Far Right Fear in Europe be Justifiable? 

If we are to go to the roots of Fascism we have to travel to the days of Benito Mussolini and his aspiration to spread his philosophy throughout the world.

7 mins read
Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini during Hitler's 1938 state visit to Italy.

SHOULD EUROPE BE AFRAID OF THE RISE OF FAR-RIGHT MENACE?

While examining the fear of Europe of the emergence of far-right we may refer to the report by BBC’s Katya Adler that the EU’s third-largest economy, Italy, is run by Giorgia Meloni, head of a party with neo-fascist roots. After 3 months of debate in Finland, the far-right nationalists The Finns recently joined the coalition government. In Sweden the firmly anti-immigration, anti-multiculturalism Sweden Democrats are the second largest party in parliament, propping up the right-wing coalition government there. In Greece last Sunday three hard-right parties won enough seats to enter parliament, while in Spain, the controversial nationalist Vox Party – the first successful far-right party in Spain since the death of fascist dictator Francisco Franco in 1975 – outperformed all expectations in recent regional elections. Spain’s Vox led by Santiago Abascal sees itself as the kingmaker and is up to 14% in the polls. Besides there are the ultra-conservative, authoritarian-leaning governments in Poland and Hungary.

The list goes on and on. Including even Germany, still so sensitive about its fascist past. Polls there now put the far-right AfD just ahead of, or neck and neck with, Chancellor Scholz’s Social Democrats (SPD). Last weekend an AfD candidate won a local leadership post for the first time. The SPD called it “a political dam-breaker”. What, she asks, does Europe mean by political parties described as ‘far-right’? Germany’s far-right AfD is riding high in the polls and scored its first district election victory recently in Eastern Germany. She adds how hardline some mainstream politicians can sound, especially before elections, when it comes to immigration and provides as an example center-right Dutch Prime Minister Mark Rutte, or self-described centrist Emmanuel Macron. Mark Leonard, director of the European Council on Foreign Relations says Europe is looking at a huge paradox.

On the one hand, many a mainstream politician has in recent years grabbed slogans or stances from the far-right, hoping to rob them of their supporters. But by doing so they help make the far right seem more mainstream. While at the same time, several far-right parties in Europe have intentionally moved more towards the political center, hoping to entice more centrist voters. If Russia can be taken as an example a large number of parties on the far-right – like The League in Italy, Marine Le Pen of France and Austria’s Freedom Party Far had traditionally close ties to Moscow. That became more than awkward following Vladimir Putin’s full-scale invasion of Ukraine, leading to party leaders to change their rhetoric.

ROOTS OF FASCISM AND NAZISM

If we are to go to the roots of Fascism we have to travel to the days of Benito Mussolini and his aspiration to spread his philosophy throughout the world. Though Adolph Hitler was a great admirer of Mussolini the latter did not share his enthusiasm for the concept of racial superiority which was a central point of Nazism. Fascism was founded on the principle of nationalist unity which opposed the divisionism class war ideologies of Marxist socialism and communism. the majority of the regimes viewed racialism as counterproductive to unity, with Mussolini asserting: that “National pride does not need the delirium of race”. Nazism differed from Italian fascism in that it had a stronger emphasis on race in terms of social and economic policies. Though both ideologies denied the significance of the individual, Italian fascism saw the individual as subservient to the state whereas Nazism saw the individual as well as the state as ultimately subservient to the race. Should we then travel to decades of European history to reach the architect of the right concept Mussolini- and his mentor Adolf Hitler- as both of them were sponsors of the concepts, albeit with differences, that led to the catastrophe of World War Two?   Upon Mussolini’s rise to power, the Nazis declared their admiration and emulation.  

ADOLF HITLER’S ADORATION OF BENITO MUSSOLINI

(I would be amiss if I did not owe help I had taken from WIKIPEDIA on paragraphs relating to Benito Mussolini and Adolph Hitler).  Adolf Hitler’s admirers believed that what Benito Mussolini did in Italy could be done in Bavaria. We’ve also got Italy’s Mussolini: his name is Adolf Hitler”. Hitler’s Mein Kampf (“The National Socialist Movement”, 1926) contains this passage: I conceived the most profound admiration for the great man south of the Alps who, full of ardent love for his people, made no pacts with the enemies of Italy, but strove for their destruction by all ways and means.

What will rank Mussolini among the great men of this earth is his determination not to share Italy with the Markists, but to destroy and save the fatherland from it.   In a 1931 interview, Hitler spoke admirably about Mussolini, commending Mussolini’s racial origins as being the same as that of Germans and claimed at the time that Mussolini was capable of building an Italian Empire that would outdo the Roman Empire and that he supported Mussolini’s endeavors, saying: They know that Benito Mussolini is constructing a colossal empire which will put the Roman Empire in the shade. Mussolini had personal reasons to oppose antisemitism as his longtime mistress and Fascist propaganda director Margherita Sarfatti was Jewish. She had played an important role in establishing the fascist movement in Italy and promoting it to Italians and the world through supporting the arts.

However, within the Italian fascist movement, there was a minority who endorsed Hitler’s antisemitism.   There were also nationalist reasons why Germany and Italy were not immediate allies. Hapsberg Austria (Hitler’s birthplace) had an antagonistic relationship with Italy since it was formed, largely because Austria-Hungary had seized most of the territories once belonging to Italian states such as Venice. Although initially neutral Italy entered World War One on the side of the Allies against Germany and Austria-Hungary when promised several territories. In Germany and Austria, the annexation of some territories was controversial as the province was made up of a large majority of German speakers.  

DIFFERENCES IN FASCISM AND NAZISM IDEOLOGY

The most striking difference is the racialist ideology which was the central priority of Nazism, but not a priority of the other ideologies. Fascism was founded on the principle of nationalist unity which opposed the diversionist classs war ideologies of Marxist Socialism and Communism; therefore, the majority of the regimes viewed racialism as counterproductive to unity, with Mussolini asserting: that National pride does not need the delirium of race”. Nazism differed from Italian fascism in that it had a stronger emphasis on race in terms of social and economic policies. Though both ideologies denied the significance of the individual, Italian fascism saw the individual as subservient to the state whereas Nazism saw the individual as well as the state as ultimately subservient to the race. 

However, subservience to the Nazi state was also a requirement on the population. Mussolini’s fascism held that cultural factors existed to serve the state and that it was not necessarily in the state’s interest to interfere in cultural aspects of society. The only purpose of government in Mussolini’s fascism was to uphold the state as supreme above all else. Unlike Hitler, Mussolini repeatedly changed his views on the issue of race according to the circumstances of the time. In 1921, Mussolini promoted the development of the Italian race such as when he said this: The nation is not simply the sum of living individuals, nor the instrument of parties for their own ends, but an organism comprised of the infinite series of generations of which the individuals are only transient elements; it is the supreme synthesis of all the material and immaterial values of the race.

CONCLUSION

 The question that arises is whether European countries and the multipolar world enmeshed with Sino-Russian compounded relations should be a lesson for the present-day world. The rise of China and her claim for a seat at the table framing the so-called rule-based world, more breached than honored, along with the Russian invasion of Ukraine, coupled with Israeli genocidal actions in Palestine virtually ruling out a two-state solution by Benjamin Netanyahu and his right-wing colleagues, should be taken as a European problem or one for the entire world. Perhaps it would be prudent to go back to Europe and the panic rise of the Far Right could enmesh the continent.  The Guardian ( London) would not be amiss to highlight   EU leaders’  panic about what Trump 2.0 would mean for war in Ukraine – and beyond.  

Could an isolationist US abandon Ukraine and leave the rest of Europe exposed to Kremlin aggression?  Viktor Orbán, the EU’s most pro-Russian leader, caused dismay by unilaterally blocking a crucial €50 billion EU financial aid package for Ukraine. Orbán’s blocking of the money had dismayed other EU leaders that turned to anger. The context for the new impatience with Orbán was a mounting anxiety in Europe’s capitals throughout the war in Ukraine – and the fate of other European countries bordering Russia – if Donald Trump is returned to the White House later this year. Flushed with victory in early nomination battles, Trump is ramping up his anti-NATO rhetoric. It emerged recently that he said the US should not intervene to help if Europe comes under attack.

That amounts to shredding the famous Article 5, the mutual defense pledge enshrined in the NATO treaty. The US Congress is already refusing to pass President Joe Biden’s additional multibillion-dollar package to help Ukraine buy weapons. It is unlikely Trump would release that money if he had any say. Europe’s security challenges are piling up: the Ukraine counteroffensive against Russia is stuck.  There is war in the Middle East and the risk of wider regional escalation is high. The increasingly urgent question is what would happen if a second-term Trump drops Ukraine and tells Europe where to get off militarily? Guardian columnists Nathalie Tocci and Simon Tisdall agree that the risk is not just of an isolationist US, defunding NATO but that Trump’s return to power could embolden the Kremlin’s imperial ambitions.

For some European governments are “sleeping at the tiller” given the present geopolitical volatility. France has long argued for Europe’s “strategic autonomy” but, while EU defense cooperation has quietly been stepped up since 2022, a joint defense capability remains divisive. An EU army remains taboo. Macron’s speech in Sweden warned that Europe needed to ramp up its entire defense effort and security architecture to prepare for the possibility of Joe Biden’s defeat. Europe, he said “must be ready to act to defend and support Ukraine whatever it takes and whatever America decides”.

Army and defense chiefs across Europe have also started to talk openly about war and preparedness – or lack of it. Sweden reintroduced compulsory civil defense for the first time since the end of the Cold War on 19 January. A “looming sense of potential conflict” has descended on the region in recent weeks.   In Finland, the presidential election is dominated by discussion of the Russian threat. War talk may sound alarmist to some, but if the function of these warnings is to shake public opinion out of complacency, they are landing at a judicious time. The enmeshed world cannot afford another catastrophe that may engulf not only Europe but the world beyond.

Kazi Anwarul Masud

Kazi Anwarul Masud is a retired Bangladeshi diplomat. During his tenure, he worked in several countries as the ambassador of Bangladesh including Thailand, Vietnam, South Korea and Germany

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