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Ultra Right Ideology Continues to Gain Ground From Europe to the U.S.

Parties that were previously considered fascist have pushed their way toward success by seeking to mainstream their public reputation.
 
 
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Marine Le Pen, the new leader of Front National

 
 
 
 

Almost a decade ago, in the Spring 2005 issue of The Public Eye magazine, Jérôme Jamin examined the role of the Extreme Right in European politics (It’s worth noting that PRA no longer uses the term “Extreme Right,” as it has become so casually applied in the political discourse. We now generally use “Far Right” or “Ultra Right”). Jamin observed, that “as yesterday’s fascists [had] entered government,” it had become more difficult to identify them as such. With many of these parties participating in ruling coalitions, their public actions did not necessarily reflect their political rhetoric, restricted by coalition partners and, more broadly, by the European Union.

From May 22nd to the 25th this year, European parliamentary elections were held across Europe, and the same troubling questions came back to the fore. Parties of the Right with strong anti-immigrant and anti-Europe policies have flourished across Europe. Some of these parties have direct ties to the Nazi party, and many more use the same imagery. The Front National and the Danish People’s Party won the largest share of the vote in France and Denmark, respectively, by seeking to present themselves as mainstream. This mainstreaming has parallels in the U.S., with individuals and organizations with racist, sexist, and homophobic views seeking—and often gaining—mainstream credibility.

Thanks to the new leadership of Marine Le Pen (daughter of former Party leader Jean-Marie Le Pen), Front National has been pulling off major upsets in French politics. The change in leadership from father to daughter allowed the party to distance itself from the controversial views of Jean-Marie, a man with a history of Holocaust denial, antisemitism, and racism, and who recently suggested that ebola could be the solution to population control and European immigration. Despite all this, the party now presents itself as moderate, having been through a process of “detoxification.” (Marine Le Pen took a political rival to court for calling her a fascist.) Success in the elections will only further the Front National’s move toward the mainstream. Having won 25 percent of the vote, they are now the largest French party in the European Parliament.

Winning an even higher percentage of their country’s vote, the Danish People’s Party became the largest Danish party in the European Parliament, doubling its number of seats. Its campaign relied on anti-immigration policies and racist statements, largely directed against Muslims. Party candidates have specifically argued against Muslim immigration, going so far as to suggest a ban on immigration from Islamic countries.

Among the other parties, Golden Dawn and Jobbik (of Greece and Hungary, respectively), stand out as examples of the Far Right’s rise in Europe. While it hasn’t achieved the electoral success of some of the other groups, Golden Dawn’s rise, in particular, shows that even clearly Nazi-inspired symbolism can win votes. From violent attacks on immigrants by likely supporters, to racially discriminatory welfare programs, and even to readings of The Protocols of the Elders of Zion in the Greek parliament, you don’t even need to see their clearly Nazi-inspired rallies, logo, and flag to recognize the worrying similarities to Nazism. Golden Dawn only received 9.4 percent of the vote, but the party is now the third largest Greek party in the European Parliament.

A similar party in Hungary, called Jobbik, did not gain new seats in the elections; having received 14.7 percent of the vote, however, it’s certainly not on the decline. The party is clearly anti-Semitic (at one point asking to “tally up people of Jewish ancestry”), anti-Roma ( suggesting Roma individuals be forced into camps, possibly for life), and anti-LGBTQ (proposing a similar “gay propaganda” law to the one recently passed in Russia).