By Yuri Prasad
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Far right feed off marches in Europe over Covid laws

The far right is gaining from frustration over how governments deal with Covid
Issue 2782
Thousands of nationalists, conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers protest in Vienna, Austria. (Pic: Ivan Radic/Flickr)

Thousands of nationalists, conspiracy theorists and anti-vaxxers protest in Vienna, Austria. (Pic: Ivan Radic/Flickr)

Large angry protests and sporadic rioting broke out in parts of Europe last week as governments introduced new Covid restrictions.

There were violent demonstrations in Austria, Belgium, and the Netherlands. In Vienna, Austria 40,000 people marched with some fighting the police in front of the Heldenplatz palace gate.

In Rotterdam, Dutch police shot and wounded at least two people during rioting. Protesters hit back with rocks and fireworks.

In Brussels, Belgium cars were torched and police vehicles and an ambulance were attacked.

The wave of anger on the streets is driven by opposition to new Covid restrictions being introduced to counter a new Covid wave ­sweeping Europe.

Infections in many countries are now running at highs not seen since the peak of the pandemic earlier this year. And many of those filling hospital intensive care wards are unvaccinated.

Austria started a national up to lockdown of up to 20 days this week, and other countries may follow suit.

The government says it will enforce a “vaccine mandate”—a legal requirement to be jabbed—in February next year.

Austria’s far right Freedom Party is heading the street movement.

It is using its platform in parliament to tell people that vaccines don’t work, masks are a threat to liberty—and that a drug used to treat parasitic worms can cure coronavirus.

The protests in the Netherlands are focused on new laws which will restrict Covid passports to those who have had the vaccine. That means those unvaccinated will be shut out of society. 

The new restrictions are an admission by the state that it has failed, both to stop the spread of infections, and to persuade ­everyone of the need for vaccinations and prevention measures. And again, the far right is seeking to capitalise on the anger.

The Voorpost group came on to the streets with their orange, white and blue version of the Dutch flag—the one used by the Dutch Nazi party. 

The right across Europe is ­tapping into growing frustrations, particularly among those who run small businesses.

They feed off a growing distrust of the state, felt most sharply at the bottom of society.

If the European governments wanted to win an ideological battle over vaccinations, they should have made the programme far more democratic by allowing people to run the services in their communities and giving them control of the budgets.

They should also properly compensate everyone who lost out financially due to restrictions. Crucially, they should have announced a citizenship programme for all migrants so that people without legal status would have felt at ease about accessing healthcare.

These measures would have made Covid measures more effective—and undercut the right by isolating them from wider support.

Now, the only weapon the ruling class has left is repression, and that is exactly the response the right was hoping for.

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