Lily Lynch's smart, funny and disturbingly accurate takedown on "Western" writing on the Balkans, from Robert D. Kaplan to VICE is a must read, joining the pantheon of great satirical travel articles alongside "How to write about Africa" and "How to write about Dubai".
It was great to see some of the fearless locals take time out of their extreme poverty to affirm the substance of the article. Darko Djuric writes:
I had so much fun reading this! We hardly ever hear voices like this in the Balkans. Spot on!
But sometimes we must confront reality head-on, as is the case in Miroslaw Tryczyk and Monika Splawksa-Murmylo's searing article on Wroclaw's "multicultural" credentials. I appreciated JoannaDr's personal reflection which the article inspired:
As someone of Polish descent, I am very proud of this group of young people and their concern for tolerance. Intolerance is a serious problem in Poland and it won’t be solved without the involvement of concerned citizens. My parents’ Poland – before World War II – was a completely different place. It had many ethnicities and at least 3 religions (including Protestantism). While there were anti-Semitic and rabidly nationalist movements, there were also a great many other Poles who had much more tolerant views and were working for the creation of a more tolerant and inclusive Poland.
Now, the virtually all-Catholic, all-white Poland that emerged after the fall of communism is much less susceptible to appeals of tolerance. When I come back to South America after visiting Poland, I am very glad my parents came to the Americas where, from the Arctic to Patagonia, we have people of all faiths, all colors and a great many ethnicities. Intolerance, racism and homophobia continue to exist but in the final analysis proponents of such ideas are fighting a losing cause in the face of a highly diverse reality.
"although both countries are indeed confronted with a particularly dangerous far right opposition, which is truly anti-democratic, neither party is even close to gaining political power."
I'd advise against taking such a dismissive stance, as Golden Dawn is getting close to a staggering 15 to 18%. This doesn't make them contenders, but considering that the other two parties are at 24%, they will get the chance to influence the agenda in a very dangerous way.
Throw in the worry of the other parties skewing to the right to try to steal the voter base back from far-right parties!
This criticism was echoed by hgprins:
A follow-up would be interesting, wherein the author share his opinions on how the far rights and its discourse influences the mainstream parties in Europe. The pressure of extremist and populist parties on the mainstream is, in my opinion, significant (for example in the Netherlands and the U.K.).
And the other way round - mainstream right wing parties taking over the demands of far right parties make these demands seem less outrageous and cause the entire political spectrum to shift to the right.
Cas Mudde himself entered the debate to respond (its always nice when authors do this):
Thanks for the responses. Most of the arguments point essentially the same way, i.e. you don't have to have a majority to rule a country. My point is, extremist minorities can only rule IF democratic minorities/majorities collaborate (as was the case with Hitler in Weimar Germany). As the far right doesn't claim to share liberal democratic values, but mainstream right-wing (and left-wing) parties do, it makes much more sense to critically follow the liberal democratic parties and make it clear to them that collaborating with or pandering to the far right also has costs, not just benefits.
Regarding the situation in Greece, I do think this is much more serious than it is in other EU member states. There is more similarity to Weimar Germany, including the strength of the radical left and the general weakness of the liberal democrats. However, Greece is not the model of Europe, it is the exception within Europe.
This, unsurprisingly, drew more commentary and debate, too much to reproduce here, so head over the article in question and add you own thoughts.
Για την υγεία σας, Ευρώπη!