Pepe Escobar writes:
Austrian-American psychiatrist Wilhelm Reich, in his Mass Psychology of Fascism, stressed that racial theory is not a creation of fascism. On the contrary; fascism is a creation of racial hatred and its politically organized expression.
In the extremely well-argued book [Why the West is not leaning to the Left], [Italian linguist and essayist Raffaele] Simone proves that the European Left is intellectually dead; it simply has not understood the drive of hardcore capitalism (which he defines as “arch-capitalism”, or “the political and economic manifestation of the New Right”); it has not understood the correlated primacy of individualism and consumerism; and it has refused to discuss the phenomenon of mass immigration.
From France to Denmark, from Italy to Sweden, it’s easy to see how savvy populists skillfully deploy those European values of free speech, feminism and secularism – oversimplifying issues to the point that their take seems logical – as ammunition against mosques, minarets, headscarves and, of course, “sub-intelligent beings”.
And then there are local realities. The majority of those voting SD were protesting against overwhelmingly Muslim immigrants, a great deal of them jobless, who come to Sweden, get fat government benefits and remain idle. Sweden is nowhere as tough on immigration as Denmark, Norway or Holland.
In Malmo, a mere 20-minute train ride via the stunning Oresund bridge from Copenhagen, about 80,000 (60,000 of them Muslims) of the overall population of 300,000 are immigrants. There are certified losers in Malmo’s carefully calibrated transition from old industrial city to a post-mod consumer haven; the old, the poor, and most of all, immigrants. So Sweden seems to have posed the European-wide question of the necessity for the European welfare state to concentrate less on health care and pensions and more on “including” immigrants. But is this really the real question?
Talk about an European summer of hate – from minarets banned in Switzerland to burqas banned in Belgium.
The populist extreme right has been part of coalition governments in Italy and Switzerland for many years now. And they are represented in the parliaments of Austria, Denmark, Norway and Finland. The National Front in France had 9% of the vote in last spring’s French regional elections.
But now everywhere it feels like a Lamborghini let loose. Geert Wilders’ Freedom party in Holland has turbo-charged Islamophobia to the point of almost paralyzing Dutch governance. The elegant, eloquent, peroxide-blonde populist Wilders wants to ban the Koran – which he has compared to Hitler’s Mein Kampf – and impose a “headscarf tax” (how come no government thought about this in the Middle East or in Pakistan?)
French President Nicolas Sarkozy – now facing his own, self-provoked May ’68 remix in the streets over his pension reform – tried to seduce (once again) the National Front by expelling planeloads of Romanian gypsies.
Austrian extreme right stalwart Heinz-Christian Strache, running for mayor of Vienna less than two weeks ago, took no less than 27% of the vote. And Barbara Rosenkranz, who insists anti-Nazi laws should be abolished, came second in Austria’s presidential race.
The Islamophobic, anti-immigrant Northern League of Umberto Bossi in Italy is part of the government in Rome and not accidentally the country’s fastest-growing party, now controlling the ultra-wealthy provinces of Veneto and Piemonte. During the latest election campaign, La Lega supporters handed out bars of soap to be used “after touching an immigrant”.
In Spain, the movement Preventive Reconquista is gaining ground – a perhaps George W Bush-inspired preventive war against the 1 million Muslim immigrants and their allegedly “evil” plans to re-attach Spain to Islam. A “headscarf controversy” already erupted in Madrid last April. Local town councils have been prohibiting the burqa and niqab – French-style (although a national ban was only narrowly defeated in the Spanish Congress last July).
It comes as no surprise that the extreme right is more turbocharged than ever in scores of European post-industrial cities which used to be center-left; that’s certainly the case of Wilders in Rotterdam, Le Pen in Marseille, Strache in Vienna and Akesson in Malmo. Simone’s assessment is being proven right.