The Anticapitalistas MEP Miguel Urbán receives Public in his office in the European Parliament, the same one where he assures that he has received attacks from the extreme right for his votes – he was the only Spanish MEP to oppose the appointment of Russia as a terrorist state – regarding the war in Ukraine. In conversation with this newspaper, he analyzes the present and future moment of European news, where the ultra-right is experiencing one of its best political moments. He throws, incidentally, a dart at Yolanda Díaz: “His project seems to be subordination to the PSOE.”
One of the news that leaves the week is that plan to overthrow the Government of Germany from an extreme right group with connections to the ultra organizations Citizens of the Reich and QAnon. What do these events tell us about the risk that the ultra-right represents for the country and for the EU as a whole?
We could say that since the attack in Norway, 11 years ago, the greatest risk of attacks on European soil would be from the extreme right. Europol itself says so. In the last decade, the increase in far-right terrorism has been growing very rapidly. But the alarms about it have not grown at the same rate.
The coup attempt is not something new in Germany. A year and a half ago another attempt was thwarted. Germany, which may be one of the most advanced in Europe in far-right terrorism, had to dissolve the Army’s own special forces due to the infiltration of ultra-right elements.
Many times we trivialize the risk of far-right terrorism. It is very high, but the breeding ground that justifies it or that gives it political content is more worrying. And the attempt to psychiatrize him to give him justification is also worrying: “He was not well, he was sick.” Breivik’s case in Utoya was very clear. We psychiatrize the motivations so as not to talk about the real political motivations, because that would even touch the European political system itself, where the extreme right is increasingly normalized. I ask myself: When have we psychiatrized the motivations of a jihadist attack? Never.
Germany did not have a presence of the extreme right in Parliament until 2017. What has caused this situation in a country with a history that also drags Germany? Is it a ‘sui generis’ case or could we see similar situations in other Member States?
It was a makeup, a fictional oasis. We have had a very distorted image. The fact that there were no parties with parliamentary representation does not mean that the extreme right did not exist. Before the entry of the Alternative for Germany (AfD) in the Bundestag there were already numerous attacks. After 2015 there was a 200% increase in attacks on refugees, who were mostly Syrians. The alert was not raised about this exponential increase in this low-intensity terrorism. And now we already have the dead on the table.
“This terrorism no longer attacks only the immigrant, but it opens its arc much more”
I think Breivik was a break from far-right terrorism. A before and after with the use of the Internet, social networks, the publicity of his action, the logic of the Great Replacement and of not only attacking the invader, but also the accomplices. In Germany we saw the assassination of a CDU mayor who advocated the integration of the migrant population in his municipality. That is to say, this terrorism no longer attacks only the migrant, but rather opens his arc much more.
The big difference in Germany is that this terrorism first grew and then there was a political rise with the AfD. In other countries, political expression has first provided justification and hate speech for attacks that have come later, as we saw in the 2018 Italian elections when a Lega deputy shot six Senegalese migrants. Salvini or Berlusconi downplayed it. And this is the dangerous and perverse aspect of far-right terrorism. Hate speech is the real gasoline that fuels this terrorism. The monopoly of terrorist violence is held by the extreme right. And attention now to the Ukrainian conflict, where thousands of far-right militants are going to fight on both sides. The FBI spoke four years ago that Ukraine was for far-right terrorism what Afghanistan was for the jihadist.
He was referring to the unstoppable rise of the extreme right in the EU. At the political level, it has gone from being a quasi-residual force to forming coalition governments. The sanitary cordon finished breaking with the arrival of Meloni in Italy. What has been the turning point in this change and in this normalization of the extreme right in Europe?
Hungary and Poland have seats on the Council and commissioners on the Commission. It is interesting to see the reaction of the EU when the FPÖ ultras entered the Austrian government for the first time. There were reprisals and diplomatic condemnations. In 2017, when they re-enter the Executive, nobody says anything. They are two identical cases 15 years apart. I believe that there is an evident normalization and that the extreme right is increasingly functional for the model and the structure of the EU. They have no criticism of austerity and neoliberal policies or a difference with geostrategic and military policies. Poland before the war was plagued and now we see the joint photographs and thanks for hosting Ukrainian refugees. We are facing hypocrisy where there is no cordon sanitaire with the extreme right. There are only artifice games that have more to do with electoral games than with a democratic and anti-fascist conscience. The European project cares more if you are a neoliberal than if you are a democrat. And there you have the example of Meloni.
We are living in difficult times: record inflation, the energy crisis, political polarization, fatigue after years of pandemic, the war in Ukraine… A breeding ground for the rise of populism. The European elections will be in May 2024. How do you anticipate them? What role does the EPP play here, whose weakening has forced it to approach postulates closer to the extreme right?
In the last European elections, the extreme right was the most voted option in France, Italy, Poland and Hungary. In Hungary the first force was the Fidesz and the second the Jobbik, a neo-Nazi party. The problem was already real. If today the far-right MEPs were unified into a single group, they would be the second most important family in the European Parliament, ahead of the Social Democrats. Their internal divisions have made it easier for them to be divided into three groups (Not registered, ID and ECR). There is an attempt to join. If that happened, in the 2024 elections they would achieve two things: being the second group in Parliament and having the capacity of a blocking minority. They could block or condition the majority of votes in Parliament.
Along with the popular, the liberals and the social democrats themselves are also succumbing to this turn on many issues and votes. The immigration policy that the Government of Spain is applying is not different from the policy applied by the extreme right. To justify the murders in Melilla, the Spanish government has spoken of an invasion. This rhetoric is what the extreme right uses to stigmatize the migrant population. It is profoundly xenophobic and is the breeding ground for the extreme right. In the debate in Melilla, Vox MEP Hermann Tertsch celebrated that they were doing what Vox had been asking for a long time. And he was right. If we want to fight the extreme right, we must fight its xenophobic policies and neoliberal policies. But the great coalition that governs Europe has given up on everything.
We will see how this Asylum and Migration Pact materializes.
The problem is that the Asylum Pact tries to normalize the malpractice that have been applied up to now. And it is very serious because what he is looking for now is to constitutionalize. The Australian border management model used to be taboo and now it is what is going to be consolidated with the new migration pact. That is the victory of the far right in EU policies. The fortress europe it is the necropolitics of the extreme right.
Earlier you mentioned the war in Ukraine. Putin wanted to take kyiv in days, overthrow the Ukrainian government and put in one imposed by Moscow. The left is often accused of defending the invader more than the invaded. Do you have a speech problem or dilemma in this war? Do you think Ukraine should defend itself with the weapons sent by NATO or should it take over the Russian occupation?
The left has had different positions on the Ukrainian issue. The bench of La Izquierda does not vote much less unified on it. At Anticapitalistas we condemn Putin’s invasion outright. And we defend the right of peoples, including the Ukrainian one, to defend their territorial integrity.
The EU should have played a mediating and pacifying role. We have never sought a political solution to the conflict. The problem with his position is that he has not defended Ukraine’s right to self-determination or defense, but his own imperialist interests. The interests of the EU do not go through the interests of the Ukrainian people. And that is explained very clearly: does the EU send arms to the Polisario Front to defend their right to exist as a people and their self-determination in the occupation of Morocco? No, support the occupier. It has other types of geopolitical or geostrategic interests that have nothing to do with respecting International Law or the self-determination of peoples. We can also see it in Palestine or Yemen.
“Ukraine has become an excuse for EU and NATO remilitarization projects”
We can say that we are facing an inter-imperialist conflict where a lot is at stake: the possibility of a Third World War. And before that, we antimilitarists have a role to play. And we believe that it happens by not inciting the conflict with the shipment of arms. Ukraine has become an excuse for EU and NATO remilitarization projects. In 2019 Macron spoke of NATO as brain dead and now NATO is experiencing its best moment in history. I had never dreamed of the entry of countries like Sweden and Finland.
We have seen this week the dissolution of Congress by Pedro Castillo in Peru. Has it surprised you?
It hasn’t surprised me. We have seen a harassment and demolition of the oligarchy and the Peruvian extreme right before everything that is not them and is popular. Pedro Castillo is not a person of my special affection or political closeness, but he represented that peasant, rural, indigenous Peru, which annoys the Peruvian oligarchy and extreme right. They could not consent to him being the president. His response has been desperate.
Would a campaign of harassment and demolition justify a self-coup against democratic institutions?
It doesn’t justify it at all. It is necessary to see what has happened in Peru because there are many chiaroscuros on the subject of the self-coup. Nothing can justify a coup in Peru or in any country. But I’m not going to condemn something until I know what happened. In a coup there are soldiers on the streets, Police in the institutions, we saw it in Bolivia.
Lastly, and on a national level, what do you think of Yolanda Díaz’s Sumar project? Will you support it? Will the Spanish left concur in a united way in the next elections?
To have an opinion, the project would have to be finalized. There is no content or proposals in Sumar. They say they want to do a country project, where is it? They have told us that they want to make a country project like Felipe González’s. It’s not mine. We are clear about the opposition to coalition government, minority, in any way and at any price with the PSOE, which in the end forces you to assume its social-liberal policies, its immigration policy with Melilla and foreign policy with Morocco. We understand that Sumar is not making a self-criticism before this minority coalition government and subordination to the PSOE, but it seems that his project is subordination to the Socialist Party. If that is so, it is not our project.