The vast majority of far-right groups making election waves in Europe are not merely extremist or unsavoury — they are staunch neo-Nazi groups, with explicit Nazi sympathies and affiliations. Many of the most prominent of these parties even have a direct Nazi heritage that remains little-understood.
Not only were the people involved in founding some of these parties Nazi sympathisers, some were often actual Nazi collaborators, or children of Nazi collaborators.
With time, the parties have tactically evolved and distanced themselves from their Nazi roots, yet for the most part that has been done simply by denying altogether they were ever Nazi or pro-Nazi.
This includes the parties now at the forefront of denouncing anti-Semitism and Nazism, such as the German AfD, the Austrian FPO, Geert Wilders’ PVV, the Belgian VB party, the Danish Peoples Party, Le Pen’s NF, and Ukip.
These parties are mobilising in the European Parliament in such a way as to maximise their credibility and legitimacy in their home countries, forging international networks with other far-right groups, cozying up to Russia, and using cover provided by more mainstream political parties to garner legitimacy.
While there has been an unmistakable surge in anti-Muslim hatred, this has also been accompanied by a surge in anti-Semitism. This is because the driving shared ideology of the ‘new’ far-right is rooted in a neo-Nazism that has increasingly couched itself within what Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik dubbed the ‘Vienna school of thought.’
These interconnected neo-Nazi parties form a divided but tightly coupled trans-Atlantic network, many of which are on the cusp of power. Vladimir Putin’s interest in these groups is because he sees in their consolidation in Europe an opportunity to accelerate the break-up of the European Union, and thereby to fatally undermine both a major geopolitical rival and the US-led European security alliance of NATO.
If these parties manage to cement their hold on power in multiple European nations, then such prospect may be quite plausible well within the next 5–10 years. The break-up of the EU threatens to destroy the entire postwar security architecture sustaining 60 plus years of peace in Europe. The end of this architecture amidst the emergence of multiple neo-Nazi governments in Europe potentially represents the biggest threat to international security since Hitler himself.
Statistical data on the rising trend of popularity of far-right parties in the European Parliament reveals that popular support for far-right MEPs has increased exponentially since the 1990s. Extrapolating the data forward, if this exponential trend continues, by 2019 far-right parties will control 37% of seats in the European Parliament (more than a third).
These parties have varying levels of cohesion in voting patterns in the European Parliament, but at this level of consolidation it is plausible that the parties would easily identify common areas of tactical coordination permitting them to operate as a very effective voting bloc.
Recent social science literature demonstrates that this extraordinary far-right resurgence poses an immediate threat to Muslim and Jewish communities in Europe, given that multiple parties have expressed open intent to explore new legal measures that would discriminate against these groups, including banning of specific ritual practices and the prospect of deportation of ‘foreign’ third generation citizens.
This literature, as well as historic and new data on hate crimes, illustrates a symbiotic link between anti-Muslim hatred and anti-Semitism that has so far been largely ignored by policymakers, and by both Muslim and Jewish communities to their detriment.
There are a wide range of factors behind the growing popular appeal of far-right groups and parties, among which is an issue that has been ignored until now — the exploitation of European Parliamentary structures themselves.
The Tory-led European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) Group in the European Parliament in particular has played a key role in enabling the rise of the AfD in Germany from a fringe party into a mainstream movement. While the ECR cannot obviously take sole responsibility for this, the funding boost and international networks opened up by affiliation to the Tory-led ECR provided the AfD with a level of legitimacy and credibility it might otherwise have struggled to gain alone.
Yet the AfD is not merely a far-right group that flirts with racism. The party has a hitherto unknown Nazi heritage, due to the fact that its most senior members were part of a historic far-right faction in the (now ruling) CDU party, with direct links to Nazi military veterans.
The AfD, which was belatedly expelled from the ECR in March 2016, is not the only ECR-affiliate with a direct neo-Nazi heritage. Other ECR affiliates, the Danish Peoples Party (DPP), the True Finns (PS) and the Independent Greeks (ANEL) have all demonstrated varying levels of sympathy for Nazi ideology and affiliations with Nazi ideologues.
The DPP and PS in particular both have extensive neo-Nazi affiliations and sympathies. The DPP has alarming connections with a US network ‘counterjihad’ ideologues whose writings and activities directly inspired Anders Breivik. Its members, candidates and parliamentarians have endorsed shockingly racist theories bearing resemblance to Nazi eugenics, such as one advocating the genetic inferiority of Muslims. The PS openly tolerates pro-Nazi politicians in its own rank, while the Independent Greeks have direct contact with the pro-Nazi neo-fascist network surrounding Putin advisor Alexander Dugin.
These and many other far-right parties are increasingly viewed as relatively moderate compared to parties better known for virulently proto-Nazi views, such as Jobbik in Hungary. In reality, these parties harbour various strains of deep-rooted Nazi ideology, and also have cultivated intra-European and trans-Atlantic connections.
Neo-Nazi tendencies can be identified in the British Ukip, the Dutch PVV, and the French NF, all of which conduct simultaneous tactical relationships with both extreme right of Republican Party and the military intelligence establishment of Russia.
It is no coincidence, therefore, that Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump is simultaneously an admirer of Putin, a promoter of ‘Brexit’, and a supporter of anti-Muslim bigotry. His campaign advisors include key officials affiliated with neoconservative ‘counterjihadist’ Frank Gaffney, who in turn maintains direct connections with pro-Putin neo-Nazi parties including Ukip, the PVV, and the Belgian VB. Gaffney and many of his fellow US ‘counterjihadists’, as well as his European neo-Nazi contacts, are key players in neo-Nazi Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik’s ‘Vienna school of thought.’
These British, Dutch and French far-right parties also hold active partnerships through European Parliamentary groups with other neo-Nazi parties, specifically the Austrian FPO, the Belgian VB, Lega Nord in Italy, MS5 in Italy, the Sweden Democrats, the Czech Party of Free Citizens, and Poland’s Congress of the New Right. The FPO, VB and Sweden Democrats have direct Nazi heritage, while the other parties have displayed significant neo-Nazi sympathies, anti-Semitism and Holocaust denial. Yet they are working partners of the far-right leaders, Farage, Wilders and Le Pen, who make a point of positioning themselves as pro-Jewish.
These parties evince fundamental ideological differences on certain issues, but nevertheless share an overarching neo-Nazi ideology that coalesces around the Breivik ‘Vienna school.’ As such, they form an eclectic but increasingly interconnected trans-Atlantic network with a prospect of coming to power in multiple Western governments, at least as coalition partners, within the next decade, and even within the next 5 years alone. Despite repeated public attempts to disassociate themselves with Breivik, mounting evidence suggests that key leaders in this network, such as Lega Nord in Italy, sympathise with Breivik’s ideology and tactics.
This trans-Atlantic network must be understood as more than simply ‘neo-Nazi’ in its character, due to their distinctive emphasis on publicly denouncing and disassociating from Nazism in order to tactically increase their legitimacy. In reality, they continue to harbour core Nazi heritage, principles, ideology and values. In this context, the apparent rhetorical shift toward anti-Nazism — sustained through public relations and internal policing — is designed precisely to conceal and protect a core animating pro-Nazi ideology.
This is a distinctive form of neo-fascism unique to post-9/11 constraints of operating in anti-Nazi liberal democracies, captured through the concept of reconstructed-Nazism. Due to their cross-cutting interconnections and capacity for tactical coordination despite doctrinal and policy disagreements, seemingly disparate far-right national parties and groups operate effectively as nodes within this wider trans-Atlantic network.
Russia wants to accelerate the resurgence of this trans-Atlantic reconstructed-Nazi movement to weaken, if not fragment, the European Union, and ideally to undermine NATO with a view to strike a blow to US influence in Eurasia. Consequently, the very reconstructed-Nazi politicians Vladimir Putin is courting for this purpose are embedded in the same US ‘counterjihad’ network whose advisors sit on the national security team of the Republican presidential candidate.
This suggests the following ways forward for concerned citizens, public institutions, government policymakers and political parties:
1. Citizens, including especially journalists, must be aware of how legitimate public debates over immigration, multiculturalism and the future of the European Union have been subtly defaced from behind the scenes by political parties and groups belonging to a trans-Atlantic reconstructed-Nazi movement, which sees these debates as, effectively, ideological ‘Trojan Horses’ by which to cement their legitimacy in mainstream public institutions.
2. Civil society and media organisations have so far underestimated the extent to which far-right parties such as the British Ukip, the Dutch PVV and the French NF constitute nodes within an emerging trans-Atlantic reconstructed-Nazi movement. Further research and investigative journalism is urgently required to unearth the nature of these political parties, their origins and goals, and their increasing interest in trans-Atlantic tactical coordination.
3. Governments and mainstream political parties, especially conservative and right-wing parties being courted by the far-right, must pursue countervailing strategies to root out and condemn sympathisers of reconstructed-Nazi extremism in their own ranks. While remaining true to their own political principles, they must communicate to their constituencies and to the wider public that these principles are fundamentally at odds with the animating principles, ideology and values of the trans-Atlantic reconstructed-Nazi movement.
4. There is a particular responsibility for governments, universities and schools to launch public and civil society education programmes to increase citizens’ access to critical information on the nature of the far-right and its Nazi heritage. This information should not be ideological in its form, but based purely on peer-reviewed historical data with a view to empower citizens to make informed choices.
5. Governments and their private sector donors need to acknowledge that the increasing appeal of the trans-Atlantic reconstructed-Nazi movement to Western publics is ultimately rooted in unresolved social and economic crises. Unless governments and their private sector donors adopt a course of social and economic transformation which can restore public confidence, the extreme right will continue to exploit this malaise by broadening its appeal, with dangerous consequences for the West’s most cherished institutions and values.
Tell MAMA independently and separately commissioned INSURGEintelligence to explore the network dynamics of far right extremism in Europe. The views and opinions in this investigative project do not necessarily represent those of Tell MAMA.