The resurgence of the Blood and Soil ethos is not a coincidence. Many of the more volatile nationalist parties in Europe consciously reach for such fascist and Nazi doctrine and imagery in their public relations.
Greece’s Golden Dawn Party, for example, uses the Roman salute of the Italian and German fascists, and its members are frequently caught chalking anti-Semitic graffiti in public spaces. Hungary’s Jobbik party, which has 20 percent of the vote, openly opposes the existence of Israel and promotes a “Greater Hungary” Lebensraum, which will presumably come at the cost of its neighbors.
The degree of politically-viable extremism seems to correspond with each country’s material conditions. In relatively stable countries, especially those with big economies and long democratic traditions, the real extremists lose out in national elections.
For example, Britain’s other nationalist party, the British National Party (BNP), runs on an explicitly white nationalist platform. It fails at the polls, earning only about 1,600 votes — zero percent of the national vote.
Perhaps learning from this, France’s National Front restricts its talking points to the economic and legal consequences of African immigration, rather than delving into an overtly racist platform that would almost certainly marginalize the party at the polls as its leader, Marine Le Pen, now prepares to run for President.
A Rising Tide Lifts (Some) Hopes
The French presidential elections, in April 2017, may well go to Le Pen. Other nationalist parties, such as Poland’s Law and Justice Party, the Macedonian VMRO, and the aforementioned Swiss Peoples’ Party already run their nations’ governments. The Danish Peoples’ Party holds 20 percent of the vote and participates in the current Danish government, though it lacks a majority.
Some of these ruling nationalist parties, such as Latvia’s National Alliance, didn’t even exist 10 years ago. But popular anger at the EU has propelled many of them into or toward mainstream political discourse, such that nationalist hopefuls like Le Pen and Geert Wilders have a real shot at winning the leadership of their countries.
With such popular support for nationalist causes, mainstream political parties are adjusting their messages to absorb some of the nationalist vote, though it may come at the expense of their traditional constituencies.
It was Britain’s established Conservative Party, not the upstart UKIP, that won the last general election. But a major part of the former party’s success was a pledge to hold a referendum on leaving the EU. Conservative opinion was evenly split on the issue of Brexit, but support from disaffected Labour voters on the left pushed the “Leave” vote to victory in 2016.