With the latest presidential election results in the USA, 2016 is proving to be a bonanza year for the right-wing extremists everywhere, or so it seems these days. The next year, 2017, may even look better for them.
Amid a migrant crisis, sluggish economic growth and growing disillusionment with the European Union, far-right parties have been achieving electoral success in a number of European nations, e.g., Hungary, Austria, Poland, Finland, Sweden, Denmark, the Netherlands, France, Slovakia, Romania and Switzerland. Even Germany, Greece, Italy and Cyprus are not far behind in seeing the resurgence of anti-immigrant, far right, populist parties.
What’s uniting the parties is an “imagined Muslim enemy in Europe,” according to Farid Hafez, a sociology and political science professor at Austria’s Salzburg University.
Last September, the Alternative for Germany party, which started three years ago as a protest movement against the euro currency, took second place in the Legislature in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, the home state of Chancellor Angela Merkel. The party attracts voters who are anti-establishment, anti-liberalization, anti-European, or more properly, anti-everything that has come to be regarded as the new “norm.” Frauke Petry, the party’s leader, has said border guards might need to turn guns on anyone crossing a frontier illegally. The party’s policy platform says “Islam does not belong in Germany” and calls for a ban on the construction of mosques.
In France, the National Front – established in 1972 (whose founders and sympathizers included former Nazi collaborators and members of the wartime collaborationist Vichy regime) – is a nationalist party that uses populist rhetoric to promote its racist, anti-immigration and anti-European Union positions. The party favors protectionist economic policies and would clamp down on government benefits for immigrants, including health care, and drastically reduce the number of immigrants allowed into France. The party may win the presidential election in 2017.
In the Netherlands, the anti-European Union, anti-Islam Party for Freedom has called for closing all Islamic schools and recording the ethnicity of all Dutch citizens. In early November, the party was leading in polls ahead of next year’s parliamentary elections.
In Greece, the neo-fascist party Golden Dawn – founded in 1980 – came to international attention in 2012 when it entered the Greek Parliament for the first time, winning 18 seats and becoming the country’s third-largest party. Golden Dawn, which again won 18 seats in parliamentary elections last September, was largely silent as the migrant crisis in Greece began, but in recent weeks, members have been marching in several areas where migrants are camped. The party hailed Mr. Trump’s election as a victory against “illegal immigration” and is in favor of “ethnically clean states.”
In Hungary, Jobbik, an anti-immigration, populist and economic protectionist party, won 20 percent of the vote in parliamentary elections in 2014, making it the country’s third-largest party. In September, a reporter for an internet television channel associated with the party showed her kicking and tripping immigrants in a makeshift camp near Hungary’s border with Serbia.
The Sweden Democrats party, an anti-immigrant party with probable ties with white supremacist movement, won about 13 percent of the vote in elections in September 2014. The party was Sweden’s most popular in some opinion polls in the winter. A poll on Nov. 16 showed the party vying for second place, with support from 21.5 percent of voters.
In March of this year, Slovakia’s governing party ran on an anti-migrant platform and yet, lost its majority in parliamentary elections. The far-right extremists of the anti-Roma People’s Party-Our Slovakia made striking gains by winning 8 percent of the vote, securing 14 seats in the country’s 150-member Parliament. The party’s leader, Marian Kotleba, has said, “Even one immigrant is one too many,” and has called NATO a “criminal organization.” He has also spoken favorably of Jozef Tiso, the head of the Slovak state during World War II, who was responsible for sending tens of thousands of Jews to concentration camps. The party favors leaving the European Union and the Eurozone.
In Austria, early this year, Norbert Hofer of the nationalist and anti-immigration Freedom Party lost in the runoff presidential election against Alexander Van der Bellen by just 31,000 votes. He got 49.7% of the votes. In June the party challenged the results of the presidential runoff election, citing “numerous irregularities and failures” in the counting of votes. In July, Austria’s highest court ordered a repeat of the runoff election, which is scheduled to take place on Dec. 4. Mr. Hofer had campaigned on strengthening the country’s borders and its army, limiting benefits for immigrants and favoring Austrians in the job market. The party, whose motto is “Austria first,” holds 40 of the 183 seats in the National Council.
Many Europeans are questioning immigration, integration, the euro, the EU and the establishment, while promoting a stiff dose of nationalist sentiment. Sadly, it has become “salonfaehig”, as German-speakers would say, meaning socially acceptable, these days.
Are we witnessing reincarnation of the Weimar Republic, the precursor to Nazi Germany, esp. in the western world?
A little bit of history may help us here to answer the question. In 1921 Kurt Tucholsky, a left-wing intellectual, claimed that “Germans had two passions: beer and antisemitism.” He added that “the beer was twenty-eight proof, but the antisemitism was a hundred proof.” There were numerous anti-Semitic publications that abounded in Germany including the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion,” which was brought to Germany by Alfred Rosenberg, a refugee from the Baltic part of the Russian Empire, who became a Nazi leader.
According to the historian Hans-Ulrich Wehler, German history before as well as during the Nazi years was marked by pronounced polarization of the society into groups perceived as insiders and outsiders, friends and enemies. “Race”, in its distorted Weimar definition, became the primary criterion for defining identity.
Adolf Hitler and his propaganda chief Joseph Goebbels believed that hatred against the ‘others’ – those of not ‘pure’ German blood – could be exploited to create unity and gather support for the Nazi movement. The deep-seated and long-standing hatred of Jews and gypsies (Roma and Sinti) was a wellspring that the Nazis tapped on their way to power. Nazism came to be viewed by most Germans as a type of political religion with the Church leaders rarely opposing the politics of racism and hatred that attracted increasing numbers of followers.
As the economic situation deteriorated in 1930, and many disillusioned voters turned to extremist parties, Adolf Hitler, a dedicated foe of the Weimar Republic, became the only political leader by 1932 who was capable of commanding a legislative majority. On January 30, 1933, an aged President von Hindenburg reluctantly named Hitler Chancellor of the Republic. Using his legislative majority and the support of Hindenburg’s emergency presidential powers, Hitler proceeded to destroy the Weimar Republic. He was able to put the blame for Germany’s troubles upon the socially and economically ‘unequal’ Jews who had remained the “other” in Germany.
During the recent presidential election in the USA we saw a fair share of similar blame-games and passions against the ‘others’. Donald Trump portrayed himself as the anti-establishment avatar who would ‘make America great’ again; he blamed the Mexican illegals for ‘stealing’ jobs of ordinary Americans and raping and killing White Americans; he used fear-mongering tactics against Muslim immigrants to solidify his position amongst the rabidly Islamophobic evangelical Christians. No wonder that hate crimes against the Muslims are now all-time high. Hijab-clad Muslim women continue to be harassed and threatened, and mosques attacked and vandalized in what is alarmingly becoming the Trumpland, and not the land of the immigrants.
In recent days, Trump has named some of his picks for top posts in his administration. They include well-known racists, bigots, white supremacists and potential Nazi-like fascists.
Steve Bannon has been named as Trump’s chief strategist. Before joining Trump’s campaign as his CEO, he was the executive director of Breitbart News, an outlet he described in July as a “platform of the alt-right.” In a new interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Bannon said, “Darkness is good.” “Dick Cheney. Darth Vader. Satan. That’s power.” “I’m not a white nationalist, I’m a nationalist. I’m an economic nationalist,” he told The Hollywood Reporter. “The globalists gutted the American working class and created a middle class in Asia. The issue now is about Americans looking to not get [expletive] over.” [Hidden, of course, in Bannon’s interview is the fact that one of those globalists is Trump who ‘gutted the American working class’ to profit his business.]
Ex-army General Michael T. Flynn has been named as Trump’s National Security chief. He tweeted in February that “fear of Muslims is RATIONAL,” including a link to a YouTube video that claims the religion of Islam wants “80% of people enslaved or exterminated.” He had described Islam as a ‘malignant cancer’.
Trump has chosen Jeff Sessions, who has served in the Senate for 20 years, to be the next attorney general — a position that will give him the platform to shape civil rights policy and to defend the constitutionality of any policies that effectively restrict Muslim immigration, legal and civil liberties experts warn. Sessions has also been dogged with accusations of racism, which sank his nomination to become a federal judge after President Ronald Reagan nominated him 30 years ago. At his Senate hearing, Sessions said he was not a racist, but several Justice Department employees testified that he had used racist language.
Ibrahim Hooper, spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, expressed dismay about Session’s nomination. It only adds “to a growing list” of nominees “with troubling pasts, and troubling histories of bigotry and intolerance,” Hooper said.
Trump’s pick to lead the CIA is Rep. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.), a Kansas congressman who is also seen as a fierce partisan on polarizing issues including the deaths of U.S. personnel in Benghazi, saying that the Obama administration was guilty of a scandal “worse than Watergate.” He has called for Snowden to face the death penalty and for Clinton to be barred from receiving classified information. He has used his perch on the House Intelligence Committee to attack major pillars of President Obama’s foreign policy agenda, including the nuclear deal with Iran. Just hours before his name surfaced as Trump’s CIA nominee, Pompeo tweeted that he looked forward to “rolling back this disastrous deal with the world’s largest state sponsor of terrorism.”
Separately, Pompeo said that Muslim leaders who fail to denounce acts of terrorism done in the name of Islam were “potentially complicit” in the attacks.
Trump has called for the CIA to resume the use of waterboarding and other interrogation measures widely condemned as torture. Trump has derided the quality of the intelligence from the nation’s spy community, publicly belittling a multiagency conclusion that Russia used cyberespionage methods to interfere in the U.S. election.
Pompeo is not known to have publicly backed those positions and in some cases has articulated views that would seem at odds with those of the Trump team. Pompeo reportedly has close ties to the Koch family, Kansas billionaires who have devoted a considerable part of their wealth to advancing a deeply conservative agenda and driving Democrats out of office. Articles in Kansas papers indicate that Pompeo built much of his wealth with investment funds from Koch industries and that his campaigns for Congress have been backed by Koch money.
With such picks in his new administration, Trump is sending a loud message, which is highly disconcerting to many Americans who don’t want to see their country turn into a fascist country ruled by Herr Trump.
Over the last 17 years, Europe has seen the number of seats for far-right parties double in each election, from 11 percent in 1999 to 22.9 percent in 2014, according to a report by European Parliament research fellow Thilo Janssen. If the trend continues, the far-right could win 37 percent of European Parliament seats in the next election, the same percentage that Adolf Hitler’s National Society party won in 1932, resulting in the rise of the Nazi regime. These parties are emboldened by Trump victory in the USA.
As noted by Mayaan Jaffe-Hoffman, many of these political groups have a history of antisemitism. “After the fall of the Nazi regime, blatant antisemitism lost popularity, and so did the far-Right”, Farid Hafez said. However, when large numbers of foreign workers began streaming into Europe in the early 1990s, the far-right tried to re-establish prominence through economic nationalism, a feeling of loyalty and pride in their own country.
They also felt native-born Europeans should be given job preferences and welfare support over non-natives. But their efforts were largely unsuccessful. After 9/11, and in the wake of Muslim refugees flooding into Europe from war-torn countries in Asia and Africa, and the nihilistic attacks there, the far-right found its ticket in Islamophobia, very much like antisemitism of the 19th century. Muslims (like the German Jews of the Nazi-era) have become global scapegoats, blamed for all negative social phenomena.
“There is a growing fear in Europe that Muslims will demographically take over sooner or later,” says Ayhan Kaya, director of the European Institute at Istanbul Bilgi University in Turkey. Bar-Ilan University professor Amikam Nachmani says Nazi-style rhetoric employed against the Jews is now targeted against Muslims. He estimates the anti-Muslim hatred increasingly being employed by the far-Right is a proxy for its longstanding racism and anti-Semitic ideologies.
Ironically, Islamophobia was fed, amongst others, by the Jewish organizers of the Jerusalem Summit and Stop Islamization of Europe with their Christian-Zionist friends in the West. What they sowed is now reaping its evil! In France, for example, there were 806 anti-Semitic hate crimes against Jews in 2015, as reported by the Jewish Telegraphic Agency (JTA). While attacks against Muslims tripled in volume, the total was only 400, half the number of attacks committed against Jewish people and property. “The far-right parties claim they want to defend Europe’s Judeo-Christian heritage and foundations,” said Hafez. “This is a game.”
Truly, the far-right populist parties and Likudnik Zionists have now become strange bedfellows.
History has repeatedly shown the futility of tying knots with the devil, and yet that lesson continues to get lost in the face of a crackpot union with fraudulent voices on the extreme right. Trump’s election win is sure to strengthen the dark forces of our time – the far right parties in Europe and the religious extremists in other parts of our world.