Racism, elections and the economic down-turn

Racism, elections and the economic down-turn


Written by: Liz Fekete, Liz Fekete

Below we reproduce the editorial from the latest issue of the European Race Bulletin.

June saw elections in Europe for 736 MEPs in twenty-seven countries. But while all eyes were focused on the extreme-Right and anti-immigration parties, the real threat posed by their gains has not been given the attention it deserves. At a time of global recession and economic down-turn, processes through which foreigners and vulnerable minorities are scapegoated and stigmatised for society’s ills have been strengthened. Within the summaries and case-studies presented in this report is alarming evidence that anti-foreigner sentiment, homophobia and intolerance are being incorporated into the agendas of mainstream political parties.

While there were notable successes for the extreme-Right, the picture was not uniform. The share of the vote for the Vlaams Belang in Belgium and the Front National in France, for instance, declined substantially. But the Islamophobic Freedom Party in the Netherlands under the leadership of Geert Wilders, made dramatic gains, coming in second in the European parliament elections with 15 per cent of the vote. Equally alarming was the breakthrough for the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik) and for the True Finns; the doubling of the Danish People’s Party’s share of the vote; and lesser, though significant, gains for the Austrian Freedom Party, the Slovak National Party, Greater Romania Party, the Popular Orthodox Rally in Greece and the British National Party in the UK.

But whatever the extreme-Right’s additions and subtractions, whichever country it takes root in, it spreads a toxic poison through a rhetoric which blames the global recession on familiar enemies – Muslims, Roma, Gays, Jews – thereby encouraging the growth of fascism. There has been a neo-nazi resurgence in the Netherlands, Spain, Austria and Germany. The National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) now has 176 seats on regional and city councils, and is even gaining ground in western Germany. And where the neo-nazis flourish, racial violence follows. In this report, are details of four racist murders – in Germany, Malta and Hungary – and since going to press a 45-year-old Roma woman has been shot dead and her daughter seriously injured in Kisléta, eastern Hungary in an incident which the police are treating as racially motivated. In addition to this, Romanian Roma who migrated to Belfast have been forced out of northern Ireland, and there has been a growth in arson attacks and other violence against refugee reception centres in Finland and Sweden.

What is so immediately apparent from all these examples is the pressing need for unity between all vulnerable groups in society, defined by the extreme-Right as the ‘enemy within’. For what the growth of intolerance and neo-nazi violence should do is clarify the nature of the real enemy we face. Disunity between groups representing the Roma, Jews, Muslims, refugees is no longer an option. And in this respect, the actions of Stephen Kramer, Secretary General of the German Jewish Council, were exemplary. Amidst a deafening official silence against the horrendous murder of Marwa al-Sherbini in a German courtroom, he was the first non-Muslim to describe the attack as motivated by Islamophobia, something that the German government had, initially, resolutely failed to do.

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I would like to thank Anders Neergaard, Lotta Holmberg, Terese Jonsson and Graeme Atkinson. Endnotes: [1] < http://www.dn.se/nyheter/sverige/gellert-tamas-dagens-samhalle-liknar-lasermannens-1.1193197> [2] See Institute for Research on Migration, Ethnicity and Society, 'Beyond Liberal Pluralism: Migration and politics of exclusion in Europe' by Carl-Ulrik Schierup and Aleksandra Ålund. TheMES, no. 31, 2010. [3] See 'Islamophobia, academic research and scare scenarios', IRR European Race Bulletin no. 67. Spring 2009. [4] 'Ilegal Traveller': An Ethnography of Borders, Shahram Khosravi, Palgrave MacMillan, 2010.

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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