The Rise Of Europe’s Far Right

Published February 7, 2017
Updated February 10, 2017

Democratic Fascism

Global Fascism Greek Soccer

STR/AFP/Getty ImagesGreek soccer player Giorgos Katidis celebrates a goal with a Nazi salute in 2013. Katidis was slapped with a lifetime ban from the Greek national team for this gesture.

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

Global Fascism Triumphant Farage

GEOFF CADDICK/AFP/Getty ImagesLeader of the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) Nigel Farage reacts at the Leave.EU referendum party at Millbank Tower in central London on June 24, 2016, as results indicate that it looks likely that the UK will vote to leave the European Union.

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.

Richard Stockton
Richard Stockton is a freelance science and technology writer from Sacramento, California.
Savannah Cox
Savannah Cox holds a Master's in International Affairs from The New School as well as a PhD from the University of California, Berkeley, and now serves as an Assistant Professor at the University of Sheffield. Her work as a writer has also appeared on DNAinfo.