Soroor Ahmed studies how the collapse of Communism and subsequent weakening of the Leftist forces have facilitated the growth of fascism.
Italy is the latest European country to turn far right. Just a few days before, Swedish Democratic Party emerged as a powerful player after the election in Sweden. Thus within a matter of a few days two of the countries of the continent showed a clear sign of departing from the past.
With ultra-nationalist forces either in power or gaining grounds in Hungary, Poland, France, Germany, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Austria, etc., the very purpose of the formation of European Union has now come under cloud. The dream of economic, social and even political integration of Europe is getting shattered.
As the United Kingdom had already bid a good bye to EU and several extremist-nationalist parties are adopting a defiant posture, Europe is heading for some unusual developments. It is now back to square one with tension brewing up among the member states. One should not forget the storm of nationalism which swept Europe in the 19th century and reached its climax in the first half of 20th century – the outcome was the two World Wars.
In the 21st century nationalism has again sparked off a bloody and protracted war between Russia and Georgia and Russia and Ukraine. It followed efforts to create European supra-nationalism in the form of European Union which actually came up in 1993.
This war has further aggravated tension within Europe as several members of the European Union are refusing to toe the line of the United States which had imposed sanction on Moscow. The argument of these governments is as to why should their citizens pay the high energy price for the war for which the US too is no less responsible.
The war in East Europe has helped the far-right forces further consolidate their position, especially in the countries of East Europe.
Though the European Union came to existence in 1993, the efforts in this direction started a few years after the end of World War-II. The common objective was to bring reconciliation between France and Germany, the two main countries involved in the two World Wars. The purpose was to bring about prosperity in Europe and at the same time checkmate the growing influence of the then Communist Soviet Union.
But the EU actually came into existence after the collapse of the Communism and dismemberment of the Soviet Union in 1991. Most of the 11 East European countries of Soviet bloc soon became its member. The establishment of EU facilitated the movement of human resources and capital within the continent. Soon the migrants from the relatively poor East European countries started realising that they are not welcomed in the more developed states of the West. People in these developed countries started blaming the migrants from East Europe for rise in unemployment.
Then came the hordes of refugees and migrants from Africa and Asia. It was the self-created problem of the West as most of these new entrants were from Afghanistan and Iraq after the NATO-led invasions of these two countries in 2001 and 2003 respectively.
The Arab Spring of 2011 which sparked off civil wars in Syria, Libya Yemen, Mali, etc. also increase the flow of migrants. The dominant western powers like the US, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Russia, etc. were largely responsible for these wars.
Though several of these western European countries of Europe badly need hands – because of their falling population – and have thus kept their doors open there, was resentment in some other quarters as it caused unemployment. The ultra-rightist forces fully exploited this situation. The war in Ukraine has further given a big boost to the migration towards the West. The decision of Russia to conscript led to the fleeing of a large number of youths from that country to other parts of Europe and even Central Asian countries.
The number of admirers of Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini (the German and Italian dictators of the first half of 20th century)) is increasing in Europe. Instead of border-less Europe as envisaged by EU, each of these parties is championing the cause of narrow nationalism.
The extreme right parties are gaining popularity both in the countries having colonies in the past as well as those having none. Most of the western European countries having big littoral areas had empires in Africa, Asia as well as North and South America. But the states of East Europe and Nordic countries had no colonies outside the continent. Their interaction with non-European countries is a relatively recent phenomenon.
Here it needs to be mentioned that the unification of Germany and Italy took place in the middle of 19th century. So unlike England, France, Spain, Portugal, Netherlands and Belgium, these two countries had limited colonies as they were the late starters. The sense of deprivation was fully exploited by the fascist forces of that time in Germany and Italy.
The nature of Ottoman Empire was somewhat different as it preceded the European colonialism. Their expansion was mostly through land invasion of the adjoining territories and not in far off places as South America North America, Sub-Saharan Africa and South and South-East Asia. Russian expansion in the 17th to 19th centuries too was largely in its vicinity.
The latest war between Ukraine and Russia as well as civil war leading to the dismemberment of the then Yugoslavia in 1990s are the result of the same myopic nationalistic thinking. The rampant increase of electronic channels and social media has helped the ultra-right forces spread their view. This is not only happening in Europe, but all over the globe.
The collapse of Communism and subsequent weakening of the Leftist forces have facilitated the growth of fascism. The only regret is that the same powers have learnt nothing from the two World Wars which took the lives of eight to nine crore people. Almost 75 to 80 per cent of those who perished were the followers of the same religion – Christians. Never in the history of human kind the followers of the same religion have killed, maimed and destroyed each other in the name of nationalism.