The Fine Line Between Fear and Hate
A Nazi sympathizer ascends to power in Austria. What's the right response?
Congratulations to the European Union for downgrading diplomatic relations with Austria last week after Austria installed a new coalition government that includes the Freedom Party led by neo-Nazi Jorg Haider.
Much of my family was murdered by Nazis who were intent on wiping out every last Jew on the planet. Back then the Nazis faced very little opposition, and in some places, like Austria, they were greeted with enthusiastic cooperation. So it's wonderful to see a new generation of Europeans who want to rectify the past and who are willing to stand up to neo-Nazis.
It's important to note that Haider's party did not win electoral support from a majority of Austrians last week. (It got 27 percent of the vote--though that number was up from 5 percent in the last election.) And a significant number of Austrians have demonstrated against his anti-immigrant xenophobia and his explicit praise of past Nazis.
Coupled with recent statements by the Vatican seeking to take responsibility for Catholic failures during World War II, the steps by European countries against Haider could suggest a new ethos of moral criteria in politics and a rejection of the old "moral man/immoral society" dichotomy that was championed by Cold War ideologues intent on removing morality from foreign policy so that they could feel fine about American involvement with oppressive colonial and apartheid regimes.
I'm genuinely thankful that someone is saying no to the neo-Nazis. In fact, I wouldn't mind if the U.S. and other countries were to take even firmer stands against trade with Austria.
But that won't happen. In fact, the main thrust of American policy makers is to maximize the freedom of the international market and allow corporations to do whatever they want. This is true regardless of which branch--Democratic or Republican--of the pro-wealth single party that dominates public discourse in the U.S. happens to be in power.
It's hard to overstate the degree to which the nationalist reaction against immigrants is part of a deep fear that the forces of globalized capital are going to destroy local societies.
For some, the focus of this fear is economic: global capital seeks to find the cheapest possible way to produce its goods--which leads to the movement of production and manufacturing operations to countries where cheap labor is available; to the importing of immigrants willing to work for lower wages; or to the development of technology that can eliminate jobs altogether.