DAVOS FOR THE DISTURBED

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Notes from a gathering of far-right parties in Tokyo, with a cameo from Jean-Marie Le Pen ...

From THE ECONOMIST online 

They seem like nice, likeable fellows. Some of their ideas are nasty, others merely preposterous. A few are downright dangerous. Yet it seems only fair that the leaders of far-right parties around the world should have a forum to swap prejudices. And now they do: today a "Gathering of Patriots to Bring About World Peace" has brought together far-right groups from eight European countries and Japan. Their host is Issuikai, a Japanese nationalist group. Of the roughly 100 participants, a fifth are European.

Day one brought much talk of "patriotism" and "nationalism" with a nod and a wink. There was some singing too (see our video below). Adam Walker of the British National Party seemed pleasantly surprised that his fellow participants seemed to share a lot of views, even though they had never met and came from very different countries. But the passion with which speakers denounced "globalism", the IMF and America made the conference indistinguishable at times from the World Social Forum—the self-proclaimed anti-Davos of the far left.

The purpose of the meetings, Mitsuhiro Kimura, Issuikai's leader told The Economist is to "discuss respect for different cultures and traditions, and then, how to build common activities." But he admits: "I may be an idealist."

The participants see no irony in their cross-cultural dialogue against globalisation and multiculturalism. As fervent supporters of their own culture, they strongly support others' attempts to protect their own culture, traditions and sovereignty. The Europeans perceive a common enemy: Muslims. The "Islamification of Europe" was denounced by several speakers.

They all like Japan's strict immigration rules, which keep out almost all foreigners. Though most delegates stuck to euphemism and discretion, Alberto Torresano of the Spanish group Phalange didn't get the memo. "Immigrants are almost all lazy," he said. "They do nothing, they have no education. They become the mafia. It is very dangerous. I am so glad that we can get together, us nationalists. If this had happened 300 or 400 years ago, Europe would have been a better place."

Among the most controversial aspects of the meeting is a visit planned to the Yasukuni shrine, which entombs Japan's war dead, including Class-A war criminals. On this point, oddly, Europe's nationalists shed their chauvinism for a saccharine solidarity beyond borders. Jean-Marie Le Pen of France's Front National exclaims that he has "no hesitation" in going. He counters with Hiroshima and Nagasaki: "Were these not war crimes? There are war criminals not only among the defeated, but also among the victors." Besides, he explains, those buried at the shrine died a long time ago.

Meanwhile, despite the decorous discussion in the modern amphitheatre of a posh hotel, a gang of beefy Japanese men with hair closely cropped or slicked back, wearing sunglasses and audio earpieces, roam the area. It is a reminder that regardless of its amateur philosophers on the stage, the far-right's adherents are only a short step away from a bar brawl.

 

(This correspondent's diary originally appeared on Asia view, The Economist's new Asia blog)

Picture credit: staffpresi_esj (via Flickr)