Since World War II, the political center has maintained its grip on power, enforcing its vision for a fully integrated unified and uniform Europe– that is, until now. The past few years have brought about the rise of a new force in Europe, causing a shift in the continent’s political landscape and dialogue. The political Right is adopting a chauvinistic, nationalist, protective tone, led by highly Eurosceptic hard-liners against multiculturalism and immigration. On June 23rd, the Brexit referendum was a manifestation of a paradigm shift that does not only affect Britain. Like many leaders and heads of State, French President François Hollande responded to the vote “with profound sadness”, while Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, praised the British for taking a stance against “the totalitarian EU, that prison of people”, and vowed to hold a similar EU referendum upon winning the presidential election in 2017. After Brexit, all one reads in the papers is that the “rise of the Right” is the single biggest threat to Europe, the worst of all nightmares, an extremist and racist “enemy within”. The question is, though, why are these parties getting more popular, and are they all as purely evil as portrayed by the media?
Who is voting for the Right?
The Brexit referendum offers us an opportunity to analyze voting patterns. According to analysts, right-wing populists were most successful in constituencies previously controlled by the center-left. The shift was even greater in areas high in working class voters. Such was the case in Sunderland, a largely working-class voting block and Labour Party stronghold: 62% voted to leave the EU. A similar picture emerged in many of the Labour Party’s traditional working class bastions that also voted against the Party line, exposing the growing rift between their interests and those of the leftist middle class.
Both the UK referendum and the presidential elections in Austria were high in voter turnout among the working class. This signals a clear failure of the establishment, that advocated the project of a unified Europe with a strong common currency and promised open borders would only make us all wealthier. Interestingly, the areas trading the most with the EU voted to Brexit, as seen in the previous chart. While “experts” argued that leaving the EU would threaten the British economy, voters begged to differ. Would they have voted to Leave if they had truly benefited from the terms of their trading relationship with the EU?
Meanwhile, media and state institutions are fuelling a fear campaign against the political Right, labeling all emerging voices indiscriminately as extremist. This is a result of the status quo’s fears of disintegration of the political establishment and financial monetary system put in place since WWII. The changing political winds have threatened to interrupt the gradual expansion of socialist statism, an idea that was first promoted by a powerful UK group, “The Fabian Society”, that few know about. To find out more, please refer to our article about the history, the doctrine and the influence of the Fabian ideology and socialist vision in modern Western politics.
Setting the record straight
Do all nationalist parties promote the same ideas? The European Right covers a wide spectrum ranging from populist to nationalist to neo-fascist. Or, to echo a popular mainstream liberal media theme, it would be politically incorrect to put all parties in one basket. The chart below shows the rising stars of the political Right, based on the most recent election results.
Austria ranks first, with the Freedom Party suffering a decimal defeat in the elections in May (annulled by Austrian courts this month, due to electoral rules violations and scheduled to be re-run in October), followed by Switzerland. The chart does not mention the UK, as the Tory and Labour Parties won majority votes in last year’s elections. However, we can consider the Brexit referendum as an indication for the growing popularity of the right-wing. Among the countries with the highest right-wing popularity are also Hungary, Denmark, France, Finland and Sweden.
In a broad sense, we can classify these parties, in varying degrees, as “protectionist” –of their national culture, and of their economy. All reject suprastate structures, are highly Eurosceptic, and call on their governments to disengage from the Union. But they vary widely in their ideological approach and actual political platforms and agendas, and therefore could be classified into three categories: Extreme-Fascist, Far-Right, and Populist, as in the image below. In the economy, they are fiercely against global capitalism, big business and statist policies. Many lean towards neoliberal free market economics, but some, like the Danish People’s Party, adopt a more centrist view built around the welfare state. However, the issue of immigration is the one that we can use as a scale to determine how far right they are on the spectrum.
In the Extreme-Fascist category, we have Hungary’s Jobbik, and Bulgaria’s Attack Party, both of which can be considered radical nationalists. They are fierce opponents of immigration, but not as aggressive as Greece’s Golden Dawn, which holds intensely xenophobic positions, with an openly racist leadership, commonly characterized as neo-Nazist. Among the policies the party advocates are: segregation in schools, denial of health care and forced labor camps for immigrants, military conscription for all Greek men and women, state-imposed censorship on journalists and artists and comprehensive income redistribution.
Then there are the parties that are considered “Far-Right”, but not “extreme”. Most are against multiculturalist policies and, with small variations, they all agree that immigration has threatened national identity and social cohesion. Such are the Dutch Party of Freedom, Austria’s Freedom Party, the Sweden Democrats, the Slovak National Party, and France’s National Front. Italy’s Lega Nord is calling for autonomy of the “Padania” territory, similar to Belgium’s Flemish “Vlaams Belang”, demanding Flemish independence. These parties do not only promote decentralization, but irredentism. As for the “Populist Right”, often painted with the same brush, yet, in fact, greatly distanced from extremist or racist views, we have the United Kingdom Independence Party, the Finns Party, the Alternative for Germany and the Danish People’s Party, mainly advocating national sovereignty and self-determination.
Playing with matches
As the media launched a wholesale campaign of horror and fear against all these parties, it’s important to remember how and why the need for them emerged: The firestarter was the EU itself, as it took away basic rights of self-determination of all its members’ citizens, regardless of the consequences on society or the economy. After years of open borders, the public has found that their cultural heritage is at risk. Europe’s promise of a culturally diverse society where each culture respects the freedoms and norms of others did not come to pass. Instead, all cultural identities were forced into one mold that simply does not fit.
The economy is another important issue. As opposed to the “Bremain” main argument, leaving the EU does not imply that Britain will be economically isolated from the world, while the semi-free trade within the Union does not necessarily promote the national industry; it can threaten and erode it. Instead, the UK will now be able to set its own terms in a way that gives its industries a competitive edge in the market. The same goes for open borders too: they do not always serve the interests of the local job market. Assimilation of refugees beyond sustainable limits can go against the local absorption capacity of the country, both economically and culturally. Therefore, by leaving the EU, the British opted for decentralization, as the best course to ensure national sovereignty.
After Brexit, the EU will never be the same again. It is only the first step to an inevitable domino effect that will take Europe by storm, as nationalist parties represent a corrective movement in the political arena. Brussels cannot turn a blind eye to this growing phenomenon, which is only a logical consequence of its own policies. In the midst of all this, we should remember that the current crisis was created by our own governments and if we lose focus, it can lead us into civil strife. We are not pieces on a chessboard, where our different cultures or classes set us against each other and we shall not fall into the trap of cultural or racial division within our societies. Seeing that our states have failed to achieve peace, stability and mutual respect for diversity, we should take charge of our own future, where the individual takes precedence over the collective.