Europe's New Fascists Are Closet Liberals

5 posts


Interesting and somewhat sympathetic article from The Commentator on Europe's so called 'New Right' parties .

"Although all these groups are anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim, they do have profound differences.

Those with a long history (the French National Front) tend to have genetic links with 1930s fascism. But figures who have come to prominence in the last decade, such as Holland’s Geert Wilders, do not (Wilders has Indonesian blood and his father fled the Nazis). Some parties have fluctuating electoral success that suggests they are purely a protest vote (Britain’s BNP), while others have long-term regional or demographic support (Italy’s Lega Nord).

Certainly, there is no single fascist movement in Europe, rather a patchwork of different nationalist reactions to domestic problems.

If you extract the outright crazy (the BNP) from the serious attempt at mainstream politicking (Finnland’s True Finns), you’ll actually find a set of parties that don’t easily fit the fascist label.

The fascism of the 1930s was illiberal, anti-free speech, anti-feminist and homophobic. In contrast, contemporary nationalists wear their cultural liberalism as a badge of political legitimacy. Holland’s Wilders, for example, attacks Islam as an agent of intolerance, highlighting what he perceives as the Koran’s prejudices against women and gays. Even the ruffians of the English Defence League have a Facebook page devoted to its “Gay Division”.

Perhaps this is part of a strategy to dress up racial bigotry as social liberalism. But the new movements are consistently secular in their rhetoric: rarely do they invoke Christianity as the bedrock of Europe, preferring instead to quote the Enlightenment as its genesis.

Nor do they express that most constant theme of traditionalist Christianity: anti-Semitism. On the contrary, the True Finns are big fans of Israel and have received favourable write ups in the Jeruslam Post (although the Hungarian Jobbik movement is truly, awfully anti-Semitic).

Most importantly, none of these groups present a threat to established democratic institutions. The fascists of the 1930s saw democracy as a Trojan horse for communism, legitimising popular socialism. They campaigned openly for a one party state and won power in countries where democracy had only been practised for one generation.

In contrast, no nationalist party in Europe is promising a dictatorship. On the contrary, most see themselves as a bulwark against a perceived Islamic conspiracy to pervert democracy."

It's important to distinguish the clowns and cretins (BNP, France's National Front) from serious players putting forth a new political dynamic (True Finns, Pim Fortuyn). Especially when their detractors are willing to lump them all together as one big bugbear. Consider this hysterical article from a Finnish paper on the True Finns .

If I adopt a more cynical eye, however, this may be an attempt by European Neoconservatives to hijack legitimate right wing populism towards their own aims (pro Israel, anti Islam, neoliberal). The Commentator is owned by one Robin Shepherd, author of A State Beyond the Pale: Europe's Problem with Israel and current director of the Henry Jackson Society.

Team Zissou

'Fascism' is routinely conflated with ethnic nationalism. From wiki:

How is secular liberalism any different? Instead of an ethnic litmus test for inclusion in the State, it's an ideological one: a suprapersonal connection of ideology characterized by distributionist policies and enforced tolerance. It is the liberal multicultural State that demands its citizens transcend their disparate ethnicities, religious faiths and political philosophies. Without this all-powerful multicultural State, disparate peoples would very quickly segregate themselves along ethnic and credal lines.
And this is precisely what has happened in former Eastern Bloc countries like the former Yugoslavia.

The article strikes me as clumsy. It conflates various tendencies, evinces historical ignorance and I've no idea what it means with the term fascist. I don't mean to be glib, but its essence seems to be: "is it good for jews?"

I agree. That's why it seems to be an effort by Euro Neoconservatives to court right wing populism for their own aims. Basically they're saying, "Hey these guys are wary of Islamic immigration and some of them are pretty pro Israel too. Let's just beef up their democracy rhetoric and they'll be just like us!"

The last line stating that they're "liberals on steroids" is especially telling. A lot of these Euro Neocons refer to themselves as 'muscular liberals' and are into things like the Euston Manifesto which is all about Human Rights and worrisome exclamations about "left wing anti semitism." In fact, I've always considered Wilders a sort of populist Neocon. Even Breivik seemed to come from this school, albeit with more extreme conclusions.