30 May, 2023


Economic Disparity & Nationalism – Part III

By Lionel Bopage

Dr. Lionel Bopage

[Part 2 of this series was published on 1 June 2018]

Far right in Europe

Throughout Europe, racialist groups have used the war on terror to create new racist mono-cultural political platforms. With the collapse of the Soviet bloc in the nineties, uncertainty reigned for some time as free markets expanded and some aspects of bourgeois democratic institutions were established. A neo-liberal social development model started expanding horizontally sweeping through Central and Eastern Europe and was accompanied by structural reforms of economic liberalisation and globalisation.

A quarter century later, right wing populist currents gained ground in Hungary and Poland and then spread into France, the Netherlands and the United Kingdom. In the past decade, new right-wing movements have developed into coalitions between Neo-Nazis and the free-market advocates. In a way, this has brought a superficial normalcy to the right wing fascist ideologies in some parts of Europe and they have even gained more electoral grounds. In countries like Poland and Hungary, such right-wing forces are in power. They used national security as a political platform for introducing racism and introduced systemic intolerance by restructuring education, immigration, and the judiciary.

In Italy, a populist anti-establishment Five Star Movement (M5S) that contested the March 2018 Parliamentary elections under the slogan “Participate, Choose, Change” and a regionalist populist League that contested under the slogan “Italians First” formed an alliance this month to form government. The election environment also focused on the apparently irreversible decline of economy, persistent high unemployment and corruption. The campaign of M5S was focussed on anti-corruption and a proposed Universal Basic Income (UBI) for all. The League was an anti-immigrant and anti-EU party like the National Front in France or United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in Britain. It was formerly a separatist party that campaigned for autonomy of Padania, the richer northern parts of Italy.

In many instances, Islamic terror attacks and threats have been used to bolster surveillance and deportation with the tightening of search, arrest, detention and judicial oversight and restraints on ‘suspects’. Young people of colour are increasingly subjected to surveillance and are put on suspect lists and vilified. Immigrants and asylum seekers are threatened and deported even for minor offences. Non- white immigration appears to have been made into a deportable package with their human and democratic rights as citizens being scrapped. Some of the migrants, who do not fall within the scope of the dominant ethnicity or the reigning political ideology, and depending on their race, class, religion, immigration status, pre-internments and political beliefs, have no guarantees of their fundamental rights as citizens.

The right-wing political network advocates border protection, national purity and religious intolerance whatever the cost to life and social cohesion is. Internationally funded human right defenders are demonised as foreign agents; feminists and pro-immigration advocates are censored; offices of political parties, unions and other groups that are critical of the existing regimes are raided and their property detained; civilians and asylum seekers fleeing civil wars and persecution have their freedom of movement curtailed and held under conditions similar to rendition in overseas detention centres. Border protection through patrolled trenches, barbed wire fences and parapets and returning of boats have become the norm in many countries, especially in the west.

New right-wing groups such as neo-fascists openly advocate monoculturalism and hate crimes and maintain odious social media pages, take part in elections, hijack public space and maintain links with vigilante groups. Some patrol their suburbs, threaten business activities of immigrants, harass women wearing hijabs and pick fights at rallies. For example, in Greece, members of Golden Dawn attacked immigrant street market vendors. In Hungary and Bulgaria vigilante border guards target migrants. In others, they openly threaten Jewish communities.

Many extreme right-wing parties and far right groups such as the Front National (FN) of France, the Alleanza Nationale (AN) of Italy, the British National Party (BNP) of the United Kingdom, and the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO) of Austria operate within the countries of the European Union. In France, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the previous leader of the Front National (FN) once said, “1 million unemployed – this means 1 million foreigners too many.” Currently her grouping – European Union wide called the Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) is engaged in a continent wide anti-immigration campaign supported by many far-right leaders of Austria, Netherlands, Czech Republic and Italy. This group hopes to win a majority of seats in the European Parliament during the European Parliamentary elections to be held in May 2019.

The far right shares many ideological beliefs with fascism. They believe the issue affecting their nations is immigration with immigrants taking up their jobs. Despite there being no evidence to support their harmful contentions, they want to advance their nationalist agenda by getting rid of immigration except for some. Many of them believe that immigrants commit crimes against them and that immigrants misappropriate welfare benefits that should flow to citizens of their countries. They allege immigrants destroy their national cultures by protecting their own customs and traditions. They want immigrants to adopt the customs and traditions of their host countries. They believe by getting rid of the immigrants, they can stop the ‘cultural erosion’ of the respective nation states.

Such tensions have given rise to national resentment, which enables the rise of fascism. The national resentment directed towards immigrants appear to be caused by a combination of indignation and fear of the future. However, this national resentment by itself is not a sufficient condition to engender fascism. When these circumstances blend with a weak, democracy, it becomes the perfect political breeding ground for fascism to raise its ugly head.

Far Right in Australia

In Australia, the left is considered to have collapsed in 1975 with the toppling of Labor government of Prime Minister Gough Whitlam. Since then the Australian Labour Party began pursuing economic rationalism with a social democratic façade. However, the right-wing neo-liberal, conservative racialist ideologues continue to foreshadow possible threats from the “far-left” when one talks about the rising cost of living, static wages, crimes and inhumane treatment against asylum seekers. The dominant media and conservative groups continue to launch tirades against a non-existing “far left”. So, when someone is talking about looking after the other compassionately rather than focusing on showering the millionaires at the expense of the poor, that person is branded as a leftie.

Australia’s far-right groups have steadfastly carried out propaganda campaigns of vilification and demonization of communities such as Jews, LGBTIQ people, Muslims and non-European immigrants, particularly Asians and Africans. [Garton S 2015, Demobilization and Empire: Empire Nationalism and Soldier Citizenship in Australia After the First World War – in Dominion Context, In Journal of Contemporary History, 50, 1.] Some far right anti-Islamic individuals and groups have united with the rallying cry against Islamist terrorism, Muslim immigration and the “Islamisation of Australia”. These groups with diverse objectives based on race and culture have coalesced into online movements and militant localised streams. They can be broadly categorised into three main streams: civic patriots, nationalists and racialists.

To be continued …

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Latest comments

  • 2

    When their economies were growing Every developed country needed immigrents. They ran and uplifted their economies. Now the country can grow no more, they are anti immigrent. LGBTQ problem came in the world where two middle eastern religions are reigning. See how India. they as a religious need, produce gays or ponnaihs. Now they come to introduce LGBTQ rights to Sri lankans. Mangala Samraweera is the founder of that in Sri lanka. some one accused him for something else. How about AADIVAASI rights in your country. They are thrash for the stronger group of migrents I hear they kill them as thrash and most of the prisoners are adivasis. They do not have even rights to live in their homeland. Socialist theory doe snot work. IT is the human greed and the religious belief of the stronger oppress and control the weaker as the almighty does to humans and humans do to plants and animals.

  • 0

    Yas, no one will comment; as there’s simply nothing to comment

  • 1

    In a country with ‘Law and Order’, Nationalism is irrelevant.
    In Lanka we have the worst version – ethnoNationalism.
    Le Pen is resurrecting this in France, Trump used it, Australia used it through carefully designed Islamic scare – wait for the ‘break up of terrorist cells’ near election time.
    To cut a long story short Lionel, ‘Nationalism’ is being used to mask ‘economic disparity’.
    How do you think the Burmese Junta justify the genocide of Rohingyas?

    • 0

      ‘In a country with ‘Law and Order’, Nationalism is irrelevant’

      Is it? France, USA, Australia have law and Order. You are contradicting yourself.

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