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Belgium, Europe, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Politics

Why is the extreme right on the rise in Europe?


The European Parliament is preparing to welcome the most powerful extreme right that the Old Continent has seen since the 1930s. Ignacio Ramonet discusses the factors behind this disturbing political development.  

One thing is certain: the European elections in late May will result in an overall rise of the far-right vote. And the arrival in the European Parliament of a wave of new ultra-right members. Currently they are gathered in two groups: the European Alliance for Freedom (EAF) and the Alliance of European National Movements (AENM). In all 47 MEPs, barely 6% of 766 euroseats. And after May 25? Double? Sufficient to block the decisions of the European Parliament and therefore the functioning of the European Union?

The fact is that since the worsening social disaster and crisis of representative democracy, distrust of European integration has significantly increased. Almost all elections in most EU countries have resulted in an irresistible rise of the extreme right. Recent polls confirm that, once again, European voters are going to opt en masse for the main far right movements, namely: UKIP (United Kingdom ); the Freedom Party, FPÖ (Austria); Jobbik (Hungary); Golden Dawn (Greece); Northern League (Italy); The Finns (Finland) ; Vlaams Belang (Belgium); the Freedom Party, PVV (Netherlands); the Danish People’s Party, DF (Denmark) ; the Sweden Democrats , DS (Sweden); the Slovak National Party, SNS (Slovakia); the Order and justice Party, TT (Lithuania) ; Ataka (Bulgaria); the Greater Romania Party, PRM (Romania); and the National Democratic Party, NDP (Germany).

As for France, in the municipal elections in March, the Front National (FN) led by Marine Le Pen won a dozen mayors of major cities. Nationally, it received some 1,600 councillors. An unprecedented development. But the most unusual thing is yet to come. Because opinion surveys indicate that on May 25 , the FN could get nearly 25 % of the vote which would make it – if this was true – the leading party of France ahead of the UMP and far ahead of the Socialist Party President François Hollande. A real bomb.


The rejection of European integration and euro exit are two themes widely shared by the European extreme right. Two topics that find, at this time, a favourable echo in the minds of many Europeans victims of the crisis. A crisis Brussels has worsened with the Stability Pact and its cruel austerity policies that have caused real social disaster . There are, remember, 26 million unemployed , and the percentage of young people under 25 unemployed has reached a frightening rate (52 % in Portugal , 56 % in Spain, 61.5 % in Greece … ) . Exasperated, many citizens repudiate the EU. Euroscepticism explodes and so does Europhobia. And this often leads them to find agreement on one point or another, with the programmes of far right parties.

It must also be said that the European extreme right has changed, at least in appearance. For a long time it backed Nazi and fascist ideologies of the 1930s, with sinister paramilitary accoutrements , the Roman salute, anti-Semitic hatred, racist violence … These visible external aspects – which persist among Hungarian Jobbik activists or those of the Greece’s Golden Dawn – have tended to disappear. They have been replaced by less ‘unpalatable’ movements that have learned to conceal their most detestable characteristics, which were considered responsible for their repeated electoral failures. Antisemitism – a trait that was, so to speak, genetic of the extreme right – is now muted , buried in the unconscious (which does not prevent it from outing from time to time, as missteps , bloopers or jokes) . The new far right no longer exalts race but the identity, national values​​, homeland and culture (in the anthropological sense) to oppose the rise of immigration and the “threat” that Islam represents.

Image facelift

In order to “de-demonize ” their image, the new ultras also moderate their ideology of hatred and adopt a discourse that is chaotic, but radical in its refusal of the system, a critique (more or less) argued around immigration (especially with respect to Muslims and the Roma) and defence of ” poor whites” . Now their stated goal is to win power. To win elections. For this purpose, they overwhelmingly use the Internet and social networks to broadcast their programmes, call for demonstrations, recruit new members. And their arguments, as we have said, resonate more and more with millions of Europeans broken by unemployment and austerity policies.

In France, for example, Marine Le Pen attacks in her speeches, more radically than any political leader of the left, the “wild capitalism” , the “ultra-liberal Europe”, the “damage of globalization” and “economic imperialism United States” . Her speeches are attracting large swatches of the working class hit by deindustrialization and offshoring, which applaud the leader of the FN when she says, citing a former General Secretary of the Communist Party, that “we must stop immigration; otherwise, we condemn even more workers to unemployment”. Or when defending “selective protectionism” and demands an end to free trade because it “puts French workers in competition with the workers in the world .” Or when calling the “national identity ” in terms of access to welfare which, according to her, “should be reserved for families with at least one parent is French or European.” These arguments meet warm support in areas most affected by industry closures, where for decades the left vote was the norm.

Identity confusion

But the new discourse of the extreme right has a range that goes beyond the direct victims of the crisis. It affects somehow this “identity confusion” that many Europeans feel. It responds to the sense of “existential destabilization” experienced by citizens affected both by globalization and the EU, impacts that continue to expand. So many certainties ( family, society, nation, religion, work …) have collapsed in recent times, that people feel the ground collapsing under their feet. Especially the middle classes – guarantors of sorts of the political balance in European societies – that watch powerless the collapse of their status. They risk falling into the slide that would make them irresistibly join the poorer classes, where they believed (by a belief in Progress) to have escaped forever. So they live in a constant state of panic.

Neither the liberal right nor the left have not been able to address these new anxieties that are the hallmark of this new century. The vacuum has been filled by the extreme right. As Dominique Reynié, specialist new populism in Europe, stated: ” The extreme right were the only ones to take into account the disarray of the people affected by the erosion of their material heritage – unemployment , standard of living – and their intangible heritage, that is to say their lifestyle threatened by globalization, immigration and the European Union. ”

Workers abandoned 

While the European left spent the last few decades dedicating all their attention and energy to – legitimate – social problems (divorce, marriage for all, abortion, rights of undocumented migrants, ecology, etc. ), at the same time they abandoned to their – bad – sort whole segments of the population, the low-wage workers, white collar employees, and small farmers. Sacrificed in the name of the “imperatives” of European integration and economic globalization. To all those little frightened employees, the extreme right has shown how to talk to them and listen to them. Identify their misfortunes, and promise solutions. Not without demagogy. But effectively.

Consequence: the European Parliament is preparing to welcome the most powerful extreme right that the Old Continent has seen since the 1930s. We know how that period ended. When will democrats wake up?

Translation/edit by Revolting Europe

About revoltingeurope

Writer on Europe's Left, trade union and social movements @tomgilltweets or @revoltingeurope



  1. Pingback: For Europe’s Left It’s Double or Quits | Revolting Europe - May 15, 2014

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