Thirteen percent of Germans would welcome the arrival of a new “Fuhrer,” a new study suggests in what may be the most striking example yet of the rise of right-wing extremism in Europe today.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, more than a third of Germans feel the country is “overrun by foreigners,” roughly 60 percent would “restrict the practice of Islam” and 17 percent believe Jews have “too much influence.”
The Irish Times reports:
Researchers said a clear trend was visible: after almost a decade of decline, the survey indicates that views in favour of dictatorship, xenophobia and anti-Semitism are increasing in popularity. “In the past the base for extreme-right views in Germany, though present, was more latent in nature. Now these views are being expressed more frequently,” said Oliver Decker, one of the authors of the study.
He suggested that the views in the survey were colored by the recent economic crisis, even though Germany is heading back to 3 per cent growth this year.
Coincidentally or not, the same week that the survey was released, Germany’s center-right chancellor, Angela Merkel, declared that Germany’s attempts to build a multicultural society have “absolutely failed.”
“The approach of saying, ‘Well, let’s just go for a multicultural society, let’s coexist and enjoy each other,’ this very approach has failed, absolutely failed,” Merkel said.
That leaves Germany’s 4 million Muslims — many of them Turks who first arrived as Gastarbeiter (“guest workers”) — wondering where they stand.
Europe has a long history of turning towards right-wing extremism during times of economic crisis, with the rise of Germany’s Nazis during the Great Depression only the most glaring example. This time around, no one is yet suggesting the situation has come anywhere near the point it did in the 1920s and 1930s, when fascist movements rose to power from Italy and Spain to Germany and Poland.
But Europe’s far right is nonetheless on its way up, and with Europe’s tradition of power-sharing coalition governments, some of these far-right movements have now found themselves part of governments across Europe.
“In liberal Sweden, the far-right Sweden Democrats, a party with a neo-Nazi history, won 20 seats in the Sept. 19 parliamentary vote, enough support to leave the leading center-right coalition without a governing majority,” reports the Christian Science Monitor. “While the SD, which campaigned that it would cut immigration rates by 90 percent, is widely castigated as ‘racist’ and ‘Islamaphobic,’ it nonetheless struck a deep chord among some in this country known for its political correctness.”
A new national government formed in the Netherlands this week has the support of the Dutch Freedom Party, led by Geert Wilders, considered to be one of the most virulent anti-Islam politicians in Europe. The new government has already begun cutting back on immigration and foreign aid.
Last week, Austria’s far-right Freedom Party more than doubled its seats in Vienna’s local government, severely curtailing the ability of the governing social democrats to continue with their political agenda.
Last year saw the creation of the English Defence League, a party dedicated to eliminating Islam from British society. The group has burned Korans, chanted “We hate Muslims” in protests and clashed with police. Recent news reports suggest the group is forging ties with the Tea Party movement in the US.
While these far-right parties continue to have the support of only a fraction of the electorate, they can nonetheless be powerful because of Europe’s tradition of coalition governments.
“This new governing architecture – extreme parties that indirectly join a ruling coalition – is now found in Denmark, where the government must rely on the far-right People’s Party to operate,” reports the CSM. “As author Ian Buruma notes, this form of government gives extreme parties ‘power without responsibility.’”
As voters put more far-right politicians into parliaments across Europe, governments are enacting policies targeted at racial and ethnic minorities. France’s campaign to deport illegally settled Roma (gypsies) has resulted in the expulsion of more than 1,000 people even while drawing condemnation from many throughout Europe.
The city of Milan, Italy, is following suit, declaring itself a “gypsy-free zone.” The Washington Post reports:
Blaming rising crime on the new waves of Roma immigrants, authorities are moving to dismantle Milan’s largest authorized Gypsy camp, Triboniano, a teeming shantytown of street musicians and day laborers that officials decry as a den of thieves. At the same time, Milan is bulldozing hundreds of small, impromptu camps inhabited by newer arrivals and issuing mass eviction notices to Roma families living in another long-established camp in the city’s largest immigrant neighborhood.
“These are dark-skinned people, not Europeans like you and me,” said Riccardo De Corato, who is Milan’s vice mayor from Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi’s ruling party and who is in charge of handling the camps. He later added: “Our final goal is to have zero Gypsy camps in Milan.”
“In the past the base for extreme-right views in Germany, though present, was more latent in nature,” Oliver Decker, one of the authors of the German study, told the Irish Times. “Now these views are being expressed more frequently. … The economic crisis seems to have allowed aggression come to the surface. Among those looking for a valve, foreigners in general and Muslims in particular fill that role.”