Athena Institute

Magyar

Slovenská Pospolitost': From Extremism to Mainstream Politics

2014-12-02
The Slovenská Pospolitost' is amongst the biggest and most infamous far-right domestic extremist groups in Slovakia. The SP has its ideological roots in the clerical-fascist wartime Slovak state. Its members wear a blue military-like uniform and use similar slogans as the Hlinka Guard, the fascist militia of the Slovak People's Party between 1938-45; and their fairly successful efforts to become a mainstream political party could serve as a dangerous example to other extremists in the region.

The Slovenská Pospolitost' (Slovak Togetherness or Brotherhood [SP]) is amongst the biggest and most infamous far-right domestic extremist groups in Slovakia. The SP has its ideological roots in the clerical-fascist wartime Slovak state. Its members wear a blue military-like uniform and use similar slogans as the Hlinka Guard, the fascist militia of the Slovak People's Party between 1938-45. The organization was established in 1995 as an officially registered civic association, and in the first 5-7 years of its existence it mainly focused on attacking the western orientation of the country. They disagreed with Slovakia joining the NATO and they opposed the country joining the EU, propagating a firm anti-liberal stance.

The group's main goal is to dissolve the democratic Slovak state and replace it with a dictatorship, where society is forcefully divided into nine classes based on profession, whilst establishing a tenth class for the national minorities. In the 2000s, the SP started to focus on hostile propaganda against several communities within Slovak society, specifically the Hungarian, the Roma, the Jewish and the LGBTQ communities.

Since 2002, the group started to organize intimidating marches with torches, during which they harassed the Hungarian and Roma communities, especially in the southern parts of the country. These marches and the group's growing presence in the media provided momentum to the organization. Using that momentum, SP tried to cross over into mainstream politics from the far-right extremist scene. The group's leader, Marián Kotleba (who stepped back in recent years since he has become the Chairman of Banská Bystrica County [Besztercebánya]) tried to turn the group into a political party. However, SP failed miserably during the 2006 general elections and the Supreme Court later banned the party, referencing it radical extremist ideology and goals that are against the Slovak Constitution. The Ministry of Interior took another step against the group when they revoked their registration as a civic association in 2008, however, the Supreme Court nullified that decision in 2009, claiming that the Ministry violated due process, therefore the SP still operates as an officially registered civic association in Slovakia.

By the late 2000s the group's focus turned mainly towards the Roma community. Following in the footsteps of Jobbik in Hungary they started to use catchphrases, such as “Gypsy criminality” and “Gypsy terror”, organizing regular intimidation campaigns and marches through villages is southern Slovakia that are densely populated by members of the Roma community. The organization also changed its stance on the Hungarian minority. Their firmly anti-Hungarian tone disappeared completely and the group started to cooperate with several Hungarian extremist groups like the Hungarian National Front to form a joint front against who they see as the “real enemy”, the Roma. SP's break with its anti-Hungarian stance and its joint propaganda actions with the Hungarian National Front had an impact in Hungary too, changing the anti-Slovak tone of several other Hungarian extremist groups, such as the Sixty-four Counties Youth Movement.

Since 2009, SP's focus turned almost exclusively towards the Slovak Roma community. Wherever a conflict emerges between the local Roma and non-Roma population, the group organizes propaganda events to utilize it and gain popularity amongst the majority population. For instance, in 2012, Roma children accidentally caused a fire that burned down the Castle of Krásna Horka (Krasznahorka). The incident launched the organization into an anti-Roma propaganda frenzy in the region and Kotleba started to buy parcels and other properties in the neighbourhood as part of a hostile propaganda campaign.

Kotleba has not given up on building a political party either. He established another party, called Ľudová strana - Naše Slovensko (Our Slovakia-People's Party [L'S-NS]). Albeit this new party has not achieved great success in the general election, it still has to be seen as a minor success. Kotleba was elected in 2013 to be the Chairman of the Banská Bystrica County Council. Experts argue that this electoral success might be a stepping stone for SP and its political wing L'S-NS to enter the parliament in 2016 and subsequently mainstream politics. If that should happen, it would be a huge victory for extremism in Slovakia and it would also provide a roadmap to other far-right groups on how to become substantial political actors in Slovakia.