Behind the far right’s victories in Europe

June 16, 2008

IN RECENT European elections, members of far-right parties have been elected into local and state assemblies.

In late April, Gianni Alemanno, a former neo-fascist, was elected mayor of Rome, beating his center-left rival, Francesco Rutelli, with 54 percent of the vote in runoff elections. When his victory was announced, supporters of the new mayor rallied around Rome's city hall and gave the fascist salute, chanting "Duce! Duce!"--the term adopted by Italy's dictator Benito Mussolini.

A week later, neo-Nazi leader Richard Barnbrook was elected to the London Assembly in the United Kingdom. Barnbrook is a member of the British National Party, which is notorious for its denial of the Holocaust and virulent xenophobia.

During his first speech in London City Hall, Barnbrook wasted no time exposing his anti-immigrant racism. He said: "This is Britain, it is for the British is not for people to enter into this land dictating what will or will not happen to the people that created it and built it over generations."

The most disturbing show of force was in Germany on May Day, where 1,000 neo-Nazis tried to march in Hamburg.

I think the slow, yet alarming growth of the fascist right in Europe is a result of the massive anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim racism which is becoming mainstream in European politics.

It is bad enough when liberals shake their finger at oppressed groups for not assimilating into so-called "European culture," like when Britain's liberal Independent newspaper says that women who wear headscarves frighten people.

Many politicians, however, utilize state repression and cultural genocide. In several countries, such as Austria, Germany and Switzerland, the right wing has sought to outlaw or limit the construction of mosques and minarets. Since May 2007, the Swiss People's Party--the largest party in parliament--has launched a petition initiative to ban the construction of minarets (when there are only two in the whole country). Worse still, French President Nicolas Sarkozy's government has pledged to deport 25,000 "illegal" immigrants each year.

Rhetoric and actions like these are not only outrageous in their own right, but give the green light to fascists to advance their agenda.

To be clear, fascism is not making a huge comeback. Fascism gets a real hearing during extreme economic crisis and a growth of working-class and left forces.

The rate of growth of the far right and its confidence in using thug tactics in the streets differs in each European country. However, I think we should support all efforts to push the radical right out of the mainstream debate.

On the day Branbrook took his council seat, hundreds of activists came out to protest and are looking into ways to kick him out of office. When the Nazis marched in Hamburg, over 10,000 anti-fascists came out to protest.

We should do likewise and force back any advances the fascist right makes in the U.S. Fascists are like weeds that must be clipped whenever they emerge from cracks in the ground. However, we must strive to do away with the root of the problem--the exploitation and despair that is constantly reproduced in capitalist society.
Alessandro Tinonga, Oakland, Calif.

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