European Union

The Battle of Bern

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Today's New York Times goes front page and above the fold with a story on the Swiss People's Party (SVP) and its not-so-subtly racist campaign to boot out entire families of immigrants, provided one member has committed a crime in Switzerland. Rather than simply documenting the party's often deeply offensive campaign tactics, Times correspondent Elaine Sciolino attempts to account for SVP's growing popularity. Like in other European countries—many of whom have seen a precipitous increase in the popularity of populist, anti-immigration parties—Switzerland's mainstream parties seem to have all but ceded the sensitive issue of integration and assimilation to the SVP, who frequently rail against the disproportionate representation of immigrants in Swiss prisons:

The message of the party resonates loudly among voters who have seen this country of 7.5 million become a haven for foreigners, including political refugees from places like Kosovo and Rwanda. Polls indicate that the right-wing party is poised to win more seats than any other party in Parliament in the election, as it did in national elections in 2003, when its populist language gave it nearly 27 percent of the vote.

"Our political enemies think the poster is racist, but it just gives a simple message," Bruno Walliser, a local chimney sweep running for Parliament on the party ticket, said at the rally, held on a Schwerzenbach farm outside Zurich. "The black sheep is not any black sheep that doesn't fit into the family. It's the foreign criminal who doesn't belong here, the one that doesn't obey Swiss law. We don't want him."

More than 20 percent of Swiss inhabitants are foreign nationals, and the SVP argues that a disproportionate number are lawbreakers. Many drug dealers are foreign, and according to federal statistics, about 70 percent of the prison population is non-Swiss.

Sciolino observes that SVP has yet to launch a P.R. campaign like that of the French far-right, "where…National Front leader Jean-Marie Le Pen campaigned for president in the spring alongside black and ethnic Arab supporters, the SVP has taken a much cruder us-against-them approach." Perhaps, but Le Pen's P.R. campaign was inaugurated only after intense lobbying from his daughter, Marine. The party, alas, is still brimming with skinheads and crypto-fascists.

The Times
also watches an amazingly crude three-part campaign film produced by SVP (since withdrawn), which can be viewed here:

In a short three-part campaign film, "Heaven or Hell," the party's message is clear. In the first segment, young men inject heroin, steal handbags from women, kick and beat up schoolboys, wield knives and carry off a young woman. The second segment shows Muslims living in Switzerland—women in head scarves; men sitting, not working. The third segment shows "heavenly" Switzerland: men in suits rushing to work, logos of Switzerland's multinational corporations, harvesting on farms, experiments in laboratories, scenes of lakes, mountains, churches and goats. "The choice is clear: my home, our security," the film states.

In other Swiss news, a radical left group rioted at a SVP rally in Bern yesterday. The Guardian reports:

The Swiss capital of Berne was turned into a battle zone at the weekend when leftwing radicals seized control of the main square outside parliament, routing the main far-right political party two weeks before a general election and catching the Swiss police off guard. Dozens of protesters were arrested and around two dozen people injured, mostly police officers, as police deployed tear gas, water cannon, and rubber bullets to try to regain control from gangs of highly organised, masked people who turned the small and normally sleepy capital of Switzerland into a scene of devastation.

The Federal Square, site of a charming Saturday morning flower and vegetable market, resembled a war zone by Saturday night, littered with debris, masonry, shattered glass and torched metal.

Last month, I wrote about the rise of the SVP and European populism in general.

According to a recent poll in the Finnish daily Helsingin Sanomat, most Finns would welcome an increase in immigration to their country.

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  1. Whenever I become pessimistic about the state of American politics, along come the Europeans to remind me that things could be far, far worse.

  2. How could the Swiss, of all people, fear a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual society?

    And I agree with MikeP.

  3. Bruno Walliser, a local chimney sweep running for Parliament on the party ticket…

    Chimney sweep? As in Dick ‘What kind of fucking accent is that – Bert’ Van Dyke, chimney sweep? You’re kidding right? What does this do to the ‘Quaint village destroyed by tourism scourge’ theory?

  4. Good point, Thoreau.

  5. And AWAAY we go! Paging Dr. Chalupa, Paging Dr Chalupa.

  6. The Federal Square, site of a charming Saturday morning flower and vegetable market, resembled a war zone by Saturday night, littered with debris, masonry, shattered glass and torched metal.

    That oughta garner ’em some sympathy.

  7. Bergamot: I hear you. Europe has a reputation for progressive enlightenment, and the US one of regressive exploitation. Yet it is European nations that have regressive speech codes, ubiquitous video surveillance, rampant political corruption, overt racism, separatism, and culturalism. Their confiscatory taxation and welfarism cannot mask the fact that they have not yet emerged from the depths of mid 20th century fascism.

  8. Bruno Walliser, a local chimney sweep running for Parliament

    “O lonely urchin!” the widow cried
    “I’ve not been swept since the day my husband died.”
    Her cheeks a blushing, her legs laid bare
    And shipwrecked there I’ll shake you from your sleep

    To hear me weep
    “Your day will come indeed.
    For I am a poor and a wretched boy
    A chimbley chimbley sweep.
    For I am a poor and a wretched boy
    A chimbley chimbley sweep.”

  9. Most Europeans have a pretty significant cultural/ethnic identity. They don’t like too much or too fast encroachment on that identity, whether it is from America, Muslims, or another European ethnicity (think the Basques with Spain, or the Flemish/Wallonian split).

    They are usually bludgeoned by their “elites” to be oh-so-progressive, but after a while it gets to be too much and it swings back. Sometimes with pretty nasty results.

  10. I don’t go slumming but I wonder how long it will be before the Rockwellians have something posted on how the racists in Switzerland are being misunderstood and how immigration is “forced integration” and that everyone really only wants to live with their own kind. Of course this is “multculturalism” run amok, “poltiical correctness” and what’s so wrong about believing in the supremacy of your people anyway? But, for all I know, they’ve already posted something on the subject. And no doubt the good Herr Professor will rush off to Switzerland to explain to them how their racism is really anarchocapitalism at its best.

  11. How could the Swiss, of all people, fear a multi-ethnic, multi-lingual society?

    In many ways, Switzerland is a collection of uni-ethnic, uni-lingual societies? Fit in with your canton of choice.

    I lived and worked in Switzerland for a very short while in the early 90s. My chance at a permanent job was ~100%, I just had to ask (I wasnt interested). My chance at ever becoming a Swiss citizen if I had so desired was ~0%. I could have married a Swiss miss and had Swiss children. If I had married another foreign resident, we would have had foreign resident children. The path to citizenship is pretty much nonexistent.

    I wouldnt mind if the US changed the law and didnt automatically make children born in the US citizens. But, I like the relatively easy path to citizenship for residents.

  12. Saw a fair amount of sympathy for the Swiss view on a recent trip to the UK. One paper had a full page map showing all the gangs springing up around the UK – and everyone was labelled as made up of some foreign ethnic type. Talk to the average Brit, and I did, and they profess to be annoyed only at foreigners who engage in crime and loll on the dole. Several admitted to knowing immigrants who were much harder workers than many native Brits but bridled at my suggestion that maybe the welfare state needed severe trimming.

  13. Well the reason all these parties are doing so well is the establishment parties are scared stiff of anything to do with race, ethnicity or multiculturalism. As a result they are pretty much gifting them to people who are not as tolerant and see things in black & white.

    The UK is having the same problem with the BNP; a neo-Nazi party that has cleaned up its image. No “mainstream” party will touch even the issue of Islamists threatening to overthrow the government and/or kill people they don’t like. So the BNP, who ironically has a lot in common with the Islamists, comes in and takes those votes.

  14. Well, most of those foreigners in Swiss prison system aren’t residents either, so the SVP plan is mostly symbolism. But I do agree that it should be easier to expel criminal non-citizens. Hell, I would like to expel criminal citizens as well. Just find them an island.

  15. but bridled at my suggestion that maybe the welfare state needed severe trimming

    Yeah, don’t go there. The Euros love them their welfare states.

  16. Andrew,
    That was the point I was making; that the mainstream parties cede the immigration issue to the extremes. In the UK, the BNP has picked up a ton of votes in recent years from former Labour Party voters.

    mm

  17. Oi, Warren:

    Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey
    Chim chim cher-ee!
    A sweep is as lucky, as lucky can be
    Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey
    Chim chim cher-oo!
    Good luck will rub off when I shakes ‘ands with you

    Or blow me a kiss and that’s lucky too

    Now, as the ladder of life ‘as been strung
    You might think a sweep’s on the bottommost rung
    Though I spends me time in the ashes and smoke
    In this ‘ole wide world there’s no ‘appier bloke

    Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey
    Chim chim cher-ee!
    A sweep is as lucky, as lucky can be
    Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey
    Chim chim cher-oo!
    Good luck will rub off when I shakes ‘ands with you

    All:
    Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey
    Chim chim cher-ee!
    A sweep is as lucky, as lucky can be
    Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey
    Chim chim cher-oo!
    Good luck will rub off when I shakes ‘ands with you

    Bert:
    I choose me bristles with pride, yes, I do
    A broom for the shaft and a brush for the flute
    Up where the smoke is all billered and curled
    ‘Tween pavement and stars is the chimney sweep world
    When there’s ‘ardly no day nor ‘ardly no night
    There’s things ‘alf in shadow and ‘alfway in light
    On the rooftops of London coo, what a sight!

    Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim-in-ey
    Chim chim cher-ee!
    When you’re with a sweep you’re in glad company
    Nowhere is there a more ‘appier crew
    Than them wot sings, “Chim chim cher-ee, chim cher-oo!”
    On the
    Chim chim-in-ey, chim chim cher-ee, chim cher-oo!

  18. resembled a war zone by Saturday night, littered with debris, masonry, shattered glass and torched metal.

    Sounds like my old frat house. Good times, good times.

    Well the reason all these parties are doing so well is the establishment parties are scared stiff of anything to do with race, ethnicity or multiculturalism.

    I would have said this is what you get when you have both a welfare state and a “multi-cultural” relativistic/collectivist separatism rather than a society based on earning your own keep and assimilation of immigrants, but yeah.

  19. I lived and worked in Switzerland for a very short while in the early 90s. My chance at a permanent job was ~100%, I just had to ask (I wasnt interested). My chance at ever becoming a Swiss citizen if I had so desired was ~0%.

    I lived in Switzerland from ’96 to ’98 (near Baden) and had exactly the same experience. This was during the whole Holocaust victim bank asset scandal, so that was pretty interesting to experience as an auslander.

    The Swiss make their friends in kindergarten and that’s that. All my friends were other expats from various countries.

    One evening when I was walking about in Zurich the anarchist/lefties had a march in protest of the fascists (some skinheads beat up some emo lefty kid, as I recall). They were walking through Bahnhofstrasse and whatnot shouting “die polizisten sind auch fascisten!” (the police are also fascists!) and I tagged along. Radley, you would have been proud. Eventually though they started trashing ATMs, banks, and high-end watch stores, and that was when I thought it would be a good idea to saunter off and find something else to amuse me. The strangest impression of the evening: the police had riot shields woven like wicker-baskets. How very quaintly European.

  20. Hell, I would like to expel criminal citizens as well. Just find them an island.

    Not here! We’ve done our bit!

  21. Man European politics sounds like hell. I may dislike the Republicans and Democrats, but at least they are both moderately liberal parties by world standards.

  22. To clarify, when I say “liberal” I mean in the European/world-wide sense, not in the American sense which means “moderate leftist”.

    The Democrats with all their class warfare don’t actually favor abolishing capitalism completely, and the Republicans with all their cultural warfare don’t actually say that we are a “White European nation”.

  23. I’m not surprised at all. Like robc and creech say, there is a distinct core of nationalist identity in European politics. A friend of mine worked in Switzerland for a while, and he mentioned some of the things he learned about how one becomes a Swiss citizen. Among other things, it involves having the authorities come to your house to see if you are living in a sufficiently Swiss manner. Got a wok visible? Points off for you – woks are not Swiss!

  24. Among other things, it involves having the authorities come to your house to see if you are living in a sufficiently Swiss manner. Got a wok visible? Points off for you – woks are not Swiss!

    It’d be funny to think of what they would search for if you were an American applying for Swiss citizenship. Budweiser and hamburgers?

  25. “The Swiss make their friends in kindergarten and that’s that. All my friends were other expats from various countries.”

    I’ve never lived in Switzerland, but I’ve lived in Spain, the UK, and Ireland and I’ve found that early bonding of friends in all three. All my best friends were expats in all three countries. I made pretty good friendships with locals in Ireland and Spain but not in the UK (OK, London and Belfast really).

  26. If I ever immigrate to Switzerland I’ll make sure to buy a new knife. Imagine what the inspectors would say if they found a Leatherman!

    Definitely not Swiss enough.

  27. We Europeans can run our countries any way we wish. Switzerland is a highly democratic state, not some fascist dictatorship. But anti-Europeanism is clearly on the rise, as the above comments show. If European politics offend you so much, don’t come to Europe – no skin off our nose. We won’t miss you.

  28. Wasn’t it Tom Wolfe who said fascism is always descending upon America, but it always seems to land in Europe?

  29. Switzerland is a highly democratic state, not some fascist dictatorship.

    True, but being “democratic” and having a decent respect for individual autonomy and freedom are two different things.

  30. Switzerland has high respect for freedom. Look at their system of referenda and localisation.

  31. That distant, roaring noise was RC’s point soaring over your head, craig.

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