By Majka Viglašová and Adam Gašparovič
The neo-Fascist Kotleba – Ľudová Strana Naše Slovensko (Kotleba – People’s Party Our Slovakia or K-ĽSNS) recently put forward a bill severely restricting legal abortions in Slovakia. Although unsuccessful, the move has received a shy support from Slovak Catholic intellectuals and the Church. However, if one is a fascist it does not matter whether he or she speaks about race, geopolitics or abortion laws, he/she remains a fascist. This point has eluded the Catholic intellectuals and clergymen in Slovakia who, in their blind pursuit of banning legal abortions in Slovakia, have consequently legitimized a neo-Fascist party and its ideology. We took a closer look at the legislative proposals and the discourse that underpins K-ĽSNS and found the former to be saturated with the latter. Below we attempt to lay out the dangers that stem from endorsing extremists and their narratives.
The K-ĽSNS is an extreme right party that entered Parliament following 2016 general elections with 14 seats (8%). The ethno-nationalist rhetorical framework within which it operates, its neo-Fascist background and authoritarian tendencies (tellingly, it is named after its leader, Marian Kotleba), qualify it as a neo-Fascist extremist party. K-ĽSNS was established in 2009 when Kotleba and members of another extremist organisation, Slovenská Pospolitosť (Slovak Togetherness), joined and took over the Strana Priateľov Vína (Party of Wine Lovers), turning it into K-ĽSNS. While K-ĽSNS claims to be founded on three principles; “national, Christian and social”, the key pillar of its early appeal has been its radical anti-Roma rhetoric. Furthermore, party members, platforms and sympathizers often praise the German Third Reich and Adolf Hitler, Slovak Fascist State from the WWII with its leader Jozef Tiso, and deny the crimes of both.
With regards to abortions in Slovakia, the current legislation allows for legal abortions to be performed within the first 12 weeks of pregnancy based on the woman’s written request. Slovak abortion law allows for exceptions beyond the 12 week limit, such as when the mother’s health is at risk and is thus similar to abortion laws in most European countriesThe proposed anti-abortion legislation would limit the current abortion-on-demand legislation and allow abortions to take place only in special circumstances, such as in the case of rape. Abortion bills like these are nothing new, in fact, K-ĽSNS’ one closely follows Polish version of the Abortion Law. Unfortunately, most pro-lifers can only see the part that “restricts abortions and thus protects ‘life’” and, as they point out, “that is always a good thing”. The danger lies in treating this bill as ‘one good apple’ among other K-ĽSNS’ racist and illiberal legislative proposals. The discourse and ideas that underpin K-ĽSNS and its legislative proposals manifest clearly in the explanatory part of the bill, one that, as it seems, only a few have bothered to read.
Apart from the “natural need to protect unborn children”, one of the key arguments behind the bill introduced by K-ĽSNS is Slovakia’s negative demographical development. The solution to Slovakia’s demographics, in K-ĽSNS’ own words, “does not lie in substituting the population with the immigrants from Africa, something we are being forced to do by the liberal and multiculturalist politicians.” Besides the somewhat puzzling link between women’s ability to decide over their pregnancies, migration and conspiracy theories, this is also reminiscent of the slogan: Slovakia to the Slovaks!, attributed to Hlinka’s Slovakia’s Peoples Party which stood behind Slovak clerical-fascist regime during the WWII. Until recently, Hlinka’s party logo has been used by K-ĽSNS as their own and Hlinka’s slogans can be heard at almost all K-ĽSNS’ rallies. Furthermore, this proposal echoes the K-ĽSNS manifesto in which they claim that “Slovakia is not Africa” and promise not to allow the migrants to “occupy” Slovakia, and to expel those who are already in the country. This is alarming since a similar discourse was put in place by the Hlinka People’s Party, except that those targeted were mainly the Jews. What was done on behalf of this discourse was very tragic, with Slovakia having deported around 70,000 Jews to the concentration camps during the 2nd World War. Through claims that over the past 50 years almost a quarter of the current population has died as a result of legal abortion, the bill further exposes K-ĽSNS’ fascist view of people as a collective resource that can be counted, mobilised and used, discounting individuals’ rights and agency.
The bill also prophesises devastating consequences of this demographical trend in Slovakia, demonstrated by the “lack of properly socialised kids in schools and hard-working labourers in companies”. Knowing Kotleba’s party rhetoric, however, one cannot miss that this is pointed against the Roma people who comprise around 10% of current Slovak population but are not considered socialised nor capable of diligent work by K-ĽSNS. Quite the opposite – K-ĽSNS’ manifesto promises to “deal properly (read: brutally) with the Gypsy parasites”. Moreover, the explanatory note which is part of this bill also says that there are “every time, fewer and fewer children suitable for adoption in Slovakia”; and reading between the lines one discovers disregard targeted at the Roma children and orphans, considered not even worthy of being adopted. With this in mind, this sentence from the bill sounds sadly ironic: “We believe that unborn children are at least as worthy of protection as the prisoners or minorities.” This is being claimed by the party whose members would throw paving bricks on an Arab family and who would constantly denounce and attack Slovakia’s minority Roma population.
K-ĽSNS claims its main desire is to protect the unborn children, but the rationale behind the bill betrays a desire to protect their idea of Slovak nation, rather than the children. Once this becomes clear, we can ask who are the men of K-ĽSNS trying to protect the nation from? The chief villains here are “deformed moral values”, “the ideologies of Bolshevik materialism and liberal egoism” and, perhaps surprisingly, the women. While Bolshevik materialism and liberal egoism are mentioned in a single sentence, women received more attention from K-ĽSNS. Majority of abortions are, as argued by K-ĽSNS, demanded by women due to “egoistic reasons” of which the five listed are: career aspirations, work promotion, profligate and promiscuous lifestyle and maintenance of women’s youthful appearance and slim figure. Hence, it appears from the text that women, corrupted by the ideologies of Bolshevik materialism and liberal egoism, endanger the nation and its survival. It thus seems logical to take away their agency and give it to those who truly care about the nation and its children. Hence, not only are women portrayed as irresponsible, even the children are narratively taken away from them and constructed as “our children”, i.e. the children of the nation.
By stealing one of the core principles of Christian politicians – ban, or at least a growing limitation of abortions – and embedding it within K-ĽSNS’ own discourse, Kotleba seeks to gain the legitimacy he so far lacks within Slovak political discourse. Yet, this does not seem to interest many Slovakia’s hard-line Christians or the clergy. “This is clearly a bill that proposes to improve the current situation with abortion, of course the Christian MPs should vote for it”, we often hear. The episcopate, apart from pointing out K-ĽSNS’ inconsistency regarding protection of life, refrains from publicly condemning this racist and neo-fascist party. These intellectuals and clergymen, as well as a couple of Christian MPs who already pledged to support the legislation in the parliament, have either failed to notice the discourse that underpins this legislative proposal, or worse, have willingly endorsed it.Currently, there seems to be little public demand for banning abortions and luckily K-ĽSNS have not improved their standing in the polls. Yet, the fact that a number of intellectuals, Church officials and MPs can so easily fail to recognize a fascist when they see one is at least as scary as the realization that those elected to lead are willing to knowingly embrace fascism when it suits their aims.
The danger thus lies beyond the fact that this bill is proposed by a ‘neo-fascist’ party. Labelling people ‘fascist’ or ‘racist’ rarely helps to completely delegitimize their discourse. A deeper problem consists of the inability of the clergy, Christian politicians and pro-life activists to understand that the end does NOT justify the means. While their pro-life positions should be fully respected, their attitude towards this bill betrays a desire to impose their norms on everyone else even at the prize of helping to pave the way for dangerous nationalist ideas into the mainstream discourse. Ideas based on ‘us’ versus ‘them’ divisions, fueling hatred and disregard for ‘the Other’. Ideas that are definitely not consistent with the key message of Christian religion. Endorsing fascists that promised to strengthen the church has throughout Slovakia’s history brought only pain. Let’s remind ourselves of the failure of the Slovak episcopate to condemn the Jewish decrees in the initial months of their implementation, decrees that were crucial in preparing the way for violent deportations of the Jews during the WWII. The current episcopate, Christian MPs and pro-life activists shall not ignore the broader picture of K-LSNS’ ideas and visions and ought to learn from the past since it clearly shows that opening the doors to fascism has never helped to protect life.
Featured image: K-LSNS supporters with the banner: Slovakia is not Africa!
Majka Viglašová and Adam Gašparovič are King’s College London alumni and former members of Identity Hunters’ editorial team.