The brutal killing of a left-wing militant by extreme right nationalist skinheads in Paris has once against placed the spotlight on the rise of the nationalist, anti-immigrant right in Europe.
Clement Meric, a 19-year-old student from France’s elitist School for Political Science (Sciences-Po) was attacked by a group of extreme right youth last Wednesday when a fight broke out between left and right wing militants in the French capital. What began as a banal quarrel at the sale of branded Fred Perry clothes (much prized by both extreme left and extreme right factions) quickly degenerated into a free for all. Clement Meric was hit on the head from behind. Badly wounded, he remained in a coma until his death on Friday night.
Police have arrested four young men on the basis of video footage, photographs and eyewitness accounts. All belong to an extreme right anti-immigrant, anti-Islamic organisation called Nationalist Revolutionary Youth (JNR). They wear the uniform often adopted by such groups – balaclavas, leather jackets, studs and tattoos. There are increasing calls from both left and right to ban such violent semi-fascist groups.
There is growing concern at the rise of such extremist groups in Europe. In Britain, the English Defence League recently staged violent anti-Islam and anti-immigrant demonstrations after the killing of a soldier by Nigerian-born Islamic radicals. In Germany a trial is underway of young ultra-nationalists who killed or wounded several Turkish immigrants a few years ago.
In France these groups gained prominence during recent demonstrations opposing same sex marriage. The law which now allows homosexual couples to marry and to adopt children deeply polarised French society and awoke long-buried religious sentiments.
The economic crisis in Europe has led to a deeper identity crisis with a re-examination of the European identity and the place of immigrant cultures and Islam in European societies. There has been a resurgence of sentiment against immigrants and parties like the National Front in France, Ukip in Britain, Lega Nord in Italy , Golden Dawn in Greece, True Finns in Finland, People’s Party in Austria, Vlams Belang in Belgium and others across Europe have made significant electoral gains.
European elections are scheduled next year and it is feared that these parties will make further inroads, moving into the mainstream of politics rather than remaining at its fringes.