The European political parties called far-right by Establishment politicians and media (but civilizationist by me) are justly criticized for their mistakes and extremism.
For example, the Sweden Democrats party in its first years, 1988-95, did have some members with Nazi backgrounds and some who supported racist and white nationalist ideas. Even today, the party does foolish things — like call for a ban on circumcising boys.
Civilizationists also have a problem with anti-Semitism. Jean-Marie Le Pen, founder of the National Rally in France, has repeatedly been fined for dismissing the Nazi gas chambers as a “detail” of history. When Freedom Party of Austria (FPO) leader Heinz-Christian Strache in 2010 visited Yad Vashem, the Jerusalem memorial to the Holocaust, he wore the distinctive beer-cap of the Vandalia fraternity, an organization associated with anti-Semitism.
In Poland and Hungary, the ruling PiS and Fidesz parties have built soft autocracies where governments control the judiciary, economy, media and educational institutions. Corruption has increased. Elections are free but not fair.
All true. But two points in reply:
First, over time civilizationist parties have generally moderated, moving away from racism and anti-Semitism. The Sweden Democrats started this change already in 1995. Precisely because of her father’s persistent anti-Semitism, Marine threw Jean-Marie out of the party he had founded 43 years earlier. On a return visit to Yad Vashem in 2016, Mr. Strache wore an innocuous homburg.
Second, the mainstream parties’ errors and sins exceed those of the civilizationists.
In Sweden, Prime Minister Stefan Lofven of the Social Democratic Party in 2016 called the Sweden Democrats “a Nazi party,” which was rich, given his party’s record of appeasing Nazi Germany when governing Sweden before, during and after World War II. It:
• Actively cooperated with Berlin in the late 1920s to get around the Versailles Treaty’s limitations on German rearmament.
• Censored anti-Nazi opinions during World War II.
• Provided the Swedish iron ore that was “the raw material of four out of every ten German guns.”
• Sold ball bearings and machine tools to the Germans in such quantities that these “significantly affect[ed] the outcome of the war.”
• Permitted Hitler to transport massive amounts of soldiers, materiel, and provisions through Sweden to Norway — and send Norwegian prisoners to concentration camps in Germany.
• Allowed a fully equipped German division to travel across Sweden to fight the Soviets in Finland.
• Did not investigate or punish after the war’s end those hundreds of Swedish soldiers who served the Nazi regime, some at the Treblinka concentration camp where 800,000 Jews were murdered.
Other socialist parties also have troubling histories. In 1994, French president Francois Mitterrand admitted to having helped the Vichy regime and acknowledged lasting friendships with such Nazi collaborators implicated in the Holocaust as Xavier Vallat and Rene Bousquet.
U.K. Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn is “a terrorist sympathizer, supporter of Holocaust distorters, anti-Israel inciter, and part-time anti-Semite,” writes Manfred Gerstenfeld; in contrast, Mr. Strache’s choice of headgear or Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orban’s campaign against George Soros (which Israel’s government implicitly endorses) are trivial. That Mr. Corbyn despises Israel, while Mr. Strache and Mr. Orban seek warm relations with it, only confirms the contrast.
As for authoritarianism: No one is jailed in Poland or Hungary for expressing views contrary to the government. But Tommy Robinson, an English activist, in the space of five hours, lost his freedom and was sentenced to 13 months in prison for standing outside a courthouse, livestreaming information already in the public domain about a Muslim rape gang on trial.
For expressing his views, Dutch politician Geert Wilders has repeatedly been subjected to criminal charges of “hate speech.” When Marine Le Pen defended the National Rally from a comparison with ISIS by tweeting grisly pictures of ISIS victims, the French government called her tweet a crime of “disseminating violent images” carrying a potential five years in prison. Resorting to Soviet-like methods, it also ordered her to undergo a psychiatric evaluation.
Yes, civilizationists have real problems and need to improve, but many of their opponents are more flawed. Sweden’s Social Democrats cooperated with the real Nazi Party in contrast to the Sweden Democrats’ making some inconsequential, dumb statements. Great Britain’s Labour Party is more anti-Semitic than Austria’s FPO. Freedom of speech is more imperiled in the United Kingdom than in Hungary. Irregularities in Sweden’s recent election suggest it was less fair than Poland’s.
Civilizationists are flawed but the Establishment is worse.
• Daniel Pipes is president of the Middle East Forum.