Material World: Europe – A Whiff of Fascism in the Air
Many of us recognise a rightward swing in British and American politics in recent times and throughout Europe topics of immigration, Muslims and refugees are now dominating election campaigns like never before. In France, Le Pen’s National Front. In The Netherlands Geert Wilders EERT Dutch Freedom Party. In Germany, Alternative for Germany (AfD) has made a strong showing. But all those parties have been rejected in general elections. Some, sadly have been more successful.
Despair and deprivation are fertile ground for the populist demagogue. Political and economic crises bring forth renewed discontent based on old slogans. Nationalist parties have been making significant gains and only too frequently elections in Hungary, Poland, the Czech Republic and Slovakia have become contests between the right and the further-to-the-right. Some call it fascism but it is more accurately described as nativism where scapegoating foreigners offers an increasingly successful tactic for gaining political power. Populist regimes have opportunistically seized on refugees and migrants to promote xenophobia for political gain, tapping into fear and prejudice
The recent election as Austria’s chancellor of Sebastian Kurz of the Austrian People’s Party and (at the time of writing) a possible coalition with the Freedom Party of Austria is yet another signal of this shift to the right. The nationalist rhetoric of Kurz has given the extreme right FPO no point of differentiation, making the impending coalition more likely.
In Hungary, Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party and in Poland, Jarosław Kaczyński ‘s Law and Justice Party (PiS) have openly embraced far-right policies. Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban referred to asylum seekers as ‘poison’ and advocates ‘ethnic homogeneity.’ To counter the country’s declining population he announced a housing grant and loan scheme for couples who promise to have babies. Since his election in 2010, Orban has been accused of setting up an authoritarian state, jiggling with electoral laws, placing cronies in the judiciary and media, and squeezing funding for groups critical of his regime. Orban was re-elected in 2014 with more than double the combined vote of the next two candidates. Mainstream politicians are also critical of Orban, but they know that the alternative is even less attractive — the extreme right Jobbik party is Hungary’s second-largest.
The Czech billionaire media-magnet Andrej Babis has also been recently swept into power with his own political party, ANO, ‘Action of Dissatisfied Citizens’, where his anti-immigration policies appealed to many voters who agreed with the Czech president Milos Zeman that the flight of refugees from Syria, Iraq, and Afghanistan was an ‘organised invasion’.
In 2015 Slovakia’s Interior Ministry spokesman Ivan Metik announced it will only accept Christian migrants when it takes in Syrian refugees under an EU relocation plan. Robert Fico, Slovakia’s prime minister, reinforced that message the following year, saying that Slovakia will not accept ‘one single Muslim’ migrant into the country.’ He further stated ‘…Islam has no place in Slovakia… I do not wish there were tens of thousands of Muslims.’
Political factions almost everywhere have turned immigration into a political football. Ruling nationalist party leaders have seldom dissociated themselves from xenophobic racist violence. During the 2015 election campaign, PiS politicians ranted about immigrants and hate-crimes have multiplied six-fold since 2010.
Capitalism both unites and divides workers. The system compels our fellow workers to unite in order to defend their interests, but it also imposes upon us the necessity to compete individually for jobs. This rivalry creates animosity between workers of different nationalities, regions and religions, by endeavouring to bind the workers of one nation to the idea that they have a common interest with ‘their’ nation’s employers. The only way to overcome these divisions is to strive for the solidarity of all workers, regardless of their nationality, language or faith. Native-born workers may think that excluding migrant workers will help them. But if the employers can hurt one section of the working class, it is easier to hurt the other.
Our fellow workers in Central and Eastern Europe have nothing to gain from the return of nationalisms which ravaged this part of the world several times. Our class is clearly international. We are all interdependent. The Socialist Party maintains that workers must free themselves of patriotism and any concept of national superiority, for without discarding these ideas of the ruling class they will never themselves be free.
‘We have to fight against nationalism,’ said Jean Claude Juncker, president of the European Commission, ‘We have the duty not to follow populists but to block the avenue of populists,’ adding, ‘Borders are the worst invention ever made by politicians…’ (tinyurl.com/ybnwv99k).
We can only agree. Instead of nation-states (or transnational trading blocs), we could have instead a worldwide socialist cooperative commonwealth as an alternative way of life.