Friday, 1 July 2022 – 12:22

The Blurred Line Between Banning Far Right Demonstrations And Undermining Democracy

NOTE: This is an opinion article – any views expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Speaker or any members of its team.

There is not the slightest doubt to me that the right-wing parties have been enjoying bigger and wider support. Whether it is in large part to the media or changing attitudes towards migration crisis and European Union as a whole, we need to address the problem and, simultaneously, become aware of the things that are going on within European societies.

The dramatic shift in public opinion and the commonality other right-wing and populist protests are on the rise due to changing political realities. The last few years have seen parties gaining more control outside the long-established political spectrum posing, at the same time, a threat to democracy. Italy’s League, Germany’s Alternative for Germany, Poland’s Kukiz’15, Sweden’s Swedish Democrats, Netherlands’ Party for Freedom, have all received a significant popular vote.

Democracy, as the term itself, indicates ‘rule by people,’ allows individual citizens to elect representatives and express their preferences from amongst themselves. In an ideal world, or ideal democracy at last, we should let be free to demonstrate our political leanings. Everyone, in the end, has the right to freedom of expression. Yet, we could argue that this rule does not apply to all circumstances. Owing to the fact that certain ideas and perspectives on how the world should operate could be destructive for some part other population and the globe itself, as learnt on many examples by previous human experiences, they remain completely banned, or disapproved, by a large chunk of societies. There is not much to say than to give the Nazi ideology as an example. 

So here we are drawing the line between allowing a group of free people to demonstrate their views and stopping them from expressing such. Delegalisation and limitation of right wing populist protests is a form of discrimination so as offending whole group of people based on their ethnicity, religion and race. Despite the fact that it, indeed, might be considered as hate speech, it is not targeted against certain individual and, hence, imposing a risk on a particular person’s life is less likely.

Is it then a matter of hate speech? Perhaps safety? If so, when and how? The law is limited to another person’s rights – can we calmly admit that as long as demonstrations are securely protected, say there is no direct risk to other pedestrians, a public order is sustained, provocations from both sides are avoided, there should be no obstacles given to the free protests?

In a recent event, Germany banned two far right protests to prevent violence in both Karlsruhe and Duesseldorf. The oldest far rightist party the National Democratic Party (NDP), also considered as a neo-Nazi organisation, strongly opposes democracy and all contemporary German political environment. And, yet, despite its extremism, particularly sensitive subject in Germany after Hitler’s rise to power, there is an ongoing dispute whether, and if how, the organisation should be banned. When we take into account the right of the Constitutional Court to ban any organisation that opposes democratic rights, it is quite feasible. Is it still a democratic measure? To the large extent, yes.

As hilarious as it may sound, whether we agree or disagree with a certain mindset, we must let express whatever opinion people have within the society and impose limitations on such marches when there is a probable risk of oppressing minorities and disturbing democratic rules. Is it moral to let people march trough the streets under the Nazi and swastika banners? The ideology that killed tens of millions people in, very frequently, inhumane conditions. That lesson definitely has already been learnt, I suppose.

There is not a unanimous answer as to what can be considered as acceptable and unacceptable. Since we live in democratic countries we should take a note of different opinions amongst ourselves and let people speak out about their struggles and expectations. We need to take into consideration, however, the extent and radicalism of the protest groups. Are they here to cause trouble and disturbance or freely demonstrate their opinions? On many occasions, there is a blurred line between them.

Skip to content