Radical right (Europe)
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In political science, the terms radical right and populist right have been used to refer to the range of European far-right parties that have grown in support since the late 1970s. Populist right wing groups have shared a number of causes, which typically include opposition to globalization, criticism of immigration and multiculturalism, and opposition to the European Union.
Terminology and definition
In 1996, the Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde noted that in most European countries, the terms "radical right" and "extreme right" were used interchangeably. He cited Germany as an exception, noting that among political scientists in that nation, the term "radical right" (Rechsradikalismus) was used in reference to those right-wing groups which were outside the political mainstream but which did not threaten "the free democratic order"; the term was thus used in contrast to the "extreme right" (Rechsextremen), which referred to groups which did threaten the constitutionality of the state and could therefore be banned under German law.
The term "radical right" originated in U.S. political discourse, where it was applied to various anti-communist groups active in the 1950s era of McCarthyism. The term and accompanying concept then entered Western Europe through the social sciences. Conversely, the term "right-wing extremism" developed among European scholars, particularly those in Germany, to describe right-wing groups that developed in the decades following the Second World War, such as the West German National Democratic Party and the French Poujadists. This term then came to be adopted by some scholars in the U.S.
Defining Europe's populist right
— Terri E. Givens, 2005.
In his study of the radical right in Europe, David Art defined the term "radical right" as referring to "a specific type of far right party that began to emerge in the late 1970s"; as Art used it, "far right" was "an umbrella term for any political party, voluntary association, or extraparliamentary movement that differentiates itself from the mainstream right". Most commentators have agreed that these varied radical right parties have a number of common characteristics. Givens stated that the two characteristics shared by these radical rights groups were:
- "They take an anti-immigrant stance by proposing stronger immigrant controls and the repatriation of unemployed immigrants, and they call for a national (i.e., citizens only) preference in social benefits and employment ("welfare chauvinism").
- In contrast to earlier extreme right or fascist parties, they work within a country's political and electoral system. Although they do not have the goal of tearing down the current political system, they are anti-establishment. They consider themselves "outsiders" in the party system, and therefore not tainted by government or mainstream parties' scandals."
In 2000, Minkenberg characterised the "radical right" as "a political ideology, the core element of which is a myth of a homogeneous nation, a romantic and populist ultranationalism which is directed against the concept of liberal and pluralistic democracy and its underlying principles of individualism and universalism. The contemporary radical right does not want to return to pre-democratic regimes such as monarchy or feudalism. It wants government by the people, but in terms of ethnocracy instead of democracy."
Journalist Nick Robins-Early characterised the European radical right as focusing on "sometimes vitriolic anti-Euro, anti-immigrant sentiment, as well as renewed security fears" within European nations.
The European migrant crisis has caused a significant uptick in the populist support for right-wing parties. A 2016 article in the New York Times argued that the "once-unthinkable" British vote to leave the EU is the result of "Populist anger against the established political order".
The 2005 paper in the European Journal of Political Research argues that the two groups most likely to vote for populist right parties are "blue-collar workers – who support extensive state intervention in the economy – and owners of small businesses – who are against such state intervention".
A 2014 article by the Friedrich Ebert Foundation argued that economic inequality is growing the gap "between the winners of globalisation and its losers. The first group live in urban areas, have relatively stable jobs and access to modern communications and transport, but fears nevertheless that it will soon share the fate of the second group. The second group, meanwhile, are threatened by unemployment or stuck in poorly paid and precarious jobs. They belong to the working class or consider themselves part of the lower middle class and fear – for themselves or their children – (further) social decline. Such people live in de-industrialised areas, or rural or semi-urban areas, on the periphery of globalised metropolises to which they have no access."
Minkenberg termed the supporters of the radical right "modernization losers", in that they are from the sectors of society whose "social and cultural capital is shrinking and they are intent on defending it against encroachments on their traditional entitlements." He described this base as those who exhibit "unease, rigid thinking, authoritarian attitudes and traditional values — all of which reinforce each other."
Political scientist Michael Minkenberg stressed that the radical right was "a modern phenomenon", stating that it is only "vaguely connected" to previous right-wing movements because it has "undergone a phase of renewal, as a result of social and cultural modernization shifts in post-war Europe." As such he opined that describing it using terms such as "fascism" or "neo-fascism", which were closely linked the right-wing movements of the early 20th century, was an "increasingly obsolete" approach.
Minkenberg argued that the radical right groups in Eastern Europe, including in Eastern Germany, were distinct from their counterparts in Western Europe. He added that "the East European radical right is more reverse-oriented than its Western counterpart, i.e. more antidemocratic and more militant" and that because of the relatively new establishment of liberal democracy in Eastern Europe, violence still could be used as a political tool by the Eastern radical right.
Jeffrey Kaplan and Leonard Weinberg's 1998 book The Emergence of a Euro-American Radical Right says that populist right wing movements are supported by extra-parliamentary groups with electorally unpalatable views, such as Christian Identity movements, anti-Semitic conspiracy theories, the promotion of scientific racism and Holocaust denial, and neo-Nazi economic theories like Strasserism.
Connection to U.S. radical right
— Jeffrey Kaplan and Leonard Weinberg, 1998.
In 1998, the political scientists Jeffrey Kaplan and Leonard Weinberg argued that the interaction of right-wingers and the transmission of ideas between right-wing groups in Western Europe and the United States was common, having been aided by the development of the internet. They believed that in the late 20th century a discernible "Euro-American radical right" that would promote a trans-national White identity politics, promoting populist grievance narratives around groups who feel besieged by non-white peoples through multiculturalism. This concept of a unified "white" race was not always explicitly racialist, in many cases instead being conceived of as being a bond created by "cultural affinity and a sense of common historical experience and a shared ultimate destiny".
Kaplan and Weinberg also identified differences in the radical right movements of Europe and North America. They noted that European radical right parties had been able to achieve electoral successes in a way that their American counterparts had failed to do. Instead, radical right activists in the U.S. had attempted to circumvent the restrictions of the two-party system by joining right-wing trends within the Republican Party. They also noted that legal restrictions on such groups differed in the two continents; in the U.S., the First Amendment protected the free speech of radical right groups, while in most West European nations there were laws prohibiting hate speech and (in several countries) Holocaust denial, thus forcing European radical right groups to present a more moderate image.
Connections to extra-parliamentary right-wing groups
Alongside the radical right political parties, there are also extra-parliamentary groups which – having no need to express views that will be electorally palatable – are able to express a more heterogenous array of right-wing views. These extra-parliamentary rightist groups are often religious in nature, affiliated either with Christian Identity or with Odinism, reflecting a greater racial mysticism than was present in earlier right-wing movements. Such groups often believe that Western governments are under the control of a Zionist Occupation Government (ZOG), thus expressing explicitly anti-Semitic views. Such groups are also less enthusiastic about capitalism and free markets as the radical right political parties are, instead being influenced by Strasserism and favouring greater state control of the economy. Such extra-parliamentary groups often exhibit ritual or ceremonial practices to commemorate perceived past achievements of the right-wing, for instance by marking Adolf Hitler's birthday or the death date of Rudolf Hess. They are also associated with violent activities, with such violence often being utilised not just for political aims but also as an expressive and enjoyable activity.
There are also more intellectually-oriented radical right organisations which hold conferences and publish journals devoted to the promotion of scientific racism and Holocaust denial. Material promoting Holocaust denial is typically published in the United Kingdom or United States and then smuggled into continental Europe, where the publication of such material is widely illegal.
A 2015 study on modern populism by Kirk A. Hawkins of Brigham Young University used human coding to rate the level of perceived populist rhetoric in party manifestos and political speeches. Parties with high populism scores included the British National Party, the Swiss People's Party, the German NPD, the French National Front, the Belgian People's Party, the Spanish National Democracy, the Swedish Sweden Democrats, The Dutch PVV and Forum for Democracy.
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- Kaplan & Weinberg 1998, p. 10.
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