Sunday, 6 October 2013

Neoliberalism and the rise of Neo-Nazism-Neo-Fascism

In the wake of the Greek government’s crackdown of neo-Nazi party Golden Dawn in late September 2013, other European far right-wing parties, including the French headed by Marine Le Pen, denounced their Greek counterparts. True that the Greek neo-Nazis are probably the most violent, linked to assassinations, most corrupt involving illegal activities ranging from money laundering to gun and prostitution rings. However, this is the same Golden Dawn that other European far right parties had associations and contacts in previous years. Why are the European far right wing parties as anxious to distance their groups from Golden Dawn as the mainstream conservative parties? 

Part of the answer is that the neo-Nazism in Greece was blatantly anti-Semitic, openly defiant of the EU, and it was a symbol of a criminal organization using the cover of parliamentary immunity to commit a number of crimes that began to impact the mainstream of society.Why is this particular party so anti-Semitic when other neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist parties are mostly anti-Islam? Golden Dawn is anti-Islam, but reflecting the reality of anti-Semitism among a segment of the Greek people, it remains anti-Semitic more so than any other European far right party. After all, conspiracy theories involving Jews and the banks, Jews and the US government, Jews and the mass media remain popular, at least among a segment of the population that is looking for specific people to blame, instead of looking to institutional structures, for the problems in the world economy.

While there is no threat of neo-Nazi or neo-Fascist parties forming governments anywhere in the Wetsern World, there is a disturbing rise in extreme right wing parties like Golden Dawn in the last two decades. One of the reasons that far right wing parties have thrived in the last two decades is because they have dropped the emphasis on anti-Semitism and taken on the issue of Islam as the new enemy. Given that the state has legitimized Islamophobia through the war on terror targeting Muslims, the neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist groups simply go one step farther by adopting an even more extreme position on the issue of xenophobia, thus remaining acceptable in the mainstream of society and institutions from police and military to media and government. As long as these neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist groups are focused on Muslims and people of color, they become acceptable to pro-Israel entities that are on the same side in wishing to weaken the ‘Muslim enemy’.  

The strange alliance between ultra-right wing groups and pro-Israel and pro-Jewish groups is most evident in the US where Christian fundamentalists, Tea Party fanatics and varieties of other extreme right wing groups have often enjoyed the backing of pro-Jewish elements. Only where the neo-Nazis are openly anti-Semitic, as is the case of the Greek Golden Dawn party that is the most pro-Hitler in the Western World, have pro-Israel and Jewish organizations objected vehemently and used their lobbying influence through government, businesses and non-government organizations to have the state crush neo-Nazism. Therefore, while the Islamophobia neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist groups have enjoyed at the very least the silence of Jewish lobbying organizations, crossing the line and adopting an anti-Semitic position has meant that the state will try to crush the extreme right wing.  

As long as racist bigotry and police violence has as its target the leftists and Muslims, then the extreme right wing is able to operate within that framework and actually claim that it is even more representative of what society wants or secretly craves than the mainstream political parties. Moreover, the extreme right wing can claim that it offers a sense of national identity without any shame or apologies to those favoring internationalism and multiculturalism. In fact conservative judges have shown extraordinary leniency toward xenophobic groups, including neo-Nazi and neo-Fascists in a number of European countries, including Germany and Greece, in the last two decades. This level of tolerance has taken place despite the anti-neo-Nazi, anti-xenophobic rhetoric by the EU and its member states.

There is indeed a gap between the rhetoric of "political correctness" that politicians and media employ, on the one hand, and the reality of discrimination, on the other. In fact, even the neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist organizations are often careful what rhetoric to employ in public and what they use within their ranks. For example, xenophobic and racist rhetoric is always used in the context of what is popular among a segment of the population that sees a threat to its way of life from foreigners, especially non-whites. Given that the "war on terror" is institutionalized, it provides the ideal cover for far right groups to be claiming that they are simply on the side of those fighting Islamist terrorism when in fact they are pursuing a racist neo-Nazi/neo-Fascist agenda. Therefore, populist rhetoric becomes a way of articulating a message of bigotry that tends to find an audience with those seeking to scapegoat a specific group of people of the institutional ills of society. 

The parliamentary system actually has helped to promote neo-Nazism and neo-Fascism in several respects. First, governments pass laws under the general category of “terrorism”, mainly with Islam as the main target, but also focused on leftist organizations, including activist organizations protecting the rights of labor and minorities. Second, given the goal of legislation dealing with extremist groups identified as leftist and Muslim, the police and courts are also focused on the same as ‘enemies of the state’. Third, the media and mainstream society identify the same groups as enemies, while giving a pass to neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist groups that are just as opposed to leftists and Muslims. Given that the neo-Nazi and neo-Fascist is in line with the goals of the mainstream, there is no reason not to be a part of the societal core and operate within the parliamentary system under the label of “patriotism”.  

Against the background of economic contraction that results in lower living standards for workers and the middle class, the mainstream political parties – everything from Conservative and Liberal to “Socialist” in name but neo-liberal in practice – are in essence much worse than the seemingly patriotic extreme right wing that flirts with Fascism and Nazism. What more can the neo-Nazis and neo-Fascists do that the mainstream political parties have not done in the name of democracy? Endemic political corruption, business-corporate fraud protected by the state, high-handed police state methods against those challenging the system within constitutional means like protests and strikes, weakening the social safety net while strengthening the corporate welfare system, promising social justice and delivering injustice.

Given that the conservative and centrist political parties that switch in governing Western countries, and given the few policy differences between them, policies that make a difference in the lives of the majority, people have become disillusioned with mainstream politics. Expressing their disillusionment through far right parties is more acceptable in society because the media and mainstream political parties have made it so. Going to the far right, one immediately identifies with the patriotic movement, interested in nostalgically taking the country back to a better time when things were ‘normal’, uncomplicated by influx of foreigners, Islamic terrorism, leftist intellectuals and politicians seeking egalitarianism, feminists and gay marriage advocates, ‘cultural bastards’ trying to pollute the minds of the youth through modern anti-establishment music, art and books.  

Governments trying to impose policies that create greater inequality and injustice feel comfortable having a segment of society drift to the far right that is there to counterbalance the left protesting mainstream policies and institutions. Moreover, government uses the far right as an example of why voters must support the policies of the mainstream political parties. To make sure that people remain loyal to the centrist and conservative parties that alternate in government, the mainstream parties invariably identify the far right and the left as comparable threats that society must reject. In short, the neo-Nazi/neo-Fascist presence in essence serves the neo-liberal agenda move forward because the majority of the people invariably become subservient to a system that they see as the only realistic possibility, even though it may not be the best system possible for society.
Loss of confidence in the parliamentary system itself, not just in the mainstream political parties is at the root of disillusioned voters that seek out salvation in neo-Nazism and neo-Fascism. In short, the decadent parliamentary system, and grossly unequal economic system combined with social injustice that gave rise to Fascism in Italy and Nazism in Germany also accounts for the rise of neo-Nazism and neo-Fascism in the early 21st century. Of course, there are those who argue that the “problem” of Asian and African influx of legal and illegal aliens in the Western World poses a threat to the social fabric, way of life, economy and the ideal of a homogeneous society as extreme right wingers see it. The perceived threat that the white race is diminishing in numbers, that the non-white Muslims and others from Africa and Asia will soon be a part of the societal mainstream frightens the Western Caucasians who maintain dreams of ethnic and/or racial purity.  

The question of why people become neo-Nazi or neo-Fascist is not just for psychologists, but all social scientists. It is true that the profile of a far-right wing follower is one of a disgruntled, desperate individual, in many cases expressing deviant behavior or suffering from psychological problems. While this may be true, it does not go far enough, given that millions of people voted for Hitler and they were not all psychotic, and millions are extreme right-wingers today. At the core of the issue is the political economy rooted in inequality and absence of social justice. Fear that society is slowly eroding, the social fabric falling apart, combined with myths of demonizing and scapegoating minorities that preclude achieving the dream of a superior society is another dimension in the rise of far right parties in the Western World. In each society, the nuance of the right wing movement assumes unique features. For example, in the US, blacks and other minorities historically have been a target of far right wingers. In each country there is a history, traditions, and unique culture on which the far right builds its myths and cultivates fears to attract followers.
Disdain for freedom, democracy, multiculturalism and a belief in authoritarian government that would return society far back in time is the link of the far right, regardless of where they are. However, these organizations need funds to operate and the sources of funding are another intriguing dimension of their emergence. In many cases, wealthy individuals provide funding for far right parties and organizations, partly because they believe in their eclectic ideology, but also because the far right keeps the left and labor organizations in check. Just as Hitler received funding from wealthy individuals to secure his vast operations before coming to power, so do modern far right organizations. Given the modern spying methods via telephones and internet, governments are well aware of who is financing extreme right wing groups. In the absence of complicity by government, and the support of wealthy individuals, it would have been impossible for the Greek neo-Nazi Golden Dawn to operate on the massive scale that it has. The same holds true for other far right wing parties in the West. Therefore, at the core of the rise of neo-Nazism/neo-Fascism is the manner in which democracy operates to ensure the preservation of the neoliberal status quo.

Are asylum seekers from  Africa and Asia the cause of neo-Nazism?
Italy and Greece have repeatedly complained to the EU that more needs to be done about the massive influx of asylum seekers. After the recent tragedy of the ship that sunk and took the lives of several hundred Africans, the Italian government once again appealed to the EU for help and asked that Greece and Italy were entry points for Africans and Asians headed for the West. The EU does provide some funding, but when we have war-torn and civil-war torn countries in a number of African and Middle Eastern areas, there are limits to what the EU can do because people will find ways illegally to enter European soil. Greece has set up what amount to concentration camps for illegals that are captured, while Germany as the richest EU country does provide preferential treatment for white immigrants vs. those of color. The same is the case throughout Europe. France targets non-whites and gypsies that many see as sources of crime. Finally, Norway, a country with the highest living standard, or at least in the top five in the world, has active neo-Nazis targeting Muslims. Unlike Greece and Italy, Norway is not under austerity, but a segment of its citizens wants socio-cultural catharsis. Here is where scholarship needs to take into account not a single cause for the rise of neo-Nazism in the West, but everything from historical, ideological, and cultural to economic and political.

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