I recently wrote an article examining the current upsurge in neo-fascist activities targeting Roma. You can read the entire article HERE.
To me, fascism represents the failures of society; of the education system, of elected leaders and of an inability to think logically. In 1930’s Europe, radical and fascist dictators swept to power in countries that were yearning for economic change. By scapegoating minorities dictators were able to rally the people behind their political platform and offer “solutions”, or in the case of Nazi Germany a “Final Solution”.
In Europe today (particularly in Italy and the Czech Republic, the two countries I focus on in the article) the economic disparity is no where near the level of post World War I Germany. So how then can neo-fascists drum up support in these democratic states?
Basically it’s the same game. Replace the economy for crime levels and all of a sudden people are willing to listen to tales of how Roma or other immigrants are the sole cause of a nation’s rising crime level. Of course, the rhetoric espoused by Italy’s Prime Minister, Silvio Berlusconi and Rome’s Mayor, Gianni Allamano are seldom rooted in fact. However, by harping on stereotypes of theiving gypsy pickpockets, both men have enjoyed widespread support; such support that has allowed Berlusconi to Put Italian soldiers on the streets without rebuke from within Italy or from the European Union.
The case of the National Party in the Czech Republic is a bit different. The political organization is a fringe group, far from popular but equally dangerous, like a stick of dynamite waiting for a spark.
Walking around Prague, Brno and other areas of Bohemia and Moravia I have had the opportunity to strike up conversations with many Czechs. I continue to be discouraged with the prevailing attitude I have encountered when discussing Roma issues.
The basic script of conversation nearly almost follows this pattern:
Czech Person: I’m not racist…but they are not good people. You are not from here so you don’t understand.
Me: But isn’t that a generalization about an entire group of people?
Czech Person: No, it is a fact. Plus, they don’t want to assimilate or learn our language.
At this point in a dialogue I would generally point out that all Roma are not camp-dwelling, filthy, uneducated people and that those that do live in the squaler of camp lives do not do so out of desire. I would go on to explain how ill treatment of Roma in regards to access to social services and segregated education policies coupled with scapegoating for crime have thrust many Romani people into this cycle.
Of course the answer remains the same.
Czech Person: You just don’t understand those people.
In the Czech Republic I doubt that the the National Party will win even a small fraction of the vote come 2010. However, if the National Party had come out with a less extreme plan, say in the vein of Italy’s current policies, I would be inclined to agree that they would receive much more support.
The Czech Republic is still teetering on the new legs of Democracy, less than twenty years removed from Communist reign. I believe that because of this, the government is sensitive to crack down on any one political party, though many believe that National Party policies Violate the Constitution.
However, come January 1st 2009, all eyes will be on the country as it takes over the rotating European Union Presidency. There is the possibility that this will shed light on the plight of Roma in the Czech Republic and expose fascists for rascist hate-mongerers. Though I am realistic and think that most of the focus, like all EU matters, will center on Economic Integration, ignoring human rights violations in member countries. I will continue to hope that I am wrong.
Posted By Colby Pacheco
Posted Aug 18th, 2008