The Far Right Gets Serious


Andreas Behring Breivik killed 69 youth activists on the Norwegian island of Utøya after exploding a bomb in the centre of the Norwegian capital, Oslo, last year. He’s repeatedly stated that he received help from a rightist, anti-Muslim terror cell.

The manifesto he wrote at the time of the attack claimed he was part of an international extremist organisation called the Knights Templars. Many gave credence to those claims initially. Germany’s Die Welt wrote just days after the attacks that "fears are growing in Europe Breivik could be part of an international rightwing terror network".

Six months later, Norwegian psychiatrists are insisting that Breivik’s statements are false. "Andreas Behring Breivik’s claim that he is part of a military order is based on ‘grandiose delusions’ — that’s what two psychiatrists who have evaluated the mass murderer’s mental health have concluded," reported Danish daily Politiken earlier this month.

Yet even if Breivik acted alone, he’s certainly not the only anti-immigrant extremist who is ready to use violence against new arrivals. Across Europe there are fears that potential terrorists inspired by Breivik may be preparing equally violent attacks. Northern European secret services are particularly alarmed about the prospects of rightist violence.

"The Danish secret service is warning in a new report that a race war is brewing in the country," was how German weekly Der Spiegel put it back in November.

"In doing so, they are preparing to use violence. A small minority [of the extreme right]is organising target shooting. They are also making lists of their opponents and reaching out for help to soccer hooligans."

Meanwhile, in neighbouring Germany, details are starting to "trickle out" about a rightist terror cell that has planned and carried out attacks against mainly Turkish immigrants for years — without being detected — reports Bavarian daily the Ausburger Allgemeine.

The National Socialist Underground was uncovered in November, after two of the group’s three core members killed themselves and the surviving member — Beate Zschäpe — exploded a bomb in their flat, located in the Sachsen town of Zwickau.

In the aftermath, police found clues showing that the neo-Nazis had killed at least one Turkish owner of a kebab shop. Police also discovered a service pistol belonging to Michèle Kielwasser, a police officer murdered by the cell in 2007. It later became clear that the Nazi Underground had shot at least eight Turkish and Greek kebab shop owners in attacks carried out across Germany between 2000 and 2006 — and that they had carried out at least two terrorist attacks in Cologne, one involving a nail bomb.

While at first it was thought the attacks were random, it now appears that the group had specific criteria for choosing their victims.

The Ausberger Allgemeine again: "The terror cell chose its victims very carefully. Amid the rubble of the flat in Zwickau that Zscäpe bombed, investigators have found evidence showing that the main members who carried out the attacks, Uwe Böhnhardt und Uwe Mundlos, often spied on their victims for days."

"In carrying out those attacks, they targeted ‘non-Aryan men’ of ‘a reproductive age’, say the notes found in the flat. In one case, a Turkish-German owner of a Dortmund kebab shop was in luck — he didn’t fit the profile that the rightist extremists were after. While his kebab shop was an ‘extremely good target’…the man was ‘too old (over 60)’."

Meanwhile, the second Russian glasnost has intensified in recent days: it now includes protests against continuing far right influence in Russian public life.

"A well-attended anti-Nazi march took place in Moscow on 19 January. Convoked by the Committee for the 19th of January, the demonstration remembers lawyer Stanislave Markelov and Novaya Gazetta journalist Anastasia Baburova, beaten to death in a horrendous attack three years ago," reports La Voz de Russia, the Spanish arm of a multilingual network of blogs reporting on events in Russia.

Two nationalist activists were later condemned for the murder of the journalist and the lawyer, La Voz continues. And while many insist the two are innocent, and "that the true criminals remain unpunished", those at the march still maintained that they were worried about the growing influence of neo-Nazism in the Russian Spring.

"Russia finds itself in a period of transition. We’re moving from the last redoubts of totalitarianism to a democratic state. And Nazis and Russian nationalists want to participate in running the country. Thus, for now, we must remain on the alert," human rights activist Lev Ponomariov told La Voz.

Ponomariov’s remarks come amid debate over whether leading Russian opposition leader Alexei Navany, the figurehead of the movement against Vladimir Putin, is a far-right extremist. The 35-years-old lawyer became well known for running a blog called RosPil, "a sort of Wikileaks, focusing on the fight against corruption", a profile compiled by French news channel LCI in December claimed.

Then, he appeared in a radio program where he called Putin’s party, Russia United, "a party of crooks and thieves". That was a first, said LCI, and it made Navany famous. But "if his persona, the white knight of the anti-corruption fight, made a hero of Navany, he also has several other guises that aren’t worn as lightly. He’s a regular participant, for example, at the ‘Russian March’, a march organised with neo-Nazis, which has as its aim "the defence of ethnic Russians".

Yet it is arguably in Hungary where the far right is at its strongest right now. There, ultranationalist, neo-fascist party Jobbik has won over up to one in four voters, according to recent opinion polls. Last week, several hundred of the party’s supporters gathered to burn the EU flag in front of the Hungarian parliament, writes German-language Budapest daily The Pester Lloyd.

Jobbik leader Gábor Vona told the crowd that "the EU has declared open war on Hungary," the Pester Lloyd continues. With Hungary near economic and social collapse, civil society-based opponents of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán fear that the party may eventually take power. Given that the party is made up of "normal, Hungarian fascists", according to Pester Lloyd, the party’s continuing rise to prominence is making some in Brussels very nervous indeed.

ABOUT BEST OF THE REST: It’s a big world out there and plenty of commentators and journalists are writing about it — but not always in English. And not surprisingly, ideas about big events of the day shift when you move away from the Anglosphere. Best of the Rest is a fortnightly NM feature by Berlin-based journalist Charles McPhedran. Charles reads the news in French, German, Spanish and Portuguese and reports on what the rest of the world is saying about the big stories.

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