Is a new form of extreme right wing sentiment sweeping Europe? Some, hopefully naively rather maliciously, will insist that history never repeats itself, but unfortunately facts indicate otherwise. Of course there are the lone wolves roaming, like the Norwegian Anders Bering Brevik. One might argue that extreme politics is merely expressive of economic stricken countries, thus the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party that currently polls more than 10%. But even traditionally tolerant countries are witnessing a shift. Thus a pertinent question comes to mind: Are we witnessing a repeated jamboree of veiled swastikas?
Seventy odd years since Kristallnacht, the infamous pogrom, chilling echoes recall us not to take things for granted, but the 1995 Srebrenica’s genocide, now half forgotten by most, should have already roused us to our senses as some 8,000 (some claim more than 10,000) Muslim men and boys were killed while their wives, daughters, and sisters, were raped as Dutch soldiers supposedly guaranteeing a UN safe area turned a blind eye.
Openly scapegoating Jews and Roma the Hungarian Jobbiks won 17% of parliamentary seats in 2010, its influence apparently well established since especially among the young. Focusing on the perceived threat of immigrants and Islam, the far right moves unchecked into Austria’s picturesque scenery, equalling the 29% of the Social Democrats in last September elections. In ‘revolutionary’ France, whose values are supposedly enshrined in the EC constitution (the latter having rejected any reference to the historical contributions made by the Judeo-Christian faith experience) the FN under Le Pen won 18% of the votes in the first round and finished in third position behind Hollande and Sarkozy. And last week elections only strengthened it. Closer to home, according to a survey conducted by the KSU among university students, more than a third of students indicated that they are unwilling to share their campus with irregular migrants. The story repeats itself in tolerant Netherlands, where the PVV has made significant inroads, becoming the third strongest in 2010. According to the German think tank, the Konrad-Adenauer-Stiftung, the EU is threatened by rampant right-wing populism. The foundation’s study comes amid fears that right-wing populist parties could make significant gains at the 2014 EU elections, with some polls suggesting they could win up to 25% of seats in the next European Parliament. So what’s the point?
A cultural war determining Europe’s identity is quietly unfolding, as issues relating to social causes for societal problems are hijacked by right wing radicals who in turn reinterpret these issues as relating purely to immigration – ethnicity is once again becoming a perilous underlining issue, easily degenerating into outright xenophobia and a fatalistic acceptance of violence and fatalism. One issue that needs addressing is that the economic crisis endured recently has a psychological dimension since it undermines personal and social confidence, thus providing a gap for slogan whipping extremists with easy solutions to complex issues. What’s at risk?
At risk is the dehumanising of the human face, and once this is tolerated, then it’s only a question of time that anyone who does not fit within imposed narrowed norms is excluded. The Nazi experience teaches us that initially it’s the “Jew”, the “homosexual”, the “Communist”, “troublesome believers”, the “mentally sick” – indeed a principle predominates: that some life is unworthy of life. Yes, the state did effectively eliminate “undesirables” as most watched on silently. No, we might not be rushing to rebuilding an Auschwitz, but we should be weary of values that tolerate what it represents. Nor should we naively imitate, as the saying goes, the emu, because unfortunately history does repeat itself! As Dietrich Bonhoeffer affirms: “The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.”