Re-Branding Right-Wing Politics #2 – FPÖ between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Serbian migrants

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Daily Star. October 2008.

(See here the first part of the reportage. Happy new year and enjoy the first POP’s article in 2016. The schedule for the next months is pretty dense; we will take you into the very heart of contemporary populism. Follow POP on #Twitter and spread the word!).

Serbians as Well-Integrated Model Migrants

An anti-immigration party longing for migrants’ votes might sound contradictory to many, but this ‘search’ is an extension of the rhetoric of good and bad foreigners. A closer look at FPÖ’s position on Balkan politics makes this strange alliance between an anti-immigration party and Serbian migrants a little clearer. The current situation of the Balkans is an indicator of the multicultural fantasy, as its official party program writes, that descends from EU politics, whose capital infusion and political support for the central government of Bosnia-Herzegovina promote further Islamization of the Balkans. The geopolitical importance of Serbia, here, consists in its role as a buffer state between Central Europe and the Southern Balkan Peninsula; the border between Christendom and Islam. In the eyes of the ‘Freedomite’ politics, Serbia, the vanguard of the Occident in the conflict-ridden Balkans, is an example of the tragic failure of multiculturalism propagated by the European Union.

vampire

Migrants as Vampires.

The discourse on immigration and integration in contemporary states, according to this populist and ethnocentric vision, aims at producing homogeneous ‘migrantness’ typologies based on religion. This strong emphasis on religion, allows the FPÖ‘s ‘Yugo-friendly’ politics to consolidate the binary division between Christian-Self and Muslim-Others. In practice, this is translated in the following, dichotomous model: well-integrated migrants Vs non-‘integrable’ Islamist threat. The existence of well-integrated migrants constitutes for the FPÖ an evident proof not only that migrants can or should be integrated into the host society, but that those who are non-‘integrable’ are clearly ‘unwilling’ to adopt the majority’s norms and values.

“Some of What They Say is Right”

A smoky Viennese Café. Ottakring [1], Vienna. April 2015. It was nearly noon, as I sat down for an interview with Marko, a Croatian-Serb bar owner. While a crowd of Croatian and Serbian construction workers chatted loud in the back, Marko shared his thoughts on other Muslim migrants and the peculiar relationship between FPÖ and Serbians in Vienna.

               “Thank god, I don’t take the U-6 [2] these days. What you see there is simply ridiculous. Muslim women with their faces covered and stuff like that This isn’t something Austrian, right? They don’t appreciate what Austria has done for us. What’s happening here is just sad”…

               As the conversation slowly shifted to FPÖ voters with a Serbian background in the neighborhood, he replied: “If there is an election tomorrow, I’m voting for FPÖ. I used to vote for the Social Democrats, but it’s their own fault. They just let all these things happen. People say FPÖ is against migrants, but it’s all nonsense. Austria doesn’t work without migrants and they know this. It’s only the media that say they are working against us…Some of what FPÖ and Strache say is right. Something has to change soon”.

Marko’s personal opinion largely overlaps with the opinion of the group in which he identifies himself: ‘us’, aka the “well-integrated Serbian migrants”.

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Hamburg, Germany. September 2014.

I won’t conclude this article by saying that what I’ve experienced in my interviews was racist, Islamophobic, right-wing or any other word that resembles the xenophobic fervor sweeping across Europe at the moment.

I would rather say that this odd affair – the way politicians politicize and exploit the issue of good/Christian and bad/Muslim Serbian migrants, is another aspect of contemporary European right-wing politics. It is incredibly easy to practice this marketing operation of re-branding. How does it sound moderate nationalism?

Like an oxymoron. A political Frankenstein.

il mio patto col diavolo

Luka Markovic: “My deal with the devil”.

And the following quote from, Luka Markovic, a former member of FPÖ with a Serbian background, reflects the true reality of this affair. In his words ‘a deal with the devil’:

“Strache…he promised me things that he did not keep. To him, Serbs never mattered…He exploited the trust of Serbian migrants for political purposes. I never found (FPÖ’s anti-immigration politics) good, but I had hoped, as he had promised, that he would do something for my people”.


Byeongsun Ahn
This article, as well as the first part of the reportage, has been written by Byeongsun Ahn. He is a PhD student at the department of sociology at University of Vienna.
His dissertation project “Searching for In-between: Identity-Work and Inter-Diasporic Conflict of Serbian Migrants in Vienna” explores the identity negotiation of Serbian migrants in Vienna, Austria and their relations with other diasporic communities in today’s technological, economic and political realities.
His main research interests focuses on diasporic-identities and inter-diasporic relations, as well as the influence of “home-land” politics in the host societies.

 

[1] A neighborhood in Vienna with a large number of migrants from the former Yugoslavia.

[2] One of the metro lines in Vienna that operates around the so-called ‘migrant districts’.

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