Altan Öymen

Danger of the far right

12 Haziran 2024 Çarşamba

These elections started last Thursday in the European Union countries. The Dutch voted first. In the following days, they continued in other EU countries and were completed.


The title of Nilgün Cerrahoğlu's article in Cumhuriyet about that process was as follows:


“Europe's fateful election...”


The title was accurate. The results of that election were related to the danger of the “far right” in Europe. Would it show whether that danger was growing stronger or diminishing?... Once Sunday came and the counting was completed, the answer to that question became clear: That danger had increased. Especially in France, supposedly the cradle of democracy... The far-right “National Unity Party” led by Le Pen had become the first party. Current French President Macron's “Renaissance Party” came second... The Socialist Party came third...


In the face of those results, Macron announced that he would dissolve France's own national assembly to hold new elections.

The results in most other EU countries, including Germany, also showed a significant strengthening of the far right. This, of course, raised concerns not only in Europe, but also in many countries of the world, many of which have democratic regimes. It reminded us of the far-right regimes that started in Europe in the first quarter of the 20th century and lasted until the mid-1940s.


***


Among my books at home, there are almanacs that chronologically reflect newspaper publications about the events of that period. I looked through them while writing this article.


First, I looked back 100 years ago, to 1924. In some countries in Europe of that year, the extreme right had begun to manifest itself. From 1922 onwards, there was already Mussolini in Italy. There is also the kingdom, but the “one man” of Italy back then is Mussolini, the “Duce” of the Fascist Party, who really dominates everything...


After the end of the First World War in 1918, democratic governments were established in some of the states that emerged from the disintegration of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, but they were either authoritarian republics like in Austria or regimes like the regency of Admiral Horthy in Hungary.


In any case, there was not much or sustained demand for genuinely democratic regimes as opposed to the habits of the old dynastic regimes.

Especially during the years of intense unemployment caused by the general economic depression of 1929-30, which affected most of the world, the effect of the propaganda that democracy was useless and that only authoritarian leaders could solve economic problems was increasing.


***


Let's look back to the 1930s to see what happened next.


In the democratic elections of 1933, Hitler won an absolute majority in Germany. He became the chancellor. He received from Parliament the power to pass laws, which he could also use as a way of governance. After the death of President Hindenburg, he assumed his powers as well. He turned the regime into a complete “one man” regime.


The next thing you know, Hitler started the Second World War, setting fire to Europe, Asia and America. A war that killed millions of people, hurt many more and destroyed many settlements and production centers.


So, how can today's situation follow? Could “right-wing extremism” lead to developments similar to the disastrous situation of the 1920s and 1930s?


I think there is no need to be so pessimistic. Because the memories, narratives, writings and photographs of those periods in the 20th century when we were endangered and suffered the consequences have not yet disappeared. Even if only some of these are remembered, this is enough to warn all those concerned, politicians and voters to realize that every precaution must be taken to protect themselves from that danger.


As you know, there are famous verses of Mehmet Akif, poet of our national anthem, which our politicians in power often repeat. It goes like this:


"They describe history as repeating itself,


Would it repeat itself if any lessons were learned?"


Yes, it is time for everyone in the world to remember to take lessons from the recent history of the world.


It may be called “over-optimism”, but I believe that this is the only way to prevent a storm of “right-wing extremism” from dominating the world again, as it has been prevented since 1945...


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Danger of the far right 12 Haziran 2024

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