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Austrian neo-Nazi Strache self-destructs as resistance to far-right builds in Europe

Anti-racist protest in Germany May 19
Michelle Robidoux

May 23, 2019

In the leadup to this week’s European elections, anti-fascists have been organizing across Europe to push back against the rising threat of the far-right.

In Austria, after weeks of growing scandal over the links between the fascist Freedom Party (FPO) and the far-right Generation Identity, FPO party leader and vice-chancellor Heinz-Christian Strache was forced to resign on Saturday May 18 after a separate corruption scandal emerged. He was followed a few days later by his far-right ministers who also resigned. This defeat of the FPO was the fruit of dogged work by anti-fascists in Austria who exposed Strache as a neo-Nazi from day one.

Strache’s resignation sent ripples across Europe. The Guardian reported that “The FPO’s lead candidate in next week’s European parliament elections, Harald Vilimsky, cancelled a trip to Milan planned for Saturday, where he was due to take part in a campaign event launching an alliance of European far-right parties led by the Italian interior minister, Matteo Salvini.” The FPO is a key player in Salvini’s alliance which is banking on a far-right wave in the European elections. The FPO scandal cast a shadow over Salvini’s rally, where France’s fascist leader Marine Le Pen along with Geert Wilders of the Netherlands spoke to small numbers in the rain while anti-fascists protested. One of the organizers of the counter-protest said, “We decided to bring the other Milan, the real, anti-fascist and anti-racist Milan, to the streets. We do not recognize ourselves in the values of the extreme right, in particular on migrants and women, and we have another idea of Europe."

On Sunday May 19, buoyed by the news of the demise of the FPO as junior partner in the Austrian government, an estimated 150,000 people demonstrated in cities across Germany against nationalism and racism, and for “one Europe for everyone”. #1EuropaFürAlle . In Cologne, 45,000 protesters took part, with over 100 civil society organizations and political parties joining in the protest.

On Tuesday May 21, for the second time in two months, students at Warsaw University prevented fascists from demonstrating inside the university grounds. Some 200 antifascists blocked about 30 members of extreme right groups from going through the main gates. The antifascists refused to allow the police to take their names and addresses, and after about half an hour the police cordon was taken down.

In the UK, the campaign to stop Nazi Tommy Robinson (real name Stephen Yaxley Lennon) in his attempt to win a seat in the European Parliament gained steam as far-right candidates found themselves pelted with milkshakes. The milkshake theme became omnipresent in the campaign (‘would you like fries with that?’). But beneath the humour lies the deadly serious reality that violence is being unleashed daily on racialized people because of the torrent of anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim hate that Tommy Robinson and his blackshirted friends are spewing. On Wednesday, when antifascists gathered in Manchester, UK to confront about 250 ‘Tommy Robinson’ supporters, including many hardcore nazis, several people were injured after Robinson's thugs attacked them with a hail of missiles.

The stakes are high in the Euro elections. White nationalist and former Trump adviser Steve Bannon, in Paris for the Euro elections, was quoted in Le Parisien as saying that if the far-right score more than 30 percent in the European election it will create a momentum for Trump in 2020. Canadian far-right website Rebel Media is doing everything it can to promote Robinson's campaign and his hateful politics. With Conservative leaders Andrew Scheer, Jason Kenney and Doug Ford all connected to and attracting far-right support, the outcome will be felt here as well.

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