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Is fascism on the march again in Europe?
06-09-2009, 09:19 PM,
#1
Is fascism on the march again in Europe?
Is fascism on the march again?
Stephen Moss, John Crace
The Guardian Tue 9 Jun 2009 09:53 BST

Does the election of two BNP MEPs and the success of the far right elsewhere in Europe mean we are facing the threat of fascism? Or is this just a protest vote that will quickly fade? Leading historians give their verdicts

Michael Burleigh
Author of The Third Reich, A New History

We should be wary about the rise of the far right but not panicky. Even though I write commentary pieces for the Daily Mail, I am not given to hysteria. I don't like all these stupid historical analogies - this is not a re-run of the 1930s. In some ways, history can box you in and limit your options. We live in a very different world, and these parties organise themselves in a very different way. Hitler didn't Twitter.

Conditions in Europe are very different now from those that prevailed in the 1930s. We haven't had a catastrophic European war, with resentments about how that ended. We should also be cautious about saying that an economic recession inevitably leads to the rise of the far right. The fascists came to power in Italy long before the Depression. There is no automatic link. In Germany, most of the unemployed voted for the communists.

It is too early to say whether the rightwing parties that did well in the European election will have any historical significance, or whether they will offer a Europe-wide threat to mainstream politics. Although I suspect they may be better co-ordinated than leftwing parties, they are all subtly different. We should also be aware that rightwing parties can evolve. It is odd that the evolution of communist parties into Eurocommunist parties was recognised, but these rightwing parties are seen as mysteriously static and rooted in the 1930s. You just have to look at the BNP to see how it is trying to adapt its approach to changed circumstances, ramping up its hostility to the EU while playing down other aspects of its policy.

The left has a vested interest in playing up the threat of fascism. It uses it to reoxygenate itself: Margaret Hodge has been doing this for years, and Labour was doing it again before this election. A better approach is to take the BNP seriously. Don't turn them into martyrs by banning them from the airwaves. Ask them about their other policies: how they would get us out of recession; what their foreign policy is. Launch an assault on the BNP brand, and don't let them appropriate symbols of Britishness - such as the Spitfire they were using on their posters in this election.

[Image: ng-spitfire-backdrop.jpg]

We shouldn't panic about these results. The real story is that the centre-right has done very well across Europe. Where far-right parties have been elected in the past they have tended to be woefully incompetent and lackadaisical, and on the whole they haven't been re-elected. Supporters of the BNP tend to be disaffected Labour voters who are voting as an act of defiance against the political elite ...

<for more - click on the following link>
http://m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gmg/op/s3DCto...mp;cat=topstory
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