Norway: A warning of things to come….
Even before the Oslo atrocities it was quite clear that Al-Qaeda is not the biggest threat to states within European Union. A wide gap exists between both popular and political perception and reality as noted by the EU Terrorism Situation and Trend Report for 2o10:
Islamist terrorism is still perceived as the biggest threat to most member states, despite the fact that only one Islamist terrorist attack – a bomb attack at military barracks in Milan, Italy – took place in the EU in 2009.
Separatist groups, left and right extremists are blamed for the majority of the attacks. However, this perception of the ‘Islamist threat’ is fed by a media and mainstream political establishment which is wholly invested in the creation of the ‘evil Islamist other’. In this, and in its attitude to immigration, the mainstream is wholly infected with the type of politics espoused by both the Norwegian gunman and the English Defence League. This creates a cycle of legitimisation and of ‘legitimate grievence’ which in turn gives them self-justification and gathers them support. Newsnight exemplified this last night by sneaking in, on a report on the faltering economy, a swipe at immigrants allegedly taking the vast majority of the jobs created.
Immigration is not the problem. The problem is the way capitalism is globalising the world (an objectively progressive process) in a totally uneven way creating both pockets of extreme poverty and political instability. This is, naturally enough, leaving to waves of migration to richer areas because that is where the wealth is concentrated. This is the point which is entirely missed by the far-right and why their targeting of immigrants is not a ‘legitimate complaint’. However, the left has lost enough credbility as a political force to not be heard.
Across Europe, far-right parties have taken the left’s place as the parties of protest and of anti-establishment politics. The left’s response to this is either opportunistic adaptation to the far-right agenda (shouting ‘No to the EU’ and abandoning internationalism) or too forlornly call on the same establishment that is feeding the beast to curtail democracy and deal with the far-right threat through prescription and the ban all when it should be calling for more democracy to give people a greater stake and control of the transformational processes taking place.
Norway was just the beginning; a grim beginning for Europe. Outside of issues pertaining to immigration, the contraction of the economy, the dismantling of social welfare and socialised public services in the name of austerity is going to produce a potentially large pool of alienated bile for the likes of the EDL to feed off. Expect more attacks like those that occurred in Oslo because they will come and the left is ill-equipped to have a chance of stopping them.