Should fascist and alt-right leaning parties be allowed to participate in democratic elections and be part of the coalition government in any country which considers itself democratic? While there is a simple answer to this question, as neo-Nazis movements are on the rise around Europe and United States this deserves a little more elaboration.
There is a valid argument for their participation in the democratic process. They represent a not insignificant portion of population and they have in mind relatively well formulated ideas and measures which according to them will improve society and create a better life. So far so good. If you are of democratic mindset the answer to this question should be an unwavering YES. They should participate!
But let us look a bit, just a bit deeper. What are these ideas and measures and do we have a historical and contemporary implementation samples? According to wiki Fascism is a form of government which is a type of one-party dictatorship. Fascists are against democracy. They work for a totalitarian one-party state. Which means no to real elections, no to government institutions, no to independent judiciary, no to free press. That along with nationalism and opposition to Enlightenment humanitarian ideas is at the core of the program of most alt-right parties. They make no secret about this and in fact the guide to alt-right had been published from all the places in Breitbart. I wrote another blog entry just to comment on this masterpiece.
This is exactly what we learn from history. When the Nazi party in Germany participated in political process and came to power in legal way, they destroyed democracy itself. In the modern world, we notice similar trends. Authoritarian leaders destroy institutions, free press and create an environment where the rise of the opposition is basically impossible. We can see it happening today in Russia. So even if you think that Putin is a great leader and single handedly improved life in Russia, there is no real opposition (Zherenvsky? Sobchak?), there is no free press and no independent judiciary.
The situation in the united States is somewhat unique. A mainstream political party over the course of a few decades has transformed itself to fascist party. The trend is easily traced from the raise of the Tea party to the current situation. The transition has been happening for a while and instead of fighting it the GOP leaders were accommodating to achieve their near-term political goals. Frighteningly, in Trump presidency, we can clearly observe fascists inclinations. His attacks on government institutions including judiciary, free press are numerous and outrageous. His racism is on display almost daily. The not so tacit support for most radical alt-right movements demonstrated at every circumstantial event. No wonder they love him.
As fascists government demoralize the population and erase opposition there is no easy way out. While many fascists governments came to power using legal democratic system, they erase it as soon as they get elected. There are several probable outcomes from this situation, another dictator who came to power as result of internal power struggle as we have seen recently in Uzbekistan (best outcome), war or revolution. If you don’t want yourself or your children to live through these events– SAY NO TO FASHISTS! For democracy antifascism is self-defense.
While I’m by no means a fan of simple answers, here is a rare situation which calls for simple answer. Neo-Nazi, alt-right parties doesn’t matter how popular they are should not be allowed to participate in election in democratic country. They destroy the democratic framework in order to hold on to power. Existing mainstream party should setup some meaningful controls within their committees to prevent this from happening. I’m sure there are other measures which include public education and other prevention measures. History scholars and political scientists should be able to propose actions and procedures to prevent this from happening in democratic societies. They better get busy now - before it is too late!
P.S. Surprisingly, there was an essay today in Opinion section of NYT on a related subject, by Thomas Edsall for whom I have a lot of respect
He is pointing out a well-known research finding that about a third of the population have intrinsic authoritarian tendencies, love strong leaders and authoritarians and scared of open society and diversity. He is suggesting that there needs to be an accommodation for them. While I agree that their feelings and fears need to be considered, they can always be seduced by power seeking demagogue and no liberal accommodation will be enough to overcome their authoritarian tendencies.