Australian senator joins neo-nazi anti-African rally

This 2 May 2018 Australian TV video says about itself:

The foreign fighters in Ukraine who Australia’s laws won’t stop [because the Ukrainian far-right paramilitarists are sanctioned by the Ukrainian government]

When Australian former (?) Neo-Nazi and registered gun owner Ethan Tilling flew into Brisbane this year, he was returning under the radar of Australian authorities with newfound combat experience from a brutal and forgotten war. Read more here.

By Patrick O’Connor in Australia:

Australian senator participates in neo-Nazi rally

7 January 2019

After heavy promotion in the media, a neo-Nazi rally in Melbourne on Saturday gathered fewer than 150 fascists at St Kilda beach and failed in its aim of fomenting a pogrom against young people of African background. The most politically significant aspect of the rally was the presence of federal Senator Fraser Anning who openly solidarised himself with the white supremacist racism of the neo-Nazis.

The rally was organised amid an ongoing, racist campaign by the media and political establishment over so-called “African gangs” in Melbourne. Whether an incident of theft and assault is reported as news or not now depends on the colour of the alleged perpetrator’s skin. If black, then the spectre of “African gangs” is immediately invoked. The press previously promoted the threat purportedly posed by the so-called “Apex gang”, even after the police admitted no such group existed. In the last month, a new alleged gang, comprising children aged between 14 and 17 and labelled “Blood Drill Killers”, has led to further lurid headlines.

Several openly fascist groups, led by the United Patriots Front, sought to capitalise on the media-stoked xenophobia by organising an event to “take back” St Kilda beach. United Patriots Front leader Blair Cottrell, a convicted criminal and admirer of Adolph Hitler, organised the provocation in a Melbourne suburb that has a large Jewish population. Just days earlier, neo-Nazis stuck swastikas on a nearby aged-care home. Fascist supporters openly discussed in online forums their hope to recreate the violence seen in Cronulla, Sydney in 2005, when Muslim beach-goers were attacked by a racist mob incited and encouraged by media shock jocks.

Senator Fraser Anning promoted the rally last week through several racist posts on Twitter. The day before the event, he posted a digitally altered image featuring black men with knives alongside a burning Australian flag, with a statement labelling “black Africans” as “grubs” who “hunt in packs like stalking jackals.”

Anning appeared alongside Cottrell during the rally. Several of those in attendance were recorded giving the fascist salute, while one appeared wearing an SS helmet.

A massive deployment of police was ordered by the Victorian Labor Party government to prevent a confrontation between the neo-Nazis and a far larger counter-demonstration organised by anti-racist groups.

Anning later denied that the event was a “racist rally” and falsely declared that the only Nazi salutes were given by the counter-protestors. The Queensland senator described the fascists as “decent Australian people”. Anning also defended claiming parliamentary subsidies for his return business class flight from Brisbane to Melbourne to attend the rally, declaring it was “official business”.

Anning was elected to parliament in 2016 as a member of the extreme-right One Nation Party, only to subsequently defect to the Katter Australia Party. He now sits as an independent, following the furore over his parliamentary maiden speech last August, in which he called for a return to a “White Australia” immigration policy. Combining ferocious anti-communism with anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim demagogy, Anning demanded a “final solution to the immigration problem.”

Anning’s attendance at the rally has provoked an outpouring of utterly hypocritical criticism in the media and by mainstream political figures. The chief responsibility for Anning’s presence in the parliament, and the emergence of fascist groupings like the United Patriots Front, lies with the entire Australian political establishment. For decades, successive Liberal-National Coalition and Labor governments have stoked paranoia over refugees attempting to enter the country. Since 2001 and the launch of the “war on terror”, the Muslim community has been vilified and persecuted as potential terrorists to justify Australian involvement in the invasions and occupations of Afghanistan and Iraq, and the US-led intervention in Syria.

Since 2016, under conditions in which Australia is fully aligned with the US military build-up in Asia and preparations for war with China, a new campaign has developed alleging that Australians of Chinese background are potentially a dangerous fifth column for the Chinese regime.

In every instance, the scapegoating is intended to divert mounting social tensions into reactionary nationalist channels and protect the interests of the corporate elite. Amid a worsening economic and political crisis, its purpose is to promote division and backwardness and cut across the development of unified working-class resistance to deepening social inequality and hardship.

Twelve months ago, in an open pitch to a narrow extreme right wing constituency, then Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull denounced “African gang crime,” alleging that it was responsible for “growing lawlessness” in Victoria. Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton followed with the claim that people in Melbourne were “scared” to go out to dinner because of “these gangs”. The federal Labor opposition joined in by criticising the government for not handing over more money to the Australian Federal Police.

The state Victorian Labor government of Premier Daniel Andrews responded by boasting of its “law and order” credentials, including locking up children in adult high security prisons, increasing mandatory jail terms for various offences, and increasing police spending by an unprecedented $2 billion, expanding the number of officers by 20 percent.

The entire media, from the Murdoch press to the state-owned Australian Broadcasting Corporation, has given prominent coverage to so-called African crime on the one hand, and has increasingly promoted various right wing and openly fascist formations on the other.

In January last year, Channel 7 News featured a segment describing Blair Cottrell and other fascists as “patriots”, and promoting their attempt to create violent vigilante groups as “a kind of neighbourhood watch.” The ABC reported a December 28 provocation staged on St Kilda beach by fascist Neil Erikson—who aggressively video-recorded a group of black youth peacefully playing soccer—as a “clash” between “activists” and “youths of African appearance.”

The Australian ruling class, steeped in colonial genocide and white nationalism, has a long record of promoting racist divide-and-rule policies. However, the emergence and promotion of neo-Nazi tendencies now reflects international processes.

Fascist movements in Europe and other regions have emerged due to high-level sponsorship from within the state apparatus. In Germany, for example, the neo-Nazis in the Alternative fur Deutschland (AfD) were designated the official opposition party in the Reichstag despite winning just 12 percent of the vote. The German fascists also benefitted from support from the media, academia, and within the security apparatus, including the secret service. In Italy, the ultra-right Lega party has been brought directly into the government.

The small attendance at Saturday’s racist rally in Melbourne—despite the wide media coverage beforehand—underscores the absence of a mass constituency in Australia for fascism. The involvement of Senator Fraser Anning, however, must be taken by the working class as a serious warning. Extreme right-wing forces now enjoy open support from within the federal parliament. There is no reason to doubt that, just as in Europe, they have sympathisers within the state apparatus, including the military, the police and intelligence apparatus.

The New Year statement published by the WSWS on January 3, “The Strategy of International Class Struggle and the Political Fight Against Capitalist Reaction in 2019”, explained: “Fascism is not yet, as it was in the 1930s, a mass movement. But to ignore the growing danger would be politically irresponsible. With the support of sections of the ruling class and the state, right-wing movements have been able to exploit demagogically the frustration and anger felt by the broad mass of the population.”

The statement continued: “In this situation, the fight against the resurgence of extreme right-wing and fascistic movements is an urgent political task. All historical experience—and, in particular, the events of the 1930s—demonstrates that the fight against fascism can be developed only on the basis of the independent mobilisation of the working class against capitalism.”


Neo-nazi paramilitary gang in Amberg, Germany

This 4 January 2019 German video, by the (right-wing) Bildzeitung daily, is about the NPD neo-nazi paramilitary gang in Amberg town.

From daily The Independent in Britain, 4 January 2018:

Far-right vigilante groups have reportedly started patrolling the streets of a German town …

So-called “neighbourhood defence groups”, sent by the neo-Nazi National Democratic Party (NPD), had been seen patrolling in yellow vests in Amberg, the town’s mayor told local newspaper Mittelbayerische Zeitung.

The Independent claims ‘in yellow vests’. However, the Bild video shows that the nazi paramilitary men in fact wore black and pink vests. This is confounding the international anti-austerity yellow vest movement, including many people of colour, eg, in Paris, in the French colony Réunion, in Iraq, and among demonstrators against the dictatorship in Sudan, with racist nazis.

This tweet shows demonstrating anti-dictatorship Sudanese wearing yellow vests.

Yellow Vests movement in Haiti: here.

French Yellow vests spokeswoman Priscillia Ludosky

This photo shows French Priscillia Ludosky, often interviwede as Yellow Vests spokeswoman.

By Marianne Arens and Peter Schwarz in Germany:

Scuffles in German city of Amberg exploited to incite right-wing campaign

5 January 2019

The neo-Nazis are supported by large sections of the state apparatus and are being deliberately strengthened and encouraged”, states the foreword of the book Why Are They Back? by Christoph Vandreier, deputy leader of the Sozialistische Gleichheitspartei, which was published last year in German by Mehring Verlag. Anyone who doubts this assessment should look at the reaction to the alleged excessive outbursts of violence by asylum seekers in the town of Amberg.

In the town, located in eastern Bavaria, four drunk teenagers between the ages of 17 and 19 allegedly attacked and beat passers-by. Twelve people reportedly suffered light injuries as a result, including a 17-year-old who received brief treatment in hospital due to a head wound.

Drunken teenagers getting into fights, and attacking bystanders is a regular occurrence in Germany and usually doesn’t even merit a mention in the local press. “The reaction is totally overblown”, Amberg mayor Michael Cerny, a [conservative] Christian Social Union politician, was compelled to admit to Spiegel Online. Due to the fact that asylum seekers were involved in the case, it was massively exaggerated by the national media.

Although the specifics of what took place remain unclear, politicians from Bavaria and Berlin have been lining up to outdo each other with proposals for more restrictive asylum laws. Federal Interior Minister Horst Seehofer (CSU) demanded, “When asylum seekers commit violent crimes, they must leave our country! If existing laws don’t allow for this, they must be changed.”

State secretary Stefan Mayer (CSU) called for the stricter isolation of rejected asylum seekers who could not be immediately deported, and raised the possibility of using residency requirements, and forcing asylum seekers to report regularly to the authorities, or wear electronic tags.

Although Bavaria’s Interior Minister Joachim Hermann (CSU) was forced to acknowledge that deportation was not legally possible in any of the Amberg cases, he insisted, “We are pulling out all the stops to change that.”

The ever-present police ideologist Rainer Wendt also spoke out, accusing the youths, whom he doesn’t know and has never met, of harboring “a deep hatred for our state and the people who live here.”

As was to be expected, this reaction has encouraged neo-Nazis to come to the fore. The right-wing extremist Nationaldemokratische Partei (NPD) called for the establishment of a citizens’ army in Amberg and published pictures with the demand on Facebook. The pictures show NPD supporters wearing high-visibility vests with the slogan, “We create safe spaces”, while patrolling through the streets.

Thus far, virtually nothing is known about what occurred on the evening in question in Amberg. Almost all of the reports stem from one and the same source, a press report from the Bavarian police presidium. This extremely vague report is based on statements from a train passenger at Amberg station, who phoned the police after allegedly being attacked by one of the suspects.

The report continued, “At the scene of the operation, it was revealed that attacks took place on passers-by inside and in front of the train station.” The police then arrested four young men as suspects at 9 p.m. The report continued, “In the course of a thorough investigation, it emerged that, contrary to initial reports, three other people reported being injured.”

The report is full of vague sentences, including phrases like “it was revealed” and “it emerged that.” Inexplicably, the initial reference is to a single suspect, but later the talk is of “four young male suspects,” including drunken “Afghan, Syrian, and Iranian citizens.” Subsequent reports merely speak of “persons from Afghanistan and Iran.”

The online edition of Focus magazine reported that it had been able to contact the train passenger who phoned the police. The magazine introduced him as Marco Steck, a landscape gardener and occasional security guard. Focus described the 26-year-old as “powerfully built and stocky like a wrestler […] Anyone who sees Marco Steck standing on the platform in Amberg would find it hard to believe that someone would want to pick a fight with him.”

His friends were also allowed to speak, even though none of them witnessed the incident. A soldier named Marcel said he was sitting “just around the corner in a pub”, and expressed regret at not being on the scene at the right moment.

The question is posed: are those the only witnesses to the case? Soldiers who weren’t even present, and a young man working part-time as a security guard? Is it conceivable that the young men were not only drunk, but also provoked? Given the reports of right-wing extremist networks among soldiers and the police, such a hypothesis is by no means far-fetched.

It is certainly not a case of a sensational “orgy of violence”, as Die Welt, Focus, and Münchner Merkur are now writing. Several hundred police operations took place in the same district during the days around New Year’s Eve. In one case, a 37-year-old German citizen inflicted life-threatening injuries on two Bulgarians with a knife. It is not hard to imagine what would have happened if the perpetrator had been an asylum seeker.

Shortly after the scuffles in Amberg, a 50-year-old man deliberately drove his vehicle into pedestrians in the cities of Bottrop and Essen. When he was arrested by the police, the man said he wanted to kill foreigners. Eight people, including a 4-year-old boy and a 10-year-old girl, were injured, with one woman suffering serious injuries.

Even though this was no mere scuffle, but attempted murder, both cases have only been referred to in passing. Interior Minister Seehofer told the Bild newspaper that it was a matter of “political credibility to deal with both cases thoroughly and firmly.” However, he made no reference to “excessive violence” with regard to the events in Bottrop and Essen.

Like the events in Cologne on New Year’s Eve three years ago, which were also hugely exaggerated, the campaign over Amberg serves to strengthen extreme right-wing forces and establish a police state, which is directed not merely against refugees, but the entire working class.

The social divisions in society are becoming ever deeper and the ruling elite is preparing for new wars. The federal government’s coalition agreement calls for an increase in defence spending to 2 percent of GDP, which amounts to some €70 billion. The ruling elite can only suppress the mounting opposition to social inequality and militarism by resorting to violent means. That is why they are strengthening the far-right and the repressive state apparatus.

Novel on nazi Germany published

Polish Jewish deportees expelled from Germany on October 27-28, 1938, in Zbąszyń © Yad Vashem Photo Archives

By Clara Weiss in Germany:

“Life is forbidden to us … do you want to comply with that?”: The rediscovery of Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz’s The Traveler in Germany

Der Reisende, by Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, edited by Peter Grad. Klett-Cotta 2018. 303 pages. All translations from the German are by the reviewer.

In early 2018, the German publisher Klett-Cotta released, for the first time in the original German, The Traveler (Der Reisende), by the writer Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz (1915-1942), who was driven into exile by the Hitler regime.

The novel was written over the course of a few weeks in November 1938. It is a remarkable literary work treating the situation in Nazi Germany in the wake of the so-called Kristallnacht (The Night of the Broken Glass), the murderous anti-Semitic pogrom of November 9-10, 1938. The book resonates powerfully today amid a global refugee crisis and resurgence of far-right forces.

The protagonist of The Traveler is Otto Silbermann, a German-Jewish businessman who fought in World War I. Like an entire layer of German Jews who had been thoroughly assimilated culturally and formed part of the country’s middle or upper class, Silbermann identifies entirely as a German. His existence is shattered by Kristallnacht.

The two-week period October 27 to November 9-10 marked a watershed in the escalation of Nazi anti-Jewish policies. On October 27-29, the Nazis undertook the first mass deportation of Jews from Germany. Some 17,000 Jews with Polish citizenship were rounded up by the authorities and sent to Poland where the right-wing Sanacja (Sanation, or act of healing) regime denied them entry. Thousands remained stranded in the border town of Zbąszyń until the late summer of 1939.

The parents of Herschel Grynszpan were among the deported. Driven to despair, Grynszpan shot and killed [a German diplomat] in Paris. The assassination served the Nazis as pretext for a long-planned, state-organized pogrom in the German Reich, which by now also encompassed recently annexed Austria. About 1,500 people were murdered on Kristallnacht, countless businesses and apartments smashed up, 1,400 synagogues destroyed and some 30,000 Jewish men incarcerated in concentration camps.

A destroyed synagogue in Berlin after the pogrom of November 9-10, 1938, © Yad Vashem Photo Archives

Both the deportation, known as the “Polenaktion” (Polish Action), and the subsequent pogrom were widely reported in the international press. Bourgeois governments across Europe and internationally responded by drastically tightening their immigration policies, largely blocking entry to political refugees and Jews fleeing Germany. Hundreds of thousands of Jews thus remained trapped in Nazi Germany.

Otto Silbermann, the protagonist in The Traveler, is one of them. Following Kristallnacht, he is forced to leave his business behind. He hands over the bulk of his shares to his former partner, a member of the Nazi party, whom he had hitherto considered a friend and who now shamelessly uses the opportunity to cheat Silbermann out of the business he had built. His apartment is destroyed during the pogrom and his wife, who is not Jewish, goes to stay with her brother who refuses to take in Silbermann for fear of being “compromised.” Most of his friends and relatives are in concentration camps. His son, Eduard, studies in Paris and tries to get visas for his parents, but to no avail.

Cover of the German edition of Der Reisende

Silbermann reflects: “It is strange…Ten minutes ago my house, a part of my fortune were at stake. Now my bones are at stake. How fast it goes. War has just been declared on me, on me personally. This is it. A moment ago war was really declared on me, conclusively, and now I am alone, on enemy territory.” With the remains of his fortune stuffed in a briefcase, Silbermann takes train after train across Germany, desperately trying to find a way to cross the frontier.

Silbermann has lost all his rights as a citizen and feels powerless, as the entire state machinery is being deployed in order to crush him. He is, as he puts it in one scene, “vogelfrei”, outlawed, and at the mercy of the arbitrary violence and treachery of anyone he meets. He is haunted by the fear that a fellow passenger will discover he is Jewish and betray him to the police. Finally, Silbermann attempts to cross the Belgian border, but he is captured by Belgian border guards who want to send him back. Silbermann protests:

“But I am a refugee – I am a Jew. They wanted to arrest me. They will incarcerate me in a concentration camp.”

“We cannot let you through. Come on!” …

“I am staying here! You do not have the right, you cannot do this! I am in a free country, after all!”

“You have crossed the border illegally.”

“But I had to. I was persecuted.”

“Not everyone can come to Belgium!”

“But I have papers. I have money … It is not my fault that I had to cross the border illegally. I am being persecuted.”

“That is not Belgium’s fault. We are sorry …”

“I cannot go back. It’s impossible.”

“Mais oui, mon ami, it is very well possible.”

Silbermann is sent back and again takes train after train in Germany.

Boschwitz, who was just 23 years old when he wrote the novel, describes the climate and portrays the moods in Nazi Germany with such admirable clarity, seriousness and psychological acumen that the book’s underlying anger emerges all the more forcefully.

Many scenes, especially those depicting Silbermann’s interactions with his fellow train passengers, are informed by an acute awareness of class and political tensions in Nazi Germany.

We meet a wide variety of characters—a Jewish artisan who like Silbermann is trying to escape, but is unable to finance his flight; a young woman who can’t marry because she and her fiancé don’t have enough money and can’t take out a loan—he was just released from a concentration camp; convinced Nazis and shameless opportunists who exploit the situation to enrich and advance themselves on the basis of the misery and over the bodies of the persecuted; and others who are casually indifferent to the fate of the Jews. It is a society in which the fear of denunciation and the concentration camp is omnipresent. Everyone expects a new war. The atmosphere is unrelievedly tense and cold.

The Traveler gives an inkling of what a major novel of Nazi society, a Gesellschaftsroman [social novel], might have looked like. There is no comprehensive artistic picture of German life during Nazi rule comparable to that provided by the major novels written under the Empire or the Weimar Republic. Literary documents from the period in general are understandably rare.

From the point of view of its character as literary testimony, The Traveler has been legitimately compared to the diaries of Victor Klemperer (published for the first time in the 1990s), a German-Jewish linguist who survived in Nazi Germany with the help of his non-Jewish wife and who meticulously documented his everyday experiences.

Boschwitz’s own short life tragically reflected the fate of the refugees he was describing in his novel. Born in 1915 to an affluent family, he was one of the many German Jews who felt no connection to Judaism or Jewish culture until they were branded and persecuted by the Nazi regime. He never met his father, who was German-Jewish but had converted to Catholicism and died in World War in 1916. His mother, from a prominent Protestant family in Lübeck, raised him and his sister in the latter faith.

Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, © Leo Baeck Institute

Following the Nazis’ rise to power, his sister became a Zionist and left for Palestine. Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz and his mother stayed in Germany until 1935. They first fled to Scandinavia, where the young man had his first novel Menschen neben dem Leben (People Next to Life) published in Swedish under the pen name John Grane. The success of the book made it possible for him to study two semesters at the Sorbonne in Paris.

Boschwitz wrote The Traveler, his second novel, in Brussels in only four weeks following the November 9-10 pogrom. By the beginning of the Second World War, on September 1, 1939, he and his mother had emigrated to Britain. Here they were arrested on June 9, 1940 and held at the notorious Isle of Man internment camp, as were thousands of German Jewish refugees.

While his mother remained at the camp, Boschwitz was deported within two weeks by the British government as a potential enemy agent and subjected to the notorious 57-day voyage to Australia of the HMT Dunera. The conditions on the vessel were calamitous. With some 2,500 refugees—mostly anti-Nazi Jewish refugees—on board, the ship was horribly overcrowded and the British guards robbed and abused the passengers. One of Boschwitz’s manuscripts, Das grosse Fressen (The Great Guzzling), was apparently lost to this pillaging. Boschwitz then spent some two years in Australian internment camps. He was released in 1942 along with other prisoners who declared their readiness to fight in the British army.

Along with almost 400 passengers, he embarked on the MV Abosso back to England. It was torpedoed on October 29, 1942 by a German U-boat. Ulrich Alexander Boschwitz, aged just 27, was among the 362 passengers who were killed. It is believed that a second version of The Traveler, which he considered his best work, as well as the manuscript for another novel, sank with him.

The Traveler has been published before but never in German. It was first published in English as The Man Who Took Trains in Great Britain in 1939 and as The Fugitive in the US in 1940. In the 1940s, a French-language version (Le fugitif) was also published. All the translated versions are credited to John Grane.

German publishers rejected the novel twice. In the 1950s, the renowned Fischer Verlag rejected it. In the 1960s, German novelist Heinrich Böll, then one of the most influential writers and public intellectuals in West Germany, tried to have it released by Middelhauve Verlag, but that firm too rejected it. (Raoul Hilberg’s monumental history of the Destruction of European Jewry, written in the US in the late 1940s and early 1950s, met with a similar fate at the hands of German publishers in the 1950s and 1960s).

That this extraordinary novel has been rediscovered and published in German after some eight decades is largely due to the efforts of editor and publisher Peter Graf. One of Boschwitz’s relatives living in Israel approached Graf after reading about his efforts to reissue the novel Blutsbrüder by Ernst Haffner (published as Blood Brothers in English in 2015). That novel, about two homeless youth in the Berlin of the early 1930s, became an immediate bestseller in Germany after its republication and is now considered one of the great novels of the Weimar Republic era. Graf carefully worked on the first German publication of The Traveler, based on correspondence and other documents by Boschwitz that belong to the collection at the Leo Baeck Institute in New York.

The novel has met with great success in Germany, obviously having struck a deep chord. It was reviewed by all the major newspapers, and numerous readings in German cities and towns have been organized. The German publication of Boschwitz’s first novel is planned for 2019. A new French translation of The Traveler is also being prepared. One hopes that The Traveler will be published in many other languages as well. Though written 80 years ago, it is not just a remarkable literary document about the Nazi period, but speaks immediately to the major political and historical questions of our time.

Neo-nazism in Ukraine

This 28 February 2014 video says about itself:

Neo-Nazi threat in new Ukraine: NEWSNIGHT

BBC Newsnight’s Gabriel Gatehouse investigates the links between the new Ukrainian government and Neo-nazis

From Jewish daily Forward in the USA:

Why Does No One Care That Neo-Nazis Are Gaining Power In Ukraine?

Michael Colborne

December 31, 2018

I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told Ukraine doesn’t really have a problem with its far-right. It’s all Kremlin propaganda; you’re personally helping Putin by talking about it; other countries have far-right problems too, so why single out Ukraine? I’ve heard it all.

But I expect hear even more lines like this in the New Year, all because I’m going to point out the obvious: Ukraine really does have a far-right problem, and it’s not a fiction of Kremlin propaganda. And it’s well past time to talk about it.

Ukraine’s far-right is like a hydra, with ugly heads that pop up far too frequently. Just within the last few weeks, an American-born cabinet minister thanked a group of violent neo-Nazi “activists” for their services, a soldier was photographed wearing a Nazi death’s head patch right behind President Petro Poroshenko and almost 1,500 neo-Nazis and friends threw a two-day Hitler-salute-fest.

Violent far-right groups have been around in Ukraine for years, albeit in marginal numbers. But over the last year they’ve grown not just in significance but in aggressiveness.

I know because I’ve been on the receiving end myself.

At a march in November to commemorate people who’ve fallen victim to transphobic violence, I watched as a march of barely 50 participants was shut down by some 200 far-right extremists. I felt their wrath myself as two of them assaulted me in separate incidents afterwards.

I’m far from the first person who’s fallen victim to Ukrainian far-right groups, nor anywhere near the most serious. Their members have attacked Roma camps multiple times, even killing a Roma man earlier this year. They’ve stormed local city council meetings to intimidate elected officials. They’ve marched by the thousands through the streets to commemorate WWII-era nationalist formations who took part in ethnic cleansing. They’ve acted as vigilantes with little to no negative reaction from state authorities.

Members of Ukraine’s far-right also offer themselves up as thugs for hire – sometimes with deadly consequences. This summer, anti-corruption activist Kateryna Handziuk was the victim of a horrifying acid attack. In July, several extremists – who apparently were paid by corrupt local police to carry out the attack – doused her with sulfuric acid, burning her over 40 percent of her body. She died from her injuries in November.

Ukraine’s notorious Azov movement keeps growing. Since it was created in 2014 to fight Russian-led forces in the east, it made news by accepting openly neo-Nazi members into its ranks. Now the Azov Battalion has become an official Ukrainian National Guard regiment. In 2016 the group formed a political party, which, they claim, now has tens of thousands of members. Earlier this year they unveiled a paramilitary force that doubles as a street gang.

Even as their party polls barely a percent, Azov is trying – as one of their higher-ups has told me personally – to build a far-right “state within the state”, running everything from nationalist study groups and mixed martial arts training to free gyms for youth and programs for the elderly. They’re also trying to turn Kiev into a capital of the global far-right, inviting neo-Nazis and white supremacists from around the world to visit.

Whatever group they’re part of, Ukraine’s far-right is increasingly nonchalant about the use of violence. When I was covering the march in Kiev on November 18, one of them walked up to me and sprayed me with a quart-sized bottle of pepper spray. Another then sucker-punched me in the face just yards away from onlooking police – hard enough to smash my glasses and cut me up.

Yes, I’m still mad about what happened to me. But I’m even more mad about a peaceful assembly of barely fifty people being cancelled because some violent hooligans decided it should be.

And what makes me angriest of all is that many prominent people in Ukraine and beyond that keep wanting to tell you that the far-right isn’t that big a problem.

But it’s time to talk about why extremists in this country are able to attack people in broad daylight as police stand by. It’s time to talk about why some of them are receiving state funds and taking part in official police patrols in some cities. It’s time to talk about why a group that denies it has neo-Nazi leanings can help host a two-day neo-Nazi music festival with barely a peep from anyone. It’s time to talk about why Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, up for re-election in March, is happy to flirt with hardline nationalist rhetoric and hasn’t bothered to condemn incidents like last month’s attack on a peaceful protest.

It’s time to talk about why so many mainstream figures in Ukraine and abroad don’t seem too bothered by any of this. Yes, every country has its extremists, but not every country has public figures that (repeatedly) defend the actions of violent vigilante groups like the notorious C14

In the C14 name, the C alludes to C18, the (originally English, later international) neonazi terror gang Combat 18. In which 18, the first and eighth letters in the alphabet, stands for ‘AH’=Adolf Hitler. The 14 in the C14 name stands for the ’14 words’, a racist neonazi slogan.

or, like Ukraine’s American-born health minister Ulana Suprun, sully a (deserved) positive reputation by hobnobbing for photos with the group’s leaders on social media).

And no, I haven’t forgotten that Ukraine is still mired in a Russian-orchestrated war on part of its territory, and that Moscow likes to use Ukrainian nationalists in its propaganda – part of its longstanding practice of painting all Ukrainians, nationalists or not, as “Nazis” (not true), or as supporters of Nazi-era collaborationist movements that were active in some parts of Ukraine (also not true). …

That’s why I know what I’m going to hear next. I’ll probably be told that I’m part of Putin’s hybrid war (really?), that I work for the Kremlin (um, no), or that I’m doing the Kremlin’s work (also no). But I didn’t invent Ukraine’s far-right, and I certainly haven’t helped them gain the prominence they’ve got heading in 2019.

The problem is real. It’s time for Ukraine to talk about it and take it on.

Michael Colborne is a Canadian journalist who covers central and eastern Europe and is writing a series of articles about Ukraine’s far-right. He tweets at @ColborneMichael.

Anti-refugee massacre attempt in Germany

This 1 January 2019 German language video says about itself (translated):

Motorist (50) runs over people in Bottrop: Apparently xenophobic background

Read more here.

Translated from Dutch NOS TV today:

Car runs over people in Germany, police suspects xenophobia

In the center of the German town Bottrop last night a car ran over a group of people. Four people were injured, one seriously.

The police suspect that the German driver especially targeted foreigners. According to the police, a number of victims are from Syria and Afghanistan.

After the collision at Berliner Platz, a square in the center of the city, the 50-year-old motorist fled. Eventually the police could arrest him in Essen, more than 10 kilometers away. There too he is said to have tried to run over people at a bus stop.

The police assume that the man acted premeditatedly. According to the police, the 50-year-old driver screamed xenophobic language during his arrest.

Pittsburgh synagogue massacre and Donald Trump, by Noam Chomsky

This 31 December 2018 video from the USA says about itself:

Noam Chomsky on Pittsburgh Attack: Revival of Hate Is Encouraged by Trump’s Rhetoric

On October 27th, a gunman stormed the Tree of Life synagogue in Pittsburgh, killing 11 Jewish worshipers. The massacre has been described as the worst anti-Semitic attack in U.S. history. After the shooting, we spoke with Noam Chomsky, the world-renowned professor, linguist and dissident, about Pittsburgh, Israel’s policies toward Gaza and other recent white supremacist and right-wing attacks in the U.S.