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Xenophobia in times of crisis March 24, 2011

Posted by cristobalgomez in Uncategorized.
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ESTEBAN IBARRA

A ghost is running around Europe, the specter of xenophobic populism who dangerously feels the totalitarian tsunami that wants to destroy historic democratic achievements, especially those toward universal human rights. The new extreme right continues its long march toward the institutions in all European countries, encouraging intolerance and hate, contaminating parties and democratic institutions across Europe. The spectacular electoral rise in Austria, Sweden, and Holland confirms it, joining the consolidated Le Pen Marine in France, the hard ultra-right Jobbik in Hungary, the Northern League in Italy, the BNP in Great Britain, or the Islamophobes in Switzerland; options that appear to have been constructed in the same laboratories as European neo-fascism. But it does not all fit here, just as the contamination drifts toward democratic parties to project authoritarian models, evidenced by Sarkozy and Berlusconi in the crisis with Romanian and Bulgarian gypsies, as well as in reorienting immigration policies, which is the case in Merkel’s position, of an exclusionary and assimilationist court.

In a scene of economic crisis, the rise in xenophobic prejudice and harassment towards immigration are served. In addition, the impact is even greater if the economic crisis, originated by the model and dynamic of accumulation of capital and not by immigrants, is added to a crisis of the progressive democratic project and the sustainability of the welfare state. We speak of evidence. The rejection by a large part of the population to share equal treatment in cases of employment, health, education, and all sorts of assistance comes stated not only in official polls, but also shows in discriminatory situations and harassment in everyday life. In this context, the organized xenophobic offense gets their best results unfolding their underlying strategy which, beyond the hostility of the chosen scapegoats, directly attacks democratic cohesion and the integral coexistence of diversity, through a perverse use of whatever sort of social conflict is generated by the phenomenon of immigration, religious pluralism, and social or cultural diversity. With xenophobic propaganda and intolerant speech, they present two realities, one of welfare state and the other of immigration, one of the West and the other of Islam, as irreconcilable, shown by an extremist campaign in Sweden.

Xenophobic populism gives simple answers to complex realities to mobilize the maximum number of votes through the use of unrealistic promises, always fallacious and opportunist in nature. They use the people’s fears and emotions, run with stereotypes and prejudices, stigmatize and criminalize entire collectives and turning them into targets of hate through a “ .” The policy put into practice by Sarkozy, his gypsy files, police orders, and “voluntary” deportations in exchange for money, are along those lines. But the reality, as Berlusconi has already done, is that they expel family with elderly or children, through threat and force, throwing them out of the places they live, reported skillfully by the European Justice Commissioner, Viviane Reding. They do not make plans for integration, feeding an anti-gypsy climate with xenophobic and racist political speech which puts people’s security in danger, questions respect for human rights, and turns the humanist bases of Europe’s construction and, among other, directives of free circulation and equal treatment into worthless scraps of paper.

Another one of the pernicious consequences of the “xenophobic tsunami” is its impact on discussion and policy for immigration, as shown in Germany with Angela Merkel’s CDU, giving up on “multiculturalism” as a failure and making a list of immigrants who reject “integration” courses based on language and Christian values. Close to this position is the program proposal of Spain’s PP in Cataluña, who insist on not registering “immigrants without papers” and that immigration abuses healthcare. Nothing could be further from reality in Spain; according to all the studies, foreigners go to the doctor half as often as Spaniards, and conflicts or failures must be attributed to insufficient policies for intercultural integration that have not been put into practice in all of Europe, making true the saying: “No one integrates if they are not allowed to.” The fallacy of these arguments hides the interest of adjusting migration policies to economic cycles. When manual labor is needed, they attract immigrants; when in times of crisis, they argue along with Huntington about clashes of civilizations and start to throw out Muslims who do not respond to the “cultural questionnaire-exam.”

In Spain, the campaign of Anglada’s Plataforma per Cataluña, supported by the European extreme right and especially by the European Continental Foundation of neo-fascist Patrik Brinkmann, does not differ in essence from the planning the PP in Cataluña is betting on in this electoral context, which will undoubtedly break with national policy and their own party, asking if we all fit here, encouraging expulsions and alarm over burkhas. Anglada’s Plataforma drives a progressive intolerance extending toward immigration as whole, through the demonization of Islam and after a campaign against “illegal” immigration, denying such immigrants any sort of essential rights, from rejecting registration to those without papers to marginalizing mosques to the outskirts of cities. The fallacies of invasion, of the unlimited use by foreigners of health and education resources, unemployment, and other rights, which protect all workers, they indicate immigrants as predators of the insufficient welfare state in Spain. This xenophobia does not travel alone; it is accompanied by cultural and religious intolerance, by a strong Islamophobia which turns Muslims into destroyers of the West and terrorists; also by an underground anti-Semitism that accuses the “global Zionist lobby” of being behind the crisis or taking advantage of it to destroy “national identities” and better dominate the world. A deep-rooted intolerance makes difference and diversity its enemies, creating potential objects of aggression carried out by neo-Nazi groups born from hatred and the fanatical recruitment of sanctuaries of intolerance, such as the ultras groups in soccer. An intolerance which engages with the same racism as always against the gypsy community and with the everlasting discrimination towards vulnerable groups such as homosexuals, disabled persons, or the homeless, growing in every direction, in all its expressions and with all its pernicious manifestations; xenophobia, which will never be democratic although the social majority votes for it, grows.

Xenophobic activity in recent years has received strong stimuli from the electoral results of ultra-right formations in this disoriented Europe. The neo-Nazi infection in the new xenophobic ultra-right is more than evident. Through the Internet, on web pages, blogs, forums, and social networks, accompanied by a dynamic of semi-clandestine concerts allowed, they propagate hate. The comings and goings to international demonstrations, the obscenity present in soccer from the ultras displaying their fascist symbolism, and the continued distribution of propaganda along with indoctrination conferences that humiliate victims, evidence the lack of defense for democracy in various European countries. In regards to neo-Nazi violence, far from disappearing, it had stabilized as something latent that reminds us with its presence of the criminal and genocidal horizon of Hitler’s Holocaust legions, although its leaders in all of Europe raise the flag of denial.

The alarm has reached the Council of Europe, the OSCE, and the Ombudsman of the European Union as they demonstrated in Barcelona, but the concrete demand has come from the United Nations and their Special Rapporteur who asked just this year that the States party to the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination fulfill their international obligations declaring as acts punishable under the law all spread of ideas based on superiority or racial hatred, any incitation to discrimination, any attendance to racist activities, including financing such activities, declaring illegal and forbidden the organizations, the activities organized for propaganda, and anything which promotes or incites racial discrimination.

We are living in a moment for urgent and profound involvement. To paraphrase in the current times the poem of Nazism survivor and protestant pastor Martin Neumoller (not Bertold Brech), “First they came for the gypsies and the Muslims, and I didn’t care because I wasn’t one; then for the blacks, homosexuals, Latinos, and the rest of immigrants and gypsies, and I didn’t care because I wasn’t with them; after for all the Jews, communists, punks, reds, greens, and democrats… and after them, when they came for me, there was no one to defend us.” This updated version of the poem contains the alternative strategy of response: only democratic and social unity sustained by the political involvement of each of us in the democracy of human rights can avoid the arrival of the neo-Fascist tsunami.

 

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