Socialist Worker looks at how the growing threat of fascism across Europe can be challenged as Unite Against Fascism holds its annual conference in London
From Brussels to the Black Sea, from Malmo to the Mediterranean, fascist and extreme far right parties and organisations are growing at an alarming rate.
Fascist parties are gaining over 15 percent of the vote in a number of countries (see box).
The rise of these movements is primarily caused by the deep and profound economic crisis that has been sweeping Europe since 2008.
In Hungary the Jobbik party’s electoral growth began in the elections of 2008.
As late as 2009 Golden Dawn in Greece polled 0.3 percent. In the summer of 2012 it got 7 percent.
As in the 1930s, governments have played the “race card” to divert minds from the real causes of the crisis.
From the end of the Second World War until the 1990s most of Europe’s leaders refused to work with extreme right parties and shunned their policies. This is no longer the case.
In the past couple of decades European governments of all persuasions have implemented laws that criminalised and persecuted asylum seekers.
More and more mainstream parties, the state and the media have vilified minorities.
This process massively speeded up after 9/11. Muslims became the new “enemy within”. Islamophobia is the anti-semitism of the 21st century.
Across Europe some sections of the left have gone along with the pernicious idea that Islam is somehow more backward than other religions. They have supported legislation like banning women from wearing the hijab in public.
Without exception every European leader has denounced multiculturalism.
This tactic does not marginalise the extreme right and fascist parties. Instead adopting the policies and language of racists has enabled them to move out from the political fringe.
Their growth has occurred in four general political trends:
Openly fascist parties: Golden Dawn in Greece and Jobbik in Hungary do not hide their fascist ideas. They combine a strategy to win parliamentary support with paramilitary and street movements.
Street movements: In many eastern European states we are witnessing the rise of violent ultra-nationalist, racist gangs. In Britain we have seen the English Defence League (EDL) and their Scottish and Welsh counterparts.
Which is the biggest threat depends on specific circumstances in different countries.
The murderous attacks carried out by Anders Breivik in Norway, Wade Michael Page in the US and David Copeland in Britain show that some Nazis are prepared to turn to terrorism in order to spark of a “race war”.
These strands of fascism and far right organisations work closely together and adopt strategies from each other.
Rabid racism is the political dynamo of these organisations.
In northern and western Europe Islamophobia is the dominant form of racism.
In eastern, central and southern Europe both the Roma and Muslims are the targets.
As these racisms take hold they make it easier for other forms to gain acceptance. Once again we are seeing the rise of anti-semitism across Europe.
Of course there are regional differences between the racist and fascist organisations. But there are European-wide issues that promote their growth.
They include the “protection” of national identities against immigration, the power of the European Union, the impact of the economic crisis and law and order.
But the picture is not as bleak as this might suggest. In Britain the BNP and EDL have both been pushed back. In Greece anti-fascists are confronting Golden Dawn both
ideologically and physically.
Fascism is growing out of the economic crisis. To challenge it we need to organise against the fascists but also against austerity.
In Greece, where the threat of fascism is currently greatest, we have seen workers and unions organise general strikes against the cuts.
Across Europe new movements are emerging, determined to beat back the fascists and racists.
In Britain Unite Against Fascism has played a central role in breaking the back of the BNP and EDL.
Anti-fascists in Greece have launched the Movement Against Racism and Fascism (KEERFA) to combat the rise of Golden Dawn. Such movements have also been organised in Germany, Norway, Spain and many other countries.
Each group has had to develop tactics and methods to suit its own situations. But they have all tried to bring together different political forces to build the widest possible campaigns. These unite trade unions, faith and community groups.
Fascists and racists are organising across Europe. It is time for anti-fascists to do the same. We believe there needs to be a Europe-wide conference to organise to combat the threat.
The potential was shown on 19 January when anti-fascists across Europe held solidarity protests with the mass protests in Greece against Golden Dawn.
There is no time to lose. The dangers are real and are growing with each passing day.