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Far-Right Revival
Meet the Nazis, Racists, Anti-Semites, and Russia Apologists Headed for EU Parliament

Some of them say Russia is the new champion of freedom and security in Europe. Some say Europe needs to break away from its “submission” to the United States. Others urge attacks on immigrants and Roma. Some idolize Adolf Hitler and celebrate Mein Kampf. Many disparage Muslims and foreigners and gays and Jews in disgusting language. You can find them in England, France, Hungary, Denmark, Germany, Austria, Greece, Spain, Belgium, Italy, and beyond. They are Europe’s resurgent far right. And they are headed for the EU parliament.

Fed up with the current Germany-led, West-facing European Union, far right parties across Europe are making increasingly vocal pro-Russia arguments. Andrew Higgins reports from France in a must-read article in the New York Times:

“Russian influence in the affairs of the far right is a phenomenon seen all over Europe,” said a study by the Political Capital Institute, a Hungarian research group. It predicted that far-right parties, “spearheaded by the French National Front,” could form a pro-Russian bloc in the European Parliament or, at the very least, amplify previously marginal pro-Russian voices….

Even among far-right groups, the sympathy for Russia and suspicion of Washington are in part tactical: Focused on clawing back power from the European Union’s bureaucracy, they seize any cause that puts them at odds with policy makers in Brussels and the conventional wisdom of European elites.

But they also reflect a general crumbling of public trust in the beliefs and institutions that have dominated Europe since the end of World War II, including the Continent’s relationship with the United States.

“Europe is a big sick body,” said Alain de Benoist, a French philosopher and a leading figure in a French school of political thought known as the “new right.” Mr. de Benoist said Russia “is now obviously the principal alternative to American hegemony.” Mr. Putin, he added, is perhaps “not the savior of humanity,” but “there are many good reasons to be pro-Russian.”

Voices like M. de Benoist are being heard, and making an impact. Far right parties like Jobbik in Hungary, the National Front in France, UKIP in the UK, and Golden Dawn in Greece are expected to make big gains in the EU elections later this week. These groups, Higgins writes, are “no longer dismissed, as they were for decades, as fringe cranks steeped in anti-Semitism and other noxious beliefs from Europe’s fascist past.” Some, like Golden Dawn, have made many friends through generous social programs. Some have made themselves popular by opposing the EU’s stringent austerity measures. Others appeal to populist fears about immigrants and disgust with gay rights and Western decadence. On all fronts, Russia looks like a powerful friend and guiding light.

As Aymeric Chauprade, a foreign policy advisor to Marine Le Pen, put it, Russia can lead a new European order free of the “technocratic elite serving the American and European financial oligarchy” and its “enslavement by consumerist urges and sexual impulses.”

Some of these sentiments are present in America—it’s not just a European thing. It’s not hard to envision a similar scenario evolving here at home. Undercurrents of anti-gay, anti-austerity, anti-materialism, anti-immigrant feelings could rise off the fringe if economic and social conditions permit, as they have across the Atlantic. It doesn’t have to make ideological sense—indeed, in Europe, it often doesn’t. Putin, for example, claims to be fighting fascists in Ukraine, but the Kremlin and Hungary’s Jobbik party, which has very visible fascist tendencies, are fast friends.

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  • Andrew Allison

    The key sentence is, “Even among far-right groups, the sympathy for Russia and suspicion of Washington are in part tactical: Focused on clawing back power from the European Union’s bureaucracy, they seize any cause that puts them at odds with policy makers in Brussels and the conventional wisdom of European elites.” There’re are clearly extremists on the the far left and right, but the problem in Europe is that a lot of people feel the neither the EU nor their own governments represent their views.

  • qet

    Politics abhors a vacuum, and a vacuum is just what the West has right now. The entrenched left-liberals in the US and EU governments engage in anti-politics. Politics is unnecessary, they say; everything is “settled.” Good governance consists in technical experts applying settled science to all areas of human existence and endeavor, and contributions and commentary from the masses (i.e., you and me) are neither solicited nor wanted. The Left suppresses politics, but people won’t be suppressed. Politics is the basic activity of human society and people expect to have a say. Good politicians are those who can tell the people what to do while making them believe they are being asked. The EU has abandoned any effort in that direction, and the major moderate-liberal parties in the EU nations (and in the US) have become institutions of anti-politics (the GOP versus Tea Party is precisely this struggle of politics versus anti-politics). So the fringe parties that ordinarily remain on the fringe are now the only authentic spaces for people to engage in politics, and we see the results.

  • Boritz

    far right…..blah blah ……..far right ….blah …….far right………blah
    blah blah……..far right…

    And some of them support National Socialism.

  • Ottens

    Grouping parties like Jobbik and Golden Dawn with UKIP is preposterous. The former are fascist, the latter is critical of immigration and certainly has its bigoted members, but still labels itself as libertarian. Front national is nationalist and conservative and also has some extremists, but hardly deserves to be put in the same category as Jobbik and Golden Dawn.

    • Breif2

      Indeed. This is becoming tiresome.

      • Enemy Leopard

        If you have a problem with the author’s labels, I suggest you be specific about it. Draw a line, as Ottens does, so that we all know what you view as an unacceptable amount of fascism. If you’re concerned specifically about the UKIP being lumped in with the truly bad actors, say so. Because, without a doubt, parties like Golden Dawn are neo-Nazis who should be opposed by decent people everywhere. What I find tiresome are the commenters here who reflexively defend every anti-EU party, even the racial nationalists, anti-Semites, neo-Nazis, and, yes, fascists.

        • qet

          I don’t see any defenders of these parties. What I do see are commenters, myself included, pointing out that the highly evolved, cultured, sophisticated, educated, left-liberal techno-bureaucratic scientific elites running the EU and running all of the national labor, social democratic and even, it seems, the traditionally moderate conservative parties, have brought this efflorescence of “far right” parties upon themselves. By progressively closing off and shutting down one avenue of real participatory democratic politics after another, they have driven more and more people into parties they probably would not otherwise have joined or supported. The party cadres themselves, the true believers, continue to profess their loathsome beliefs, but not every voter supporting them necessarily subscribes to those beliefs, or at least not with the enthusiasm of the party faithful. It’s just that they have nowhere else to go to make their dissatisfaction with the EU’s hieratic top-down style felt. So I believe, anyway.

          Now what’s really worrisome is that these parties are apparently going for seats in the EU parliament. If they succeed in gaining control of the EU government one day, then all of the centralized command-and-control efforts of the EU technocrats in recent years is going to look like a really bad idea.

          • Enemy Leopard

            As it happens, I agree with most of what you’ve written here. That said, I don’t actually fear that the “far right” parties will achieve anything near a governing majority in Europe as a whole, although one might debate the current status of Hungary. I think the situation is more akin to David Duke and his ilk potentially winning a few seats in the U.S. House of Representatives or an isolated governor’s mansion. This would be a deeply disturbing development, and it would reveal dangerous undercurrents in the body politic, but it wouldn’t give them any real power to govern at a national level. (Thankfully, such movements truly are on the margins in contemporary America.)

            The real point of my comment, elaborated upon in another reply to Breif2, was to draw out the distinctions between the reasonable right-wing parties in Europe and the fascists. Because there are actually fascists over there, and they deserve to remain on the fringe. As I see it, there’s a concerted effort by Russia to elevate them, and other authoritarian anti-EU forces, into positions of power; people might want to be cautious about whose political agenda they endorse.

          • Andrew Allison

            At the risk of being repetitious, the only actual Fascists “over there” are in Russia and the closest thing to that is the (also socialist) Golden Dawn in Greece. Let’s stop using the term to denigrate political parties and policies with which we disagree. Let’s also stop pretending that controlling immigration (which the US has a long history of doing) is the same thing as attempted extermination of a resident population (of which the US has also been guilty).

          • Andrew Allison

            It’s not just the far right. The same thing is happening on the far left, a fact which the commentariat conveniently overlooks.

        • Breif2

          I would have thought that my responding to a concise and coherent comment with “Indeed” would provide readers with a sufficient clue as to my position. (By the way, I encourage readers to read Ottens’ elaboration.)

          I am concerned both with the intellectual sloppiness of lumping together all of “those” parties, and with the negative consequences of doing so. After all, if I were familiar solely with the UKIP or the Front National and I were then told that the Golden Dawn and Jobbik parties are just like it, then I would be relatively unconcerned with their rise. Instead of complaining about mere commenters who think anti-EU parties are all alike, you should join me and Ottens in requesting that this blog educate them instead of de-facto encourage them.

          “Draw a line, as Ottens does, so that we all know what you view as an unacceptable amount of fascism.”

          This statement implies that the UKIP is incontrovertibly fascist, but that Ottens and I consider it to be “acceptably” fascist. Is that really what you meant?

          • Enemy Leopard

            If your position is that the blog fails to inform its readers about important differences between the parties – and I agree that there are important differences – then more power to you. Take the lead. Educate the rest of us, including the author of the post. I expect that (s)he reads the comments and will consider your points.

            Now, I will admit that it may have been unjust for me to call out your comment; perhaps you were simply the nearest person to post a concise criticism of TAI’s European coverage when I decided to push back a bit.

            I’ve been disappointed in the general tenor of the comments here whenever Europe comes up. There are usually a number of brief denunciations of the EU and a general exoneration of its critics, with few of the important distinctions that you’d like to see made. If nobody says something, the comment threads become an echo chamber. People might forget that the enemy of your enemy isn’t necessarily your friend. (See, for example, Putin’s move to position Russia as an anti-EU power that represents “sensible” traditional values; this is a siren song to these, for lack of a better term, “far right” parties in much of central and eastern Europe.)

            For crying out loud, a while back I had to ask one of the frequent commenters here to stop calling all Europeans trash, a request which didn’t exactly endear me to some of the regulars. That said, I don’t mind being seen as a bit of a prude if it helps preserve this blog as home to some of the most incisive, and humane, political commentary online. (The person in question did, in fact, seem to improve his comments after I asked him.)

            As for your question, that’s not what I meant; neither is it what I implied.

          • Corlyss

            “Take the lead. Educate the rest of us, including the author of the post. I expect that (s)he reads the comments and will consider your points.”

            Well, there’s only so much one can do with folks who’s mission is not to be convinced. You’re basically inviting him to do a bunch of research that you have no intention of crediting with accuracy, so what’s the point? I used to fall for that trap on a regular basis, then 4 years ago, I had an epiphany. I don’t do it any more, and unless Breif can merely throw up a list of links he already has on hand, I don’t recommend he waste his time trying to pull a camel thru the eye of a needle.

          • Enemy Leopard

            I don’t know what you think you gleaned of my intentions, but I make every effort to be fair when people argue in good faith. If you’d have taken my second response to Brief2 into account – it’s sitting right above your comment here! – you’d see that.

            Just to assuage your concern that I’m writing in bad faith, or that I don’t hold the “proper” views, or whatever you may have been thinking: I believe the EU and the monetary union are massive boondoggles and, functionally, are jobs programs for an entrenched bureaucratic class. They essentially put the cart before the horse; the Euro can’t work without political union, and political union can’t work when the nations involved have such disparate histories and habits. To see how feckless the EU is, look at its lack of a coordinated response to recent events in Ukraine. They’re not a United States of Europe, they’re a Confederate States of Europe, in the Articles of Confederation (and not slave-owning-southerners) sense.

            I don’t expect the UKIP to form anything resembling a governing majority in the United Kingdom, but I understand the anti-EU sentiments that led many voters to pull the lever for them in protest. I wouldn’t call them fascists. The National Front in France has a much more disquieting history; one may reasonably suspect that the apple doesn’t fall far from the tree. But I’m not an expert, and, in any case, I don’t rate their electoral prospects any higher than UKIP’s.

            Still, there are, in fact, fascists in eastern and southern Europe, supported by and ideologically aligned with the Russian government, and this is dispiriting. Especially if you’re a Jew in Hungary or a Roma in Greece. Why is that hard for some people to admit?

            Now, all that being said, I’ll thank you not to read into my comments any more than what I write. I’m careful with the language I use.

        • Andrew Allison

          There’s no such thing as an acceptable amount of Fascism, the fundamental characteristic of which is that the State and its leader are paramount. Near as I can tell, none of the so-called, “Nazis, Racists, Anti-Semites, and Russia Apologists Headed for EU Parliament” fit the bill. Putin does, but that’s another story.

        • Corlyss

          “If you’re concerned specifically about the UKIP being lumped in with the truly bad actors, say so.”
          Gee. I thought that was what he did. Perhaps my grasp of the English language is not what I thought it was.

    • Ottens
  • Julie Leighton

    This is simply absurd. The idea of Russia being a catch-all for far-right fringe movements seeking shelter from “American hegemony” is just preposterous.

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