Monday, October 28, 2013

The far Right in Spain and across Europe

A couple of recent articles discuss the state of the far Right in Europe.

The first (marred somewhat by anecdotal and unsourced claims and references) focuses on Spain, but situates developments there in the larger context. Andrés Cala describes “a rising public nostalgia for the Franco era in Spain” forming part of “a broader resurgence of extreme right-wing ideology in Europe and globally” (I’ve briefly discussed Greece and Poland):
Renewed sympathy for fascism in Spain…stirs troubling memories because the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s was an early victory for European fascism. Spain also was the last European state to cast off fascism in 1975.

Another point of concern is that nationalist, populist and fascist movements have historically found fertile ground during times of economic pain, like that felt across much of the world since the Wall Street crash of 2008. In reacting to the financial crisis – and in grappling with the public’s anger over lost jobs and lost benefits – mainstream democratic parties have seen their legitimacy questioned and their political support drained.

In Spain – and to a lesser extent in some other European countries – the immediate danger is not so much from a handful of incipient reactionary movements, but rather from the underlying official permissiveness from more mainstream conservative parties, like the Popular Party, bordering on patronage.

…[T]he severe economic recession that spread across the world after the Wall Street crash – and the EU’s austerity-oriented policies imposed in response – hit Spain especially hard with the country’s unemployment rate soaring to around 27 percent. The loss of jobs and the failure of the democratic political structure to devise an adequate response created an opening for the rightists to revive nationalistic and other traditional cultural messages that had underpinned Franco’s politics.

Though the Popular Party is generally considered conservative – not extreme right – it absorbed the pro-Franco fascist “base” after that movement lost its political representation in parliament in 1982, seven years after Franco died. That extreme right now amounts to about 10 percent of the Popular Party’s constituency, according to some studies.

The numbers of far-right members are high enough so that the Popular Party is politically unwilling to chastise fascist sympathies and thus alienate a significant portion of its support. But the party is making a dangerous bet that the pro-Franco faction will not gain effective control of the Popular Party and thus fully hoist the banner of fascism again.

Police estimate there are about 10,000 Spaniards involved in violent extreme-right groups. But the concern is not so much over these very small violent groups. These are mostly contained, experts agree. The bigger worry is that Franco’s political heirs retain significant influence within the ruling Popular Party and – amid the euro crisis – they could gain greater political clout.

…In Spain, the chief concern is that an increasingly desperate public will be attracted to the historical glow that is being created around a mythical era of successful fascism under Franco.

“It’s true that this is not Greece or France, where the extreme right has become a political power,” Félix Ortega, a sociology professor and expert in public opinion in the Universidad Complutense de Madrid, told me recently. “But you never know, especially if it seems that the PP tolerates it.”
This was especially disturbing as I read it at the same time I was beginning Paul Preston’s The Spanish Holocaust:

The second article describes a plan to unite the far-Right parties ahead of the European elections:
Europe's far-right parties are set to contest next year's European elections on a common manifesto, according to French National Front leader Marine Le Pen.

At a press conference in the Strasbourg Parliament on Wednesday (23 October), Le Pen, flanked by Franz Obermayr of the Austrian anti-immigration Freedom party, told reporters that she was hopeful of persuading nationalist candidates from across the EU to run on the ticket of the European Alliance for Freedom (EAF).
Despite the comedic frustrations of holding together an assortment of racist nationalists,* even short-lived coalitions should be a cause for concern.

In this connection, I should note that white supremacist murderer and terrorist Pavlo Lapshyn has been sentenced to 40 years in prison in Britain:
Lapshyn found Mohammed Saleem, 82, going home after praying at his local mosque. The student approached him from behind and plunged a hunting knife into him three times with such force that one wound went through to his front.

Lapshyn's campaign began in April 2013, just five days after his arrival from Ukraine, where he had won a prize to gain work experience in Britain. When the PhD student was arrested in July, police found three partially assembled bombs in his Birmingham flat.

After Saleem's murder, Lapshyn started placing homemade explosives outside mosques on Fridays, the main day of Muslim prayer.

The device he planted in July, which had 100 nails wrapped around it to maximise the carnage, was aimed at worshippers at the Tipton mosque, where 300 were people were expected to attend prayers.

Prayers that particular Friday were held an hour later, thus avoiding mass casualties. The device was so powerful it left nails embedded in tree trunks, police said.

…After sentencing, Louise Gray, a lawyer for the Crown Prosecution Service counter-terrorism division, said: "Pavlo Lapshyn is a dangerous man with a dangerous agenda. Just a day after his arrival in Britain from the Ukraine he was researching rightwing supremacist websites, including those linked to convicted racist murderers in Russia."
* The author mentions that
difficulties maintaining discipline and a failure to agree on common programmes have dogged previous attempts to unite the far-right.

The Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty (ITS) group was set up in 2007 but only lasted ten months before collapsing when three MEPs representing the Greater Romania party walked out in protest at inflammatory remarks made by Alessandra Mussolini, granddaughter of the Italian dictator, about Romanian people.”

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