Vox campaign rally in the northeastern city of Vigo, Spain, 24 October 2019
By Chris Collins
In “The Renewal of the Radical Right: Between Modernity and Anti-modernity,” Government and Opposition, Michael Minkenberg writes: The “radical right” is “a political ideology, the core element of which is a myth of a homogeneous nation, a romantic and populist ultranationalism which is directed against the concept of liberal and pluralistic democracy. . . The contemporary radical right wants government by the people, but in terms of ethnocracy instead of democracy.”
Terri Givens in Voting Radical Right in Western Europe notes that unlike earlier extreme right or fascist parties, they operate within the country’s political system. At the same time, ironically, they think of themselves as “outsiders”. Hence their anti-establishment posturing which insulates them from the scandals of governments and the mainstream parties.
Today’s radical right, aka “populist right”, may not advocate the fascism of the past which was a system of highly centralized government under a dictator, a capitalist economy subject to stringent governmental controls, and violent suppression of the opposition. But they fall within the parameters of neo-fascism which typically revolves around a policy of belligerent nationalism and racism. Populist right wing parties are, typically, opposed to globalization, critical of immigration and multiculturalism, and are against the European Union.
Despite the rise of radical right-wing parties across Europe, and their apparent survivability, one might hasten to add that there is no danger of the Old World being overrun by these parties. Not probable in the foreseeable future. Europe can live with the radical right without fear of fatally undermining its democracy. It might, however, want to remember not to forget that more tolerance, more sharing, and less bigotry will make their democracy do wonders for everyone.
Having said all this, here are the radical right in some parts of Europe.
GERMANY. The Alternative für Deutschland (Alternative for Germany or AfD) was created in 2017 and is now the third largest presence in the Bundestag. With 12.6% of the vote in the last general elections, it is Germany’s biggest opposition party. The AfD blames immigrants in general, but particularly the Muslim immigrants, for weakening the German culture and way of life.
GREECE. Greece’s own far-right party is called Golden Dawn. A neo-Nazi party that has risen from a marginal role in Greek politics, it is now the third-largest political force in the Greek parliament. Golden Dawn party members have been perpetrating acts of violence against immigrants and leftists on Greek soil.
AUSTRIA. In 2017 the Freedom Party (FPÖ) was the only far-right party in power in Western Europe, having formed a coalition government with right-winger Chancellor Sebastian Kurz whose People’s Party has dominated Austrian politics alternately with the center-left Social Democrats. Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache was Vice-Chancellor between 2017 and 2019. On 17 May 2019 a video from a July 2017 meeting in Ibiza, Spain, was made public. It showed Strache and Johann Gudenus, then deputy leader of the Freedom Party, discussing proposals by a mysterious woman posing as the niece of a Russian oligarch Igor Makarov to provide favorable news coverage in return for business contracts.
The government collapsed following the scandal and a snap election was held last October where the People’s Party won again (37.5% of the vote and 71 parliamentary seats, up 9 seats) and Freedom Party lost 20 seats. (It won 16.2% of the vote and 31 seats.) Freedom Party, for all its losses, is the third largest party in Austria, next only to the People’s and Social Democratic Parties.
SWEDEN. Its neo-Nazi roots notwithstanding, and making significant gains in the 2018 general election, winning almost 18% of the vote (62 of 349 seats in the Riksdag), the Sweden Democrats (SD) has rebranded itself as anti-immigration (strict immigration controls) and opposing multiculturalism only, leaving its proclivity for fascism and Nazism behind. It was primarily a white nationalist but since the early-1990s (it was founded in 1988) it began to distance itself from the most unsavory elements of its past.
Like most countries in Europe where the far right is making its presence felt in the political sphere – sometimes much too strongly for comfort – Sweden has never been remotely in danger of turning fascist. The brutal carnage of World War II can still scare the hell out of level-minded Europeans, even radical-right citizens. Sweden, despite all the noise the Sweden Democrats are making, has welcomed more asylum seekers per capita than any other European country and has one of the most positive attitudes towards migrants.
FRANCE. Le Pen’s National Front has had to rebrand. Now it’s called the National Rally and has been aggressively campaigning for the March 2020 municipal elections. The new strategy is rayonnement: Put a mayor in office in one town, and his or her influence will “radiate” across the region. The renewed optimism comes after the party’s success in the European Parliament elections held last May, in which it won 23 % of the national vote, leaving President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist En Marche trailing behind. Marine Le Pen called the municipal elections a “first step” toward the 2022 presidential victory. “Each election is an opportunity for our political family to attach another karabiner on the slope leading up to the summit,” she declared at a rally in September. “And the summit is the Élysée.”
Despite the rebranding and soft-pedaled rhetoric, there is no dislodging National Rally from far-right politics, its essential force and spirit.
SPAIN. Quite the late-comer to the Club of Far-Right Practitioners, one of the biggest political stories in Spain these days is the sudden and perplexing rise of the reactionary far-right Vox party, debuting in the Spanish Parliament only after the 28 April 2019 general election where it won 24 seats (out of a total of 350 seats) and more than 10% of the vote.
But as a result of the snap election on 10 November 2019, it has become Spain’s third largest parliamentary party, winning no less than 52 seats and 15.09% of the vote. It’s a vertiginous jump up from 2,677,173 voters in April to 3,640,063 in November. It should scare the daylights out of those who still shudder at the mere thought of a return to the ultra-Catholic Franco dictatorship. But the Socialist Party is still the biggest scorer in the last election (120 parliamentary seats out of a total of 350 or 6,752,983 voters and 28% of the votes) and the center-right Popular Party has been making giant strides in recouping the heavy losses it had sustained in the last two most recent general elections.
Featured image/Contando Estrelas, PD
PNF’s “March on Rome”, PD
AfD’s anti-Islam poster/Rosenkohl, CC BY-SA4.0
SD supporters/Frankie Fuoganthin, CC BY-SA3.0
Vox’s Santiago Abascal/Vox España, PD