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Europe: Old racist poison in new bottles

Marine Le Pen, daughter of the racist founder of the National Front in France, Jean Marie Le Pen (right).

By Rupen Savoulian

November 14, 2011 -- Antipodean Atheist, posted at Links International Journal of Socialist Renewal with permission -- With Europe engulfed in an economic crisis that threatens to bring down the eurozone, and possibly shrink the European Union itself, it is noteworthy to see that some people are doing well out of this crisis – very well in fact. The capitalist system is lurching from crisis to crisis, and while the political left and socialist parties have experienced some growth from the widespread disaffection with the imploding capitalist system, it is the extreme right that is also benefiting from the generalised economic malaise.

Marine Le Pen, daughter of the racist founder of the National Front in France Jean Marie Le Pen, has been credited with a surge in popularity for the anti-immigrant, anti-refugee party. The British Guardian newspaper reports that Marine Le Pen, head of the anti-Semitic and Islamophobic party, has brought a softer, gentler image to the party, in contrast to the blunt, brusque tone of its founding father. She is currently a presidential candidate, and while she has toned down the hardline rhetoric, the program of the National Front remains the same – ceasing all immigration, particularly from the Arab and Muslim countries, glorifying the rabidly racist anti-Semitic and pro-Nazi Vichy regime of France during World War II, and a melange of populist patriotism and state regulation of French industries.

Vichy France was responsible for the deportation and subsequent deaths of thousands of Jews, and upheld conservative French patriotism, replacing the French Republican-era slogan of "Liberty, Equality, Fraternity" with "Labour, Family, Fatherland". Vichy was notorious for its anti-immigrant xenophobia, directed particularly against the Jews, the personality cult surrounding its leader Marshal Henri Petain and its suppression of democratic liberties, including the repression of trade unions and workers' organisations.

Marine Le Pen is effective is promoting her message, and is winning sympathy from those suffering under the capitalist economic crisis. The Muslim community has replaced the role of the Jews in the National Front’s ideology – a supposedly alien, dark, potentially traitorous element working within French society to undermine and eventually conquer it. But the anti-Semitic prejudice is never far from the surface.

Mainstreaming

One of the tactics that the racist right in Europe has used to combat its exclusion from the mainstream as "fringe" parties is take up seemingly "respectable" causes, thus recovering from its tarnished image. Europe’s anti-immigrant political parties needed to "mainstream" themselves, and find a brand name that would win them credibility. Well, they have done just that – support for the Zionist state of Israel.

Antony Loewenstein, an independent Australian journalist and blogger, has an excellent article documenting the purportedly strange bedfellows of European anti-Semitic and anti-immigrant politicians, and the Zionist state of Israel. Today’s new demon, Loewenstein says, is the Islamic community, and the far-right has found a new theme to tap into. Earlier this year, a Russian neo-fascist organisation sent a delegation on a visit to the Israeli state. The Russian neo-fascists and holocaust deniers were met by politicians from the Knesset, Israel's parliament. The neo-fascists were reportedly impressed by the resolve of the Zionist movement, its dedication to creating an ethnically pure Jewish state, and the common recognition of a new enemy in the midst: Islam. One member of the delegation bloviated that "radical Islam" was an enemy of democracy, of humanity and progress. This was hardly a one-off incident.

Supporters of the extremist and racist Dutch politician Geert Wilders have expressed their warmest support for Israel, particularly in combating the Palestinian "terrorists" and Islamic communities.

Loewenstein explains that a collection of Europe’s anti-immigrant politicians from Belgium, Sweden and other countries visited Israel in December 2010, where they visited Yad Vashem. The Norweigan mass killer Anders Breivik expounded on his admiration for the Zionist state of Israel, and denounced the "failing" of multiculturalism in Europe. No wonder that Breivik regarded himself as a friend of an apartheid state – the ruling circles in Zionist Israel are also striving to create an exclusively Jewish state, building settlements on occupied Palestinian land, corralling and expelling the Palestinian population from their homeland. The Zionist leaders, while condemning the Utoya killings, have long claimed that Islam is an alien presence, that undermines the harmony of any Western society.

Racist mindset

That mindset corresponds with the statements by Britiain's Prime Minister David Cameron and German Chancellor Angela Merkel that multiculturalism has failed in Europe, and the main consequence of this failing is the alleged creeping "Islamisation" of European society. While the actions of Breivik have been roundly condemned, the ideology that spawned his violent behaviour continues to be nourished. No wonder that the anti-immigrant right finds sympathetic voters in Europe, and extends its support to the efforts by Israel to create a society that negates ethnic integration between Jews and Arabs.

Loewenstein links to a thankfully sane article in Haaretz that demands Israel's leaders strongly reject Marine Le Pen and the European far right. Let’s not hold our collective breath for that to happen, though.

Richard Seymour, in a thoughtful article on the ABC’s The Drum, related an incident whereby a group of unionised journalists prevented the rancid and splashy tabloid paper Daily Star from printing an egregiously racist anti-Muslim article. This action holds the key for a wider solution – to overcome the competitive sectarianism fostered by the mainstreaming of Islamophobic and anti-immigrant hatred, we need a multiethnic fightback, where all of us, the ethnically diverse working class, unites to fight off the racist attacks of the corporate mainstream.

The trade unions have slowly and sadly abandoned a fightback approach, and instead chosen a conciliatory avenue, simply accepting whatever crumbs might fall from the corporate table. A cross-ethnic, united approach to fight for the rights and conditions taken away by the ever-predatory corporate-financial class can overcome the racial and ethnic divisions that are worsened by a capitalist economic crisis.

[Rupen Savoulian is a member of the Socialist Alliance of Australia.]

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