Monday, September 26, 2011

Europe and Its Radical Right

Whenever someone wishes to rail against the dangers of socialism, Sweden is usually the country mentioned as an example of a socialist nation. Consequently, many of us who were enthralled by Stieg Larsson’s Swedish trilogy might have been surprised by the focus on right-wing and neo-Nazi activities. Indeed, we learn that Larsson’s main employment was not writing thrillers.
"He was a Swedish journalist and anti-Nazi activist. He founded an organisation, the Swedish Expo Foundation, modelled on Searchlight, for keeping tabs on right-wing extremists."

It would seem there is more going on in Sweden than one might think. And then came the slaughter perpetrated by the Norwegian, Breivik. Again the question was prompted: "What’s going on here."

Andrea Mammone attempts to answer that question in an article in Foreign Affairs: The Future of Europe’s Radical Right.

"For years, commentators and citizens overlooked a worrying trend in European politics: growing right-wing extremism, including staunch nativism. Until its defeat in last week's election, Denmark's ruling center-right coalition was allied with the forceful extreme-right Danish People's Party. In government, they had imposed tough immigration legislation and border controls that ran the country afoul of the other Schengen states. The Freedom Party, which is Euroskeptical, overtly anti-Muslim, and against dual citizenship, is one of the strongest parties in the Netherlands. In Italy, the neo-Fascist granddaughter of Benito Mussolini is a popular parliamentarian and a founding member of Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party. The Northern League party, known for its anti-Islamism, is powerful in Italy's wealthy north. In France, the extreme-right leader of the Front National party, Marine Le Pen, is a serious contender in upcoming 2012 presidential election."

Mammone claims a philosophical union between these parties.

"All of these parties share a common vision of a "pure" Europe that excludes immigrant populations from everywhere else in the world."

She tells us that even after Breivik’s attack, journalists and commentators were confused as to why a Norwegian nationalist would kill Norwegian citizens in the name of a greater Europe.

"In fact, Breivik represented an extreme form of pan-European rightism that has existed for decades. It harks back to the Nazis' quest to create a Euro-Fascist political order.’

"After 1945, as liberal Europeans started working together to create a new, and peaceful, supranational European entity, European rightists gathered in Rome and Malmö to develop their own version.... These former fascists and Nazis were highly respected, and some, such as Bardèche and Evola, are still read and praised by contemporary activists. They called their version of the union the European Social Movement. (Later, some split from the main group and created the New European Order.) If Europe was to be reborn, they believed, it should be fascistic, corporatist, and organic....This order would guarantee the proper functioning of the European continent (and its common market). It would also have been white-only."

The liberal view dominated, but the right-wingers never went away. Mammone says the movement broke up into several "networks" of adherents. These people are still united by a common view.

"....globalization, immigration, and Islam anywhere in Europe threaten the whole of it. Globalization destroys tradition, African immigrants assault European borders, and Muslims promote terrorism and hate. In sum, they are all enemies because they challenge the "pure" identity and culture of the old continent."

And how do Breivik’s convictions fit into this picture? It appears he was targeting Norwegian Social Democracy itself, viewing it as an appeaser in the struggle against multiculturalism and all the other things that he hated.

"He perceived himself to be a pure combatant on behalf of a community with a glorious and pure past. According to his logic, the war extends to citizens who betray the cause."

Mammone sees Europe as being at a critical juncture—if not a dangerous one—where many countries are struggling to accommodate an influx of immigrants with very different cultures.

"Those who believe that the contemporary extreme right is novel and comparatively unproblematic are wrong. And those who call the phenomenon populism are incorrect, too. The use of such a generic label indirectly, and perhaps unintended, legitimizes a manifestly undemocratic and racist ideology."

"Europe is now struggling with the integration of immigrants and the survival of its common currency. The EU was founded on the basis of promoting fraternity among its populations after the brutality of World War II -- integrating previously warring countries within a boundless and peaceful ideal. A European culture cannot exclude "others"; this would contradict the EU's very goal. The hope is that the continent will be ready to look, again, at itself and its inner values, and tackle this "pan-European" rightism once more."

Thanks to Mammone for providing needed context for what appears to be a much greater issue than I suspected.

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