Letter From Brussels

The Murderous Far-Right

Julie Robert

Paris, 5 June 2013. One sunny afternoon, Clement Meric, 18, was killed in the middle of the street. He was a far-left militant and a member of the Action Antifasciste Paris-Banlieue. His presumed killer named Esteban Morillo, is 21 years old, and a skinhead sympathiser of the far-right organisation Troisieme Voie. He gave at least two punches in Meric's face, one of which proved fatal.

Athens, 17 September 2013.Pavlos Fissas, 34, was killed near a bar where he had been watching a football game with his girlfriend. His stage name was MC Killah P. He was a left-wing rapper well-known for his anti-fascist commitments. His presumed killer is a member of the far-right party Golden Dawn. The assailant stabbed Fissas twice, first in the heart and then in his stomach before fleeing.

Clement Meric was involved in politics since he was 15. In 2010, he had been active in the mobilisation against the educational reforms initiated by the government. More recently, he took part in the massive demonstrations in favour of the 'marriage for all', the new law allowing homosexuals to get married in France. As a very engaged militant, he had also often been the target of the far-right activists. During the investigation of his murder, the authorities have even stated that 'he was known to the special services for being a very active militant, member of far-left organisations and eager to confront skinheads'. There have been a lot of different versions of what happened on the day he was murdered. Even the release of the video footage taken by a camera at the scene of the crime did not give any certain leads. On the footages, one can see that there has been a fight between two groups, one group had Meric and a few friends and the other was made up of Morillo his friends. The investigation is still going on, but it has been stated that the young man died from a punch delivered by Morillo. The latter has been put under investigation for involuntary manslaughter.

The case of Pavlos Fissas apparently looks easier. The rapper was stabbed to death while he was surrounded by a group of 30 thugs wearing Golden Dawn shirts and military trousers. According to an eyewitness, while Fissas was surrounded near the bar by the mob, the murderer pulled up in a car, parked in a hurry, jumped out and attacked him straight away. The murderer was arrested a few hours after his attack, and he confessed to both the murder and the political motive of his act.

What do these two stories show? What can one learn from these two ghastly incidents? What does it tell about the current political situation in Europe? If anything these kinds of incidents are not isolated ones. Since 2008 and the beginning of the financial crisis shaking the world since then, people are witnessing a resurgence of terror acts committed by the far-right. Even more worrying is the fact that becomes less and less easy to discern the right from the far-right. In Europe today, there are three categories of far-right groups or parties.

1.    It comprises, for instance, Golden Dawn. These groups have a dual structure. They have a party, with an official facade and an unofficial (and usually underground) organisation. The underground organisation has a paramilitary structure which runs various activities of racket, murders, harassment,... It usually has assault weapons and training camps so that its members learn how to use them. All the groups belonging to this category has their own paramilitary branch, though each of these branches has a more or less limited scope. All these groups link their lineage to European fascism that once played havoc in the continent.

2.   The second category includes parties that were overtly fascists, but have changed their discourse. This they have done to bypass the anti-racism law. One of the most important aspects of their changed views is their criticism of the Nazi gas chambers. Of course, if they did not do so, they would not be able to function as they would be forced to admit the Nazi genocide. The change only consists of an alteration of the speech, most of the time by usurping feminist and progressive vocabulary. These are the parties that sow confusion because basically, they are not less hostile to foreigners.

3.   One can find the parties of the third category mainly in the Nordic countries. They do not express anti-Semitic views. They do not proclaim any fascist identity or ideology. They have succeeded in focusing the rejection of the immigration on the rejection of Islam, in the name of secularism. If they come to power, they adapt with the existing democratic structure.

With this new structure and hierarchical organisation, the far-right exercises power in different countries without establishing a dictatorship. The far-right is changing ;and is making the anti-fascist struggle even more complicated.

A few days ago, in France, the Front National, the far-right party created in 1972 by Jean-Marie Le Pen and today led by his daughter, Marine, has announced that it was going to start proceedings against the term 'far-right' attributed to it. During an interview, Marine Le Pen has denied the far-right label attributed to her party. She says that it is a word voluntarily pejorative and considers its use as an insult. Of course, this is part of her strategy of making the Front National a respectable party.

Because this is all that it is about. Today, the far-right and the right are working on the same page. It is becoming impossible to distinguish one from the other. On the grounds of the numerous crisis faced by the capitalist governments, the discourses have taken a reactionary turn. To 'face the crisis', the political parties have given economical and social solutions soaked with racist and exclusionary views. Their political justifications are also full of nationalism. They say they want to protect their citizens from 'foreign invasion' by deporting undocumented immigrants, by denoting the foreigner, the Muslim, etc. as threats. All the parties, from left to right, claim that they are defending the nation, its industry and its identity. Some left-wing parties are even heard saying that the far-right is asking questions that are substantial, that it had its finger on the real problems and that the European countries are not able to welcome all the misery of the world. These Left parties stop short of recommending the rough and tough solutions of the far-right. Of course, all those parties do not offer the same solutions. Unlike the fascists, the left-wing and right-wing politicians do not throw the foreigners in the water or in gas chambers. But they deport them, they lock them up in detention centres, they jeopardise them in the extreme by refusing them their papers and equal rights. They close the borders. Today, the immigrants are not thrown into water by fascists, but they drown never the less in the Mediterranean Sea.

These discourses and these politics, of course, opens wide the door to the fascists, and they don't wait to be asked twice to step into the breach. The fascist groups are the criminal and caricatured excess of what constitutes everyday discourse of today's politics, i.e. the national union against the external threats, the chauvinism and the class collaboration.

In Antwerp, Belgium, the Alliance neo-flamande (N-VA) is in power since the beginning of 2013. The main claim of its political programme is independent Flanders, and most of its politics is focused against foreigners and on liberal economic measures. Since its coming to power a few months ago, it has already taken various ultra-free market and discriminating decisions, following the pattern mentioned above. Its first proposals and measures were against homosexuals, against foreigners and against those immigrants with invalid documents.

In February, it has decided to impose a new tax on the foreigners desirous of signing on the population registers of the city. Any foreign citizen has now to pay 250 euros to register. The N-VA is justifying the tax by the administrative costs of the registration. But the only way one can really explain this measure is that the foreigners are not welcome in Antwerp and that they must be kept, as far as possible, outside the city.

Later on in February, the president of the Centre Public d'Action Sociale (public institution which provides social assistance and integration to the citizens) suggested to link the availability of the emergency medical aid to illegal immigrants only if they promise to return voluntarily to their country of origin. This proposal has not been approved yet, but it seems on track, even though it triggered a general outcry from the public. In August, Bart De Wever, the leader of the N-VA himself came out in the press with a statement in which he said that its employees in Antwerp would not be allowed to wear rainbow-coloured clothes during working hours anymore. His exact words are 'I don't want a person wearing a rainbow-coloured t-shirt sitting behind a desk in my city-hall. Through this symbol, a homosexual clearly signifies his sexual bent and other people recognise him'. But one of the biggest gains of all the anti-discrimination laws voted ten years ago is the right for the homosexuals to carry on openly display their inclination. And above all, the law does not say that homosexuality is a preference, and even less an allegiance. So Bart De Wever's words are very worrying as there is a clear shift in meaning which will lead to an open discrimination. If it starts with homosexuals, all other minorities will, of course, follow.

Even more recently, the same leader of the N-VA made a very radical proposal. His party is now clearly flirting with its far-right counterparts. In an interview, Bart E'e Wever suggested the building of a prison in Morocco to send all the Moroccan citizens detained in Belgium. He said: Today, there are 1200 Moroccans in our prisons. With them, one can fill a whole prison'. The Italian government has experienced the idea of a prison abroad. In 2003 it built a prison in Albania to send all the Albanian prisoners there. It cost eight million euros and has accommodated 30 prisoners since its opening.

This proposal had already been heard in the past in Belgium as well. At that time, it came out from the Vlaams Belang, the most far-right party in Belgium. The Vlaams Belang advocates the independence of Flanders and strict limits on immigration. It also rejects multiculturalism, just as its counterparts the Front National in France, the Freiheitliche Partei Osterreichs in Austria, the Lega Nord per I' indipendenza della Padania in Italy, etc.

So here they are... the right-wing copying, parroting and drawing its inspiration from the far-right. Everybody knows from history that financial crisis equals Nazism equals murder. And Europe's air is being poisoned. It's been a few years now that Golden Dawn, Troisieme Voie and similar parties and organisations are very active all over Europe. It has only become big news now because a Greek white man and a French white man have been killed. In Greece, it's been two years now that some humanitarian organisations are pointing out 'disappearances' of immigrants. There is a sense of impunity growing among the members of these parties and organisations as they know that they are protected by the police (which is often actively involved). This sense of impunity has been slowly and methodically built by Golden Dawn to build fear psychosis amongst the population. And once again, history tells that fear leads to Nazism. In Greece, the deputies were scared when their Golden Dawn 'colleagues' came to the Parliament armed to the teeth, until the recent decision prohibiting the carrying of firearms in the Parliament.

Today in Europe, a rise of the far-right parties in almost every country is a disturbing phenomenon. The right-wing parties are capitalising on the turbulent situation. There is a continuous highlighting of national identities and an incitement to racial hatred. This leads to a radicalisation of the views expressed by politicians, but also by influential people like actors, writers and musicians. In the end, these views cause a national malaise entailing the individual's drop in status, the division of the society and the withering away of all sense of responsibility in the society. The terror and the violent acts are increasing, be it murders, but also the deportation policy against minorities or illegal immigrants. Europe is plunging into austerity. The masses are getting angry. The right tries to reassure itself by maintaining fascist and authoritarian posturing. This reminds one the dark moments in Europe's history. In this context, people should unite and get organised to denounce these acts. But to do so, one must be courageous, involved and desirous of mobilising all one's energy for the sake of the people. Not just for their own sake but for the sake of the whole world.

Vol. 46, No. 27, Jan 12 -18, 2014

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