Last month in Europe: May 2018
The following is a list of activities and events linked to American white supremacist, neo-Nazi, anti-LGBT, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim groups and personalities in Europe. Organizations listed as hate groups are designated with an asterisk.
Long a gathering spot for the international far-right, Hungary has become even more attractive to far-right allies since the re-election of its anti-immigrant strongman Viktor Orbán on April 8. After the introduction of a “Stop Soros” bill last week criminalizing those aiding illegal migration, the country welcomed prominent far-right personalities from America.
On May 23, former executive director of the far-right Breitbart News and former White House chief strategist Steve Bannon traveled to Budapest to speak at an event on “The Future of Europe” on May 23. During his speech, he praised Orbán’s anti-immigrant policies and stood by him for fighting against the supposed decline of the West. “Building a border? Defending his country? Saving his people? Are these high-crimes and misdemeanors?” asked Bannon.
In the past, Bannon has praised Orbán as a “real patriot and a real hero.” During his visit this week, he met with the Hungarian prime minister for over an hour. Bannon’s divisive tour of Europe has already taken him to Switzerland, Italy, France and the Czech Republic, among other nations.
Two days after Bannon’s visit, his former Breitbart colleague and far-right provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos also spoke in Budapest on “Risks and Opportunities in the 21st Century.” When asked by a Hungarian interviewer how he liked Budapest where there were “no Muslims, no anti-Milo protests, no illegal immigrants” the far-right troll declared: “It's like heaven, I feel like I'm dead, and now I'm going to go to God.”
The far-right, anti-immigrant Slovenian Democratic Party (SDS) won around 25 percent of the vote at the Slovenian parliamentary elections on June 3. The ultranationalist head of the party, Janez Janša, will be given a chance to form a government. His victory has been tied to the increasing rise of “illiberal democracies” in Europe. Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán has come out in support of Janša’s campaign, and there are reports that pro-SDS media outlets in Slovenia have been funded by Orbán-friendly businessmen.
SDS allegedly has ties to the international coalition of racist skinhead gangs, Blood and Honour, which has previously been involved in terrorism.
Brian Brown, the president of the anti-LGBT hate group the International Organization for the Family (IOF)*, appeared at an anti-LGBT march in Belgrade, Serbia on Saturday, May 19. The march was organized to protest textbooks featuring same-sex marriage or adoption by same-sex couples, according to Ruptly, a video news agency affiliated with Russian state-sponsored media outlet RT. It merged into a larger protest opposing LGBT rights and defending Serbian nationalism, with many protesters waving Serbian flags.
Hatewatch published an investigative report this month on how the World Congress of Families*, an IOF project, served as a soft-power platform for expansionist Russian Orthodox billionaires. WCF-affiliated events in Eastern Europe notably spread hostility to LGBT rights to foment opposition to the European Union.
A new iteration of the American neo-Nazi terrorist group Atomwaffen Divison (AWD), AWD Deutschland, has emerged in Germany, according to a propaganda video released on June 1. AWD is steeped in calls for murderous violence. Its members fetishize mass murderer Charles Manson. One of their main influences is SIEGE, a violent manifesto promoting terrorism written by Manson-devotee James Mason. AWD members have been linked to at least five murders in the U.S.
The new German video is steeped in Nazi rhetoric, and features imagery from the violent neo-Nazi flash mobs by the Immortals that occurred in Germany around 2012. The video attempts to recruit people “for the long, final fight” and switches to English to address its greetings to AWD in the U.S.
In Germany, far-right actors attended [RE]generation Europa, a conference organized by the youth arm of the German neo-Nazi party NPD (National-Democratic Party of Germany). On May 11 and 12, various European extreme-right groups — ranging from the anti-immigrant, pro-Franco far-right Spanish group Hogar Social to the far-right, anti-Russian Ukrainian Svoboda party — came together. White nationalist Tomislav Sunic, a director of the SPLC-designated white nationalist American Freedom Party*, spoke at the event.
The conference was meant to be a unifying event for the European far-right with its manifesto calling for international collaborations between different European nationalists. Yet, as European far-right expert Anton Shekhovtsov describes, the meeting in fact served as a good illustration of the conflict still brewing between the pro-Ukrainian and pro-Russian factions of the European far-right.
Conference tensions escalated when the Russian Imperial Movement (RID) was invited. RID is a Russian ultranationalist group with a paramilitary arm that supported the Russians during the Ukrainian war. It preaches a return to the Russian empire, a controversial position for some nationalist groups. The group has also trained right-wing terrorists in Europe.
To protest RID’s inclusion, the Svoboda party declined to attend the conference. One RID representative's appeal to Russian imperialism at the event earned him a punch to the face by a Czech nationalist at a later gathering.
Unlike Svoboda, another savvier Ukrainian group didn’t make the mistake of pulling out. Olena Semenyaka from the anti-Russian Ukrainian National Corps party stayed and mingled with attendees. The National Corps is the political arm of the neo-Nazi Azov regiment, a far-right paramilitary unit which fought alongside the Ukrainian National Guard against the Russians (technically opposing the RID).
The RID was previously involved in trying to build an international far-right network with virulent neo-Nazi and white nationalist groups, to be called the “World National Conservative Movement.” As Shekhotsov reported at the time, potential American allies included SPLC-designated white nationalist hate groups American Freedom Party* and American Renaissance*, the neo-Confederate League of the South* and Traditionalist Youth Network, a precursor to the now-defunct neo-Nazi group Traditionalist Worker Party*.
France also witnessed its own unifying forum for hardcore far-right nationalists, the Forum of Europe held on May 12. The event was organized by Jeune Nation, the website of the violent far-right Oeuvre Française, a group that was dissolved after far-right militants murdered an anti-fascist, which led to a crackdown on French far-right groups. The head of Jeune Nation is the extreme-right and violent French nationalist Yvan Benedetti, who gave a speech at the event. Holocaust denier Hervé Van Laethem from the far-right Belgian nationalist movement Nation, as well as Stanislas Vorobyov of the Russian Imperial Movement also spoke. Groups from 11 countries reportedly attended.
Meanwhile, Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, Marine Le Pen’s niece and the former far-right politician who made waves at the Conservative Political Action Conference in the U.S. earlier this year, opened her new university, the Institute of Social, Economic and Political Science (ISSEP, which stands for Institute de sciences sociales, économiques et politiques) in Lyon. The school is dedicated to educating future far-right leaders and is trying to build partnerships across Europe so it can deliver students valid university degrees.
ISSEP’s website is slickly packaged to appear apolitical, but its “scientific council,” which will be tasked with hiring faculty, dispels any lingering questions about the school’s political orientation. Raheem Kassam, who resigned from Breitbart London this month, is a member of the all-male, nine-member council. Paul Gottfried, the president of the white nationalist H.L. Mencken Club, also sits on the council. Gottfried is often called the “godfather of the alt-right.” He rejects the designation, despite having elaborated and coined the concept of “alternative right” alongside white nationalist Richard Spencer. After mingling with violent identitarians and voicing open anti-LGBT and anti-immigrant sentiment, it seems Maréchal-Le Pen has no qualms associating with American white nationalists.
Meanwhile, things are looking dimmer for the French branch of the identitarian, anti-migrant and anti-Muslim group Génération Identitaire (GI), after an April PR stunt in the Alps to “protect the borders” and catch migrants. Far-right YouTube personalities like Canadian Lauren Southern and American Britanny Pettibone both attended the “mission.” The action sparked indignation, leading Facebook and Instagram to take down GI’s pages on May 3.
GI initially declared the mission a success, and it seemed clear that French authorities would not hinder the group’s activities. A local prosecutor quickly decided not to press charges against the members of the group, declaring that they had not broken any law. Instead, prosecutors aggressively pressed charges against pro-migrant activists arrested the following day, who crossed the border alongside migrants to protest GI’s stunt. They were met by a large police presence. Three activists are now facing a decade in jail for helping to facilitate the entry of undocumented immigrants in an “organized group,” a crime that has been dubbed “the crime of solidarity” by sympathizers.
A few days later, identitarians claimed to have chased down four people crossing the border, caught them and handed them off to the police. Pro-migrant activists described the event as an “odious man-hunt” (the police denied collaborating with the group.)
However, a memo released by the French Ministry of Justice on May 4 suggested that identitarians could actually be prosecuted for interfering with or usurping a public function, in this case law enforcement. The local prosecutor subsequently reopened an investigation into the group.
The situation is not much better for other attendees of the Alps mission, specifically those belonging to GI’s Austrian branch. Seventeen identitarians in Austria, including leaders Patrick Lenart and Martin Sellner — who also leads GI’s European umbrella group Defend Europe — were charged with various crimes including hate speech, the formation of a criminal organization and property damage. Sellner told Al Jazeera that the police raided his home as well as that of nine other identitarian activists.
As Al Jazeera notes, the prosecution comes after criticism that one of the parties currently in power in Austria, the far-right Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ), might have “unofficial” ties to the identitarians.
Following his ban from Twitter, Tommy Robinson, the former leader of the violent anti-Muslim street movement the English Defense League, and thousands others gathered in London on May 6 for a march in the name of free speech entitled the Day for Freedom.
Far-right troll Milo Yiannopoulos and Gavin McInnes, the founder of the Proud Boys*, which SPLC lists as a hate group, both spoke at the event. They were joined by For Britain party leader and virulent anti-Muslim activist Anne-Marie Waters and far-right YouTube personality Carl Benjamin, also known as Sargon of Akkad. Lauren Southern, the far-right Canadian YouTube personality also banned from the UK, joined via video. Free speech has recently become a rallying cry for the far-right in the UK, in part due to the influence of the American far-right.
Since then, Tommy Robinson, whose real name is Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, has been sentenced to jail for thirteen months for contempt of court. The far-right agitator was arrested after defying a judge’s order by filming and haranguing people coming in and out of court during a child sex-abuse trial. He tried to use the footage to fuel the narrative of Muslim “grooming gangs”, i.e. child sex rings that the far-right seeks to depict as a typically Muslim phenomenon and a direct result of immigration. Donald Trump, Jr. tweeted out in support of Robinson, saying “Don’t let America follow in those footsteps.” In the days after his arrest more than 500,000 signed a petition for Robinson’s release.
In Russia, meanwhile, the International Organization for the Family/World Congress of Families*, which SPLC lists as an anti-LGBT hate group, gathered to discuss homeschooling regulations at the Global Home Education Conference held May 15 to 19 in Moscow and Saint Petersburg. Brian Brown, the head of the IOF and Allan Carlson, the founder of the WCF, both attended, as did the Russian representative of the organization Alexey Komov and other WCF allies. Elena Mizulina, the Russian parliamentarian responsible for introducing anti-LGBT legislation banning gay “propaganda” that contributed to a doubling of hate crimes in the country, also attended.
The conference was sponsored in part by American anti-LGBT hate group Alliance Defending Freedom* as well as by the Home School Legal Defense Association, an American group led by current ADF president Michael Farris.
Meanwhile, with the 2018 soccer World Cup kicking off in Russia mid-June, concern has been raised about the dangers of Russia’s violent and entrenched hooligan culture, which is steeped in violence, neo-Nazism, and racism. As an in-depth article in The Guardian described, Russian hooligans were allegedly historically funded by various politicians to serve as a security force, prevent potential opposition to the Kremlin and to garner support for various parties.
In the context of the upcoming World Cup, however, the government is attempting to whitewash the image of the violent group it has previously funded: the Kremlin hired PR agencies planting images of “gentle fans” on social media and banned a negligible 200 hooligans from soccer games till the end of the World Cup.
ISSEP, the school opened by Marion Maréchal-Le Pen is opening its doors to visitors for the first time on June 26.
The far-right militant group Bastion Social, a new iteration of the violent racist group Groupe Union Défense, spent the month organizing marches in various French cities to defend what they call “national preference” — the notion that white people born in France and whose families have been in France for multiple generations should be entitled to social services before immigrants or non-whites. Upon the opening of one of their bars last December, Bastion Social militants ganged up on a young French man of Algerian descent and violently beat him. They are organizing a conference to discuss the topic of “national preference” at the beginning of June.