11 January 2017

Slovakia: Right-Wing Paramilitaries and the EU


America has been dealing with such paramilitary movements since at least the 1990s but it's startling to see them beginning to appear in Europe as well. Needless to say Europe's history with such groups cannot help but remind one of the Fascist era.

The fall of the Iron Curtain wasn't quite what everyone hoped it would be. Eastern Europe for the most part didn't have the social and institutional infrastructure let alone the capital that would facilitate smooth integration with Western Europe. Instead it has been forced to function as the Appalachia of Europe, the impoverished hinterland that serves as a cheap labour platform and as a consequence feels exploited and let down by Brussels.

Like in Appalachia and the American Rust Belt, Right-wing populism is gaining ground. And this is especially true in Central and some parts of Eastern Europe.

Today the former Soviet Bloc faces the escalating forces of Anti-immigration, Euroscepticism and an embrace of protectionist and anti-globalist policies. The swell is hardly monolithic. Some movements rally around Christian heritage, others around nationalism and still others are drawn toward Libertarian policies. Their Anti-Brussels stance in the case of the latter is not a critique of capitalism per se but the regulatory regime imposed by Brussels.

The rise of paramilitary political forces is a bad sign. It may simmer as it has done in the United States in the wake of 9/11, but rival forms of law enforcement (socially legitimised violence) mark the weakening of the state and set the stage for future social breakdown, upheaval and possible civil war.

As mentioned previously, we must await to see the consequence of Trump's election. During the Bush years, the militia movement waned somewhat and then experienced an unprecedented surge during the Obama years. Will it wane once more or will it expand, encouraged by the new administration?

European governments are being pushed to the Right by both the populist wave and as a consequence of terrorism. The Atlanticist Establishment undoubtedly supports the Right-ward tack but it must be contained. It must assuage populist sentiments in the form of anti-immigration while retaining EU-NATO dominance in order to pursue Anti-Moscow posturing. By tacking to the Right, they can appropriate the forces of populism and (they would hope) much of the Far Right and at the same time utilise the crisis as a means to restructure economic policies. The Free Market as defined by Brussels isn't terribly popular at the moment but De-regulation can both facilitate market goals and reinfuse local and national economic concerns which will certainly assuage anti-EU sentiment.

What they fear is that the Far Right will capture the narrative, break the EU and with it weaken or destroy NATO, rendering the Anti-Russian policy unsustainable.

This is why European politics on the one hand will continue to turn Right-ward and yet at the same time will feel the need to crack down on the extreme Right... especially manifestations of paramilitarism.


  1. I'm not sure if you're familiar with Chip Berlet's "Right-Wing Populism in America" but I think it helps to better understand the underlying modes of thinking behind what's happening in Slovakia as well as the recent Trump phenomenon.

    That said, he published this book sixteen years ago. Even back then, before 9/11, this was a specter haunting both Europe and America. As the book suggests, it's an eclectic, inchoate (and often inconsistent) amalgam of ideas and beliefs held by those disaffected with the political establishment but nevertheless frightened of the left. That's what also makes it a reactionary movement. In certain respects one can also classify it as a religion.

    In turn, demagogues like Trump (and, by extension, the system he represents) come along and exploit it for their own selfish ends, the goal of which is to maintain the power they currently have without making too many concessions to the lunatic fringe. In this past election, it proved remarkably effective in combating the rising tide of support for Bernie Sanders and what he represented, even if he was an insincere establishment figure himself.

    This website explains Berlet's ideas in further detail: http://www.rightwingpopulism.us/

    There's also a chart near the bottom of the page that summarizes his data in pictorial form.

  2. I'm familiar with Berlet though I haven't read the book. I think I'd like to get it. I've heard him interviewed many times and I've read some of his online stuff.

    Martin Lee is another helpful author that spends a lot of time breaking down the Right. His book The Beast Reawakens is from the late 1990s. In some ways it's outdated but much of it is still very pertinent.

    There's quite a spectrum and the various relationships vis-a'-vis NATO and the US is complicated and dynamic.

    Fascinating topic.