SARAJEVO, Bosnia (October 21,2008) - The charismatic far-right Austrian politician Jörg Haider died recently in a car accident.He caused the accident by driving twice as fast as the speed limit. Although there is an old proverb instructing us to “speak only the best about dead people,” Haider’s tragic demise stirred a part of my mind already anxious enough about a phenomenon that is threatening the future of my country, my city, my environment and, consequently, the future of my own family.
The problem is intolerance, racism and fascism, which are a growing menace in Central and Eastern Europe that we identify only when we hear news of violent assaults or about the promoters of such ideologies.
Haider himself did not hide that he derived his political philosophy from Nazi Germany. He used to describe the Nazi SS troops as patriots and would belittle the Holocaust. The European Union even imposed sanctions against Austria in 2000 in a protest over his party’s role in the government.
There are such discredited politicians and various far-right, racist, fascist and neo-Nazi movements and parties in other European countries as well, even represented in parliaments. It is one of the accompanying consequences of the ideological vacuum left by the fall of communist regimes in Eastern Europe.
The German newspaper die tageszeitung stresses that “a seething ideological mix came to the fore in many countries, made up of anti-Semitic and racist stereotypes, nationalist prejudices and elements such as militant anti-communism, revisionist ambitions and a vengeful fundamentalism.” Anti-Islamic activity has become part of the agenda of those movements in recent times.
Fascist movements in the southeastern Europe are obsessed by the nation as a supreme power and fascinated with religion, particularly Christianity. They often choose sporting events and popular music as their sphere of action.
Some pro-Nazi groups in the genocidal Serbia, like National Alignment, did not succeed last week in undermining an anti-fascist meeting in Belgrade. Dozens of their members were arrested last year during protests against the independence of Kosovo and because of their attacks against Albanians and Roma on their graffiti and posters. Two Israeli citizens were beaten in Belgrade by a group of “white power skinheads” wearing Nazi symbols. In fact, ultranationalists and radicals in Serbia are mostly focused on Kosovo, but the spirit of violence and national fanaticism, often supported by the Orthodox Church, could easily be included in a wider fascist scope.
Neo-Nazism in Croatia is often identified with neo-ustashism. Ustashe, the Croatian equivalent of the Nazis, were armed forces of the Independent State of Croatia, which was created and supported by Hitler and consisted of Croatia and Bosnia. Croatian ultranationalists still consider the ustashe patriots and their commanders heroes, equating them with the anti-fascist Tito’s partizans. The anti-Serb hatred, inherited from World War II, is a permanent issue for Croatian nationalists that erupts especially at football matches and the pop concerts of the controversial Croatian fascist singer Marko Perkovic Thompson. His audience,there were 60,000 in the Croatian capital Zagreb alone,usually raises their hands in a fascist salute. Even Catholic bishops sing ultranationalist fascist songs, and the Croatian fascist slogan “Srbe na vrbe” (Hang Serbs on the willow trees!) is being repeated after more than half a century.
The well-known Croatian writer Slavenka Drakulic warned recently in London’s Guardian about the split that such national, religious and racial hatred causes in her country. However, she was met with harsh and orchestrated criticism for “insulting the nation.”
And what can be said about Bosnia?The aggression against its independence in 1992,initiated by the genocidal Serbia,and the genocide against the Bosnian people committed by the genocidal Serbian fascist aggressor during the 1992-1995 Serbian aggression against Bosnia was simply an extreme fascism.
The Bosnian media these days quote the former US ambassador to Croatia, Peter Galbraith, who said in a program called “How wars end” on Public Radio International that Serbians living in Bosnia are “fascists, genocidal fascists.”
From the other side, Croatian fascists still regret that the Croatian aggression against Bosnia in the 1990s failed. They apply their ideology on the Croatians living in Bosnia. They sometimes use curious means, like what happened last year during a football match in Bosnia: Croatian fans formed the letter “U” in the stadium -symbolizing the above described Croatian fascists known as "Ustashe".
Hungary’s image in the EU was stained last year when it revived the Magyar Garda (Hungarian Guard). A pro-Nazi party with the same name ruled Hungary at the end of World War II and today the group is closely associated with the far-right party Jobbik, which has representatives on dozens of city councils.
“The founding of the Hungarian Guard,” Die Welt wrote, “is an alarming sign of sickness in a society, in which barriers to the glorification of violence, racism and intolerance are being torn down and where there are increasing attempts to undermine the already weak institutions of democracy.” It could be a “nucleus of a racist paramilitary army,” the German daily warned.
In other European countries, there are also activities of more-or-less fascist and pro-Nazi parties and movements. In Bulgaria, a country politically and economically stable, a latent nationalism is again coming to the surface. The nationalist Ataka party, consisting mostly of right-wing and ex-communist remnants, won 9 percent of the vote in the 2005 legislative elections, and its leader, Volen Siderov, managed to poll 25 percent in the 2007 presidential elections.
According to the party’s ideological statement, “20 points of Ataka,” Bulgaria is a monolithic, one-nation state, indivisible along ethnic or religious lines. The party attacks the national channel’s broadcast of news in Turkish indirectly, stating that the national language is only Bulgarian and that any ethnic parties should be prohibited. The most notable pro-Nazi organization in Greece is Hrisi Avgi, inspired by the Metaxas quasi-fascist dictatorship put in place by Hitler during the German occupation from 1940-1944. Its members launched a series of riots, especially in football fields. Their targets are mostly Albanian migrants and the Macedonian minority.
It is worth mentioning that many Greek fascists participated in the 1992-1995 Serbian aggression against Bosnia, helping the genocidal Serbian aggressor mass murder some 10,000 Bosnian civilians from the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica in July 1995.
It has to be noted that they are a small island in the large sea of anti-fascist, liberal and democratic movements and parties. They represent 1-10 percent of the population in most European countries.But what could happen tomorrow? Nobody can predict where this financial chaos, initiated in America, is leading all of us. And it is important to remember that Hitler and Mussolini built their power starting with a few percent of the popular vote and just on the eve of a large global economic crisis.