По-русски: Старые и новые европейские друзья «Свободы»
- Published on Monday, 02 September 2013 10:37
- Written by Anton Shekhovtsov
It has long been an unchallenged assumption that the Ukrainian radical right-wing Svoboda party, which formed the first far-right parliamentary faction in Ukraine after the 2012 elections, is a member of the Alliance of European National Movements (AENM). After all, Svoboda’s leaders always said that their party was a member of the AENM, while the British National Party (BNP), which is one of the oldest members of the Alliance, explicitly mentioned Svoboda, in 2010, as an AENM member, along with the French National Front, Hungarian Jobbik, Italian Tricolour Flame, the BNP itself, the Spanish Republican Social Movement, Belgian National Front, Portuguese National Renovator Party and Swedish National Democrats.
Never trust the fascists.
Developments earlier this year revealed a different picture. The first doubts about Svoboda’s membership were raised after Polish politician Mateusz Piskorski claimed, early in 2013, that Svoboda had been excluded from the AENM because of its overtly racist stances – as the Russian sarcastic saying goes, they were “expelled from the Gestapo for brutality”. The AENM is, in fact, much more extreme than yet another pan-European right-wing group, the European Alliance for Freedom, which unites representatives from the Austrian Freedom party, French National Front, Belgian Flemish Interest, Sweden Democrats and some others.
Yet Piskorski is himself a former member of the now-defunct Polish far-right Self-Defence party, and we know that these people cannot really be trusted. Moreover, Piskorski has been associated with the Russian fascist International Eurasian Movement led by Aleksandr Dugin who is notorious for his imperialist and, in particular, anti-Ukrainian positions. Taunting the antagonistic Ukrainian ultranationalists, by claiming that they had been rejected by their European “brothers-in-arms”, could have been routine fascist harassment.
Svoboda promptly denied these allegations, with a reference to Bruno Gollnisch, the AENM’s president, who allegedly confirmed Svoboda’s membership in the Alliance. But the reference to Gollnisch, a French National Front MEP, was questionable. Already in October 2012, he posted a message on his blog saying that the AENM consisted of only four parties: Jobbik, BNP, Tricolour Flame and the miniscule Bulgarian National Democratic Party. Not only did this confirm that Svoboda’s leaders were making false boasts about their party’s membership in the AENM, but Gollnisch’s message revealed the incompetence of the BNP which issued the incorrect statement.
The information provided by Gollnisch and further inquiries into the AENM produced the following list of top ranking officers of the Alliance: Gollnisch (President), Nick Griffin (Vice President), Béla Kovács (Treasurer) and Valerio Cignetti (Secretary General). Associate members include Jean-Marie Le Pen (French National Front), Andrew Brons (independent, formerly BNP), Maurizio Lupi (Italian People of Freedom), Christian Verougstraete (Flemish Interest), Bartosz Józef Kownacki (Polish Law and Justice), and Dailis Alfonsas Barakauskas (Lithuanian Order and Justice).
Svoboda’s status in the AENM was clarified this spring: the party has never been a fully-fledged member of the Alliance but enjoyed only observer status, as the AENM is an EU-based group and Ukraine is not a EU member state.
Svoboda’s image was damaged even further on 22 March, when Kovács wrote an official letter to Oleh Tyahnybok, leader of Svoboda. In it he expressed in the strongest terms his indignation over the fact that Svoboda’s members organised rallies against ethnic Hungarians in Ukrainian Carpathian Ruthenia, part of which once belonged to Hungary. Kovács, a Hungarian Jobbik MEP, ended by informing Tyahnybok that Svoboda’s observer status in the AENM had been terminated. This information has been confirmed to me in an email from Jobbik’s Attila Bécsi: “Svoboda is no longer a member of the AENM because of its anti-Hungarian statements”.
A spicy bit of scandal is that Jobbik at the same time entered into cooperation with Dugin’s International Eurasian Movement. On 16 May, Jobbik’s leader Gábor Vona and Kovács visited Moscow, and Vona delivered a lecture titled “Russia and Europe” at Dugin’s Centre for Conservative Studies based at the Moscow State University where Dugin is now a professor. In his speech, Vona called the European Union “a treacherous organisation” that “took away our markets, our factories, and filled the shelves of our shops with western garbage”. Russia, at the same time, managed to “preserve its traditions” and, unlike the EU or the US, “did not worship money and mass culture”. According to Vona, “the role of Russia today is to offset the Americanisation of Europe”.Jobbik’s leader even went so far as to declare that it would be better for Hungary to join the Russia-dominated Eurasian Union should occasion arise. Given Jobbik’s current leanings toward Russia as a potential centre of power in Europe, it may well be the case that the argument between Jobbik and Svoboda was as much about the Ukrainian ultranationalists’ anti-Hungarian statements and their pronounced anti-Russian sentiments.
For Svoboda, European connections have been a significant issue since the end of the 1990s when it was still called Social-National Party of Ukraine. Then it was a member of the Euronat, a far-right organisation formed by the French National Front. The SNPU and, later, Svoboda seemed to maintain good relations with Le Pen and the French National Front in general, and presumably it was the French ultranationalists who advocated granting Svoboda observer status in the AENM. However, since the Alliance was largely Jobbik’s creation (it was founded in Budapest at Jobbik’s 6th party congress in 2009), the French ultranationalists had limited opportunities to overrule Kovács’s decision.
In its home country, Svoboda used its European connections for public relations, image and propaganda purposes. It was the French National Front that consulted Svoboda’s leaders on how to make the party “more respectable” in the beginning of the 2000s, and naturally relations with major European ultranationalists also boosted the party’s standing among other far-right organisations in Ukraine. Therefore, after it had been deprived of observer status in the AENM, Svoboda started looking for new connections in Europe. Its new “friends” turned out to be even more extreme than the AENM.
On 23-24 March 2013, Taras Osaulenko, head of Svoboda’s international relations, took part in the “Vision Europa” conference organised by the Party of the Swedes in Stockholm. The Party of the Swedes is widely described as a neo-Nazi group; it was established in 2008 by members of the now dissolved National Socialist Front and is led by Stefan Jacobsson. The main speaker at the conference appeared to be Udo Pastörs, deputy leader of the most significant neo-Nazi party to emerge since 1945, the National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD), two members of which are now on trial in Germany for their support of the terrorist National Socialist Underground.Another speaker at the conference was Roberto Fiore, leader of the Italian fascist New Force. European guests present included: Jonathan Le Clercq of the Land and People association (France); Daniel Carlsen, leader of the Danish Party (Denmark); and Gonzalo Martín Garcia, head of international relations of the National Democracy Party (Spain).
The links between Svoboda and Fiore were established as early as 2009 when Tyahnybok visited Strasbourg to meet MEPs from such radical right-wing parties as the Freedom Party of Austria, Bulgarian National Union “Attack”, Flemish Interest and others. These links were further cemented in May and June this year. On 23-24 May, Osaulenko and Andriy Illenko visited Rome at Fiore’s invitation, where the leadership of New Force and representatives of Svoboda discussed collaboration between the two parties. Svoboda representatives also visited New Force’s youth camp, and Illenko gave a talk about Svoboda’s history and ideology, as well as sharing his thoughts on how the two parties could join forces in their “fight against the liberal forces of multiculturalism and destruction of the national traditions of European civilisation”.
On 19-21 June, representatives of New Force, including Fiore, returned the visit. In Ukraine, the Italian and Ukrainian ultranationalists discussed the creation of a new group of European nationalist movements in order to “develop a new dynamic and strategic co-operation aimed at creating a new European political class”. Supposedly, the new group may be formed on the basis of the organisations that took part in the Vision Europa conference in Stockholm.
Between the two Ukrainian-Italian visits, on 29 May 2013, Mykhaylo Holovko, a member of the Ukrainian Parliament and Svoboda, visited the Landtag of Saxony to speak to the NPD. In particular, Holovko conveyed greetings from Tyahnybok and Serhiy Nadal, Svoboda’s mayor of the Ukrainian city of Ternopil. In a ritual manner, Svoboda and the NPD agreed to strengthen bilateral relations between the parties and parliamentary groups.
It remains to be seen whether Svoboda’s visits to its European counterparts are part of the creation process of a new pan-European ultranationalist movement. None of the parties represented at the Vision Europa conference is a member of the AENM, while Fiore’s New Force is unlikely to cooperate with the Alliance member Tricolour Flame, from which it split in 1997. Fiore’s previous “ecumenical” fascist project, the European National Front, which united representatives from New Force, the NPD, the Romanian New Right, Golden Dawn in Greece and the Spanish Falange, seems to have failed. Therefore, Svoboda’s new European friends may indeed need a new umbrella organisation that would unite political parties and movements that are – given the profiles of Fiore, Pastörs, Jacobsson and others – indeed more extreme than the AENM.