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The anti-austerity of fools

As a Krugmanist critic of the belief in economic recovery through austerity, I was pleased with the election of Francois Hollande (who advocates a more balanced approach) as president of France.

However there is a darker side to all this– as we saw when Greece’s Golden Dawn party, led by the sinister Nikolaos Michaloliakos, won seven percent of the vote and 21 seats in parliamentary elections.

“I rarely use the term neo-Nazi because it is often incorrectly used to describe far-right parties,” said Jean-Yves Camus, a French researcher and expert on European far-right groups. “But in the case of Golden Dawn, the term fits.”
…..
“Today [Michaloliakos] is slightly trying to conceal his Nazi roots. But his ideology remains the same,” said Camus. “It’s an ideology dominated by anti-immigrant and xenophobic rhetoric, and which now counts anti-austerity.”

Michaloliakos’ rise in the past two months has been meteoric. In the country’s 2009 parliamentary poll, his party received only 0.23% of votes, and only as far back as January he was so low in surveys of voter intentions that polling agencies did not bother mentioning him.

However, hundreds of thousands of Greeks cast a ballot for Golden Dawn on May 6. “We should avoid generalities. This obviously does not mean that all people who voted for Golden Dawn are neo-Nazis,” said Camus.

Analysts say Golden Dawn’s sudden surge has much to do with the strict austerity regime imposed by the EU and accepted by Greece’s former ruling coalition in February. “The increasing poverty and the feeling of lost sovereignty in Greece have generated a nationalist rejection of all decisions dictated from abroad,” Camus explained.

And in Hungary, the far-right antisemitic and anti-Roma party Jobbik is trying to exploit the anti-austerity mood.

Radical nationalist Jobbik leader Gabor Vona called a demonstration of several thousand people staged by his party on Saturday afternoon a “Hungarian march of the living” and voiced sharp criticism of the “treacherous policies of austerity” during the previous Socialist and the incumbent Fidesz government.

In front of the headquarters of the ruling Fidesz party, Vona said that if his party were on government it would expel international companies from the country: “they are not needed because they don’t create jobs for Hungarians”. Jobbik would also create a central bank “independent of the European Union, the International Monetary Fund, the United States, and Israel. He said that Jobbik would terminate Hungary’s membership in the EU and would build a status for the country similar to Norway or Switzerland.

And Israel? Wow. I suppose it’s an honor, in a way, for such a tiny country to be ranked with such heavy hitters.

Here is a video of the march by the Jobbik supporters in Budapest: a remarkable combination of ordinary-looking people and uniformed paramilitary types marching to the sound of thrash metal, or something: