A spectre is haunting Europe: the spectre of the far-right. Right across the continent, extremist political parties are attracting millions of votes. They now have solid representation in national and European parliaments. They receive strong doses of, to use the words of the late Margaret Thatcher, ‘the oxygen of publicity’ from the media, and their leaders are regarded as having something important to say.
Once confined to the wilder shores of conspiratorial and violent activity, the far-right are today planted firmly in the mainstream. They have succeeded, in differing degrees, in pulling the political centre to the right, with negative debates about multiculturalism, immigrants, the ‘Muslim problem’ and the fate of other minorities now the daily fare of newspapers, television and politicians of all stripes. Many of these parties have organic and generational roots in the fascist period of the 1930s, although most in Western Europe have sought to ‘detoxify’ their past and pose as modern democratic players in the political realm. In the south and east of Europe, however, there are far-right parties who revel in Nazi-style insignia and violent street confrontations. They are all against the European Union and claim to champion the ‘little man’ exploited and over-run by dark-skinned immigrants.
Although many of these parties have taken up a virulent anti-Muslim agenda, and agitate against the manufactured phantom of the ‘Islamisation’ of Europe that led terrorist Anders Behring Breivik to murder seventy-six people in Norway in 2011, their hatreds go much deeper. Anti-semitism and anti-Roma racism remain a recurring motif in their rhetoric. In the end, it is all about racial purity and supremacy.
So here, in no particularly despicable order, are our top ten to avoid. Read; and choose by playing the time honoured parlour game of the uneasy immigrant: ‘if I were to move to another county in Europe it would be…’
1. Jobbik (Hungary)
Jobbik, the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik Magyarországért mozgalom), is without doubt one of the nastiest ultra-nationalist parties around. Its ideological roots lie with the Nazi collaborators of the 1930s, and anti-semitism still drives its ideologues. Today there are just 120,000 Jewish people living in Hungary, compared with 850,000 before the Holocaust. Yet they are a constant target of Jobbik, with supporters seen giving out leaflets depicting an image from the film Easy Rider with the slogan ‘Jews are the problem – it’s time to step on the gas!’ The party’s paramilitary front like to goosestep in the streets wearing black uniforms with WWII fascist armbands.
In November 2012, Marton Gyongyosi, the party’s deputy parliamentary leader, called for a security register of Hungarian Jewish legislators and ministers. Gyongyosi said: ‘I think such a conflict [in Gaza] makes it timely to tally up people of Jewish ancestry who live here, especially in the Hungarian parliament and the Hungarian government, who, indeed, pose a national security risk to Hungary.’ The apparently bottomless well of hatred and violence of Jobbik supporters is also directed at Hungary’s Roma and Gypsy population. The European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) reported sixty-nine violent attacks on Roma – in which nine Roma were killed – in Hungary between January 2008 and September 2012. Jobbik and its supporters hold provocative rallies in Roma neighbourhoods, its supporters attack Roma property and their election material uses the term ‘gypsy crime’.
In 2011, in a sinister echo of the Nazi period, the small town of Gyongyospata was invaded by 2000 Jobbik supporters, many of them armed, claiming that one Roma family was responsible for a suicide of a ‘Hungarian’ resident, and that the town’s Roma were responsible for all crime in the area. The town’s mayor, a Jobbik supporter, subsequently started segregating the local schools, with different floors for ‘Hungarians’ and Roma, along with barring Roma pupils from using the school’s swimming pool and toilets.
After the parliamentary elections on 6 April 2014, Jobbik became the third largest party in Hungary.
2. Golden Dawn (Greece)
Although the neo-Nazi Golden Dawn (GD) was founded in 1983 as an anti-Semitic, pro-dictatorship organisation, it only emerged as a dangerous force as a result of the economic crisis that has torn Greek society apart. Golden Dawn’s ideology is a repulsive cocktail of extreme nationalist politics, white supremacy, Holocaust denial, a distorted male virility, anti-immigrant pogroms and enacting violence against the ‘enemies of Greece’ – lesbians and gays, black people, the left and Jews. The organisation believes that Jewish thought has ‘infected’ Christianity and therefore Greeks should ‘reject the Old Testament and reveal the genuine Greek cultural identity [for centuries suffocating] under the layer of Jewish tradition’. Golden Dawn also agitates for the ‘unification’ of Greek minorities outside the borders of modern Greece, including calling for the annexation of all of Cyprus.
Golden Dawn has a track record of assassinating its opponents, most recently the leftist and anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, who was stabbed to death by a GD member in September 2013. The popular backlash against the murder forced the Greek government, whose security forces have been accused of supporting Golden Dawn, to declare the party a criminal organisation and round up its leadership including nine MPs.
However Golden Dawn has also played a clever hand by posing as a friend of ordinary Greeks, beset by the Euro-provoked economic collapse that has resulted in a jobless rate of 27 per cent, with 3.5 million people working to support more than 4.7 million unemployed and inactive people. Golden Dawn vows to stand up for ‘Greeks in danger’, and distribute food parcels to poor communities (as long as they are ethnic Greeks). In the 2014 European elections over half a million Greeks voted for GD, giving it three seats in the European parliament.
3. Front National (France)
The Front National (FN) is the most successful far-right party in Europe, and has a deepening influence within French society, pulling mainstream politics towards its xenophobic and anti-Muslim agenda.
Founded by anti-communist street brawler and Foreign Legionnaire Jean Marie Le Pen in 1972, the Front National combined ex-Vichy collaborators with assorted neo-Nazis and members of the OAS, a secret paramilitary group that conducted terrorist outrages in an effort to stop Algeria becoming independent.
Le Pen is a serial Holocaust denier, notoriously describing the gas chambers as ‘a mere detail in history’. In recent times he has mostly saved his racist bile for France’s Muslims, a tradition continued by his daughter Marine Le Pen, who took over leadership of the FN in 2011. She compared Muslims in France as equivalent to Nazi occupation during World War Two: ‘fifteen years ago there were no veils, then there were more and more veils, and then there were prayers on the public thoroughfare. For those who like to speak about the Second World War, here we can talk about occupation …Certainly there are no tanks, there are no soldiers, but it weighs heavily on local people.’
The FN’s electoral breakthrough came in the late 1980s, as voters increasingly perceived the two mainstream parties of the left and the right to be virtually indistinguishable in their policies. Le Pen then morphed his anti-Semitism into anti-Muslim racism, seizing upon the Salman Rushdie affair to ignite a poisonous debate about the position of Muslims in French society. In line with other parties in Europe with Neo-Nazi roots, the FN has sought to erase its nasty past. Marine Le Pen is known as the ‘de-toxifier’, and has tried hard to distance herself from her father’s anti-semitic statements, even going as far as sending her partner and FN deputy leader Louis Aliot to Tel Aviv to court the vote of French-Jewish expatriates.
Increasingly courted by the media, Marine Le Pen was ranked as seventy-first in 2011 as the Time magazine’s top 100 ‘most influential people in the world’. The magazine praised her ‘less divisive style and her oratory talents’ that have made ‘Le Pen France’s fastest-rising politician’.
In the 2014 European elections the FN gained nearly a quarter of all votes cast in France, giving it twenty-four MEPs.
4. Sweden Democrats
Who? Very few people outside the bastion of north European social democracy had heard of the Sweden Democrats until the 2010 general election when they won twenty parliamentary seats, a figure that they more than doubled in 2014. It is now the third largest party in Sweden.
Despite its soft focus party logo of a pastel seven-petal flower, and its attempt to sanitise its past, this lot are a nasty bunch. Descended from various neo-Nazi, white supremacist and skinhead groups, the Sweden Democrats tick all the far-right boxes: xenophobic, Islamaphobic, anti-EU, anti-immigrant, anti-gay, pro ‘traditional’ Swedish culture, pro-nuclear family, against rights for ethnic minority groups (particularly the Sami people) and so on.
Their parliamentary representatives are a particularly unpleasant rabble. In 2012 a video surfaced showing three intoxicated Sweden Democrat MPs abusing Soran Ismail, Swedish comedian of Kurdish descent, in the street, threatening a drunken man, calling a woman a whore, and picking up iron bars. Shortly afterwards another of their number accused two immigrants of pushing him out of his wheelchair and robbing his backpack. It later transpired he had left his backpack in a restaurant and that the two ‘immigrants’ had in fact helped him after he had fallen out of his wheelchair of his own accord.
However the SD leadership has not only managed to ride out this buffoonery, but has succeeded in posing as an alternative to the mainstream parties who are blamed for presiding over the relative decline of this former paradigm of comfortable social democracy. Sweden now has the fastest-growing income gap of all the OECD countries, along with crash privatisation of the ‘nanny state’ that once provided a secure safety net for its citizens.
5. National Democratic Party (Germany)
‘Africa Conquers the White House’. So ran the headline on the website of the National Democratic Party of Germany (NDP) reacting to the news of Barack Obama’s accession to the White House in 2008. The NDP characterised America as being ‘swept up in Obama fever which resembles an African tropical disease’.
In 2001 the German authorities tried to ban the NDP on the basis that the party was ‘anti-constitutional’. The move failed after it was revealed in court that many of the leadership of the NDP were either planted in the organisation by the German secret services or state informants. The infiltrators included a former NDP deputy chairman who had written an anti-semitic tract that formed a central part of the government’s case. The case collapsed. Various attempts have been made to ban the NDP since then but all have failed.
In an episode that proves that truth is always stranger than fiction, during the 2006 World Cup qualifiers the NDP planned a march through Leipzig to coincide with the Iran vs Angola match being played in the city. The NDP wanted to demonstrate their approval of the then Iranian president Ahmadinejad’s anti-semitic and anti-Israeli rants.
The NDP leadership has sought to distance itself from its neo-Nazi and National Socialist roots and to follow the Front National ‘detoxification’ strategy and enter parliamentary politics. However, scratch below the surface and its ugly politics reveal themselves. The NDP is obsessed by miscegenation and ‘non-Aryans’ representing Germany at international sports. When asked of his feelings about the success of Marcel Nguyen, a half-Vietnamese gymnast who won two silver medals for Germany at the 2012 Olympics, Party leader Holger Apfel said: ‘I can freely say it’s not something that causes me euphoria’, before adding hastily, ‘but you won’t see us calling for the deportation of half-breed children’. Charming.
Violence is never far away. In 2011 it was revealed that a Nazi terrorist cell had carried out a seven-year killing spree which left nine immigrants and a policewoman dead. Amazingly the killers managed to avoid detection and arrest, despite being on the run for other crimes. Three of them were found to have links high up in the NDP.
Although they have no seats in the central German parliament, the Bundestag, their presence in regional state assemblies has allowed them to access millions of Euros of state funds.
6. Finns or True Finns as they are often called (Finland)
The True Finns party, a right-wing populist party rooted in ethno-nationalism, is so confident of speaking on behalf of the Nordic nation that it has renamed itself simply as ‘Finns’.
True Finns is the third largest group in the Finnish parliament, making it the largest opposition party. It has been described as ‘a non-socialist workers party’ because of its redistributive tax policies and opposition to the EU, combined with its ‘Finns first’ social policies. The party has gained ground by playing the anti-immigrant card, linking immigrants with crime, particularly sexual violence. It calls for immigrants and refugees to assimilate into the cultural norms of Finnish society, combined with ‘dog whistle’ politics exploiting issues such as forced marriages and honour-killings. True Finns MEP Jussi Halla-aho was briefly suspended from the party after comparing Islam to paedophilia and proposing a ‘solution’ to the economic crisis in Greece: ‘right now what is needed is a military junta that could use tanks to force the strikers and rioters into submission’.
Another True Finns MEP hit the headlines after suggesting gay people and Somalis should be exiled to an island in the Baltic. The True Finns are partners in the European Parliament with Britain’s UKIP.
7. Danish People’s Party
The far-right populist Danish People’s Party (DPP) which builds its base on opposition to immigration and multiculturalism and a Eurosceptic stance – is the third largest party in Denmark, and in the 2014 Euro elections came first after polling 26.6 per cent of the votes cast.
Since 2001, Denmark has had a decade of right-wing governments which relied on the DPP to push forward legislation. The price was the integration of far-right politics into the political mainstream – echoed on both sides of the traditional political spectrum, left and right. Immigration became a recurring theme, with the DPP presenting itself as the protector of Danish and Christian values. Tightening of immigration controls, laws restricting family reunion and forced marriages followed.
The DPP has steadily kept Denmark’s Danish population within its sights – using every opportunity to ‘prove’ the undesirability of Islam as an influence on Danish society. Muslims make up 3-5 per cent of the country’s population. The controversy that erupted after a Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten printed twelve caricatures of the Prophet Muhammad in September 2005 fed into support for the DPP.
For years the political establishment blocked the building of Copenhagen’s first major purpose-built mosque (an Ahmadiyya mosque was built in a suburb of the capital in 1967). When a mosque was finally completed with Qatari money in May 2014, its opening was boycotted by city and national politicians. The DPP deputy mayor said it was wrong to allow the building of a ‘symbol of a religion that doesn’t recognise democracy and women’s right to freedom’. Another DPP spokesperson called the mosque ‘a bridgehead for an extreme version of Islam. I do not like the risk of rabid imams preaching on Danish soil.’
8. Lega Nord (Italy)
Where does one start with Northern League – Lega Nord – whose long-time leader Umberto Bossi infamously called Africans ‘Bingo-Bongos’, advocated that illegal immigrants attempting to reach Italy’s shores should be ‘shot out of the water’, warned the Vatican that he would ‘push it down the toilet of history’ and invented a fictional kingdom ‘Padania’ to rule over? The Northern League was founded in 1991, and quickly established itself as a political force in the general elections of the following year. In 1994, Bossi’s party joined the coalition government under that other Italian right-wing maverick, Silvio Berlusconi, allowing it to launch its campaign for separation of the prosperous north, the mythical Padania, from the rest of the country. Padania is based on the territory defined by the valley of the River Po, including the prosperous cities of Milan, Turin and Venice.
The League claims that it represents the hard-working Celtic race (as opposed to the lazy southern Romans) and its supporters are known to turn up to party rallies wearing Celtic-inspired costumes replete with broadswords and horned helmets. It could be argued that the Northern League promotes equal opportunity bigotry, in that they seem to despise everybody who is not from the north. Rome, the Catholic Church, immigrants, Muslims, poor people from the south – all stoke the rage of the League. But Muslims have come under special attention. League mayors in northern towns have passed local laws banning the use of veils or other garb that conceal people’s faces. In one town the League went as far as banning the burkini – a bathing costume favoured by some Muslim women (we are told).
9. Attack (Bulgaria)
One in eight MPs in the Bulgarian parliament is a fascist. Bulgaria, the poorest country in the EU, presently has two rival fascist groupings – the Patriotic Front and Attack (Ataka). Ataka takes its name from Der Agriff (German for ‘the attack’), the paper run by Hitler’s propaganda henchman Joseph Goebbels. Its symbol is a swastika-style trident, superimposed on a Celtic cross design in the colours of the Bulgarian flag. The party’s ideology is based on racism, ethnic nationalism and violence. It wants ‘Bulgaria for the Bulgarians’. Ataka’s main victims are the Roma, but Ataka hates Bulgaria’s Turkish and Muslim population too. When he is not ranting about ‘Gypsy criminality’, party leader Volen Siderov is denouncing the Turkish minority and ‘Ottoman domination’.
The Roma people make up around 10 per cent of the population and suffer severe discrimination in housing, health, education and employment. Many live in neighbourhoods without electricity or sewage services. In 2011, anti-Roma pogroms broke out in towns and villages across Bulgaria, after a young ethnic Bulgarian was killed by a minibus driven by a Roma man. Huge armed gangs stormed into Roma areas destroying homes and attacking residents indiscriminately. The wave of violence was described as the worst since World War II.
Ataka suffered in general elections in 2014 because of its association with the outgoing administration. Ataka had propped up a government made up of the Bulgarian Socialist Party – a centre-left formation that emerged from the old Stalinist Communist Party – and the Movement for Rights and Freedoms, a centre party based on Bulgaria’s ethnic Turkish minority. The rival fascist coalition Patriotic Front was able to take votes from Ataka in the general election by accusing them of selling out.
10. Austrian Freedom Party (Austria)
The Austrian Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs – FPÖ) is a far-right racist populist party. It was formed in 1956 as the successor of the Verband der Unabhängigen, a group of so-called ‘de-Nazified’ fascists and liberal republicans. It had close links with Hitleralism, with its first two leaders being former members of the Waffen SS. The party’s political breakthrough came in 1983 when it entered into a coalition government with the Social Democratic SPO party. Jörg Haider was selected as the party leader in 1986. Under his leadership the party took a sharp turn towards right-wing racist populism. Haider himself was notorious for speaking out in defence of the SS and praising Hitler’s ‘full employment’ policies.
In 1999, FPO won 26.9 per cent of the vote in national elections, its best ever result, and entered into a coalition government with the centre right. Following a series of poor election results the FPO split in 2005. Haider and the parliamentary wing of the party left, forming the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZO), but Haider was killed, three years later, in a car crash.
The leadership of FPO passed to Haider’s long-term disciple, Heinz-Christian Strache in 2005. Since then the party has regained much of its electoral strength. It opposes European integration, is rabid in its opposition to Turkey entering Europe, portrays itself as an anti-establishment party, and pushes a racist agenda aimed against migrants and asylum seekers. Strache was widely condemned in 2012 after he posted a caricature on his Facebook page of a banker with a hooked nose, wearing Star of David cufflinks. Latterly the FPO has targeted the country’s Muslim population raising the bogey of ‘Islamisation’ of Austria. In the run up to the European elections in 2014, Andreas Moelzer, a leading FPO candidate, declared that the EU was in danger of becoming a ‘conglomerate of negroes’. The FPO subsequently polled a fifth of all votes in the election.
So where would you like to live in Europe – the cradle of civilisation? We choose United Kingdom, still (just) united, still an (overburdened) welfare state with a good (although creaking) National Health Service, still (quite successfully) holding out against the far-right; and thank the bloggers at dreamdeferred.org.uk for suggesting this top ten.