This is not an exaggeration. A fascist party “modeled on a second world war Nazi puppet state” has won seats in an election in Europe. The neo-Nazi party won 14 seats in an election so disturbing that the ruling social democratic party won the election not by promising anything particularly socially democratic but by running on an anti-migrant platform in the face of a nearly unparalleled refugee crisis. The election was close enough that the country is struggling to form a governable coalition before it assumes control of the EU presidency next summer.
The party that won seats for the first time isn’t just incredibly conservative to the point of fascism — some of its members literally don uniforms and hold right-wing marches. And Slovakia isn’t the only country where this is a growing problem. The Hungarian Jobbik party, the second largest in its Parliament, has had one of its members previously advocate for counting and deporting Jews from the country.
In fact, the rise of fascism triggered by the migrant crisis is threatening to engulf much of the continent. Poland, a country thought to be a relatively enlightened democracy now governed by a right-wing party, recently passed a law allowing the government to take control of public media outlets over strident protests from other EU countries. Its government has also effectively taken control of the country’s judicial branch in recent months.
In France, the legendary far-right National Front party, though it didn’t win seats in regional elections, garnered upwards of six million votes and was still able to triple its presence on regional councils even if it didn’t win majorities. In Germany, the Islamaphobic PEGIDA movement (which stands for Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the West) has grown like a white supremacist weed out of the political upheaval the refugee crisis has created.
Greece’s Golden Dawn, another far-right, anti-immigrant party won third place in the country’s early 2015 elections. The Danish People’s Party, a nativist and fundamentalist party which holds almost quaintly pre-Enlightenment platform planks like “The Danish Evangelical Lutheran Church is the church of the Danish people” is actually leading in the polls in the country’s next election. And the crisis in Russia, now common knowledge, seems to grow by the month.
Even Sweden is not immune. The Sweden Democrats, a party with white supremacist and Aryan militant roots, are now influential enough to force Sweden’s mainstream parties to strike a deal just to keep them out of power.
Europe is approaching a crescendo in anti-immigrant, anti-Muslim, and dangerously nativist sentiment which is fueling these parties to power. And in the wake of the refugee crisis, in the wake of the attacks on Paris, in the wake of the general decline of social democracy across much of the continent, the rise of fascism is likely to continue.
Back at home, where do we find ourselves, the country too often hailed as a beacon of freedom (or criticized as not living up to that reputation)? Are we watching these developments with any concern at all? No. We are, as a public, strikingly more isolationist in our sympathies then we have been at any time in the last half century.
Isolationism as a preferred policy position cuts across almost all divisions in American society, as shown by the fact that eighty percent of Americans think the country should concentrate on its own problems and ignore the world stage according to a Pew research poll. The poll cites “war fatigue” as the main reason the public has turned inward, and it is a very valid reason.
But we have also seen this pattern before. War-weariness after the First Wold War was so acute even a figure like FDR faced savage opposition at even the idea of getting involved in the second great world conflict. Many Americans didn’t even seem to have a problem with Nazi Germany at the time.
In a speech that sounds eerily like something one might hear today on the campaign trail, American aviation hero (and noted isolationist) Charles Lindbergh argued America wasn’t in danger of an invasion from Germany or any other country unless it brought the invasion upon itself.
History may now repeat itself, and one wonders if Europe has learned its lesson from the greatest slaughter and purest form of evil ever to cross over the continent. But human rights abuses against refugees are increasingly overlooked and fascist sentiment is becoming increasingly mainstream over there while we ignore it over here.
So far this election cycle doesn’t look promising for that, with every candidate that has a realistic chance at taking the White House barely seeming to address foreign policy in debates or statements (except when using the war in Iraq as a cudgel). But this manifesting danger across the Atlantic won’t wait for the United States to suddenly sit up and notice it.
Our time to respond to the refugee crisis and the fascism it is fueling across Europe is now, during an election season, when our voices will be most heard. We cannot afford to ignore the rest of the world while we focus on our problems at home with bitter partisan microscopes, and the world cannot afford it of us.
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