An April article from Truthout magazine describes the growing vigilante movement in Eastern Europe to hunt down refugees from the Middle East, sometimes physically abusing and robbing them, and expelling them.
They patrol as self-appointed vigilantes in riot gear against refugee camps. They help the police and the army in border management. From the Baltic to Bulgaria and everywhere in Eastern Europe such right-wing private militias and vigilantes have grown. Many of them came years ago out of its niche existence as gun nuts and homeland security fanatics and marched, for example, as a protective force against alleged “Gypsy crime”. Now they have discovered vigilante activity that they hope to receive increased social acceptance for: the so-called “migrant defense.”
The Czech political analyst and researcher of extremism Miroslav Mares of the Masaryk University calls the militias tracking refugees from the Middle East an “uncontrolled and dangerous phenomenon’.
The new vigilantes have left the area of the subculture and they are well organised, action-ready political forces, observed Mares. Although the Truthout article coverage is focused on the Baltic nations, xenophobia, not infrequently expressed through violence is on the rise across Europe. This includes the lethal impact of Europe’s anti-refugee policies on the thousands of refugees who have died trying to circumvent Europe’s strict immigration policies.
Furthermore in an Australian publication called Red Flag: A Voice of Resistance, Sandra Bloodworth notes the irony of the growing anti-refugee sentiment in Western nations which, like the United States, have benefited from the natural resource exploitation and military intervention in the Middle East and Libya that has caused the current refugee tsunami:
An official in Berlin refers to the refugees arriving in Germany as “the unwanted waste of the world.” It is 1946, and he is a migration specialist from the occupying British army.
He complains that Germany is not a “waste-paper basket with a limitless capacity” for this trash. Seventy years later, there is talk of refugees “swamping” or “invading” Europe.
One of the largest rallies ever in Warsaw last year chanted “Poland for the Polish!” There are frequent deadly attacks on refugee shelters in Germany; the far right are growing across Europe, mocking the slogan “never again” with their anti-Muslim vitriol.
Bloodworth scathingly identifies the withering destruction caused by Western capitalism’s geopolitical domination of the Middle East. Wars without end are the explosion that has created both the desperate flight of refugees and decimated economies left in the wake of massive bloodletting and the demolition of infrastructure: Today, capitalists and governments have no solution to the crisis of neoliberalism.
Their wars in the Middle East don’t destroy assets at the core of the system, so rebuilding is not on the agenda. The millions fleeing to Europe are a fraction of those numbers. With a population of 500 million, Europe is prosperous compared to the 1940s and could easily offer them all a new life. Instead, billions are spent trying to keep people out.
Almost $9 billion will be spent sending refugees back from Greece to Turkey. Millions are spent on razor wire fencing and border patrols rather than dealing with the needs of the desperate – such as housing and projects that would provide employment. The far right draw on a racist tradition articulated by politicians and literati
Racism in Europe, as in the United States, has been smoldering for centuries, but the devastation caused by decades of Middle Eastern military conflagrations set off there by a Western need for fossil fuel hegemony has turned European racism up to a full boil.
It’s not a stretch to compare the Trump appeal to xenophobia and racism to what is transpiring in Europe. For some time, Europe has been experiencing a growing electoral strength among right-wing political parties. Most noted is the long-sidelined National Front, which is now considered a contending party in France. The party was founded by anti-foreigner, anti-Semite, anti-Black Jean-Marie Le Pen, who, not unexpectedly, has indicated his admiration and support for Donald Trump.
The National Front Party is now headed by Jean-Marie’s daughter, Marine, who has “softened” the image of her father’s shrill bigotry, replacing it with more coded language and a more amiable media style. Marine Le Pen and Trump, indeed, share an incendiary hate of Muslims. A December 2015 New Yorker article compared Marine Le Pen’s position with Trump’s:
In the wake of last month’s coordinated attacks on the Bataclan theatre and other sites, Le Pen restated her earlier call for an end to all immigration into France, legal and illegal. She said that the mainstream parties had failed to protect the French people and demanded an immediate police crackdown.
“Islamist fundamentalism must be annihilated,” she said. “France must ban Islamist organisations, close radical mosques, and expel foreigners who preach hatred in our country as well as illegal migrants who have nothing to do here.”
In other ways, Trump’s message is uncannily similar to Le Pen’s; on one issue, he’s even outdone her. Some few months back, he issued a statement calling for a “total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States until our country’s representatives can figure out what is going on.” Here’s one difference between Le Pen and Trump: Le Pen wants to ban Muslim immigrants; Trump wants to ban Muslims from even entering the United States as tourists or on business visas.
Last year, the National Front won a stunning victory in France’s first round of regional elections, only to lose in the second round after opposition parties made some strategic alliances. However, there is still on-going speculation in France that Le Pen may be in a position to win the 2017 race for French president if the other political parties don’t form a coalition against the National Front.
In short, if we start with the vigilante refugee hunters in far Eastern Europe, move across the continent to France as a glaring example and puddle jump the Atlantic to the emergence of racist and xenophobic Trumpism in the United States, we are witnessing a rise in white colonial settlerism as well as anti-Black and anti-immigrant blowback.
Neoliberal globalisation allows for the free flow of money and hatred but not of the people whose lives have been shattered by the military conflicts precipitated by the West to ensure profits and privileged consumption within the borders of Eurocentric countries.