Siren workpackage 1: Literature Review Socio-economic change and right-wing extremism in Switzerland

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SIREN WORKPACKAGE 1: Literature Review
Socio-economic change and right-wing extremism
in Switzerland

Francesca Poglia Mileti

Riccardo Tondolo

Franz Schultheis
Socio-Economic Change, Individual Reactions and the Appeal of the
Extreme Right (SIREN)

Institut de Sociologie

Pierr-à-Mazel 7

2000 Neuchâtel


Extreme right wing parties:1

In the extreme right-wing camp we will mention some parties, but also and mostly little movements, tendencies or single individuals that have – or have had- a certain influence

          1. Skinheads

In Switzerland, extreme right skinheads appeared in the middle of the 80. There are essentially White Power Skin, with a strong militantism and racist orientation. They are only a tendency of the heterogeneous skin’s under-culture. Militant skinheads often use violent forms of action and their activism is strong. They are considered the principals actors of the extreme right-wing militants by the media and the public opinion and authorities consider these groups the principal responsible of extreme right wing violent actions (Altermatt & Skenderovic, 1998: 366). The number of skinheads is approximately 300 AND several regional bastions can be observed since the beginning of the 1990s. The militant skinheads formed three groups with sizeable dimensions: The Right Radical Front, Rechtsradikale Mutschellenfront, RMF (canton of Argovie), the Swiss national Youth, Nationale Jugend Schweiz, NJS (canton Thurgovie) and the Swiss and European nationalist party, Parti nationaliste suisse et européen (PNSE) (canton Neuchâtel). The Swiss Hammerskins, Schweizerische Hammerskins, SHS, founded in 1990 in Lucern, are the biggest skinhead group.. At first, these skinheads didn’t have a structured organization. Since 1995, the SHS has a role of coordinator of local and regional groups. Recruitment and formation of new members is operated by the Swiss Hammerskins organization of formation, Schweizerische Hammerskin-Aufbauorganisation, SHS-AO, founded in 1994. Communication is provided by the skinzine Hammer, since 1994 (Altermatt & Skenderovic, 1998:366). Since the middle of the nineties, the politicization of the HS is stronger (in 1995, the 23 of September, they took part to a Christophe Blocher big anti-European manifestation. Skinheads groups have a particular structure and organization. Many skinheads are still very young (they are often less than 18 years old), and generally they are not very politicized. However since the middle of the nineties a strengthening of the level of politicization can be observed (the participation of skinheads in political parties reunions is stronger). Their privileged targets are foreigners and asylum seekers. Violent actions are rarely organized. Very often, we are confronted with spontaneous violences, where alcohol is an amplifier (Altermatt & Skenderovic, 1998: 366).

          1. National revolutionary groups. (Groupes Nationaux révolutionnaires)

Since the 1970s, some militant students in the French-speaking area claimed the national revolutionary ideology (especially its French variant). At the end of the 1980s, this movement expanded, particularly in the German-speaking area. These groups are held to be better organized and more politicized than the skinheads (that are some of their potential recruits). They try to make coalitions with progressist left groups on anti-US positions, pro-Third World liberation movements and pro-ecologist positions. According to them, the different people should strengthen their cultural identity and their national consciousness. Thus, they held radical nationalist positions and are opposed to the multi-cultural societies. In the German-speaking area, two groups can me mentioned: The Swiss national revolutionary party, Nationalrevolutionäre Partei Schweiz, NPS, is born in 1989-90 after the avorted tentative o activists to create in 1989-90 the New Front, Neue Front NF, a gathering movement mainly based on two parties created at the end of the 1980s. Quickly the NF split into two groups, the NPS being the most important one. The headquarters are in Schaffhouse (German part). They were about 25 members, most of them were young and several skinheads. It organized reunions and different political actions in order to be known by the public opinion. (Altermatt & Skenderovic, 1998: 367). The Swiss national initiative, Nationale Initiative Schweiz, NIS, founded in April 1996, declared its will to participate to the elections, what according to Altermatt & Skenderovic (1998) can be interpreted as a tentative of politicized youngs of the extreme right-wing. In its political program we can find affirmations such as: « immediate stopping of the immigration and naturalizations», «Swiss employment for Swiss employees », « support for Swiss homogenous classes in the schools ». Finally, NIS has contacts with the German extreme right-wing. In the French-speaking area the national revolutionary are strongly influenced by the new right. The Geneva Swiss section of the French Troisième Voie (Third Way), the French principal representative of the national revolutionary ideology became in 1991 Nouvelle Résistance (New Resistance) (following the change occurred in France). There were about 30 members in 1991, and their activities were intellectual and discursive around the New Right. Today it’s difficult to know if this group is still really active in Geneva.

          1. Negationist (Négationistes)

Regularly since 1986 the negationist get themselves talked about because of their public positions, the diffusion of propaganda material, the organization of international meetings. They can use an international network articulated around publishing house outside Switzerland, the contacts being facilitated by internet. The main themes are the negation of the minimization of the Shoah, with the goal of rehabilitate the national-socialist government. Antisemitism is a constitutive element of their discourse. One of the Swiss precursors of negationism is Gaston-Armand Amaudruz of Lausanne. Its review, Courrier du continent, has been important on the international scene the publicize negationism. A few other negationist circles are active in the French-speaking area. In the German-speaking area the negationism concerns above all isolated authors, however international links are present. The Review Eidgenoss has been in the 1980s and the 1990s one of the main representative of negationism. Its redactor, Max Wahl, expressed clear anti-Semite and neo-nazis positions. The review ceased “officially” its activity in 1994, before the coming into effect of the antiracism law (indeed, in 1998, a Swiss address of this review has been found on internet). Finally, the creation in 1994 of the Work community for detabooization of the contemporary history, Arbeitsgemeinschaft zur Enttabuisierung der Zeitgeschichte, AEZ, that possess a review, Aurora, leaded by Arthur Vogt. Bernhard Schaub, Andres J.W. Studer and Jürgen Graf are the most prominent features of the new generation of negationist, the last one being the most important one in Switzerland (his publications, all distributed by the publishing house Neue Visionen, New Visions, (canton Argovie), have an international diffusion).

          1. Antisemit (Antisémites)

Anti-Semite thoughts appeared in the 1996 and 1997 Swiss public discussions, around the question of the role of Switzerland during the Second World War and the Jewish founds, often articulated with the theory of the world Jewish conspiracy. The analysis of the letters to the Editor shows that anti-Semite stereotypes are still present in a part of the population. But parallel public opinion has become more sensitive, leading to condemn all forms of antisemitismus. As Altermatt and Skenderovic note, it is not easy to distinguish clearly anti-Semite and negationist that are also anti-Semite. But on the one hand, we find activist and isolated authors, that often have ties with negationist circles, and which goal is to spread their propaganda as much as possible. On the other hand, associations and publications, principally esoteric, which goals are spirituals and which activities and positions are internal and touch mostly the members (e.g. the Universal Church, Universale Kirche). Their ideology often contain conspiracy theories. Only two examples here: Ernst Indlekofer, member of the SVP till 1996 is the redactor of the review Recht + Freiheit (right and liberty), created in 1995. He has narrow contacts with the extreme right since 1989. Walter Fischbacher, anti-Semite that published racists and xenophobe writings in the Volk + Heimat, organ of the National Action. He had to quit the Parti radical-démocratique because of internal and publics pressures.

          1. Traditional fascists (Fascistes traditionnels)

They are active since the Second World War. They adhere to a fascist or national-socialist ideology and practice the personality cult (of Hitler or Mussolini). Up to the seventies, these Swiss traditional fascists had a central position in Europe. Gaston-Armand Amaudruz of Lausanne, yet mentioned, ensured the continuity of this movement. Born in 1920, he wrote several books, he had excellent international contacts and his propagandistic role has been important. He can be held for a fascist, racist and negationist figure. He is the former leader of the New European Order, Nouvel Ordre européen (NOE), founded in 1951 by traditional fascists and former SS of all Europe, whose ideology is characterized by biological racism and anti-Semitism. But in 1997 the periodical Courrier du continent, published in Lausanne by Amaudruz, had more impact as NOE (in 1989 he had a circulation of 400). In 1997 ten numbers were published and used as an international communicational platform by the extreme right-wing

          1. The New Right (La nouvelle droite)

This movement is composed of organizations, circles and authors that get themselves talked about by conferences, cultural meetings, or by publishing books and reviews. The main point of their ideology is the inequality between men, cultures and populations. The European inheritance is central and anti-egalitarian and pre-democratic forms of society are idealized. They try to impose their social and cultural themes in the view of an intellectual and discursive hegemony. The New Right in the French-speaking area has important international contacts. Precursors appeared in the 1970s2. At the end of that decade, the scene divided in little groups. In the 1980s, some intellectual circles were founded, copying the model of the French New Right. The lawyer Pascal Junod played a central role. He presides since 1992 an association with fascist orientations (the Association of the friends of Robert Brasillach, ARB, founded in 1948 in Lausanne, composed about 750 members in the world, with publications as principal activity). According to Altermatt & Skenderovic, established cultural, scientific a political circles of the French-speaking area have been members of the ARB. In the German-speaking area, the New Right has relations with its German homologue. It develops its influence on public debates through its reviews. The three main publications, Memopress, Schweizerzeit and Abendland, reach 75’000 to 95’000 copies in all. The editor of Memopress, created in 1966, is Emil Rahm, member of the SVP. Often, conspiracy theories are evocated. Schweizerzeit is the most important of the three. Its redactor, Ulrich Schllüer, ex-secretary of the Republican Movement (Mouvement républicain), is a SVP-member of the Parliament (National Council) since 1995. This review collaborates with the German New Right (e.g. the review Junge Freiheit, or Criticon). Finally, the review of Herbert Meier, candidate at the National Council for the SVP in 1987, has Christian traditionalist and right conservative tendencies.

          1. The Swiss Democrats

The Swiss Democrats (former national Action, DS/NA), was created in 1961 in the German-speaking canton of Zurich. “It is the only party that has survived for more than twenty-five years, despite internal tensions that led to divisions and, finally, to the creation of two new parties. The party and its first deputy, James Schwarzenbach, achieved notoriety after launching a popular initiative in 1969 aimed at limiting the proportion of foreign residents, especially Italian and Spanish workers, in Switzerland. The initiative was supported by 46 percent of the citizens, despite clear opposition of all other parties, and was an initial signal of a latent xenophobia among parts of the Swiss population. Since 1967, the party has maintained representation in the National Council. The Swiss Democrats have changed their name twice but their program has remained fundamentally the same: It still reflects anti-immigrant, ecological, and social concerns. Thus, it can be considered to represent an “old” and established radical right-wing tendency”. Kriesi & Gentile, 1998: 126.

          1. The Federal Democratic Union (FDU),

The Federal Democratic Union (FDU), was “created in 1975 to promote biblical values and to oppose the influence of other cultures in Swiss society. This party is confined to fundamentalist circles of the Swiss Protestant Church in some German regions of the country (especially in the Canton Bern). So far, it has sent one representative to the National Council in past elections” (Kriesi & Gentile, 1998: 126). The FDU is a rather social nationalist party and is the only radical right-wing party to be concerned about moral issues.

          1. The Liberty Party

The Liberty Party or Freedom Party of Switzerland, (former Swiss Automobilist Party) is defined by Peter Niggli as an anti-ecological, antifeminist and ultraliberal little radical right-wing party (Niggli, 1999) Founded in 1985 in several German cantons as a reaction against ecological and socialist successes, its program is quite distinct from the platforms of other radical right-wing parties. “This organization quickly became a real threat to the established parties of the right, whose concessions to the left were attacked, and a serious competitor to the Swiss Democrats, whose position on state management came under fire. After only two years, the party managed to establish itself electorally as the largest party on the radical right” (Kriesi & Gentile, 1998: 126). According to Gentile & Kriesi “through the Small Business Association (SBA), a powerful economic interest group representing small enterprises at the federal level, the Automobilist Party has another avenue to the established right. The party’s position on the economy closely reflects the view that this association has defended for decades (less state intervention and fewer taxes). (…) The Automobilists’ deputies have thought of launching referenda with the help of this association in the future (1998: 137).

          1. The Lega dei Ticinesi

The Lega dei Ticinesi, has been created in 1991 in the Italian part of Switzerland. Niggli (1999) qualifies this party an autochtone right-wing party, settled up by Giuliano Bignasca, a building industrialist, that has become in a few years one of the biggest local party (the Lega doesn’t have a federal structure), represented in the cantonal government. At the national level, the Lega works hands in hands with the SVP. The electoral successes and the style used by the Lega (populist discourse against the governing parties of the left and right) were a shock for the cantonal political life. The party obtained 23 percent of the cantonal vote in the federal election only a few months after its creation. In 1995, the party entered the regional government and gained 18 percent in the federal election that same year. According to (Gentile & Kriesi), The Lega is an exception among Swiss radical right-wing parties, who mainly established themselves in the German-speaking cantons. Within French-speaking districts, radical right-wing parties have made temporary gains only on the cantonal and municipal levels and have tended to disappear quickly (1998: 127).

1 This section is based on Altermatt and Skederovic, 1998, and their typology of organization.

2 E.g. the New social Order, NOS, composed of 50 members which activities were intellectual discourses and also militant actions.

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