By becoming entrenched in time, the recession and the economic slump may have favoured the rise of extremist parties. Several studies show the link between the persistence of the crisis in the 1930s and the successes of the far right in the polls.
Since its breakthrough in the 1980s, the extreme right has proven to have become a significant political force in Europe. It is only to observe the national and European elections of recent years to be convinced.
From one end of Europe to the other, and despite differences related to the specificities of national contexts, far-right parties base their ideological substratum on the promotion of an identity nationalism that defends the primacy of the national framework and the homogeneity of nations. As a result, their criticism of the European Union, as it has been built since 1992, is uncompromising, the result of a vision sometimes fantasised of intentions that the far right attributes to the European project, sometimes realistic to the concerns that it arouses public opinion among the 27 member states.
The presence of a right-wing candidate in the second round of the Austrian and French presidential elections, the rise of the far-right German party AfD in the Bundestag …, the advance of far-right movements is confirmed in Europe. On 8 April 2010, the ultra-nationalist Jobbik party won a fifth of the votes in the Hungarian legislative elections, almost 50% won by a right (Fidesz) closer to the far right.
We will analyse the situation of extremism in modern politics (I) before analysing the national retreat (II).
I-Extremism in politics
In order to have a good overview of this subject, we must see the different aspect of extremism (1) and recognise the radicalisation of the classical right (2).
1- Multi-faceted extremism
Sovereignist, populist, euro-sceptical or even Europhobic, sometimes overtly racist and xenophobic, the far right in Europe has many faces. Its main driver in recent years has been the migration crisis and the fight against Islam, except in Spain, where right-wing extremist movements have regained visibility in favour of the Catalan crisis by fighting for the unity of the country.
The multiplication of conflicts around the world and the arrival of thousands of migrants in various European countries have had the collateral effect of intensifying an anti-immigration sentiment, on which far-right groups are surfing: Malta, which does not had, until recently, any notable right-wing extremist movement, has seen the Maltese Patriotic Movement appear in 2016.
In Cyprus, it is a rise in power of the National Popular Front (ELAM), which is inspired by the ultra-violent Greek movement Golden Dawn: on March 6, 2017, five young neo-Nazis were arrested in Athens by the anti-terrorist services, accused of attacks on local migrants and left.
This obsession with security (closing of borders, control of foreigners …) and the withdrawal of identity are also shared by « hard » right-wing parties, as in Hungary, where it is increasingly difficult to distinguish between the right and the extreme right. These ultra-conservative parties are also in power in Belgium and Poland, where governments are relaying Europhobic feelings or, at least, Eurosceptics. The New Flemish Alliance (NVA), which succeeded in damning the pawn to the « pure » of Vlaams Belang, thus joined the Parliament of the group of European Conservatives and Reformists (CRE), an unprecedented rally denounced by Karel De Gucht, former European Trade Commissioner.
2-The political recovery of far-right ideas by the more classic right
In addition, the success that its themes meet with traditional right-wing parties attests the ideological permeability of the latter. This phenomenon, explaining how tactical governmental alliances between the moderate right wing and the extreme right have sometimes been established, is particularly noticeable in the countries of the former Soviet bloc where nationalist nostalgia and identity affirmation are blossoming again. Thus, the decision taken in May 2014 by the new Hungarian Prime Minister and President of Fidesz, Viktor Orban, to offer Hungarian nationality to the Magyar-speaking minorities living in the countries bordering Hungary, attests to this ideological proximity. Indeed, the reunification of the Hungarian nation dismantled in 1920 by the Treaty of Trianon, which reduced Hungary to two-thirds of its territory under Romanian and Slovak rule, is at the heart of the foreign policy program of the far-right party Jobbik. , who presents himself as the spokesperson for the right to self-determination of Hungarian communities. The same phenomenon was observed in Poland, where the late President, Lech Kaczynski (2005-2010), endorsed some of the themes of the League of Families (LPR), especially those denouncing the attitude of associations of German descendants expelled from Pomerania, accused of wanting to recover houses’ property of their ancestors.
In terms of ideological capture, the classic rights of « old Europe » are not left behind. We remember the « syphoning » of part of the electorate of the FN in 2007 by Nicolas Sarkozy, then-candidate in the presidential election, thanks to the recovery of the security and migratory themes of the FN. Thus, at a meeting in Toulon on February 7, 2007, he stigmatised « those who hate France and its history, those who feel only rancour and contempt for it » adding that, nobody is forced to live in France against their will. « Recently, as part of the legislative campaign of May 6, 2015, in the UK, David Cameron defended the introduction of quotas for non-European immigrants, » taking the consequences of an increase in these populations on public services and local communities » a theme dear to the BNP (British National Party), which is still in the same vein as the leader of the Dutch liberals, Mark Rutte, winner of elections of June 9, wanted to capture part of the electorate of extremist leader Geert Wilders, proposing to deny disadvantaged immigrants entry into the national territory, and stop granting immigrants the minimum income during the first ten years of their settlement in the Netherlands.
This borrowing from extremist rhetoric to marginalise extremist parties for a time translates in its way a trivialisation of these themes because of the seduction exerted by the « closed society model », embodied by the extreme right; a model that opposes in every way the project of « open society » emancipated from the national framework, convinced of the benefits of globalisation and the process of European integration, as well as the advent of multicultural societies; on the contrary, the model of « closed society » is based on the conviction that only the ethnic homogeneity of nations guarantees their survival and their coexistence, and that it is then necessary to refocus on the national framework while preserving itself from the outside world, » unlimited domain of all fears and transgressions « . This model claimed by the far-right European parties is therefore based on a defensive discourse that makes the preservation of national identity the substance of its rhetoric.
II-The national retreat
In this section, we will have an overview of the rejection of the European Union (1) that determined the acceptation of a closed nationalism of exclusion (2) to defend against the ideas of the European Union.
1-The rejection of the European Union
Given their defence of the national framework perceived as the most effective form to defend the identity of the people of Europe and the only legitimate sovereign entity, the far-right European parties have developed a strong hostility against the European construction since it accelerated the transfer of certain national powers to federal bodies from the 1992 Maastricht Treaty. This criticism is, in fact, a more general condemnation of the openness caused by globalisation, which the European Union is supposed to have sworn allegiance. This openness is both economic with the acceleration of international trade and a much tougher competition between national economies; it is political with the rise of supranational organisations that relativize national sovereignty; it is finally cultural, the growth of migratory flows provoking an ethnic-religious fragmentation of societies. But in the worldview of the far-right identity, the « globalist project » led by the Americans, becomes a « totalitarian » ideology based on the standardisation of minds and the negation of identities. According to the National Front, its objectives are both to « destroy nations, to mix peoples and cultures, to sweep barriers in an effort to erase all differences and ultimately to destroy even the slightest sense of identity « . At this stage, it is revealing to point out that this discourse, analysing the European Union as the instrument of « globalism » is an ideological bias in radical opposition to the real intentions of the European project as conceived by its fathers who wanted to define the regional identity and value the economic and geopolitical specificity of Europe so that it continues to weigh on the international scene.
For the far right, the European Union, far from being a bulwark of protection against globalisation, is considered a servile institution, described as « Trojan horse of globalism » or « Super Orwellian State ». Also, all these parties oppose the process of European integration, which they perceive as an anti-national process, which deprives people of their sovereignty and rights to conduct their internal affairs. In this context, the migratory phenomenon, described as an “invasion » becomes an instrument in the hands of the European elites, used to accelerate this planned national destruction, allowing, according to the Northern League, to transform « our nations, demographically, culturally and politically in appendices of countries not belonging to the European continent « . It aims to standardise the European space that will eventually become a « multi-ethnic society » soon caught up in the rest of the world. This analysis recalls the protest dimension « anti-elite » right-wing speech, which persists on European elites accused of renouncing, or even « collaborating » selling their homeland to foreign interests. This criticism refers to the fantasy of the « Establishment », a sort of « mafia » made up of « established » (political, media), which « enjoy the privileges conferred by a statute that allows them to work for foreign powers. » The BNP does not say anything else when it accuses the « parties of Westminster » to deceive the British people, suggesting that they will not give up the sovereignty of the country against Brussels, which they are accused of being « the agencies of collaboration. » The Swiss People’s Party in Switzerland (Democratic Union of the Center) is also part of this ideological vein when vituperates politicians, who « all dream of dissolving the Confederation in the European Union and globalisation” and want to establish a Republic that would be only international, composed of a cosmopolitan population of which any Swiss character would have disappeared. Moreover, this rhetoric, which reflects the categorical refusal to recognise the existence of other sovereign political actors alongside nations, is ideologically biased. Indeed, for the extreme right, the outside world, as opposed to the national territory, is defined as that of irreducible power relations between states, which makes vain the efforts destined to make it an area of integrated peace. Also, every supranational enterprise is systematically discredited and accused of plotting against the nation.
2-A closed nationalism of exclusion
The nationalism of the far-right European parties refers to « closed nationalism ». This modern political ideology demands the unconditional defence of the national identity supposedly threatened from within as from the outside. It is founded on the conviction of the existence of a duty of the peoples to remain themselves, and on the fear of miscegenation which can only lead to the alteration of the innate qualities of this person and its programmed death. It draws its reflection from the postulate that identity is inherited and intangible, and is not built in the exchange, but is rather strengthened in the confrontation. She focuses her speech on foreign invasion and anti-immigrant rhetoric, the latter being accused of wanting to impose their own identity in disregard of the cultural specificities of the host country. This ideology is therefore based on an « ethnic » and not « political » (or « civic ») vision of the nation, which values the common ancestry of individuals, shaping their cultural identity and determining their way of being, while the nation « Political » aims to transcend « by the citizenship, and the will of the men, the concrete rooting”. Jean-Marie Le Pen expresses this ethnic dimension of the nation when he compares it to a closed community composed of « heirs of an immense heritage, intellectual, artistic, legal, social, which was constituted, not by us, but by the work, the efforts, the sufferings of the generations that preceded us and that we have the sacred duty to transmit to our children and to those who will be born of them “
Gary King of Harvard has shown with other researchers that the victims of the crisis have chosen two different paths. The unemployed voted communists, poor workers (small traders, domestic) voted for the Nazi party. In other words, those who feared to lose their status brought Hitler to power, more than those who had really lost him. This lesson deserves to be meditated in France, where the statutes hold a considerable place and could be threatened by the crisis.
Two other researchers, Ingo Geishecker from the University of Göttingen and Thomas Siedler from the Berlin Institute DIW, also show the role of fear of decommissioning in extremist voting, this time in contemporary Germany. Employees who are very much afraid of being unemployed are half as likely as others to express affinities with a far-right party (48% in the west of the country and 64% in the East).
The new push of the extreme right on the European scene should not be interpreted as a cyclical phenomenon destined to disappear when the socio-economic situation of the populations living on its territory has improved. Rather, it is an expression of an identity movement that responds to the process of opening borders at the international level, which weakens national sovereignty and identity. If globalisation is designated as the main instigator of this « killing of nations » the European Union is stigmatised for having sworn allegiance to this ideology, and for this reason, must be fought. Europe nevertheless appears as a carnal reality in the eyes of far-right parties, which derives its existence from this culture peculiar to the nations of the continent and whose aim is to defend them against threats to their identity. To the federalist ambitions displayed by the European Union, they oppose the return to a Europe of cooperation between sovereign states.
Yet there is every reason to believe that the challenge posed by identity extremism to the European Union may be an opportunity for her to question her responsibility for this new breakthrough, which is in some ways, the reflection of his inability to convince citizens of the purpose of his project, and his reluctance to assert what he is and what he is not. In these circumstances, the European Union cannot ignore a debate on its identity and its geographical limits, in order to prove its singularity and thus contradict those who accuse it of being at the orders of a project of standardisation of cultures and identities on a global scale. It will also benefit from extending its skills in common security and defence, to better satisfy the need for security of European citizens, whose identity extremism considers it for the moment incapable.
For more information:
-E. Lecoeur (dir.), Dictionary of the extreme right, Paris, Larousse, 2007, p. 18.
-M. Winock, « Open Nationalism and Closed Nationalism », in Nationalism, Antisemitism and Fascism in France, Paris, Le Seuil, 1992, pp. 11-40.
-R. Girardet, myths and political mythologies, Paris, Ed du Seuil, 1986, p. 128.
-D. Schnapper, The community of citizens. On the modern idea of nation, Paris, Gallimard, 1994, pp. 178 and 180.
-Völkisch nationalism considers the nation as a closed and immutable entity, a community of blood that rests on a biological substratum from which its cultural, historical and geographical specificities derive. Consequently, this form of nationalism excludes any possibility of integration of ethnocultural minorities. Völkisch thought has been painstakingly analysed by Thomas Lindemann in his book, Darwinian Doctrines and the War of 1914, Paris, Economica, 2001.
-P-A. Taguieff, « The ideological metamorphoses of racism and the crisis of anti-racism », in P-A. Taguieff (dir.), Facing racism 2. Analyses, hypotheses, perspectives, op.cit., Pp. 32-33 and pp. 41-42.
-Front national, 300 measures for the rebirth of France. Government Program, Saint Cloud, National Editions, 1993, pp. 15-16.
-B. Bruneteau, History of the European idea (2 volumes), Paris, A. Colin, 2006.
-M. Le Pen, « Speech of May 1, 2000 », French first, No. 320, May 1-15, 2000, p. 24.