The Future of Europe's Radical Right

Why the Politics of Race Are Here to Stay

For years, commentators and citizens overlooked a worrying trend in European politics: growing right-wing extremism, including staunch nativism. Until its defeat in last week's election, Denmark's ruling center-right coalition was allied with the forceful extreme-right Danish People's Party. In government, they had imposed tough immigration legislation and border controls that ran the country afoul of the other Schengen states. The Freedom Party, which is Euroskeptical, overtly anti-Muslim, and against dual citizenship, is one of the strongest parties in the Netherlands. In Italy, the neo-Fascist granddaughter of Benito Mussolini is a popular parliamentarian and a founding member of Silvio Berlusconi's People of Freedom party. The Northern League party, known for its anti-Islamism, is powerful in Italy's wealthy north. In France, the extreme-right leader of the Front National party, Marine Le Pen, is a serious contender in upcoming 2012 presidential election. All of these parties share a common vision of a "pure" Europe that excludes immigrant populations from everywhere else in the world.

Even after the right-wing extremist Anders Behring Breivik, attacked government quarters and a children's camp this summer in Norway, the problem was still misunderstood. At first, many commentators could not believe that it was a radical right-winger who had attacked the existing order. Even after Breivik announced that he acted to save Europe from Islam and multiculturalism, and belonged to a pan-European unit committed to doing so, many journalists were skeptical. The extreme right is believed to be intimately linked to the ideas of nationalism and homeland defense. Why would someone on the right slaughter Norwegian citizens in defense of Europe?

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