Photo: Rudy Girón

That Weimar feeling

Some commentators see a parallel between the breakthrough of the extreme right in the European parliament and Hitler's rise to power. But should we really be concerned?

Published on 12 June 2009 at 16:22
Photo: Rudy Girón

In Romanian daily Romania Libera, political analyst Cristian Pârvulescu compares today's European Union to the Weimar Republic, in the light of what he terms "far from clear policies and doctrines promulgated by the mainstream right in Europe." This lack of clarity, he believes, is further muddled "by the association in the same European parliamentary group of national parties who work against rather than for each other: like Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom, Nicolas Sarkozy's Union for a Popular Movement and Angela Merkel's Christian Democratic Union." Pârvulescu goes on to argue that Europe's democracies have been weakened by the economic crisis and by the increasing dominance of EU party power structures. "This confused situation has created the conditions for the promotion of nationalist rhetoric," which, he reminds us, is exactly what happened in Germany in the early 1930s: "It was the weakness of political parties coupled with an economic crisis that allowed Hitler to gain control." "History may not repeat itself, and the EU is perhaps stronger today than the Europe of 80 years ago," concludes Pârvulescu, for whom "the success of extremists should not be taken lightly — as it has the potential to enhance their credibility in national politics."

Responding in the columns of Italian magazine Panorama, the feisty Giuliano Ferrara waxes ironic about newspapers that "give the impression that we are reliving the final days of the Weimar Republic, except when they are rapidly contradicted by the facts — as the British Marxist historian, Eric Hobsbawm, recently remarked."

Ferrara downplays the consequences of the European elections, and in particular the progression of the extreme right. "In the European elections, we always have the impression that fascism — not to mention racism — is back," claims the editor of the conservative Italian weekly, who claims that the only significant political development is "the crisis of parties linked to the declining myth of socialism." Just like Jörg Haider and Pim Fortuyn, the controversial Dutch right-wing leader, Geert Wilders is unlikely, according to Ferrara, to become the symbol of the rise of "authoritarian macho forces," but will remain the humble representative of "a private love affair with national territory."

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