Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

A New Threat for a New Era: History Never Repeats Itself, but Soaring Youth Unemployment across Europe-Coupled with the Resurgence of the Far Right-Evokes Worrying Echoes of the Rise of Fascism in the 1930s

Magazine article New Statesman (1996)

A New Threat for a New Era: History Never Repeats Itself, but Soaring Youth Unemployment across Europe-Coupled with the Resurgence of the Far Right-Evokes Worrying Echoes of the Rise of Fascism in the 1930s

Article excerpt

A spectre is haunting Europe: the spectre of unemployment. At the latest count, there were almost 25 million people in the member states of the European Union without a job, an increase of two million on the same point in the previous year. This is well over 10 per cent of the workforce, and in some countries the situation is much worse. At the top of the list is Spain, with 23 per cent unemployed, followed by Greece, with nearly 23 per cent. Particularly hard-hit are the young. In Greece and Spain more than half the workforce below the age of 25 is without a job. The youth unemployment rate across the EU is running at 22 per cent. And there are no signs of the upward trend being reversed.

At the same time, openly neo-Nazi parties are on the rise. In Greece, the Golden Dawn movement shot from nowhere to win 21 seats in the legislature at the May election and 18 in the rerun election a few weeks later, attracting nearly 7 per cent of the popular vote. The party's flag is black, white and red, like that of the original Nazi Party in Germany, with a swastika-like emblem at the centre (Golden Dawn denies any resemblance and claims that the symbol is a "Greek meander"). Not only has it issued threats of violence against parliamentary deputies who oppose its policies but it has also been involved in numerous violent incidents across Greece. During the campaign, television viewers were treated to the spectacle of a party spokesman assaulting two female politicians during a live debate. In 2012, it campaigned on the election slogan "So we can rid this land of filth".

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Golden Dawn is not the only openly neofascist party to gain support recently. In Hungary, Jobbik, founded in 2003, uses a flag resembling that of the Arrow Cross movement, which was put in power by the German occupiers of Hungary in 1944 and butchered so many thousands of Jews that even the police, who were busy rounding up Jews for deportation to Auschwitz, complained about the dead bodies lying in the streets of Budapest. In the 2010 elections, campaigning under the slogan "Hungary belongs to the Hungarians", Jobbik shot from nowhere to become the third-largest party nationally, securing 16.67 per cent of the vote. It has close links with the paramilitary Hungarian Guard, outlawed in 2009 by a court order that continues to be flouted. One of its policies is the revision of the Treaty of Trianon, which, under the peace settlement at the end of the First World War, reduced the size of Hungary by two-thirds to help create viable successor states. Jobbik wants much of the old territory back and condemns the mainstream parties for not taking advantage of the collapse of the Soviet Union, the break-up of Czechoslovakia and the Balkan wars to do so in the 1990s.

Anti-Semitism is one of the most obvious distinguishing features of leading members of Jobbik. One of its deputies recently raised again, in parliament, a blood-libel case from 1882 in which is Jews were tried for the supposed murder of a teenage Christian girl just before Passover. They were eventually acquitted, but the deputy claimed all the same: "The Jewry and the leadership of the country were severely implicated in the case."

A female legal academic who soon afterwards won election to the European Parliament on the Jobbik ticket is reported to have responded to criticism with the following diatribe: "I would be greatly pleased if those who call themselves proud Hungarian Jews played in their leisure with their tiny circumcised dicks, instead of besmirching me. Your kind of people are used to seeing all of our kind of people stand to attention and adjust to you every time you fart. Would you kindly acknowledge this is now over. We have raised our head up high and we shall no longer tolerate your kind of terror. We shall take back our country."

Ground control

While Golden Dawn and Jobbik are probably the most extreme of the parties that have entered the mainstream, there are many other signs that the economic crisis has helped garner support for the far right across Europe. …

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