Slovakia comes to grips with proudly neo-Nazi party
Celebrating the trend
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.”
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