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Germans are voting for Nazis again. At the end of June the far-right Alternative for Germany (AfD) made an important electoral breakthrough, winning the small district of Sonneberg and thus clenching its first executive position.

The thought of the AfD gaining power so spooked the political establishment that the socialists, greens, leftists and liberals threw their weight behind the AfD’s runoff competitor, the conservative Christian Democratic Union of Germany (CDU). All to no avail. 

The AfD espouses virulent nationalism and is fervently against immigration, especially from Africa and the Islamic world. Björn Höcke, a top AfD politician, was charged in June 2023 for using the Nazi storm trooper slogan “Everything for Germany!” at a political rally. German domestic intelligence has labelled the AfD’s youth wing an extremist organisation.’s aggregated polling puts the AfD at 20%, ahead of the socialists (18%), greens (14%) and liberals (7%). In fact, the AfD is the second most popular party, only 6% behind the centre-right CDU/CSU alliance, which governed the country in 200-21.

The Nazi party won the November 1932 national election with 33.1% of the vote and Hitler became the chancellor in January 1933 as part of a coalition with the conservative German National People Party (8.3%). With Nazi paramilitaries suppressing socialist and communist opposition in the March 1933 election, the coalition obtained a majority. 

Though he soon walked back on it, the leader of the CDU, Friedrich Merz, said on national TV in July that he would be open to working with the AfD at the level of local politics. 

Political parties with fascist roots are rising in popularity within the EU, as is the right in general. Sweden’s governing coalition relies upon the support of the Swedish Democrats, the country’s third-largest party (20.6% of the vote). Gustaf Ekström — previously SS-Rottenführer Ekström — formed the party in 1984. 

Anton Reinthaller, an honorary SS general, founded the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) in 1956. The party’s next head was another SS officer, Friedrich Peter, who served in an infantry unit, parts of which were detached to mobile death squads. The Einsatzgruppen murdered 1.3-million Jews, primarily by shooting. Peter denied participation in and even knowledge of the SS’s Einsatzgruppen.

The FPÖ achieved national power in 2000 as part of a coalition, making it the first party with Nazi roots in Europe to gain power, and is now leading the polls with 28%. In France, the far-right anti-immigrant and populist National Rally (formerly the National Front) is doing well — and not just its high-profile youth wing, Génération Nation. 

Marine Le Pen, the National Rally’s presidential candidate, received 41.5% of the vote in the 2022 election. The 2022 parliamentary elections saw the National Rally increase its seats from seven to 89 and in April a poll suggested Le Pen might win the 2027 presidential election.

The rise of Giorgia Meloni and her far-right party, Brothers of Italy (Fdl), has been meteoric. A tad more than 660,000 people voted for the Fdl in 2013. Last year, 7.3-million, and 46-year-old Meloni became prime minister. Her stated mission is to defend “God, the fatherland and the family”. 

Meloni’s early political years were in the neo-fascist Youth Front, a part of the now defunct Italian Social Movement (MSI). Proper hard-core fascists founded the MSI in 1946. Brothers of Italy’s logo keeps the MSI’s tricoloured flame, and descendants of fascist dictator Benito Mussolini are Fdl members.

And it is just not the fascists and the far-right. Nationalist, conservative, authoritarian and nativist parties across the EU are either already in government or are knocking on the door. Centrists are being dragged to the right. The general discourse has shifted. What wasn’t socially acceptable to say in more liberal times is now being openly aired. Young people are signing up. 

For European progressives, socialists and leftists it is not so much a retreat as a rout. 

Global South

What does any of this have to do with us in the Global South? The temptation is to say Europe’s problems are theirs and we have enough problems of our own to worry about, thank you very much. But there are a couple of reasons for concern, starting with migration. Africa has plenty of excess labour. Europe doesn’t have enough, so that should be a win-win, but a right-wing Europe isn’t going to have it.

Ditto for refugees fleeing repression and war — everybody but Ukrainians, that is. There’s a common humanity, a notion of solidarity, that the xenophobic right seeks to destroy. A more conservative EU, especially after next year’s elections for the European parliament, will probably intensify its practice of paying horrible governments to keep refugees and migrants out. The money and political blessing help prop up Tunisia’s authoritarian regime and whoever is in charge of Libya. 

Generally speaking, the right isn’t down with doing much about climate change either. The conservative German state of Bavaria is using pre-emptive arrests to repress climate change activists: you can be held in jail for up to 30 days for a “crime” you may or may not commit in future. Nothing scares the hell out of right-wing Europeans more than teenage girls protesting the sixth mass extinction. Europe has a historical responsibility to reduce its emissions rapidly and to support the poor countries that are and will suffer. The already faint chances of that get slimmer election by election. 

With the far and traditional right converging in Europe, the hope of avoiding a global conflict fades. The world is already split into blocs and mutual understanding is thin on the ground. Fascists and the far right aren’t interested in understanding, for they see themselves as the only true human beings. Everyone else is some kind of lesser entity. 

We should stand in solidarity with European antifascists. Unlike the vast majority of the EU, many South Africans lived through a version of fascism. The Ossewabrandwag was formed in 1939 as a pro-Nazi, anti-British, Afrikaner nationalist and antisemitic organisation. Its leader and Stellenbosch graduate, Johannes van Rensburg, met Adolf Hitler and Hermann Göring, thoroughly approving of Nazi ideology and discipline. After the war, the Ossewabrandwag fused into the National Party. From 1966 to 1978 a former general in the Ossewabrandwag’s paramilitary wing lorded over the country: BJ Vorster. 

Ultimately, anyone with a scrap of morality should resist fascists and the far-right anywhere and whenever they slither out. For theirs is a revolutionary project to reorder the world, violently if necessary, in a cauldron of hate. 

• Dr Tristen Taylor is a freelance journalist and photographer. He is also a Research Fellow in Environmental Ethics, Stellenbosch University. 

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