Stop Fascism *******************************************************************************

The Threat of Neo Fascism in Post-Communist Eastern Europe


The twentieth century has been importuned with many hate-mongering ideologies. However, the one ideology which has left a scar on humanity is Fascism and it has turned its ugly face once again in the eastern European countries of Slovakia, Czech Republic, Serbia, Croatia, Hungary, Romania and Poland. According to Compton's Interactive Encyclopedia 1994, the word fascism is derived from the Latin fasces, a symbol of authority in ancient Rome. The fasces was a bundle of rods strapped together around an axe, and it represented the unbreakable power of the state. Fascism entered into the political arena when the Italian World War II dictator, Benito Mussolini, also known as the Duce, organized the first fascist movement in 1919 in Milan. His doctrine gave the state the power to strip away individual rights and freedoms. The individual was transformed into a tool for the state, therefore he was obliged to serve the nation in any means possible.

Fascism's greatest enemy is Democracy, which originated in the fifth century BC by the Athenian leader, Pericles, who deemed that every Athenian male should have the right to make decisions in the state. This movement withdrew the oligarchy from command. In the twentieth century democracy has subsequently evolved , women have gained the right to vote and many countries have obtained their independence. This independence resulted in the removal of colonial powers such as England and of the Iron Curtain, which divided western and eastern Europe during Josef Stalin's communist ruling. Thus, Democracy stands for the rights of the individual while Fascism stands for the rights of a specific nation and towards the nations boundless duty towards the state.

Democracy fought against the menace of Fascism during W.W.II., when Adolf Hitler from Germany and Benito Mussolini from Italy advanced jointly as a potent fascist defense in their attempt to conquer Europe, Africa and North America. Democracy became the major political force due to its undeniable popularity over the fascist regime which had killed and imprisoned millions of innocent people in concentration camps due to their religion or their nationality. While the fascist ideology has mutated within every new generation of thinkers, the main concept has lingered within its designated area on the political spectrum. However, these mutations have not been for the better; as the end of the millennium approaches, no industrialized nation is entirely without a fascist movement of some sort (Gibbons, R, 233). Therefore this personal research project examines a very timely subject: Neo Fascism in post-communist Europe

In Eastern Europe people are not valued by their principles but rather by their nationality. While ten percent of the population of Serbia in the autumn 1992 could be characterized as openly xenophobic, fully three quarters of the population fell into that category in 1993 (Vreme News Digest, 10). This region's abrupt transition from communism to a democratic, free-market system in 1989, has created a socio-economic crisis. No threat comparable to Soviet expansionism justified the commitment of American funds or troops to help the post-communist countries establish stable democracies (Fisher, M.E., 11). This crisis brought unemployment and inflation, the old Yugoslav Republic's debts stood at over sixteen billion dollars. This debt demonstrated to the eastern European public that democracy was impractical. When they were communist, they had permanent jobs handed to them by the government, this in turn gave them a sense of security. This disappointment in democratic theories and policies generated an interest in an alternative form of government: extreme right or Neo-Fascist political parties. The Fascist ideology appeals to society's deepest longing for community, solidarity and for safety (Danziger, J.N., 14). While satisfying the needs of the majority, could ethnic minorities and free thinkers' rights be disregarded and abused? In such a repressive environment, a respectable democracy can not thrive, since the citizens themselves dismiss any affiliation to moral freedom and private economic responsibility. This type of repression of multi-ethnic acceptance is called "extreme nationalism", and it threatens the proper implementation of democracy by denying internationalism(the acceptance of every human being regardless of their nationality or religion) to flourish within its society. Therefore this demonstrates that a communist country cannot readily transform into a fully functional democracy rapidly. As long as there are Neo Fascist political parties in Eastern Europe, the process of transformation into a liberal political system, where the rights of the individual and not of the person's nationality are esteemed, no true democracy can ever exist.

Many people believe that the Fascist threat disappeared at the end of W.W.II.. One example is Noel O'Sullivan, author of the book entitled Fascism, which underlined the fact that although a conglomeration of Fascist and Neo Fascist movements have persisted into the post-war period, these are dismissed as the rumblings of an extinct volcano (183). While the American scholar, A.J. Gregor, maintains that society has now entered a new era of universal Fascism in which Fascism has moved beyond western Europe (Laqueur, W., 187). If universal Fascism is present in modern day times, then it can be present anywhere in the world, eastern Europe being one of them.

After 1989, eastern Europe had degenerated socially. Drug abuse and street gang violence had increased due to the increase in poverty (unemployment in Serbia, stood at 50% in May 1992). Thus, people were left with very few materialistic pleasures. Neo Fascist political parties assumed that they could win the majority vote by denouncing immigrants, refugees and ethnic minorities through the destruction of their country's moral values. Many minorities had been sent to prison, given lower standards of education, as well as being victims of gangs whom were hired by political parties, which in result left these minorities striped from their own self-esteem.

The unjust imprisonment of ethnic minorities had been monitored by the United Nations as well as by Amnesty International. Some were imprisoned on the basis of their ethnicity, without any just proof of having committed any crime. In December 1997, one Croatian Serb was sentenced to three consecutive terms of twenty years of imprisonment. His conviction was based on an uncorroborated confession made in 1993 which he had withdrawn, claiming that it had been made as a result of ill-treatment by prison guards (Amnesty International., 146). If a person is convicted for more than one life sentence due to an uncorroborated confession, then the justice system could be considered unjust, and the Croatian government should take steps to reduce the sentence to a more reasonable length of time.

If ethnic minorities are arrested for just reasons, then their rights in prison should be the same as other inmates. According to the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights under Article 7. "all are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to equal protection of the law. All are entitled to equal protection against any discrimination in violation of this Declaration and against any incitement to such discrimination." Unfortunately that is not the case in Romania where in 1997, the Helsinki Human Rights Commission discovered that the Romanian government did not protect the Roma (Gypsies) from police violence, nor did it guarantee that the victims of such violence obtain equal protection under the law ([online]. Romania and The Gypsies).

When crimes were committed against ethnic minorities, there was no just retribution. Such was the case in Slavonia in 1997, where Amnesty International discovered that those responsible for murdering a Croatian Serb, were not brought to justice, instead they were only charged for a minor offense and released (147). The judicial system and the government did not see to it that the murderer be justly prosecuted. Instead, the government participated in prejudiced favoritism, based on the fact that the guilty one was of the same nationality as the majority. Instead of being charged for a felony they were simply charged for a misdemeanor. Misdemeanors are for petty thieves not murderers.

The educational system in eastern Europe denies ethnic minorities the same rights as the ethnic majority. Students that came from another ethnic background then the country's majority were denied a proper education, segregated and mocked by the rest of their classmates, and taught subjective history classes. Yet under Article 26 of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights it states that "(1)Everyone has the right to an education....(2)It shall promote understanding, tolerance, friendship amongst all nations, racial or religious groups." In some schools in Eastern Europe, Roma children still sit in separate rows in the back of the room; other schools contain only Roma children who are kept segregated from the rest of society (Hockenos, P., 221). These children were denied equal learning opportunities and in conclusion their minds could not develop as well as the other children who had been provided with access to a promising education.

Not only were minority students ostracized by the educational system but teachers as well. They were not judged by their intelligence but by their nationality, which almost resulted in them being fired from their posts. In Cluj, Romania, in 1992, the Vatra Romanesca Party (PRNU) tried to drive out Hungarian educators (Gallagher, T., 225). Educational institutions did not offer an objective selection of instruction books. Therefore, the Organization for Security and Cooperation In Europe (OSCE) office in Zagreb, investigated and found school text-books on history and geography exclusively oriented toward Croatia and Croats ([online] Naughty Corner). This educational system was intolerant of Serbs because it gave them a sense of inferiority compared to their Croat peers. The Serbs had existed in Croatia for centuries, there must of been sometime in the history of Croatia where Serbs had played an important role.

Many Neo Fascist political parties recruited gangs just as Mussolini's blackshirts, to create fear and pacifism amongst their country's minority groups. In Slovakia, police forces in 1992 were under pressure to remove the Roma from their towns. Therefore, they allowed neo-nazi skinhead gangs to remove the Roma for them through means of violence and intimidation. (Hockenos, P., 233) Romas were assaulted due to their nationality. Under Article 5. in The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights it states that "no one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, or inhuman degrading treatment or punishment." This article was ignored by these Neo Fascist parties, whom instead embraced violence to remove any alleged menace for assuming power over their state. In Poland, Boleslaw Tejkowski, leader of the extreme right-wing Polish Nationalist Party, cooperated with a group of skinheads who had violently attacked Gypsies and clearly identifiable foreigners: African students, Romanian asylum seekers and German tourists (Ferguson, R., 212). Margaret Quigley, a journalist reported in the March/April issue of Extra! magazine, that gangs routinely defaced Hungarian election posters with Anti-Semitic graffiti ("The Anti-Semitic Roots of Eastern European Nationalism", 1990, 10). These hate crimes were not further investigated. And so this act demonstrates that the government was apathetic towards their minorities' needs and secretly encouraged gang violence.

Eastern Europe's minorities were regarded as parasites instead of fellow human beings with feelings. Neo Fascist political parties cannot blame all of society's problems on ethnic minorities. Ignorance creates hatred; in order to prevent hatred from leading to violence, eastern Europeans need to realize that racism and violence cannot remove problems such drug abuse and crime from the street. It may even worsen these issues and create new ones such as gang related violence.

Economically, no poverty stricken country can survive without the help of the International Monetary Fund (IMF). Since eastern European's had not received much aid from the IMF, Neo Fascist politicians resorted to other drastic economic plans to prevent the value of their currencies from dropping even more. They chose to slow down the privatization of industries as well as help the petty bourgeoisie and the agrarian peasants. Unfortunately, this created a serious disadvantage for ethnic minorities and free thinkers, since they were forgotten from this dividend. According to a poll conducted by the Vreme News Digest of Serbia, forty-nine percent of the people of non-Serbian nationality polled said that their financial situation was worse than it had been the previous year, and thirty seven percent believed that the following year would be much worse.

The Re-nationalization of industries intended to prevent western ideologies and markets from taking control of Eastern European countries. The fear of Americanization was intense among extreme right eastern European parties. One prime example is that of Prime Minister Meciar who had renationalized the publishing house that prints all of the newspapers in the Slovak capital of Bratislava (Hockenos, P., 233). In this manner the Prime Minister could control all the information that passed through to the Slovakian public. He could filter out any unwanted news and change current events to appease the majority, through forcing the press to alter news articles to his satisfaction. In 1993, there was considerable support for slowing down the process of privatization and for greater state involvement in the economy in Romania (Ferguson, 208). More state involvement resembles the fascist economic values that Hitler embraced in the 1930's and 1940's, when he stopped the freedom of press and private enterprise. When a government controls all forms of consumption, it therefore also molds the minds of their citizens.

Another form of unjust economic distribution was the prevention of ethnic minorities from purchasing land to appease local agrarian peasants. Andrej Lepper's Sambroona party in Poland demanded that foreigners, especially Germans, should not be allowed to purchase land. (Ferguson, 206). In 1993, Cluj Vatra addressed a letter to government leaders protesting against proposals to allow foreigners to buy land in Romania(Gallagher, 207). This form of discrimination had created an obstruction in equal land rights. Before democracy had been instated, every citizen had their own designated land regardless of their nationality. However since 1989, agrarian chauvinism had become a trend in eastern Europe, where industrialization had slowed down and people returned back to more rudimentary forms of working, such as farming. By preventing foreign investors and ethnic minorities from buying land, less jobs were created and many business opportunities had been lost.

Many Neo Fascist parties provided money, discounts and compensation to institutions or members of the populace that support their point of view. A prime example of this was in 1990, when Sladek, leader of the Czech republic offered a new Alfa Romeo sports car to the first police force that would rid their town of Roma. (Hockenos, 228). This form of bribery shows paternalistic leadership, where the leader regards his citizens as his children whom he can manipulate and to whom he can give prizes in order to convince them to follow his orders. In Romania, care was taken to satisfy the economic aspirations of the technocrats and administrators who had promoted the Romanian nationalist upsurge in Transylvania (Gallagher, 224). Due to the fact that the Romanian government had been supplying aid to nationalists, funds had not been available to solve the poverty and health care problems of the state. In turn this unjust situation had lead to violent disputes between Hungarians and Romanians.

Eastern European right wing parties ignored that multiculturalism could bring a more open-minded view to businesses, which could attract tourism and create more employment for their country. State funds were not used to help the most needy; instead they were used as a means to bribe groups which had supported their party's Fascist causes. If the establishment of a true democracy had taken place , free trade would have flourished and dozens of private newspapers, each with its own voluntary cogitation could have been distributed with minimal governmental filtering.

Politically, many Eastern European politicians who were communist, turned to right-wing politics since the ideology had become obsolete. Slavenka Drakulic, a Croatian fiction and non-fiction writer conveyed that in 1992, the Romanians overwhelmingly (eighty five percent of them) supported Ion Iliescu, a leader with fascist tendencies, instead of electing a competent bureaucrat who would work on behalf of democracy(Cafe Europa, 105). Eastern Europeans have never seen the benefits of democracy; thus they continue to look toward leaders who can raise their spirits through national self-determination (nationalism).

With the international support from fascist groups in North America and the rest of Europe, Neo Fascist political parties could create a charismatic team which could lure the public interest towards them and in turn give them more votes. Croatia has received sympathetic visits from European extreme right-wing leaders such as Jean Marie Le Pen, leader of France's National Front party (Harris, 192.). These visits from extreme-right leaders, demonstrate the notoriority of Neo Fascism in Eastern Europe. Lyndon Larouche, leader of the National Caucus of Labor Committee (NCLC) in the United States, created an international web of political alliance that included political parties parallel to his beliefs and financed, in part, by his alleged fundraising schemes (King, xvi).

Boris Yeltsin had brought democracy to Russia and a challenge to other post-communist countries to do the same. Unfortunately, Russia's economy in 1999 has reached a point of great recession and thoughts of impeachment are eminent in the Duma (Russian parliament). However, Vladimir Zhirinovsky and Alexander Nevzorov are two politicians who oppose democracy, but speak passionately about burning effigies, rallies and mass hatred which inspired many post-communist countries to follow their lead (Hitching, [online]). Extreme right-wing Eastern European politicians such as Milosevic(Serbia) and Tudjman(Croatia) followed Zhirinovsky and Nevzorov's beliefs, because by creating scapegoats they could in turn raise the national self-determination of their followers.

Nationalism is the main ideology that keeps Neo Fascist parties in the popular arena. Hitler and Mussolini used this idea to create mass hatred toward all other cultures except their own. Then aggressive attacks led to mass genocide, where millions of innocent people died. The governments in eastern European countries such as Croatia and Serbia had created another genocide by ordering their armies to kill countless ethnic minorities. Kosovo is one example, of a very recent ethnic purity war. Political parties such as the Vatra Romanesca (which claimed to have 400 000 supporters in 1993) had even called for a bloody war against all non-Romanians (Hainsworth, P., 280). The Vatra's idea of resorting to ethnic cleansing resembled W.W.II. Fascist European tactics.

To raise national self-determination, Neo Fascist political parties often used charismatic spokespeople. In January 1990, Istvan Csurka, the popular Hungarian writer, made a radio speech in which he appealed to Hungarians to 'wake up' to the fact that a 'dwarf minority' was threatening to take control of the country (Hainsworth, P., The Extreme Right In Europe and the U.S.A., 1992, 280). Hungary's largest political party, the Hungarian Democratic Forum had been accused of being personally allied with Csurka . Another example is that of Serbia's Vojislav Seselj, leader of the Serbian Radical Party, which warned that the Serbian struggle for national liberation may take twenty to thirty years, but that ultimately the Serbs would emerge victorious with their nation intact and their state reconstructed (Ferguson, R., 149). This speech alienated all ethnic minorities from being accepted as fellow humans; instead, it endorsed the struggle of Serbians to create a nation without minorities.

The imprisonment and the suppression of political activists and free thinkers had removed democratic forms of expression. Under Article 19 of The United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights it states that "everyone has the right to freedom of opinion and expression; this right includes freedom to hold opinions without interference." The following examples illustrates this point: Amnesty International discovered that in 1997, in Croatia, journalists and open critics of the government were put in prison solely for expressing their opinions (Amnesty International Report 1998, 146). These free thinkers were silenced due to their opinions which in turn removed their basic human rights for freedom of expression.

In the summer of 1990, in Bucharest, Romania, protesting students were brutally suppressed by police officers (Weinberg, L., 107). Brutality is an inappropriate means of keeping students from demonstrating their universally acknowledged right of freedom of assembly. These students had no violent tendencies and so posed no physical threat to the city or the police officers, yet the state felt politically threatened by their intelligence and courage.

In November 1993, Senator Valer Suian of the Cluj's PRNU in Romania, tried to persuade parliament to adopt a law that punished anyone who received or communicated false, exaggerated or tendious views, and information that disturbed the Romanian state, by sentencing them to up to five years imprisonment (Gallagher, 200). This politician's statement denounced any freedom of expression. Such laws were common under Hitler's ruling of Germany where the Gestapo would arrest anyone whose ideas opposed those of the National Socialist Party .

While propaganda was created by politicians, the truth was hidden from the public. Alternative political thinking was considered illegal, yet freedom of political expression, in a democratic state should be an every day phenomenon, yet Eastern Europeans had lost their democratic voice. Instead they were left to the whims of their leaders, such as Milosevic who used the media to slander libertarian political parties.

This personal research project has shown that Eastern Europeans had lost many important universal human rights. Despite the failure to bring about significant positive changes, Eastern Europeans must strive to improve their political, economic and social problems. If the Eastern European public accepts without question the propaganda and scapegoating tactics of Neo Fascist political parties, then the prospect of a true democracy shall be lost. Historian Paul Johnson predicts that it is only a matter of time before the Neo-Fascism of the 1990's using a new name, will become respectable (Hainsworth, P., 120). In order to prevent this modern form of Fascism from becoming acceptable by the public, severe economic, social and political reform must take place. Slobodan Milosevic has continued his battle for ethnic purity in Kosovo, the independent province of Serbia by trying to remove ethnic Albanians from the region. The international community must unite to prevent Neo Fascism from establishing another Iron Curtain where not only social classes are being judged, but the true essence of Internationalism is at stake.

Works Consulted

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