The threat of right wing extremism in Europe has been lurking for a couple of decades by now. Yet, most mainstream politicians started regarding this as a problem only when extremist parties managed to get a significant number of votes. It seems the hate crimes such organizations and sympathizers have been committing weren’t of real concern. The fact that except for gays and some European Muslims, the victims of these crimes don’t have the right to vote, probably contributes to this indifference.
What is now concerning most politicians (except for losing votes to the extreme right) is that most of these movements and parties have a total aversion towards democracy. Some of them have made it clear, while others were more subtle, that they want authoritarian rule, in some cases even military.
Probably even a large number of their voters oppose this, however their trump card of hatred against minorities and the present elite is enough to lure people who would otherwise preferred more democratic parties.
Possibly, leaders and members of these parties are not violent people themselves. However, they way they conduct their campaigns can (and do) incite people to harass minorities. This advert is a case in point:
What happened in Oslo however, has changed the whole scenario, or at least, should change it. This time it’s not ethnic, religious or sexual minorities who happen to be the victims but the Norwegian man in the street. Common people who just happen not to discriminate against minorities and embrace a politics that doesn’t. The traitors. (In fact the word “traitor” features in any extreme-right literature I’ve encountered).
What can stop this madness? The extreme right themselves (who have distanced themselves from Breivic for obvious PR reasons) still blame multiculturalism. Something which as I argued in other blogs, can’t be reversed.
Freaks come in all colours. As with other kinds of terror, there is no fool-proof way to prevent right wing terrorism. But I may have some suggestions:
Close monitoring but not censorship. Apart from disagreeing with censorship in principle, it doesn’t work anyway. In many cases it has been used by these extreme right to play the victims and is a good excuse not to appear on mainstream media. The place where other mainstream politicians are asked the hardest questions, and are expected to answer them (Avoiding the media using this excuse was one of the main tactics elected far-right politician Geerth Wilders used in the Netherlands).
In the Maltese scenario, this monitoring must include amongst others our home grown extremists whose website www.vivamalta.org also talks clearly about taking revenge on the traitors.
Secondly, mainstream parties must stop using some of the extremists language with the hope of attracting the vote of some of their followers. Appeasement doesn’t work. It may weaken them temporarily by making their politicians lose votes but in the slightly longer term it only makes them stronger by legitimizing their claims. Appeasement has already been tried with their main icon Adolf Hitler – and everyone knows what happened next.
Thirdly, and probably most important, leftist parties all over Europe, definitely including Malta’s shall become once again true workers parties. Research shows clearly that extreme right politicians attract mainly the working class. It’s crucial to not that these extremists don’t consider themselves only as anti-minority groups. They are also anti-establishment. And if the present establishment is failing them (especially in terms of employment, housing and finance related issues), the lure of the extreme right just becomes more tempting.
Finally, all mainstream parties should completely distance themselves from these extremist movements. While this has been the case in Malta (Joseph Muscat categorically distanced himself when misinterpreted by Norman Lowell), not all politicians in other counties behave as such. Probably most notorious is Italy’s Silvio Berlusconi who didn’t shy away from forming a coalition with Lega Nord. A party that has lately become a serious embarrassment after outspoken MEP Mario Borghezio came out justifying the terror in Norway: