‘Marching neo-Nazi paramilitary guards, openly racist members of parliament, ghetto walls erected around Roma Gypsy slums, laws slanted so that social welfare recipients from ethnic minorities are losing their benefits, fingerprinting and mass deportation of ‘guest workers’, judicial and bureaucratic bias against immigrants and unpunished race murders.
The above examples are from Hungary, Bulgaria, the Czech Republic, Hungary again, Italy, France, Russia and Hungary.
Does all of this amount to fascism? Yes and no. There are three elements conspicuously absent from the extreme right’s present triumph.
These elements were crucial for fascist and Nazi successes in the 1920s and the 1930s.
First, fascism was a sort of “pre-emptive counter-revolution” against proletarian mass parties – communist and socialist – along with militant trade unions and workers’ councils that seemed to take over Europe in the wake of the Russian revolution in October 1917.
Such movements do not threaten the capitalist order today.
The fascist and Nazi parties of the 1920s and 1930s drew support from war veterans’ and cashiered officers’ groups who were out for revenge against the bourgeois West and the Bolshevik East.
They wanted a European war and territorial conquest. This is not on the agenda of the contemporary far right.
Third, they tried to introduce an all-out, totalitarian dictatorship. The “post-fascists” of today still want to limit freedom, pacify workers, silence the downtrodden and segregate ethnic minorities, immigrants and asylum seekers, and to discriminate against women, gays and lesbians.
But, for the moment, they are willing to join open or veiled coalitions with mainstream conservative forces and are pursuing a strategy of electoralism, intimidation and small-scale terror.
In spite of all these important differences, “post-fascists” are fascists.
They are agents of class war from above. They mobilise white lower middle-class youth, the so-called “petty bourgeois”, against the whole working class – against “precarious” part-time and “flexibilised” new proletarians, and against the impoverished social welfare claimants and the unemployed who they present as criminal and racially or culturally alien.
The fascists are still playing capital’s game while masquerading as an opposition to “the system” by dividing the exploited and those dependent on the remaining structures of the welfare state and making them fight one another. This has not changed one bit.
In Eastern Europe and elsewhere, the mainstream bourgeois parties are defending cuts, redundancies, plant closures and privatisation.
They justify spending public money on the banks with the usual neoconservative and neoliberal arguments.
The fascists are arguing for the same, pretending that those drawing benefits are dark-skinned spongers and loafers.
They pretend to “protect jobs” by sending immigrant workers home or – in Eastern Europe at least – by killing off ethnic minorities, shutting them into labour camps or forcing them to perform unpaid work in exchange for the dole or minimum social assistance.
In Hungary, the fascists are organising uniformed paramilitary troops marching up and down our streets, bedecked with Nazi regalia and flying wartime fascist party flags.
Neo-Nazi terrorists are attacking Roma homes, along with social democrat and liberal politicians.
The profound unpopularity of mainstream bourgeois parties and of their unchanged neoconservative policies offers the hard right a large space of manoeuvre.
The Hungarian extreme right may be represented in the next European Parliament, possibly alongside MEPs from the British National Party, whose leader is in the habit of addressing SS commemorations in Budapest’s Heroes’ Square.
Meanwhile a new left party, the Hungarian Green Left, has been illegally prevented from participating in the June European elections by bureaucratic shenanigans.
This re-emphasises the fact that, now more than ever, the left needs to come together to counter the fascists with viable and practical socialist politics.’
G M Tamás is a Marxist philosopher, a former MP and acting leader of a new coalition, the Hungarian Green Left