neo-fascistYesterday was Europe Day, marking the 1950 speech by French Foreign Minister Robert Schuman that launched the process of European integration. Symbolically, Europe Day also happens to fall just after (or, in most of the former Soviet Union, on the same day as) the anniversary of the end of the Second World War. Festivities have been somewhat muted, however, against a backdrop of rising unemployment, painful spending cuts, double-dip recession and (most recently) growing political uncertainty in the wake of last week’s Greek elections. The inability of what have traditionally been the two largest parties to secure a parliamentary majority now leaves open the possibility of a messy Greek default.

Just as worrying for many is the rise of extremist political parties. Earlier this week, Franck left a comment about the entry of the far-right “Golden Dawn” party into the Greek Parliament with almost 7% of the vote, saying: “neo-nazis have just entered the Greek parliament… For me, this is not trivial and could happen anywhere [that politicans] do not pay attention to the pain of the people.

The Golden Dawn’s leader, Nikolaos Michaloliakos (pictured above with supporters), rejects the label “neo-nazi”, despite the Golden Dawn’s use of suspiciously Hitler-esque “Roman salutes” and a party flag that very closely resembles the Nazi swastika.

Before the elections, we spoke to Professor Frank Furedi about the importance of freedom of speech for democracy, and the difference between “tolerance” and “non-judgmentalism” when it comes to extremist viewpoints. Frank Furedi is Emeritus Professor of Sociology at the University of Kent’s School of Social Policy, Sociology and Social Research, and was speaking at a lecture at the university’s Brussels campus. His most recent book is On Tolerance: In Defence of Moral Independence.

Earlier this year, we had a comment sent in by Sam on the controversy surrounding the Hungarian constitutional changes. He supported the liberal ALDE group in the European Parliament because:

The ALDE group are one of the only groups to make a stand… against the Hungarian constitution for its lack of recognition of LGBT rights. Other europarties told them to mind their own sovereign business, but it needed to be explored.

Is Sam right? Or is there a contradiction between passing judgement over the internal workings of a country and preserving national sovereignty?

Also reacting to the controversy around the Hungarian constitution, we had a comment sent in from a user arguing that “non-democratic” parties should be banned, because democracies need mechanisms to protect themselves:

[In Hungary] the democracy has no mechanism to protect itself from non-democratic political organizations. The Romanian constitution prohibits explicitly any extremist political organization. We too have a far-right movement, but it is an NGO. They are not allowed to have a party. In this way, the non-democrats have no voice in a democratic country and cannot obtain political power.

On the other hand, Nikolai recently left a comment arguing that:

If a legal far right party manages to get members elected and are thus, via democracy, representative of enough people to do so, they have every right to raise the issues of those they represent even if the far more central MPs and constituents disagree (or even find what is said “shocking”).

Many modern far-right parties, of course, are not anti-democratic (like the fascist movements of the 20th Century) but populist. Is there, then, really a conflict between democracy and tolerance of extremist views? And which is a more fundamental right?

Finally, if we accept that freedom of speech is fundamental to democracy, does that mean there is an obligation to give equal exposure to all ideas? Or should extremist views be denied the “oxygen of publicity” of media attention?

What do YOU think? Should extremist views in Europe be banned? Should they be denied the ‘oxygen of publicity’? Or should they be brought out in public debate and confronted? Are we seeing the ‘radicalisation’ of politics in Europe, or were the Greek results merely protest votes against austerity policies, not representative of a long-term trend towards political extremism? Let us know your thoughts in the form below, and we’ll take them to politicians and experts for their reactions.

48 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Thomas Moens

    If Europe is committed to its democratic values it shouldn’t ban any views. In an open democracy these should be debated and confronted without restrictions.

    • avatar
      Mike Boehm

      You are wrong. Since the beginning, democracies have limited the freedom of speech, so that the opinions do not go against what democracies accept and do not. See how peoplerefuting the holocaust theory are jailed, how “far-right” extremists are having troubles for their opinions. “Open democracies” are a new-speech fantasy to implement the new world order, there has never and will never exist any “open” democracy. A democracy is a totalitarian system where the “choice” for the leaders are skewed from the beginning.

  2. avatar
    Hans Mund

    Of course we need to talk about these opinions. Everything else is losing track of the dangers that are incorporated in these movements.

    • avatar

      Perhaps we should also consider banning political parties of the left too. Just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean YOU should be able to decide what gets banned. Nothing should be banned because otherwise you are telling people what they can and cannot think. Freedom is the essence of democracy and all viewpoints should be tolerated.

  3. avatar
    Noel Michael Murphy

    Europe is a shambles.
    A nice idea of a united community that has become a power struggle of the rich.
    The poor are angry. They have put their faith in the extreme left and right.
    It has happened time and time again in europe.
    Nobody seems to learn from the past.

  4. avatar
    Samo Košmrlj

    the extremist views should of course be allowed into an open debate. for the same reason as the creationism proponents should more often debate with evolutionists, just so that their arguments are pounded into dust (the creationist ones of course :D)

    • avatar

      Unfortunately, their logic (or lack thereof) is so warped that they won’t even realize they’ve lost the debate.Extremist groups have always had a talent for ignoring reality.

  5. avatar
    Panayotis Dimitrios Moutafidis

    Sure is not as good phenomenon but democracy have that also must understanding the reasons and try with talk these politicals parties in all Europe not have the change to take goverment

  6. avatar
    Gerasimos Laios

    Why should our democracies do the same mistakes twice? Should we let people with views that could be labeled as “extreme” speak their minds during a democratic debate? Yes. Should we let people with extreme beliefs that have been harmfull in the near past, to damage our democracy and society in general? Of-course not! Isn’t doing the same thing twice and expecting different results the very definition of madness and stupidity?

  7. avatar
    Maro Kouris

    The entire civilised world says NO to Chrysi Avgi and their Nazi ideology. Time for the Greek Justice System to declare this organisation illegal, arrest and prosecute the entire Chrysi Avgi political party leadership and close it down permanently. It is an international disgrace to every Greek and a insult to the millions of European’s , our grandparents who fought and died against this NAZI ideology of tyranny which has raised its ugly head again here in Greece in the form of Chrysi Avgi. The Greek Justice system must act swiftly in the interest of all of Greece. This video shows what the fascist Nazi’s want to do to all of Europe again in 2012. No 30’s Appeasement with the Chrysi Avgi Nazi’s as was done in the 30’s with Hitler’s Nazis. We must defend our liberty and freedom against all these TERRORISTS.

  8. avatar
    MandyandPj Leneghan

    Absolutely not! Banning political views? Who would be the extremist then? The people should decide who to listen to. Already there is censorship in Europe and all this does is hide parts of the full picture. This is suggesting that ANY opposing views to the current establishment views are…extremist. This cannot be supported, in my humble opinion of course. Extremism (so called) is a symptom of failure and can be a useful deterrent to a system that appears to be out of control of the general population. The solution (for politicians) is to get off your collective gravy train backsides, work for ordinary citizens, the wealthy are quite capable of lining their own pockets..pj

  9. avatar
    Sunny Cvitkovic Anderson

    During economical and political crises, try to censor free speech is like adding gasoline to a dangerous fire. Most of the so called “far right” has legitimate right to question some troubling characteristics of raging liberalism that destroyed way of life in many countries in the world. It is easy for politicians and rich to advertise life together with people of different cultures, religions and way of life, while they live in mansions and well protected and secured parts of the urban area. What about rest of us, we live in apartments or mid sized houses and we are forced to listen, smell and experience different world in our back yards. They are not interested in assimilation or even partially assimilation in local culture. So called far right is product of forced immigration without any plan. Nations have right to keep their culture, religion and way of life.

  10. avatar
    Karel Van Isacker

    Everyone his opinion. Extremism rose because other political parties screwed up. Greece is a good example where democracy failed completely. If people believe extremism should be banned, then every communist or other left extremist party should be banned as well: KKE, PVDA, SYRIZA etc. Makes no sense.

  11. avatar
    Radoslav Bozov

    Opinion emerges as an outcome of an interpretation of life. When such interpretation desired radicalism/extremism, interpretation is a consequence of a fallen dogma of liberty that follows principles of flaw-able love – interference through laws of God and rules of Nature. Freedom of Speech shell not be limited, freedom of acts shell be limited. States are limited, but observables – the mirror image of life.

  12. avatar

    The holocaust is to often used for the castration of European society, in order to prevent them from expressing their critics on the establishment. Everybody that is right winged is automatically thrown on the Nazi pile. That looks very much like the stigmatization you try to prevent. All these people seek for is justice in their own country they truly love. They are genuine patriots and the backbone of the Greek working force and they have a voice to. I think the European establishment assumes they have the right to lead the plebs at any cost, but they are wrong, they are only in office because the people gave them that privilege. The electorate has the power to take that back, that is what you’re witnessing here. You have to accept this part of reality in order to fix it!

  13. avatar

    Without entering into the question of whether there is or not a limit to the freedom of speech, cause it would be too much thinking for just a band of thugs, I would like to bring in the Albanian example regarding the issue…

    It is considered a violation of the penal code for any kind of public hate speech toward minority groups such as immigrants, in my country. This is what Mr. Mixaloliakos keeps doing all the time and I have not seen any reaction from the Greek Police whatsoever! Furthermore, from what I read on the media, the elected “deputies” of the Golden Dawn are peope with criminal records so I don’t understand how such people can be candidates in elections to enter a supposedly democratic parliament.

  14. avatar

    In the UK, the BNP were controversially given air time on the BBC’s Question Time. Many were outraged by this, feeling that a far right party shouldn’t get such attention. However, they exposed themselves as the racists they were and were fairly close to denying the holocaust. Put these people in an open debate and you will soon see that their ideas are nothing more than propaganda. Allow them to claim they are being victimised and suppressed and their support will grow.

  15. avatar
    Brieuc Michiels

    +1 for Radoslac Bozov !

    The question is not if they are allowed or not to express this sort of opinion, but why they express this opinion !

    • avatar

      That is exactly right, Brieuc, each bird has its own song, the cause of it is unknown, yet, the outcome of a symphony is objective to the process of analysis and thinking over reality! One cannot fight down stupidity by tyrannic methods, we don’t know where that bird is gonna nest, we could only protect its eggs of the greedy snake!

  16. avatar
    Nikolai Holmov

    As I state in the quotation of a previous comment used in this article, democratically elected parliamentarians elected on any platform, be they far left or far right, have a duty to those who voted for them to continue to voice their manifesto commitments even if it upsets the main stream.

    As long as this is done within the boundaries of the law of the relevant nation, and giving due acknowledgement to issues such as parliamentary privilege, any democracy worthy of the name will suffer the thoughts, ideas and statements of minorities with whom the majority would robustly disagree.

  17. avatar
    Eusebio Manuel Vestias Pecurto

    O povo é que escolhe os seus partidos e os deputados hoje a Grécia tem deputados da extrema direita e foram eleitos Democráticamente é um direito da Democracia é claro que não é bom para Europa Agora para os Gregos é uma vergonha internacional

  18. avatar

    Who defines what is an “extrimist view”? Usually those who hold the power, and they do it in their interest. In a real democracy there are no “extremist views”, just different views. A real democracy will always find out those views which the majority can agree on. And, don’t let us forget, if we like it or not, democracy is by definition the rule of the majority. Unfortunately, in EU Europe this is often denied in favour of top down “rule of law”. But in a true democracy law needs a direct legitimation by the majority.

    If free speech is limited or even legally prevented by what kind of argument ever, as it is the case in the EU (political correctness etc.), then democracy is in danger if not already abolished.

    The best way to secure democracy is free speech.
    Most people who use the rise of national socialism in the Weimar Republic as an argument against free speech today do obviously not know that it was just the opposite: the Weimar Republic had, for example, a law against hate speeches similar to today. But it was exactly this which helped the National Socialist Party, because it allowed to present itself as the real political force fighting for “freedom” (from all kinds of circumstances).

    Is it not like today? The more free speech is limited, the more the so called moderate parties are losing ground.

  19. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Why ban some people saying what they want to say? Too much political correctness those days. People do not need to take them seriously or believe them. They can use their own brain to judge. Otherwise who can decide what is appropriate to be allowed to be said? What if some people find not appropriate to discuss things as European integration, or anything that has to do with politics outside their own nation state? Will you ban this as well?

    If some groups are too sensitive that is not a reason to ban whatever they can not handle.

    I do not agree with nazism, racism, or religion but I won’t ever try to ban people to discuss about them and have their own opinions. And believe whatever they want. Most people won’t follow any extreme political or religious views nowdays anyway, with the amount of openess and information that there is out there.

    People only follow the far right or far left out of desperation and disappointment out of their governments’ failures and mishandlings.. If you want people not to fall in those traps, then our political elites better avoid messing things up big time, as they have nowdays… There is the solution for you, not any type of “banning” or censorship….

  20. avatar
    Maro Kouris

    Nicholas Michaloliakos , chief of the Chrysi Avgi is a criminal. He is the Greek incarnation of Adolf Hitler. He should not have been legally allowed to set up and open this criminal organization- Chrysi Avgi- and be allowed to stand for election to gather all the extremist votes and enter the Greek Parliament. This is completely unethical and extremely dangerous for all of the European Union. How was this person , which has a past crimninal record allowed to run for Parliament. No other civilized country would have allowed this. The Euriopean Union must intervene and close down this extreme right Nazi organisation in Greece immediately. The chief of Chrysi Avgi – Nicholas Michaloliakos went prison in the past for breaking the LAW. He should not be allowed to stand for Parliament or set up this organization as he has a criminal record. The simple fact is that it is a CRIMINAL. Ex -Criminal’s shouldn’t be allowed to run for elections and stand as members of Parliament. Where is the European and Greek Law? European constitutional judges must intervene and directly close down this NAZI organisation in Greece down permanently. They can do immediately. The NAZI’s of Golden Dawn are a threat to the freedom and liberty of every European. The European courts must close down the Chrysi Avgi organisation FAST. These NAZI’s at Chysi Avgi are a dangerous threat to both Greece and the European Union.

  21. avatar
    Malcolm Seychell

    Extremism is the result of a failed European Union. It is the EU unelected dictators which should be banned and not other parties.

  22. avatar

    If non democracy is to be banned then EU must go first.

  23. avatar
    Aleksandar Djelosevic

    Dear Maro, i agree with You. All far right groups and parties in Europe are a symptom of underlying deeper trends. So, I think that immediately brings us to the question, well, how can we deal with those underlying grievances around issues of immigration, rising diversity and increasingly the perceived role in compatibility of Islam within European societies.
    I think the big challenge that we’re going to see over the next 10 years is the rise of far-right groups and networks in Central and Eastern Europe. And the reason that’s important is because these countries are quite new to democracy. They don’t have a rich tradition of liberal representative democracy.
    But if you look, for example, at countries like Hungary, where you have a very active, quite popular far-right scene that also has connections to paramilitary wings and groups, there are real reasons to actually look to the east of Europe when considering the future of the far right.
    Responses that promise quick, easy solutions are illusory. Germany needs a long-term ?twin-track? strategy. What is needed is ?a joint effort within a strong civil society, within which policymakers shoulder their responsibility.? Right-wing extremism cannot only be treated as a psychosocial problem, but must also be seen as a challenge for the entire political system as well as society at large, since it strikes at the country?s democratic foundations.
    Thus, a successful ?twin-track? strategy must make use of long-term, preventative measures in the educational system, on the one hand, and must strengthen overall democratic values, on the other. In the latter area, short-term, symbolic actions are important, especially those that help citizens demonstrate within their communities that they reject right-wing extremist attitudes.

  24. avatar
    Maro Kouris

    Anti-discrimination laws must be created and implemented in LAW all across Europe to effectively contain all the extreme right wing groups.Europes Democracies need to be vigilant and alert against all these extreme right wing tertosterone lunatic’s.

  25. avatar

    “Responses that promise quick, easy solutions are illusory”. ?????? For left wingers perhaps, but rightwing has enough solutions, so don’t let anyone believe you in the illusion that the problem lays in finding solutions. The solutions are very clear. The problem is that the establishment only thinks in making profit even when that means they have to sell their people, land and flag. Maro implores anti discrimination laws, tell me are these laws also protecting the Greek farmers, and vishermen that are forced to migrate the villages they live for generations because they are Greek citizens and not cheap Arap workers? Afther loosing their income the North Europeans come to Greece to buy the houses of the Greek workers because their houses are confiscated. For what!!? For being loyal and honest? for being Greek? What have these people done wrong then? And you dare to call them racist? Maybe this makes all sence in economical graphics and calculations, but people are not numbers! This is a ordinary shake down! whake up!

  26. avatar
    Michael Tsikalakis

    Europe is from the very few places on earth where “applied” Democracy exists. Everybody has the right to say anything as far as he is not violating human rights. Political parties such as “Golden Dawn” have no chance of succeeding in a Country with political stability and normal day life. Consequently our problem is not “Golden Dawn” but the Political and Financial instability. History shows that and if we do not do anything to overcome the crisis there will be many “Golden Dawns” across Europe, believe me.

  27. avatar
    catherine benning

    All views must be aired, how could freedom be considered otherwise. That would be an oxymoron.

    What is today’s extremism is tomorrows rule.

    Take what we already are having to live with. What once would have been considered unbearable, and is. We are not free to speak the truth on many issues, let alone the leanings we may have toward one way or another. It is repression and that stultifies a people and its progress. Imagine if Leonardo da Vinci had not been allowed to freely express his knowledge, or, any of the other great minds who brought wonder to the world.

    First of all, freedom of speech is the right to breath what one knows or feels. When you deny that right you deny the right to life. And you deny our future the knowledge of the brilliant who walk today.

    ‘I may disapprove of what you say, but will defend to the death your right to say it.’ …Voltaire

  28. avatar
    Maro Kouris

    In a recent interview with a reporter shown on Greek channel MEGA, neo-nazi leader Nikos Michaloliakos admitted that it is due to the weaknesses of the Greek Legal system which is the reason why the neo-nazi fascist Golden Dawn (Hrisi Avgi) exists. The Greek Parliament and the Greek Legal Council need to immediately create and implement the appropriate laws to expel and ban legally Golden Dawn From Greek politic’s forever. The neo-nazi Golden Dawn Party is a internal danger to all of Greece and all of the E.U

    • avatar
      catherine benning

      What you fear is what you are selling.

      If you ban the voice of any group, under a name of any kind, it will only set that group up as a catalyst for something more frightening. And they will be able to use the banning as a reason for even fiercer rule. Read your history.

      Additionally, once you have banned this one, and the next, where do you go from there? You are promoting the end of the right to speak at all.

      We are experiecing the most stringent rules Europe has ever known against freedom of speech, except under Hitler, who began with what you are preching and we are presently living with. They are already promoting against the right to have a voice. Political correctness is the moves of a dictatorship, and seemingly, you have missed that event.

      Over the last few years, people have been sent to jail for denying belief in what is unable to be proven, or, in having a view that is felt out of step with government. Example: Those who called for a ban on killing animals without stunning as in Halal or the person who went to jail for saying he did not feel he could believe completely in the words of the Holocaust victims. This action is the greatest threat to freedom we have seen in a lifetime. Fear that. For next it will be you who is banned from speaking what you feel is right.

      You cannot only believe in freedom to speak if what is being said is what pleases you. That idea is too ridiculous to debate. And to ban all those who disagree with you, means you will have to build enough jails to imprison half the planet.

  29. avatar
    Ana-Maria Anghelescu

    Well, I don’t think that the freedom of speech should have a boundary. Even the extremist opinion should be taken into consideration. What if everybody would agree with you? There would be no evolution… But, still, how can we avoid being too influenced by this extremists?

    We cannot ban all those that have different opinions. I know that this sounds cliche, but that’s the truth. I really believe that banning everybody that disagrees with you would lead to a global banning…

    Tell me your opinion, I’ll tell you my opinion and so we’ll learn about each others’ perspective. These may differ because we have different backgrounds, maybe different political views and we live in different zones.

    We should take from every person we hear a part. The best one! Then to apply the evidences to our own reality, to our own ideas. Take the best from everyone, but mind your own ideas. The freedom of speech is like every other freedom: you can tell anything you want as long as it doesn’t effectively hurt the others!

  30. avatar
    Peter Schellinck

    Freedom of speech must be honored as a fundamental human right.

    All views, whether classified as extremist or otherwise, should always result in an “Appreciative Conversation”. Hence, the representatives of different value systems know they have to maintain their mutual relationship even when their values contradict each other. The aim is not for consensus or compromise but for continuation of the conversation. If appreciative conversation fails, ideology takes over with the restrictive and repressive powers that are released when diversity is jeopardized. In other words, the representative of the different value systems stay with each other in respect and working together to open their eyes and their minds to the way things are for each of them.

    A conversation that is held with each other is appreciative. A conversation that is conducted at or to each other is an assumptive conversation, i.e. assumptions are being made that either or both individuals are not aware of.

    The nice thing about freedom of speech is that a synergy takes place when individuals engage in a conversation, resulting in the whole becoming bigger than the sum of its parts.

    So no views are to be banned, certainly not on the basis of fear for not agreeing with me!

  31. avatar

    its ridiculous that we call ourself a democracy, and then we ban opinions that we do not want to hear. Opinions that in 2012 may be completely legitimate.

    Imagine if it was NAZI Germany who won the war and there was a ban on speaking about freedoms. Then surely freedom would not even be thought about by the mainstream, even if they would want it if they knew about it.

  32. avatar

    I would say that in this case, there is a limit to the freedom of speech!
    These honorable gentlemen from the Golden Dawn are promoting hatred and violence against vulnerable communities in Greece.
    It looks to me a lot like the radio propaganda and incitement of hate against the Tutsi in Rwanda… They are doing the same… Few days ago they went to some abandoned warehouse in the city of Patra, where mainly middle East immigrants live and they wanted to torture them… Do you call this democracy? I don’t think so! If we say that there is no limit to the freedom of speech, that we should also not limit what comes after it… You can already imagine the consequences!

  33. avatar
    Jake L.

    First off I’m jewish. Im very shocked at the fact neo-nazis ACTUALLY have gained power somewhere. But it doesn’t surprise me, Greece hasn’t been a good place to live in 40 years. In the midst of desperation, nations will try anything.

  34. avatar

    Free speech should protect and allow expression of ideas no matter how inflammatory EXCEPT threats to human life or property (both should be treated as crimes) which is where we should draw the line. It a NOT a tool to protect people from being offended and justifying retaliatory criminal action. Anybody taking such actions should be punish accordingly no matter how they feel to serve as deterrent just like any other crime.

  35. avatar

    If you limit freedom of speech then you are denying people their human rights.
    The right to freedom of expression is recognized as a human right under Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and recognized in international human rights law in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). Article 19 of the ICCPR states that “[e]veryone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference” and “everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds, regardless of frontiers, either orally, in writing or in print, in the form of art, or through any other media of his choice.”

  36. avatar
    Pedro Redondeiro

    Freedom of speech, no limits.. however Extremist/xenophobic and hate speech indeed, there is an old saying that states: My freedom ends, when the others freedom begin! So in this sense, freedom yes, but without making harm to the other! ;)

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