The rise of the far-right is becoming more and more prevalent in the world we live in today with public displays of hate being a rising trend all over the world. It is apparent that today’s world is actually not so dissimilar to the world in the 1930s with the prominent Nazi movement and ideology which led to the deaths of millions of people. The growing issue in Kashmir has many people including the Prime Minister of Pakistan, likening the beliefs of Hindu supremacy to Nazi ideology and Aryan supremacy. In this article, I am going to look into the issue of the rise of far-right across the world, including in the UK, Europe, the U.S. and India, and what factors are driving this rapid increase in racism and extremism. In particular, I will look into this comparison of Nazi ideology with Hindu ideology.
In the UK, there has been a number of extreme right, racialist parties for many years. National Front was founded in 1967 which had the aim of reinventing a ‘real’ British community by way of color. This party fell into a decline by 1992 and was overshadowed by the British Nationalist Party which, up until 2011, became the leading extreme right party in the UK and reaped great success in council elections. The ideas of the BNP were then further mainstreamed by the UK Independence Party (UKIP), another radicalized far-right party that is becoming increasingly racialized.
There is also the possibility of the birth of new socialist movements in the UK with the looming issue of Brexit. With some already in play such as ‘For Britain’ which is led by Anne Marie Waters, a failed UKIP leadership candidate, and the Tommy Robinson, former leader of the English Defense League, the prevalence of the far-right in the political system is increasing rapidly. A survey was carried out by YouGov into whether people would contemplate supporting a far-right Islamophobic Brexit party and of those who were surveyed, 24% said they would.
There are also many extreme right groups and organizations in the UK as well as political parties. Two university students founded the group National Action. Although this self-defined neo-Nazi organization is small in numbers, with about 200 members, they have a massive influence and scope on social media platforms. In 2016, the convicted murderer of Labor MP Jo Cox, Thomas Mair, was advocated by National Action and used the slogan “Britain first, death to traitors and freedom for Britain” as a reuniting call in court. The Home Secretary, Amber Rudd, labelled National Action as a domestic terrorist organization. Although National Action was banned in December 2016 under the Terrorism Act 2000, there are still many other far-right groups that are rapidly growing. According to HOPE not hate, the biggest of these are Britain First and English Defense League (EDL).
These groups such as the EDL, Patriotic Europeans Against the Islamisation of the Occident (Pegida), National Action and North-Eastern Infidels, have led a number of far-right protests which have been held in cities such as Newcastle since 2009 which could draw up to 1500 demonstrators. Furthermore, as stated by the 2017 Safe Newcastle report, hate crime has risen by 68% in recent years and 82% of offences are related to race and faith. The Community Security Trust published a report stating that anti-Semitic hate crime is at its highest.
There is also an increase in the radicalization of individuals with half of referrals to Prevent – an anti-extremism program put forward by the government – of those at risk of far-right terrorism. Young people in particular can easily be exploited due to their sense of dissatisfaction by groups who use minorities as scapegoats for today’s problems to create promises and hope for a better future. However, it was not up until recently that these extreme right-wing groups began to pose a substantial terror threat, mainly as a response to prominent concerns regarding refugees and asylum-seekers from Syria and Afghanistan. As a result, the number of right-wing attacks have also increased substantially. For example, in June 2017 an individual was killed in Finsbury Park Mosque by a right-wing extremist, Darren Osborne. In 2018, the UK government said, “We assess the threat from extreme right-wing terrorism is growing”.
The number of extremist right-wing attacks has increased dramatically with none recorded in 2012 and thirty in 2017. Right-wing extremism has been described as a “growing menace” by the European Union Security Commissioner, Sir Julian King. He also stated: “I’d just like to pause for one moment on this. I’m not aware of a single EU member state that is not affected in some way by right-wing violent extremism.” There are several violent groups in many European countries. In Germany there is the Identitäre Bewegung Deutschland (Identitarian Movement Germany) and followers of the Reich Citizen ideology. In the Czech Republic there are many movements such as that of the Generace Identity (Generation of Identity) and that of Pro-Vlast. There are also many organizations such as the Soldiers of Odin in Belgium and in Portugal, the Blood and Honor organization. France in particular has also experienced bouts of far-right terrorism with ten individuals being arrested on suspicion of far-right extremism of which a retired police officer and retired soldier were included. These individuals were part of the group Action des Forces Opérationnelles and had made plans to attack Muslims such as women wearing veils whom they considered to be “radicalized individuals”.
The U.S. is also facing a substantial increase in the number of white supremacist groups with now over 900 hate groups counted by the Southern Poverty Law Center. Many of these hate groups are directed towards African-Americans who were originally enslaved with violence and brought to the U.S. as slaves and now that they seek equality, those that are privileged feel threatened and oppressed. Similar to this was the subjugation of the Native Americans, through violence and the ideology of white supremacy.
Throughout American history there have been many armed far-right extremists such as the Ku Klux Klan (KKK), the White Citizens’ Council and the John Birch Society. While there have also been armed left insurgents, such as the early anarchists, the Black Panthers and the Weathermen, the right has used violence more commonly and on a grander level to promote ideas of discrimination on the basis of race, religion, ethnicity, gender and economic status. Michael Kazin, a history professor at Georgetown University, stated that in the 1920s “the Klan had 4 million members and had strong political influence in several states”. It was also discovered in the 1950s and the 1960s that many law enforcement officials were members of the KKK.
However, nowadays it is not just those with the responsibility of protecting people’s rights, basic level zealots and basic politicians who are promoting and backing violence, but also the President of the United States, Donald Trump. Trump has been trifling with violence since his presidential campaign where he would back people who were aggressive with protestors, saying that he would pay their legal fees and also insinuated that if Hilary Clinton were to become president she should be assassinated by ‘second amendment people’.
His condoning of violence has continued into his presidency especially towards journalists through his use of social media. For example, he tweeted a video which had been doctored to show him as a WWE wrestler slamming down CNN. When neo-Nazis invaded Charlottesville, waving swastikas, bearing rifles, knives and equipped with body armor, Trump failed to explicitly condemn their actions. Furthermore, Joe Arpaio was granted a presidential pardon by Trump. Joe Arpaio was the former Sheriff of Maricopa County, Arizona who terrorized Latinos and other prisoners in a jail that he amiably termed a “concentration camp” and continued with racially based policing, infringing the separation of power and a federal judge. A professor of African-American studies at Princeton University, Keeanga-Yamahtta Taylor, stated that “The election of Trump has not just emboldened racists; they have been activated.” This statement followed having received death threats and several hate e-mails for having called Trump a “racist, sexist megalomaniac.” Much of the criticism came from media outlets such as Fox News and threats from online trolls.
A historian from Teesside University, Paul Stocker, debates in his book English Uprising: Brexit and the Mainstreaming of the Far-Right that perhaps it is more of a cultural rather than simply an economic occurrence that is causing this reemergence of extremist populist right-wing parties and movements. He argues that it may be the result of factors like the tabloid press and some politicians, such as Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech and Margaret Thatcher’s ‘swamping’ statement in 1979, which are increasing the amount of racism within the working-class. It is as though they feel that their culture is being threatened and it is white people that are facing oppression now which pays homage to the proverb ‘when you’re accustomed to privilege, equality feels like oppression’.
Living in an era of the internet and social media has created unparalleled opportunities for extremists to broadcast their message and reach millions of people. This has led to a massive rise in the far-right and extremism as members of these groups are able to communicate, organize events, raise funds and recruit members through the use of social media platforms. For example, many far-right nationalists use Twitter with the hashtags #nationalist and #ultraright in their posts to promote their ideology. They are also able to spread propaganda with videos on YouTube, Facebook pages, Instagram posts and using Discord, a Voice over Internet Protocol application in order to support their online campaigns.
There has also been the creation of their own social networks such as Gab where right-wing individuals can freely communicate with each other. Many neo-Nazis and white supremacists also use designated websites such as The Daily Stormer. On these social media sites many white supremacists such as David Lane, one of the founders of the Order, have created phrases such as the Fourteen words (the 14 or 14/88) which spreads messages such as “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”
Travelling overseas has become much more accessible meaning far-right extremists can come together in accordance with each other and expand their global network and extremist views through enhancement of their tactics and progression of counter-intelligence techniques. For example, those part of Rise Above Movement (RAM) met with European white supremacists in countries such as Germany, Ukraine and Italy to celebrate Hitler’s birthday in Spring 2018. Many photographs were posted on social media such as Instagram accounts plastered with the RAM logo and messages such as “rapefugees are not welcome here”.
There have also been numerous global issues that have been driving the far-right extremists. A main issue was that of the election of an African-American, Barack Obama, as President of the United States. An assessment by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security determined after the election that “Rightwing extremists have capitalized on the election of the first African-American president, and are focusing their efforts to recruit new members, mobilize existing supporters, and broaden their scope and appeal through propaganda, but they have not yet turned to attack planning.” Immigration is another issue that has been driving a rise in the far-right movement, with many immigrants coming into countries such as the U.S. from Mexico and Syria. Donald Trump has also become an international inspiration to many extremist groups.
The notion of far-right extremism is deep-rooted and seen throughout history with one of the biggest forms of white supremacy and racism being that of the Nazis during the 1930s. The concept of ‘useful violence’ by Primo Levi was very much at play here considering the Nazi extermination camps which lead to the deaths of millions of Jews. Aryan supremacy became a widespread movement across Europe with the expropriation of countries such as Austria and Czechoslovakia and extensive obliteration of Jews, carrying an ideology of those with blue eyes and blonde hair being supreme. As discussed throughout this article, the events of today are parallel to those of the historical events that led to the Second World War in the 1930s with the exhibition of white supremacy, neo-Nazis and racism all of which are harboring the concept of ‘useful violence’. Much of this is currently being seen with the issue of Kashmir with many likening Nazi supremacy to Hindu supremacy.
The Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh, or RSS, is a far-right group in India which supports the idea of creating a “Hindu nation”. It was founded by Keshav Baliram Hedgewar in 1925 with majority of its members being upper class Brahmins devoted to the independence and safeguarding the interests of the Hindu culture, religion and politics. The RSS has a huge role in the Hindu nationalist movement and has often used violence, leading to it having been banned several times by the government. For example, a member of the RSS, Nathuram Godse, assassinated Gandhi on January 30, 1948 after accusing him of “consistently pandering to the Muslims”. Many members of the current political party in power, India’s Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), have been part of the RSS whose main ideology is to promote Hindu supremacy.
The Bajrang Dal, founded in 1984, has been used by the movement in instances of mob violence, assaults against Muslims and many other religious minorities in India. For instance, they were involved in the destruction of a sixteenth century mosque, the Babri Masjid, built by the emperor Babur in Ayodhya, India. A former professor of Political Science at the University of Washington, Paul Richard Brass, labelled the Bajrang Dal as “a somewhat pathetic but nevertheless dangerous version of the Nazi SA.” The Nazi SA were the first paramilitary organization, also called the Brownshirts. The Bajrang Dal has become more powerful and was legitimized when Narendra Modi, leader of the BJP, came into power in 2014. Internationally, it has been seen as though under Modi’s rule India has reaped great economic success but the religious violence and tyranny has been obscured. The lives of religious minorities is becoming increasingly difficult with the passing of new laws by the BJP controlled government. In particular, acts of violence against Muslims are growing exponentially with over 168 attacks recorded by Hindu extremists against Muslims as well as other religious minorities in protection of cows.1 Malicious attacks were led by mobs in 2018 as a way of implementation of a ban on public prayers by Muslims. The fountainhead of the BJP, the RSS, played a massive role in bringing Modi to power with their Hindu first belief, not indifferent to that of the Nazis, with hundreds of thousands of RSS members using technology and power to assemble voters. The BJP party operates under the sheer idea of “Hindutva” (Hinduness) which is deep set in the belief that the common culture and the foundation of the Indian nation is Hindus.
It was also in 2002 when Modi was Chief Minister in Gujarat that he let a ruthless massacre of thousands of Muslims unfold following the death of 59 Hindu pilgrims on a train. Without evidence, Muslims were blamed leading to extensive riots filled with cold-blooded murder and rape. Many people were charred and slaughtered including women and children. Following these horrific events, which Modi failed to stop though he had the power to do so, he was shunned internationally. The U.S. denied him a visa while the UK broke off all relations with Modi but this quickly changed in the months prior to him becoming Prime Minister. In fact, despite the events which are unfolding in Kashmir, Modi was awarded the highest civilian award, the ‘Order of Zayed’, by the UAE. He is also to be honored by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation in the U.S. by receiving a Global Goalkeeper Award. Many activists are protesting for the award to be rescinded as he has long been criticized by human rights defenders for inciting violence and dejecting human rights, including the humanitarian crisis in Kashmir that many protesters say has been created by Modi.
Tensions have been growing rapidly between India and Pakistan over Kashmir after years of autonomy was repealed by New Delhi who gave full control to the central government. A curfew was instated in Kashmir along with internet and telephone lines being cut. Residents in Indian-occupied Kashmir could not even celebrate Eid properly. Pakistan’s Prime Minister, Imran Khan, has since likened the actions and ideology of the RSS and India to those of the Nazis. He tweeted on August 11, 2019 saying “The curfew, crackdown and impeding genocide of Kashmiris in IOK is unfolding exactly acc [according] to RSS ideology inspired by Nazi ideology. Attempt is to change demography of Kashmir through ethnic cleansing. Question is: Will the world watch & appease as they did Hitler at Munich?” in which he questioned whether India’s actions would be ignored and disregarded despite the RSS ideologies being similar to that of the Nazis.
He also went on to tweet, “I am afraid this RSS ideology of Hindu Supremacy, like the Nazi Aryan Supremacy, will not stop in IOK; instead it will lead to suppression of Muslims in India & eventually lead to targeting of Pakistan. The Hindu Supremacists version of Hitler’s Lebensraum.” In this he brought in the role of Pakistan, comparing it to that of Hitler’s Lebensraum which was Hitler’s idea of conquering and colonizing other countries such as those of Eastern Europe to build his empire.
In conclusion, it is apparent that the rise of the far-right is becoming an evermore overbearing threat. With tools such as social media and access to travel at the hands of white supremacists, they are able to spread their ideology on a vast global scale to recruit new members and grow. The far-right has been seen throughout history and throughout the world, with current issues in Kashmir showing the similarities between the actions and ideas of the Nazis and Hitler to those of the RSS and India. It also highlights how important it is that we understand that the world has not changed much from the 1930s.
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