The top of the far right in Lisbon, with a radiant Marine Le Pen supporting what could be the new star in the far right sky, the Portuguese André Ventura and his Chega!, shows the sweet moment experienced by the far right around the world. Are we facing a new wave of the extreme right and, above all, can we expect more progress?
History can give us many clues about the future development of the extreme right. Its main character, the rejection of liberal democracy, was born in a specific historical context. The sum of the trauma of the First World War, the crisis of the liberal democracies and the capitalist economy in the late 1920s, together with the unstoppable growth of the labor movement throughout Europe, made possible the birth of fascism, a an anti-liberal, anti-Semitic movement, anti-capitalist in most of its expressions, sworn enemy of communism and democracy, founded on social Darwinism and the cult of the leader and which understands the use of violence as the main instrument in politics to achieve its goals.
Nazi Germany and Mussolini’s Italy were the fascist regimes par excellence, but let’s not forget the many fascist movements that emerged around the world. From the Romanian Iron Guard to the Black Arrows in Hungary, without forgetting the Croatian Ustachi in the Balkans, which passed through Latin America, where there are also fascist movements, such as the Brazilian Fascist Party, with other similar positions in Mexico, Peru or Uruguay.. Perón himself in Argentina adopted elements of fascism in Latin America.
Countries like France or the United States are also not spared from these ultra movements. But it was in Italy and Germany where the bourgeoisie and the economic elite bet the fascists to protect them from the communists and where these political movements made their desire for power a reality, finally unleashing a a new world war that brought half the planet to disaster and turned the continent of Europe into ashes. After the victory of Western democracies and Soviet communism in 1945, fascism became a social and political taboo, whose return no one wants. However, from the ashes of the rest of Germany and Italy, a group of nostalgists will arise who will once again support the old values of fascio and national-socialism, neo-fascism represented by groups such as the German Reich Socialist Party, the Socialist. Movement Dutch National European Social or Italian Social Movement. The latter is the only one capable of achieving visible electoral results in post-war Europe.
Cas Mudde, a good student of these movements, draws attention to the metamorphosis they have undergone in their history. Beginning in the late 1950s, the original positions changed into a new political form, populism which, less focused on the fascist past but at the same time maintained the primacy of the leader and a general criticism of parliamentarism, worried about criticism. of the victorious elites after the war but without directly dealing with the democratic system. Movements like the Poujadista in France, the Dutch Farmers’ Party, or the hunt for Senator Joseph McCarthy in the United States will be the star of this second wave of the extreme right around the world.
From this point of change, Mudde saw the need for a new way of classifying this political spectrum. The academic prefers to speak of a broad field of the extreme right, describing the successors of neofascism as the extreme right and those who accept the democratic system as the radical populist right. The latter achieved great growth in the 80s, which grew in votes thanks to the oil crisis of the last decade, the cyclical economic crisis and the widespread unemployment in Western economies, all of which led to the landing of this new radical populist right in the parliaments. . The first to gain access to a parliament was the Flemish Bloc, then came the Center Party that entered the Dutch legislature and in 1986 the National Front burst into the French assembly, not forgetting traditional conservative parties such as Austrian FPO or the Swiss People’s Party. ., which became the radical populist right. Few countries have escaped this far-right third wave, although it seems like a movement that can be isolated.
The fourth right wave
On the contrary, at the beginning of the 21st century the fourth far-right wave broke out and, having increased in social acceptance, could even win the elections. Mudde clarifies the reasons for this renewed rise of radical populism itself in the 2000s around the world: the 9/11 attacks, the economic crisis of 2008 and the migratory wave in Europe, mainly those 2015. Focused on criticizing the ruling elites and institutions, economic inequality, xenophobia and with an anti-system populist discourse that endorses all the evils of the traditional democratic system, the extreme right has reached the election results that make it accepted by the system, enter coalitions and also mark the political debate , which causes the conservative and liberal right to adopt the extreme right populist postulate.
This new fourth wave involves the normalization of radical populist right-wing parties, as well as their political discourse and narrative, imposing their agenda on the social debate, bringing back opinions in the field of politics that seem to have been overcome many years ago. or, at least, postponed. The victories of the elections and governments like that of Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro or Georgia Meloni, are those that show the rise of the extreme right around the world, which is now able to fight for power without anything complicated and from in one to one to traditional parties.
At the same time, populist radical right parties have absorbed neo-fascist or extreme right elements, adding their extremist visions to their ideology. One of the pillars of the extreme right in its two aspects is xenophobia, especially Islamophobia, with attacks on gender ideology, LGTBIQ+ groups, and a revisionist vision of the past of the former dictatorial and authoritarian. regimes. All this translates into a cultural war, where political ideas and ideas return to form in the streets.
As explained by Jorge del Palacio, a political scientist at Rey Juan Carlos University, “one of the most recent characteristics of this populist radical right party is that they have adopted the strategy of the so-called “cultural battle.” If compared to the traditional right, more focused on expressing its capacity for economic management or its pragmatism, this new version of the right admits the Gramscian thesis, foreign to its cultural tradition, because of which the most effective leadership of political community This is done through the organization of consensus through cultural activism. But the impact of these parties is not limited to the field of culture, it also reaches the state system. The populist radical right parties remain within the democratic system, but this does not mean that they do not have a negative influence on the functioning of democracy, which they parasitize. A clear example is the far-right regimes in Eastern Europe. The Hungarian Fidesz and the Polish PIS have chosen what Viktor Orbán himself calls illiberal regimes, which have eliminated basic principles such as the separation of powers from the democratic system, leading the governments to a more authoritarian one. operation. The Israeli case is another example, with a Netanyahu supported by the extreme right, who advocated the elimination of judicial controls on executive actions.
But perhaps the most obvious danger is the radicalization of traditional parties. Parties like the Hungarian Fidesz or the Austrian FPO went from being conservative parties to becoming populist radical right parties. Perhaps the most obvious example is the US Republican Party, where Trump opened the door to the so-called alternative right, a euphemism for the worst in North American politics, and which colonized the party, controlled and expanded it. in positions. terrible. The transformation of traditional liberal and conservative parties into far-right parties is becoming a near reality. A danger beyond mere imitation or the thought of debates that years ago was impossible even to speak.
Milei’s recent victory in Argentina is an example of the persuasive power of this new populist extreme right, much more malleable in the face of society and more effective than the traditional right when it comes to polarizing and exploiting the discontent of the masses. Milei’s victory not only means a new victory for the populist radical right, the new Argentine president also puts an end to Peronism, an enemy that seems insurmountable in a country as unique as Argentina.
The populist radical right has shown that it can be seen as a lever for change. Something that could be repeated in Portugal and in countries like Germany, where predictions for the AfD are starting to make traditional parties tremble. Without forgetting that we are less than a year away from the North American elections, which could be the great showcase. Antonio Gramsci said that “the old world is dying, and the new world takes a while to appear, and in that chiaroscuro animals appear.” Let’s see if the new monsters will also come back to devour us like the old ones…