From the beginning of the current century, many European countries have witnessed the resurgence of extreme right political ideologies in their social and political arenas. Political entities such as the Freedom Party of Austria, Swiss People’s Party, the Dutch Party for Freedom, the Hungarian Jobbik Party, the Swedish Democrats and the German National Democrat Party all share two or more of the following ideologies and characteristics: Euroscepticism, cultural conservatism, anti-globalism, national liberalism, anti-immigration, anti-Islamism, anti-Semitism and right-wing populism. Most of these parties gather under the umbrellas of several right wing formations, particularly as Non-Inscrits, in the European Parliament opposing the process of European integration. Their political success in the period after 2000, underlines the current trend towards right wing politics in Europe. (Eatwell 2000)
This essay aims to demonstrate how and more importantly why, extremely right wing ideologies have become prominent in Europe and why the political parties representing them have entered the political stage of their home countries as well as the European Union. In order to give the reader a better understanding of this rising trend, this essay will discuss, in more detail, the cases of the Swiss People’s Party and the Dutch Party of Freedom. The paper’s discussion will be divided into the following four parts: (1) the evolution of the ‘New Right’, (2) their recent political successes and lastly, (3) the case of the Dutch Party of Freedom. The conclusion will be based on the summary of findings and will mention the reasons why the new extreme right has gained ground in European politics.
The Evolution of the ‘New Right’
In the previous century, Europe has witnessed violent years of ethnic cleansing, xenophobia and racism. With the allied victory in the WWII, Europe turned a page on its past and looked forward towards a more tolerant and open future. Anti-fascist victory, years of economic growth and lower unemployment rates prevented the rise of any major extreme right movement within Western Europe in the years following the post-war period. However, by the last quarter of the twentieth century, the living memory of the pre-war and wartime years became lesser and some new extreme right movements began to emerge. These new extreme right movements and parties are not exactly the mirror of 1930s-40s political parties in Europe, but there are still some linkages between the contemporary movements and its predecessors (Hainsworth 2008).
Scholars such as Hainsworth point out that the differences between the old and contemporary extreme right organizations in Europe. First, many of the current far right parties have been integrated into electoral system and they work within the parameters of the liberal democratic system and institutions. Second, in comparison to their predecessors, the new far right movements and parties in Europe are contesting a much broader range of political, economic and social issues such as increased European integration and the subsequent decline of the nation-state, economic liberalism, multiculturalism, immigration and Islamism (Hainsworth 2008). It would be misleading to interpret the new extreme Right as a simple continuation of the fascist or national socialist Right. Some analysts such as Kitschelt suggest that the old extreme right has not put enough emphasis on a free market organization of the economy to build a successful electoral coalition today. On contrary, the new extreme right could be seen as a ‘right libertarian’ as the counterpart of the ‘left-libertarian’ social movements and parties.(Kitschelt 1997)
In order to make a distinction between the old and new extreme right, some scholars use the terms such as ‘traditional’ and ‘post-industrial’. As the fascist parties of the interwar period can be described as the by-product of the industrial revolution, the birth of extreme right wing parties of the 1980s are quite different. One of the most important reasons why the extreme right wing parties developed in the post-industrial Western society is about the inability of established parties to answer new challenges such as identity crisis. As globalization at the economic level and supra-nationalism at the political level changed the socio-economic structure in nation states, a demand for identity and reassurance was a natural result among the people living in the West.
As many party families are characterized by common terms such as ‘communist’, ‘green’, or ‘socialist, far right parties do not characterize themselves as ‘extreme right’. Some parties do not even accept that they are right wing; they rather claim that they represent a ‘third way’ way position which is neither left nor right. New radical wing parties generally reject the established socio-cultural and socio-political system, a free market and reduction of the role of the state. However, new extreme right wing parties do not openly question the legitimacy of democracy. This distinguishes their ideologies from the right wing parties of wartime and inter-war period. Betz outlines the scope of new right wing parties:
They are right wing in their rejection of individual and social equality and of political projects that seeks to achieve it; second in their opposition to the social integration of marginalized groups; and third in their appeal to xenophobia, if not overt racism and anti-Semitism. (Betz 1994: 4)
The new extreme right parties share both similarities and differences in their agendas and ideological stances. Some scholars such as Carter argue that new extreme right parties could be classified in five different types: 1) Neo-Nazi parties which can be apart from other extreme right parties with their nature of racist attitudes, 2) Neo-fascist parties reject pluralism and democracy but they are not particularly racist or anti-immigrationist such as Italian Social Movement (MSI) before its dissolution, 3) Authoritarian xenophobic parties are radically xenophobic; culturist; demand reform of the existing system with less democracy and less pluralism such as Front National (France) and FPÖ (Austria). 4) Neoliberal xenophobic parties are also xenophobic and culturist but they demand more democracy and less state intervention such as Danks Folkeparti and Lega Nord of Italy, and 5) Neoliberal populist parties which are not xenophobic or racist in their attitudes and very close to liberal parties. (Carter: 51).
Recent Political Successes
Extreme right parties have been relatively successful in several European countries in from the year 2000 onwards. Geert Wilders and his far-right anti-Islamic Party for Freedom (PVV), for instance, finished third in the 2010 Dutch general elections by taking 15.5 per cent of the popular votes and winning 24 of the 150 seats in the House of Representatives. Compared to the election results in 2006, this meant an increase of 15 seats. In Austria, where far-right political parties have been successful since the early 1980s, two extreme right parties, the Austrian Freedom Party (FPO) and the Alliance for the Future of Austria (BZO), have, together, managed to take almost one third (27.5%) of the total popular vote in the national elections in 2008. The far-right Danish People’s Party won two seats and took 13.9 per cent of Denmark’s vote, in the 2007 elections, and the Hungarian right-wing Jobbik Party, won 16.67 per cent of the general vote in 2010, making it the third strongest force in Hungarian National Assembly.
- Quote paper
- Can Esen (Author), 2011, The Rise of the ‘New Right’ in Europe from the 2000s onwards: The Case of the Dutch "Party for Freedom", Munich, GRIN Verlag, https://www.grin.com/document/193979