Monday, December 23, 2013

The Return of European Fascism

Distrust of the government, xenophobia, racism and a weak economy. That may sound like Germany after World War II, but it describes many European countries today. For the 60 years after the war, Western Europe embraced liberal forms of government. After the  fall of the Soviet Union, Eastern Europe drifted toward a democratic, capitalist society similar to those in the West. Bow economic hardship is changing that.

Once small, fringe movements, the far Right and Left have grown in popularity with the increasingly disenchanted youth. Political parties such as the National Democratic Party of Germany, the Freedom Party of Austria, the National Front (France) and the Golden Dawn Party (Greece) have risen to influence, especially in countries with parliamentary and proportional representation. Though none call themselves fascist, they support platforms sharing qualities with Mussolini and Hitler. These parties often espouse stricter immigration laws, zero-tolerance policies, protectionism, anti-Islamism, anti-Semitism and nationalism.

The country whose move towards fascism is receiving the most media attention is Russia. Under Vladimir Putin the country has become militaristic, aggressively seeking to expand its influence. The most obvious attempt was their invasion of Georgia, a former Soviet republic, in the mid-2000s. Though they’ve done so in a more clandestine way through their increased political influence of the Eastern European countries. Russia has placed many restrictions on the press, increasingly militarized itself, hounds gays and Jews, and is becoming extremely nationalistic.

The reasons Italy, Germany, and Austria became fascist before World War II are eerily similar to Europe today. Europe has a declining economy, with the financial and political elites becoming increasingly distanced from the people, causing anger and distrust of the establishment.

It is unlikely that Europe will swing completely fascist. There would be no true dictator as that wouldn't go with the people. Most likely, some states will embrace a form of quasi-fascism in which there would be would be protectionism, corporatism, less privatization, and prohibitions against foreigners buying land. There would be a large increase of power in the armed forces and intelligence  sectors. The media would be highly regulated. Xenophobia would become policy.

To prevent the European shift towards fascism there would need to be major improvements to the economy. When people are prosperous, the establishment receives more support from the public. America and Canada can encourage this by decreasing tariffs on European goods and creating free-trade deals with the European Union. Increasing trade could be the best way to prevent another nightmare.

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