the National Front’s Marine Le Pen in the first round of the French presidential election has the European Union rightly worried.
European Union ministers meeting 23 April in Luxembourg said they were concerned over the rise of French nationalist party in Sunday’s presidential elections.
Luxembourg Foreign Minister Jean Asselborn blamed incumbent French President Nicolas Sarkozy for the success of far-right candidate Marine Le Pen in France‘s elections.
“If I were the president of the [French] Republic, I would ask myself why one out of five people in France are now voting for the National Front,” Asselborn said before the start of an EU foreign ministers meeting in Luxembourg.
Socialist candidate François Hollande pipped Sarkozy in Sunday’s 10-candidate first round by 28.6% to 27.2%, but National Front leader Le Pen stole the show, surging to 17.9%, the biggest tally a far-right candidate has ever managed.
Her performance mirrored advances across the continent by anti-establishment Eurosceptic populists from Amsterdam and Vienna to Helsinki as the eurozone’s grinding debt crisis deepens anger over government spending cuts and unemployment.
The unpopular Sarkozy now faces a difficult balancing act to attract both the far-right and centrist voters he needs to stay in office.
Returning to the campaign trail yesterday (23 April), Sarkozy hammered home promises to toughen border controls, tighten security on the streets and keep industrial jobs in France – signature issues for Le Pen at a time of anger over immigration, violent crime and unemployment running at a 12-year high.
“National Front voters must be respected,” Sarkozy told reporters as he left his campaign headquarters in Paris. “They voiced their view. It was a vote of suffering, a crisis vote. Why insult them? I have heard Mr Hollande criticising them.”
EU Council chief joins the warning chorus
The fight to keep Europe’s borders open is meeting strong resistance from both Germany and France, which are seeking changes to the Schengen Treaty to allow them to close their borders for 30-day periods.
And both Sarkozy and former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi mounted ethnic cleansing operations against Roma [“gypsies”] and Sarko has expelled members of the Travelers community as well.
From Valentina Pop of EUobserver:
EU Council chief Herman Van Rompuy has spoken out against the “winds of populism” threatening freedom of movement in the Union – a swipe at anti-immigrant discourse in French elections and on the Dutch political scene.
“It is the duty of each government to make sure that no-one – no member of any group or any minority – is treated as a second-class citizen. Regrettably, the winds of populism are affecting a key achievement of European integration: the free movement of persons within our borders,” he said in a speech in the Romanian parliament on Wednesday (25 April).
Keeping the EU’s inner borders open was a “sign of civilisation,” the EU official noted.
“In that space, there is no room for stigmatisation of foreigners, as happens in certain countries nowadays,” he added.
Sarko licks Le Pen’s boots
The metaphor’s not ours, but comes from a blog of telecaster France 24:
Under pressure, and desperate to renew his lease for the Elysee Presidential palace, Sarkozy has chosen one clear, it must seem the only, way forward: Start licking the boots of National Front (FN) candidate Marine Le Pen.
Yes, Le Pen and the glorious 18% support she won in the first round of the presidential race. Yes, the National Front, France’s far-right party, which despite its new blonde window dressing, remains a shop run by Nazi collaboration apologists, royalists and unabashed xenophobes.
In the widely viewed television program “Words and Actions” on French public television on Thursday, Sarkozy denied any marriage with Marine Le Pen. “I will forge no alliance with Mrs. Le Pen. No National Front minister [in a future cabinet]. It’s crystal clear.”
And he’s right! Why take on a National Front minister in your future government if you are already taking your campaign cues directly from FN headquarters?
The “socialist” pays Le Pen tribute
Hollande, the Socialist-in-name-only who seems likely to beat Sarko in next week’s runoff, is paying Le Pen homage, as reported by Chinese news agency Xinhua:
French Socialist Party presidential candidate Francois Hollande vowed on Friday to cut flows of immigrants seeking for jobs in France.
Speaking to RTL radio, the presidential election frontrunner said limiting economic immigration was “indispensable” and indicated that parliament would outline annually the number of foreigners allowed to enter France if he is elected on May 6.
“In a crisis such as the one we are witnessing, the limitation of economic immigration is necessary, even essential. I even want to fight against illegal economic immigration,” Hollande said.
He added while there will never be zero immigration, legal immigration would always remain. “Can we reduce the number? This is the debate,” he stated, referring to his rival Nicolas Sarkozy’s proposal to halve immigration if reelected.
Hollande supports Sarko’s hijab ban
The Muslim head scarf has become a leading focus, along with the minaret, of Europe’s Islamophobic Right.
Nicolas Sarkozy scored points with the xenophobes with his measure to ban the hijab in France — and now Hollande has endorsed his rival’s crowning symbolic blow against traditional Islamic culture.
From The Independent:
France’s socialist presidential candidate says that, if elected, he
won’t seek to overturn a law banning face-covering Muslim veils enacted
by President Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservatives.
Francois Hollande, who leads Sarkozy in all polls, and most other Socialists abstained from the 2010 vote in the National Assembly to ban mesh-screen burqas and niqabs — which have slits for the eyes.
On RTL radio Friday, Hollande said he would keep the ban, but “have it applied in the best way.” He did not elaborate.
Greek Right bolsters anti-immigrant cred
No surprise here, given that the EU has been leaning on Greece to control the flow of Turkish and other Middle Eastern immigrants who cross its borders on their ways to Europe’s stronger economies to the north and west.
Anti-immigration measures are, not coincidentally, the one area with the austerians are demanding more expenditure by the deeply savaged Greek government.
From Andy Dabilis of Greek Reporter:
Reaching out to Right-Wingers who are leaving his Conservative party ahead of the May 6 elections, New Democracy leader Antonis Samaras said he would get tough on crime, repeal laws giving citizenship to second generation immigrants born in Greece, and allow police to use water cannons to break up protests, two years of which have beset a government that has imposed harsh austerity measures on working class Greeks, pensioners and the poor. In a speech to his party membership, with frequent references to the Greek Orthodox faith and patriotic themes, Samaras said, “That which I am proposing today constitutes real change. Revolution. Not violent, but real revolution.”
Samaras’s party is leading in the polls, but with only about 20 percent compared to about 14 percent for its bitter rival PASOK Socialists with whom it is sharing power in a shaky hybrid government overseen by a former European Central Bank (ECB) Vice-President, who helped engineer a second bailout of $173 billion from international lenders to prop up the country’s failed economy. But, as did a first series of $152 billion in rescue loans from the European Union-International Monetary Fund-ECB, the new package comes with pay cuts, tax hikes, slashed pensions as well as new conditions, including the firing of 150,000 public workers over three years.
That has set off a fury against New Democracy and PASOK, who support the measures but have been trying to distance themselves from them.
Golden Dawn goes mainstream?
The Golden Dawn [previously] is one of the 27 Greek political parties hustling votes for the upcoming parliamentary elections.
The outfit was considered sufficiently significant to merit a mention in a SECRET 27 September 2005 cable from Chargé d’affaires Tom Countryman in Athens reporting on Greek radical movements:
The Greek neo-Nazi group “Chryssi Avghi” (Golden Dawn), attempted to organize “Hatefest 2005″ (one of the slogans for the event was “Turkey Out of Europe”), a pan-European “festival” for the Far Right in southern Greece. On a positive note, the event, after vigorous local opposition, was moved several times and ultimately out of Greece.
Now the Golden Dawn is reaching out for voters.
From Emmanouela Seiradaki of Greek Reporter:
“The touch of the cat” is the name of the admittedly effective tactic followed by Greece’s most extremist party, the Golden Dawn. Just like the cats detect their pray walking on their toes, Golden Dawn quietly observes Greek voters becoming more and more vulnerable, ready to attack them.
Founded in the early 1980s by backers of the junta that governed Greece from 1967 to 1974, Golden Dawn has always embraced a neo-Nazi ideology. Its symbol looks like the swastika, and copies of “Mein Kampf” and books on the racial superiority of the Greeks are on prominent display in its Athens headquarters. In the past, not many Greeks took Golden Dawn seriously, but this time polls indicate that in the national elections scheduled for May 6, Golden Dawn may surpass the 3 percent threshold needed to enter Parliament. But even 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.
Golden Dawn’s pray – aka desperate, cash-stripped Greek voters – don’t even realize what has changed. But for some reason, Golden Dawn suddenly appears “a bit more normal” than what it used to be. Their ballots include ordinary, low key people, not the usual hard core fascists. And instead of talking about Nazi fascism, Golden Dawn candidates talk about the ordinary people and their daily sufferings due to the crisis. They are worried about the cuts in pensions and salaries, about the schools and the hospitals that are being merged. Michalioliakos is determined to transform his party from a collection of street fighters into a political party.
“This is our party’s program, for a clean Greece, only for Greeks, a safe Greece,” says Ilias Panagiotaros, the group’s spokesman and a candidate for office.
In the pre-crisis times, the majority of Greeks would make fun of him. Yet those living in downtown Athens have been so badly hit by the crime coming from illegal immigrants that they don’t make fun of him.
Almost all European far-right parties have come up with the same toxic cocktail. The Dutch MP Geert Wilders, leader of the anti-immigrant Freedom party, has compared the Qur’an to Mein Kampf. In Tel Aviv in 2010, he declared that “Islam threatens not only Israel, Islam threatens the whole world. If Jerusalem falls today, Athens and Rome, Amsterdam and Paris will fall tomorrow.”
Thanks to the polls, Golden Dawn now appears much more confident. Right after he realized there is a chance he would enter the Greek parliament, Michalioliakos reinvented his party’s image, disassociated himself and almost denied his extremist past, the Nazi symbols, the praise to Hitler and stopped hunting immigrants around St. Paneleimonas square in central Athens (he’s probably going to continue his hobby after the elections).
What’s critical to remember is that it took another economic crash combined with a brilliant campaign of xenophobic hate-mongery to raise a small German party from insignificance to total control of first the nation and then the continent, under control of a guy who dreamed of “a United States of Europe.”