The Myth of the “Far Right Surge” in Europe – David Thunder 6/14/24


There has been much talk of a “far right surge” in the European Parliament. For example, BBC ran a headline, “Far right eyes Europe vote surge…,” shortly before the elections. On June 5th, Politico reported, “As the far right surges, this week’s European Parliament election will reorder the Continent’s political landscape.” One of CNN’s post-election headlines ran, “Far right surges in European Parliament elections but center still holds.” These sorts of headlines may make for exciting reading, but they reveal a profound lack of understanding of what is really going on politically in Europe.

First, while you will always find pockets of far right thinking in Europe’s political system, the notion that new and emerging political parties on the right are generally “far right” is simply false. For example, if you go to the webpage of one of the major emerging political groups that is supposed to be part of the “far right surge,” the European Conservatives and Reformists, you are greeted not by neo-Nazi slogans, but by commitments to “safeguarding citizens and borders,” “respecting the rights and sovereignty of member States,” “protecting the global environment at a cost we can afford,” “improving the union’s efficiency and effectiveness,” and “cooperating with global partners.”

If you peruse the website of the Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia), the political party associated with the supposedly “far right” Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni, in search of reactionary and extremist ideas, you will be deeply disappointed. The website displays a fairly humdrum list of policies to promote economic growth, a safer Europe, a better health system, policies to support families and boost the birth rate, opposition to bio-surveillance (“green pass”), and the need to combat illegal immigration.

Here, for example, is a translation of one paragraph from the Brothers of Italy’s European electoral platform, concerning immigration:

It must be Europe that decides who enters its territory and not criminal organizations or external actors interested in using migratory flows as a weapon to destabilize governments. Immigration must be framed within a context of legality and addressed in a structural manner. Saving lives is a duty, as is protecting those entitled to asylum, but the model favored by the left—characterized by indiscriminate acceptance and never-implemented redistributions (of migrants)—has proven to be a failure.

Anyone who describes these sorts of policies as “far right” is either deeply deluded, or simply determined to discredit their political adversaries by any means available. Yet this sort of lazy, dishonest, and demonising treatment of the new right in Europe, which mostly ignores the actual electoral platforms of new-right parties, is now standard fare in mainstream Western media.

The term “far right” should be reserved for political groups that oppose constitutionalism, are rabidly racist, or want to institute an authoritarian State akin to fascist Italy or Nazi Germany. But instead, the term has degenerated into a cheap label used to discredit political conservatives.

This label is being attached willy-nilly to people who take political positions that are not in vogue among those who self-identify as “Woke” and/or “progressive,” even if these same positions were considered fairly conventional a couple of decades ago: People are labelled “far right” if they defend the idea of a national identity, want an orderly immigration process, advocate for laws that are tough on crime, believe in traditional marriage and biological markers for gender; or believe that civil rights like informed consent are still relevant during a pandemic.

If you really want to understand why new parties are emerging on the right, throwing around the “far right” label will not get you very far. What is really happening is that the traditional right-wing parties, many of which are represented by Europe’s largest political group, the European People’s Party, have jumped ship on a lot of traditional right-wing commitments, creating a vacuum to be filled by the “new right.”…

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