The Extreme Right in Contemporary Europe: The Contemporary Extreme Right Opportunistically Appeals-Just like the Fascists and Nazis of the Past-To Various Groups with Diverging Interests and Values

By Rovny, Jan | The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs, Summer 2009 | Go to article overview

The Extreme Right in Contemporary Europe: The Contemporary Extreme Right Opportunistically Appeals-Just like the Fascists and Nazis of the Past-To Various Groups with Diverging Interests and Values


Rovny, Jan, The New Presence: The Prague Journal of Central European Affairs


Extreme right-wing parties have reemerged on the European political landscape. Since the nineties, their rhetoric has rang through parliamentary debates, presidential elections, and even during executive meetings of some European governments. Extremist demonstrations in various Czech towns and hateful TV advertisements have also brought this European reality directly onto our doorstep.

With regard to the current economic crisis, it seems appropriate to analyze the intentions of extreme right-wing parties. What is their ideological platform and political strategy? And how do they differ from the fascists and Nazis of pre-war Europe?

The extreme right in contemporary Europe can be considered right-wing from two perspectives. Firstly, the rise of extreme right-wing parties in the eighties and nineties was a reaction against the liberal and cosmopolitan movements of the sixties and seventies from which leftist Green parties had arisen across Europe. The extreme right opposed the "green wave" with nationalist, authoritative, and anti-immigration programs.

Secondly, the extreme right represents the right-wing because of its critiques of Europe's "oversized" social welfare systems and the taxes which sustain them. While their stance against state economic intervention seems indicative of the right-wing, a closer examination reveals the complexities of this interpretation.

THE EXTREME RIGHT'S IDEOLOGICAL PLATFORM

The demographic data of extreme right-wing voters is not uniform but actually varies greatly. And surprisingly, the economic position of extreme right voters in Belgium, France, and Germany is oft en more leftist than voters of social democratic parties.

This is not so surprising when we look at the average extreme right-wing voter. Generally, right-wing voters are men with a technical school education, a blue-collar profession, and a below average salary; these men have reasons to feel threatened by globalization, the loss of industrial production to third world countries, and the influx of cheap labor. Consequently, this sort of individual will be easily influenced by the extreme right's nationalist and anti-immigration slogans.

But the question is why would blue-collar workers with below average pay (who should logically fall left-of-center) support right-wing parties that advocate lowering taxes and reducing social welfare benefits? Aren't these blue-collar workers the very ones who should want to strengthen the social welfare state? Yes and no. For these individuals, economic concerns come second. They vote for the extreme right because its core ideology is based on civic morals and identity, not on economics.

Extreme right-wing parties are relatively new on the political stage. Some decades after the fall fascism and Nazism, the so-called "new right" stepped onto the European political scene as a democratic but extremist anti-system political force. These parties were oft en small and structurally undeveloped. Since the established political elite overpowered them in the economic sphere, their only strategic possibility was to draw attention to non-traditional political issues that the political elite ignored. They focused their ideology on the "regression" of national and moral values, and especially the "uncontrollable" invasion of non-European immigrants, who apparently threaten our civilization.

Questions of civil morality and national identity dominate the political programs and statements of extreme right-wing parties. …

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