The ongoing crisis and economic malaise in Europe has had profound effects on the European continent. The European Union, and especially the Eurozone, appears to be spiralling towards disintegration. Massive protests have rocked Portugal, Spain, Greece and other nations. And now, resurgent fascist movements is taking hold in Hungary and elsewhere across the European Union.
Facism in Hungary
Hungary is now coming under the control of authoritarian and fascist leaders. In a shocking statement last November, ultra-conservative Marton Gyongyosi, a representative of the neo-Nazi Jobbik party called for all people of Jewish descent to be placed on a national “list.” That people like like Gyongyosi can actually gain enough support to be elected to office is shocking enough on its own. And that members would openly call for such measures is disturbingly reminiscent of the rise of the Nazi Party in Germany in the 1920’s and 30’s.
The Jobbik Party is now the third largest in the Hungarian parliament, holding some 48 seats in the 386 member national parliament. Supporters of the group have even been calling for the preparation for armed conflict with Jewish people.
These developments would not be as worrisome if they were limited only to a fringe group, however even the main party, Fidesz, has been increasingly veering towards authoritarian rule. Hungary is now ruled by pseudo-Dictator Viktor Orban. While Orban’s track record has been largely built on a populist platform, he has been moving in recent months to shore up power and exert greater state control over society. In March, 2013 he pushed through the adoption of a series of changes to the Hungarian Constitution that have greatly increased state power. Among other things, these changes have curbed the power of Hungary’s top court system, and restrictions to the freedom of the press.
There have also been reports of numerous attacks against Jewish and Roma people in Hungary, with the police largely refusing to step in to quell violence or to persecute the perpetrators of the crimes. Indeed, on several occasions the police have been accused of covering up incidents. Even Hungary’s well-respected university system may no longer be a safe haven. Jewish professors have also been reporting harassment and calls to resign.
In recent years, leading political figures in the European Union have begun to call for the expulsion of Hungary from the Union. While the talk appears to be more of a warning shot than any calls for serious action, if such an event were to occur, it could mark the disintegration of the E.U. At the same time, unless Hungary’s turn towards authoritarian is reversed, the basic tenets of the E.U. could be called into question with the nation’s continued membership.
While Hungary appears to be the highest risk state at the moment, radical right wing politicians have been gaining power across the continent, and the movements backing these leaders are gaining momentum. Conservative Jean-Francois Cope emerged as the leader of the UMP party in France, one of the most powerful political parties, holding 195 seats in the 577 seat parliament. Cope has made headlines before for holding anti-Islamic views and vocally criticizing France’s large Muslim population. Labeling Cope a fascist would probably be a bit extreme, however, the increasing appeal of more conservative politicians does point to a building trend in France. The French Consultative Commission on Human Rights also recently released a report that claims that racism and anti-immigrant views are on the rise.
Gold Dawn, a Greek fascist group linked to violent attacks on immigrants, is now the third most powerful party, and appears to be building momentum. With Greece in such dire financial and economic straits, people are becoming increasingly willing to list to radical politicians, who are often able to stoke general dissatisfaction into hatred against a specific group. The basic formula is the same today as it was for the Nazi party that gained power in Germany less than a century ago. According to fascists, Greece’s biggest problem isn’t decades of financial mismanagement and a burdensome welfare state, but instead the influx of immigrants.
With economic growth likely to remain stagnant in the coming years, and the increasing roll back of social redistribution programs, tensions are only likely to rise. Even more progressive countries, like the United Kingdom and Germany, are having to contend with emerging fascist linked parties. And while European leaders continue to fret over austerity and fiscal conservationism, they may be overlooking Europe’s greatest problem.
If fascism returns in force to the European Union, the very bedrocks of the union, namely peace and integration, may be called into question.