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“Fascionable” Again in Europe

Dave Emory’s entire life­time of work is avail­able on a flash drive that can be obtained here. (The flash drive includes the anti-fascist books avail­able on this site.)

COMMENT: We’ve told you so–over and over and (present-participle, expletive deleted) over again!

Fascism is descending over much of the world, from the Hindu/nationalist fascist RSS/BJP milieu of Narendra Modi in India to the neo-fascist/Third Positionists comprising the Snowdenista/Wikileaks phalanx.

Darkness is setting in.

In Europe, the economic conditions deriving from the Euro-austerity doctrine mandated by Germany are bearing fruit similar to the harvest of the 1930’s  brought about by the Great Depression.

Not even as relatively staid a source as The Daily Beast can ignore the onrush of Euro-fascism.

“Fascism Is Fashionable Again in Europe” by Thane Rosenbaum; The Daily Beast; 6/8/2014.

EXCERPT: Fascism is back in fashion nearly all throughout Europe. Elections for the European Parliament, with ballots cast in 28 countries, produced a startling victory for the sort of political parties that are normally not invited to fashionable parties.

In some countries, like France, where fashion always matter, the voters gave the boorish National Front the largest share of votes. Similar extreme right-wing sentiment fueled the electoral outcome in England, where the United Kingdom Independence Party outpolled all other parties. [The United Kingdom Independence Party is not fascist in ideology. Its advocates seem relatively unaware of the Friedrich List-inspired nature of the German dominaed EU, however.–D.E.] In both countries, extremists captured more than a quarter of the vote.

Things were only slightly better in Austria, Denmark, and Sweden. In Hungary, the demonstrably anti-Semitic Jobbik party finished second. In Greece, the Golden Dawn party, a neo-Nazi outfit that dresses in what looks like Nazi uniforms, captured seats for the first time. Even in Germany, where Nazi memorabilia and romanticism are outlawed, a neo-fascist claimed a seat.

All across the Atlantic the fringe is looking more and more like the mainstream. These groups are generally united in their thuggery and xenophobia. Openly racist, anti-immigrant, and anti-Semitic feelings seem to be the first plank atop each party’s platform. To be sure, economic recession, the ongoing European debt crisis, and high unemployment contributed to this dash toward extremism, but anti-foreigner rhetoric ultimately dominated the campaigns.

Hating the other has become a European rallying cry.

These parliamentary results, however, were not that difficult to predict for anyone paying attention to the vulgar events that have overtaken the continent lately. This past September, in Greece, a man sympathetic to Golden Dawn’s stump speeches murdered Pavlos Fyssas, a left-wing rapper better known by his hip-hop handle, Killah P. Like the storm troopers of old, Golden Dawn—the fastest growing party in Greece—can’t seem to make an appearance without a riot breaking out, openly invoking Nazism and Hitler as their primary political influences. They even have a logo that resembles a swastika.

A Belgian political party, Stand Up Belges! has gained followers. A day before the elections, three people were murdered (and one critically wounded) at the Jewish Museum in Brussels. Less than a month earlier, there was a planned “gathering of dissidents” featuring an assortment of Nazi-envy characters. The protest was banned but not before the crowd performed the quenelle en masse, popularized by French comic Dieudonne M’Bala M’Bala. The gesture has become a trendy symbol among those who would otherwise fetishize Heil Hitler.

Speaking of Dieudonne, he has been convicted seven times in France for preaching anti-Semitism and boasts a personal friendship with Jean-Marie Le Pen, the founder of the National Front. Dieudonne’s act has included dressing up as a rabbi and giving a Nazi salute. Recently on stage he warned a French-Jewish radio host, “if winds change … I think to myself, well, the gas chambers … too bad.” On February 1, his supporters held a demonstration purportedly against the French president, but the protest descended into an old-school pogrom when the crowd chanted: “Jew, France is not yours!”

Such are the polemics of European hate, which no one takes seriously until it’s time to take it seriously. The economic conditions and political landscape throughout the continent is starting to look a lot like the ’30s, which, despite what Winston Churchill said about his own country at the time, was not Europe’s “finest hour.” A good thing Churchill didn’t live to see the United Kingdom Independence Party. . . .

 

Discussion

29 comments for ““Fascionable” Again in Europe”

  1. Why U.S. White Supremacists Are Ecstatic Over European Election Results
    Dreams of replicating what happened in the EU in the US.

    http://www.alternet.org/world/us-white-supremacists-are-ecstatic-over-european-election-results-empowered-far-right?paging=off&current_page=1#bookmark

    June 10, 2014 | Like this article?
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    In late May, the BBC reported that “Eurosceptic and far-right parties have seized ground in elections to the European parliament, in what France’s PM called a ‘political earthquake’.” Aftershocks from the far-right’s European “political earthquake” are being felt in the United States, as America’s White supremacists are celebrating like it’s 1999.

    It takes an experienced researcher and writer with an international perspective to dissect the recent European parliament elections and try and understand what it means to, and for, the far right in the United States. And, Devin Burghart is the perfect person for the job. In a recent post at the website of the Institute For Research & Education On Human Rights (IREHR), Burghart pointed out that for the most part, America’s far right is rejoicing over the results of the elections.

    “Many on the American far right, from the Tea Party to hardened white nationalists, paid close attention to the European results,” Burghart, vice president of IREHR, wrote in a story titled, American Far Right Jubilant Over European Election Results. “Looking at these votes for nationalist, anti-immigrant, racist, anti-Semitic, and anti-European Union political parties — the American hard right saw hope for the future here at home.”

    Burghart pointed to several emergent themes including: “1) nationalist, anti-globalist arguments in the age of austerity and financial turmoil, 2) anti-immigrant politics as a winning message, and 3) the necessity of a white electoral strategy here at home.”

    Relationships between America’s far-right organizations and their European counterparts have “ebbed and flowed” over the years, generally reflecting electoral realities in the US and in Europe. According to Burghart, “For years, far right activists in the United States, particularly those interested in mainstreaming their particular brand of bigotry in the political arena, have looked to Europe as a source of hope and inspiration. They have also developed long-standing multilateral relationships with their European counterparts.”

    America’s right responds with jubilation

    The “European right-wing comes of age,” declared the Council of Conservative Citizens (CofCC), one of the largest white nationalist groups in the United States. “Folks, I’m here to tell you that this week’s election results in Europe have given me a lot of hope,” proclaimed Tennessee white nationalist talk show host, James Edwards. The Virginia white nationalist think-tank, American Renaissance, called the elections “a promising shift to the Right” and hoped that “we are perhaps seeing the first rays of a new dawn after a long night.”

    David Duke, former Grand Wizard of the Knights of the Ku Klux Klan, and former Republican Louisiana State Representative, went straight to the anti-Semitic card. Duke wrote that, “the results of European Parliament elections held last week have at last shown that in many parts of Europe, resistance to the ideologies enforced by Jewish Supremacists — mass immigration and globalization — are being decisively rejected.”

    Duke added: “All freedom-loving people around the globe can draw solace from the fact that the latest European Parliament elections have now at last shown a definite step away from this Jewish Supremacist globalist agenda. There is still much work to do, but every journey begins with that first step!”

    In a piece for the Occidental Observer website, anti-Semitic professor Kevin MacDonald wrote “It’s no secret that Jewish organizations have been strongly in favor of the EU and its policies promoting immigration and multiculturalism. So it’s no surprise that they are quite negative about the results of the elections for the European Parliament.” MacDonald added: “What is missing in this opposition is any glimmering that native Europeans have a legitimate interest in preserving their culture and their demographic dominance in areas they have inhabited for thousands of years. The policies advocated by Jewish organizations will result in the death of European civilization.”

    Burghart pointed out that “In a May 23 column, [Pat] Buchanan contended that the electoral success by the far right meant that Europeans were voting to pre­serve their ‘separate and unique ethnic and cultural identity.'” Buchanan, a longtime supporter of the European far right, saw a return to “traditionalism and cultural conservatism, reverence for the religious and cultural history and heritage of the nation and its indigenous people.”

    As Burghart noted, “The Euro-Election results give a boost to efforts by white nationalists to push their ‘white America’ strategy on the movement — also known as the ‘Majority Strategy’ — …. the [controversial] argument holds that Republicans should abandon efforts to reach-out to communities of color, and instead adopt an explicitly racist politics to appeal to white voters.”

    “For some American white nationalists, far right success in the European elections has rekindled an interest in electoral campaigning and re-engaging in the debate around immigration reform,” Burghart wrote. “At the same time, a segment of the movement has shunned electioneering and seeks instead to construct a different type of international network of racists and anti-Semites.”

    It is clear that many American white supremacists are hopeful that the results of the European parliamentary elections can some day be replicated in the homeland. To achieve this, they intend to mainstream their anti-Black, anti-Semitic, anti-immigrant ideas. How they will do that remains to be seen.

    Bill Berkowitz is a longtime observer of the conservative movement

    Posted by Swamp | June 11, 2014, 9:40 am
  2. Here’s an article on the results of an Austrian poll asking about attitudes towards the Nazis. The poll was conducted last last year so the results may no longer be valid. Let’s hope so:

    The Independent
    Over half of Austrians think the Nazis would be elected if the party was readmitted to politics

    Tony Paterson, Berlin

    Sunday 10 March 2013

    As Austria prepares to mark the anniversary of its annexation by Nazi Germany, an opinion poll has shown that more than half of the population think it highly likely that the Nazis would be elected if they were readmitted as a party.

    A further 42 per cent agreed with the view that life “wasn’t all bad under the Nazis”, and 39 per cent said they thought a recurrence of anti-Semitic persecution was likely in Austria.

    The disturbing findings were contained in a poll conducted for the Vienna newspaper, “Der Standard” in advance of Tuesday’s 75th anniversary of Austria’s Nazi annexation – a date which still counts as one of the most shameful and controversial in the country’s history.

    Tens of thousands of Austrians gave Adolf Hitler and his troops a rapturous welcome when they invaded the country unopposed in March 1938. Austria fought World War II as part of Nazi Germany and many Austrians helped run Nazi death camps. Yet for decades, post-war Austria frequently perpetuated the myth that it was a victim of Nazi oppression. Der Standard said its poll was designed to show how today’s Austrians judged Nazi rule.

    Neighbouring Germany’s popular “Stern” magazine described the poll’s findings as shocking today. The poll also showed that 61 per cent of Austrian adults wanted to see a “strong man” in charge of government, and 54 per cent said they thought it would be “highly likely” that the Nazis would win seats in they were allowed to take part in an election.

    Some 46 per cent of those polled said they believed Austria was a victim of Nazi oppression in 1938, while 61 per cent said they believed that “enough” had been done to reappraise Austria’s Nazi past.p

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 23, 2014, 7:32 am
  3. Here’s a youth trend that the AfD must be loving: German ‘nipsters’:

    Rolling Stone
    Heil Hipster: The Young Neo-Nazis Trying to Put a Stylish Face on Hate
    Inside the tote-bag friendly, “Harlem Shake”-happy world of Germany’s “nipsters”

    By Thomas Rogers
    June 23, 2014 10:00 AM ET

    It’s a rainy Sunday evening in May, in the town of Weiden, in northeastern Bavaria, and Patrick Schroeder, whom the German press has dubbed the “Nazi-hipster,” is preparing for his big webcam entrance. As the opening sequence for his weekly Internet TV show, FSN.tv, plays silently in the background, he ties a bandana stitched with the slogan “H8” around his mouth and fiddles with his mouse. A map of Germany in 1937 hangs on the wall above him.

    It’s hard to get the timing for the intro “just right,” he explains, and once the graphics stop playing, he strides into frame and raises his arm, curling his hand into a fist and wishing his viewers, a few hundred members of Germany’s extreme right, a lovely evening. He calls this gesture his “professional wrestling entrance move,” which he claims was inspired by WWE-style theatrics, though it also, not inconveniently, looks a bit like a heil Hitler Nazi salute.

    Schroeder is 30 years old, about six feet tall, with the boxy musculature of an MMA fighter, his blond hair shaved except for a jaunty strip along the top of his head. He’s dressed all in black, wearing armbands slightly reminiscent of those favored by vintage Avril Lavigne and speaks quickly and loudly, with a strong Bavarian lilt. When he laughs, his upper right lip rises up, making him look both threatening and insecure. “If the Third Reich was so bad, it would have been toppled,” he argues, before the filming begins. “Every half-intelligent person knows there is no system where everything was bad.”

    He won’t elaborate, for legal reasons, but he’ll happily share his topline thoughts about everything from Obama (whom he grossly describes as America’s “neger president”) to why black people don’t belong in Germany (“It’s against nature — there’s a reason we’re not walking around in the sun, in Ghana, with our skin color”), to why American neo-Nazis are “primitive” (“It’s like they’re always dressing up for a costume party”) and — because, just like many other Germans, he loves American TV — his strong feelings about the series finale of How I Met Your Mother (“The mother dying was a good reminder that the world isn’t a great place”).

    Inane rhetoric notwithstanding, Schroeder comes across first and foremost as a dedicated self-promoter, and he clearly enjoys putting on a show: For the next two hours, he sits at the computer and chats with his remote co-host about the latest Nazi news — recently banned groups, European elections — and riffs on pop culture. He peppers his statements with self-deprecating asides and eye-rolls, and he occasionally interrupts the chatter to play Rechstrock, neo-Nazi rock songs.

    FSN.tv is Germany’s only neo-Nazi Internet TV show, and in the two years since it has existed it has turned Schroeder into a well-known, if highly controversial, figure in the German extreme right, largely because he has been open about his desire to give the German neo-Nazi movement a friendlier, hipper face. Schroeder sometimes conducts seminars showing neo-Nazis how they can dress less threateningly and argues that anybody from hip-hop fans to hipsters in skinny jeans should be able to join the scene without changing the way they look, an idea that, for many older members, is an affront to their anti-mainstream values.

    Over the past year, partly because of leaders like Schroeder and partly because of the unstoppable globalization of youth culture, the hipsterification of the German neo-Nazi scene has begun to gain steam. This winter, the German media came up with a new term, “nipster,” to describe the trend of people dressing like Brooklyn hipsters at Nazi events. Experts have noted that the German neo-Nazi presence on Tumblr and other social networking sites has become sleeker and more sophisticated. Neo-Nazi clothing has become more stylish and difficult to recognize. There’s even a vegan Nazi cooking show. “If the definition of the nipster is someone who can live in the mainstream,” Schroeder explains, “then I see it as the future of the movement.”

    These are strange times to be a neo-Nazi in Germany. The Federal Constitutional Court is gearing up for a hearing on the latest attempt to ban the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), the country’s oldest and biggest extreme-right political party. Regardless of the verdict, the party is close to running out of money and Nazi opponents have become successful at shutting down its public appearances (in April, a high-profile Berlin NPD march was successfully blockaded by several thousand protesters). The murder trial of the lone surviving core member of the National Socialist Underground, a far-right terror cell that is accused of killing 10 people between 2000 and 2007, is also ongoing in Munich, and focusing the nation’s attention on extreme-right crimes, and a recent study found that the number of people with extreme-right sympathies has sunken from 9.7 to 5.6 percent in the last 12 years.

    At the same time, Germany and German culture have become more porous and international than ever: A federal survey found that nearly 20 percent of Germans have an immigrant background, and another new study found that immigrants and Germans are becoming increasingly similar. German TV broadcasts The Real Housewives, the Top 20 pop charts include songs by Calvin Harris, Coldplay and Pitbull and thanks to the Internet, teenagers can pirate the latest episode of Girls a few hours after it airs in America. And now another American export has arrived: In 2012, the daily Welt heralded the “hipster” as Germany’s “new object of hate” and just this February, the country’s biggest tabloid, Bild, offered a guide to “hipster types” for its readers. (Example: “The fixed-gear fanatic never goes anywhere without his bike.”)

    For people like Andy Knape, the rise of the German hipster presents both an opportunity and a dilemma. For the past two years, the 28-year-old Knape has been the head of the Junge Nationaldemokraten (JN), the youth wing of the NPD. His office is located in the state parliament of Saxony, in the eastern part of Germany, and overlooks the city’s majestic opera house, which largely burnt down after the city’s firebombing and was rebuilt after the war. A poster of an elderly woman with a shotgun and the words “drastic security measures” hangs on the wall, next to a photo of several steely-eyed white people smiling.

    As head of the JN, Knape’s job is to make the NPD, and its extreme-right politics, appealing to young people (one of his biggest goals, he explains, is to “preserve German culture”) and he’s a good salesman — 5’8″, fit and dressed in a grey T-shirt and Converse-style sneakers, he wouldn’t look out of place on an American college campus. He first entered the scene when he was 13, in Magdeburg, because his brother was also “right-wing oriented” and he “started to ask himself lots of questions.” Eventually, he says, he began going to NPD demonstrations, and got more involved. Although his eyes betray a palpable aggressiveness and many of his talking points seem clearly rehearsed, for a man in charge of an organization being monitored by the Bundesverfassungsschutz — Germany’s domestic security agency — he is surprisingly soft-spoken. When he speaks he tends to curl up in his chair.

    Like Schroeder, whom he sees as an acolyte, Knape wants to give “nationalism” a friendlier, cooler face (in the NPD, and many other extreme-right organizations, “nationalist” often functions as a politically acceptable euphemism for “Nazi”). For Knape, who grew up with American pop culture, the idea of policing what young members of the scene watch or listen to is silly — he’d much rather hijack it, and use it to bring young people into the fold. Michael Schaefer, the JN’s excitable 31-year-old press person, chimes in: “We’ve taken over the nipster,” he says, giddily, before catching himself. “I mean nationalist hipster, not Nazi hipster.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 27, 2014, 8:56 am
  4. So this just happened:

    TPM Livewire
    Neo-Nazi Holocaust Denier Joins EU Parliament Civil Rights Committee

    Caitlin MacNeal – July 8, 2014, 11:54 AM EDT

    A neo-Nazi from Germany’s ultra-conservative National Democratic Party joined the European Union’s parliament in May and on Monday took a seat on the body’s Civil Rights Committee, according to Jewish World News.

    Udo Voigt has praised Adolf Hitler as “a great German statesman” and once claimed that “no more than 340,000” Jews died in the Holocaust, as opposed to the 6 million figure agreed on by historians, according to the Guardian.

    Voigt led the NDP from 1996 to 2011, and during that time he led the party in an increasingly nationalist direction. In 2009, he was convicted of glorifying the Waffen SS. The German court unsuccessfully attempted to outlaw the party in 2006, and another attempt is currently underway.

    Voigt in 2007 considered nominating Rudolf Hess, Hitler’s deputy, for a Nobel Peace Prize. The Guardian has an extensive account of his incredibly controversial actions and statements here.

    Following outrage over Voigt’s assignment to the Civil Rights Committee, EU President Martin Schulz denounced Voigt’s beliefs.

    A spokesman for the European Jewish Congress called for members of the EU parliament to keep Voigt from gaining publicity for his views.

    “It does the European Parliament no credit to have people sitting on its civil liberties committee who have obviously not only shown no commitment to civil liberties, but have sought to undermine them and to purvey a racist and intolerant agenda throughout their political career,” a spokesman told EurActiv.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 8, 2014, 2:09 pm
  5. This picture is worth a thousand words:

    http://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.607302.1406387975!/image/1432576168.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_640/1432576168.jpg

    Thousands protest Gaza operation in Paris, some with Nazi-like ‘quenelle’ salute
    France’s interior minister urges protesters to observe the order, fearing anti-Semitic violence.

    By Haaretz | Jul. 26, 2014 | 6:14 PM

    Several thousand gathered in Place de la République in Paris, France to protest the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, defying a state ban on the demonstration.

    Protesters chanted “Israel is an assassin, Holland is an accomplice” and “we are all Palestinians,” and some were seen gesturing the quenelle, a reverse Nazi-salute, AFP reported. Tension mounted as hundreds of protesters, some masked, began throwing stones and projectiles at police who responded with tear gas.</b?

    "This event is illegal, but for us it is more than legitimate. This is to show our solidarity with people who are now being massacred," Hugo, a New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) activist, told AFP.

    The NPA decided to defy the ban and hold the protest as planned in an assertion of the party's "solidarity with the Palestinian people," NPA leader Olivier Besancenot said.

    Earlier, France's interior minister called on the protest's organizers to observe the order, fearing anti-Semitic violence.

    Bernard Cazeneuve made his public appeal shortly before Saturday's demonstration in Paris was to start. Hours earlier, the Council of State, France's top administrative body, ruled the protest ban was legal.

    A court had ruled likewise, but organizers said they still planned to hold the protest.

    France has Western Europe's largest Jewish and Muslim populations. Two banned pro-Gaza protests last weekend, in Paris and Sarcelles, to the north, degenerated into violence and attacks on synagogues. On Wednesday, an authorized demonstration was peaceful.

    Cazeneuve said chatter on social networks indicated a risk that Saturday’s protest could become a “cortege of violence.”

    AP contributed to this report

    Posted by participo | July 26, 2014, 2:40 pm
  6. This picture is worth a thousand words:

    http://www.haaretz.com/polopoly_fs/1.607302.1406387975!/image/1432576168.jpg_gen/derivatives/landscape_640/1432576168.jpg

    Thousands protest Gaza operation in Paris, some with Nazi-like ‘quenelle’ salute
    France’s interior minister urges protesters to observe the order, fearing anti-Semitic violence.

    By Haaretz | Jul. 26, 2014 | 6:14 PM

    Several thousand gathered in Place de la République in Paris, France to protest the Israeli operation in the Gaza Strip on Saturday, defying a state ban on the demonstration.

    Protesters chanted “Israel is an assassin, Holland is an accomplice” and “we are all Palestinians,” and some were seen gesturing the quenelle, a reverse Nazi-salute, AFP reported. Tension mounted as hundreds of protesters, some masked, began throwing stones and projectiles at police who responded with tear gas.

    “This event is illegal, but for us it is more than legitimate. This is to show our solidarity with people who are now being massacred,” Hugo, a New Anti-Capitalist Party (NPA) activist, told AFP.

    The NPA decided to defy the ban and hold the protest as planned in an assertion of the party’s “solidarity with the Palestinian people,” NPA leader Olivier Besancenot said.

    Earlier, France’s interior minister called on the protest’s organizers to observe the order, fearing anti-Semitic violence.

    Bernard Cazeneuve made his public appeal shortly before Saturday’s demonstration in Paris was to start. Hours earlier, the Council of State, France’s top administrative body, ruled the protest ban was legal.

    A court had ruled likewise, but organizers said they still planned to hold the protest.

    France has Western Europe’s largest Jewish and Muslim populations. Two banned pro-Gaza protests last weekend, in Paris and Sarcelles, to the north, degenerated into violence and attacks on synagogues. On Wednesday, an authorized demonstration was peaceful.

    Cazeneuve said chatter on social networks indicated a risk that Saturday’s protest could become a “cortege of violence.”

    AP contributed to this report

    Posted by participo | July 26, 2014, 2:41 pm
  7. factoids, surveys, statistics, science:

    http://global100.adl.org/did-you-know

    http://global100.adl.org/#compare

    Qatar’s scores are right where Dave would expect them to be compared to other reich-corporate-statist fronts like Paraquay, but Uruguay is nearly equivalent to Qatar with respect to Holocaust intolerance.

    But Brazil beats Qatar – and Germany is even!

    Jews still talk too much about what happened to them in the Holocaust:

    some examples…

    (go to the link and run comparisons, click the ‘see more’ links below each survey question to expand percent results)

    62% -Poland
    61% -Hungary
    57% -Brazil
    52% -Qatar
    52% – Germany
    48% -Ukraine
    38% -Russia
    31% -China
    26% -India
    23% -Egypt
    22% -USA
    18% -Iran
    16% -Indonesia

    Percent responding “probably true”

    Posted by participo | July 26, 2014, 9:22 pm
  8. *Note the ADL survey above is referenced in this alarming article – participle)

    Antisemitism on rise across Europe ‘in worst times since the Nazis’

    Experts say attacks go beyond Israel-Palestinian conflict as hate crimes strike fear into Jewish communities

    Jon Henley
    The Guardian, Thursday 7 August 2014 15.12 EDT

    In the space of just one week last month, according to Crif, the umbrella group for France’s Jewish organisations, eight synagogues were attacked. One, in the Paris suburb of Sarcelles, was firebombed by a 400-strong mob. A kosher supermarket and pharmacy were smashed and looted; the crowd’s chants and banners included “Death to Jews” and “Slit Jews’ throats”. That same weekend, in the Barbes neighbourhood of the capital, stone-throwing protesters burned Israeli flags: “Israhell”, read one banner.

    In Germany last month, molotov cocktails were lobbed into the Bergische synagogue in Wuppertal – previously destroyed on Kristallnacht – and a Berlin imam, Abu Bilal Ismail, called on Allah to “destroy the Zionist Jews … Count them and kill them, to the very last one.” Bottles were thrown through the window of an antisemitism campaigner in Frankfurt; an elderly Jewish man was beaten up at a pro-Israel rally in Hamburg; an Orthodox Jewish teenager punched in the face in Berlin. In several cities, chants at pro-Palestinian protests compared Israel’s actions to the Holocaust; other notable slogans included: “Jew, coward pig, come out and fight alone,” and “Hamas, Hamas, Jews to the gas.”</b?

    Across Europe, the conflict in Gaza is breathing new life into some very old, and very ugly, demons. This is not unusual; police and Jewish civil rights organisations have long observed a noticeable spike in antisemitic incidents each time the Israeli-Palestinian conflict flares. During the three weeks of Israel's Operation Cast Lead in late 2008 and early 2009, France recorded 66 antisemitic incidents, including attacks on Jewish-owned restaurants and synagogues and a sharp increase in anti-Jewish graffiti.But according to academics and Jewish leaders, this time it is different. More than simply a reaction to the conflict, they say, the threats, hate speech and violent attacks feel like the expression of a much deeper and more widespread antisemitism, fuelled by a wide range of factors, that has been growing now for more than a decade.

    “These are the worst times since the Nazi era,” Dieter Graumann, president of Germany’s Central Council of Jews, told the Guardian. “On the streets, you hear things like‘the Jews should be gassed’, ‘the Jews should be burned’ – we haven’t had that in Germany for decades. Anyone saying those slogans isn’t criticising Israeli politics, it’s just pure hatred against Jews: nothing else. And it’s not just a German phenomenon. It’s an outbreak of hatred against Jews so intense that it’s very clear indeed.”

    Roger Cukierman, president of France’s Crif, said French Jews were “anguished” about an anti-Jewish backlash that goes far beyond even strongly felt political and humanitarian opposition to the current fighting: “They are not screaming ‘Death to the Israelis’ on the streets of Paris,” Cukierman said last month. “They are screaming ‘Death to Jews’.” Crif’s vice-president Yonathan Arfi said he “utterly rejected” the view that the latest increase in antisemitic incidents was down to events in Gaza. “They have laid bare something far more profound,” he said.

    Nor is it just Europe’s Jewish leaders who are alarmed. Germany’s chancellor, Angela Merkel, has called the recent incidents “an attack on freedom and tolerance and our democratic state”. The French prime minister, Manuel Valls, has spoken of “intolerable” and clearly antisemitic acts: “To attack a Jew because he is a Jew is to attack France. To attack a synagogue and a kosher grocery store is quite simply antisemitism and racism”.

    Police at the site of a shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels
    Police at the site of a shooting at the Jewish Museum in Brussels, Belgium, where four people were killed. Photograph: Eric Vidal/REUTERS

    France, whose 500,000-strong Jewish community is one of Europe’s largest, and Germany, where the post-war exhortation of “Never Again” is part of the fabric of modern society, are not alone. In Austria last month, a pre-season friendly between Maccabi Haifa and German Bundesliga team SC Paderborn had to be rescheduled after the Israeli side’s previous match was called off following an attempted assault on its players.

    The Netherlands’ main antisemitism watchdog, Cidi, had more than 70 calls from alarmed Jewish citizens in one week last month; the average is normally three to five. An Amsterdam rabbi, Binjamin Jacobs, had his front door stoned, and two Jewish women were attacked – one beaten, the other the victim of arson – after they hung Israeli flags from their balconies. In Belgium, a woman was reportedly turned away from a shop with the words: “We don’t currently sell to Jews.”

    In Italy, the Jewish owners of dozens of shops and other businesses in Rome arrived to find swastikas and anti-Jewish slogans daubed on shutters and windows.One slogan read: “Every Palestinian is like a comrade. Same enemy. Same barricade”; another: “Jews, your end is near.”Abd al-Barr al-Rawdhi, an imam from the north eastern town of San Donà di Piave,is to be deported after being video-recorded giving a sermon calling for the extermination of the Jews.

    There has been no violence in Spain, but the country’s small Jewish population of 35,000-40,000 fears the situation is so tense that “if it continues for too long, bad things will happen,” the leader of Madrid’s Jewish community, David Hatchwell, said. The community is planning action against El Mundo after the daily paper published a column by 83-year-old playwright Antonio Gala questioning Jews’ ability to live peacefully with others: “It’s not strange they have been so frequently expelled.”

    Studies suggest antisemitism may indeed be mounting. A 2012 survey by the EU’s by the Fundamental Rights agency of some 6,000 Jews in eight European countries – between them, home to 90% of Europe’s Jewish population – found 66% of respondents felt antisemitism in Europe was on the rise; 76% said antisemitism had increased in their country over the past five years. In the 12 months after the survey, nearly half said they worried about being verbally insulted or attacked in public because they were Jewish.

    Jewish organisations that record antisemitic incidents say the trend is inexorable: France’s Society for the Protection of the Jewish Community says annual totals of antisemitic acts in the 2000s are seven times higher than in the 1990s. French Jews are leaving for Israel in greater numbers, too, for reasons they say include antisemitism and the electoral success of the hard-right Front National. The Jewish Agency for Israel said 3,288 French Jews left for Israel in 2013, a 72% rise on the previous year. Between January and May this year, 2,254 left, against 580 in the same period last year.

    (*see ADL surveys and article above – partico)

    In a study completed in February, America’s Anti-Defamation League surveyed 332,000 Europeans using an index of 11 questions designed to reveal strength of anti-Jewish stereotypes. It found that 24% of Europeans – 37% in France, 27% in Germany, 20% in Italy – harboured some kind of anti-Jewish attitude.

    So what is driving the phenomenon? Valls, the French prime minister, has acknowledged a “new”, “normalised” antisemitism that he says blends “the Palestinian cause, jihadism, the devastation of Israel, and hatred of France and its values”.

    Mark Gardner of the Community Security Trust, a London-based charity that monitors antisemitism both in Britain and on the continent, also identifies a range of factors. Successive conflicts in the Middle East he said, have served up “a crush of trigger events” that has prevented tempers from cooling: the second intifada in 2000, the Israel-Lebanon war of 2006, and the three Israel–Hamas conflicts in 2009, 2012 and 2014 have “left no time for the situation to return to normal.” In such a climate, he added, three brutal antisemitic murders in the past eight years – two in France, one in Belgium, and none coinciding with Israeli military action – have served “not to shock, but to encourage the antisemites”, leaving them “seeking more blood and intimidation, not less”.

    In 2006, 23-year old Ilan Halimi was kidnapped, tortured and left for dead in Paris by a group calling itself the Barbarians Gang, who subsequently admitted targeting him “because he was a Jew, so his family would have money”. Two years ago, in May 2012, Toulouse gunman Mohamed Merah shot dead seven people, including three children and a young rabbi outside their Jewish school. And in May this year Mehdi Nemmouche, a Frenchman of Algerian descent thought to have recently returned to France after a year in Syria fighting with radical Islamists, was charged with shooting four people at the Jewish museum in Brussels.

    If the French establishment has harboured a deep vein of anti-Jewish sentiment since long before the Dreyfus affair, the influence of radical Islam, many Jewish community leaders say, is plainly a significant contributing factor in the country’s present-day antisemitism. But so too, said Gardner, is a straightforward alienation that many young Muslims feel from society. “Often it’s more to do with that than with Israel. Many would as soon burn down a police station as a synagogue. Jews are simply identified as part of the establishment.”

    While he stressed it would be wrong to lay all the blame at the feet of Muslims, Peter Ulrich, a research fellow at the centre for antisemitism research (ZfA) at Berlin’s Technical University, agreed that some of the “antisemitic elements” Germany has seen at recent protests could be “a kind of rebellion of people who are themselves excluded on the basis of racist structures.”

    Arfi said that in France antisemitism had become “a portmanteau for a lot of angry people: radical Muslims, alienated youths from immigrant families, the far right, the far left”. But he also blamed “a process of normalisation, whereby antisemitism is being made somehow acceptable”. One culprit, Arfi said, is the controversial comedian Dieudonné: “He has legitimised it. He’s made acceptable what was unacceptable.”

    A similar normalisation may be under way in Germany, according to a 2013 study by the Technical University of Berlin. In 14,000 hate-mail letters, emails and faxes sent over 10 years to the Israeli embassy in Berlin and the Central Council of Jews in Germany, Professor Monika Schwarz-Friesel found that 60% were written by educated, middle-class Germans, including professors, lawyers, priests and university and secondary school students. Most, too, were unafraid to give their names and addresses – something she felt few Germans would have done 20 or 30 years ago.

    Almost every observer pointed to the unparalleled power of unfiltered social media to inflame and to mobilise. A stream of shocking images and Twitter hashtags, including #HitlerWasRight, amount, Arfi said, almost to indoctrination. “The logical conclusion, in fact, is radicalisation: on social media people self-select what they see, and what they see can be pure, unchecked propaganda. They may never be confronted with opinions that are not their own.”

    Additional reporting by Josie Le Blond in Berlin​, Kim Willsher in Paris, John Hooper in Rome and Ashifa Kassam in Madrid

    • This article was amended on Friday 8 August to correct the name of the Madrid Jewish community leader David Hatchwell. This article was further amended to correct the numbers of Jews who left France for Israel in 2013.

    Posted by participo | August 8, 2014, 10:36 am
  9. Here’s a reminder that France is potentially an election away from an FN-run government:

    The Guardian
    Unprecedented in France: Front National’s Le Pen tops presidential poll for first time

    Polls out in the past few days in France have shown far-right Front National leader Marine Le Pen topping a presidential poll for the first time. This matters as supporters of main parties may no longer be doubling up to push out Front National. Meanwhile, President Hollande’s popularity has hit an unprecedented low.

    Alberto Nardelli
    Monday 8 September 2014 07.14 EDT

    An Ifop poll released by Le Figaro on Friday placed far-right Front National (FN) leader Marine Le Pen ahead of President François Hollande in a hypothetical second round runoff. It is the first time the FN tops a presidential poll against one of France’s two main parties, the Socialist Party (PS) and the centre-right Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

    Ifop @Le_Figaro poll: Le Pen ahead in all I round scenarios, for the first time ahead against Hollande in II round pic.twitter.com/MXbUnl9l8e— Alberto Nardelli (@AlbertoNardelli) September 5, 2014

    This poll comes off the back of May’s European Parliament elections where the FN, for the first time ever in a nationwide vote, emerged as the largest party with 25%.

    The Le Pen poll matters

    France isn’t of course due a presidential election until 2017, and if a vote took place today, despite the UMP’s judicial challenges and apparent inability in finding a new leader, Hollande would unlikely reach a second round.

    This important caveat to one side, the Le Pen poll is significant. There has long been an unwritten rule in French politics: the supporters of the two main parties have historically coalesced against FN candidates in second round votes. The clearest example in 2002’s presidential election when Jacques Chirac defeated Jean-Marie Le Pen 82-18%.

    Poll after poll this tacit agreement appears to be coming less. This matters. While as things stand a Le Pen presidency is unthinkable, the FN is making breakthroughs that few would have predicted. In local elections held earlier this year, the party achieved its best result ever – despite running in a fraction of the 36,680 municipalities, the FN won more than 1,500 councillors and 12 cities, reached a record 229 second round runoffs (from less than 600 lists presented). Le Pen’s party also made significant inroads into many larger cities, winning about 30% of the vote in Marseille.

    In parallel to the FN’s growing support, the popularity of President Hollande has reached a new record low. Less than 20% of voters now approve of the president.

    The president has been unable to get economic growth up and unemployment down, a pledge on which he bet his presidency. According to TNS polls, Hollande is the most unpopular president of the Fifth Republic.

    2017 is a ways away, so hopefully things will change before we see France go fascist. But with Holland’s deeply unpopular administration largely stuck with the eurozone’s austerity policies and the UMP never really wavering from supporting austerity either it’s unclear what’s going to prevent the continuing rise of the National Front in coming years. And, of course, the UMP’s unilateral discarding of the “Republican Front” agreement to unite against fascism and increasing embrace of National Front policies isn’t helping either:

    France24
    France’s ‘Republican Front’ in tatters as FN surges

    Latest update : 2014-03-25
    The decades-old unwritten agreement between France’s right- and left-wing parties to keep the far-right National Front out of power appears to have come to an end.

    by Joseph BAMAT

    National Front (FN) candidates claimed historic gains in municipal elections across France on Sunday, and even before all the votes were tallied, there were renewed calls to forge a so-called “Republican Front” to keep the FN out of as many city councils as possible.

    “Wherever the FN has a possibility to win the second round of the elections, all of the democratic and republican forces have the duty to stop them,” French Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault, a Socialist, warned in a televised speech on Sunday evening.

    However, while alarm over the advance of the FN was raised, support for the Republican Front among the mainstream right seems to be as weak as ever, and embargoing the FN has become a divisive issue among members of the Union for a Popular Movement (UMP).

    A crazy idea

    National Front Vice President Louis Aliot happily announced on Sunday that voters “no longer listened” to calls to form a Republican Front, but the pronouncement could just be wishful thinking. With 34.20 percent support, Aliot won the most votes on Sunday in the southern city of Perpignan, but stands to lose the second round if the mainstream candidates agree to unite forces.

    The incumbent UMP mayor Jean-Marc Pujol, who finished in second place with 30.57 percent, has called on the Socialist candidate to respect the Republican Front and pull out of the three-way runoff. If left-leaning voters in Perpignan decide to shift their support behind Pujol, it is likely he will defeat the FN’s Aliot in the end.

    But while the main opposition UMP party stands to win Perpignan and a handful of other cities thanks to a new Republican Front, other right-wing leaders are unwilling to endorse the old anti-FN arrangement.

    UMP chief Jean-François Copé said on Monday that there will be no calls from party leaders to vote for a Socialist mayoral hopeful in order to keep an FN candidate from office. He also assured his party would seek no deals with the far-right, anti-immigration party.

    The UMP’s “neither FN, nor Socialist” position was first implemented during legislative elections in June 2012. It appears to be the party’s new election mantra.

    Furthermore, the most conservative members within the UMP have said the Republican Front needs to be buried following Sunday’s results.

    Lawmaker Henri Guaino called it a “crazy idea” on Monday, adding that it was wrong “not to listen” to voters who cast a ballot for the National Front. Geoffrey Didier, a UMP regional councilman from the Paris region, was more categorical: “There is no Republican Front, it was smashed to bits a long time ago.”

    Crossing the red line

    According to Olivier Rouquan, a French political analyst, the Republican Front was significantly weakened during former president Nicolas Sarkozy’s 2007-2012 mandate.

    “The Sarkozy years were clearly marked by a change in political discourse. Sarkozy warmed up to the FN’s ideas, he sometimes adopted them outright,” noted Rouquan. “Since UMP leaders adopted positions similar to those of the FN, it follows that the party’s sympathisers have been tempted to cross that red line.”

    At the same time, Marine Le Pen, who succeeded her father as the FN’s president in 2011, has gone to great lengths to soften the party’s image among voters. While continuing to rage against alleged rampant immigration, she has shunned the anti-Semitic speech her father was infamous for.

    So while the UMP has moved farther to the right, the FN itself has knocked down some of the barriers that once separated it from the mainstream right. Increasingly, they appear to be competing for the same constituents.

    For Rouquon, the UMP’s hesitation between safeguarding and forgetting the Republican Front is no small electoral dilemma, but cuts to the fundamental question about the party’s future.

    “The election results and forecasts appear to indicate that the FN will become increasingly present at different levels of government, and the UMP will have to deal with that reality,” Rouquan said. “The major challenge of the UMP in the coming years will be deciding if it will finally forge ties with the National Front.”

    “The major challenge of the UMP in the coming years will be deciding if it will finally forge ties with the National Front.”

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 13, 2014, 2:38 pm
  10. Mission accomplished:

    France’s far-right grabs first ever Senate seats

    September 28, 2014 2:22 PM

    PARIS (Reuters) – The far-right National Front won its first ever seats in France’s upper house of parliament on Sunday, as President Francois Hollande’s Socialist party lost its Senate majority.

    The left still controls the lower house, which is the dominant legislative body in France, but Sunday’s ballot underlined the unpopularity of the president and the continued rise of the anti-immigration, anti-euro National Front.

    The party, led by Marine Le Pen, took two seats in the august Senate, following on from its surprise victory in European parliamentary elections in May and its strong showing in municipal elections in March.

    “These results are beyond what we hoped for,” said Le Pen. “Each day that passes, our ideas are increasingly being adopted by the French people… We have great potential.”

    Half of the Senate’s 348 seats were up for grabs on Sunday, with only some 158,000 people, the vast majority local councillors, able to vote.

    Early results showed that the main opposition party, the UMP, and the center-right UDI party took at least 20 seats from the left, which had a Senate majority of just six heading into the election. Final results were due later on Sunday.

    “There is a complete rejection of Socialist policies,” UMP senator Roger Karoutchi told BFM TV.

    Hollande’s popularity fell to a record low this month, with only 13 percent of those surveyed saying they were satisfied with the performance of president, who has struggled to revive the stagnant economy.

    “There is a complete rejection of Socialist policies,” UMP senator Roger Karoutchi told BFM TV. LOL! Yes, while it’s true that the austerity policies France’s public is railing against have indeed been implemented by Hollande’s Socialist government, it’s worth keeping those Berlin-mandated “Socialist” austerity policies were part of Nicholas Sarkozy’s electoral platform. Sarkozy lost and yet he won. It helps to have friends in high places.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 4, 2014, 6:16 pm
  11. While bigotry is always disturbing, it’s the middle class bigots that are often the most disappointing:

    CBS News
    Anti-Semitism spike in Germany raising old fears

    By Mark Phillips

    October 3, 2014, 7:44 PM

    FRANKFURT – Armed guards have been posted at synagogues throughout Germany for the start of Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. Anti-Semitism is once again on the rise in Europe, especially in Germany.

    The tensions have been building in Germany since demonstrations against last summer’s Gaza war exposed a clear anti-Jewish sentiment. Chants were heard that echoed from Germany’s darkest times.

    “Jew, Jew! Cowardly pig,” they said.

    “We haven’t had this dimension at all before,” said Deiter Graumann, president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany. “When you imagine in German streets, people here chanting – a roaring mob chanting – Jews to be gassed, to be slaughtered, to be burned.”

    He said he doesn’t quite believe the sentiments have spiked because of passions that were stirred up by the events in Gaza.

    “It is cited as a reason for that but I don’t think it’s a reason,” Graumann said. “It’s a pretext. It’s an occasion to let it out.”

    Much more of the incendiary street rhetoric has come from German Muslims, many of whom are recent immigrants.

    But Monika Schwartz Friesel, of Berlin’s Technical University, has studied thousands of anti-Semitic emails sent to German-Jewish institutions and made a disturbing discovery.

    “We saw that more than 60 percent of the writers, who clearly evoke anti-Semitic stereotypes, come from the middle of society and many of them are highly educated,” she said.

    In related news…

    German party expelling official over anti-Semitism
    Sep. 29, 2014 7:10 AM EDT

    BERLIN (AP) — A new German party that recently won seats in several regional legislatures is moving to expel an official accused of posting an anti-Semitic cartoon on his Facebook page.

    The Alternative for Germany, or AfD, party’s branch in eastern Brandenburg state said Monday it decided to start expulsion proceedings against Jan-Ulrich Weiss.

    He already was excluded from the party’s newly elected 11-member caucus in the state legislature, with regional AfD leader Alexander Gauland accusing Weiss of posting a caricature in the style of Nazi newspaper “Der Stuermer.”

    AfD, launched last year, initially focused on an anti-euro stance and has expanded its platform to appeal to protest voters with tough talk on crime and immigration. Some opponents accuse of it of doing too little to distance itself from far-right sympathizers.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | October 5, 2014, 6:37 pm
  12. From the “suck but could be worse” news department: The UMP came out on top in France’s local elections. The National Front, which was expected to do well, came in a close second, with the Socialists coming in a distant third. Sucks, but could be worse!

    Bloomberge News
    Sarkozy’s UMP Tops French Local Vote With Le Pen’s Gains Capped

    by Gregory Viscusi and Mark Deen
    4:09 PM CDT March 22, 2015

    (Bloomberg) — Former President Nicolas Sarkozy’s UMP party won the most votes in the first round of French local elections on Sunday, as a higher-than-anticipated turnout denied the anti-euro National Front an expected first place.

    The UMP took 29.7 percent in the first round, according to exit polls by Ifop, with Marine Le Pen’s National Front on 26.4 percent, and President Francois Hollande’s Socialist Party at 20.9 percent. CSA, another polling company, had similar predictions. Official results will be announced today by the Interior Ministry.

    Pre-election polls had shown the UMP and National Front running neck-and-neck.

    “This first round shows the French people’s profound desire for clear change,” Sarkozy said in a televised statement shortly after polls closed. “To all those who voted for the National Front, I say that we hear their exasperation, but this party, which has the same economic policy as the extreme left, does not represent an alternative.”

    Ninety-eight of France’s 101 “departments” voted to select 4,108 representatives to serve six-year terms on councils, which have responsibility for local transport and some health and education spending. Voting took place in 2,054 “cantons,” with each selecting one man and one woman. Cantons where no one won a majority with hold run-offs next Sunday.
    Government Sanctioned

    Frederic Dabi, deputy director general of Ifop, said on i-Tele television that the Socialists and their allies, who currently control 61 of the country’s departments, will probably be left with around 20 after the second round. The UMP and its allies will control almost all the others. He said it was too early to judge whether the National Front will win its first ever departments.

    “The reversal for the left will be very very big.” Dabi said. “This is a vote that sanctions the government.”

    An OpinionWay poll released March 19 said that after the second round the UMP would run 66 departments, the left would hold on to 20, and the rest were too close to call or would produce no majority. The poll questioned 2,274 people.

    About 51 percent of the French went to polls Sunday, whereas pre-election polls had said less than half would vote. Prime Minister Manuel Valls had repeatedly said during the week that a first place finish for the National Front would be a disaster for France’s image.

    ‘Honorable Score’

    Both Sarkozy and Valls called for a greater turnout in the second round.

    In run-offs between National Front and Socialist candidates, Sarkozy said he won’t tell his supporters how to vote. Valls said Socialist voters should vote against National Front candidates, even where leftist candidates don’t make the second round.

    “Everywhere, put up barriers against the National Front,” Socialist Party’s first secretary Jean-Christophe Cambadelis said in televised comments after the vote.

    The poor result for the Socialists was expected with an economy that has barely grown in three years and near-record joblessness. Valls called it an “honorable score.”

    Combined with far-left and ecologist parties, the Socialists took 34.7 percent, Ifop said. Combined with centrist allies, the UMP took 37.5 percent, putting it in a stronger position for the second round.

    “This first round shows the French people’s profound desire for clear change,” Sarkozy said in a televised statement shortly after polls closed. “To all those who voted for the National Front, I say that we hear their exasperation, but this party, which has the same economic policy as the extreme left, does not represent an alternative.”

    Enjoy your ‘clear change‘, France.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 22, 2015, 4:35 pm
  13. A Hungarian camerawoman recently became part of the story she was filming when she was caught by another cameraman tripping and kicking Syrian refugees as they were fleeing a refugee. It turns out she worked for a Jobbik-run TV network:

    The Telegraph
    Hungarian TV camerawoman fired for tripping Syrian migrants
    Petra Lazlo, working for local TV station N1TV, run by the anti-immigration far-Right Jobbik party, caught on camera kicking refugees fleeing a camp

    By Josie Ensor, Video source: @Stephan Richter

    9:22PM BST 08 Sep 2015

    A Hungarian camerawoman has been fired after being filmed deliberately tripping up a Syrian refugee carrying a child as they ran away from police near the Serbian border.

    Petra Lazlo, working for local TV station N1TV, which is run by the anti-immigration far-Right Jobbik party, was caught on camera kicking refugees fleeing a camp, including a young girl.

    Another cameraman captured the moment Ms Lazlo films the refugees running away from charging police officers at the border village of Roszke before sticking her leg out as a father carrying his son runs past, causing them both to fall to the ground.

    The station issued a statement on Tuesday, saying: “The N1TV colleagues today behaved unacceptably in Roszke collection point. Our working relationship with the camerawoman has ended. The case was considered closed our part.”

    Several hundred migrants broke through police lines at the tense main border crossing with Serbia on Tuesday.

    The migrants were part of a group of 1,500 people who had been waiting for hours at a refugee collection point near the Roszke crossing, the first stop before people are brought to a registration camp.

    There no shortage of symbolism there! A neither, unfortunately, is there a shortage of nations across Europe where similar sentiments are either already the dominant sentiment or growing:

    The New York Times
    Migrant Influx May Give Europe’s Far Right a Lift

    By STEVEN ERLANGER and ALISON SMALE
    SEPT. 7, 2015

    LONDON — As Europe basks in good feelings over its generosity to thousands of migrants and asylum seekers last weekend, critical voices from the political right and far right are poised to become among the biggest beneficiaries of the continuing flow.

    Parties that have been growing in opposition to immigration, the influence of Islam and the European Union seized on the decision by Austria and Germany to welcome the migrants, pointing out the difficulty of now shutting the migrant tap.

    And after the shambles of Greece, the image of a European Union seemingly incapable of defending its borders, while trying to impose mandatory quotas on nations for accepting refugees, fit Euroskeptics’ portrayal of Brussels as a European Union capital at once incompetent and domineering.

    “Germany, Sweden, and Austria deserve great credit for their willingness to accept refugees, but elsewhere on the Continent the reaction ranges from passivity to outright hostility,” said Michael Haltzel, a visiting senior fellow at the Finnish Institute of International Affairs who advised Joseph R. Biden Jr., now vice president, when he served in the Senate. “There is a considerable danger of overload. And I fear that the political beneficiaries in many countries will be right-wing ultranationalists.”

    Carl Bildt, Sweden’s former foreign minister, expressed some of the anxiety felt by governing parties when he said that “at the end of the day, every country is nervous” about this large group of new migrants, “though some pretend not to be.”

    Right now “there is a tendency to blame everyone else,” he said, “but this will be a challenge to every country.”

    The process of integration into a Western society is difficult and takes time, Mr. Bildt said. “It’s far more than providing the first tent.”

    Even in Sweden, he noted, which has been the European country most open to Syrian refugees and asylum seekers, the anti-immigration, anti-European Union Sweden Democrats are now ahead of the two largest parties in the opinion polls with about 25 percent, after having won a record 12.9 percent of the vote in last September’s elections.

    “It’s a tremendous breakthrough for us,” Tommy Nilsson, party manager for southern Sweden, told the Daily Telegraph. “There’s too much immigration and too many beggars from Eastern Europe. People are starting to realize that this is a serious problem for Sweden.”

    The new rightist government in Denmark has taken out advertisements in the Lebanese press warning refugees not to come, that the government has toughened immigration laws and cut benefits.

    In France, in a speech on Sunday to her National Front party, which warns about Islam, immigration and a powerful German-dominated Brussels, Marine Le Pen accused Germany of opening its doors to refugees to exploit them for cheap labor, while imposing its immigration policies on its neighbors.

    The Syrian civil war is now in its fifth year, and the numbers are staggering. More than four million Syrians have fled the country and are registered as refugees, while another 6.5 million are internally displaced, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. There are more than 1.9 million Syrian refugees in Turkey alone, another 1.1 million in Lebanon and more than 629,000 in Jordan.

    Europe cannot take them all.

    In Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel voiced something close to pride on Monday that Germany is now seen as a desirable and welcoming destination for refugees. “That is something very valuable, if you look at our history,” she said.

    But many fear a backlash. She spoke only hours after another arson attack — the latest in more than 200 attacks on asylum seekers or their shelters this year in Germany. Six people were injured when a fire broke out at 2 a.m. in a facility housing 84 people in the pretty south German town of Rottenburg am Neckar.

    A day earlier, even the partners in Ms. Merkel’s center-right bloc, the Christian Social Union, openly criticized her for allowing in tens of thousands of migrants from Hungary and Austria. That “sends the wrong signal to individual countries,” said Gerda Hasselfeldt, the party’s leader in the federal Parliament.

    The C.S.U. welcomed a government decision late Sunday to reduce cash allowances for refugees as a victory for their harder line. “There will be less incentive in the future for unfounded applications for asylum,” said the party’s general secretary, Andreas Scheuer.

    Sigmar Gabriel, the leader of the Social Democrats and vice chancellor, acknowledged that beyond the cheers and handouts of chocolates and toys, there were what he called very real worries, fears and conflicts.

    “We have to be realistic about this from the start to avoid disappointments,” he said. “We’ll manage to take in 800,000 this year, accommodate and integrate them, too. But it is also clear for everyone that that cannot repeat every year.”

    Germany so far has little trouble with far-right political parties. The nationalist Alternative for Germany has split; the anti-immigrant marches have also died down. But neo-Nazis openly battled police at an asylum facility at Heidenau, near Dresden, last month.

    In Austria, arson attacks are rare. But a strong populist party, the right-wing Freedom Party, has made noticeable gains in the months of refugee crisis.

    Austria expects the same proportion of asylum applications, 1 percent of the population, as Germany. In bellwether elections in Vienna in October, the Freedom Party now threatens to outperform the Social Democrats, making inroads particularly among lower classes with strident anti-Muslim rhetoric.

    Some observers believe the sympathy shown to refugees may have tipped the scales away from the rightists.

    “These feelings are transitory, of course, but they won’t fade without leaving some trace,” said Georg Hoffmann-Ostenhof, a columnist for the center-left weekly Profil.

    Austrians have traditionally welcomed migrants and felt good doing so this weekend, particularly since almost none of the arriving thousands planned to stay, he said. “For us, this feeling of doing good has come almost for free — at least for the time being.”

    The issue is sensitive in Britain, too, which last year had net immigration of 330,000 people and where Prime Minister David Cameron is under pressure from his own party and from the U.K. Independence Party to bring down the numbers or withdraw from the European Union.

    Under public pressure, Mr. Cameron has now agreed to take up to 20,000 Syrian refugees from camps in the region over the next five years as a humanitarian gesture, and will increase to 1 billion pounds a year humanitarian aid to Syria.

    Mr. Cameron has promised a referendum on continued British membership in the European Union by the end of 2017, but possibly to take place next autumn. But what appears to be a European mess and more immigration has been a boon for those opposed to continued British membership.

    Mr. Bildt, of Sweden, says that in the long run, the European Union will come up with some better solutions. “But we have to find a coherent European response. Controlling the outer border of Schengen is vital to the system,” he said, referring to the passport-free zone within Europe. “It is uncomfortable but necessary, and it needs to be done.”

    “But we have to find a coherent European response. Controlling the outer border of Schengen is vital to the system….It is uncomfortable but necessary, and it needs to be done.”
    It looks like Donald Trump has a back up option if he doesn’t win the GOP presidential nomination. At least the potential appeal is obvious. Sure, he’d have to immigrate to a Europe country before running for office there but that probably wouldn’t be a problem.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 8, 2015, 6:52 pm
  14. So, uh, according to a recent poll of 1,000 French adults, 40% would support a dictator and two thirds want unelected technocrats

    Newsweek
    Poll: 40% of French Would Welcome Authoritarian Leadership

    By Damien Sharkov
    11/3/15 at 3:29 PM

    Democracy may have had its day in La République according to a new poll that shows 40 percent of French people believe that an authoritarian government could be the solution to the country’s problems. The majority of respondents also said they would agree to be governed by unelected experts and technocrats, as opposed to career politicians.

    The study, commissioned by French news site Atlantico and conducted by one of the country’s major pollsters Ifop, interviewed 1,000 French adults, asking them whether or not they agreed with several sweeping statements concerning national politics.

    The respondents, who were divided between supporters of France’s ruling Socialist Party, other left-wing movements, the main opposition Republican party and the far-right, resurgent National Front were asked how far they agreed with the following statement:

    “Some people think that France should undergo deep reforms to avoid decline but not a single politician elected by universal majority vote has the courage to make good on these reforms; and in this respect the future direction of the country has to be entrusted to an authoritarian political power, which may even weaken the democratic methods of control [of the people] over the government.”

    40 percent of all respondents either “entirely agreed” or “somewhat agreed” with this.

    The authoritarian idea appeared most popular with National Front voters, 60 percent of whom endorsed the idea. Supporters of Nicolas Sarkozy’s Republicans were the second biggest group to back the statement, with 47 percent, while the ruling Socialist Party’s supporters were slightly more reserved about the idea—only 33 percent of the them agreed.

    Another controversial statement, asking if respondents agreed that “unelected experts who would put in place necessary but unpopular reforms” should govern the country instead of elected representatives, appealed to the majority, with 67 percent of respondents agreeing.

    Conservative Republican supporters expressed the most enthusiasm about this idea as 80 percent of them agreed with it. 76 percent of National Front supporters also agreed, while only 54 percent of the ruling Socialist Party’s electorate agreed with the statement.

    The overwhelming support of authoritarianism and unelected technocrats among the right-wing is certainly disturbing, albeit not especially surprising, but a third of Socialist Party supporters also support the idea?! And 54 percent of the Socialists (and 80 percent of Conservative Republicans) agree with the idea that “unelected experts who would put in place necessary but unpopular reforms”?! Wow. So the collective response to the frustrations that have been building for years in France is to basically hand over power to its own version The Troika. And this is the same nation that handed the National Front, a party with a platform to take France out of the eurozone, a majority of the votes in the 2014 EU parliamentary elections as part of a revolt against austerity.

    Of course, the National Front’s surge in support isn’t just an anti-austerity vote. It’s an anti-immigrants/refugees vote and it’s that xenophobia that’s probably driving the support for authoritarianism more than anything else given Europe’s collective refugee freak out. So it looks like a growing number of French voters want to have France leave the eurozone so the country can get its own dictator that will presumably appoint technocrats to “put in place necessary but unpopular reforms” involving abusing or expelling immigrants. And they’ll put a party run by the Le Pens in power to do it. It’s always hard to say just how awful the blowback on French society is going to be when the population collectively embraces the Dark Side, but when the Le Pens are your path to national renewal the blowback isn’t going to be pretty.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | November 4, 2015, 6:49 pm
  15. Score another victory for the reforming power of austerity

    The New York Times
    The Conscience of a Liberal

    That 30s Show

    Paul Krugman
    December 7, 2015 7:09 am

    A few years ago de Bromhead, Eichengreen, and O’Rourke looked at the determinants of right-wing extremism in the 1930s. They found that economic factors mattered a lot; specifically,

    what mattered was not the current growth of the economy but cumulative growth or, more to the point, the depth of the cumulative recession. One year of contraction was not enough to significantly boost extremism, in other words, but a depression that persisted for years was.

    How’s Europe doing on that basis?

    And now the National Front has scored a first-place finish in regional elections, and will probably take a couple of regions in the second round. Economics isn’t the only factor; immigration, refugees, and terrorism play into the mix. But Europe’s underperformance is slowly eroding the legitimacy, not just of the European project, but of the open society itself.

    Yes, the National Front just scored first in regional elections and is poised for similar results in the next round. And as Krugman points, economics isn’t the only factor driving the National Front to victory, but it’s hard to see how the ongoing austerity policies that have now driven France’s unemployment rate above the eurozone average for the first time since 2007 haven’t played a significant role, especially considering it was France’s poorest regions that just voted the National Front into power.

    So it was quite a victory for the National Front. But as we can see below, for Nicolas Sarkozy’s conservative “Les Republicains”, the threat of a big victory for the National Front doesn’t actually seem to be seen as much a defeat by Sarkozy and his party. At least, that’s one way to interpret Sarkozy’s refusal to accept the Socialists’ offer of a “republican bloc” (where the center-left and center-right strategically remove their candidates from the ballot in an attempt to pool votes and prevent a far-right victory). And much of the National Front’s surge in support is coming from Sarkozy’s traditional base of support. It’s a reminder that France’s growing acceptance of the far-right probably isn’t limited to French voters:

    Politico.eu
    5 takeaways on France’s regional elections

    The National Front continues to rise, the establishment is in big trouble.
    By

    Pierre Briançon

    12/7/15, 12:18 AM CET

    Updated 12/7/15, 5:14 PM CET

    The far-right National Front’s victory in the first round of French regional elections on Sunday will have an impact far beyond the composition of local governments and the shock it will have sent through the French political establishment.

    In every single European capital, politicians will ponder the results and wonder how an anti-immigration, anti-European movement could become France’s first political party. They will also worry about what it means for Europe in a time of crisis — economic and existential.

    The National Front may take over two, three or even more French regions after a second round of voting on December 13, but for many, the damage has been done.

    1. Le Pen’s mainstream push pays off

    Marine Le Pen, the National Front’s current leader and daughter of the party’s founder Jean-Marie, is reaping the rewards for her strategy of pulling the party away from the far-right fringes, ridding it of its extremist stigma, and courting the disenfranchised working class she says is being abandoned by the mainstream political parties of both right and left.

    She stands a good chance of winning and then running the Nord-Pas-de-Calais region, an area more populous than 12 EU countries. Her personal victory, winning more than 40 percent of the popular vote in an industrial area that was historically a stronghold of the Communist and Socialist parties, shows how many voters have drifted away from the ruling left, after seven years of economic crisis.

    Le Pen’s niece, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, who is seen as more conservative than her aunt, notably on social issues, did even better in the Provence region. Other leading candidates also did better than expected, showing that the party has developed a grassroots following far beyond mere adhesion to Marine Le Pen herself.

    2. Left-right may have to join forces to stop Le Pen

    The Socialist party decided late Sunday to withdraw its candidates from the second round of voting in regions where they had finished third in the first round. It also called on voters to back conservative candidates in a week’s time in order to prevent the National Front from winning.

    That is particularly the case in the North, in Provence and in Alsace, where Le Pen’s close aide and a party vice president, Florian Philippot, came in first with 35 percent of the vote.

    The National Front could still be defeated in the second round if all or most Socialist voters decide to back the center-right. It would, however, allow Le Pen to denounce, as she has long been doing, the mainstream parties for colluding to keep her out of power.

    By pulling its candidates in the name of what has been dubbed a “Republican Front” against Le Pen, the Socialists stand in stark contrast to Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative opposition leader. Earlier Sunday, Sarkozy rejected such tactics and said he didn’t want his Les Républicain party’s candidates to withdraw, or join forces with their Socialist rivals.

    As soon as the second round is over on December 13, expect the blame game to begin on who is responsible for handing over regions to the Le Pens.

    3. Hollande and Sarkozy are both losers

    President François Hollande enjoyed a boost in popularity in the wake of the November 13 Paris attacks. But it mattered little on Sunday.

    The new emphasis on security questions, with calls for a tougher stand on migrants and refugees, leaves Hollande exactly where he was before: an unpopular president who seems unable to find ways to address high unemployment — which is now, for the first time, above the eurozone average.

    The defeat is also a personal one for Hollande, who when in opposition five years ago led the Socialist party to a resounding victory in local elections, with his party taking over all but one of the country’s then 21 regions.

    But Hollande’s loss is not a win for his long-time rival Sarkozy. The former president was also one of the day’s losers.

    In many regions, long-time mainstream conservative voters deserted to Le Pen. That was the case in Provence, where Sarkozy ally Christian Estrosi pulled less than 25 percent of the vote against Maréchal-Le Pen’s 42 percent.

    Sarkozy’s strategy of tough talking in a bid to compete with the National Front’s rhetoric didn’t convince many voters.

    4. Eyes on the 2017 prize

    With 18 months to go before presidential elections, the result of Sunday’s vote will be scrutinized to assess the chances of potential candidates. But even if France has become a three-party country, it’s clear that a lot could happen before May 2017.

    The preliminary results on Sunday night showed that parties from the left, including the Socialists and their fractious allies such as the Greens, received around 35 percent of the vote. The mainstream conservatives — Les Républicains and others — won between 30 and 32 percent, and the Front National won between 29 and 31 percent.

    Socialist leaders began to spin that the left is still France’s main political movement. That may show they were right to push for joint candidates in the regional elections — but illustrates their failure in convincing other parties to join them.

    The secret hope of both Socialists and conservatives is that the National Front fails at what it has never done before: wield executive power in a large region.

    The party has no experience of management, and voters will get a chance to see them raise taxes, manage budgets, sit on school boards and interact with other local and regional governments.

    Seeing the National Front at work, the other parties hope, will open the eyes of voters.

    5. What happens in France doesn’t stay in France

    Marine Le Pen refrained from any mention of Europe or the ills she believes it brings on France in her victory speech on Sunday night. That may be the surest sign yet that she has already started her presidential campaign. But her underlings didn’t show the same restraint, and denounced Europe, the market economy and a “U.S. influenced foreign policy” as soon as the results were in.

    It’s easy to see how the National Front’s self-proclaimed status as the country’s main party will have an impact on the general debate about Europe — on topics such as the refugee crisis, the country’s economic problems or the role of Germany in the EU, to name but a few.

    Sarkozy’s speeches already show the influence of the National Front. He has been picking up ideas straight from his far-right competitor: a tough on crime, tough on immigration line, complete with the end of Schengen and the emphasis on national powers as opposed to pan-EU ones.

    Whether it influences Hollande’s rhetoric and policies remains to be seen. The most likely scenario is that any reform agenda will be put on ice to avoid controversy. Hollande will then have to rely on foreign policy, where there are few votes to be gained, and hope that an economic recovery might curb unemployment before the presidential campaign starts in earnest.

    Meanwhile, France’s European partners would be forgiven for thinking that 18 months is a short time to turn around such a situation.

    Out goes France’s “Republican Front” against the far-right:


    The National Front could still be defeated in the second round if all or most Socialist voters decide to back the center-right. It would, however, allow Le Pen to denounce, as she has long been doing, the mainstream parties for colluding to keep her out of power.

    By pulling its candidates in the name of what has been dubbed a “Republican Front” against Le Pen, the Socialists stand in stark contrast to Nicolas Sarkozy, the conservative opposition leader. Earlier Sunday, Sarkozy rejected such tactics and said he didn’t want his Les Républicain party’s candidates to withdraw, or join forces with their Socialist rivals.

    As soon as the second round is over on December 13, expect the blame game to begin on who is responsible for handing over regions to the Le Pens.

    And in comes … all sorts of far-right ideas:


    It’s easy to see how the National Front’s self-proclaimed status as the country’s main party will have an impact on the general debate about Europe — on topics such as the refugee crisis, the country’s economic problems or the role of Germany in the EU, to name but a few.

    Sarkozy’s speeches already show the influence of the National Front. He has been picking up ideas straight from his far-right competitor: a tough on crime, tough on immigration line, complete with the end of Schengen and the emphasis on national powers as opposed to pan-EU ones.

    Whether it influences Hollande’s rhetoric and policies remains to be seen. The most likely scenario is that any reform agenda will be put on ice to avoid controversy. Hollande will then have to rely on foreign policy, where there are few votes to be gained, and hope that an economic recovery might curb unemployment before the presidential campaign starts in earnest.

    Keep in mind that Sarkozy has been pushing for rescinding the Schengen zone for over a year. Following the far-right’s lead isn’t anything new. But now that the National Front is the new unrivaled political trendsetter, it’s going to be interesting to see how many other National Front-brand ideas start getting co-opted by Sarkozy’s conservatives, especially given their refusal to form a “Republican Front” with the Socialists. That sure sounds like the conservatives want to win back their voters who were fleeing the the National Front by becoming more like them.
    Still, also keep in mind that Sarkozy’s party was on track to be the big winner last month, before the Paris attacks. And that’s why it’s going to be so interesting to see how closely Sarkozy’s conservatives remold themselves in the National Front model. For instance, the National Front is explicitly opposed to a number of austerity policies, which is a big part of its appeal. Sarkozy’s “blood, sweat, and tears” austerity plans of 2011, on the other had, was supposed to bring the deficit down to 0% by 2016 primary by raising taxes on the poor and cutting benefits.

    So we have a dynamic emerging in France where the top two parties, the far-right National Front and almost-as-far-right “Les Republicans” are basically the top two forces in France, and as they become closer and closer on issues like immigration and Schengen zone, it’s increasingly going to be economic policies that contrast the two parties in the minds of increasingly pissed off and xenophobic voters. How’s that going to work out.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 7, 2015, 2:21 pm
  16. Check out which EU country Poland’s new right-wing government appears to be using as a role model after taking power in November: Viktor Orban’s Hungary

    Vice News
    Poland’s Right-Wing Government Scares Europe by Going After the Media

    By Ola Cichowlas
    January 9, 2016 | 4:05 pm

    Poles took to the streets Saturday in freezing temperatures to protest a new media law that allows the government to take control of state television and radio broadcasters, which many fear is a step toward an authoritarian state. Critics say the move by the Law and Justice party in power infringes on civil liberties and threatens the young democracy that emerged from the fall of Communism on 1989.

    Despite criticism from the European Union and international media watchdogs, Poland’s President Andrzej Duda signed the law into effect. It comes just two weeks after Duda approved a bill legitimizing the government’s appointment of its own judges to Poland’s highest court, a move that provoked mass demonstrations across the Central European country.

    The attack on public media is the latest legislation rushed through since the conservative Law and Justice party (PiS) led by former prime minister Jaroslaw Kaczynski took office in November. On Friday, the government ignored EU warnings and appointed a man who once described himself as Kaczynski’s “bull terrier,” Jacek Kurski, as the new head of public TV.

    The roots of the problem lie deep. Twenty-seven years since the collapse of communism, Poland has failed to create impartial state institutions, enabling successive governments to install loyalists in top positions. But many Poles fear Law and Justice is going further.

    Much of the anger has been directed at the president for signing successive controversial laws into effect. Protesters accuse Duda of being wholly subordinate to Kaczynski and failing in his duty to uphold the constitution. Though Duda and Prime Minister Beata Szydlo occupy the highest political posts, “the Chairman” — as Kaczynski is known in Poland — remains party leader and the most powerful man in the country.

    In just over two months, PiS has tightened its grip on the security services, the courts and the civil service. The government made no secret that a purge in the state-owned media was next. Long advocating their distaste for Polish mainstream media, PiS ministers do not shy away from expressing what they think of critical press coverage.

    “If the media imagine they will occupy Poles by criticizing our changes, then this has to be stopped,” said Ryszard Terlecki, head of the party’s parliamentary caucus.

    “Instead of creating a media shield for the Polish national interest, journalists often sympathize with negative opinions about Poland,” claimed Elzbieta Kruk, another PiS minister.

    Taking effect immediately, the media law empowers the treasury minister to hire and fire broadcasting directors of public television network TVP and public radio Polskie Radio. Previously, a media supervisory board made such appointments. As parliament passed the law on New Year’s Eve, TVP managers resigned and Polish Radio began protesting by airing the national and EU anthems alternatively every hour.

    Polish private media companies do not feel entirely safe either. PiS has spoken of “re-Polonizing” the country’s press, complaining that Polish outlets have too many foreign shareholders. Kaczynski blamed mounting criticism towards of his party on Polish media being “in German hands.”

    In December, President Duda ignored protests at home and alerts from the European Commissioner of Human Rights and signed a controversial law limiting, in effect, the authority of the Polish constitutional tribunal. This time, the EU warned of a violation of “European values.”

    The European Commission, the union’s executive arm, plans a debate on the situation in Poland for next week. The Commission is worried that Poland is turning into another Hungary, a fellow EU member where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has established what he himself calls an “illiberal democracy”.

    But Poland going rogue within the Union is a far more serious affair. It has almost four times the population of Hungary and has grown into a major EU player, with a large, growing economy and an important voice in the confrontation with Russia since the war in eastern Ukraine began. As the EU continues to face crises that require cooperation between member states, it is wary of seeing a key player reject its ideals — especially a country long seen in the West as a model of transition to democracy from Communism.

    In a move that appeared to confirm such fears, Orbán travelled to southern Poland this week to meet with Kaczynski. In a meeting attended by neither President Duda, Prime Minister Szydlo nor any press and that later described by PiS ministers as “private,” the two men — who have long been mutual admirers if not political allies — may well have spoken about dealing with pressure from Brussels.

    Orbán faced similar warnings in 2010, when he took control of the courts and the media to cement his Fidesz party’s position. Similarly to the current light-speed pace of reform in Poland, Fidesz sought to implement its most controversial projects as quickly as possible. PiS has passed a number of bills in late-night votes, over protests by the opposition that it did not even have time to familiarize itself with proposed legislation.

    Orbán and Kaczynski have similar ideological narratives of national “reconstruction” for their former Eastern Bloc countries, which joined the EU at the same time, in 2004. Both populist politicians dislike the Western democratic values generally labeled as “liberalism” in Europe, and exploit historical sensitivities to strengthen distrust of the EU. Since Orbán’s rise to power, Hungary has become a model for the Polish right wing. As leader of the opposition, Kaczynski promised to “build a Budapest in Warsaw.”

    But unlike Orbán, who morphed from liberal dissident into an authoritarian leader, Kaczynski’s beliefs have stayed constant. Even under Communism, when he was fighting the regime, he disagreed with the liberal wing of Solidarity, the underground trade union movement that succeeded in overthrowing the Communist government. Instead, what he wanted for Poland was a “Fourth Republic” — the current one is the third — built on a conservative revolution reshaping state institutions according to a traditionalist, as he called it, “moral code.”

    “In a move that appeared to confirm such fears, Orbán travelled to southern Poland this week to meet with Kaczynski. In a meeting attended by neither President Duda, Prime Minister Szydlo nor any press and that later described by PiS ministers as “private,” the two men — who have long been mutual admirers if not political allies — may well have spoken about dealing with pressure from Brussels.

    As you might imagine, the rest of the EU isn’t exactly thrilled by Poland sudden veering to the far-right, especially given the EU’s sudden veering towards a new Cold War with Russia:


    The European Commission, the union’s executive arm, plans a debate on the situation in Poland for next week. The Commission is worried that Poland is turning into another Hungary, a fellow EU member where Prime Minister Viktor Orbán has established what he himself calls an “illiberal democracy”.

    But Poland going rogue within the Union is a far more serious affair. It has almost four times the population of Hungary and has grown into a major EU player, with a large, growing economy and an important voice in the confrontation with Russia since the war in eastern Ukraine began. As the EU continues to face crises that require cooperation between member states, it is wary of seeing a key player reject its ideals — especially a country long seen in the West as a model of transition to democracy from Communism.

    So what’s the EU going to do now that Poland is demonstrated a hunger for Hungarian-style anti-EU nationalist authoritarianism? Well, an EU probe of Hungary’s new policies is going to be part of the solution. But as Jean-Claude Juncker laments below, actually penalizing Poland for any “serious breaches of EU values” is sort of a “nuclear option”. So while there’s an EU probe of Poland taking place, that’s probably going to be the extent of it:

    Reuters
    EU takes on Poland, launches rights probe over court, media
    BRUSSELS | By Gabriela Baczynska and Jan Strupczewski

    Wed Jan 13, 2016 12:14pm EST

    The European Union began an unprecedented inquiry on Wednesday into whether Poland’s new conservative, Eurosceptic government has breached the EU’s democratic standards by taking more control of the judiciary and public media.

    The first use of the EU executive’s new Rule of Law Framework could in principle eventually lead to sanctions such as the suspension of Poland’s voting rights. But the main impact now may be to further sour relations among EU member governments already strained by multiple crises and mounting nationalism.

    “The European Commission does not wish to put into question any of the democratic choices made by the Polish people,” its deputy head, Frans Timmermans, wrote to the Polish justice minister in a letter on Wednesday that was seen by Reuters.

    “However, the European Union is founded on a common set of values … which include in particular the respect for the rule of law,” he added. “There can be no democracy and respect for fundamental rights without respect for the rule of law.”

    The decision, by consensus, followed intense debate at the weekly meeting of the European Commission.

    Its 28 members, one from each EU state, weighed whether to continue informal talks with Warsaw or launch a formal confrontation which might harden attitudes within Jaroslaw Kaczynski’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party.

    Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker has said it should not be seen to be “bashing Poland” and officials had indicated the executive might hold off on triggering a formal review.

    But diplomats said Warsaw did itself no favors in Brussels by its combative reactions ahead of the Commission debate.

    One key minister dismissed criticism from EU powerhouse Berlin as “silly” and reminded Germans of their World War Two crimes in Poland, while a pro-government magazine depicted Chancellor Angela Merkel as Hitler on its cover, and Juncker as a Nazi general.

    Timmermans, who has responsibility for human rights on the executive, pushed his colleagues hard to launch the procedure, sources familiar with the meeting told Reuters. The Dutchman promoted the mechanism when he was foreign minister in The Hague in 2014 as a response to criticism the EU had failed to curb authoritarian measures by Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban.

    WARSAW UNFAZED

    The Polish government played down the Commission’s move. A spokesman called it “standard procedure” and a “fact-finding operation by the European Commission on the basis of some speculation that has surfaced in western Europe”.

    Deputy Foreign Minister Konrad Szymanski, visiting the European Parliament, said: “We are ready for dialogue.”

    Foreign Minister Witold Waszczykowski told Reuters he found Timmermans’ statements “contradictory”, however, and Szymanski said the EU risked “taking sides” against PiS in Polish politics following its election victory in October.

    Timmermans said the Rule of Law Framework would usher in a “structured dialogue” with Warsaw. He and the Commission would review Polish responses by mid-March, after working with the Council of Europe, the pan-European human rights watchdog.

    Critics accuse Kaczynski and his party ally Prime Minister Beata Szydlo of rolling back judicial independence and freedom of speech. Supporters say the government is entitled to uphold Catholic and national values, independent of Brussels.

    PiS has packed the constitutional court with its appointees and changed the court’s voting system, curbing its ability to censure legislation. It has also passed a law giving the government direct control over the appointment of public media chiefs.

    The procedure pits the Commission against by far the biggest of the ex-Communist eastern states that joined the EU a decade ago. Poland’s seat on the Commission is held by a former minister in the previous, pro-European, center-right government.

    The row comes at a time when the Union may be more divided than at any time in its six-decade history, including between east and west and rich and poor states, over a variety of major crises, including how to handle a big influx of Syrian refugees.

    Several eastern leaders have cited popular rejection of Muslims to justify opposing efforts by Brussels and Berlin to force all EU states to take in quotas of asylum-seekers.

    Senior EU officials have noted that, unlike Orban in Hungary, the Polish government has already faced substantial domestic protest at its actions, including demonstrations.

    Penalizing a state for a “serious breach of (EU) values” under Article 7 of the EU treaty by, among other things, suspending its right to vote in EU councils is a “nuclear option” that has so far never been used. Juncker says it is unlikely to be applied against Poland, which leaves the bloc with few means except persuasion.

    “Penalizing a state for a “serious breach of (EU) values” under Article 7 of the EU treaty by, among other things, suspending its right to vote in EU councils is a “nuclear option” that has so far never been used. Juncker says it is unlikely to be applied against Poland, which leaves the bloc with few means except persuasion.

    We’ll see what happens with the probe, but one thing is clear: There’s probably going to be a lot more probes of that nature in the future. Including the not too distant future.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 13, 2016, 2:04 pm
  17. Posted by bach | January 16, 2016, 8:11 pm
  18. It’s also a bad sign for the future of a society whenever the far-right starts surging, as is the case with the sudden surge of the AfD in Germany’s regional elections. But the future is actually looking extra ominous in Germany following those results. Why? Because it wasn’t older voters or pensioners rallying around the AfD. It was the youth:

    The Australian

    Disillusioned German youth drive rise of anti-immigrant party

    The surge of Germany’s new populist anti-immigrant party has been fuelled by thousands of young voters, many of whom have never cast a ballot before, according to a research institute in Berlin.

    David Charter
    March 16, 2016 11:00AM

    In a worrying trend for the established parties, Alternative for Germany (AfD) was the top choice of voters aged between 18 and 44 in the eastern state of Saxony-Anhalt, where the party won one in four votes to transform the political landscape.

    AfD has harnessed discontent with Angela Merkel’s generous refugee policy, but it was the left-of-centre Social Democratic party which lost the most voters to the hard right, according to analysis by Infratest dimap, on behalf of the broadcasters ARD.

    The SPD, in a coalition government with Mrs Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU), is seen as out of touch with grassroots supporters.

    Voters deserted all the established parties to back AfD, which was launched in 2013 and last year switched its focus from calling for a break-up of the euro to campaigning for Germany’s borders to be closed, after the arrival of 1.1 million migrants.

    By far the biggest group of AfD voters were those who had never voted before, the analysis showed. They believed politicians were liars and that voting would make no difference; a common theme among the young male population of Saxony-Anhalt, which has the third-highest unemployment rate of all 16 German states.

    Asked how similar her party was to the National Front in France, and the Freedom Party in Austria, Ms Petry said she did not wish to engage in “a debate on labels”.

    The party attracted widespread criticism after Ms Petry said in January that border police should, as a last resort, shoot migrants illegally crossing the German border.

    AfD was chosen by 26 per cent of votes aged 18 to 24 in Saxony-Anhalt, compared with 16 per cent for the CDU and 11 per cent for both the Greens and SPD. For those aged 25 to 44 it was a similar story, with 29 per cent choosing the AfD against 23 per cent for the CDU and 9 per cent for SPD. The only age group which stuck with Mrs Merkel’s party was the over-60s — 35 per cent voted CDU and 18 per cent AfD.

    Women were much more likely to support the CDU, while AfD was the most popular among men, winning 29 per cent of the male vote in the state.

    AfD was equally popular with workers and the unemployed, while the CDU was most favoured by pensioners.

    “AfD was chosen by 26 per cent of votes aged 18 to 24 in Saxony-Anhalt, compared with 16 per cent for the CDU and 11 per cent for both the Greens and SPD. For those aged 25 to 44 it was a similar story, with 29 per cent choosing the AfD against 23 per cent for the CDU and 9 per cent for SPD. The only age group which stuck with Mrs Merkel’s party was the over-60s — 35 per cent voted CDU and 18 per cent AfD.
    Yeah, that’s not a great sign for Germany’s future. Or Europe’s future. Of course, if the eurozone hadn’t already become a mechanism for neoliberal austerity on autopilot and one of the key driving forces fueling trends like high youth unemployment and general despair, the situation would be even worse by not being so awful to begin with. Still, as awful as Europe’s leadership has generally been over the last decade, it can get a lot worse.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 15, 2016, 5:33 pm
  19. Oh look, it turns out immigrants aren’t the only group in the AfD’s crosshairs. Handicapped children, single mothers, the mentally ill, and drug addicts also made it on the AfD’s list of undesirables who should see state assistance reduced or outright punishment. And don’t forget history teachers who say too many unpleasant things about Nazi Germany. Billionaires are also in the AfD’s crosshairs, but those happen to be massive tax-cutting crosshairs. Go figure:

    The Independent
    Revealed: the neo-Nazi manifesto targeting single mothers and mentally ill that AfD doesn’t want you to see
    Alternative Fur Deutschland has been attracting voters as though it were a mainstream party. But a leak of its policies – including targeting the mentally ill and single mothers – has exposed the scale of its extremism

    Tony Paterson Berlin
    Friday 18 March 2016

    A leaked election manifesto has revealed that Germany’s vote-winning new anti-immigrant party has plans for draconian laws which would discriminate against handicapped children, single mothers, and the mentally ill – and oblige history teachers to end a perceived “over-emphasis” on the Nazi era in schools.

    The radical proposals are contained in an election manifesto produced by the right-wing populist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) party, which made sweeping gains in three state elections last weekend in a show of public opposition to Chancellor Angela Merkel’s open-door refugee policy.

    The AfD’s success meant that the party is now represented in eight of Germany’s 16 state parliaments. A poll published by YouGov showed that more than 70 per cent of Germans now believe that the AfD is firmly on course to win seats in Germany’s national Bundestag parliament next year, when it will contest a general election for the first time.

    The previously secret draft national manifesto, which is due to be approved by a full AfD party congress at the end of April, has been published by the not-for-profit German research group Correctiv.org. It shows that the AfD is far more than the single issue anti-immigration party portrayed in recent campaigning.

    The party’s manifesto makes it clear that the AfD wants a return to what it calls “national” values in Germany. It says it “sees the traditional family” as the only model which can reverse the country’s declining birth rate. To this end the party pledges to take steps to ban abortion and make divorce more difficult. By contrast, German families which produce children should be rewarded with financial incentives, it says.

    It regards single-parent mothers as a burden upon taxpayers and a disincentive to healthy family life, and says it would end the provision of state benefits for them. “The AfD is against the state financing the self-chosen single parent life model,” the manifesto says. It also advocates an end to the funding of state-run kindergartens, and favours young children remaining at home to be looked after by a parent.

    Further socially disadvantaged targets include the mentally ill. The party argues: “Therapy-resistant alcoholics, drug addicts and psychologically ill perpetrators should not be kept in psychiatric hospitals but be put under lock and key.”

    The AfD also suggests that handicapped children should not be included “at all costs” as pupils in regular schools because, it claims, their presence can impede other pupils’ progress. It wants the age of criminal responsibility to be reduced from 14 to 12. The party also favours dramatically cutting state benefits and introducing a flat 20 per cent tax rate, which would primarily benefit the wealthy.

    The AfD’s proposals for history teaching in schools are equally radical. The party aims to end what it describes as the “current limitation” of history teaching to “the period of National Socialism”. Instead it proposes a “wider consideration of history” which includes more “positive aspects” of Germany’s past.

    AfD election manifestos published in the run-up to last weekend’s state elections also contained proposals to compel museums and theatres to strengthen their identification with “German” as opposed to “foreign” culture.

    The Social Democrat Party leader Sigmar Gabriel argues the AfD’s ideas and language are “a fatal reminder of the vocabulary used in the 1920 and 1930s”, in a reference to the period during which the Nazi Party came to power in Germany. He added: “The AfD is trying to establish a nationalistic society based on the idea of excluding people.”

    Beatrix von Storch, a leading AfD politician who helped to draft the manifesto, has argued that the AfD should move beyond its opposition to the euro and asylum-seekers, to concentrate instead on opposing Islam.

    The manifesto says the state should set “limits” on the practice of the Muslim faith. Minarets should be banned along with the wearing of the burka and niqab in public. Muslim organisations should have tax benefits cut. Male circumcision should be outlawed and a ban be imposed on the slaughter of animals without anaesthetic.

    Commentators and politicians in Germany’s mainstream parties have accused the AfD of resorting to language and terminology once used by Hitler’s National Socialists. However the AfD has yet to defend its leaked manifesto in public.

    Frauke Petry, the AfD’s leader, who recently sparked outrage after she insisted that firearms should be used to deter migrants at Germany’s borders, was at the centre of a row on Friday after apparently refusing to appear on a breakfast chat show on Germany’s ZDF public television channel. She had been due to answer questions posed by an award-winning Iraqi-born journalist, Dunja Hayali.

    “The Social Democrat Party leader Sigmar Gabriel argues the AfD’s ideas and language are “a fatal reminder of the vocabulary used in the 1920 and 1930s”, in a reference to the period during which the Nazi Party came to power in Germany. He added: “The AfD is trying to establish a nationalistic society based on the idea of excluding people.”
    Gee, and they seemed so nice until now. So what’s the AfD going to do polish up its image, assuming it even cares? The obvious: Revise the manifesto and pretend that leaked manifesto was just a big “oops” that didn’t truly reflect how nice they actually are:

    Deutsche Welle
    AfD softens manifesto following leak

    The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party has weakened some of the contentious elements of its manifesto in a new draft. The populist right-wing party is struggling to clean up its image after far-right links were exposed.

    Date 28.03.2016
    Author Ben Knight

    The AfD no longer wants to privatize unemployment benefits and state media organizations, or stop support for single parents, according to a newly-released 74-page draft manifesto, to be voted on at the party’s conference on April 30.

    An earlier version of the manifesto was leaked by the investigative journalist group “Correctiv” just ahead of the March 13 elections in which the AfD won significant representation in three state parliaments.

    The leaked version contained a number of points that were widely criticized in the German media – not least the call to end state benefits for single parents. “Those who have fallen into this situation through no fault of their own of course deserve our empathy and the support of the community,” the earlier draft of the manifesto said. “But we reject any state financing of the self-chosen lifestyle ‘single parent.'”

    Traditional families

    In the amended version, the AfD has written that it only wants to “correct” the “financial burdens” of single parents, by creating a “legal system that takes into account the work of raising children.” But the AfD remains convinced that the state should incentivize the “traditional” family model, which it calls the “nucleus of society.”

    Not only that, “we are strongly against the attempts of organizations, media, and politicians to propagate single parenthood as a normal, progressive, or even desirable lifestyle,” the manifesto goes on to say. AfD leader Frauke Petry is herself separated from her husband, with whom she has four children, while her new partner, AfD European parliament member Marcus Pretzell, is also separated from the mother of his four children.

    Other controversial points that have disappeared from the manifesto are the liberalization of drug policy, the ban on non-medical circumcision, and the privatization of state media (which it now only wants to reform).

    But plenty of other aspects of the leaked manifesto have survived into the final draft – including lowering the age of criminal responsibility to 12 and scrapping Germany’s Renewable Energy Act, designed to administer the country’s transition to renewables.

    Damage limitation

    There are signs that the AfD is trying to contain the turmoil that followed its dramatic electoral successes on March 13. On March 24, the party disbanded its branch in the state of Saarland after a magazine published evidence that party leaders in the state had maintained contact with neo-Nazis and attempted to woo political support from far-right activists.

    But as well as cleaning up its image, the AfD is trying to broaden its policies beyond the opposition to allowing refugees into the country. The party wants to weaken European integration, scrap the euro – one of its founding principles – and gradually reduce the European Union to a free trade zone. At the same time, the party wants to strengthen Germany’s army – through compulsory military service.

    “There are signs that the AfD is trying to contain the turmoil that followed its dramatic electoral successes on March 13. On March 24, the party disbanded its branch in the state of Saarland after a magazine published evidence that party leaders in the state had maintained contact with neo-Nazis and attempted to woo political support from far-right activists.
    So days before the March 13 elections the AfD’s neo-Nazi manifesto gets leaked, then it goes on to historic wins anyway, and then a week and a half later it has to disband one of its branches after its branch leader is found to have close ties to the NPD. Oh, and they want to bring back compulsory military service. But, hey, at least they don’t want to kick single parents quite a much as before. So if you’re living in Germany but don’t fall into one of the AfD’s officially acceptable categories of human beings, there’s nothing to worry about.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 30, 2016, 5:37 pm
  20. If it wasn’t clear that Austria was facing a political crisis last month when Norbert Hofer of the Freedom Party scored a strong first place finish in the presidential election and now has a May 22 runoff against the Green party’s distant second place finisher, it should be clear now:

    The Wall Street Journal

    Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann Quits as Migrant Crisis Roils European Politics
    Abrupt resignation comes amid rise of anti-immigrant parties in Austria and elsewhere in Europe

    By Anton Troianovski
    Updated May 9, 2016 1:35 p.m. ET

    BERLIN—Austrian Chancellor Werner Faymann resigned on Monday, becoming one of the most prominent casualties of the political upheaval sweeping Europe amid the migration crisis.

    Mr. Faymann, 56, a center-left politician who had been chancellor since 2008, said he was giving up his post as head of the Alpine country’s government because he had lost the support of his Social Democratic Party. The party’s stinging loss in last month’s presidential elections—in which the anti-immigrant Freedom Party scored its best-ever result in a national vote—threw the Social Democrats into crisis and prompted many members to question Mr. Faymann’s leadership.

    “This country needs a chancellor whose party is completely behind him,” Mr. Faymann said in Vienna. “This government needs a new start.”

    It was yet to be determined, Mr. Faymann said, who his long-term successor will be. Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner was sworn in as interim head of the government Monday evening and said he didn’t see a need for new elections. But with the next regular parliamentary elections not scheduled to take place until 2018, Austrian media speculated that a move to call new elections might still come in the coming days.

    Mr. Faymann’s surprise resignation threw a spotlight on the turmoil facing mainstream political leaders across Europe as migration and economic uncertainty energize populist movements.

    Austria, whose population of about 8.5 million people is roughly equal to that of New York City, typically holds limited sway in the European Union. But its political swing to the right has made it a bellwether for the rest of Europe, as a backlash against migrants combines with economic uncertainty to drive voters away from the pro-EU establishment.

    In France, polls show right-wing populist leader Marine Le Pen appears poised to win the first-round presidential vote next year. In Denmark, the anti-immigrant Danish People’s Party achieved stronger-than-expected election results last year, pushing the centrist government to take tougher measures to keep migrants out. In Germany, the upstart Alternative for Germany party made landmark gains in state elections in March and now polls at 15%, cementing its status as the most successful right-wing party in Germany since World War II.

    In Austria’s first-round presidential election in April last month, Freedom Party candidate Norbert Hofer ran on an anti-free-trade and anti-immigration platform to garner 35.1% of the vote. The total was more than triple what Austria’s two mainstream, governing parties—the Social Democrats and the center-right Austrian People’s Party—each achieved.

    “The question is, does one, in these times of great challenges…have the strong backing of one’s party?” Mr. Faymann said in his brief resignation speech Monday. “I must answer the question with a ‘No.’”

    Mr. Faymann’s move highlighted the challenge of governing from the center as Europe faces a series of crises. After initially echoing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s welcoming stance toward refugees, Mr. Faymann did an about-face this winter as the Freedom Party rose in the polls. He backed tough border controls and strict limits on how many asylum-seekers his country would accept, angering Ms. Merkel and European Union officials in Brussels.

    The reversal did little to slow the Freedom Party’s rise—in part, pollsters said, because Mr. Faymann appeared to vindicate the populist party’s position. At the same time, Mr. Faymann’s tougher migration policy outraged members of his leftist base, some of whom whistled and booed when he gave his traditional May Day address in Vienna last week.

    Now, the leaders of Mr. Faymann’s party will have to decide whether to tack further to the right in the hopes of preventing more voters from drifting off to Mr. Strache—or whether to move in the other direction to prevent supporters from swinging to the left-of-center Greens. The quandary reflects Europe’s growing political polarization.

    “If it hews too closely to the Freedom Party, it will lose voters to the Greens; if it hews to closely to the Greens, it will continue losing voters to the Freedom Party,” said Anton Pelinka, an Austrian political scientist at the Central European University in Budapest. The Social Democratic Party, he added, “is scarcely able to sustain any longer the broad electoral coalition that it used to have.”

    The Freedom Party’s Mr. Hofer faces independent candidate Alexander Van der Bellen, who favors openness toward accepting refugees, in run-off presidential elections on May 22. Either candidate would become the first Austrian president—a largely ceremonial position—in the postwar era not to be backed by one of the two mainstream parties.

    “It was yet to be determined, Mr. Faymann said, who his long-term successor will be. Vice Chancellor Reinhold Mitterlehner was sworn in as interim head of the government Monday evening and said he didn’t see a need for new elections. But with the next regular parliamentary elections not scheduled to take place until 2018, Austrian media speculated that a move to call new elections might still come in the coming days.
    Collapsing governments and early elections at a time when the Freedom Party is at historic highs. That’s definitely a crisis.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | May 9, 2016, 5:25 pm
  21. Paul Krugman points us towards a recent pair of examples of ongoing and increasingly dangerous dumbing down of economic common wisdom. The second example, from Deutsche Bank economist David Foukerts-Landau, is particularly dangerously dumb:

    The New York Times
    The Conscience of a Liberal

    Is Our Economists Learning?

    Paul Krugman
    Jun 18, 9:44 AM

    Bernie is doing his long — very, very, very long — goodbye; Trump appears to be flaming out. So, time to revisit some macroeconomics.

    Brad DeLong has an excellent presentation on the sad history of belief in the confidence fairy and its dire effects on policy. One of his themes is the bad behavior of quite a few professional economists, who invented new doctrines on the fly to justify their opposition to stimulus and desire for austerity even in the face of a depression and zero interest rates.

    Anyway, two things crossed my virtual desk today that reinforce the point about how badly some of my colleagues continue to deal with fiscal policy issues.

    First, Greg Mankiw has a piece that talks about Alesina-Ardagna on expansionary austerity without mentioning any of the multiple studies refuting their results. And wait, there’s more. As @obsoletedogma (Matt O’Brien) notes, he cites a 2002 Blanchard paper skeptical about fiscal stimulus while somehow not mentioning the famous 2013 Blanchard-Leigh paper showing that multipliers are much bigger than the IMF thought.

    Second, I see a note from David Folkerts-Landau of Deutsche Bank lambasting the ECB for its easy-money policies, because

    by appointing itself the eurozone’s “whatever it takes” saviour of last resort, the ECB has allowed politicians to sit on their hands with regard to growth-enhancing reforms and necessary fiscal consolidation.

    Thereby ECB policy is threatening the European project as a whole for the sake of short-term financial stability. The longer policy prevents the necessary catharsis, the more it contributes to the growth of populist or extremist politics.

    Yep. That “catharsis” worked really well when Chancellor Brüning did it, didn’t it?

    What strikes me is the contrast with the 1970s. Back then the experience of stagflation led to a dramatic revision of both macroeconomics and policy doctrine. This time far worse economic events, and predictions by freshwater economists far more at odds with experience than the mistakes of Keynesians in the past, seem to have produced no concessions whatsoever.

    “Thereby ECB policy is threatening the European project as a whole for the sake of short-term financial stability. The longer policy prevents the necessary catharsis, the more it contributes to the growth of populist or extremist politics.
    So that was the advice from Deutsche Bank economist David Foukerts-Landau: The ECB needs to let the eurozone economies undergo “catharsis”, which is a euphemism for just letting things economically fall apart and implementing austerity policies in response, in order to avoid the rise of populist or extremist politics. He actually said that.

    Austerity. Is there anything it can’t do? Nope!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | June 19, 2016, 6:56 pm
  22. It looks like Austria is going to give the EU an early test of the political appeal of far-right parties in the post-Brexit environment: Austria’s far-right Freedom Party, which narrowly lost a presidential election in May, demanded a new election following charges of voting irregularities. And a new election is indeed happening:

    Reuters

    Austrian far right gets second chance at presidency with vote re-run

    VIENNA | By Francois Murphy and Kirsti Knolle
    Fri Jul 1, 2016 10:29am EDT

    Austria’s presidential election runoff must be held again, the Constitutional Court ruled on Friday, handing the Freedom Party’s narrowly defeated candidate another chance to become the first far-right head of state in the European Union.

    The verdict comes a week after Britain delighted anti-EU groups by voting to leave the bloc. Concerns about immigration and jobs featured prominently in that referendum, as they did in Austria’s knife-edge election.

    Norbert Hofer of the anti-immigration and anti-EU Freedom Party (FPO) lost the May 22 vote to former Greens leader Alexander Van der Bellen by less than one percentage point, or around 31,000 votes, in the race for what is largely a ceremonial position.

    The court found more than twice that number of postal ballots had been affected by breaches of the electoral code, forcing it to order a re-run.

    Irregularities included ballots being processed before the official start of the count the morning after the election, and counts being carried out in the absence of party observers, often because officials were racing to provide a result quickly.

    Ruling on a challenge brought by FPO leader Heinz-Christian Strache, the court found no proof that the result had been manipulated, but the possibility that it might have been affected was enough for a challenge to succeed.

    The re-run will reopen a debate that split Austria almost evenly, pitting town against country, and blue-collar workers worried about immigration and falling living standards against the more highly educated.

    How the outcome might change in a European political climate colored by the Brexit vote is unclear. Widespread frustration with traditional parties of power has been a feature of both votes, and fueled support for anti-immigration groups.

    Austria was swept up in Europe’s migration crisis last autumn when it and Germany opened their borders to hundreds of thousands of people fleeing war and poverty in the Middle East and elsewhere, only to reverse course as public opinion turned.

    Hofer’s near-victory was widely seen as part of a rising tide of populism that has since reached Britain. The Brexit vote could buoy support for Hofer – or the economic fallout, including a sharp drop in sterling, could undermine him.

    “Brexit is a current issue. It will still be a current issue in the autumn,” Van der Bellen, a chain-smoking 72-year-old, told a news conference.

    The irregularities that have come to light during testimony to the Constitutional Court have dismayed the Austrian public.

    “There was sloppiness,” Interior Minister Wolfgang Sobotka, whose ministry oversees elections and was accused by several witnesses of putting pressure on officials to provide a rapid count, told reporters after the verdict.

    The centrist coalition government must now set a date for the re-run. President Heinz Fischer, whose term runs out on July 8, has said it will most likely be in the autumn.

    In the meantime, the position will be held by the three presidents of the lower house of parliament – one of whom is Hofer.

    Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, an ally of the Freedom Party, was less restrained.

    “After the happy victory of Brexit in the United Kingdom and the rise of euroskepticism in Italy, Austria too has the opportunity to return to the path of freedom and national pride,” she said in a statement.

    “Hofer’s near-victory was widely seen as part of a rising tide of populism that has since reached Britain. The Brexit vote could buoy support for Hofer – or the economic fallout, including a sharp drop in sterling, could undermine him.”

    That’s going to be a pretty big question: does the Brexit vote help or hurt the far-right in places like Austria? It will probably depend quite a bit on whether or not EU leaders are capable of conceiving of a post-Brexit response that could shore up public support for the project and how rapidly they can make the plans public.

    But another more immediate big question raised by Austria’s re-vote is whether or not there really was any significant vote rigging. And as the article below points out, that’s not as easy a task as it might be in less politically charged periods. Why? Because when you have a runoff between the far-right and the Green party, two groups that are traditionally relatively minor players, that means that voters are basically forced to engage in very atypical voting behavior and it’s atypical voting behavior that would normally be looked for as evidence of vote rigging. In other words, the more atypical the politic scene gets, the harder it might be to identify signs of vote rigging:

    The Washington Post

    Election forensics analysis finds no evidence supporting alleged fraud in the Austrian Presidential Election

    By Walter R. Mebane, Jr., Allen Hicken, Kirill Kalinin and Ken Kollman
    July 1 at 3:30 AM

    In Austria, did the right-wing, populist Freedom Party get cheated out of the presidency when it lost by a razor-thin margin to the left-wing Green Party?

    That’s what it alleges. On May 22, the Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer lost the presidential election to the Greens’ Alexander Van Der Bellen by 30,863 votes, according to official Austrian government reports. That comes to 0.69 percent of the valid votes counted. The loss came in the second, and final, round of voting, which pitted the top-two vote-getters from the first round in April.

    Hofer led the first round with 35.1 percent versus 21.3 percent for Van Der Bellen. In that first round, four other candidates divided the rest of the votes: 18.9 percent for Irmgard Griss (Independent); 11.3 percent for Rudolf Hundstorfer (Social Democratic Party); 11.1 percent for Andreas Khol (Austrian People’s Party); and 2.3 percent for Richard Lugner (Independent). The Social Democratic Party, on the center-left, and the Austrian People’s Party, on the center-right, had been the dominant parties.

    The Freedom Party lodged a legal challenge to the final election results, alleging “failures and irregularities” and claiming a “systemic failure” in the counting of mail-in ballots especially. The Constitutional Court of Austria apparently agreed, and ordered today a rerun of the election.

    We use these methods to check on election fraud

    Our methods are available for others to use at our Election Forensics Toolkit. Election forensics uses statistical tests on reported election data. Reported vote totals and turnout counts for polling stations, constituencies or districts should exhibit particular characteristics where irregularities or frauds are present compared to locales without such irregularities.

    Our Toolkit applies three kinds of statistical methods using computational techniques specially designed by Walter Mebane and Kirill Kalinin, two members of our team. No one statistic is definitive in demonstrating fraud. However, when several statistics differ significantly from what we would expect to see in a normal election process, fraudulent behavior is likely the cause.

    Here’s the background. The Green and Freedom parties have been historically minor parties. But 265,221 more votes were cast in the election’s second round than in the first round. In other words, most voters in the second round typically vote for one of the major parties, not the Freedom Party or the Greens – and so cast their ballots for parties to which they do not have long-term allegiances.

    What probably happened is this. Many citizens, on both left and right, were worried about the fact that one of two minor parties on opposing ideological edges was going to win the presidency. And so more people voted than might have if the contenders were the usual centrist candidates.

    Further, many people were probably motivated to vote because they expected that many others would vote, and most voters were voting for a party that wasn’t their most preferred party. Such strategic behavior — behavior in which reasonable expectations about what others will do affect voters’ actions — can produce turnout numbers and results that resemble the patterns produced by such fraudulent acts as ballot-box stuffing, voter intimidation and vote-buying.

    In Austria, various levels of governmental bodies report presidential election data. Throughout the country, there are community (Gemeinde) level report results. In Vienna, where the “community” level is very large, there’s a level below that one — the election district level — that also reports results. Finally, mail-in ballots are reported at a level above the Gemeinde, at a larger district level that’s akin to counties in the United States; this level typically includes several communities.

    Our election forensics found no fraud in the Austrian election

    We found no signs of anomalies, when checking most of the statistical indicators using Gemeinde (and, where appropriate, district) counts of eligible voters and cast votes, in either the first or second round of the election.

    There was one exception: One technique detected the presence of a small anomaly in round two. But the patterns that model detects are also consistent with strategic behavior, as Mebane shows in his research.

    Even if we assume that these anomalies do indicate fraud, our best estimate is that only 3,870 potentially fraudulent votes occurred, or .087 percent of the vote total. That’s not enough to change the outcome. But let us emphasize that these anomalies are consistent with what happens during periods of intense mobilization: supporters rallying in favor of Van der Bellen. Further, only Vienna showed that small number of anomalous turnout results. It stands to reason that Vienna, a heavily anti-Hofer city with many immigrants and a diverse population, saw intensive and unusual turnout activity.

    The other statistical tests show no evidence of unusual patterns in the election data.

    We find no forensic evidence to support the Freedom Party’s claims of fraud.

    “What probably happened is this. Many citizens, on both left and right, were worried about the fact that one of two minor parties on opposing ideological edges was going to win the presidency. And so more people voted than might have if the contenders were the usual centrist candidates.

    Further, many people were probably motivated to vote because they expected that many others would vote, and most voters were voting for a party that wasn’t their most preferred party. Such strategic behavior — behavior in which reasonable expectations about what others will do affect voters’ actions — can produce turnout numbers and results that resemble the patterns produced by such fraudulent acts as ballot-box stuffing, voter intimidation and vote-buying.

    So the more the strategic atypical voting behavior, the more likely voters’ strategic actions will produce turnout numbers and results that vote integrity analysts would be watching out for. And when we have a tightly contested election between traditionally-minor parties, strategic voting is going to be particularly prevalent. That doesn’t bode well.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 1, 2016, 2:01 pm
  23. If the France ends up with President Marine Le Pen next year, or even a ‘Frexit’, there will no doubt be a number of factors that all contributed to that result. Here’s one of those putative factors in a future fascist Frexited France:

    France 24

    French PM Valls bypasses parliament to force through labour reforms

    Latest update : 2016-07-05

    France’s government has used a special measure to force through a divisive labour bill in the lower house of Parliament without a vote – for a second time.

    French Prime Minister Manuel Valls invoked a special constitutional article to approve the controversial bill Tuesday, prompting lawmakers to storm out of the National Assembly in anger.

    This is the second time he has bypassed the legislature on this issue amid stiff opposition from members of his own party.

    The Socialist prime minister argued that the reforms are needed to tackle France’s stubbornly high unemployment, which stood at 10.2 percent in the first quarter. Several members of parliament loudly booed and whistled as Valls announced that he would enact Article 49.3 of the constitution, which allows a government to pass laws without a parliamentary vote.

    FRANCE 24’s Marc Perelman explained that Article 49.3 is referred to as “the ‘nuclear weapon’ of French politics” and that its use demonstrated that there was clearly no compromise to be found in the Socialist Party on this issue.

    Political battle of wills

    Opponents, including some members of the Socialist Party, say the reforms will threaten hard-won worker rights because it will simply make it easier for companies to lay- off workers and extend working hours.

    FRANCE 24’s Perelman said that some within the party think, “Valls is really going too far to the right and that this really will be a major blow against the French welfare state as we know it.”

    The legislation has become a key issue for the ruling Socialist Party, with President Francois Hollande saying in June that his government will “go all the way” to enact the reforms.

    Hollande, the least popular French president in recent times, has vowed not to stand for a second term in 2017 if he fails to reduce unemployment.

    But less than a year away from the presidential election, the decision to force through the contested reform without parliamentary support is a political gamble for the unpopular Hollande and a Socialist government already the focus of regular street protests.

    Thousands on the march

    The bill has prompted sharp divisions in the governing party and sparked large-scale protests across the country.

    Thousands marched through Paris and other cities on Tuesday, alongside the obligatory heavy police presence, in what labour unions say will be the last of a dozen such demonstrations before a summer hiatus.

    An opinion poll in April found that 58 percent of the French public remain opposed to the Socialist government’s labour reforms.

    “But less than a year away from the presidential election, the decision to force through the contested reform without parliamentary support is a political gamble for the unpopular Hollande and a Socialist government already the focus of regular street protests.”

    That’s right, with less than year before the next presidential election, Hollande’s administration is overriding France’s parliament to forcing through an austerity bill and this is viewed as part of political gamble. Or, more precisely, a political gamble that will only work if austerity magically starts working and making it dramatically easier to fire workers ends up reducing unemployment. That seems like an incredibly foolish gamble.

    So given the deep unpopularity of both the law and how its being pushed through parliament, you have to wonder if it would be a politically worthwhile gamble for the Hollande administration to point out to the public that EU rules would basically force any French government to implement this latest batch of austerity unless France wants to court an EU-Commission showdown and possible sanctions. Sure, admitting that France doesn’t have a choice in this matter might play right into hands of the National Front. But watching a Socialist government use a parliamentary ‘nuclear option’ to force through EU-mandated austerity is also a pretty good way to play right into the hands of the National Front.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | July 7, 2016, 7:35 pm
  24. Just a heads up: The next Austrian head up state is on track to be the EU’s first far-right head of state:

    Reuters

    Far-right candidate ahead in polls to win Austrian presidency

    Mon Aug 29, 2016 7:05am EDT

    The far right is ahead in Austria’s presidential race, according to opinion polls which predict a win for the anti-immigration candidate that would be a watershed for populists across Europe who have capitalized on the migration crisis.

    Ahead of the Oct. 2 election, the Freedom Party’s (FPO) Norbert Hofer is just ahead of his independent rival, Alexander Van der Bellen, who narrowly beat Hofer in a previous run-off vote in May that was annulled.

    A poll of 600 people published by the Oesterreich tabloid showed the average support for Hofer at 53 percent, one point higher than a poll in late July, versus 47 percent for former Greens head Alexander Van der Bellen.

    Another poll, of 778 people with a margin of error of 3.6 percent, published by newspaper Kurier, found 38 percent thought Hofer would win while 34 percent expected Van der Bellen to.

    In polls for parliamentary elections set for 2018, the FPO regularly attracts more than 33 percent, ahead of both ruling centrist parties.

    Hofer, whose party argued against joining the European Union in a referendum on membership in 1994, has said Austrians should hold a vote on leaving the bloc if Turkey were to join or if significantly more political power were transferred to Brussels.

    The Freedom Party challenged the previous run-off result, which showed Van der Bellen winning by 31,000 votes. A court decided the election had to be re-run due to sloppiness in the count, although no evidence of manipulation was found.

    Although Austria’s president plays a largely ceremonial role, he can dismiss the cabinet.

    “In polls for parliamentary elections set for 2018, the FPO regularly attracts more than 33 percent, ahead of both ruling centrist parties.”

    Yep, it’s not just the Austrian presidency that’s poised to fall into far-right hands. The Freedom Party is polling ahead of both the centrist parties in polls for the 2018 parliamentary elections. Now, 2018 is quite a ways off in political terms and quite a bit could change. But that’s still pretty ominous.

    Of course, if Hofer becomes president and ends up alienating a large chunk of the FPO’s new supporters that could certainly change the FPO’s 2018 parliamentary prospects. It’s a possibility we can’t rule out since alienating people is sort of what the far-right is all about. It’s sort of their strength and weakness. But since the presidency is largely a ceremonial role it’s unclear that Hofer will even have the power to alienate. Unless he goes around dismissing every cabinet if he gets his way…something Hofer is certainly hinting at doing:

    EurActiv.com

    Austrian nationalist candidate to flaunt his ‘toughness’

    By EurActiv.com with Reuters

    Aug 24, 2016 (updated: Aug 24, 2016)

    Austria’s far-right Freedom Party (FPO) kicked off its campaign for president on Wednesday (24 August) with the slogan “Power needs control”, seeking to get its candidate Norbert Hofer elected on a promise of toughness after concerns over Europe’s migrant crisis.

    The FPO successfully challenged the result of a runoff vote in May that Hofer narrowly lost against former Green Party leader Alexander Van der Bellen. The Constitutional Court ordered a re-run, which will take place on 2 October.

    Hofer’s slogan is the same as that which in 1992 ensured victory for the current president’s predecessor, Thomas Klestil from the conservative People’s Party (OVP).

    Back then the OVP and the Social Democrats were mass parties, but Austrians’ anger about their shared politics built up. Since then the Austrians have become so upset with the two parties that both parties’ presidential candidates failed to make it the presidential run-off.

    Like the late Klestil, who was head of state until 2004, Hofer says he wants to be an active president, rather than a purely ceremonial one.

    “(He wants to become a) necessary counter weight to a power cartel that has established itself at every nook and corner in the state,” said his campaign manager and the Freedom Party’s secretary Herbert Kickl

    Hofer is a eurosceptic and has said that in some cases Austria should consider leaving the EU.

    The FPO, which also hopes to provide the next head of government, shares its anti-immigration policy with rightist movements in several European countries, such as the Alternative for Germany (AfD).

    Very few of Europe’s top politicians would be expected to welcome Hofer as the first far-right head of state in the European Union.

    ““(He wants to become a) necessary counter weight to a power cartel that has established itself at every nook and corner in the state,” said his campaign manager and the Freedom Party’s secretary Herbert Kickl”

    Ok, so Norbert Hofer wants to show everyone that he’s a “tough” president. And yet the only real power he has is dismissing the cabinet for any reason at all, a power that has never been used before. So, uh, so long folks!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 1, 2016, 8:03 pm
  25. Folks living in Germany might be hearing the word “Volk” a lot more going forward. Specifically, they might be hearing the word “Volk” spoken by folks who want to rehabilitate the word after it became tainted by the Nazis with ideas of German supremacy and took on a very different meaning from “Folks”. And, yes, the folks who want to rehabilitate “Volks” happen to be the neo-Nazis in the AfD:

    Associated Press

    Germany’s far-right party wants to bring back Nazi-era phrase

    September 12, 2016, 4:19 PM

    BERLIN A leading member of Alternative for Germany, the nationalist party whose recent elections successes have shaken the country’s political system, faced fierce criticism Monday after calling for a racially charged term favored during the Third Reich to be rehabilitated.

    Party co-chairwoman Frauke Petry said in an interview published Sunday that words such as “voelkisch” shouldn’t be taboo any longer. The term refers to people who belong to a particular race and was frequently used by the Nazis – their party paper was called Voelkischer Beobachter.

    “We should finally regain a relaxed, not uncritical but normal way of dealing with our nation and terms such as ‘Volk’ and words that are derived from it,” she told weekly Welt am Sonntag. Asked whether she would include the word “voelkisch,” Petry responded that she doesn’t use the term herself but dislikes the fact that it is only used negatively.

    “Let’s work on giving the term a positive connotation,” she said.

    Her remarks prompted a swift backlash from politicians, commentators and historians who warned that Petry’s party – known by its acronym AfD – was trying to legitimize ideas that were once at the core of Adolf Hitler’s Nazi ideology.

    “Her statement that one should work on giving the term ‘voelkisch’ a positive meaning is disgusting,” daily Neue Westfaelische wrote in an editorial. The paper accused Petry of trying to blur the lines between conservative and extreme-right opinions.

    Volker Beck, a Green Party lawmaker who heads the German-Israeli parliamentary group, called Petry’s comments “dangerous arson.”

    “The voelkisch ideology of the 20th century resulted in National Socialist race hatred and the mass murder of Auschwitz,” Beck said.

    AfD has become a potent electoral force in Germany since it was founded three years ago, sweeping into four state Parliaments on a wave of anti-migrant sentiment this year, most recently in Mecklenburg Western-Pomerania. The party is polling double-digit figures in advance of a vote in the city-state of Berlin on Sunday.

    Along the way, AfD has tried to portray itself as the only true defender of the German “Volk.”

    Although it has a common root with the English word “folk,” the term Volk gained an ethnic connotation in the early 19th century to signify the unity of German people who lived in dozens of mini-states across Central Europe. Nationalist sentiment didn’t evaporate with Germany’s unification in 1871 but rather grew into a myth of German uniqueness in the world.

    The Nazis latched on to that, and encapsulated it in their slogan, “Ein Volk, Ein Reich, Ein Fuehrer” – “One People, One Nation, One Leader”

    “There’s a fundamental difference with the word as it’s used in the French or English-speaking world,” historian Pascal Begrich said.

    While some of its uses are ambiguous – such as AfD’s regular call for popular referendums, or Volksabstimmungen – other phrases have raised eyebrows.

    When one of the party’s local chapters posted a Christmas message to Facebook followers urging them to think about their responsibility toward the “Volksgemeinschaft” – the community of people belonging to the same Volk – experts pointed out that this was a phrase straight out of the Nazi dictionary.

    AfD rallies commonly include placards accusing Chancellor Angela Merkel and her government of being “Volksverraeter” – traitors to the Volk – for allowing hundreds of thousands of migrants into Germany last year.

    Gideon Botsch, a political scientist at the University of Potsdam who has watched AfD’s rise, said the party has absorbed ideas from far-right thinkers who claim that Germany’s white population is being intentionally diluted.

    The notion that a conspiracy is behind the recent influx of migrants to Germany has echoes of the country’s dark past, Botsch warned.

    “They try to avoid openly anti-Semitic images but it’s clear that there are close parallels to anti-Semitic and anti-Jewish ideas,” he said.

    Heidrun Kaemper, a linguist at the Institute of German Language, noted that AfD’s rhetoric is imbued with notions of “us” and “them.” The party’s program portrays migrants as uneducated and their women as excessively fertile compared with “women of German origin.”

    AfD’s focus on national self-interest has already translated into concrete proposals to strengthen Germany’s armed forces, weaken international institutions such as the EU that were designed to keep Germany’s power in check after World War II, and return to the principle of granting citizenship only to those who can prove they have German blood.

    AfD also wants more “positive, identity-inspiring aspects of German history” to break up what it calls the “current focus of Germany’s culture of remembrance on the period of National Socialism.” It’s the only time the party mentions the country’s Nazi past in its program.

    “Party co-chairwoman Frauke Petry said in an interview published Sunday that words such as “voelkisch” shouldn’t be taboo any longer. The term refers to people who belong to a particular race and was frequently used by the Nazis – their party paper was called Voelkischer Beobachter.”

    Yeah, someone might need to point out to Frauke Petry that when a horrible group taints a word via association, the rehabilitation of that a word probably isn’t going to go so well when it’s the next generation of that same horrible group doing the rehabilitating. Oh well. She’ll still no doubt find a receptive audience within her party, so get ready to hear a lot more about the “Volk”, folks!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 13, 2016, 6:00 pm
  26. Check out the AfD’s new “billboard for the AfD’s ability to govern and perform”: Berlin:

    The Local.de

    How the AfD could wield real power in Berlin

    Published: 19 Sep 2016 16:02 GMT+02:00
    Updated: 19 Sep 2016 16:03 GMT+02:00

    Germany’s mainstream parties had ruled out governing with the AfD in Berlin, but the far-right party’s success in state elections gives it the right to seven district council posts – and potential access to budgets affecting refugees.

    The Alternative for Germany scored 14.2 percent of the vote in Sunday’s elections in the capital, putting the party just three point behind Angela Merkel’s CDU.

    Now, for the first time, the party looks set to exert political influence in the German capital. The party’s share of the vote means it is entitled, in theory at least, to have councillors in seven of Berlin’s 12 boroughs.

    In practice, the political establishment could try to lock the upstart party out, since councillors are formally elected by the 12 district councils.

    Before the election, councils had considered blocking AfD candidates from voting, but this looked a less likely prospect on Monday after the anti-immigration party had scored higher than more established parties in some boroughs.

    In Neukölln, the Social Democratic Party (SPD) mayor Franziska Giffey suggested the AfD would get its chance.

    “Now they have to show if they can do the job,” she told broadcaster RBB.

    Until now the party has had a governing mandate in just one town hall nationwide: the small town of Reuth in Saxony, where the mayor is an AfD politician – and that only after the mayor joined the party after the election.

    In some of Berlin’s poorer boroughs the AfD’s success fell in line with predictions, notably in the eastern districts of Lichtenberg, Marzahn-Hellersdorf and Treptow-Köpenick, while the party also performed well in Pankow.

    But the party also exceeded expectations in the western boroughs of Spandau, Reinickendorf and the multi-cultural Neukölln.

    “Berlin will be a billboard for the AfD’s ability to govern and perform,” said the party’s Berlin leader Georg Pazderski before the election.

    But it was uncertain which candidates the party would pick to fill any vacancies, since so few had any political or administrative experience.

    Pazderski said the AfD would address this by casting its net outside the city to find the right people if necessary.

    “Because the policy-makers need to master their area of expertise,” he explained.

    With this in mind he was unlikely to opt for the party colleague in Neukölln who told the Berliner Zeitung before the election: “I have absolutely no idea what a councillor does”.

    Each district mayor in Berlin works with four councillors, who are responsible for things like planning permission, school buildings and local parks – but they also control budgets for grants given to clubs and political groups, which could see the party strangle some of the resources currently used to help refugees.

    “Until now the party has had a governing mandate in just one town hall nationwide: the small town of Reuth in Saxony, where the mayor is an AfD politician – and that only after the mayor joined the party after the election.”

    It looks like Germany’s barely-crypto-Nazi party won quite a prize for itself. At least assuming it can find someone that knows enough about how the government actually operates to do the job:

    But it was uncertain which candidates the party would pick to fill any vacancies, since so few had any political or administrative experience.

    Pazderski said the AfD would address this by casting its net outside the city to find the right people if necessary.

    “Because the policy-makers need to master their area of expertise,” he explained.

    With this in mind he was unlikely to opt for the party colleague in Neukölln who told the Berliner Zeitung before the election: “I have absolutely no idea what a councillor does”.

    It appears a national AfD governing talent search might be required for the AfD to demonstrate that it’s capable of governing. That doesn’t bode well.

    Or course, since this is the AfD we’re talking about, even if they did have plenty of people on hand with adequate knowledge of how the government functions it still wouldn’t bode well.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | September 19, 2016, 2:21 pm
  27. With Germany’s 2017 election season just around the corner and the migrant/refugee crisis continuing to fuel the surge in Germany’s far-right parties, it’s unfortunately worth keeping in mind that the normalization and mainstreaming of language associated with the Nazis is set to surge in 2017 too:

    The Washington Post

    In Germany, the language of Nazism is no longer buried in the past

    By Anthony Faiola and Stephanie Kirchner
    December 9, 2016

    BERLIN — In a recent tweet, a German lawmaker used a highly specific term to describe her anti-migrant angst. Suggesting that her country’s national identity was under threat, she cried ­“Umvolkung” — a word roughly translated as “ethnic conversion.”

    It is also a word that was last in vogue when Adolf Hitler ruled the land, and its appropriation by a politician from Chancellor Angela Merkel’s ruling party sparked a raucous uproar. Yet the tweet highlighted the term’s resurgence in Germany — where a half-dozen words long associated with the Nazis are making a comeback.

    Hitler and his propagandists wielded a toxic lexicon in the early 20th century, deploying vocabulary meant to exalt ethnic purity and own Germany’s only real “truth.” And the reemergence in social media, literature and political protests of words that were weaponized by the Nazis is generating a fierce debate here over the power of language in politics, especially as nationalists surge on both sides of the Atlantic.

    “While we’re at it, why don’t we just give a positive meaning to the word ‘concentration camp?’” quipped television satirist Hans-Joachim Heist after a different German politician recently defended another word — völkisch — used by the Nazis to conjure images of a racially pure state.

    Forces on the political right are hailing the exhumation of such words as a triumph over political correctness and war guilt — as well as a nod to free speech in Europe, which came under the spotlight after the guilty verdict Friday against Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders for inciting hate against Moroccans. Calling it time to reclaim German words tainted by the Nazis, proponents see a new tell-it-like-it-is discourse taking shape over an influx of nearly 1 million mostly Muslim migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.

    In a post-factual world, some reclaimed words are meant to stake ownership over truth. At least one — Lügenpresse or “lying press,” a slur aimed at the mainstream media — popped up among Donald Trump supporters on the U.S. campaign trail. In Germany, it’s become a fixture at anti-migrant protests and a word lobbed like a bomb on Twitter and Facebook against the media.

    Critics, however, see heightened usage of ethnically charged terms as an attempt to detoxify them — as well as the racist notions they once represented.

    As linguistic political tools, experts rank them alongside “alt-right” — coined in the United States to recast the white supremacy movement. Rather than mint new words, however, the Germans need only look to history for a nationalist thesaurus. Critics say those embracing such vocabulary are playing a coy game, winking at German nationalism without openly saluting Hitler.

    “If someone said ‘Sieg Heil’ today, it would be clear this is about National Socialism,” said Georg Schuppener, a noted German linguist and language historian. But the words popping up now “at first don’t sound like National Socialism, but nevertheless suggest it.”

    All the words in question predate the Nazis but became tainted in the public mind after their deployment in Nazi propaganda. After World War II, some terms lingered in beer-hall talk and neo-Nazi circles. During the Cold War, a few found a perch in communist East Germany.

    But German linguists point to a resuscitation of nationalist terms in 2014, when the anti-migrant group Pegida began staging massive demonstrations nationwide. Two years later, the rapid rise of the populist, anti-migrant Alternative for Germany (AfD) — ­coupled with massive public ­skepticism of Merkel’s refu­gee policy — has these terms rolling off the tongues of politicians and flying around social media in a manner that has shocked many Germans.

    In a September interview with Die Welt, the AfD’s chief, Frauke Petry, declared it an “undue simplification” to call the German word “völkisch” fundamentally racist. Though used by Hitler and his lieutenants to describe a racially pure population, she argued that modern Germans should give the term “a positive connotation again.”

    Last month, AfD lawmaker Stefan Räpple described peers from German parties as “Volksverräter” — or “traitor of the people.” Used in the Nazi era as an official charge against enemies, the term has additionally burst forth from the mouths of protesters at anti-migrant political rallies and protests. In August, for instance, right-wing demonstrators taunted Merkel’s deputy chancellor by calling him “Volksverräter.”

    In a 1933 speech, Hitler’s propaganda minister Joesph Goebbels used the word “Überfremdung” to denounce what the Nazis saw as the infection of German intellectual life by Jews. Following losses in local elections this year, conservative dissenters in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), used it to define citizens’ fears toward the migrant wave.

    “The concern about a loss of identity and Überfremdung of the country has seized many citizens,” they wrote in a manifesto.

    Ronald Gläser, a Berlin-based politician for the AfD, called it unfair to draw any parallels between those redeploying such words now and their use in Nazi propaganda.

    “None of us deliberately use National Socialist vocabulary,” he said. Attempting to explain the increasing popularity of such words, he added that many Germans simply “fear that by 2040, Germany will be like a Third World country which doesn’t consist mostly of white people.”

    Yet in a nation highly sensitive to any echoes of the Nazis — and where the nationalists have had a harder time gaining a foothold than in many other European nations — the use of such terms still risks a powerful backlash. In September, for instance, when Bettina Kudla, a lawmaker for Merkel’s CDU, used “Umvolkung” in her anti-migrant tweet, the retribution was swift.

    Michael Grosse-Brömer, chief whip of the CDU and its sister party, the CSU, decried her tweet as “unspeakable.” The CDU’s secretary general, Peter Tauber, denounced it as “completely unacceptable in tone and content.” By October, Kudla’s office in her home constituency had been vandalized. Ultimately, the CDU did not nominate her for reelection next year.

    But her linguistic bomb won high accolades, too.

    “Making a Nazi comparison because of the word ‘Umvolkung’ is remarkably stupid,” one supporter — Peter Martin — wrote on her Facebook page. “In the 21st century, no one gives a damn about the Nazi era. … The future belongs to patriots.”

    Forces on the political right are hailing the exhumation of such words as a triumph over political correctness and war guilt — as well as a nod to free speech in Europe, which came under the spotlight after the guilty verdict Friday against Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders for inciting hate against Moroccans. Calling it time to reclaim German words tainted by the Nazis, proponents see a new tell-it-like-it-is discourse taking shape over an influx of nearly 1 million mostly Muslim migrants from Syria, Iraq, Afghanistan and beyond.”

    So the resuscitation of Nazi-tainted terminology isn’t just seen as a victory of “political correctness”. It’s also a triumph over war guilt. Gee, how is this going to end?

    And note that it’s not just the AfD ad Pegida mainstreaming these terms anymore:

    In a 1933 speech, Hitler’s propaganda minister Joesph Goebbels used the word “Überfremdung” to denounce what the Nazis saw as the infection of German intellectual life by Jews. Following losses in local elections this year, conservative dissenters in Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and its sister party, the Christian Social Union (CSU), used it to define citizens’ fears toward the migrant wave.

    Yep, using Nazi terms is now seen as a catchy way of showing dissent for CDU officials too.

    Talking like a Nazi and dismissing a sense of historic shame over the Nazi atrocities is the new trend in Germany. So if you thought 2016 was a deplorable year, get ready for 2017!

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | December 15, 2016, 4:22 pm
  28. This should sound pretty familiar to anyone who happened to the follow the US 2016 Presidential election: The candidate widely expected to win an eventual runoff against Marine Le Pen – in this case it’s the center-right candidate Francoise Fillon – has a fun new scandal and a prosecutorial probe just months before the election:

    Bloomberg Politics

    French Race Blown Wide Open as Le Pen, Macron Wait in Wings

    * Newspaper reports Fillon employed two children as senate aides
    * Canard report also raises amount wife earned to 900,000 euros

    Helene Fouquet and Gregory Viscusi
    January 31, 2017, 10:24 AM CST January 31, 2017, 12:40 PM CST

    Francois Fillon’s French presidential campaign plunged deeper into trouble on Tuesday after further revelations about his use of public funds to employ members of his family.

    The Republican candidate’s daughter and son allegedly earned 84,000 euros ($91,000) from 2005 to 2007 while working for him when he was a Senator, Le Canard Enchaine said. His wife, Penelope Fillon, earned more than 900,000 euros during over a decade as a parliamentary assistant and a contributor to a magazine, according to Le Canard.

    The newspaper’s initial report on Penelope’s job last week triggered a prosecutor to open a preliminary probe into the family’s affairs. The candidate says he’s innocent.

    “I am confident, I am calm and I’m waiting for the end of the investigation,” Fillon said in Paris. “Never has a situation like this one occurred. Never, three months before an election, was such an big and professional operation set up to eliminate a candidate other than through a democratic vote. Everyone will reap the consequences.”

    The scandal has gripped France over the last week and offers the prospect of another twist in a race that has the nationalist Marine Le Pen leading the polls and has already seen household names like President Francois Hollande and his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, fall by the wayside. That said, polls show that Le Pen is still a long shot for victory in the second round of voting, with Emmanuel Macron also poised to benefit — at least in the short term — from Fillon’s woes.

    “His image has been seriously damaged, and what’s worrying for him is that even among his supporters many are not convinced,” said Yves-Marie Cann, director of political studies at pollster Elabe in Paris. “The fire is not contained.”

    For an explainer on the Fillon scandal, click here

    Cann said it’s almost certain the next round of polling will show Fillon has lost support, though it’s too early to judge whether the main beneficiary will be independent centrist Macron or the anti-European Union Le Pen. Fillon’s initial attempts to explain his way out of the growing scandal were deemed unconvincing by three-quarters of the French, a poll said.

    “Francois Fillon is innocent, but the media pressure is such that the French have condemned him,” Fillon’s spokesman Benoist Apparu said LCP television. “It’s totally unjust.” Fillon’s campaign team and the Republican party declined requests for comment.

    Tackling Le Pen

    Fillon has promised to withdraw from the race if the preliminary inquiry becomes a formal one — something that has never happened to a major French candidate this late in a presidential contest.

    The former prime minister has been the establishment’s leading candidate in the battle to stop Le Pen’s populist campaign to seize the presidency and lead France out of the euro. He won the Republicans’ primary boasting that he had the irreproachable integrity required to lead the country.

    While polls show Le Pen leading in the first round of voting, they’ve recently shown Macron close on Fillon’s heels for the April 23 first round of voting. Surveys also suggest that Le Pen would lose heavily to either Macron or Fillon in the May 7 run-off.

    Police Interrogation

    A Kantar Sofres poll released Monday in Le Figaro showed about 22 percent of voters now back Fillon for the first round of voting, leaving him just one point ahead of Macron and three behind Le Pen. Before the inquiry, Fillon was considered the favorite to be France’s next president.

    Investigators on Tuesday searched for documents at the National Assembly, a day after Fillon and his wife were separately questioned for about five hours by the police as part of the probe. The presidential candidate was “happy to defend his honor,” Antonin Levy, Fillon’s lawyer, said on BFM television. A parliamentary job’s assistant is often “less tangible” than other types of work, Levy added.

    “The scandal has gripped France over the last week and offers the prospect of another twist in a race that has the nationalist Marine Le Pen leading the polls and has already seen household names like President Francois Hollande and his predecessor, Nicolas Sarkozy, fall by the wayside. That said, polls show that Le Pen is still a long shot for victory in the second round of voting, with Emmanuel Macron also poised to benefit — at least in the short term — from Fillon’s woes.”

    Well, at least it sounds like Fillon’s possible implosion won’t necessarily translate into increased odds of Le Pen winning. And even if Le Pen does win the first round vote she’s expected to lose handily to either the conservatives or Socialists in the second round, depending on which party takes second place in the first vote. But that’s assuming the center-left/right “republican front” pact holds, and let’s not forget that when Marine Le Pen led in the polls for the first time ever back in 2014, maintaining an anti-far-right “republican front” was a rather controversial position for Fillon’s conservative party. So while history suggests that the “republican front” will hold, more recent history isn’t so suggestive of that outcome.

    And then there’s the recent history of the eurozone crisis and all the consequences that emerged from it. Consequences that could make predicting the upholding of the “republican front” a lot trickier in the past. Consequences like the embrace of right-wing neoliberal economics by the Europe’s center left that leaves the far-left and far-right the only anti-austerity/anti-neoliberal options left to choose from:

    The New York Times Magazine

    Will France Sound the Death
    Knell for Social Democracy?

    As a presidential election approaches this spring, even workers
    in the country’s rust belt are embracing right-wing populism.

    By JAMES ANGELOS
    JAN. 24, 2017

    One afternoon in September, Franck Sailliot marched through the northern French city of Lille alongside a couple of thousand leftist trade unionists and students. The marchers waved union flags, blew whistles, bellowed slogans. “Enough, enough, enough of this society, where there’s only unemployment and insecurity!” they yelled. “We don’t want the law of the bosses! The only solution is to revoke it!” Sailliot, a 48-year-old trade unionist who had worked much of his adult life in a paper mill in a town about an hour’s drive to the east, shuffled along, mostly silent, his hands in his pockets. As the demonstrators made their way through Lille’s town center, passing the ornate 17th-century stock exchange, they shouted, “Fire the stockholders!” and “Everything they have, they stole it!” One man wielded a bloodied, severed mannequin head and waved a French flag emblazoned with the silhouette of Robespierre, who presided over the Reign of Terror. It was a revolution of sorts, but Sailliot seemed a bit bored. The French left has long protested the encroachment of an unbridled free market, and despite some victories in halting its progress, the overall trend was one of demoralizing defeat. Sailliot debated peeling off from the crowd early and grabbing a beer.

    He might have been forgiven for betraying a degree of protest fatigue. For seven months, he had participated, off and on, in a wave of large and angry antigovernment demonstrations that transfixed the country and at times paralyzed it. Chief among the objects of the protesters’ ire was a labor law, conceived by President François Hollande’s Socialist government, designed to loosen the country’s impossibly dense network of job protections. The law lacked support in the French Legislature, so in July, Hollande’s prime minister invoked special constitutional powers to push it through without a vote. From the point of view of French leftists like Sailliot, this was the latest in a series of betrayals by an ostensibly left-wing government that backed one nonleftist measure after another. Hollande and his ministers were acting under immense pressure to improve the country’s sluggish growth and chronically high unemployment, which now hovers at 9.5 percent (25.9 percent for people under 25). Everyone from the International Monetary Fund to the European Commission was urging Hollande to undertake a program of economic liberalization in order to remedy the problem. The argument for the labor law was the essence of free-market orthodoxy: If companies could more easily lay off workers in bad times, they would be more willing to hire them in good times.

    The argument was unconvincing to many in Pas-de-Calais, the rural and industrial area in the northernmost tip of France, where Sailliot lives. In the 1970s, France, like other industrialized countries, began a shift away from manufacturing to a services-based economy, and within a few decades, Pas-de-Calais came to epitomize industrial decline. It is now France’s rust belt and coal country all in one. The working-class voters of Pas-de-Calais have long supported France’s Socialists along with the French Communist Party. But as in the United States, where Rust Belt voters no longer embrace the Democratic Party, these workers have increasingly lost faith in the parties of the left.

    Sailliot’s union, the General Confederation of Labor, or the C.G.T., was among the most strident opponents of the new labor law. The C.G.T., formerly linked to the Communist Party, is one of the oldest and largest trade unions in France. Though its membership and stature, like those of other French unions, have declined considerably from their post-World War II height, the C.G.T. remains unmatched in its ability to mobilize workers. And many of its members retain a far-left ideology and preference for militant tactics. After a draft of the labor law leaked last February, the C.G.T. demanded that it be scrapped and recommended alternative policies: Reduce the French workweek to 32 hours (from the current 35) and give workers raises.

    The Socialist government tried to appease the C.G.T. and other unions by watering down the original draft of the law, but opposition to it remained fierce. The face-off ignited one of the most sustained and impassioned protest movements in France since the May 1968 demonstrations that nearly brought down the Fifth Republic a decade into its existence. Marches in Paris and cities across the country drew hundreds of thousands of protesters and often culminated in tear-gas-laden street battles between truncheon-swinging riot officers and anarchist groups. Nuit Debout, a French version of Occupy Wall Street, drew large gatherings of young people to nighttime meetings in the Place de la République in Paris. C.G.T. activists blocked highway lanes and oil refineries, creating fuel shortages. Labor strikes halted train travel and cut output at nuclear-power plants.

    Sailliot had another reason to protest. The paper mill in Pas-de-Calais where he worked for three decades shut down in 2015, because of what the company called an “accelerating deterioration in market conditions for printing and writing papers.” Sailliot was still technically employed there — he was a C.G.T. delegate, he explained, so legally it was harder to lay him off — but it was an unsettling feeling, he said, to think he’d have to find a new industry to work in. He blamed the Socialist government. His resentment was aggravated by the fact that he voted for Hollande in the French presidential election of 2012, enticed by his leftist pre-election rhetoric. These new Socialist laws, Sailliot said, were even worse than what the right was proposing; as for Hollande personally, Sailliot raised his hand in a gesture, not uncommon among Frenchmen, to indicate his testicles’ springing up to his neck in anger. “He’s a traitor.”

    All around his home and workplace in Pas-de-Calais, Sailliot told me, the far-right, anti-immigration National Front was filling the political void that working-class discontent had created. With national elections looming, the party depicted itself as the new defender of the French worker; as part of that effort, its leader, Marine Le Pen, joined France’s hard leftists in condemning the labor law as “social regression” — the same term of disparagement used by trade-union leaders and the Communist Party. Le Pen’s economic rhetoric, in fact, is often hard to differentiate from positions normally held by the far left. She rails against free-trade agreements and “social dumping” — the practice of domestically hiring foreigners for lower wages than citizens earn — and her party has vowed to reindustrialize France and protect social benefits. The French newsmagazine Le Point reported that Hollande, when asked to explain the growing popularity of the National Front, often relays a story a former head of the C.G.T. told him: When the union leader read a National Front leaflet to his fellow union members without telling them what party it was from, the union members all approved of the message.

    Sailliot, a committed Communist, referred to the National Front’s leaders as “impostors” — a word that C.G.T. leaders use when describing the party’s effort to appeal to their rank and file — and dismissed the notion that the far-right party, if elevated to power, would keep its leftist-sounding promises. But he could not deny the political effectiveness of the message. Among his disaffected colleagues, neighbors, even within his own family, the National Front was increasingly popular, he told me. Laid-off workers saw that mainstream parties hadn’t done anything for them, he said, “so they vote for Le Pen.”

    In two rounds of voting this April and May, France will elect a new president to succeed Hollande. According to polls, as of this writing, Le Pen remains a viable contender. Her success — in the coming election and beyond — hinges in no small part on her party’s effort to supplant the left in places like Pas-de-Calais, and to make the National Front the new voice of France’s working class.

    The 2008 financial crisis, which began in the United States but quickly spread to Europe with more enduring, destructive consequences, should in theory have been a boon to the global left. The vast scope of the collapse, after all, illustrated that free markets are far from unfailingly efficient. Governments across Europe stepped in to rescue banks, to save capitalism from itself. Both the origins of the crisis and the activism of the state in addressing it seemed to justify the social-democratic model that European nations traditionally championed: government intervention to tame the excesses of capitalism and harness its productive capacity for the greater good.

    Recently, though, European social democrats have witnessed an extraordinary drop in support. In 2009, the Social Democratic Party of Germany suffered its worst election defeat in post-World War II history. In the British general election one year later, the Labour Party received its second-lowest share of the vote since 1918, the year that voting restrictions on women and non-property-owning men were relaxed. Even in Scandinavian countries — often cited as the apotheosis of social democracy — center-left parties are struggling. A recent analysis in The Economist showed that across Western Europe, support for social-democratic parties is at its lowest point in 70 years.

    France appeared to be something of a holdout. Hollande’s ascension to the presidency in 2012 was seen as a rare bit of good news. Before his election, Hollande tapped into the sense of grievance on the left, declaring his “true enemy” to be the “world of finance,” calling himself the “candidate of justice” and vowing to impose a 75 percent tax on earnings over one million euros (a measure later enacted but allowed to expire in 2014). Hollande also declared his opposition to German-backed austerity policies applied in response to the eurozone debt crisis. But only months into his presidency, he began to anger the far left, supporting a German-led European Union fiscal compact that established stricter controls over national spending. By 2014, Hollande was emphasizing the need to reduce corporate taxes and trim public spending in order to increase growth and control deficits, and he replaced leftist cabinet members with more centrist ministers. Hollande’s prime minister, Manuel Valls, had previously suggested that the party drop the word “socialist” from its name; it was Valls who later muscled the labor law through Parliament. In part because of the disaffection of the leftists who once supported him, Hollande became perhaps the least popular president in recent French history; in one poll last October, only 4 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with him. In December, Hollande took the extraordinary step of announcing that he would not run for re-election, making him the first sitting president in recent French history not to seek a second term.

    For many French leftists, Hollande’s presidency did not represent the first betrayal at the hands of the Socialist Party. The only other Socialist president of the Fifth Republic, François Mitterrand, was an even greater disappointment. When he was first elected in 1981, Mitterrand ran on an anticapitalist platform, vowing to nationalize industry, raise wages and reduce the retirement age. His victory was met with jubilation on the left, and some supporters believed Mitterrand would end French capitalism. But outside France, political winds were blowing in the other direction. The 1980s were the era of deregulation and economic liberalization, the age of Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan. Europe was advancing toward a single market. Mitterrand’s policies couldn’t contain inflation, threatening the country’s place in the coming monetary union. He was forced to choose between his revolutionary agenda and European integration. By 1983, Mitterrand chose Europe and implemented spending cuts, a move referred to in France as the tournant de la rigueur, or the austerity turn. Today, French leftists compare Hollande’s shift to Mitterrand’s U-turn and ask now, as they asked then, Is socialism dead?

    The answer, at least in today’s Europe, is probably yes. In the 1990s and early 2000s, leaders like Tony Blair in Britain, Bill Clinton in the United States and Gerhard Schröder in Germany led a center-left resurgence. Yet in their fight for the political middle ground, they pulled their own parties away from shrinking labor constituencies and toward a fuller embrace of the free market. In Europe, the demise of the old left has been cemented by the strictures of E.U. membership, which sets in stone practices that were once anathema to socialists: free trade, limits on national spending and monetary policies that subordinate employment to price stability. There is no more blatant example of the European left’s inability to be leftist than Greece, where in 2015 voters elected Syriza, a “radical left” party that promised to thwart E.U. austerity policies. Since its victory, however, Syriza has been compelled, under threat of expulsion from the eurozone, to adopt an agenda that is anything but leftist: privatizations, pension cuts and stringent fiscal targets. In a recent interview in the French journal Le Débat, Hollande was asked about his own rightward drift: Will he be the president who presides over “the end of the socialist idea”? Hollande replied that it was impossible to be socialist in isolation, before going on to frame the left’s challenge. “What is at stake is whether the left, rather than socialism, has a future in the world, or whether globalization has reduced or even annihilated this hope.”

    As center-left parties become more indistinguishable from their center-right opponents, the classical liberal vision — a well-informed polity making democratic choices along a left-right continuum — has blurred. The left-right dichotomy has its roots in the French Revolution, when members of the National Assembly physically divided themselves according to their view on the king’s authority: Those members in favor of more royal power stood on the right side of the chamber, and those opposed stood on the left. While the meaning of the left-right divide has since evolved and the concept has often failed to encapsulate complex political movements, it has since come to define democratic politics. Increasingly, however, voters perceive their democratic choices along a different axis, not from left to right but from a fill-in-the-blank centrist party to a populist, radical one, as a choice between parties that wish to tweak the prevailing order and those that seek to overthrow it.

    Far-right parties are not the only ones offering revolution. Far-left parties remain on ballots across Europe, and in France, the Left Front, an electoral coalition that includes the French Communist Party, has sought to take advantage of the Socialists’ troubles. The Left Front was popular among many of the trade unionists I met, yet as of now, its support has remained limited. With notable exceptions like Greece and Spain, where far-left parties have surged in the face of economic misery, voters in Europe often perceive these parties to be discredited by history, even irrelevant. And now, in countries like France, the far left faces growing competition from the far right.

    Many believe that the consequences of this political scrambling will be profound. Dominique Reynié, a political-science professor at Sciences Po in Paris, described “the end of the story of the democratic-socialist model” as “very bad news,” even though he does not identify as a socialist himself. “If we consider the invention of pluralistic democracy in Europe at the end of the 19th century, it was founded on the possibility of making a choice between the right and the left,” he told me. “If we have lost this duality, we have probably lost the mechanical principle of democracy.”

    The suspicion that immigrants are taking something they don’t deserve, the conviction that native citizens are being supplanted by foreigners, the growing sense that mainstream political parties serve the interests of privileged global elites rather than working people — all of this will be perfectly familiar to Americans who just lived through the last election. President Donald J. Trump’s campaign in many ways embodied the nativist, anti-establishment rebellion sweeping much of the West. In doing so, it replicated aspects of an older French model, in which the far right adopted the rhetoric of the far left to surprising success.

    In the mid-1990s, Jean-Marie Le Pen, the National Front’s founder, began to push the party’s economic platform away from its original free-market ideology and toward protecting the working class. (Observers coined the term gaucho-lepénisme to describe his growing appeal to traditional leftists.) In 2002, he stunned France by coming in second in the first round of the French presidential election, ahead of the weak Socialist candidate. In France, the winner must obtain an absolute majority of votes, so the top two finishers compete in a second round. In that runoff, Le Pen lost overwhelmingly to the center-right candidate, Jacques Chirac, as many leftists joined center-right voters to form a “republican front,” uniting forces to thwart the National Front.

    When Jean-Marie’s youngest daughter, Marine, took over the party in 2011, she redoubled the leftist economic message and shunned her father’s blatantly anti-Semitic statements — a so-called dédiabolisation of the party intended to make it more palatable to the mainstream. Her economic rhetoric is now often indistinguishable from that of far-left European leaders. In 2015, Hollande and Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany jointly addressed the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France. Le Pen, a member of that Parliament, stood to make a reproach to Merkel. The terms on which she did so — German economic domination of Europe, the “vassalization” of European nations and the imposition of austerity policies that led to mass unemployment — could just as well have come from Greece’s former finance minister, Yanis Varoufakis, Le Pen’s ideological opposite in every other way.

    Le Pen has adopted an old-left economic message at a time when the center-left has largely abandoned it. Across much of Europe, in fact, far-right parties are increasingly presenting themselves as guardians of workers and of the welfare state for native citizens, promising to preserve it from the threat of foreign newcomers. The consequences are proving particularly drastic for the European Union. Britain’s vote to leave the E.U. was propelled by an unusual alliance of conservatives and working-class voters who have traditionally supported the Labour Party — many of them in England’s industrial north. Le Pen promises that if she wins the presidential election, she, too, will call for a referendum on whether France should remain in the E.U., and she hopes a similar alliance of voters will yield the same result. France is a founding member of the E.U. and is far more economically and politically entwined with the bloc than Britain, which was never a fully committed member. While Brexit was a blow to the E.U., France’s departure could signify its end. An eventual French exit, though unlikely, is not unimaginable. French voters rejected a European Constitution in a 2005 referendum, and French attitudes toward the European Union since then have only grown more skeptical. A pre-Brexit Pew Research Center survey found that 61 percent of the French held an unfavorable view of the E.U.; the same survey found that 48 percent of Britons did.

    Presidential-election polls in France, as of this writing, show Le Pen likely to make it to the runoff, to be held in May. The pressing question in France now is: Will the “republican front” once again hold? Given the unpopularity of the Socialists, Le Pen’s chief opponents are now François Fillon — a center-right, market-oriented social conservative who has promised to cut public-sector jobs and was recently depicted on the front page of the left-wing newspaper Libération with a Margaret Thatcher hairdo — and Emmanuel Macron, a young former investment banker who served as the economy minister under Hollande but has now split to form his own neither-of-the-left-nor-of-the-right political movement. This, bewilderingly, makes the far-right Le Pen the only leading candidate with a traditionally leftist economic message, and it leaves many leftists who remain opposed to her hard-pressed to vote for her opponents.

    Sailliot told me that he would support the Left Front candidate in the first round, but that if he was forced to choose between Le Pen and one of the other probable candidates in the second round, he would not vote at all. Some of his leftist colleagues, many of whom voted for Chirac in 2002 in order to foil Jean-Marie Le Pen, told me the same thing. Ultimately, Marine Le Pen isn’t expected to win; enough left-leaning voters, it is believed, will join center-right voters to defeat her. But this is an era in which political prediction may seem like a fool’s game. The day after Trump’s election, Le Pen was clearly heartened by his unexpected victory. “What happened last night wasn’t the end of the world,” Le Pen said. “It’s the end of a world.”

    “All around his home and workplace in Pas-de-Calais, Sailliot told me, the far-right, anti-immigration National Front was filling the political void that working-class discontent had created. With national elections looming, the party depicted itself as the new defender of the French worker; as part of that effort, its leader, Marine Le Pen, joined France’s hard leftists in condemning the labor law as “social regression” — the same term of disparagement used by trade-union leaders and the Communist Party. Le Pen’s economic rhetoric, in fact, is often hard to differentiate from positions normally held by the far left. She rails against free-trade agreements and “social dumping” — the practice of domestically hiring foreigners for lower wages than citizens earn — and her party has vowed to reindustrialize France and protect social benefits. The French newsmagazine Le Point reported that Hollande, when asked to explain the growing popularity of the National Front, often relays a story a former head of the C.G.T. told him: When the union leader read a National Front leaflet to his fellow union members without telling them what party it was from, the union members all approved of the message.”

    Yep, thanks to the broad political embrace of austerity and a general ‘tax cuts, pay cuts, deregulation and more free-trade’-style of right-wing economics across Europe, Marine Le Pen and other far-right parties basically get a massive free political cudgel. And it’s a cudgel that gets stronger and stronger the more those right-wing policies are embraced because they’re derived from a pro-oligarch destructive and unworkable economic paradigm. And let’s not forget that the Socialist candidate, Emmunael Macron, is barely a Socialist and is running on a neoliberal platform much like the one Hollande eventually embraced.

    So while Marine Le Pen clearly doesn’t deserve to win France’s presidence given the society-destroying hate-based xenophobia and inhumane far-right ideals her campaign and party are is based on, it’s not like the Socialists or conservatives really deserve to win either given the society-destroying economic policies they’re pushing as the only option. And while it would be great of the far-left had a shot, they don’t. At least not at this point.

    So we’ll see what happens in France’s upcoming election and whether or not the “republican front” holds. But with a fresh scandal hitting the conservative candidate, putting his chances in doubt, and with the conservative’s tepid backing of the “republican front” in recent years combined with the Socialist’s neoliberal platform, it seems a bit early to be breathing a sigh of relief. Especially when we read stuff like this:


    Sailliot told me that he would support the Left Front candidate in the first round, but that if he was forced to choose between Le Pen and one of the other probable candidates in the second round, he would not vote at all. Some of his leftist colleagues, many of whom voted for Chirac in 2002 in order to foil Jean-Marie Le Pen, told me the same thing. Ultimately, Marine Le Pen isn’t expected to win; enough left-leaning voters, it is believed, will join center-right voters to defeat her. But this is an era in which political prediction may seem like a fool’s game

    “Ultimately, Marine Le Pen isn’t expected to win; enough left-leaning voters, it is believed, will join center-right voters to defeat her. But this is an era in which political prediction may seem like a fool’s game”

    We’ve seen this movie before. It’s a horrible movie.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | January 31, 2017, 4:22 pm
  29. Here’s a reminder that even if the EU makes it through 2017 without one of the national elections handing the far-right a major victory, there’s always 2018!

    Reuters

    Italy’s 5-Star builds strong lead over Renzi’s PD in polls

    By Crispian Balmer | ROME
    Tue Mar 21, 2017 | 7:21am EDT

    Italy’s anti-establishment 5-Star Movement, benefiting from a split in the ruling Democratic Party (PD) and divisions in the center-right, has built a strong lead over its rivals, an opinion poll showed on Tuesday.

    The Ipsos poll in Corriere della Sera newspaper put the 5-Star, which wants a referendum on Italy’s membership of the euro, on 32.3 percent – its highest ever reading and 5.5 points ahead of the PD, which was on 26.8 percent.

    The survey suggests that the 5-Star is likely to emerge as the largest group in national elections due by early 2018, although it might struggle to create a government given its stated aversion to forging coalitions.

    Such a scenario could spook financial markets wary of both the 5-Star’s euroskepticism and the threat of prolonged political instability in Italy, which has the heaviest public debt burden in Europe after Greece.

    The PD appeared to be paying the price for its internal feuds, dropping more than three percentage points in a month, as former prime minister Matteo Renzi battles to reassert his authority following a walkout by a left-wing faction.

    “Political parties that preoccupy themselves with their internal divisions are electorally doomed,” said the British-based think tank Eurointelligence in a note.

    “We are now at the point where it becomes increasingly improbable for the PD to regain power after the next elections.”

    The center-right is riven by its own divisions, with former prime minister Silvio Berlusconi looking to take charge of the bloc once more, but struggling to find common ground with old ally the Northern League, which has shunted to the far right.

    Tuesday’s poll of some 5,000 people put the anti-immigrant Northern League on 12.8 percent, with Berlusconi’s Forza Italia (Go Italy!) on 12.7 percent.

    A small center-right party, which is in the government coalition and is led by Foreign Minister Angelino Alfano, has seen its support gradually erode and was put at 2.8 percent, meaning it risks failing to even enter the next parliament.

    Alfano’s group, which rebranded itself at the weekend as the Popular Alternative (AP), is the only mainstream party besides the PD and MDP, which openly touts a pro-EU agenda, raising the prospect of a euroskeptic government taking power in Italy.

    Parliamentarians are still trying to draw up a new electoral law, with political analysts expecting them to agree on some form of proportional representation that might reward a stable majority to any party or group that wins 40 percent of the vote.

    The Ipsos poll suggested that both the traditional center-left and center-right blocs would fall well short of the 40 percent threshold, leaving the 5-Star in the driving seat.

    However, the party, founded by comic Beppe Grillo, has repeatedly ruled out forming an alliance with other groups, suggesting Italy could face months of political uncertainty following the next election, as happened last year in Spain.

    “The survey suggests that the 5-Star is likely to emerge as the largest group in national elections due by early 2018, although it might struggle to create a government given its stated aversion to forging coalitions.”

    Is Italy in store for a 5-Star revolt next year? Well, a lot can change between now and Italy’s early 2018 elections but don’t forget that one of the biggest changes over the next year could be something like a far-right victory elsewhere in Europe. But if current trends continue it’s looking like the EU’s 2017 electoral scares aren’t going away any time soon. What that means for the EU as a whole if Italy decides to go down the ‘populist’ route remains to be seen. And, interestingly, what a 5-Star victory would mean for Italians really remains to be seen too in part because it’s unclear what exactly 5-Star stands for although the distinct Trumpian flare gives us an idea:

    The Nation

    Italy’s Five Star Movement May Be the Heir to Mussolini’s Fascists
    The party harps on the messianic theme of redemption for the betrayed, is allied with Britain’s far-right UKIP, and is controlled with an iron hand by leader Beppe Grillo.

    By Frederika Randall
    August 30, 2016

    Rome—When 38-year-old Virginia Raggi, a lawyer and relative newcomer to politics, was elected mayor of Rome in June, it was a stunning victory for her party, the Movimento 5 Stelle (M5S), or Five Star Movement. Raggi beat her Partito Democratico (PD) rival in the runoff vote by a crushing margin of 67 percent to 33 percent, symbolically slaying the governing PD, also the incumbent in the city of Rome.

    Though the M5S had previously gained power locally in a few places, Rome was much bigger political prize, an internationally visible arena where the three main postwar power groups, the neo-Fascist far right, the Catholic center, and the Communist left, had each fought for its piece of ground for decades. Now the M5S, distinguished mainly for its ferocious attacks on the political establishment, was to have its place in the sun. In Turin, too, the M5S triumphed, when Chiara Appendino, 32, with a background in business management, won a surprise victory over the incumbent mayor Piero Fassino, a PD veteran whose political career goes back to the Italian Communist Party.

    So the Movimento 5 Stelle had finally stormed the Winter Palace… or should we say, carried out its March on Rome?

    Therein lies the problem. If only we knew what they stand for.

    For the M5S is far more mysterious than it has appeared to some observers, to whom it seemed to resemble Spain’s Podemos or Syriza in Greece. The movement took off in 2007 with stand-up comedian Beppe Grillo’s successful Vaffa rallies, where crowds turned out to shout “Vaffanculo!” (“Get Screwed!”) at Italy’s corrupt politicians. Grillo’s hugely successful blog soon became a rallying point for the disaffected. In 2009 he and the late Gianroberto Casaleggio, an eccentric, sci-fi loving web-marketing guru in favor of both enlightened despotism and direct democracy, founded the M5S­­. Today only a few acolytes seem to remember what those five stars in the name and on the party symbol signify.

    The five stars were born, one journalist mused recently, because the pampered Grillo and Casaleggio measured well-being by hotel standards. “We could have a five-star life!” the comedian used to scream at his rallies. That is, if those thieving politicians didn’t steal all the money.

    No, the five stars stand for “water, environment, transport, connectivity, development” shot back one ardent Grillino in a tart comment. It’s true, those were the watchwords in the very early days, just after “vaffanculo” was discarded, although you do have to wonder what “five-star water” might be (merely uncontaminated, or positively delicious?), and why a ranking system for resource-guzzling luxury hotels would make sense for the environment, which flourishes where the hand of man is absent. A guaranteed “citizen’s income” for all whose earnings fall below a certain level is another longtime M5S proposal, warmly backed today by Turin’s Appendino.

    According to the most recent national program, the M5S’s projects today are “state and citizen, energy, information, economy, transport, health, education.” A look at the specific policy promises turns up a hodgepodge of the petty and the grand, a long wish list that seems to have been compiled from the kind of web survey dear to party strategist Casaleggio (he died in April this year, aged 61, of a brain tumor). Thus under “economy” the program calls both for “vigorous debt reduction” and “ceilings on executive pay in publicly traded and state-controlled companies” and favors “local production” and “nonprofits” as well as guaranteed unemployment benefits. Alongside all these good intentions, however, there is no trace of the hard choices about how to stimulate a depressed economy that any governing party would have to make. No mention of employment, inequality, or EU-imposed austerity. Under “transport,” the program calls for more bike paths and an improved rail system to discourage automobile use, but there is no mention of spending on infrastructure under “economy,” or of how to accomplish all these good deeds and pay a minimum income while slashing the debt. Nor does the program have any indications on foreign policy. The M5S is anti-Europe, and its Euro MPs are aligned with the far-right xenophobes of Britain’s UKIP in the EU parliament, at least until Britain finally leaves the union. It’s a program rich in magical thinking, in short.

    Like many a charismatic leader who rides the wave of public disgust with established politics today (Donald Trump and Silvio Berlusconi come to mind, and so does UKIP’s Nigel Farage, who claimed victory with Brexit), Casaleggio was a kind of businessman/aspiring wheeler-dealer. Grillo’s successful blog was one of his ventures, and Casaleggio expertly milked the advertising on it. And Grillo, a wealthy showman, shares much of his outlook. They are men who believe that politics is intrinsically silly and corrupt and that any entrepreneur can do it better. Their profound scorn for the political class springs from a personal dislike of government regulations and taxes they consider punishing, and not surprisingly, they are firmly pro-capital.

    In recent years, prodded by Casaleggio, the M5S has embraced anti-immigrant and anti-regulatory positions dear to the small-business owners they hope to draw into the movement. When the government of Matteo Renzi was finally poised to pass a law on civil unions, giving gays long-needed rights (a measure hotly contested in a country occupied by the Vatican), the M5S suddenly withdrew support and members were told to vote their consciences, thus dooming the most controversial plank, the one allowing gay couples to adopt. The promised “direct democracy” of online voting—candidates and major M5S decisions are decided by a vote on the Grillo blog site—has time and again brought accusations of fraudulent vote-counting. By many accounts, the party is fragmented, held together by draconian measures from the top, like the penalty of 150,000 euros that local representatives, including Mayor Raggi, are contractually obliged to pay the party should they stray from the agreed-upon policy line. Neither of the two young MPs spoken of as successors to Grillo is anywhere near as prepossessing as the leader.

    Accusations of fascism are quick to fly here, in the country that invented the phenomenon; Prime Minister Renzi is routinely called a fascist by the dissident left of his party. But in truth, if any party resembles the one Benito Mussolini was building with the support of bitter World War I veterans in 1919–20, it is the M5S. There is the same messianic theme of redemption for the betrayed—in today’s case, citizens betrayed by their corrupt and spendthrift governors. The same mixture of ideas hastily borrowed from right and left (lest we forget, Mussolini was a Socialist before he was a Fascist). The same dictatorial grip at the top, applied to keep a sprawling movement together.

    For the only issue that really unites the M5S is scorn for politics and politicians. That wholesale “plague on all their houses” condemnation of the political class is rather difficult to reconcile with public office, as some M5S members elected to local government or to parliament in Rome have learned to their dismay. Several have been expelled from the party for making alliances or not obeying orders. Another became embroiled in an organized-crime scandal when a fellow M5S city councilor was investigated for connections with the Camorra, Campania’s local mafia.

    The first moves of both newly elected mayors Raggi of Rome and Appendino of Turin have met with intense scrutiny and a barrage of criticism. Raggi, who is up against a hostile public bureaucracy in a city where basic services like garbage collection and bus and metro service are constantly on the verge of collapse, a city in which widespread corruption was unveiled in 2014–15 in the Mafia Capitale scandal, does seem to lack the needed political experience. Multiple urban brushfires burned across Rome this hot, dry August, and she seemed unable to react. The city utterly defeated her predecessor, Ignazio Marino, a surgeon who was elected with the PD but was eventually forced out by his own party. Raggi’s candidates to supervise the environment and sanitation have been hotly contested on the basis of their past experience, for if experience is necessary, it is also tainting in the mind of M5S purists. In Turin, opponents of a much-contested high-speed rail line through the Val di Susa to the west lashed out at Mayor Appendino for expressing her support for the police guarding the building site; the M5S has strongly defended the protesters.

    Still, one doesn’t need to be a fan of the M5S to think two months in office is too little to evaluate the performance of their new mayors. In Raggi’s case, the attacks are constant. Beppe Grillo, who last year was reported to have drifted away from his creation, fatigued and bored, has apparently decided to occupy himself with making Raggi’s government a success as a showcase for the next elections.

    Just what the Movimento 5 Stelle would do if elected to national government remains a mystery. The messianic “throw the bums out” rallying cry wins votes but offers no program. It’s been called populism, but it’s not even clear that Grillo is speaking to the “little man”; his is a howl of pure rage. We need to ask ourselves why it is so attractive today.

    One reason is that the established parties are discredited everywhere. They are in Britain, which voted for Brexit despite Conservative and (weak) Labour support for EU membership. And in Spain, where two elections in a six-month period still have not produced a governing coalition. Not to mention France, where the Front National of Marine Le Pen threatens to overwhelm the Socialists and the right. The established parties struggle to convince national voters they are looking after their interests because the powers they need to do so are simply not available at the national level. Neoliberal capitalism, truly global in scope, can no longer be regulated by national governments; it can only be controlled at a supranational level. If Italy wants more jobs and growth, it can only get them through European economic policy, although certainly not the hegemonic policy of the moment, the austerity imposed by German financial authorities. Whatever Matteo Renzi’s defects, he has certainly tried to push Germany and France toward a more Keynesian European consensus.

    Does the M5S understand these matters? Does Beppe Grillo, who has made no political alliances in Italy and no international alliances except with Nigel Farage, even care? Like Mussolini, he seems to believe Italy can live in autarky, by imposing national economic self-sufficiency. It’s not just a crazy idea (where will he get his new iPhone?) but reveals a profound naïveté about problems that don’t really interest him.

    You would think that Italy, after almost twenty years of a soi-disant anti-establishment figure like Silvio Berlusconi, would have learned the lesson. In 1994 the rogue TV tycoon’s Forza Italia party was that era’s equivalent: an upstart “anti-political” political movement that swept away the ruling parties after the Mani Pulite (“Clean Hands”) corruption investigations of 1992.

    But perhaps cynicism breeds more of the same. It was the Berlusconi government’s hungry, light-fingered approach to public office that opened a space for Grillo and his Vaffa rallies in 2007. Now Grillo hopes that same anger will bring down a center-left only marginally implicated in corruption, but deeply divided and defeated.

    “According to the most recent national program, the M5S’s projects today are “state and citizen, energy, information, economy, transport, health, education.” A look at the specific policy promises turns up a hodgepodge of the petty and the grand, a long wish list that seems to have been compiled from the kind of web survey dear to party strategist Casaleggio (he died in April this year, aged 61, of a brain tumor). Thus under “economy” the program calls both for “vigorous debt reduction” and “ceilings on executive pay in publicly traded and state-controlled companies” and favors “local production” and “nonprofits” as well as guaranteed unemployment benefits. Alongside all these good intentions, however, there is no trace of the hard choices about how to stimulate a depressed economy that any governing party would have to make. No mention of employment, inequality, or EU-imposed austerity. Under “transport,” the program calls for more bike paths and an improved rail system to discourage automobile use, but there is no mention of spending on infrastructure under “economy,” or of how to accomplish all these good deeds and pay a minimum income while slashing the debt. Nor does the program have any indications on foreign policy. The M5S is anti-Europe, and its Euro MPs are aligned with the far-right xenophobes of Britain’s UKIP in the EU parliament, at least until Britain finally leaves the union. It’s a program rich in magical thinking, in short.”

    So 5-Star’s general stance is kind of “populist”-ish…but it’s more of a “if we burn this all down we’ll get to have all these great things we’re promising” kind of populism. Fused with far-right social “populism”:


    In recent years, prodded by Casaleggio, the M5S has embraced anti-immigrant and anti-regulatory positions dear to the small-business owners they hope to draw into the movement. When the government of Matteo Renzi was finally poised to pass a law on civil unions, giving gays long-needed rights (a measure hotly contested in a country occupied by the Vatican), the M5S suddenly withdrew support and members were told to vote their consciences, thus dooming the most controversial plank, the one allowing gay couples to adopt. The promised “direct democracy” of online voting—candidates and major M5S decisions are decided by a vote on the Grillo blog site—has time and again brought accusations of fraudulent vote-counting. By many accounts, the party is fragmented, held together by draconian measures from the top, like the penalty of 150,000 euros that local representatives, including Mayor Raggi, are contractually obliged to pay the party should they stray from the agreed-upon policy line. Neither of the two young MPs spoken of as successors to Grillo is anywhere near as prepossessing as the leader.

    It’s certainly hard to avoid the Trumpian parallels.

    Posted by Pterrafractyl | March 22, 2017, 1:23 pm

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