Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Fascism on the Rise?

The BBC presented a story on Greece's nationalist party, Golden Dawn that put into clear perspective the ways austerity measures, corruption, and inequality produce xenophobia, isolationism, and thuggery. The New York Times has also covered the rise in popularity of this right-wing party. Its website has a very good short video on Golden Dawn, its beliefs and widening appeal, especially amongst those hit hard by increased austerity measures and rising unemployment. Balancing gaping budget holes on the backs of workers and middle class citizens will only make such neo-fascist parties more popular, their brand of street-tough militancy will seem like a more proactive form of populism that best serves the interests of people most in need, especially when compared to the weak willed and anemic establishment politicians. When fascism spread throughout Europe in the mid-20th century, many organized forms of resistance, especially from Left-wing groups - Communists, Socialists, Anarchists - and liberal democrats - opposed turns toward nationalist bigotry. In fact, in Italy, Germany, France, and Greece, some of the strongest foes of fascism were Communists. These were not the politburo stooges who made possible the reigns of terror that Stalin and Mao brought down upon millions of people, but ordinary workers and patriots who saw the internationalism and labor solidarity at the core of communist principles as a powerful counter force to the visceral reactionary populism of fascists. Needless to say, the local Communist resistance movements faced persecution and violence. Allesandro Portelli wonderful analysis of oral testimony and memory, The Order Has Been Carried Out, documents the ways people in Rome remembered how fascists murdered over one hundred members of a communist resistance movement. As terrible as communist ideology became in the hands of murderous dictators, those local communist resistances were some of the most consistent and disciplined opposition movements against the rise of fascism and Nazism.

Who will stand up against the neo-fascists in the twenty first century? Golden Dawn is only one example of world-wide hyper-nationalist, religious extremist movements that have spread violence and chaos amongst the most vulnerable people. Charles Taylor, the Liberian strongman, has just been found guilty of war crimes perpetrated against the people of Sierra Leone. Religious fundamentalists of many different stripes have twisted Islam into a call for global violence and suppression of women's rights. Christian fundamentalists in many different countries wage war against gay and lesbian people. The gunman in Norway who gunned down scores of people, many of them teens, because of their liberal political beliefs is not an anomaly. One might dismiss these examples of fascism as fringe movements, or isolated incidents, but as poverty and alienation rise, and as democratic governments prove incapable or unwilling to address the underlying structural causes of joblessness and corruption, fascist populism will become more and more appealing and even mainstream.

The world will watch the elections in Greece to see if Golden Dawn gains a foothold in the Parliament. The U.S. would do well to think seriously about how anti-immigrant, anti-labor movement, conservative fiscal policies lend tacit support to the same types of right-wing thuggery that has emerged in Greece. If the democratically elected state cannot put a check on the types of tax evasion, financial corruption, boarder insecurity, and economic stagnancy that is effecting millions of citizens lives, right-wing fascists certainly will.     

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