Having just finished a book on fascists and antifascists, I am now investigating the antifascist hysteria that has followed the elections for the European parliament last week. In those elections the “far right” Front National and its dynamic, attractive leader Marine Le Pen captured a quarter of the vote in France and helped limit the share of that vote won by Francois Hollande and his leftist coalition to 14%. In Britain the United Kingdom Independence Party gained more votes than the Labour, Conservative, or Liberal Democrat parties and, like the FN, garnered about a quarter of the votes that were cast. The UKIP, under its leader Nigel Farage, seeks to limit the social benefits awarded to immigrants, hopes to remove Britain from effective control by the EU and favors something like the school voucher system that is touted by Republican politicians in the US.
These elections change nothing internally in the countries where they took place. Although a barometer of changing public opinion, especially about immigration, they don’t alter the balance of power in England or France. Those who were in charge before the elections are still running governments. Moreover, the victory of the UKIP in Britain cannot possibly be seen as a triumph for what the media describe as the “far Right.” As neoconservative columnist Seth Lipsky points out, the just concluded election in England favored Thatcherite, pro-Atlanticist moderates, who should not be compared to those who support “hate parties” on the continent. When approached after the election by Marine Le Pen who asked him whether he would join the rightist alliance that had begun to crystallize in the European parliament and to which the FN belongs, Farage pointedly turned down his French interlocutor. The American media are quite right to view Farage and his party as a continuation of the Conservative Party before it lurched to the left after Thatcher and particularly during David Cameron’s tenure as prime minister. Farage’s party lacks the sharp social edge that one finds in more explicitly anti-immigration, explicitly nationalist parties that are flourishing on the continent.
The leftist-neoconservative media have noticed a pattern in the way such parties as Fidesz and Jobbik in Hungary and the Front National in France are gaining mass support by appealing to a national past and by combining reactions against the communist or multicultural Left with opposition to Third World immigration. Moreover these parties draw heavily on the youth vote, in contrast to the US where the young overwhelmingly favor the Left and what passes for popular culture. Since there is nothing like a politically noticeable, let alone comparable, Right in the US, except for such meager substitutes as Tea Party activists protesting the raising of taxes by the Obama administration, any signs of a rightist specter on the European continent drives intellectuals and journalists in the direction of certain unsettling connections. The nationalist Right means fascism, which means Nazis, which means Auschwitz.
This kind of simplistic thinking is not peculiar to the WSJ or New York Times, both of which have provided examples of it in the wake of the recent French election. It reflects anxiety about an enemy that the European and American Left conjure up to justify its far-reaching social engineering. Any deviation from the prescribed multicultural course pushed by politicians, the media and educators, as I show in my books on multicultural politics, may lead us, or so we are made to believe, into spinning off into a fascist (read neo-Nazi) ditch. It is in this spirit of antifascist caution that the German premier, Angela Merkel has assured the world multiple times that “Germany has no party on the right.” Indeed such a party could not survive for very long in the reconstructed society in which Merkel lives, because the German courts would have it banned, as a threat “to the liberal democratic order.”
Needless to say, former communist activists, including longtime Stasi informer Gregor Gysi, are allowed to enter German provincial governments and may soon be asked to join a federal coalition, as members of the Party of Democratic Socialists. A scandal that no one but rightwing politicians like Viktor Orban, the Hungarian premier, even bothers to notice is that Soviet stooges, even those who informed on their people, are allowed into European governments, as progressive democrats. This receives scant coverage in the Western press for obvious reasons. Such politicians once they join leftist coalitions in France, Italy, Germany, Hungary, Romania, etc. become happy campers on the multicultural bus. Like Gysi in Eastern Germany, they discover such trendy causes as expanded rights for gays and communal privileges for Muslim “new settlers.” These communists not only fit into the dominant progressive Western culture but are good for American corporations and offer markets with few if any restrictions. (Rightwing European nationalists are wary of an American empire and often support tariffs to protect their national work forces.)
Because of the growing deviations from settled electoral patterns (favoring the socialist and multicultural Left) on the European continent, journalists are increasingly alarmed. Perhaps the most frenzied reaction I’ve encountered came from an acquaintance of mine, Tim Stanley, who blogs for the Daily Telegraph in England. For Stanley the recent electoral results provide a confirmation of what he’s long feared: “European fascism has returned? It never went away and it probably never will.” What follows this cri de coeur is a list of characteristics that supposedly link the European electoral Right to interwar fascism. As a research scholar in this field, I have to gasp in wonder at Tim’s brief. Does the fact that wayward Catholic priests had boys castrated in Holland in the 1950s prove that fascism was on the march in that country?
What conclusions am I supposed to draw that the Austrian Freedom Party had roots in an Austrian classical liberal party that the Nazi government “subsumed” into its movement? The Nazis went around “integrating” everything they could into their party structure. That’s what “Gleichschaltung” was about. Another supposedly telling mark of the fascist presence that horrifies Tim is that Austria elected as President in 1986 Kurt Waldheim, “a lieutenant during the war who was attached to Germany (sic) units that killed partisans and deported Greek Jews.” Just for the record, Waldheim, who was UN General Secretary from 1972 until 1981 before he became Austrian President, was never a member of the Nazi party, although (unbeknownst to his passionately anti-Nazi family) he joined a Nazi youth organization after the Nazis occupied Austria. He was drafted into the German army and served in a Wehrmacht unit that shot Bosnian partisans who were fighting the occupying forces. Although Waldheim was not directly involved in the shootings, he probably knew they were taking place. It is hard to think all the same what he could have done to stop these executions. Moreover, the Communist partisans whom the Germans were then fighting were equally willing to execute their enemies. This included members of the monarchist anti-German resistance force, the Chetniks, with whom Tito’s partisans were then struggling for power. One may challenge Waldheim’s claims about being ignorant of his unit’s involvement in transporting Greek Jews from Salonika to Nazi death camps, but there is no evidence that he assisted in this operation, even if he knew this action was being carried out. In any case the Waldheim who later became Austrian president after having worked for the UN rose to office not as a Nazi-sympathizer, but as a leader of the very centrist Austrian People’s Party.
I’m also at a loss in reading Tim’s charges at how “neofascism” influenced the post-War Italian government dominated by the Christian Democrats. There was a neofascist party, the Movimento Sociale d’Italia created in 1946, the remnants of which merged with Gianfranco Fini’s Alleanza Nazionale in January 1995. This party was never permitted into any government and when it voted, was generally pro-Atlanticist, pro-capitalist and demonstratively pro-Israeli. With regard to the eruptions of rightwing “terrorism” in Italy that Tim rails against , the few sporadic examples I could unearth were as nothing in comparison to the massive violence unleashed by the Red Brigades in Italy in the 1970s.
The charges made against the coalition partner of Orban’s Fidesz Party in the Hungarian government, Jobbik (in Hungarian, an acronym for Jobbik Magyarországert Mozgalom, movement for a better Hungary), as a raging anti-Semitic force has been glaringly exaggerated, most notably in what may be Tim’s source for this accusation, the pro-corporate investment but socially leftist Economist. Even Wikipedia, which is hardly a far rightist propaganda medium, is underwhelmed by the evidence of anti-Semitism that could be linked to Jobbik. Although one of its members spoke out about the disproportionately high Jewish support for the former communist regime (this is a self-evident truth one should not express) the Jobbik official was quickly disciplined by the party leaders and his remark was repudiated by the premier. But alas Tim may have to get used to an obstinate Hungarian electorate. In the EU election Jobbik reached a new milestone by picking up 14.7 % of the vote.
It would take more space than I am willing to fill to refute all the questionable evidence Tim brings up to show that Europe has been teetering on the brink of a fascist takeover for decades. But there is one European government that Tim takes pleasure in. It is the one that the Americans imposed on the Germans after World War Two. And it is a government that we still oversee, together with obliging German officials. Here Germany-watchers are driven by the hope that Germany won’t ever again become what it was before we reeducated the population. The facts that the Germany “accepted personal responsibility for what it once did” together with the “willingness to allow the Americans to dictate the terms of German democratization” have been a blessing for the world. The only fly in the ointment, Tim explains, is the attempt to integrate into a West German society, one that is minutely protected against fascism, a former communist-controlled region, which was “fascist-influenced.” Apparently the communists weren’t as thoroughly PC as our guys and they permitted “a parody of Prussian militarism” to survive in their part of Germany. By the way, Tim is not against the Right entirely. He refers to the zealously antifascist regime of Angela Merkel as “center-right,” which may be an accurate way to describe the politics of a country in which no one even as far to the right as Karl Rove could be elected to national office.
Having clarified why I think all the screaming about fascism tells us precious little about European political life, I should now explain the causes for this alarm. One reason is so obvious that I’m almost embarrassed to give it. Antifascism, like anti-white racism in the US, is the ideological cement that holds together the political-cultural order in Western “liberal democracies.” It forms the ideological mission of the ruling class, in the same way that fighting for an uncorrupted Catholic faith provided a moral justification for the rule of their “most Catholic majesties,” the rulers of sixteenth-century Spain, or Marxist-Leninism furnished the religious basis of the Soviet Union. An attack on a hegemonic creed becomes an assault on the foundations of the regime, or what the Germans more properly characterize as the “Herrschaftsordnung,” the structure of command and authority in a particular society.
But there is something more at work here. What is caused by the victory of the European ‘far right” or by Vladimir Putin refusing to have Russian youth instructed (indoctrinated?) by gays is that an existing order of reality and its accompanying value structure have been called into question. Having recently heard on Fox-news a young neoconservative Ben Shapiro declare that because of his bigotry Putin no longer belonged to the “West,” I had to chuckle that anyone would limit membership in the “West” to supporters of the gay movement. Up until very recently the Western world, including the US, viewed homosexual behavior quite negatively. But that would not have been the young Shapiro’s experience and in his mind, being “conservative” and being for the gay and feminist agendas, or for some part of those agendas, were fully compatible and probably overlapping causes.
Here we have to look at what my book The Strange Death of Marxism defines as the dominant ideology of Western societies. This curious fusion, which I argue has nothing to do with traditional Marxism, combines Cultural Marxism with consumer capitalism. No major Western political party advocates any longer such onetime socialist schemes as nationalizing the means of production or is calling for a “workers’ state.” At the same time, no “right center” party challenges any longer the changes that have been introduced in recent decades regarding women’s rights, gay liberation, and expanded expressive freedoms. Moreover, any attempt to restrict immigration here or in Europe immediately evokes expressions of outrage from both the media and large business organizations like the US Chamber of Commerce. Those who take such an “intolerant” position, we are led to believe, must be narrow-minded, prejudiced and, as activist judges will soon show, wish to act unconstitutionally. The Left and the respectable Right (or what substitutes for a Right) seem to have accepted this expanded notion of tolerance almost equally and therefore the “conservative” side in the US restricts its main debating points to bread-and butter issues like Obamacare or electorally useful topics like excess spending and readily usable scandals that can be tied to the other party. Either the opposition is convinced of the rightness of the other side’s cultural values, or it has decided that it’s not worth opposing what all good people are supposed to believe about gender, race, alternative lifestyles, and continued Third World immigration. Perhaps most significantly, unlike what is happening in France and other European countries, this consensus in the US does not appear to be in danger.
Therefore when parties come along in Europe which strongly oppose our cultural-political consensus, they are immediately and understandably denounced as “anti-Western.” Tim rejoices at the extent to which German society has been reconstructed, together with the way Germans have been taught to strive to overcome their past. One finds in their defeated and humiliated and then reprogrammed country a perfected model of what other Western countries could become if things don’t go awry, that is a post-national society that embraces multiculturalism and punishes those who oppose this path to progress. Unfortunately for those of Tim’s persuasion, this blueprint may not be doable everywhere in Europe. And as someone who values a different kind of West, I am immensely pleased this experiment has hit a snag. May the snags continue to multiply!