Perhaps this should come as little surprise. A new study has discovered that the popularity of far-right groups is on the rise across Europe, even in the parts previously considered too enlightened to go in for that sort of thing, such as Scandinavia and the Netherlands.
Of particular concern is that the responses were gathered in July and August, so before Europe’s financial position performed an even more graceless nose-dive. As the situation worsens, these parties are likely to increase in attractiveness and should – according to the study – experience little difficulty in translating their online support into ballots.
In evaluating possible responses to this news, perhaps we are in a way lucky. We have a wealth of historical information and experience to call on and can have no doubts over the results of appeasing fascists. Jamie Bartlett of the Demos think-tank who carried out the study, is right to say:
Politicians across the continent need to sit up, listen and respond.
But the response of non-politicians will be of greater importance. Sitting back and letting fascism rise unchecked while we assume someone else will take care of it ends in a place no-one should be keen to revisit. So the question must be, what can be done?
Knowing the enemy is essential. While a lot about them remains the same as the 1930s, today’s fascists have shifted their attention from International Jewry to Islam, as well as tweaking their message for the new era. Expert Matthew Goodwin from Nottingham University, quoted in The Guardian’s story, notes that:
What some parties are trying to do is frame opposition to immigration in a way that is acceptable to large numbers of people. Voters now are turned off by crude, blatant racism – we know that from a series of surveys and polls.
[They are] saying to voters: it’s not racist to oppose these groups if you’re doing it from the point of view of defending your domestic traditions.
Yet underneath this seemingly ‘acceptable’ message lies a well-established truth. Fascism has never been solely a racist agenda. For fascists, racism, xenophobia and nationalism are tools, they are not of themselves the final aim. In an essential essay on the ‘Property is Theft’ website, Phil Dickens quotes militant anti-fascists Antifa:
The reason fascist groups tend to attack ethnic minorities and immigrants in this way are because they want to divide the working class. By sowing the seeds of division, fragmentation and suspicion in working class communities they undermine notions of solidarity and cooperation thus strengthening the status quo and perpetuating existing inequalities in society.
And so it naturally follows that the English Defence League in Liverpool have recently made:
…an open declaration of war against organised workers willing to stand up for their interests
by attacking workers protesting against job cuts. When fascists lay claim to addressing the concerns of a working class they accuse other political parties of abandoning, this real agenda must always be thrown back at them. They pay lip-service to worries over issues like housing, welfare and jobs, but their economic and social policies show that they remain a party of the bosses, not the workers.
It is down to all of us who love freedom and hate bigotry to tackle fascism in all its forms. Whether it is that friend you haven’t seen for years posting a Facebook status about ‘them’ stealing ‘our’ jobs, or the EDL planning a march through your town, this is the time to stand up for what you know to be right. Their propaganda must be countered and their shows of strength combatted, until they get the message: They shall not pass.