In today's Los Angeles Times, human rights professor, Ian Buruma, stipulates that Europe's far right revival should not be confused with Nazism because its practitioners use nonviolent, democratic means to foster their goals. I do not really agree with his assessment. It may not yet be official, in-your-face Nazism, but it sure smells like something is festering; and it won't be content until it does its worst. There is a history all over the world where certain political groups use democratic means to foster undemocratic ideals and policies, and once they get in power, violence often follows. I do not trust groups who go on the march to gain power for themselves while demanding others be stripped of theirs. It is one thing to demand to be integrated into the system. It's another to demand others be disenfranchised from it.
Europe's far-right revival isn't Nazism
Much of the support for the right-wing parties springs from a resentment of long-ruling political elites.
By Ian Buruma
October 3, 2008
Two far-right parties, the Austrian Freedom Party and the Movement for Austria's Future, managed to win 29% of the vote in Sunday's general elections in Austria. This is double what they got in the elections of 2006.Both parties share the same attitudes toward immigrants, especially Muslims, and the European Union: a mixture of fear and loathing. Because the leaders of the two parties, Heinz-Christian Strache and Jorg Haider, can't stand each other, there is little chance of a far-right coalition actually taking power.Nonetheless, this is Adolf Hitler's native land, where Jews were once forced to scrub the streets of Vienna with toothbrushes before being deported and killed, so the result is disturbing. The question is: How disturbing?Twenty-nine percent is about 15% more than populist right-wing parties usually get even in very good (for them) years in other European countries. Strache, leader of the Freedom Party, wants the government to create a new ministry to manage the deportation of immigrants. Muslims are openly disparaged by leaders of both parties. Haider once praised the employment practices of Hitler's Third Reich. Inevitably, the new rightists bring back memories of storm troopers and race laws.Yet to see the rise of the Austrian right as a revival of Nazism would be a mistake. For one thing, neither party is advocating violence, even if some of their rhetoric might inspire it. For another, it seems to me that voters backing these far-right parties may be motivated less by ideology than by anxieties and resentments that are felt in many European countries, including ones with no Nazi tradition, such as the Netherlands and Denmark.In Denmark, the hard-right Danish People's Party is the third-largest party in the country, with 25 parliamentary seats. Dutch populists such as Rita Verdonk, or Geert Wilders, who is driven by a paranoid fear of "Islamization," are putting the traditional political elites -- a combination of liberals, social democrats and Christian democrats -- under severe pressure.And this is precisely the point. The biggest resentment among supporters of the right-wing parties in Europe these days is reserved not so much for immigrants as for political elites that, in the opinion of many, have been governing for too long in cozy coalitions, which appear to exist chiefly to protect vested interests.