Right Wing Rising: Eurozone Crisis and Nationalism

Article excerpt

Over the past few years, extreme right-wing parties have gained popularity across Europe: performing strongly in opinion polls, winning seats in parliaments, and exercising greater influence over governmental decisions. While the movements vary in constitution from country to country, they are typically populist nationalist parties characterized by some combination of anti-immigrant, Islamophobic, xenophobic, and anti-EU policies. France, the Netherlands, Italy, Switzerland, Austria, Finland, Norway, Sweden, and Denmark have all recently seen particularly high growth in far-right parties. The expanding influence of these right-wing movements can be seen not just in their increased political power, but also in street demonstrations throughout Europe, and, in its most extreme form, in the violence wrought by Anders Breivik, the right-wing extremist who killed 69 people near Oslo in July 2011. Although far-right parties are by definition nationalist, and are therefore rooted country-specific grievances, many of the issues that have driven their recent resurgence are common across Europe, including anti-Muslim and anti-immigrant sentiment and discontent with the European Union, particularly in light of the Eurozone crisis.

Europe is no stranger to right-wing movements, but the current revival has some unique features. Reactionary politics have generally tended to be popular among older generations, but the recent movement has a uniquely youthful bent. Demos, a British think tank, recently undertook an extensive survey of right-wing parties and movements in Europe and found that two-thirds of the people affiliated with them were younger than thirty. The study also claimed that the number of youth involved in the broader movement is probably greater than the number formally affiliated with any other parties. Social media has become a popular tool for disseminating far-right views, although it is difficult to determine whether this is a cause or effect of the increased youth involvement. The influence of social media can be observed in the increasing number of alliances between far-right groups as they use technology to build networks of like-minded people. The rhetoric used by right-wing politicians and other leaders has also generally shifted from the overt racism of past movements to vaguer talk of the importance of maintaining traditional culture and values, the incompatibility of Islam with these liberal values, and other more subtle rhetoric.

The current right-wing movements in Europe are focused on Islam to an unprecedented degree. Many of the countries where far-right parties have been gaining prominence have large Muslim populations. In France, for example, people of North African descent--who are predominantly Muslim--make up the largest minority group in the country. …

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