Slo­vakia comes to grips with proudly neo-Nazi party

Cel­e­brat­ing the trend

Kuwait Times - - INTERNATIONAL -

BRATISLAVA, Slo­vakia: The wave of far­right par­ties across Europe has been gath­er­ing steam from Greece to France and Ger­many. While most of the con­ti­nent’s ex­treme forces have taken pains to steer clear of Nazi im­agery, Slo­vakia’s an­swer to the trend cel­e­brates it.

Kotleba - The Peo­ple’s Party Our Slo­vakia - won al­most 10 per­cent of the seats in Par­lia­ment in March. It openly ad­mires the Nazi pup­pet state which the coun­try was dur­ing the World War II. Party mem­bers use Nazi salutes, blame Roma for crime in de­prived ar­eas, con­sider NATO a ter­ror group and want the coun­try out of the al­liance and the Euro­pean Union.

The party takes its name from its leader, Mar­ian Kotleba, pre­vi­ously chair­man of the banned neo-Nazi Slo­vak To­geth­er­ness-Na­tional Party, which or­ga­nized anti-Roma ral­lies and ad­mired Nazi rule in Slo­vakia.

Thou­sands have signed a pe­ti­tion de­mand­ing that the party be banned. An­a­lysts say the party’s pop­u­lar­ity could grow even fur­ther. It’s sim­ple slo­gan “With courage against the sys­tem!” at­tracts young peo­ple fed up with cor­rup­tion and the in­abil­ity of main­stream par­ties to deal ef­fec­tively with the post­com­mu­nist coun­try’s prob­lems.

In con­trast to most of Europe’s far­right groups, “it’s truly neo-Nazi, it ad­vo­cates the legacy of the Nazi war state,” says Ed­uard Ch­me­lar, a Slo­vak po­lit­i­cal an­a­lyst. Miroslav Mares, an ex­pert on ex­trem­ism from the Masaryk Univer­sity in the Czech city of Brno, said the party be­longs to the “hard core of right-wing ex­trem­ism” in Europe. He said it has only some fea­tures sim­i­lar to Greece’s Golden Dawn party and to Hun­gary’s Job­bik at its be­gin­ning.

What’s in com­mon

What they have in com­mon is tar­get­ing the main­stream pol­i­tics. “The par­ties like that are not look­ing for so­lu­tions, it’s all about protests,” Ch­me­lar said. “You can see it glob­ally. It’s the same with Don­ald Trump, it’s the same with (Ma­rine) Le Pen in France. What’s im­por­tant is to be against the sys­tem. They’re all rid­ing on a wave of pub­lic dis­sat­is­fac­tion that has been grow­ing.”

These par­ties “com­mu­ni­cate and co­op­er­ate with each other, and that dra­mat­i­cally changes the sit­u­a­tion in Europe, and that’s dan­ger­ous,” Ch­me­lar said. “So far, there’s no recipe to stop them.” Kotleba’s new party made news by launch­ing pa­trols on trains in April in a re­ac­tion to a rob­bery blamed on a mem­ber of the Roma mi­nor­ity. Par­lia­ment banned such ac­tiv­i­ties in Oc­to­ber.

The party has pro­posed leg­is­la­tion to la­bel non-gov­ern­men­tal or­ga­ni­za­tions that re­ceive fund­ing from abroad as for­eign agents, and is try­ing to get the 350,000 sig­na­tures needed to force na­tion­wide ref­er­en­dums on the coun­try’s mem­ber­ship in NATO and the Euro­pean Union. “Among our ma­jor goals is above all a cre­ation of an in­de­pen­dent and self-suf­fi­cient Slo­vakia, that is Slo­vakia which has an au­ton­o­mous for­eign pol­icy that is not dic­tated by any for­eign struc­ture, such as the Euro­pean Union,” Mi­lan Uhrik, a deputy chair­man of the party, told The As­so­ci­ated Press in a rare in­ter­view. Kotleba re­fuses to talk to for­eign me­dia, The AP was told.

Speak­ing in the Par­lia­ment build­ing, Uhrik said the EU has been turn­ing into a su­per state with Brussels in power. “What’s the worst is that EU leg­is­la­tion is above Slo­vak law,” he said. NATO is another tar­get. “It’s im­por­tant for Slo­vakia to leave NATO be­cause we con­sider NATO a ter­ror­ist or­ga­ni­za­tion. It doesn’t bring peace to the world, quite the con­trary,” Uhrik said. “NATO is in fact a mil­i­tary or­ga­ni­za­tion of the United States and we are mil­i­tar­ily sub­or­di­nated to the United States.”

A cel­e­bra­tion of wartime Slo­vakia re­mains par­tic­u­larly con­tro­ver­sial, but Uhrik says it is not about fas­cism. “As na­tion­al­ists, we can­not re­ject the first in­de­pen­dent Slo­vak state,” he ar­gued. “We rec­og­nize the Slo­vak (war) state be­cause it was the first Slo­vak state, not be­cause it was a fas­cist state.”

129th an­niver­sary

On Oct. 13, party mem­bers cel­e­brated the 129th an­niver­sary of the birth of Jozef Tiso, a Catholic priest and politi­cian who was Slo­vakia’s war pres­i­dent. Dur­ing his rule, some 60,000 Slo­vak Jews were trans­ported to Nazi death camps. He was sen­tenced to death and hanged in 1947. Rights ac­tivists have sub­mit­ted a pe­ti­tion with 20,000 sig­na­tures call­ing for the party to be banned. Prose­cu­tors are re­view­ing that re­quest.

BRATISLAVA: In this Oct. 12, 2016 photo deputy chair­man of the ex­treme right Kotleba - Peo­ple’s Party Our Slo­vakia (LS NS) Mi­lan Uhrik an­swers ques­tions dur­ing an in­ter­view with The As­so­ci­ated Press at Slo­vakia’s Par­lia­ment.—AP

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