An authoritarian tyrant whose name will live in infamy has crushed, oppressed, bombed, executed and gassed women and children, jailed and tortured his opponents and dissidents in Syria. Almost a million of them that remain in Idlib, North Western Syria, are under daily attack and continuous bombardment.
Schools, hospitals, clinics and markets are the favourite target of the Russian and Syrian forces. Two million Syrians who have already fled are now in Turkey. Many more from the recent attacks are refugees, freezing and hungry in flimsy tents without toilets or water camped outside the barrier wall along the Turkish border. A million more Syrians are refugees in Jordan.
President Erdogan of Turkey has abandoned an agreement with the European Union (EU) to house the refugees and prevent them coming to Europe. The EU is paying him one billion euro to house the refugees in camps and prevent them flooding into the EU. Greece is on the front line trying to hold them back. No European country wants them in such numbers because their incursion will arouse and inflame a strong anti-refugee emotional response. Rejection and racism is rife. This response causes anti- refugee demonstrations and fuels the growth and spread of the negative and unacceptable political ideology of the extreme right-wing, neo-Nazi movements, groups and political parties.
The conflict in Afghanistan, the war in Syria, the oppression and poverty in Eritrea, Ethiopia and other African nations, have filled the coastline of Libya with thousands of migrants looking for a way to Europe. There, they are oppressed, enslaved and killed by local militia and human traffickers. They are not wanted either. The EU is paying the Libyan coast guard millions of euro to hold them back. It’s a crisis at the gates of Europe once again. Thousands have travelled by boats and rubber dinghies aided by people smugglers to cross the Mediterranean Sea and many have perished in the treacherous crossing. Children’s bodies have washed up on empty beaches.
The fear and worry of the European governments is that a new wave will trigger a surge in popularity for the right-wing extreme neo-Nazi and fascist leaning parties that have made spectacular gains in recent years in European politics. Fascists get power by promoting a loud, outspoken leader who preaches fear and hatred of foreigners, promote isolationism, nationalism and proclaims to make their nation great again- as Hitler, Benito Mussolini and Assad did. Even Donald Trump shows traits of being fascist. That’s why Bernie Sanders says he is the most dangerous president ever. Trump craves impunity, promotes white supremacy, and ignores the rule of law.
The present right-wing governments in Europe talk of leaving the European Union. The United Kingdom under Boris Johnson has done so. The British establishment, the aristocratic titans of industry who yearn for the lost empire and imperialism want to run the UK economy free of any restriction of European standards and free of the European Courts of Justice and human rights. They lean toward right-of centre ultra-conservative government. They want foreigners out and will strictly control immigration. Refugees or migrants will have little chance.
Hungary and Poland, both members of the EU, have enacted laws and policies counter to EU mandates. They are moving to be extreme-right-of-centre governments. They have racist views and are against minorities, refugees and are anti-media. Some are accused of violating human rights. While there are not any fascist governments in Europe at present, some are leaning that way. It is the EU that has kept the peace for 70 years.
Of the groups with the extreme right-of-centre ideology, neo-Nazis are the most dangerous. They have entered the government of Austria until exposed in a corruption scandal. In Germany, the Alternative for Germany is a right-wing to far-right political party. They have seats in the German Bundestag and in some states. These groups are on the rise. They have won seats in the European Parliament. They favour nationalism, they are racist and want to leave the EU.
In Brazil, there is a fascist government well in the making under Jair Bolsonaro who is burning the rain forest, flouting the laws of the nation, acting with impunity and declaring open season on minorities killing them with death squads, and eliminating his opponents. How did he get power? He jailed Luiz Da Silva who was likely to win the election.
Right-wing populist parties and politicians are on the increase too. They share some of the authoritarian, racist and nationalist exclusion policies with some traits of fascism. They are strongly against migration and other religious groups and promote white supremacy. Marine Le Pen in France is an example. Hugo Chavez in Valenzuela sports a certain kind left-of-centre form of popularism.
Populists have come to power in Italy with Silvio Berlusconi of the Forza Italia party being the most aggressive anti-migrant and exclusionist popular politician. It is now excluded from government by a former partner, the far-right anti-establishment party Five Star movement. Populists claim to be the only representative of “The People.” They take on the image of the saviour of their nation, anti-foreigner, anti-establishment and anti-elitist. They say they will save the poor and fight corruption.
In Asia, populist politicians say in their campaigns that they are against the rich and will bring down the oligarchy. Yet, populism is just a tactic to gain the popular vote, giving a tough iron-fist image of promoting law and order. They are part of the ruling oligarchy and quickly install their own family dynasty and cronies to rule with authoritarian iron fist policies like Marcos did in the Philippines.
We cannot say which the best kind of political party is. Those that that have proven integrity, honesty, absence of corrupt practices and respect for human dignity, civil and human rights are among the best. They support women and children and social programs for the poor and promote gender, economic and racial equality. They are anti-war, pro-peace and rule with compassionate policies caring properly for the poor, disabled, the homeless, the sick and youth. They have a strong moral basis to lead a nation to a respectful and dignified life based on justice for all.
(Fr. Shay Cullen)