They do not look like skinheads, nor like angry Germans with a moustache. But they all share the same ideas of Nationalism.
In the last decade, democracies are becoming more and more authoritarian all over the world, and the xenophobia spread by some politicians is getting through the media into people’s minds. It could be the same poisoning message that made Germans vote for Adolf Hitler to be Chancellor in 1933.
The nationalist Hindu, Narendra Modi has just got absolute majority in India; the “nation reborn” has happened in Japan under Shinzo Abe, there has been a rise of the authoritarian swing of Erdogan in Turkey, while Marine Le Pen of the Front Nationale came close to being President of the French Republic.
In October, the right-wing, in the form of the AfD (Alternative for Germany) party were back in the German Parliament for the first time since 1945. Similar movements are being seen even in countries like Sweden, Poland, Hungary and Austria that have been long considered immune to this trend.
In disagreement to what was considered in the 80s and the 90s as a “flash on the pan” emergence of the populist far-right parties, they have been rallying for a large period of time and today, are a solid stream in many countries all over the world.
September 11, 2001 was a starting point for the anti-Islam movement, and after the financial crisis of 2008, the far-right parties have multiplied their voters among the economically-secure and highly-educated regions of Europe.
The established parties, the ones on the moderate and centre-right and even several social democrats are gradually accepting particular aspects of right wing policies, or have even begun to implement some of the political solutions that are more likely fitting to authoritarian governments rather than modern democracies.Not many people look terrified, though when you see Theresa May asking the British public to stand by her side with a despotic speech about migrants – far-right parties have managed to tilt both the conservatives and the social democrats towards the right.
The leader of Liberal Democrats, Tim Farron accused May of spreading “poisonous propaganda” about immigrants that is directly leading to hate crimes.
Geoffrey* is the external secretary of London Antifascist, a group affiliated to the Countrywide Antifascist Network: “Our position is militant anti-fascist, we are a collective of many different ‘left’ ideologies united to combat the far right in the UK, with a focus on London where we live.
“I started feeling the need to fight fascism since I was a child, my family were refugees from 1930’s European fascism. A lot of them died in the camps. It has always been at the core of my beliefs that we need to stamp out the threat before it begins to take a hold,” he told Artefact.
In the UK, there was a breaking point with the EU referendum. UKIP has been the greatest winner of the European plebiscite. Their message was clear, to accuse immigration of causing Britain’s problems, to blame refugees for acts of terrorism and calling for Britain’s population to “take back control” of the country, as if someone was stealing it.
In the 2015 general elections, UKIP had almost four million votes, giving it the third largest party in vote share. Along with UKIP, other parties such as Britain First and the British National Party have created a new and dangerous opinion that is taking hold of people’s ideologies and amplified within the bubbles of social media.
The polemic former leader of UKIP, Nigel Farage is the spokesman for their right-wing propaganda.
“I was asked if a group of Romanian men moved in next to you, would you be concerned? And if you lived in London, I think you would be,” he told LBC radio listeners. He was accused of “Nazi-style propaganda” because his campaign poster for the referendum vote, showing Syrian refugees travelling to Europe under the slogan “Breaking point”.
— Bonnie Greer (@Bonn1eGreer) June 16, 2016
The xenophobic messages targeting refugees and migrants, Islam as a religion, and Muslims as community, is spread by specific media channels that parties like UKIP are exploiting to get supporters.
According to a Home Office report, after the Brexit referendum the police recorded a 41 per cent increase in religious and racially-aggravated crimes, compared with the previous year.
Alison Saunders, the Director of Public Prosecutions, said hate crimes have “a corrosive effect in society.”
“We know hate crime is underreported and that is why we ran our recent #hatecrimematters campaign aimed at raising awareness of what hate crime is and what people can do about it,” she added.
Today, fascist speech is part of our everyday life – you can watch it on YouTube, you can share it on Facebook, you can observe organised groups of people beating up others just because they are not white and this is happening in every European country.
London Antifascist say they are seeing a huge growth of fascist movements in the UK: “The far right groups in the UK are still trying to link up and form a more cohesive group especially on a street level. The Football Lads Alliance is an opportunity for them to organize like in the 1970s on the football terraces, we have already seen a resurgence in hooligan-style groupings coming out into our communities,” Geoffrey explains.
“It’s not just a “western” thing, especially when you look at countries that are fiercely nationalistic as Turkey and India, but with Trump in the States, he is only going to push the far-right further,” he adds.
Geoffrey thinks that this problem is becoming a global issue: “The problems in the UK are the same as they are in the rest of the world, we live in a system that rewards the rich and places a boot on the neck of the working class.”
In the USA, the number of people killed by white supremacist groups since 9/11 is about to equal the number of people died during that fatal day. Since 2009, the extreme right has experienced an resurgence in the US too. Nowadays is very common to hear about right-wing violence, plots, terror acts and conspiracies perpetrated by white supremacist and hate groups in America.The Oklahoma bombing in 1995, which killed 168 people, including 19 children, and indued another 500, marked the opening shot in a new kind of domestic extremism. The attacks by far-right terrorists have been increasing and since then, 129 plots, conspiracies, racist actions and violence have happened in America, and have potentially caused the death of 30,000 people. Not all of them were classed as terrorism acts but as hate crimes.
The definition that the FBI use for hate crime is: “criminal offence against a person or property motivated in whole or in part by an offender’s bias against a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, ethnicity, gender, or gender identity.”
This definition could work for the far-right violence in a way but perhaps, it is a very poor description when we are talking about people who are motivated by white supremacist propaganda which obviously has political connotations. It could be beyond that, it seems more accurate to describe these violent acts and crimes as terror attacks rather than combining it with gender crimes and other kinds of violence.
“Hate speech is not acceptable in any form, we need to ensure that we mobilize at every opportunity we have to prevent the far-right mobilizing in any form, we need to ensure that they are kept in their bubble and unable to go out in to our communities,” Geoffrey tells Artefact.
“I have been the personal victim of hate crimes as a child, going to a Jewish school. I have had bottles thrown at me, threatened with a broken bottle for being gay,” Geoffrey confesses, when asked about his personal experiences.
According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the number of active hate groups in the USA is about to reach one thousand. The Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis, White-Nationalist and anti-Muslim groups are the more common categories spread across the entire country.
In the last few years, and especially since the Trump administration took power, the number of hate crimes/terror attacks perpetrated by white supremacist and racist groups have been in rapid growth.The Orlando terror attack at the gay club Pulse in 2016. The Binghamton shootings at an immigration services center in New York, the massacre at a Las Vegas concert in October 2017, the violent attack in Charlottesville and the most recent terror attack in Texas are just the latest “hate crimes” perpetuated in the United States in the last year.
Geoffrey thinks that the blame in this situation lies on “anyone who doesn’t stand and take a clear position that the fault is with the corrupt system and not with other working class people (migrants), we have more in common at the bottom than we do with the elites.”The Trump administration has opened the White House’s doors to the far-right agenda. Some of the President’s men are advisers and leaders who are enthusiastic to roll back civil rights and to create an anti-immigration and anti-Muslim atmosphere in the country.
Stephen Bannon, Michael T. Flynn, Stephen Miller, Julie Kirchner, Michael Anton, Sebastian Gorka are some of the polemic advisers of Trump’s Administration, all of whom have advances extreme ideas and policies.
Bannon was one of the ideologues behind the “Muslim ban” policy, with his conclusions based in a conspiracy theory in which Islam is not considered a religion but a political faction close to Nazism, fascism and communism. “We are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism,” he told a conference in the Vatican in 2014, and claimed: “It is a crisis of the underpinnings of the Judeo-Christian west and our beliefs.”
Flynn has developed a long track record of relations with anti-Muslim extremists, particularly “ACT! For America”, an anti-Islamic, pro-Trump advocacy group. His career in the White House came to an end because of the FBI investigations of conspiracy with Russians. “I don’t see Islam as a religion. I see it as a political ideology that (…) hides behind and protect itself by what we call freedom of religion.”
One of the most polemic Trump’s advisers is Sebastian Gorka, he was a Trump deputy assistant and foreign policy adviser. He and his family have longstanding ties to a Hungarian nationalist society, Vitézi Rend, that was allied with Nazi forces during World War II and had a history of anti-Semitic activity.
“If 98 per cent of terrorists come from a certain faith community, have a certain ethnic background, have a certain travel pattern, and visit the same sites on the Internet, why are we patting down, you know, 82-year-old Episcopalian grandmothers?” Gorka once said.
These politicians, advisors, along with particular media organisations have used the platform of the internet to spread extremist conspiracy theories that are touching millions of people every day. This messages have been also spread by the plethora of fake-news sites that more mainstream media are inadvertently echoing.
People like Sebastian Gorka are reaching the highest political positions in democratic countries where most of them were already part of an elitist economic position and they reflect their xenophobic ideas through platforms like social media and internet sites that easily influence people.“The common theme is always that the blame is attributed to an ‘other’, it’s very easy to blame a person or at least an incarnation that people can focus on,” Geoffrey explains. “We need to be able to shut down this source of recruits, and focus people on the real threat which isn’t Muslims, Jews, Terrorists, Drugs, Gangs, etc. it’s the super-rich elite and big corporations who control the crooked system.”
It would be a considerable mistake analysing these far-right wing parties and leaders as individual consequences of the culture and the situation of their countries. They share xenophobic messages on social media, they support their campaigns abroad. There is a world-wide flow of authoritarian politics and many citizens are receiving the messages of far-right politicians without any warning.
It is not a matter of a radical dictator blind with power. It is not about a civilisation’s clash between the Christian Occident and the Islam, the old concept of the “Clash of Civilisations”, but it is part of a generalised growth of right-wing, totalitarian politics all over the world.
Geoffrey tries to answer why working class people are voting far-right parties: “They are disillusioned with how their lives are, but more so they are scared that the life they have is going to be taken away or downgraded further and they don’t have the energy or the resources to develop a critique on the entire capitalist/patriarchal system.”
“They focus on the now, and now we have the entire machine blaming a single source and political leaders reinforcing this notion.” He adds: “Politicians can’t be trusted, the media present whatever they want and everything is designed to keep the wheels of capital turning.”
There are many reasons why people are electing the core ideas of these parties and it is difficult to simplify common causes and make explanations for every single case. But there is a pattern in western countries that far-right parties are taking advantage of.
These include the effects of the economic crisis triggered in 2008 and the social and economic damage that societies are living through the last decade is the driving force, and the austerity measures that were then taken by Governments to control the deficit that have produced a bigger gap between the privileged elites and the rest.
As a result, the damaged industrial working class are abandoning the traditional left-wing parties because they do not feel that social democratic parties are truly fighting for their rights.
Other analysts suggest that the democratic crisis in Western Europe is cause for people to turn to the right. Most of the democratic parties have adapted themselves to the interest of high finance and big corporations.
There is also the historic democratic record, where an alternation between the central-right and central-left administrations have not offered a real solution to workers in a period where salaries, rights and benefits are being stripped away.
Another relevant problem within political class lies in citizens witnessing numerous cases of corruption, fraud and electoral deception; as a result many people are cynical about politics, and believe that politicians seem to leave in a parallel world, closer to the privileged elite and the financial corporations rather than to ordinary people.
All this repulsion against the main established parties, along with the xenophobic and anti-migrant speeches are generating a “turn to the right” of working class people who are being led to believe that these charismatic and potential leaders now represent the only hope to improve their lives.
* Geoffrey’s name has been changed at his request.
Featured image by Juls Bo via Flickr CC.