Mark Steyn on why the fascists are winning in Europe

In bad times, if the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain issues, voters will turn to unrespectable ones

Why the fascists are winning in EuropeTo promote a greater sense of Euro-harmony, the European Parliament—actually, make that the European “Parliament”—is organized into ideological blocs, ensuring that French liberals sit with Slovene liberals, and Belgian greens sit with Latvian greens, rather than hunkering down in their ethnic ghettoes. The largest bloc is the “centre-right,” the second-largest are the socialists, and the third is now the “non-inscrits,” the bloc for people who don’t want to belong to blocs. As a result of this month’s election, this Groucho Marxist grouping of “Others” tripled in size to just under a hundred seats. So, if they’re not liberals, socialists, greens, “European democrats” or the “Nordic Green Left,” what the hell are they?

Okay, here goes. The members of the non-bloc bloc include: one member of the “True Finns” party; one member of the Slovak National Party; two members of the British National Party; two members of the Austrian Freedom Party; two members of the Vlaams Belang, the “Flemish Interest” party; two members of the Civic Union, which sounds like a gay marriage in Vermont but is in fact an offshoot of the Latvian nationalist For Fatherland And Freedom Party; three members of France’s National Front; three members of Jobbik, the Hungarian nationalist party; three members of the Greater Romania Party . . .

Well, you get the picture. The European Parliament isn’t exactly working out as Lord Tennyson foresaw:

“. . . the war-drum throbb’d no longer, and the battle-flags were furl’d / In the Parliament of man, the Federation of the world.

“There the common sense of most shall hold a fretful realm in awe / And the kindly earth shall slumber, lapt in universal law.”

A Federation of Euro-harmony filled by ultra-nationalist xenophobes is almost too droll a jest. My favourite of these new national parties is Ataka, which is a Bulgarian word meaning—oh, go on, take a wild guess. That’s right: “Attack.” What a splendidly butch name. The Attack party was formed from last year’s merger of the Bulgarian National Patriotic Party, the Union of Patriotic Forces and the National Movement for the Salvation of the Fatherland, and in nothing flat managed to get 13 per cent of the vote.

Like Attack, many of these lively additions to the political scene favour party emblems that slyly evoke swastikas while bending the prongs in different directions just enough to maintain deniability. Other than that, they don’t have a lot in common with their colleagues in the no-bloc bloc. I don’t just mean in the sense that the leader of the Slovak National Party said a couple of years back, “Let’s all get in tanks and go and flatten Budapest,” which presumably is not a policy position the Hungarian nationalists in Jobbik would endorse. But there are broader differences, too. The SNP is antipathetic to homosexuals, whereas Krisztina Morvai, the attractive blonde Jobbik member just elected to the Euro-parliament, is a former winner of the Freddie Mercury Prize for raising AIDS awareness. I can’t be the only political analyst who wishes that, instead of a victory speech last Sunday, Doktor Morvai had stood on the table in black tights and bellowed out, “We Are The Champions.”

Like our chums at Canada’s “human rights” commissions, Doktor Morvai is a “human rights” activist—and, indeed, a former delegate to the UN Women’s Rights Committee. One thing a woman has a right to is an uncircumcised penis. In the course of her successful election campaign, the good doctor told Hungarian Jews to “go back to playing with their tiny little circumcised tails.” I don’t know what Krisztina has against circumcised penises, but it’s probably not her pelvis.

It’s unclear whether any member of the Austrian Freedom Party has won the Freddie Mercury Prize, but its late leader, Jörg Haider, wound up pushing up edelweiss eight months ago when he flipped his Volkswagen limo after leaving a gay bar in Klagenfurt somewhat the worse for wear. “He never helped his family man image by turning up at rallies and local events with an entourage of young blond men,” reported the Daily Mail. “Newspapers in his homeland said they were reluctant to publish ‘full details’ of his homosexuality fearing an outburst of hate toward the gay community would overtake hatred towards foreigners.”

Er, if you say so. So hard to know who to hate first, isn’t it? And you’ve gotta be able to prioritize.

In Austria’s Euro-election, two explicitly anti-immigrant parties won 18 per cent of the vote. In the United Kingdom, meanwhile, the new nationalist vote was divided between the British National Party and the UK Independence Party, which favours British withdrawal from the European Union and managed to elect 13 members to the European Parliament, winning 17 per cent of the vote and pushing Gordon Brown’s Labour Party into third place. The two seats won by the BNP represent the first victory in a national election by any British Fascist party, however squishily one cares to define that term. Seventy years ago, under Sir Oswald Mosley, a far more charismatic leader than the BNP’s Nick Griffin, the British Union of Fascists never managed to elect a single local councillor.

So the electors of the United Kingdom crossed a dark Rubicon this month. For 40 years, London’s Europhile politico-media elites have attempted to impose a “European identity” on the masses, condescendingly assuring the British people that they are, indeed, European, they’re just too parochial and ill-informed to realize it. Thus the paradox: in its rejection of Europe, the British electorate has never been more European. The Brits have finally got with the program: just like the Continentals, they’re voting for fascists.

Woody Guthrie used to have a label on his guitar: “This Machine Kills Fascists.” Not true, of course. Just the usual self-flattery to which singing Commies are prone. But, in the room where they cook up European conventional wisdom, they could easily pin a sign on the door saying: “This Political Machine Creates Fascists.” One can forgive Bulgaria its wackier demagogues: they are, after all, only two decades removed from one-party totalitarianism. But, in the western half of Continental Europe, politics evolved to the point where almost any issue worth talking about was ruled beyond the bounds of polite society. In good times, it doesn’t matter so much. But in bad times, if the political culture forbids respectable politicians from raising certain issues, then the electorate will turn to unrespectable ones. Europe has taken a worse hit than North America in the first crisis of economic globalization: unemployment in Spain, for example, is over 17 per cent. To the Marxist historian Eric Hobsbawm, this “crisis of capitalism” is the biggest event since the fall of the Soviet Union. But, if it’s a “crisis of capitalism,” why did the mainstream Euro-left take the electoral hit rather than the mainstream Euro-right? Instead of turning to socialist parties promising more state booty, voters boosted the fortunes of the neo-nationalists. Many of these groups are economically protectionist (and in some cases more “left wing” than, say, the British Labour Party) but they’re also culturally protectionist in a way the polytechnic left most certainly isn’t.

On the day of the European elections, the Toronto Sun’s Lorrie Goldstein responded to my observations about his recent column accusing Tamilphobic Canadians of racism. “I wish,” sighed Mr. Goldstein, “Steyn would spend more time disagreeing with what racists say and less time defending their right to say it.” But that’s kind of a crowded market for a pundit to get a piece of the action in. I mean, Canada surely doesn’t need one more delicate flower shrieking “Racism!” at every affront to the multiculti pieties. That hypersensitivity is what’s helped deliver more and more of the European vote to “fringe” parties. You want to talk about immigration? Whoa, racist! Crime? Racist! Welfare? Racist! Islam? Racistracistdoubleracist!!! Nya-nya, can’t hear you with my two anti-racist thumbs in my ears!

Already, the European political class is congratulating itself at holding the tide of neo-nationalism to the low double-digits. I’d say some of these results are pretty remarkable given that these parties are all but excluded from the public discourse and that even a relatively mild dissenter from the consensus such as the Dutch parliamentarian Geert Wilders has been banned from setting foot in Britain and is undergoing prosecution for his views in the Netherlands. What makes the Labour Party “mainstream” with 15 per cent of the vote and UKIP the “fringe” with 17 per cent? Nothing, other than the blinkers of the politico-media class. But if you want to drive the electorate toward the wilder shores in ever greater numbers, keep crying “Racist!” at every opportunity.

Things are not going to get any prettier in the next European electoral cycle. Aside from professions of “horror” at the success of the neo-nationalists, there is now talk of shutting down these parties by using the legal system (as was done in Belgium) or by denying them the public funding to which their share of the vote entitles them. Subverting democracy to suppress neo-nationalism doesn’t seem a smart move. But then if the political class were that smart it wouldn’t be in this situation. The problem in Europe is not a lunatic fringe but a lunatic mainstream ever more estranged from its voters.