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Apr 2001 Journal

previous article:Obituary: Ilse Wolff 1908 – 2001

From jackboots to Armanis

“In Western Europe there is nowhere where right-wing organisations have a chance of obtaining power,” was the reassuring view of Graeme Atkinson, co-ordinator of an international anti-fascist network and European editor of Searchlight magazine. He was addressing a seminar on ‘The Far Right in Europe’ organised by the London Jewish Cultural Centre. While parties of the far Right had gained representation in government – as had Austria’s Freedom Party – this was not the same as taking full executive responsibility. However, his was not an invitation to complacency about contemporary organisations of fascist groups whose ideology paralleled that of the Nazis.

Increasing influence

Over the past 15 to 20 years Atkinson observed that fascist groups had gained in influence, pedalling the prejudices of racism, homophobia and antisemitism, and racist violence and intimidation had become a daily occurrence across Europe. Marauding bands of skinheads were seen as a youth culture with a capacity for violence and lawlessness, and the extreme Right had attached itself to these youth sub-cultures through sales of CD records, jackets, T-shirts and other merchandise, at the same time propagating the politics of violence. The income generated thereby provided funds for further militant activities, including the purchase of weapons.

Inevitable failure at the ballot box by parties of the extreme Right, invited violence and terror as attractive alternatives. “Most of their activity is for violence and against the law”, said Atkinson. In the main the adherents of the far Right were “no-hopers and absolute losers”, but they could carry out acts of terror as did the London bomber who for 21 days held London’s minority communities in fear and killed indiscriminately. Non-Europeans were prime targets for violence and even murder. Fascist groups in Germany alone killed 138 people during 1999 and 2000, reported Atkinson. Problems of social disorder, such as the desecration of graves and places of worship, which should be dealt with by the police forces, were all too often ignored by the authorities.

New style fascism

Today’s fascist elite had abandoned the jackboots and Nazi uniform, preferring to present themselves to the media in Armani suits. Paradoxically, this ‘respectable’ side of fascism did not favour violent activities; leaders like Jean Marie Le Pen saw them as counter-productive. Undoubtedly organisations such as Combat 18 and the British Fascist Party needed monitoring and Searchlight magazine was second to none in uncovering their hatred and violence in order to immunise people against the venom these organisations injected.

Graeme Atkinson also believed it “important to understand the implications of the debate on asylum and immigration as it could lead to an upsurge in activity by fascists and other right-wing organisations”. The words ‘immigrant’ and ‘immigration’ had acquired a pejorative connotation and this had been introduced into the debate on asylum seekers, not least in sections of the media bent on stoking up passions.. It afforded an unwarranted degree of respectability to fringe organisations. Similar campaigns had already brought political breakthroughs in Italy, France, Austria and Belgium. “Their ideology is fundamentally genocidal,” Atkinson concluded, and no-one should assume there could never be a repetition of the Shoah.
Ronald Channing

previous article:Obituary: Ilse Wolff 1908 – 2001