Fascism's Return: Scandal, Revision, and Ideology since 1980

By Richard J. Golsan | Go to book overview

Christopher Flood


Organizing Fear and Indignation: The Front National in France

The revival of the radical Right in Western Europe has been increasingly widely reported since the mid-1980s. Whether or not the parties representing this current can usefully be described as neofascist is debatable, since there is no consensus on what counts as fascism in the contemporary context.1 Whatever the case, the more successful among the parties do not share the revolutionary stance, the socioeconomic corporatism, or the authoritarian rejection of democracy often associated with fascism. The commonly used label "national populist" seems to fit them well enough. Their message is certainly nationalistic, and they couch their appeal in distinctly populist terms. They have made the issue of immigration the centerpiece of their political platforms, and they have linked the presence of large immigrant populations to a wide range of social and economic problems. The prospect of huge waves of refugees, asylum-seekers, and economic migrants sweeping into Western Europe from the east or south is often the subject of apocalyptic warnings coupled with denunciation of the alleged weakness of mainstream political parties in facing the problem.

The emergence of radical right-wing parties is not related only to the immigration issue. It also reflects a more diffuse phenomenon some political theorists call societal insecurity.2 That is to say, significant sections of European populations feel their collective identity and their material well-being are under serious threat. For the social scientist, the present period can be analyzed in the light of complex transnational and international factors of change such as economic modernization and globalization, the information-technology revolution, and the fluidity of international relations since the end of the cold war. For many ordinary citizens the issues seem less abstract. They see endemic unemployment and job insecurity. They see widening wealth gaps. They see the state losing its power to assure the welfare and safety of its citizens. They are frightened by media reports of rising crime, drug epidemics, and unrest among disaffected young people.

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