Archive for december, 2013

december 22, 2013

Unification of Europe’s Far Right: Rise of the Fourth Reich?

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It took only five years for the National Socialist German Workers’ Party (NSDAP), or Nazi Party to rise from having only a few hundred members, to being able to force the president of Germany to proclaim Adolf Hitler — a man whom he thoroughly despised — Chancellor. Hitler’s meteoric ascent to power should serve as a cautionary tale for modern-day Europe.

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In late May 2014, over 500 million European citizens in 28 member sates will vote for their representatives to the European Parliament, despite their ignorance of the political climate that is likely to shape the elections and define the composition of this body of governance. In almost every single nation in Europe, far-right parties are gaining ground, and most adhere to the 14 precepts of fascism established by political historian Dr. Lawrence Britt. The situation is not entirely comparable to that of Europe and Germany of the 1930s and 40s.  Nevertheless, the rise of these far-right parties, their ties to the economic hardships and austerity measures imposed by the European Union, and the generally increasing nationalist and xenophobic tendencies are alarming.

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Ethnocentricism and racism rebound on hard economic times

The far-right parties rely on rhetoric that calls for ethnic exclusion, cultural purity, discrimination for one’s “own people” and against immigrants and asylum seekers, demonization of Muslims and other minorities, and maintenance of so-called traditional values. The threat to national integrity in the face of increased globalization is the excuse used to enact policies and engage in discourse that rely on a fanatical nationalism. The boogieman of the era are largely Muslims and immigrants who are accused of overrunning the clean, pristine, white western supposed democracies with their incredibly high birth rates and “inferior cultural values,” which make them more prone to crime and theft of the natives’ jobs. No mention is made of the continued ghettoization and social exclusion of minorities by the mainstream society and capitalist economy. An irrational fear of the imposition of Sharia law by Muslims on everyone else is often evoked to depict the boogieman.

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The success of far-right parties and their leaders is strongly linked to economic policies that have plunged much of Europe into a situation of perpetual debt and the socioeconomic repercussions from this. The cause for these parties’ rise is quite evident: in times of economic recession, people try to find a convenient scapegoat for their problems and those of their country. This is especially convenient if the subjects of this prejudice are marginalized, demonized and lacking in recourse to counter the irrational finger pointing and social blame. Scapegoating is yet more convenient if the target groups are second-class citizens, like migrants and refugees, who do not enjoy the same legal rights to protection, whose lives and lifestyles are at risk, and who can be intimidated into silence with the threat of deportation. Thus politicians exploit the fear of an uncertain future due to economic hardship, project it onto a marginalized group or ethnic minority, and use it to ascend to power and impose their ideologies.

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To blame only economic conditions for this state of affairs, however, would be too simple and superficial. In many countries, the rise of far-right parties can be tied to a direct failure of governance, as well as historical trends of subjugation and colonization by imperial powers in the rest of the world. In fact, Europe and the rest of the imperialist world have never really addressed the ethnocentric perceptions that lead them, more of less consciously, to believe themselves superior.

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In the Netherlands, the rise of the far-right party is strictly tied to a reinforcement of the notion of a superiority of Dutch white culture, which has been an enduring part of Dutch self-perception. In Greece, the proliferation of racially and politically motivated hate crimes by fascist elements has been largely tied to the complicity of police or their unwillingness to pursue serious investigations of these crimes.

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Fascism’s common cross-border strategy

Greece’s Golden Dawn party is emblematic of the sharp resurgence of European fascism, but it is by no means an isolated example. Most European nations, including Switzerland (not in EU), Austria, Finland, Hungary, Norway, France, Denmark, the Netherlands, Belgium, Italy, Greece, and Germany are witnessing a rise in fear-mongering populists from the far-right of the political spectrum, who call for a revamping of national and traditional values and endorse outright racist and xenophobic views. Far from calling themselves fascist or far-right, they categorize themselves as “national conservatives,” “liberal democrats” or simply “conservatives,” or do not register themselves under a political ideology (non-inscrits) to avoid the historical and popular opposition to the term “far-right.”  This is the case for parties such as the French Front National, the Dutch PVV (Partij voor de Vrijheid, Party for Freedom), the Italian Fiamma Tricolore, the Belgian Vlaams Belang, and the Freedom Party of Austria.

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Fascism comes in many different forms but adheres to some basic elements, especially because the political system is most often utilized to manipulate the disgruntled masses. It relies on the perpetuation of popular fears that depend on the local and national contexts. It might even be constituted of workers and laborers, just as in Germany in the 1930s.

Although the European far-right parties may target different groups, all seem to follow a similar model in different contexts. Consequently, they find much common ground to cooperate for the upcoming European Elections. Symbolizing these pragmatic alliances is the flirtation between the Dutch PVV and the French Front National. The PVV is led by the charismatic Geert Wilders (voted Politician of the Year by South Hollanders), and it is currently gobbling on the largest slice of the Dutch popular vote. The Front National is led by Marine Le Pen, the daughter of its controversial founder, Jean-Marie le Pen.

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A pan-European alliance joined by hatred and ironically against the EU

Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders met on November 13, 2013 in The Hague to discuss how to cooperate in the creation of a pan-European alliance. On one hand, Wilders often criticizes Muslims for their homophobic attitudes and — at least for now — he prides himself on tolerance of sexual freedom as being one of the fundamental liberal values of the Netherlands that he and his party represent. On the other hand, Marine Le Pen has vigorously fought against the recently voted gay-marriage laws in France. While Wilders speaks of the “Christian-Judeo culture” of the Netherlands, Marine Le Pen is suspected of antisemitic attitudes, and her father is an expressed antisemite.

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Despite these fundamental differences, Geert Wilders and Marine Le Pen have no qualms about cooperating in a power grab at a European level, which would allow them to further their ambitions for power on their respective national stages. Both are aware of each other’s use of fear tactics to manipulate their support base, with the scapegoated minorities being north Africans and Africans, some of whom are Muslims. Both also claim to be the paladin defenders of their Christian and national white values and to abhor those of migrants, although they seem unable to reach a consensus on values such as acceptance of sexual freedom in the Netherlands versus the adoption of Catholic gender roles in France. Le  Pen’s ideology recalls the “Travail, Famille, Patrie” motto of the Nazi collaborators of Vichy France.

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Other far-right parties across Europe are also collaborating with each other. Ideological minutia are not the subjects of discussion and discord in such deliberations. Rather, the establishment of a fascist system of political manipulation is the common goal, and fear-mongering is the common strategy. Despite being rhetorically largely anti-European and even calling from an exit of their respective nations from the Euro-zone, these parties had no compunction in banding together in late 2010 to launch a European referendum to “protect the union” by preventing Turkey‘s entry in the EU. Later, in December 2010, Heinz-Christian Strache (chairman of the Freedom Party of Austria), Belgian politician Filip Dewinter (Vlaams Belang), Kent Ekeroth (of the nationalist and anti-Islamic Sweden Democrats), and René Stadtkewitz (German Freedom Party) went to Israel to meet with Jewish settlers in the West Bank, and discuss “strategies against Islamic terror” before being hosted as honored guests at the Israeli Parliament. United in their hatred for Islam, these parties have found much ground for cooperation at a European level.

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This is not the first time that far-right parties in Europe have attempted to cooperate. In 2007, for example, various parties, led by France’s Front National, banded together to create a pan-European far-right alliance called “Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty.” Jean-Marie Le Pen also tried, between 1989 and 1994, to create the “Technical Group of the European Right.” Such attempts were often short lived and relatively unsuccessful, since they were consistently marred by internal disagreements. This seems to be changing.

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Birth of the fourth reich?

Far-right parties are continuing to encroach on and infiltrate the European political landscape. When one looks at the European Parliamentary elections over the past years, one immediately notices a consistent erosion of the socialist and leftist groups (and the ones remaining are, in any case, a “lighter” version of their predecessors), which might also account for the rise of parties and political entities on the opposite side of the political spectrum. This rise of the far right is not immediately apparent, but it can be seen if one compares the number of seats held by such parties in the European Parliament, and the number gained since 2009 in their national governments’ parliaments.

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In Italy, the Lega Nord (Northern League) already controls most of the northern regions as well as nine out of Italy’s seventy-three MEPs. The Dutch PVV is Europe’s far-right rising star, going from holding 5.9 percent of the electorate in 2006 to 15.4 percent four years later, and to now being placed by many polls as the most favored party in the country. France’s Front National is also enjoying enormous success, as 42 percent of French citizens would consider voting for it at the upcoming municipal elections, and polls currently place it in the lead for the European Elections. Golden Dawn has the majority of voters galvanized in Greece and is poised to achieve similar results in the upcoming European parliamentary elections. The Danish People’s Party is the third largest in Denmark and steadily rising in polls. Similar trends are apparent in Northern-European countries such as Finland and Norway, as well as Eastern-European countries such as Hungary, Bulgaria and Poland.

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The European elections in May 2014 bring to mind a few questions: will the far-right get set on its way to further its agenda and increase its prominence? Arguably, the 1929 Wall Street crash that triggered the Great Depression brought along Adolf Hitler as one of its nastier side effects. Will the current austerity measures and economic turmoil across Europe be allowed to bring a modern-day, international version of the Nazis?

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Author: Ruben Rosenberg Colorni
Editor’s Note: Photographs one, five, seven, eleven, thirteen and fourteen from James Vaughan archive. Photographs eight and fifteen by StrassenStriche.net. Photograph six by Marie II, photograph ten by Jacco de Boer and photograph twelve by Gueorgui Tcherednitchenko.
december 19, 2013

Brussels: Fight austerity and free trade! Blockade the EU Summit! #TTIP #D1920

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http://www.d19-20.be

https://www.rebelmouse.com/D1920/fight-austerity-and-free-trade-346985944-s0.html

Location: Brussels Date: Wednesday, December 18, 2013 – 18:00 to Thursday, December 19, 2013
Join citizens, farmers, NGOs and trade unions from across Belgium to fight back against the EU’s destructive austerity policies and its attempt to give corporations the keys to Europe through a new EU-US free trade deal:

****BLOCKADE THE EU SUMMIT – 19 DEC 2013!****

The day of action is organised by the D19-20 Alliance, and is part of two days aimed at fighting the EU’s ultra-neoliberal austerity policies and for democracy, food sovereignty and the future of the planet. 18th December
– Meeting Against Austerity Representatives from different sectors of European society will be speaking about how the impacts of ultra neoliberal austerity policies are felt on a daily basis. 18:00 – Bvd Roi Albert II, 5, 1210 Brussels 19th December –

Blockade of the European Summit From 7am on December 19, strategically picked cross-roads will be blockaded to prevent our so-called leaders reaching the European Summit and push on with their damaging neoliberal agenda. More details will be announced in the following days, but until then, spread the word, tell your friends, colleagues and families, get your organisation to sign-up, put up posters, print out flyers, book the day off work!

About the Alliance D19-20

D19-20 is a non-partisan alliance of citizens, farmers, NGOs and trade unions fighting against austerity policies, the TSCG (national treaty establishing austerity in Belgium) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP – the EU-US free trade agreement currently being negotiated).

Following the call from the D19-20 platform in October, many representatives and active members of Belgian civil society gathered to build a broad coalition and a counter-balance against the attacks by the European Union on all sections of the population. The first assembly was attended by over 80 people representing farmers, citizens, working people, the unemployed, artists, trade unions, NGOs, social movements, community organisers and activitsts etc.

All responded to the call because of a shared belief that the time has come to join forces rather than each fighting in silos for sectoral victories. Those in attendance took turns at the podium to affirm their commitment to converge their struggles and to create unity against the ultra-neoliberal austerity policies embodied in the TSCG treaty and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP); they pledged to fight for democracy, food sovereignty and the future of the planet. All called on Belgian civil society to come together and raise the pressure at the national level, specifically disrupting the European summit on 19 and 20 December in Brussels.Concretely, it was decided to organize a meeting on December 18 bringing together European and Belgian voices from diverse backgrounds to highlight the consequences of policies pursued by the European Union and to organize one or more actions to stop the EU summit taking place on 19 and 20 December.

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december 12, 2013

Beyond Europe – Antiauthoritarian Platform Against Capitalism

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Just the beginning…

The slogan “Beyond Europe” is a clear “no” to current imaginations of Europe. Obviously, the dream of a politically-economically united, “more equal” and “just” Europe for everyone under the Euro is breaking apart. At the moment, this “Nation Europe” turns out to be a Europe of austerity and deadly disharmony. The nostalgic wish for a re-strengthening of the state to control the “lawless” market is no lasting alternative which can make life better ; in the best case, this is just the other side of the same coin. Another false alternative is being propagated by several right-wing and reactionary forces across the continent. They argue that the only solution is to “fall back” to a “Europe of nations”, where it’s every national state for itself. We want to go beyond these solutions. We argue for the option beyond state, nation and capital brought about by anti-authoritarian struggle and self-organisation. Six years on from the start of the financial crisis, we finally make a start on the necessary project of a transnational platform for radical exchange, discussion and action. We see “Beyond Europe ! – Antiauthoritarian platform against capitalism” as a small start that has been long overdue. Just one beginning for exchange and understanding between anticapitalist groups, beyond our usual borders and limits.

The Origin of the idea

It is becoming increasingly clear that partial, nationally contained struggles within and against the spheres of production and reproduction are not enough to resist the austerity measures of the Troika (European Commission, European Central Bank, International Monetary Fund). More and more of those engaged in social struggles are being confronted with the limits of national isolation and the urgent need to refer to common points of analysis and struggle ; the need to work towards building transnational movements which relate to each other within and across national borders and that would be capable of creating new dynamics and of disrupting, at least on the level of ideas, traditional conceptions of what constitutes the political terrain.

At the moment the exchange processes between people struggling in Europe and beyond are still underdeveloped. As movements, we are definitely still lacking the skills and the Know-How needed to coordinate effective long-term organising and resistance at the European scale and beyond. We see very few possibilities for even sharing our own histories or current experiences. If we want to build effective transnational movements we need to start experimenting with physical and virtual spaces where we can come together and develop these plans together. Fortunately, many groups and individuals have realised that there is a need to pass from visiting and consuming “hotspots” of (radical) protest and radical journalism to a more advanced level of activity, solidarity and to build solid connections with comrades throughout these places. This is an experimental process to create the tools and spaces needed to overcome both the boundaries we face now and through our consequent networking.

We had our first experiences in the process of transnational organization when we co-organized M31, the decentralised European action day against capitalism which took place on the 31st March 2012. Many of the activists in Germany had to discover that although mass demonstrations are normal in Greece, it does not mean that people will listen to a call for an anticapitalist action day within a European context. Different situations need different approaches and these approaches can only be decided by those putting them into practice. We also learnt that it is one thing to plan a local event in the context of a one off action day and completely another to start a committed and continuous process of discussion and long term co-ordination between radical groups. Of course we had to find out that many groups don‘t want or can‘t participate in this long exchange process. This is based on both a group‘s perspective – how important a group thinks it is to act transnationally, but also it is a matter of capacities and possibilities – which is influenced by the situation each group finds itself in. We hope to see many of these groups and projects again, either within Beyond Europe, or organising alongside us.

The past years have shown us the current limits of our organising. These are limits we want and need to overcome. In Greece the movements have come to the realisation that struggles that stop at the national level will not bring about real change, because only overthrowing the Greek government would not bring about long-term change within the complex European wide situation. In Germany activists are falling into the trap of “there are no struggles” and many have stopped looking for them. In England antiauthoritarian, anticapitalist groups face problems developing practical interventions and links to wider society. In any case, alone we are weak, only by acting locally but thinking globally can we proceed ; only through co-ordinated international activity can a society beyond state, nation and capital be achieved.

What we want – Discover, Exchange, Discuss, Act

We need to (re)occupy the principle of solidarity and fill it with left-wing, emancipatory and radical content. Solidarity has to be freed from the isolation of single-issue campaigns ; it has to be revived and updated by purging it of both its reactionary and nationalist blinkers. We also have to take it back from its recuperation by capitalism : by solidarity we don’t mean “charity” or “investment”.

We have to discover the links between capitalist processes within Europe and beyond. Information must be gathered about state-institutions and companies that act transnationally : what are their functions and how are they involved in organising the flows of capital and power which produce the current management of the crisis and austerity ? Furthermore we have to understand the local situation in each different country. How are austerity politics influencing and changing daily life ? How are people getting organised against wage cuts and rising unemployment ? Are classical defensive struggles transforming into offensive ones ? And, how do they do this ? It is also clear that during these social attacks social relations change. As the reproduction of our lives enters into crisis, existing patriarchal structures which are central to contemporary capitalism are exacerbated. Against the background of strengthening fascist organisations, particularly in Greece and Hungary, and growing racism and nationalism in the so called Western countries, we have to coordinate also on the issue of reactionary answers to the crisis. For example : in England a new rise of antifascist initiatives are emerging to intervene against right-populist and fascist propaganda. This experience will be familiar to Greek comrades who had to face new threats to refugees, homosexuals and themselves since the sudden growth of the fascist Golden Dawn. German activists have had similar experiences during the racist pogroms in the 90s. We want to share successes, mistakes and analysis with our comrades in different countries so that they can act effectively when facing similar issues.

Together we have to develop the weapon of critique whilst simultaneously engaging, slowly and carefully, in a discussion about where we are heading. Can we exchange our theoretical and practical expertise in ways which comrades elsewhere can understand and make use of ? For example, on how to criticise the nation and the formations of national unity ? And most importantly we need to collectively discuss topics that concern us all : for example what is the nature of contemporary Europe ? (How) do we want to overcome it ? What do we want to do next ? And of course we need to start taking further steps and move slowly into discussion with comrades in other continents.

We do not want to remain a theoretical circle only. Our interaction has to find its expression in practical issues, since no relevant change was ever carried through by writing texts alone. We can‘t develop our collective political power sitting in our bedrooms. We can keep our standard solidarity recipe, of course : that is, when something happens in one place, in other places we go out with banners, or light our usual flares, and take several photos which we spread through our channels. This is better than nothing and still one way to refer to each other. But we have to go beyond. The European General Strike N14 was another experiment in making the idea of solidarity broader and more concrete. Whilst there are problems with big international action days which can happen, if done in the right way these can have positive and long-term effects. Other continuous practices could be through strengthening self-organised projects and providing practical support including distributing their goods and products on a bigger level (for example VIO.ME, the self-organised factory in Greece). It is important that we also exchange our knowledge about projects of commoning and socialisation in their different forms and continue developing direct democratic processes. Ultimately, there are many ways to expand practical solidarity that we have yet to find.

So, there are many things on many different levels that we want and that need to be done in common.

Horizons

The horizons for this platform are not, and hopefully will not ever be, completely determined. We do not want to limit our imagination – we envision beginning modestly, exchanging discussion papers and hopefully moving on to coordinated activity and beyond. Everything is open. The way this project develops is for us to decide – alongside the dynamics of movements and struggles that will emerge around us of course ! This project starts small – with four groups in three countries. It is clearly not representative, or even inclusive of all the of the great projects we see taking place, and we hope that more groups that share a similar perspective to us join this networking process. If you would like to find out more about getting involved, please contact us.

It is clear that if we do not try to get organized in this way, if we do not intensify our exchange processes and develop a shared analysis of the international functioning of this system, we won‘t be able to develop our own agenda. We keep working on the basis that the doctrine “There is no alternative” is only the ideology of those who do not want to see real change. In these times of austerity and popular revolt, we have to bring our forms of organization and action to the next level. We say that we have to understand the situation and to act – to take our radical critiques of state, nation and capital, and our promotion of self-organisation and the building of counter-power out of our political milieus, into our neighbourhoods and far beyond.

Beyond Europe, November 2013

http://beyondeurope.net/

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