Judges at the trial of Anders Behring Breivik, the fascist who murdered 77 people in Norway last year, are deliberating whether he is criminally insane.
The Norwegian authorities, along with establishment politicians and press across Europe, have already decided that Breivik was a “lone wolf”.
This angle has allowed mainstream politicians to continue the xenophobic, anti-multicultural, anti-Roma and anti-Muslim speeches and policies that fed into and affirmed Breivik’s worldview.
That is a point Liz Fekete of the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) makes in her latest invaluable publication Pedlars of Hate: The Violent Impact of the European Far Right.
Pedlars of Hate shows that Breivik’s murders can’t be seen as being the act of a “mad” or “evil” individual. Instead they should be seen in the context of the growth of far right groupings and parties.
The pamphlet records over 100 cases of far right terror across West and East Europe from the beginning of 2010 until April 2012.
These range from websites publishing lists of targets, to small groups involved in stockpiling weapons for a “race war”. Individuals’ attacks on mosques, mass street movements and electoral parties are also included.
In Britain we are more aware of the rise in anti-Muslim racism. In central and eastern Europe it is Roma and Gypsy populations who are principal victims of far right terror.
The situation in Hungary is instructive. The far right Jobbik party harks back to a Nazi era founded on the extermination of Jewish and Roma peoples. It is Hungary’s third largest party.
In classic fascist manner it is also building a paramilitary force. In an extraordinary episode in March 2011 its “Civic Guard” occupied a small village 50 miles from Budapest for two months.
They were “marching every morning… singing war songs, bellowing abuse and shining floodlights into the windows of Roma families at night.
“They were soon joined by members of various hate groups… armed with axes, whips and accompanied by snarling bulldogs… hammering on doors and calling the inhabitants ‘dirty fucking Gypsies’.”
They tried to force Roma children out of the village schools. For two months they were allowed to do this. The only people prosecuted were Roma men who fought back.
Some on the extreme right have built electoral forces, such as the Front National in France and the People’s Party in Denmark. They have been matched outside parliament by “looser, less hierarchical and more conspiratorial” grassroots networks.
They feed on the widespread notion of “reverse racism”—that the “majority” is being held hostage or under threat from a “minority”, whether it be Muslims in Western Europe or Roma in the East.
This falsehood underpins the racist rhetoric of mainstream politicians against multicultural society and provides the far right with a sense of “grievance” that they can exploit.
Pedlars of Hate documents how far right threats and violence increasingly go beyond their specific racist target as they seek to bend society to their will. As we know from Britain that includes attacks on LGBT people, feminists, the left, anti-fascists and trade unionists.
What lessons should we draw from this? We need to be vigilant, organised and active against the far right, in our home countries and abroad.
We have to be uncompromisingly against the politics of scapegoating, defend those under attack and strive always for the greatest unity. The challenge of the far right, in Britain and abroad, as Liz Fekete’s publication warns us, is not going away anytime soon.
Pedlars of Hate: The Violent Impact of the European Far Right can be downloaded from the Institute for Race Relations website or purchased as a hard copy for £15