Russia in the Far Right Networks
Eurosceptics and populists rush to Moscow,
but their goals contradict the domestic and foreign policy interests of Russia
Íà ðóññêîì ÿçûêå: https://www.invissin.ru/news/the_expert_magazine_publishes_an_article_russia_in_the_network_of_the_extreme_right_eurosceptics_and/
https://expert.ru/expert/2018/28/rossiya-v-seti-krajne-pravyih/"Expert" July 9, 2018, ¹28 (1082)
Politics: ALTERNATIVE EUROPE
Veronika Krasheninnikova, a member of the Civic Chamber of the Russian Federation, deputy chairperson of the Commission for the Development of Public Diplomacy; a member of the United Russia Party Supreme Council and coordinator of its Working group on foreign policy.
The victory of the Brexit supporters in the British referendum launched a wave of enthusiasm in some Russian circles. “The British liberals will finally pay for their machinations against Russia – now the conservatives of Moscow and London rule the field!”
Even greater delight was caused by the victory of Donald Trump in the presidential elections in the United States. “ "Our" Trump will “read the riot act” to all the Clintons, Obama, and other assorted Democrats – break open the champagne!”
The succession of victories of "anti-system" forces in the Anglo-saxon world was followed by the victories of the so called “Eurosceptics” in the European Union. In four countries over the past year they came in third in the parliamentary elections, breathing down the necks of the traditional ruling parties. The Austrian Freedom Party entered the ruling coalition in October 2017, its leader Heinz-Christian Strache took the post of Vice-Chancellor and Minister of Sports. Alternative for Germany, as a result of laborious coalition-building, became the main opposition party in the Bundestag. In Italy in March The League – as it re-branded itself from The Northern League to get rid of its separatist image – also entered the ruling coalition; its leader Matteo Salvini took the post of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs, gaining control of practically entire enforcement apparatus. In France, the National Front headed by Marine Le Pen was essentially defeated, but got eight seats in the National Assembly and still holds a prominent place in French politics.
Their proponents in Russia seem to have a reasons to rejoice: Eurosceptics and "conservatives" readily come to Moscow and even to the unrecognized Crimea despite Western “isolation” policy; they demand lifting the sanctions, serve as loyal observers in the Russian elections, and regularly comment on Russian TV. They destabilize the European Union from within, destroy the unity of the Brussels monolith and offer themselves as lobbyists of Russia in the European Parliament. The Austrian Freedom Party and Northern League of Italy even signed cooperation agreements with United Russia Party, and the youth section of Alternative for Germany cooperates with the Young Guard of the United Russia. The National Front’s key members brazenly came to celebrate the Victory Day in Moscow this year.
But why in their own countries are these movements despised and rejected by most people? What do Europeans know about “Eurosceptics” and the “Right populists” that we do not know? And what risks is Russia running in cooperating with these forces?
From the first day in power the "anti-system" British and Americans began betraying Russian expectations. The winners of Brexit, led by Theresa May, accused Russia of a whole series of "crimes" and imposed a long string of "punishments." President Trump, for his part, began by appointing the most aggressive cadres to key military, security and financial positions. As a result, the administration of Russia’s favorite, “The Donald`’ broke all records in the number and aggressiveness of anti-Russian decisions. The fact that Trump does this only to show that "nobody's tougher on Russia" than he comforts little – the result is the same.
Of course, the American establishment, be it Democrats or Republicans, is thoroughly compromised and by places deeply corrupt. The entire post-war history of the United States is an endless series of wars in ruthless pursuit of profits – with no end in sight. Of course, the EU is in a profound systemic crisis: it stopped serving its people and turned into a mirror image of the "bureaucratic corpse" the existence of which President Putin denounced in Russia itself. Of course, the ruling parties in Europe begun taking their power for granted and often – like French, German, Italian social democrats – discredited themselves in the eyes of the voters and betrayed the ideals of justice and a social state for the sake of staying in power. All this means that the European Union needs profound systemic reforms, but not demolition to the ground.
Eurosceptics and populists – what do they offer? And who are they really?
The first decision of Italy’s new Minister of Internal Affairs Matteo Salvini, The League’s leader, was to block refugee ships from the country’s ports. The second migration decision was the census of Roma with a plan to deport those without Italian citizenship. Salvini justifies the measures against the Roma by his striving to save "those poor children who are trained in theft and lawlessness." "Prima gli Italiani” – “Italians First” is The League’s slogan.
Former Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni twitted about Salvini's initiatives: "Yesterday refugees, today Roma, tomorrow guns for all." The concern of outside observers is all the greater in that nearly a hundred years ago Italy succumbed to the rise of nationalist hysteria.
All right-wing populists have a common ideology of racism, chauvinism, violence and a desire to destroy the existing political system and to remove centrist parties from power. Anti-Semitism, as with the ultra-Right at all times, also flourishes, but can not be expressed publicly because of the strictness of European laws – though it still regularly breaks through. The roots of these parties often sprout from the national forces allied to the Third Reich: the Vichy government and the SS division Charlemagne in the case of the National Front, the Austrian part of NSDAP in the case of the Austrian Freedom Party. In Germany and Italy, the denazification was carried out only partially. In post-war Europe, nazis and their collaborators served Washington more than once to fight against the left, trade unions, and to conduct false flag terrorism attacks (see Operation Gladio).
As for the key members of the National Front who came to Moscow this year on May 9 – they came to celebrate exactly what? The day of mourning? After all, members of Marine Le Pen’s closest circle still like to honor the birthday of Hitler whom they call "uncle", and use Nazi symbols and greetings. These and other "traditions" as well as the dark deeds and dangerous connections of the National Front are described in the investigation "Marine est au courant de tout ..." by the French journalists Marine Turchi and Mathias Destal.
Today, the most “advantageous” topic for the European ultra-Right is refugees and migrants. If they were not there, they would have to be invented. Migrants for the ultra-Right are not a problem – they are an opportunity to rise to power. As always in history, the ultra-Right must name the scapegoats, to direct hatred on them and build up the muscles of violence.
Criticism of migration policy is the main tool in the hands of the extreme Right against centrist governments, although in the same Germany the severity of the problem has long since diminished. If at the peak of the arrival of refugees in 2015 the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Germany registered 890,000 migrants applications, in 2016 there were already two-thirds fewer – 280,000, and in 2017 fewer again by another third – 186,000, the majority coming from Syria, as well as Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Eritrea and Albania. But even in 2016, when the criticism was not as strong as today, the German government accepted only 57% of applications from citizens of Syria who had fled the US and NATO’s war; only a fifth of applications from the Afghans; and from the Pakistanis – only 2%. For the most populous state of the European Union (the population of Germany is 83 million people) with its powerful economy, all these are rather modest figures.
The CSU, the more conservative Bavarian part of the ruling CDU-CSU coalition, insisted on the ceiling of 200,000 refugees back in January of this year – which is higher than the 186,000 total of the last year. But now the leader of CSU, the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Germany Horst Seehofer demands further cuts: in the fall elections apparently it is necessary for him to show the right-wing Bavarian electorate a willingness to fight with both Berlin and Brussels.
The Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurz also decided to support the Bavarian conservatives. Over the head of his colleague Angela Merkel, he held a meeting with the Prime Minister of Bavaria Markus Söder and on June 13 Kurz invited Germany and Italy to form an "axis of the willing" to combat illegal migration.
Does this mean that the old Austro-German-Italian axis is being rebuilt in Europe? Are we witnessing processes similar to ones in the early 1930s? We do remember: he who rose to be “the Fuhrer" started as an Austrian corporal. And Italy was the first European country where fascism officially established its power in 1922.
It must be said that the subject of migrants for the ultra-Right is not new. In the early 1990s, German neo-Nazis were beating up and killing Turkish workers who were invited to build the German "economic miracle." In 1991, according to official data, 1,483 cases of violence for racial reasons were recorded – ten times the total number for both East and West Germany a year earlier. The entire country was shocked by the murder on May 23, 1993 in Solingen where the local Nazis, yelling "Heil Hitler!", set fire to the home of a Turkish family which had lived in Germany for twenty-three years – three girls and their mother were burnt in flames.
Together with Trump – against a united Europe?
In early June, Trump’s new ambassador to Germany Richard Grenell openly stated support for the anti-European forces: "I absolutely want to empower other conservatives throughout Europe." Grenell said this in an interview with the British affiliate of the right-wing Breibart News. Its creator, the ideologist and organizer of the "Alternative Right" in America, Stephen Bannon, after his expulsion from the White House, settled in Italy and is currently traveling around Europe helping various “alternatives.”
“Let them call you racists. Let them call you xenophobes. Let them call you nativists. “Wear it as a badge of honor," Bannon inspired the members of the French National Front at the party's congress in Lille on March 10 this year. "Nativists", as well as "identitarians" are the modern variations of those who held to the Nazi principle of "blood and soil," with the subsequent expulsion of all those who are "not of the same blood" and were not born on the same soil.
Eurosceptics and "conservatives" together with Trump want to destroy the "system" and "drain the swamp". The Trump administration works to split up Europe – Washington does not need a united and strong Europe: America has a difficult time manipulating and dominating a large integrated economy and bureaucracy. To dismember Europe and then trample underfoot the individual members is an excellent plan to destroy competition – Trump style.
But what is “the alternative”? "The Europe of Nations" – as in the 1930s? The Europe of nationalist states with endless territorial and commercial claims to each other? Europe, which began two world wars and dragged Russia into them? Yes, we won but suffered the heavest losses in these wars.
Consequences – in Europe and in Russia
In Russia few people know the background discussed above. But in European countries the true "values" and aspirations of the Right-wing parties are not a secret for anyone. The overwhelming majority of Europeans categorically reject them. More than 60% of the French claim that they will never vote for the National Front. Therefore, when Marine Le Pen says something positive about Russia, the majority of the French reject the “Russia” friendly to Le Pen. With her praise all the negative ultra-Right racism and anti-Semitism accumulated by the generations of Le Pen family are now transferred to our country.
Russian contacts with the European ultra-Right were established under the pretext of "showing that Russia is not isolated" and because "others do not want to work with us." However, it is clear that the association with the ultra-Right isolates Russia even more, puts a huge stain on the reputation of our country, and we lose many real and potential supporters. Now, the new argument claims that "these are no longer marginal forces, they are in power." Yes, the ultra-Right is taking power in Europe, but this is not a cause for joy, but for concern: our purpose should be not to help them, but to counter them. President Putin never said that Russia should work with the bearers of the ideology of hatred and violence.
The European ultra-Right receives only dividends from its alliance with Russia. They are legitimized not only in the national, but also in the international arenas. It costs them nothing to say a few words in support of Russia – for this they receive free advertising in the Russian media and public recognition. And some, like the National Front, receive multi-millions in loans which do not even have to be returned because of the bankruptcy of the bank that issued them.
It is patently obvious that for a multinational, multi-confessional country like Russia, nationalist sentiments and the divisive aspirations of the ultra-Right are a direct road to disintegration.
And how do Russian Muslims – the 25 million of them – perceive praiseworthy coverage of Alternative for Germany from Russian state channels – the same Alternative for Germany in whose program it is written that "Islam is not part of Germany?" In Russia most of the sayings of these parties against Muslims would fall under article 282 of the Criminal Code – "Raising hatred or enmity, as well as humiliation of human dignity" or article 280 – "Public calls for extremist activities." Moreover, in Russia there are unfortunately enough forces that would want to play the same anti-Islamic card "as in Europe." In opposition to these attitudes Vladimir Putin said in January of this year: "Islam is part of the Russian cultural code," and "Muslims are an important part of the Russian multinational people."
In spite of all their very serious problems European mainstream constituencies with their parties will not disappear. It is difficult to work with them, but Russia can not avoid this work. Yes, Germany in the form of the Weimar Republic was not friendly to Soviet Russia, but the Third Reich embodied a qualitatively more dangerous level of hostility.
Russia’s work with the mainstream European parties has brought some good results and mitigated even worse policies demanded by the United States. Following Angela Merkel’s visit with President Putin a week earlier, at the St. Petersburg Economic Forum French President Emmanuel Macron jokingly teased the German delegation as to which country would invest more in Russia. The recognition that the policy of sanctions is unprofitable and counterproductive becomes increasingly evident to ever wider political circles in Europe; and in these societies the mood for constructive relations increasingly prevails.
Russia pluralistic multinational and multi-confessional system is one of the most successful in the world. Russia is a country where where Christians and Muslims have lived and developed together for centuries. This is an experience which it would be useful for European states to borrow. Europeans should also learn from us how to welcome refugees. When in the spring of 2014 hostilities began against the population of Donbass, in a few months Russia accepted more than 1.5 million migrants. The government found ways to mobilize and coordinate, legislators have adapted laws, almost all Russian regions have taken part in the reception of refugees. Moreover, some regions themselves invited refugees of professions that were lacking.
Finally, Russia has its own values, and a lot is said about them today. A multi-ethnic country, the heir of the great victory over fascism, where Victory Day is the main unifying celebration, where more than ten million people march together in the ranks of the Immortal Regiment – such a country can not weave alliances with the modern heirs of the defeated Reich and propagandists of hatred.
1. National Front – aka Rassemblement national
Such father, such daughter – the leaders of the National Front Jean-Marie and Marine Le Pen. TASS
The National Front party was founded in 1972 at the initiative of the neo-fascist organization “New Order” (Ordre Nouveau) as a legal front for participation in elections.
The president of the party from the moment of its foundation until 2011 was Jean-Marie Le Pen. Participant in the French wars against the independence of Indochina and Algeria, Le Pen in 1956 became a deputy of the French National Assembly. The Vice President of the National Front was François Brigneau, formerly a member of the collaborationist National Popular Rally (Rassemblement national populaire – RNP) and then the Milice (the collaborationist police of the Vichy government), of which he was a proud defender half a century later. Another vice-president, Roger Holeindre, previously was in the Armed Secret Army (OAS) and founded the Front for French Algeria, fought against the independence of Algeria (the OAS organized assassination attempts against President de Gaulle). The treasurer of the party was Pierre Bousquet, corporal (“Rottenführer”) of the division of the French volunteers SS “Charlemagne.” Other members of the leadership of the National Front had a similar origin.
A look into the worldview of Le Pen was given in 1992 by his friend and adviser Leon Degrelle who had served as Belgium’s Volksfùhrer during the Second World War and commander of the 28th SS Volunteer Division, Wallonie, whom Hitler considered almost his son. To the question of what Le Pen thinks about Hitler, Degrelle, laughing, replied: “You make me say terrible things. I think he admires him very much. “
In the 1980s and until recent years, Le Pen, despite prosecution and fines, persistently held to the view that the Nazi gas chambers were “just an episode in the history of World War II” and made anti-Semitic and anti-Islamic statements.
With the defeat of socialism in the USSR, the National Front saw for itself a vast political “market” in Russia and took advantage of the disorientation of the 1990s to establish relations with the Russian ultra-Right.
With his consistent reputation as a racist and demagogue, Le Pen gained votes on promises to expel illegal immigrants, to withdraw from the Schengen agreements, to hold a referendum on the imposition of the death penalty and the abolition of the euro, and he took advantage of growing protest moods and dissatisfaction among the electorate with the Republican and Socialist parties.
In the 1995 presidential election, Le Pen gained 15% of the vote (fourth place). In 2002, in the presidential elections, Le Pen went sensationally into the second round, ahead of Socialist Lionel Jospin by less than 1%. In the second round, all the parties rallied for Jacques Chirac against Le Pen, and Chirac won with a huge margin – 82.2% against 17.8%.
In 2011, the party was led by Jean-Marie Le Pen’s daughter Marine. She began a strategy of “dédiabolisation”, or de-demonization, of the National Front, trying to save it from the ultra-Right racist and xenophobic reputation of its members. But among her closest circle, in the posts of treasurer and various assistants, remain the ultra-Right friends of her youth such as Frederic Chatillon, formerly the leader of the neo-fascist youth group “Groupe Union Défense” (GUD) and Axel Loustau, also a participant of the GUD. The above-mentioned Roger Holeinder says of them: “I, of course, am Right and maybe even ultra-Right, but I have never been pro-Hitler. These guys are just Right of us.“ Loustau met Degrelle in 1992 with the words: “My general, this is a very high honor for me”.
In the presidential election in 2012, Marine Le Pen came in third, gaining almost 18% of the vote. In the elections to the European Parliament in 2014, the National Front unexpectedly came in first with almost 25% of the vote (24 seats), shocking both France and the whole of Europe. In the presidential elections in May 2017, Le Pen went into the second round and gained almost 33.9% of the vote – against Emmanuel Macron’s 66.1%, but in the parliamentary elections in June the party showed a weaker result (13.2% in the first round , 8.75% in the second) and the party received eight seats in the National Assembly.
Continuing the efforts to launder its image, Marine Le Pen launched the initiative to rename the party, and on June 1, 2018, the National Front changed its name to “Rassemblement national” or “National Rally”. However, the new name almost repeats the name of the collaborationist party of the Vichy regime, the “Rassemblement national populaire,” or “National Popular Rally” – the same party to which Brigneau had belonged during the Vichy period.
The rising star of the party is the niece of Marine Le Pen, Marion Maréchal Le Pen. Marion has a reputation even more “conservative” than her aunt, declares herself “the political heiress of Jean-Marie Le Pen”, whom he considers a “visionary.”
Left, Marion Maréchal Le Pen with her friend Logan Dijan, aka “Duce”, leader of the neo-fascist Groupe Union Défense (GUD). Right, Dijan’s photo on Twitter; on his left arm is the emblem of the French SS division “Charlemagne”.
2. Alternative for Germany
Alternative for Germany (AfG, or AfD in German) was founded in April 2013 by right-wing Eurosceptics from the academic community in protest against German support for Greece, Cyprus and other weaker economies of the euro area.
At the elections to the Bundestag in 2013, AfG gained 4.7% and did not pass the five percent barrier to enter the legislature. In the European Parliament elections in May 2014, the party won 7 seats. In subsequent years, members of the AfG were included in 14 of the 16 landtags (regional parliaments).
The party includes different forces: Eurosceptics, conservatives, right populists, nationalists, Islamophobes, racists, xenophobes, anti-Semites and right-wing radical elements. AfG successfully practices demagogy, offering simple solutions to complex problems – which are not solutions.
An anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic agenda is the main theme. The program adopted in April 2016 states: "Islam is not part of Germany." AfG creates and exploits the fear of "Islamization", the uncertainty of people over the future and a "decline" of their. While accusing migrants of the "clash of civilizations", AfG prepares such a clash: the number of acts of violence against refugees in 2015 increased fivefold in comparison with 2014. Part of the electoral base of AfG is the anti-immigrant movement PEGIDA ("Patriotic Europeans against the Islamization of the West"), whose founder Lutz Bachmann styled himself as Hitler (photo below).
Pegida founder Lutz Bachmann deleted his Facebook profile after this picture of him styled as Adolf Hitler was unearthed. Photograph: unknown
AfG which presents itself as a "victim" of the mainstream media and the "system," accuses Chancellor Merkel of "betraying the German people," and positions itself as a "renewal party".
In 2015, the intra-party struggle led to a tilt to the Right: co-chairwoman Frauke Petri bet on nationalist and anti-Islamic rhetoric; in particular, she suggested using weapons against refugees crossing the border.
However, in April 2017, Petri was forced to resign, losing in the internal struggle to an even more right-wing faction led by her deputy Alexander Gauland. Thus, the core of the party shifted to the nationalist, right-wing radical side, to the struggle for the "ethnic cleansing" of the German nation. The radical wing has pushed relative moderates into the background.
In the Bundestag elections in 2017, AfG gained 12.6% of the vote and became the main opposition party, and under the legislative procedures earning the Right to speak directly after the ruling coalition of the conservative CDU, the CSU and the Social Democrats of the SPD.
Leaders of the AfG faction in the Bundestag are the 76-year-old Alexander Gauland and until recently little-known 38-year-old Alice Weidel. Gauland is the leader of the nationalist wing of the party, known for statements which brought him to the verge of prosecution for neo-fascism. In September 2017, Gauland declared that he was proud of the "achievements of the Wehrmacht" in both world wars. At the congress of the youth organization of AfG on June 2, 2018, Gauland said: "Hitler and the National Socialists are just a speck of bird droppings (i.e. insignificant) on Germany's more than a thousand-year successful history."
The chairman of the youth organization of AfD, Young Alternative, Damian Laure and the congress delegates sang the first stanza of the former German anthem "Deutschland, Deutschland, über alles ..." ("Germany, Germany, above all"), which until then only the Nazis sang – for which they were even reprimanded from the board of AfG. The symbol of Young Alternative (below left) is an obvious knock-off of the early symbol of the Nazi Storm Troopers, the SA (below right).
Co-chairman Alice Weidel is called to "balance" Gowland: an open lesbian, Weidel lives with a civil wife and built a career in the American bank Goldman Sachs – a symbol of "globalism."
An incredible pair: the co-chairmen and leaders of the Alternatives faction in the Bundestag Alice Weidel and Alexander Gauland. TASS
In May 2018, AfG had 30 thousand members, men accounted for 85%.
As the German political scientist Hayo Funke explains, the principle of right-wing populism is "we attack those whom we consider scapegoats: Islam, migrants". The expert added, expressing his apprehension, "earlier they were Jews, today they are refugees, and this is fraught with unrestrained chaos,"
3. The Northern League – aka The League
The League was established in 1991 as a federation of regionalist parties in several northern regions of Italy. The party logo includes the green "alpine sun", the pre-Christian pagan symbol of the region. It was originally called the Northern League, but on the eve of the parliamentary elections in March 2018, trying to escape from the regional separatist status, the party changed its name to “The League".)
The undisputed leader of the The League until 2012 was Umberto Bossi, whose "League of Lombardy," fighting for the autonomy of the region since 1984, became the core of the party. Conditional prison terms and charges of corruption, embezzlement of party funds for personal purposes, and other transgressions, have not prevented Bossi from remaining the Federal president of The League until now.
The ideology of Northern League was founded on racism against southern Italians – the basis of its calls for separatism. The party claimed that the south of Italy "colonized" the northern regions of Italy and "exploits" them.
Later racism spread to immigrants and refugees, and the old slogan "The North First!" was replaced by the current "Italians first!". The rejection of the European Union, the so-called Euroskepticism, is often dictated by nationalist convictions and anti-Semitism (the EU is a "nest of communist bankers and freemasons"). Inside the League conspiracy theories are widespread.
In the 2008 parliamentary elections The League won about 8% of the vote, in the 2013 elections – about 4%. In the European Parliament 2014 elections, the party won 6.2%.
In December 2013 Matteo Salvini became the national secretary of the party. Since 2014, The League has made consistent efforts to collect around itself the extreme Right, and in parallel expand its voting base at the expense of center-Right and disoriented left. Salvini is close to Marine Le Pen and has stood with her at various events.
In May 2015, Salvini announced the creation of a political bloc "Sovranità” together with the vice-president of the neo-Nazi organization Casa Pound Simone di Stefano. Casa Pound was founded in 2003 and named after the American poet Ezra Pound, a fan of Italian fascism, who considered the Third Reich "the natural civilizer of Russia."
The creation of a broad alliance with the ultra-Right in the party is provided, in particular, by the leading member of the European parliament for the The League, Mario Borghezio.
The European MP and The League’s member Mario Borghezio runs links with ultra-Right radicals: at the meeting of the neo-fascist organization "Casa Pound" with its leader Simone di Stefano
Borghezio, previously an activist in several neo-Nazi organizations, maintains contact with former leaders of banned terrorist groups which had been operating within the framework of the CIA’s Operation Gladio, including the infamous Stefano Delle Chiaie. In the 2000s, Borgezio actively worked with Roberto Fiore of the Italian neo-Nazi party Forza Nuova, who also visited Russia and offered his lobbying efforts in the European Parliament. The League has established ties with the Calabrian mafia, the party's funds have been implicated in the arms trade and money laundering operations.
The League has many more opponents in Italy than supporters. Each of their rallies generates large counter-demonstrations; the mayor of Naples did not let Salvini into the city. In December 2015, the Israeli Embassy in Italy denied Salvini a visa for his policy on immigrants and relations with neo-Nazi organizations.
In the March parliamentary elections The League gained more than 17% of the vote and formed a coalition with the Five Star Movement. In the coalition government, Salvini assumed the post of Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Internal Affairs, effectively gaining control over practically the entire state enforcement apparatus. One of his first decisions was the refusal to land to a ship with 629 refugees rescued at sea. The vessel was accepted by mayors of Naples, Palermo, Messina, Reggio di Calabria. Salvini also promises to deport hundreds of thousands of migrants.
4. Austrian Freedom Party (FPȪ)
Austrian Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz (left) and Vice-Chancellor, Chairman of the Austrian Freedom Party (FPȪ) Heinz-Christian Strahe will not abolish sanctions against Russia, despite promises. TASS
The Austrian Freedom Party (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs, FPÖ) was established in 1956 on the basis of the "Federation of Independents Party”, created right after WWII by the Austrian members of the NSDAP in the framework of the so-called “third camp” (the term "third camp", "third way" is used to avoid the term "fascism" – i.e. "not capitalism" and "not socialism").
Anton Reinthaller, former member of the NSDAP, SS Brigadenfuhrer, Minister of Agriculture of Lower Austria under the Nazi regime was elected the first head of the party at its constituent congress. Virtually the entire management apparatus of the party consisted of retired officers of the Wehrmacht and the SS, as well as its electorate. In his inaugural speech, Reinthaller said about Austria: "The national idea in fact means nothing except acknowledging its belonging to the German people."
The second head of the party elected in 1958 was Friedrich Peter who voluntarily joined the SS Troops in 1938, took part in the battles on the Eastern Front where he served in the Einsatzgruppe, engaged in executions of "inferior peoples" during the summer of 1941, and rose to the SS Obersturmführer.
In 1986, the party was led by national-radical Jörg Haider. His parents were members of an illegal Nazi organization since the 1930's, and during the Anschluss moved to the NSDAP. Haider never renounced his Nazi roots, considered himself a German and denied the independent existence of the Austrian nation. Under Heider the main principles were the policy against immigrants and the opposition to European integration – two stable topics of the far Right in Europe and the U.S. Haider demanded the liberation of the Austrian nation from collective guilt for Nazi crimes, which cemented his reputation as a "Nazi lawyer." As governor of the Carinthian region, Haider opposed the linguistic rights of the Slovenian minority, including segregation in schools.
In the parliamentary elections in October 1999, the FPȪ unexpectedly gained 27% of the vote, taking second place. The high result was ensured by populist promises of combating unemployment and social reforms, along with accusations against opponents of "indifferent and unjust treatment of the Austrians". Such outcome shocked Europe, and Austria was declared an all-European boycott; Israel withdrew its ambassador from Vienna. Three months after the election Haider officially retired from the post of FPȪ leader to neutralize criticism of the party, but informally remained its leader.
In the 2002 parliamentary elections, the result for the FPÖ fell almost threefold, to 10%. Since 2005, the party has been led by a student and follower of Haider, Heinz-Christian Strache, who in his youth in 1969 was a member of the ultra-Right "Vandalia" fraternity. The introduction of the FPȪ program is titled "Austria is above all!", an echo to the traditional German “Deutschland über alles” adopted by the Third Reich.
In June 2015 the FPÖ joined the "Europe of Nations and Freedoms" faction in the European Parliament, which united ultra-Right parties with Le Pen’s National Front.
In the presidential election in May 2016, FPÖ candidate Norbert Hofer received 49.7% of the vote in the second round of voting and lost only 0.6% to independent candidate Alexander van der Bellen (50.4%). The FPÖ appealed the election results, and in a new vote in December Hofer collected 46.2%, while van der Bellen increased his to 53.8%.
In October 2017, in early parliamentary elections, the FPÖ received 26% of the vote, taking the third place, and joined the coalition with the Conservative People's Party: Strache received the post of Vice Chancellor and Minister of Sports in the office of Chancellor Sebastian Kurz.