• Conference Report
  • Populist and Radical Right in Europe and Left Strategies for a New Hegemony

  • Barbara Steiner | 15 Dec 15 | Posted under: Rightist Movements
  • The two-day conference on Populist and Radical Right in Europe and Left Strategies for a New Hegemony was hosted by our Swedish member organisation Center für Marxist Studies - CMS in Stockholm in November in cooperation with Rosa Luxemburg Foundation.

    General resumé and first outlook

    The conference tried to put the spot on regions, we didn’t deal so much until now within the transform network: Scandinavia and Great Britain as well as Eastern Europe. Secondly the common view and a European perspective had been central. As well as the aim to communicate much more in the future on common strategies against the rise of the radical, far and populist right and that a weapon against the right is the strengthening of the left.

    Nontheless the spectrum was a little too broad and contributions sometimes to specialised on the analysis of the far right itself rather than the societal frame and surrounding and the search for alternatives, still the various contributions have been very inspiring. So much happened in autumn 2015 – the European migration- and asylum policy crisis, Sweden becoming from the most open country to most closed, the attacks and regional elections in France. A lot that had not been in our focus when planning the conference.

    A general conclusion had been that the best fight against the far right is to strengthen the left and bring forward alternatives.

    Generally we can state that there is a shift: the far right isn’t anything on the margin of the society any more, it’s about a project to change the state and Europe.

    They are at the doorway to enter state power. The fight against the far right becomes a general political struggle, to include strategy against extreme right becomes a task for every political active group or person. And it becomes our task to involve a broader spectrum of organisations to our discussions, it’s an issue that concerns everybody – not only the ones that are working specialised on this topic.

    So three questions that we would like to follow are:

    • The far right and the state and the Far right in power - How far right parties when they gain power, change the state – Hungary and Poland
    • Struggle against the far right – inclusion of trade unions
    • Political foundations of the far right in Europe

    There is video footage which will be uploaded and there is the plan to collect some of the articles and compile them in an online publication.

    Summaries of the presentations

    Mathias Wåg, co-organiser of the conference and antifascist researcher critically introduced the Laclauan concept of populism and Gramsci’s concept of hegemony. He classifies so-called “leftwing populism” as a notion of hegemony without a class concept. Another interesting point was also that while the left, being politically and economically weak in Europe, struggling against windmills, the new right identifies the left culturally as strong: cultural Marxism, Gramscianism, Feminism, Political Correctness are being perceived as strong and even forced on society as norms.

    Markus Lundström & Tomas Lundström presented their upcoming research report “hundred years of radical nationalism” on the history and historical interconnections of rightwing actors in Sweden. The Swedish academia differentiates between right extremist, white power milieu- and fascist organizations. They also differentiate between social conservative -, race oriented- and identitarian nationalism

    Thilo Janssen presented his soon to be published study “Beloved Enemy” on the Extreme right partys in the European parliament and the European Union. Janssen works in the European Parliament for GUE/NGL with president Gabi Zimmer. He showed that the far right have nearly one quarter of seats in the EP, explaining the differences between the various factions and their gaining influence also on national level. An interesting point is also that the right factions and European parties received 30 Mio. Euro EU subventions in the last legislative period 2009 – 2014.

    Walter Baier, coordinator of transform! europe, classifies right populism as the rebellion based on the existing status quo (“reactionary rebellion”). He states that the growth of nationalism is a consequence of austerity politics and an indicator for the crisis of democracy. He points out the false dilemma between national sovereignity and a democratic social Europe. Decisive battlegrounds for the left are the socioeconomic field, concepts and practices of real democracy, a new concept of citizenship, defense of liberal freedoms, a societal center- bottom alliance.

    Anton Shekovtsov talked on the European-Russian networking in the Extreme Right including opinion makers, financial and business cooperations.

    Daniel Platek presented his study on Mobilizing on the extreme right in Poland. Marginalization, institutionalization, radicalization. He showed a shift between the Polish extreme right of the 90ies and after 2000. Confrontional violent actions diminish with institutionalisation but also other targets as sexual minorities are discovered. Platek also presented a mapping of nationalist, fascist and white power internet sites.

    Bernard Schmid, French-German autho  presented the historical developnment of Front National in France, classifiying FN not as populist but “modernized fascist” as well as a mass movement – not memberwise but electoral. He points out an assimilation of positions between Fn and the Republicans.

    Rene Monzat, French researcher states that there is an end of the the bipolar party system and and that the rise of the far right is only one facette of this change of the political system. He presented a new vision of mapping the political system, having all parties at least one thing in common with others.

    Ben Lear, “Plan C” activist and author classifies the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) as English (not strong in Wales or Scotland) nostalgic (colonial) nationalist party. He explains its rise with the collapse of social democracy, the absence of a radical left and a general legitimacy crisis  of politics. They leave the logic of austerity unchallengend – there is no discussion of distribution of cuts, rather a nationalist class-blind discourse – „we are all in this together“. The challenge for UKIP are Jeremy Corbyn – the new other rebel in Labour and an implosion: members leaving frustrated and financial support decreases (this might be wishful thinking?!).

    Elektra Alexandropoulou is an activist of “Golden Dawn Watch”, a group that follows and documents the criminalities of Golden Dawn and the trial against their leadership and presented this trial. The Trial was instigated after first murder of Greek citizen Dec 2013 Pavlos Fissas – before already 3 immigrants have been killed by Golden Dawn members. 300 cases have been ignored – before the murder of Pavlos Fissas.  There are 69 accusations, only 6,7 come to the court, all accused are out of jail except the accused murderer, they are even in parliament, alsdo they are accused for building a criminal organisation. http://goldendawnwatch.org/

    After the attacks in Paris, which took place in the night of the two-day conference and shocked all particiapants, Alexandropoulou predicts that the situation in Greece (2000-6000 migrants coming to Greece a day) will worsen and the extreme right will rise.

    Li Andersson, Finnish MP of the Left Alliance gave a lecture on the situation in Finalnd and the True Finns. At the moment  the Finnish government implements harsh austerity measures, severe cuts on pensions, social security, education. Labour markets reform and anti-union laws are proposed, completely new in Nordic countries: preventing unions from collective bargaining. There are proposals to have a separate migration tax and separate social security system. There are attacks on asylum seekers, refugees camps, attacks against the red cross helping refugees, demonstrations to close the borders in various cities in Finland, a new form of street activism develops.

    The main issue of the True Finns party is the politisation of immigration as a problem. 2011 they had a big victory from 5 to 39 seats in Finnish parliament. Primary motive for voting for True Finns was „Change“, asked for second reason: older voters on migration and newer voters named the Anti- EU and anti-elitist rethoric. Anti-elitist rethoric and class politics only as identity politics by True Finns: no answer given by Left Party. At the moment true finns loose in polls.

    Tobias Alm, Cordelia Heß are the authors of the book “Rechtspopulismus kann tödlich sein! Entwicklung und Folgen des Rechtsrucks in Skandinavien“ and compared right populism in Denmark ans Germany. They focussed on the topics of History and national self image, Conservatism of values and the argument of Freedom of speech.


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