The far-right internationalists

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The far-right internationalists


Not only the Left uses internationalism. From fascists in the street to heads of state, the Right is showing that it wants to work together across borders. Simon Childs finds out more.

On a hot July day in 2018, US President Donald Trump visited the UK. Euro MP Kent Ekeroth, from the far-right Sweden Democrats party, joined protesters on Whitehall in London for the Free Tommy Robinson demonstration. Tommy Robinson was a leader of the English Defence League (EDL) and his real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon. He was in prison for disrupting the trial of a rape-gang when he was ‘reporting’ on it.

When Stephen Yaxley-Lennon was put in prison, it made him ‘famous’ around the world. Supporters gave about $2.5 million in donations. His supporters thought that he was the victim of a plan to silence his ‘free speech’.

‘The reason why the Tommy case has got so much attention,’ Ekeroth said, ‘is because this is not a problem only in England. It’s a worldwide fight between the leftwing liberals and their establishment, who are trying to stop ordinary people from getting information and the truth.’

It’s very possible that Yaxley-Lennon would not be famous without international help. After leaving the EDL he tried to start a UK movement like Pegida, a German far-right movement. It failed and it seemed that Yaxley-Lennon’s time was over. But in 2017 he started again as a ‘reporter’ for Rebel Media, and he was paid over $6,000 a month with help from US tech billionaire Robert Shillman. A big group of international far-right stars gave speeches in Whitehall that day, from a stage paid for by the Middle East Forum, a US thinktank. The Guardian newspaper found that 40 per cent of tweets using the hashtag #freetommy came from the US. Yaxley-Lennon’s Facebook page has over a million followers from over twelve countries outside of the UK.

The Bannon connection

It is strange to say but the nationalist far-right today is internationalist, says Jason Stanley, author of How Fascism Works. He says that many reasons are helping to create an international movement.

First, there are ‘alienated young men in many societies across the world’. In Europe, they believe that the ‘European way of life’ is in danger. People in the US agree and there they think life for white people is in danger.

Next, there are many ultra-nationalist governments. Vladimir Putin in Russia, Narendra Modi in India, and Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, for example. The internet calls them far-right intellectuals. French journalist Guillaume Faye, author of Why We Fight: Manifesto of the European Resistance, is an example.

Stephen Yaxley-Lennon is at the head of this international network. ‘Tommy Robinson’ has become a rich global brand. In 2018 he advertised a Deplorables Tour of Australia with a private dinner for $700. During his time in prison he got support from powerful people, including Steve Bannon, who was White House Chief Strategist. The media see him as a representative of President Trump. Steve Bannon called Yaxley-Lennon the heart of Britain on an LBC radio talk show.

Bannon understands the way modern politics works online, as small movements become mainstream and then go global. Bannon told the Telegraph newspaper, ‘Brexit and the election of Trump in 2016 are 100% connected. Ideas in politics travel like ideas in finance. If something happens in the City of London, the next day it’s in Wall Street, the next day it’s in Singapore and Tokyo and Hong Kong.’ When Trump visited the UK, Bannon hosted a group of far-right leaders including Ekeroth in a five-star London hotel. Bannon told the Daily Beast newspaper that it was so successful that he was planning to start an international organization.

His idea was for a rightwing ‘super-group’ that could win a third of seats in the European Parliament. ‘Every¬body agrees that the 2019 European elections are very important, that this is the real first fight between populism and the party of Davos,’ he said.

The plan was called the Movement but there was a problem when he found that foreign involvement is against electoral law in 9 of the 13 countries he planned to campaign in.

Friends in high places

Bannon’s idea for a Fascist International received some support at the start, when Italian minister Matteo Salvini joined the group and Viktor Orbán wished the plan ‘a lot of success’. But many parties have preferred not to support. British nationalists UKIP, the Alternativ für Deutschland, the Freedom Party of Austria, and French Rassemblement National (formerly Front National) leader Marine Le Pen have not given their support.

The politics of Our People First doesn’t make good friends easily. For example, UKIP offered to help the Movement and help it elect ‘a new group of Eurosceptic MEPs’. But party leader Gerard Batten soon disagreed and said: ‘UKIP is a British party that is going to do things for British people.’

But there are strange and unusual friendships. In July 2018, Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu welcomed Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán and called him a ‘true friend of Israel’. Netanyahu gave the same name to Salvini, who visited in December. These are strange friends when people have accused Orbán and Salvini of telling anti¬semitic stories about George Soros. Soros is the billionaire with liberal philanthropy who is hated by the Right.

Stanley says Israel’s racism and Islam¬ophobia have made its ultranationalist government a bright light for Western fascists. Its apartheid system is an example of how the far-right would like to treat minorities. Salvini said that Israel is a ‘role model’ for security and anti-terror policies. India with Hindu nationalists sees Israel as a country that shares its dislike of Muslims. The relationship between the two countries has got better and better with Narendra Modi. His plans to visit Israel in 2015 saw ‘Internet Hindus’ busy on social media with #IndiaWithIsrael.

Climate change

The far-right internationals have a lot to agree about, for example, climate change. The far-right and its supporters think climate change is a liberal conspiracy. Brazil’s Jair Bolsonaro is president of over 60 per cent of the Amazon rainforest. He does not believe in global warming. He has already put the environment and agriculture ministries together and plans to make the Amazon rainforest a cattle farm.

Parties that think migration is a danger will not support climate migrants from the Global South. In this way they are using a crisis that they say they do to believe in. In 1934, Mussolini tried to start an international institution for fascists with a conference in Montreux, Switzerland. It failed but began the co-operation which in 1936 helped fascist individuals, parties, and governments across Europe to defeat the leftwing government in the Spanish Civil War. As a new far-right international group develops, general agreements and co-operation could be more important than a formal organization.


(This article has been simplified so the words, text structure and quotes may have been changed)