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Blog Posted in avatar   Dom Jenks's Blog

Is Europe Becoming More Nationalistic?

By Dom Jenks
Posted Apr 21, 2012 in Politics
There is a general consensus among many political commentators that far-right groups are on the rise across Europe. From Spain to France, from Austria to Holland there is evidence of a resurgence of nationalist and ultra conservative groups, attempting to turn the clock back on immigration, the European Union and liberal ideas.
Firstly, I wish to state that I am a patriot and I am proud to be British, however, I advocate of the liberal idea of nations. Independent, sovereign, looking out for each other and being overseen by the UN. I have little issue with immigration and I am a multiculturalist. However, it's clear that my views are not the mainstream in some parts of Europe.
Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Freedom Party.
After the 2010 election the VVD (a conservative party, hosting liberal ideas of economics) headed by Mark Rutte, current Dutch Prime minister became the leading party, being the majority party in a coalition with the CDA (The Christian democratic party). This is another centre-right party which supports the fundamentals of Christian democracy.
Controversially, the third party in Holland is the Party for Freedom or PVV, headed by Geert Wilders. This party is known across Europe for its anti-Islamic tone, its Euroscepticism and its nationalistic based conservative values.
In the last month, Vladamir Putin's nationalist government was re elected in the Moscow but a large margin. Many people who oppose Putin however, aruge that vote rigging took place during the presidential election in Russia, last month.
Mariano Rajoy's Partido Popular or "People's Party" rose to power in 2011. The PP is a conservative force in Spain, playing on the Spanish Catholic values, striving at a lost sense of nationalism. In 2011, Partido Popular swooped to power, almost wiping out the Socialist Workers Party completely. This party also supports conservatism nationalism but with economic liberalism.
Since 2008, the third party has been the "Friheitliche Partei Osterreichs" or Austrian Freedom Party. Much like in Holland this party is rapidly gaining support, promoting Euroscepticism and conservative nationalism.
FN Poster in France
As we know, the current French election is just around the corner. Sarkozy's Party is a centre-right political party which supports Christian democracy, gaullism and is without a doubt a strong conservative force in France. The second party in this election is The Socialist Party. There is however a growing grassroots movement growing in France called "Front National". Similar to what Britain saw back in the 1980s. This is a street movement, also political party that blames France's economic issues on immigration and the European Union. They also have a zero tolerance approach to law and order.
The current leader is Marine Le Pen, who took over from her father in 2011, they also have a forceful membership of 30,000 according to Wikipedia. It will be interesting to see where they poll later this month...
The UK
BNP Rally before the 2010 election.
The far right have not seen the same growth as in other European countries. Nick Griffin's "British National Party" failed to gain any seats in the 2010 election but do seem to hit some disgruntled, voters. The Conservative Party in the UK currently have a "tariff" on immigration, the Prime Minister even stated that Britain needs "muscular liberalism" pointing at an idea of integration of those from other cultures. This view was mirrored by Angela Merkel's "multiculturalism has failed" speech in Germany.
English Defense League in the UK
There is however a grassroots, street moment growing in Britain, mainly England called the "English Defense League" or EDL for short.
This group storm across city to city, marching through "Muslim" neighborhoods in attempt to get the government to react, accordingly to appease their vague interests. This group, headed by Tommy Robinson is a street based movement that claim to stand against radical Islam and Sharia Law and immigration however there have been many stories of violence and racism within the group, leading to marches such as the one in Tower Hamlets to be banned by The Home Office.
As with many nationalist movements, this group seems to appeal to young, working class, white males who are disgruntled with the democratic system and often come from the heavily integrated areas of metropolitan cities.
So, why are these movements growing?
Personally, the first and most important factor in the growth of these movements is of course, globalization and the rise of the neo liberal frame of economics, with this, unregulated capitalism. In a world where we are all connected and used as economic commodities, it can make people feel very insecure.
Since 2008, Europe has struggled to keep its self a float. Many nations are having to resort to bailouts and extreme, tough austerity measures which result in people loosing out on opportunities and falling into the trap of cut welfare systems and the failure of private corporations.
European Central Bank (ECB) in Frankfurt, Germany.
In short, once people are out of work or lacking in any individual financial growth or stability, they are more likely to oppose the status quo in one way or another. This may make people more radical, and many will turn to the far-left or far-right in times of desperation. This very well could be the case in Greece over the coming years...
Another factor in all of this is the fragmentation of centre-left political parties across Europe and the ideological pragmatism they have adopted in order to appeal to other sections of society. Originally, centre-left parties such as the UK's Labour Party have appealed to the working classes, as economics has changed, giving better opportunities and living standards to those working class people, there has been a growth in a 'lower' or 'semi skilled' middle class who do not consider themselves manual laborers and are therefore inclined to support a more liberal or even a conservative party. The left, especially in the UK responded to this, leaning to a surge to the right, making centre-left parties such as Labour, less tough on taxes and in favor of supporting big business.
Finally, as reaction to the EU and the internationalist model. Although this factor heavily links back to the modern day uncertainly of an individuals economic life, it is different in the sense that it takes on a nationalistic role, putting it before an economic role. To put it simply, many people are insecure with the European Union and with the failings of the Eurozone, it must be difficult seeing light at the end of the tunnel in many Eurozone nations.
It must also be said that this trend of a rise of nationalist groups and ideas is not apparent in all European nations. We have already seen in this article that it is failing to make progress in the UK, for the most part but in nations such as Sweden there has been little growth of these ideas to any real level.
As these movements grow and develop, it is no doubt interesting. But as a social liberal and of course internationalist, I can't help but question the future of Europe. We built something amazing with the European Union, a positive, growing and unifying institution to look out for the individual, to protect him/her. But it seems not everyone feels the same way, as the economy gets worse, austerity kicks in, and people begin to scramble resources and frantically lookout for themselves and their families, internationalist ideas will become less popular and only time will tell what will become of such an institution. All I can say is that I'm very glad that the UK is not suffering the extreme shift to the far-right, I'm glad that, at least for the time being, the nationalists are not anywhere in sight of power.
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- Dom, The Internationalist Blog