The Global Networks of the Far Right

Image: Antonio A. Costa
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By STEVEN FORTI*

There is a kind of reactionary International that brings together the cream of the formations of radical conservatism and ultra-rightism on a global scale

Those who continue to think that the new ultra-right is a national phenomenon or limited to just a few countries are very wrong. It is worth clarifying once again: the far right 2.0 is a large global family with transatlantic ties and a multitude of think tanks, foundations, institutes and associations that, in the last two decades, have been weaving a dense network that promotes a shared agenda, in addition to moving large sums of money.

From Washington to Budapest, from Moscow to Brussels, from Brasilia to Lisbon, from Rome to Paris, from Madrid to Lima, from Warsaw to Ljubljana. There is a kind of reactionary International that brings together the cream of the formations of radical conservatism and ultra-rightism on a global scale.

Yes, there are disagreements between several of its members, there is no lack of discord and friction, sometimes they clash and some cannot even see each other, but in the end they collaborate, exchange information, speeches, practices and knowledge, because there are more things that need to be done. share what sets them apart.

 

Bruxelas

It is not at all easy to draw a map of these networks at an international level, also because of their obscurity, but we can try to point to a first sketch. Let's start with the European scope, because Brussels is where many meetings take place.

The connections, facilitated by the presence of deputies from far-right formations from virtually all European Union countries in the community capital, have gradually allowed, since the end of the 1980s, the construction of some relationships that are now more than stable. . The existence of the Identity and Democracy (ID) and European Reformists and Conservatives (ECR) parliamentary groups offers some spaces to share ideas and experiences, in addition to the elaboration of a common agenda. Not to mention the funding they have.

The ID is led by the League – the president is Salvinian Marco Zanni – and includes, among others, Le Pen's National Grouping, Alternative for Germany and the Austrian and Dutch Freedom Parties, while the ECR is led by the Poles of Law and Justice and has among its members many formations from the east, in addition to Vox, the Democrats of Sweden and Brothers of Italy, whose leader, Giorgia Meloni, currently holds the group's presidency.

It is true that neither in the past nor today has the extreme right been able to unify in just one group in the European Parliament, nor in just one party at community level, but, although difficult, we cannot rule out the possibility in the future. The recent expulsion of Fidesz from the European People's Party, coupled with the departure of British MEPs, both those from Nigel Farage's Brexit Party and Boris Johnson's far-right Tories, has stirred the waters.

For months now, some more than others – starting with the leader of the League, Matteo Salvini – have been trying to reach an agreement to make the Eurosceptics the third group in the Eurochamber, behind only the Social Democrats. Last July, most of these formations, with Orbán, Le Pen, Abascal and Salvini in the lead, signed a manifesto in defense of a Christian Europe, in which national sovereignty should prevail over community sovereignty, which pointed out measures.

Conservatives with the brown shirt

However, in addition to the relations between the different parties of the ultra-right galaxy in Brussels or bilaterally – Abascal visited Orbán, in May, Meloni was at the Vox party, in Madrid, a few weeks ago, Salvini participated in the congress of the Portuguese of Chega, spring - the global networks woven by foundations and think tanks which are, in many cases, independent.

One of them is the renowned Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), which brings together Gotha from the North American conservative world and which, in addition to inviting a European leader every year (Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, in 2018, Giorgia Meloni, in 2020), has tentacles in Australia, Japan and Brazil. In the Latin American country, for example, since 2019, thanks to the support offered by President Jair Bolsonaro, an annual conference has been organized.

In the one that was held in Brasília, in early September, in addition to Bolsonarist elites, there was also a US delegation. It was led by Donald Trump Jr., Jason Miller, a former spokesman for Trump and current CEO of Gettr, the new social platform launched by the former US president after his exclusion from traditional social networks, and Matthew Tyrmand who, after his first steps on Breitbart News, through Steve Bannon, is one of the key figures in Project Veritas, an ultra-rightist NGO that harasses journalists and teachers, spreading fake videos recorded with hidden cameras.

In addition, we find the Edmund Burke Foundation, founded in 2019 and linked to Israeli, American and European ultraconservative sectors. One of the central figures is the Israeli philosopher Yoram Hazony, author of the book The Virtue of Nationalism and president of the Herzl Institute. In one of the first meetings organized by the foundation – the National Conservatism Conference, held in Rome in February 2020 and dedicated, don't miss this, to John Paul II and Ronald Reagan -, Hazony managed to bring together, among others, Meloni, Orbán, Abascal and Marion Maréchal.

Attention, here, it is not just about taking a photo as required by the ritual, nor about strengthening ties, that too, but about elaborating a shared ideological proposal and building hegemony. Quoted or not, the extreme right learned the lesson of Gramsci, as Alain de Benoist explained and successfully put into practice decades ago to revitalize and transform French and, ultimately, European neo-fascism.

And in this regard, the left should now learn from the ultra-right. Let's avoid misunderstandings: he should not learn in the sense of copying his ideas, as the “rojipardos” or some distracted leftist defend, but in the sense of ideologically reinforcing himself and understanding that the cultural battle is now more crucial than ever.

Gladiators and Culture Warriors

The same can be said about training schools. As you know, parties are not what they used to be. Correct. But the ultra-right seems to have understood that without some schools where cadres – or, as they call them, leaders of the future – are trained, one will not go very far in politics. And the far right 2.0 is already doing this on a national as well as a global scale.

This is, for example, the objective of the Higher Institute of Sociology, Economics and Politics, founded by Marion Maréchal, in 2018. After its French headquarters, located in Lyon, a few years ago, a headquarters was also inaugurated in Madrid, chaired by Miguel Ángel Quintana Pérez and closely linked, however they deny it, to those around Vox, through figures such as Kiko Méndez-Monasterio and Gabriel Ariza, son of the president of the Intereconomía group.

However, already before, in the times of the Italian national-populist government formed by the League and the 5 Star Movement, the former advisor of Donald Trump, Steve Bannon, had tried something similar in the Monastery of Trisulti, on the outskirts of Rome. With the collaboration of the Catholic Institute Dignitatis Humanae, chaired by Benjamin Harnwell, Bannon aimed to create a populist school that aimed to form some “cultural warriors” and some “gladiators” to defend the Judeo-Christian western culture.

Trisulti's case, as much as it failed, demonstrates the porosity of these environments: obstinate ultra-rightists, members of the US Alt-Right, post-Reagan conservatives, fundamentalist Catholics, etc., collaborate overcoming their differences in transatlantic projects, in this case, in training of new cadres.

Bannon, often presented as something of an evil genius, was often linked to many of these projects. Leaving aside the ability to sell himself to the media, like a puppeteer pulling puppet strings, something far from being true, the former director of Breitbart News had also launched, around 2018, The Movement, a platform that aimed to unify the extreme right of the old continent in view of the European elections of the following year. Or, at least, offer support and aid in analyses, studies and advertisements.

It is true that the majority closed the door on Bannon, with the exception of Salvini, Meloni, Bolsonaro and the opposition party of Montenegro, but there is no doubt that for “Sloppy Steve”, as Trump defined him, in a memorable tweet , there was no lack of resources, nor know-how. In fact, more in the shadows than a few years ago, Bannon recently traveled to Madrid – we don't know if to meet with Vox – and mobilized to achieve the success of CPAC-Brasil (Conservative Political Action Conference).

It seems that in the last year Bannon has been redirecting his disagreements with Trump who, in fact, granted him amnesty hours before leaving the White House, accused of defrauding donations for the construction of the wall on the Mexican border. In addition, Bannon, following the wishes of the former president, refused to appear before the legislative committee that is investigating the assault on the Capitol, last January 6, forcing the US House of Representatives to declare him in contempt, with the possibility – remote, but existing – that he will be sentenced to one year in prison.

Christian fundamentalist lobbies

Facing the elections at the end of 2022, in which Bolsonaro will run for re-election, Brazil has become one of the main concerns of the extreme right, which wants to preserve one of its most important strongholds worldwide. In addition, interest in Latin America has increased with the rise of a new ultra-right in the region, with the shift of Keiko Fujimori in Peru, the emergence of an extreme right-wing libertarianism in Argentina, with Javier Milei, and the candidacy of José Antonio Kast in the Chilean presidential elections.

It is no coincidence that Vox, through the Disenso Foundation, launched the Foro de Madrid, a community that it calls the Iberosphere and proposes as an ultra-right alternative to the progressive Foro de São Paulo and Foro de Puebla. Hence the activism of Santiago Abascal and Hermann Tertsch, who visited Mexico and Peru to establish contacts that also attracted politicians linked to the PP, such as former Colombian president Andrés Pastrana.

The Latin American case leads us to talk about one of the most powerful global networks that serve the extreme right 2.0 to establish relationships, elaborate a common agenda and find funding: Christian fundamentalism. We are talking, in this case, of a true lobby, comparable to that of weapons, represented in the United States by the National Rifle Association and also with tentacles in Europe.

The fundamentalist Christian world created debate forums, foundations, think tanks and associations, at least since the end of the 1990s. In addition, it goes beyond the boundaries of the different existing churches, encompassing or, at least, relating both Catholics and Orthodox and Evangelicals.

One of the best-known examples is the World Congress of Families (WCF), an organization founded in the United States in 1997. The last congress, two years ago, was held in Verona - when Salvini was Minister of the Interior -, while in 2012 it was held in Madrid. The WCF upholds a traditional pro-life and pro-family agenda and is opposed to abortion and LGBT rights, so much so that the Southern Poverty Law Center has included it on its list of anti-gay hate groups.

And it's not just about sectors critical of Pope Bergoglio within the Catholic Church. There is a part of the Orthodox world, especially close to Vladimir Putin, like the Russian oligarch Konstantin Malofeev, promoter of the Saint Basil the Great foundation, which is an integral part of this network.

We are talking about an infinite labyrinth of dozens and dozens of small and large associations, sometimes linked directly with others, sometimes only indirectly, such as the Spanish HazteOír, founded in 2001 by Ignacio Arsuaga, and very close to Vox, which in 2013 launched its international lobby CitizenGo.

Budapest and Warsaw

On this, as on other issues, the ultra-conservative Russian and Eastern European world was very active from minute one. On the one hand, Putin has become a point of reference for many European far-rights, starting with Marine Le Pen and Matteo Salvini, who even received or, at the very least, sought funding from the Kremlin. On the other hand, the existence of two ultra-rightist governments in Warsaw and Budapest made it possible to have two bases from which to act.

To mention just two of the most recent initiatives, in May, the new university of Polish ultra-rightists, the Intermarium College, was inaugurated in Warsaw, promoted by the think tanks Catholic Ordo Iuris. The inauguration was attended by a large Hungarian delegation, another from the United States – with the aforementioned Matthew Tyrmand, the director of the Acton Institute, Alejandro Chafuen, and the ultra-conservative Catholic writer Rod Dreher – and the young Melonian Francesco Giubilei, president of the Tatarella Federation and of think tanks Nazione Futura, linked to Brothers in Italy.

At the end of September, the Demography Summit was also held in Budapest, organized by the government of Viktor Orbán, which brought together former US vice-president Mike Pence, the presidents of different countries in Eastern Europe, who are looking with interest at the Hungarian model – the Slovenian Janša, the Czech Babiš, the Serbian Vučić, the Bosnian Serb Dodik –, the French Éric Zemmour and Marion Maréchal, the Salvinian Lorenzo Fontana and Jaime Mayor Oreja, president of the European Anti-Abortion Federation One of Us and connected , currently, to the institute founded by the granddaughter of Jean-Marie Le Pen, in Madrid.

The issue of demography, which the ultra-right and the conservative Christian world associate with immigration and policies favorable to civil rights, is precisely one of the strategies that allows the extreme right to leave its ideological borders and establish relationships with sectors that are not so radical in themselves. .

The extreme right 2.0 has been rearming itself at a discursive and ideological level for some time now. And for that he created a multitude of associations, foundations, organizations, think tanks and magazines. What I have pointed out in this article is just the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the waves of the ocean, unbeknownst to us, there is an immense network, powerful and well-funded. If we don't want the progressive world to end up like the Titanic, upon discovering the real existence of this network, it is necessary to do two things: research more about how the new extreme right moves internationally and rearm better to stop its advance and defeat it. them. Time is pressing. Let's recharge the batteries.

*Steven Fort is a professor of contemporary history at Autonomous University of Barcelona.

Translation: Fast to the portal IHU Unisinos.

 

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