The Continuing Threat of Fascism in Europe
by Brian Risman, Publisher www thelawjournal co uk - 6 May 2002
Many people around the world are relieved that the second round of the French election turned out as expected, with Jacques Chirac trouncing his far-right opponent Jean-Marie Le Pen. Coupled with that relief, however, is the reality that Mr. Le Pen drew about the same percentage of vote - almost one-fifth of the French electorate - as he did in the first round. The conclusion to be drawn is that the first round percentage for the far-right was not an aberration - rather it reflected a commitment of a large portion of the electorate to a fascistic agenda. To paraphrase U.S. author Mark Twain, rumours of their demise are highly exaggerated.
Please note that France is not the only country dealing with a resurgent far right in Europe. Italy has a neo-Fascist government; Denmark elected a right-wing government after decades of democratic socialist rule; parts of Germany have elected the far right; and in the UK Local Elections this past week, the British National Party gained seats in locations that experienced race riots last year. Further to the British experience, it is rumoured that the Blair government is unwilling to allow local elections in many areas of Britain due to fears of British National Party victories.
Why has this resurgence occurred, 57 years after the defeat of Adolf Hitler?
Many factors come into play. First, Europe has a long history of tribal interests that transcend humanistic values. The European Union attempts to unify all of these interests into one European entity. Frequent complaints arise because Brussels, despite the presence of a European Parliament, tends to operate by dictate rather than consensus. However, it is very unlikely that, given the tribal nature of Europe, that they could operate otherwise. Unfortunately, the approach of the EU tends to cause revolt by the tribal interests. In other words, European countries are tribal entities that are exclusive rather than inclusive; and imposing humanistic values only lasts a short time. The EU is not the first humanistic entity to run into this reality.
Second, European political parties are oriented to particular social interests rather than the nation as a whole. Labour in the UK represents one social stratum; the Conservatives another. The issue is not ideology; the ideologies are adopted only to serve the needs of the social stratum and tribe represented by the particular party. This reality is borne out by recent events. In the UK, the Blair government has admitted, despite recent initiatives to fight crime, that they are helpless to even reduce the level of crime. Why? Because the crime does not hit their social stratum or tribe. A similar situation occurred in the acquittal of the thugs who brutally murdered little Damilola Taylor in a London tenement stairwell. These thugs had previously been acquitted of raping two teenage girls, taunting them with "you can't get us". They were right. The courts let them go on the rape charges due to their youth (early teens -- not children!), and let two of the five go prior to the Damilola trial for a similar reason. Was there outrage by the politicians? No such thing. As noted in my article of last week, a debate on crime in the House of Commons drew 9 out of 600-plus members! Why the lack of reaction? Simple -- the killing did not affect their social stratum or tribe. The MPs don't live in the tenements where the killers and the victims lived. However, when the issue of fox hunting by the upper classes came to Parliament, the issue drew great attention from the august MPs.
Of course, the British legal system does achieve convictions. The same week the Damilola killers were acquitted, Her Majesty's government convicted a man of diving into ponds for lost golf balls! No suspended sentence for the serial golf ball diver -- he will serve a sentence.
Is it any wonder that alienation develops?
Contrast that situation with a case just completed in Canada -- the conviction of Maurice 'Mom' Boucher, the head of the Hells Angels motorcycle gang in the Province of Quebec, for conspiracy to murder two prison guards. A special, secure courthouse was built for the trial -- and the prosecutors have further trials for other murders scheduled for Mr. Boucher. Over 100 people have been killed in Hell's Angels violence. Incidentally, Mr. Boucher intended, with the killing of the prison guards, to destabilize the legal system; in fact he strengthened it with his conviction. The point is -- in Canada the government looked out for the welfare of the people in convicting a murderous gangster -- in the UK simple street thugs run wild because it doesn't affect the government's social stratum and tribal interest.
The above case shows why the North American countries, the United States and Canada, were not dominated by fascistic threats in the 1930s, nor at the current time. There were -- and are -- in both countries extreme right-wing groups -- but they are on the fringe of the political spectrum, which is dominated by a moderate centre. Why has a political centre developed in the United States and Canada ? The same reason as why people emigrated from Europe to those countries -- the opportunity for the individual to build their own future, their own business, their own home on their own land, with no social stratum ruling their life from before their birth. When you have no opportunities, you have three choices - escape, resignation, or revolt. In North America, you can make your own future. Hence, despite the presence of the far-right and far-left, they are marginalized by an optimistic population that can determine its own future.
Returning to France to conclude -- Mr. Chirac, in his acceptance speech, said that he would work for all of France. If he does, he can turn the tide against Fascism since he would meet the needs of all social strata, maybe even eliminating some of the 'strata' and tribalism that dogs European society.
We wish him well in his second term. If he does represent all of France, that would be a refreshing and welcome change for all of the continent. For Europe has seen too much of self-interest by social strata and tribe.