Europe: Are There Nazis Living on the Moon?

Film Socialisme, Wild Bunch, 2012

by Srećko Horvat

Costa Concordia, the famous cruise ship that hit a rock in the Tyrrhenian Sea in January 2012 might furnish another aptly-named example for symbolizing the harmony and unity between European nations.

Recently in Bucharest, I came across an apparently innocent map of seminar rooms in the elevator of the hotel where a conference was taking place on ‘The National Question in Central-Eastern Europe’. There it was, a little map of Europe, consisting of ‘room Berlin’, ‘room Amsterdam’, ‘room Paris’, ‘room London’, and others, promoting the diversity but at the same time unity of the European project. So – this is the national question in the European Union solved? All countries can live side by side, happily without conflict, each room with its own identity and activity; in one room a wedding party, in another an academic conference, in one a commercial promotion of a product, in some other a focus group, and so on. And what is even better, you don’t even have to leave the hotel – everything is here.

Costa Concordia, the famous cruise ship that hit a rock in the Tyrrhenian Sea in January 2012 might offer another aptly-named example for symbolizing the harmony and unity between European nations. It too was comprised of 13 decks named after EU member states: Poland was the upper deck, followed by Austria, Portugal, Spain, Germany, France, etc. In the middle of the ship there was an ‘Atrium Europe’ with a ‘London Salon’, ‘Disco Lisbon’, ‘Berlin bar’, etc. This huge, slow, luxury cruiser served as the setting for Jean-Luc Godard’s Socialism, who took it as a symbol for modern Europe. In the movie, Alain Badiou is holding a lecture in front of an empty hall and Patti Smith is wandering the decks with her guitar… but, no one really cares and what we have is just decay inevitably leading to a disaster.

Isn’t the captain of Costa Concordia, who, the night before the accident, was spending his time in the company of a beautiful woman drinking expensive wine also a metaphor for the financial elites of Europe? Isn’t the captain who left the ship before all passengers similar to those bankers, managers and brokers from Goldman Sachs and the European Central Bank, who always leave the sinking boat on time, leaving the people to drown like today in Greece or elsewhere in southern Europe? On one hand, the European central bank ‘released’ more then 1,000 billion Euros from December 2011, again to save the banks. On the other hand, shock therapy, austerity measures and structural adjustments in all European countries, from Greece and Romania, to Italy and Spain, but also Slovenia and Croatia.

One of the consequences of this radical neoliberal turn is the rise of the extreme right and nationalism, forces that are increasingly mobilizing the working class. It’s not by chance that the name of the extreme right party in the Czech Republic, infamous for organizing pogroms against Roma people, is ‘Workers Party’. Nor should it surprise us that the Golden Dawn, previously a marginal pro-fascist group who blames immigrants for reducing Greece to crisis point and “stealing” the jobs of ordinary Greeks, did so well in the last elections there.[1]

Here is a typical taste of this kind of thinking: ‘’They have taken all sovereign rights from us. We are just good enough so that international capital allows us to fill its money sacks with interest payments. (…) Three million people lack work and sustenance. The officials, it is true, work to conceal the misery. They speak of measures and silver linings. Things are getting steadily better for them, and steadily worse for us. The illusion of freedom, peace and prosperity that we were promised when we wanted to take our fate into our own hands is vanishing. Only complete collapse of our people can follow from these irresponsible policies.’’

Isn’t this a reasonable description of Europe’s current deadlock? Would you expect such a discourse from Syriza or from the Golden Dawn? In fact, the author is no lesser figure than Joseph Goebbels, and this is a quote from Wir fordern (‘We demand’) published in the fourth issue of Der Angriff, dated 25 July 1927. [2] First it was a marginal newspaper using the motto ‘For the oppressed against the exploiters’, and then in 1933 it turned into the ‘Daily Newspaper of the German Labour Front’.  In 1927 the circulation was around 2,000. In 1933 it was almost 150,000 and in 1944 around 306,000.[3] Just like the Golden Dawn, at the beginning it was completely irrelevant and trying to use the financial crisis to gain support, but step by step it turned into a powerful weapon of a totalitarian vision of Europe.

We have of course to be careful when comparing the present-day situation to the historical moment when the Nazis came to power. Nevertheless, we cannot dismiss the fact that hand in hand with the current financial crisis the right camp again uses the national question in order to divert the attention of people from the real political, social and economic situation. This should still spell danger.

Iron Sky, Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures Finland, 2012

Here, a comic science fiction film called Iron Sky (Timo Vuorensola, 2012) could give us an unexpected lesson. It tells the story of Nazis who, after being defeated in 1945, fled to the Moon where they built a space fleet to return in 2018 to conquer Earth. Just before “The Final Solution”, two Nazis arrive on Earth to check if everything is ready. But no one believes them, that is, until their potential is discovered by the campaign manager who is desperately trying to figure out a presidential campaign for a politician who is an unambiguous parody of Sarah Palin. She realizes that the phraseology and discourse of the Nazis is exactly what will sell during the crisis – a perfect tool for attracting voters. In the end, when it’s already too late, she finds out that the Nazis really are Nazis and that what they really want to do is to conquer the Earth.

In the late 1920s gas chambers and all the atrocities made by Nazis probably also seemed to be a science-fiction scenario. But let me flag up a recent “experiment” by two young unemployed Serbian playwrights who wanted to prove that it is possible to join all political parties in Serbia using one of Goebbels’ texts. In April 2012, applying for membership in the main Serbian parties, they sent each a policy proposal for cultural politics in Serbia under the title “Idea, strategy, movement”. Their text and vision was greeted enthusiastically by political parties across the spectrum and they immediately secured membership and were offered positions after the elections. What they did was very simple: they just used Goebbels’ text, “Knowledge and propaganda” from 1928, changed a few sentences and applied it to the Serbian context. One political party even published the text on its official website.

At about the same time a Croatian extreme right wing party tried to organize an international meeting of nationalists in Zagreb. Among others, the invited parties were the National Democratic Party from Germany, linked to the recent Neonazi murders in Germany, the National Front from France, infamous for denying the Holocaust, and last but not least, the Hungarian Jobbik, probably the most bizzare chapter in this story: namely, Jobbik tries to come up with a revision of the Trianon Treaty from 1920 when Hungary lost its territories, including some parts of Croatia. So, you have the situation that Croatian nationalists are inviting Hungarian nationalists who want to see a big part of the Croatian territory reincorporated into Greater Hungary!

But it would be wrong to laugh at these far right absurdities. What was the first thing the Austrian politician Hans Christian Strache, infamous author of the slogans, “Mehr Mut für unser Wiener Blutt” (‘More courage for Vienna’s blood’) and “Fremdes tut niemanden gut” (‘Foreign is no good’) did after he won 26% in the Vienna elections in 2010? Together with other extremists he went for a “team building’’ session not to the Reichstadt but to Israel, in order to build stronger connections with those who were once Hitler’s foremost enemies and victims. And in December 2010 they issued the “Jerusalem Declaration“, which reaffirmed Israel’s right to exist and to defend itself against Islamic terror. At Strache’s invitation, Israeli Deputy Minister Ayoob Kara subsequently visited Vienna.[4]

What is even more interesting is that the strongest allies Strache had in Vienna were the growing Serbian immigrant community. In order to get rid of unwanted immigrants such as Africans, Turks and Muslims in general, one creates “good” immigrants, in this case the Serbs. And it shouldn’t surprise us that one of the inspirations for Anders Breivik was no one other than the Serbian war criminal Radovan Karadžić. As he says in his Manifesto: “I do condemn any atrocities committed against Croats and vice versa but for his efforts to purge Serbia of Islam he will always be considered and remembered as an honourable Crusader and a European war hero“[5] So, what appears today is a new kind of extreme right that doesn’t hesitate to use all possible means in order to build a stronger movement. And instead of easily dismissing these absurd alliances, we should remind ourselves of Walter Benjamin’s important lesson that “Every fascism bears witness to a failed revolution”.

As we can see, the ongoing financial crisis and imposed austerity measures is fertile ground not only for a new accumulation of capital by the financial elites, but also for the rise of new nationalisms. Using workers’ rights as the main weapon is not confined to the Left any more. The difference between the Right and between the Left is, nevertheless, clear: the Right is turning one working class against the other (the German against the Greek, the Austrian and the Greek against the immigrants, and so on), and uses the “workers’interest” mainly to finally grab power. Former marginal and extremist groups are now turning into legitimate and also legal parties. The Golden Dawn is not an exception anymore, but a rule.  The Nazis don’t have to hide on the dark side of the Moon – they can live relatively undisturbed on this Earth. And what is needed more than Syriza?  It is a united and strong European Left.

Piece originally published at Open Democracy | Creative Commons License


Notes:

[1] For a short overview and the thesis that the fascists didn’t suddenly multiply in Greece, but gradually, see: Spyros Marchetos, “Golden Dawn and the rise of fascism“, Guardian, 19 June 2012.

[2] Joseph Goebbels, “We Demand”,

[3] For a detailed overview how the newspaper was used by Goebbels as a significant instrument for building support for Nazi ideas, see: Russell Lemmons, Goebbels and Der Angriff, University Press of Kentucky, 1994.

[4] For more info see: Azriel Bermant, “A dangerous and irresponsible alliance”, The Jerusalem Post, 8 December 2011.

[5] Anders Breivik’s Manifesto

About the Author:

Srećko Horvat is a Croatian philosopher, journalist and activist. He published seven books (Against Political Correctness, Totalitarianism Today, The Discourse of Terrorism, etc.) and various articles published in Monthly Review, Le Monde Diplomatique, Eurozine, translated into German, French, Hungarian, Polish, etc. He is the director of the Subversive Forum, an annual conference and activist meeting held traditionally in May in Zagreb.