Theater of Cruelty

When conservatism becomes radicalized

Radicalisierter Konservatismus
Forfatter: Natascha Strobl
Forlag: Suhrkamp (Tyskland)


I Radicalisierter Konservatismus ("radicalized conservatism") by the Austrian political scientist and journalist Natascha Strobl, we get a well-written analysis of how conservatism can become radicalized. Last year, the book was awarded the prestigious Austrian Bruno Kreisky Prize for political book of the year.

The content of the book is characterized by Austria's right-wing corrupt government, with then Prime Minister Sebastian Short (ÖVP) and then Vice-Chancellor and party leader Heinz-Christian street (FPÖ).

The Ibiza affair from 2017 is a scandal in Austrian politics originating in events on Ibiza ahead of the election that year: In the recording from the party island, Strache offers government contacts to a foreign woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch. The recording is a trap, made by unknown persons. The conversation between Strache and the woman concerns, among other things, hidden election campaign donations to the FPÖ, the takeover of the Kronen Zeitung newspaper and changes to the Austrian media system in the direction of the wishes of Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orbán.

As a result of the recording, Strache was last year sentenced to a 15-month suspended prison sentence for corruption. After much pressure, Kurz withdrew from politics altogether in the wake of the verdict.

The outer right-wing forces

Parallel to this political freak show in Austria, there are two other political clowns performing on the international stage, namely Donald Trump in the USA and Boris Johnson in the UK. Fortunately, none of them are in power anymore. But this year we are experiencing yet another radicalized, anti-democratic clown on the international stage, namely Vladimir Putin. His behavior has unfortunately cost many lives and affected an entire world.

It does not matter whether men like Kurz, Trump, Johnson or Putin are deeply rooted in ideological convictions or not. Their conservative parties work with the far right forces anyway. This happens on a strategic, ideological and technical level. Radicalized conservatism is not an ideology in itself, but a dynamic within conservatism. It is a worldwide phenomenon, according to the book.

Radicalized forces

Strobl writes that "the ideologies that are significantly younger than conservatism, liberalism and socialism are fascism and National Socialism, which developed after the First World War. They are based on an anti-democratic, anti-socialist, anti-liberal, but not anti-revolutionary ideology. Central is a warlike and military worldview, where all areas of life are considered an arena for permanent struggle". This reminds me of Putin's war in Ukraine, which is unfolding before the eyes of the whole world. Ironically, Putin calls Ukrainians neo-Nazis, when it is he himself who acts like one.

"Central is a warlike and military worldview, where all areas of life are considered an arena for permanent struggle."

What is scary about radicalized conservatism is when the man in the street decides to open fire in public space, in a shopping center or in a pub. That's when we realize that something is terribly, terribly wrong. Radicalized forces can be deadly. Therefore, we must stop voting for them in elections.

Recently, the Austrian doctor Dr. Lisa-Maria Kellermayr was driven to suicide by a fascist mob, better known as corona deniers, because she vaccinated people against covid-19 and fought for preventive measures against the virus. In the streets of Vienna, the fascists demonstrated against corona restrictions every weekend during the pandemic. The majority of the corona deniers in Austria are radicalized conservatives who belong to right-wing political parties.

In Austria and other German-speaking countries, right-wing extremism and fascism are everywhere. In Norway, it appears every now and then, but does not permeate society in the same way.

Pinar Ciftci
Pinar Ciftci
Ciftci is a journalist and actor.

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