Free to Hate: The Rise of the Right in Post-Communist Eastern Europe

In This Review

Free to Hate: The Rise of the Right in Post-Communist Eastern Europe

By Paul Hockenos
Routledge, 1993
332 pp. $25.00

There is no mistaking the scale and nature of the threat from the nationalist right represented in the carnage of Yugoslavia. But what is the meaning and importance of the right-wing violence against refugees and foreigners in Germany or the anti-Semitic slurs of leading Hungarian politicians? Hockenos, a journalist based in Germany and widely traveled in Eastern Europe, has written more than a journalist's account of the misdeeds, the vengeful calls to old hatreds and the bloodshed. He has pieced together a detailed report on the complex quilt of groups emerging in East Germany, Poland, Hungary and the Czech Republic who they are, where they come from and, of particular note, where their causes and appeals shade into the unsavory flings of mainstream political parties. His careful research, including a good deal of polling data measuring the resonance of fascist themes among parts of the population, goes down easily, because throughout he includes his firsthand encounters with those who march under the banner of ethnic nationalism, hatred for the outsider and dreams of reconquest. Moreover, Hockenos deepens the analysis by weighing three ultimate explanations for the stirrings of the primal right: the warped and stifling communist system as a crucible, the dislocations and exactions of modernization as a cause, and the excesses and perversions within political culture as the root. Based on his exposure, he mostly chooses the third explanation, but along the way also gives plenty of evidence for the first two.

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