The Opposite of Love
by Matt Cherry
The following article is from Free Inquiry
magazine, Volume 20, Number 2.
Bertolt Brechts parable on the rise of Nazism"The Resistable Rise of
Arturo Ui"concludes with a pungent warning about the threat of new Hitlers
gaining power: "The bitch that bred him is in heat again." Fortunately, the far
right never gained power in post-war Germany, and the Federal Republic of Germany did more
than any other country to confront and learn from its terrible past. In another part of
the Third ReichHitlers fatherland of Austriathere was little attempt to
face up to the peoples responsibility for the horrors of Nazism. And it is in
Austria that the bitch has bred again: in February 2000 the Nazi-friendly Freedom Party
was brought into a new right-wing coalition government.
The Orwellian-named Freedom Party rose to power by appealing to the pro-Nazi nostalgia
of older voters and by using the job insecurities of younger voters to stoke fears of
immigration. The partys charismatic leader, Jörg
Haider, has praised Hitlers "orderly" employment policies and applauded
veterans of the Waffen SS as "decent people of good character." He described
Nazi concentration camps as "labor camps." Another Freedom Party leader claimed
that immigrants were receiving fertility treatment in order to outbreed native Austrians.
In claiming that immigration threatens jobs, the Freedom Party resurrected the ugly term überfremdung,
which literally means "over-foreignization." "Überfremdung" was a
term favored by Nazi propaganda chief Josef Goebbels. And like Goebbels, the party uses
racist stereotypes in its campaign posters.
The Freedom Party is the first ultra-nationalist party to gain power in post-war
Western Europe. It received 27% of the vote in the last general election but the
conservative Peoples Party invited Haiders party into a coalition in order to
secure a parliamentary majorityjust as other conservative parties brought the Nazis
into power in 1933 Germany. Although Herr Haider will not hold office in the new
governmenthe says he prefers to remain out of office until he is strong enough to
become Chancellorother members of the Freedom Party will control key ministries,
including justice and defense.
The new Austrian government was immediately condemned by the outside world. Or at least
by governments in those parts of the world that had been bitten once before by a racist
Austrian. Israel has withdrawn its ambassador to Austria. The European Union (EU)of
which Austria is a memberis downgrading diplomatic relations with Austria. The
fourteen other member nations of the EU said they would avoid bilateral meetings with
Austrian ministers. Some EU countries also vowed to adopt economic sanctions against
Austria. As Free Inquiry went to press, neither the United States nor the United Nations
had yet announced any actions against Austria. It is to be hoped that they will join the
European Union in opposing the Austrian government.
The European Unions moves against the Austrian governmenton the basis of
nothing more than the odious opinions of one of its constituent partieshave been
criticized by some civil libertarians. Nadine Stroessen, president of the American Civil
Liberties Union (ACLU), commented that, "to protect democracy and human rights, the
Europeans have adopted the very authoritarian methods that they say they are acting to
The question of how far to tolerate the intolerant is always problematic. Yet while
supporters of freedom and human rights may debate where exactly to draw the line in
tolerating the new Austrian government, they can and should still take steps to
demonstrate opposition. The Freedom Party is free to state its beliefs, principles, and
policies; and othersincluding the citizens and governments of foreign
nationsshould have the right to condemn and oppose the Freedom Party.
Like the Nazis before them, many members of the Freedom Party are political
opportunists pandering to popular prejudice for the sake of power and prestige. Wherever
legally possible, that power and prestige should be withheld from them. Treating the
Freedom Party like a normal democratic party will not only make racist politics more
acceptable in Austria, it will also provide encouragement to the many other
ultra-nationalist politicians in Europe and further afield.
Austria should be taught there is a price to pay for electing racists. If South
Carolina can lose tourist dollars and business for flying the confederate flag, then
surely Austria should be boycotted by tourists and businesses who oppose racism.
Governments, people and private institutions should unite in their condemnation and active
opposition to the racist Freedom Party.
Like Brecht, the writer Günter Grass explored how his fellow Germans allowed the Nazis
to gain power and commit genocide. Why did such a civilized nation tolerate the Nazis? The
problem, Grass decided, was not that the majority of Germans supported Hitlers
murderous hatred of the Jews. The problem was that they did not care enough to oppose it.
"The opposite of love is not hate, it is indifference," concluded Grass. The
people of Austria and the world cannot afford to be indifferent to the Freedom Party.
Matt Cherry is Deputy Editor of Free Inquiry
and Executive Director of the Council for Secular