Emergence of Ethnicity Based Movements in Europe

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In order to bring about a decisive social change in a nation, markers such as race and ethnicity are used to form pressure groups and social movements (Gilroy, as cited in Malesevic, 2004). In all known democracies, there exist individuals who are dissatisfied with the political system and its institutions (Rydgren and van Holsteyn, 2005). The fundamental common feature shared by these groups is their movement of exclusion; mainly, the exclusion of 'outsiders' (Rydgren, 2005). Extreme right- wing parties therefore are in opposition of immigrants who are competing with natives in the host country and seen as draining state privileges provided via welfare systems (Fennema, 2005). Contrastingly to the right, ethnic movements from the left are more concerned with tackling racism, social exclusion and discriminations experienced by refugees, migrants and asylum seekers (Ruzza, 2000). Furthermore, anti- racist movements in EU countries object to the maltreatment of ethnic minorities and immigrants, by promoting multiculturalism in Europe (Ruzza). Ruzza posited that anti- racist movements can constitute members of an ethnic group who are being discriminated against, or at other times there can be a coalition of group members from different ethnic backgrounds whose aims to end discrimination. Some anti- racist movements tend to turn violent whilst others are non- violent (Ruzza). The following essay will focus on how competitions for resources have spurred ethnicity based movements in Europe.

 Racism became more prominent in Europe due to the influx of immigrants who competed for resources in the labour markets and employment in times of economic recession (Ruzza, 2000). For example, the ethnic tensions in Germany reportedly reached significant levels with the rise in unemployment as figures showed that in 1989, 600 racist attacks were directed towards foreign workers (Jalali and Lipset, YEAR). Factors such as economic competition and multiculturalism may lead to support for extreme right movements as shown in France whereby the National Front Party was popular due to its campaigns based on arousing fears about North African immigrants (Jalali and Lipset). This can be linked to Simmel's (1908) idea of the 'stranger' who comes to work in the host country and leaves as they please because they have no emotional ties with the country. In this sense, the natives in the host country might see the immigrants as coming over and draining the state privileges provided via welfare (Fennema, 2005; Belanger & Pinard, 1991; McLaren, 2003) and going back once they have made enough money.

Therefore, contrary to expectations from Marxist and non- Marxist intellectuals, the process of modernisation brought with it ethnic consciousness resulting in the emergence of various ethnicity based movements (Jalali and Lipset, YEAR). During the 1950s after the Second World War in Britain, there were ethnic conflicts after the increase of immigrants who were invited from the Caribbean and India in order to ease the shortage of labour (McLaren and Johnson, 2007; Lent, 2001; McLaren, 2003). Similarly in the seventies and eighties in Britain, there were various inner- city anti- racist social movements leading to 'race riots' (Ruzza, 2000). New immigrants experienced hostility and discrimination from the native whites leading to race riots as observed on the streets of Notting Hill, West London and in Nottingham in 1958 (Lent). The rise of 'black consciousness' together with the police racism in 1970s also contributed to the race riots between young black men, black women and the police (Lent). The most salient was the riots in Notting Hill Carnival of 1976 (Lent). In Britain, institutional racism, popularised by the Macpherson Report on the Stephen Lawrence case, illustrated how the police acted unfairly towards ethnic minorities when asserting their authority as portrayed on the streets of Brixton, Bradford, Newham and Southall in mid- 1970s (Lent).

These resulted in the emergence of youth movements from groups who had experienced racism from the police and citizens such as the Newham Youth Movement, and the Southall Campaign Against Racial Attacks (Lent, 2001). For example the Bradford Twelve which involved conflicts between Asian youth who proclaimed they were acting in self- defence against the police, gained immense support and substantial victory (Lent). Similarly, the riots observed in France between the North and West African youth against the French military police (Hsu, 2008) illustrate how feelings of deprivation, racial discrimination and social alienation can lead to ethnic conflicts as proposed by Hargreaves in the Ethnicity in Today's Europe (Hsu).The violence brought awareness to policy makers and the media who at the time blamed immigrants for the conflicts (Lent). Hobsbawn (1959, as cited in Wilkinson, 1971) analysed city mobs in the pre- nineteenth century in Europe describing it as a desperate resort by the poor who feel their views are not being considered (Wilkinson).

Among the ethnicity based movements in Europe, the extreme- right movements that emerged in the last two decades in Western democracies (Rydgren, 2005) played a fundamental role. The rise of extreme right parties became more prominent in the 1980s especially with the rise of unemployment (Jackman and Volpert, 1996). Radical right- wing parties referred to immigrants as 'economic refugees' or 'social welfare tourists' who become dependent on the state therefore threatening the generous welfare programmes in Europe (Rydregen). These radical right- wing parties are today represented in national politics in countries such as Austria, Belgium, France, Italy, and Switzerland (Rydgren). Political dissatisfaction and alienation are some of the factors which spurred the emergence of radical right- wing parties who felt their views were not considered, leading to political protest (Rydgren and van Holsteyn, 2005). These factors also explain the voting patterns of individuals who vote for radical right- wing parties. For example, the BNP party supported by individuals who feel the government is considering their views in terms of providing more jobs for British workers (Rydgren and van Holsteyn). Those who vote for anti- immigrant parties were argued to be lower educated males, living in cities (Fennema, 2005). Anti- immigrant voting can be driven by the economic interests, ethnic competitions in society or feelings of relative deprivation by citizens due to the influx of immigrants (Fennema).

Radical right- wing political parties perceive ethnic mixing as detrimental to one's country as it leads to cultural annihilation and should be avoided (Rydgren, 2005). In Europe, extreme right parties characterised as neo- Nazi parties are  radically xenophobic, rejecting the existing democratic system and seek a 'Fortress Europe' that is against immigration, especially non- European immigrants (Eatwell, 2004; Carter, 2005; Jackman and Volpert, 1996). For example, the Northern League of Italy opposes against Southern Italians, those from the Balkans and North Africa who are classified as 'outsiders,' (Eatwell). Thus, few examples of neo- Nazi parties in Europe include the British National Party (BNP), National Front (NF), and the Deutsche Volksunion (DVU) Germany (Carter). The growing economic decline and immigrants in the late 1970s instigated the development of the National Front, an extreme right political party which gained electoral support and members (Lent, 2001). The British National Party (BNP) was formed by John Tyndall in April 1982 (Eatwell). From a political perspective, the BNP became more successful since its modernization due to its concerns with factors such as urban deprivation, the fears over immigration, the growing hostility towards Islam which has became more prominent since the bombing attacks in the US and UK (Eatwell). However, many mainstream parties do not regard the BNP as a legitimate participant (Eatwell).

Another factor which resulted in the emergence of ethnic based movements was the way immigration of ethnic groups into Europe caused disputes between anti- racist parties and anti- immigration parties, the latter perceiving the presence of ethnic minorities as weakening a nation's sense of identity (Jalali and Lipset, YEAR; McLaren, 2003). Furthermore, a study found, 52 percent of participants thought the country they lived in (England, Wales or Scotland) would lose its national identity if more Muslims lived there (McLaren and Johnson, 2007). With the failure of most ethnic minorities in Europe failing to assimilate to the European way of life, ethnic conflicts emerged fuelled by the immigrants' alien culture and language (Jalali and Lipset; McLaren; Rydgren, 2005; McLaren and Johnson). Nationalism is exercised in various countries which want to preserve their national identity (McLaren and Johnson). For example, the French Assimilation model in France encourages all citizens to assimilate to the French way of life whether they are natives or migrants (Clayton, 2006). Smith (1986, as cited in Hooghe, 1992) proposed that cultural isolation explains why nationalist movements originated in states consisting of multiple ethnicities. Moreover, the core- periphery theory proposed, if the culture of the periphery differed from that of the core and if the division of labour was not equal, then nationalist movements would emerge (Coakley, 1992).

However, in highly developed countries such as Switzerland, the economic competition model failed to explain why there was little tension and competition between the French and German- speaking Swiss when their socio- economic positions are equal (Jalali and Lipset, YEAR). Therefore it seems ethnicity based movements emerge if state policies emphasise on all groups assimilating to a dominant group's cultural ways. This provides the dominant group with institutional power resulting in discrepancies from minority groups who wish to express their own cultural values (Jalali and Lipset). Therefore political structures in countries exercising multiculturalism such as Switzerland will experience less ethnic conflict as all ethnic groups will have an equal chance in the voting districts (Jalali and Lipset)

In the last few decades, significant international events have increased the awareness and prejudice towards the Muslim religion (Strabac and Listhaug, 2008). It was reported that around one million Muslim immigrants who originated outside of Europe followed the Islamic rather than British laws (Jalali and Lipset) leading to antagonistic feelings from extreme right parties who instead emphasise on assimilation. Prejudice towards Islam's and Muslims were reportedly higher than other immigrants in Europe even before the attacks on September 11(Strabac and Listhaugh). The media instigates the negative stereotypes associated with ethnic minorities especially, those practising Islam (Strabac and Listhaugh). However, there are times when these stereotypes are proved to be correct; for example, recent news in the UK, reported how an extremist Islamic group, Islam4UK, led by hate- preacher Anjem Choudary, praised the terrorist attacks witnessed in the UK and US (Guardian, 2010). Furthermore, the group planned to march in a town called Wooton Bassett where crowds gathered to honour dead British soldiers from brought back from Afghanistan (Guardian). They planned to, with with 500 coffins symbolising killed Muslims in Iraq and Afghanistan (Guardian). This was to happen in a town called Wootton Bassett, where crowds gathered in honour of Britain's dead soldiers as their coffins were returned from Afghanistan (Guardian). In addition, data from studies showed that 62 percent of the British population thought British Muslims had more loyalty to other Muslims around the world however, 12 percent thought this not to be true (McLaren and Johnson, 2007). Thus such symbolic threats explain the extreme anti- immigrant hostility in Europe (McLaren, 2003).

The competition model proposed that ethnicity based movements emerged as a consequence of  modernisation which led to ethnic competition for scarce goods such as jobs, housing and other valued resources among ethnic minorities (Olzak and Nagel, 1986 as cited in Belanger & Pinard, 1991; Fennema, 2005; McLaren, 2003; Rydregen, 2005). The ethnic competition hypothesis touches upon how sometimes groups can operate in social movements or support radical right parties that oppose against immigrants (Fennema). However, this approach disagrees that ethnicity is the source of conflict; on the contrary, ethnicity was noted to be one of the factors used by individuals taking part in the competition to distinguish between supporters and rivals (Hooghe, 1992). Belanger and Pinard, reformulated the competition theory by adding that the previous version by Olzak and Nagel (1986 as cited in Belanger & Pinard) ignored other important features. For example, they proposed that for ethnic competition to lead to ethnic conflict or ethnic social movements, the competition should be perceived as unfair (Belanger & Pinard).

It is important to distinguish areas in which competition exists thus resulting in the unfair distribution of welfare resources. In terms of living areas, the Successive English House Condition Surveys found high levels of minority groups resided in the worst properties (Robinson, 2002). There are discriminatory allocations of social housing towards ethnic minorities as they become excluded from making choices in relation of where they live (Robinson). In addition, property markets in the UK should take into consideration the cultural differences such as the need and use of space, thus not modelling all housing to suit the Western nuclear family (Ratcliffe, 2002). For example, some Asian cultures emphasise the need for separate social space for males and females, similarly, elderly and young adults (Ratcliffe, 2002). BNP's Mancot Councillor John Walker blamed the Labour and Tory parties for encouraging immigration leading to the housing crisis Britain's now facing (BNP News, 2010). However, despite the BNP proclaiming that ethnic minorities are draining resources in the UK, Robinson posited that the proportions of ethnic minorities living in social housings such as council accommodations were low. This can be explained by the institutional racism ethnic minorities' face from housing agencies (Robinson). Furthermore, former Prime Minister in the UK, Tony Blair, urged local authorities to develop new policies which tackle the issue of social exclusion in the Social Exclusion Unit (SEU) (Ratcliffe).

Individuals in low- paid jobs were predicted to be most threatened by immigrants who stereotypically take low-paid jobs which the dominant group sees as belonging to them (McLaren and Johnson, 2007). Studies (e.g., McLaren and Johnson) found that 47 percent of participants thought immigrants stole jobs from British-born citizens however, 28 percent did not think this to be true. Furthermore, 44 percent thought immigrants were not good for the British economy whilst 20 percent thought they were (McLaren and Johnson). Moreover, in recent times, these ideas have flourished and there have been protests regarding the loss of British jobs from British workers to immigrants (Riddell, 2009). For example, after the 2009 riot at the Lindsey oil refinery in Lincolnshire as reported by Riddell, the BNP in Britain argued 'British jobs for British workers', when debates arose in relation to immigrants coming over and taking 'British' jobs whilst there were many unemployed British workers.

Therefore, the factors reported to spur the emergence of ethnicity based movements in Europe include the competition for resources such as employment, policy making, and housing as a result of social exclusion (Robinson, 2002). It is plausible that higher levels of unemployment incite the likelihood for extreme right political movements and it is likely that the scarcity of resources will mean that ethnicity based conflicts will subsist for a long time (Jackman and Volpert, 1996). Furthermore, extreme right- wing parties deem the presence of ethnic minorities in European countries as detrimental to the European culture as most ethnic minorities bring with them foreign cultures and values (McLaren and Johnson, 2007). These lead to ethnic conflicts as observed in race-riots between the police and ethnic minorities as observed in Britain (Ruzza, 2000; Lent, 2001), France (Hsu, 2008) and Germany (Jalali and Lipset, YEAR). It could therefore be argued that extreme right parties due to their anti-immigration attitudes could act as a factor spurring the emergence of anti-racist movements (McLaren, 2003; Jalali and Lipset). Despite these ethnic conflicts, Marxist theory considered ethnic minorities as diversions from the real problem, thus they prevented economic and political progress (Jalali & Lipset).

 

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