Europe is the continent where nationalism has always featured strongly. Over the last few years, there has been an increase in voter support across the continent. India has shifted to Hindu nationalism and even in the U.S., there has been a rise in nationalism and hate crimes.
The European Shift
There has been a quick shift globally in right-wing populist parties gaining momentum, even among the world’s established democracies. Countries with significant growth in the influence of their right-wing political organizations include Sweden, Spain, South Korea, Italy, Germany, France, Finland, Demark, and Belgium.
In Europe, nine far-right parties have formed a new bloc in the European Parliaments. They are called identity and Democracy (ID). Austria’s Chancellor Sebastian Kurtz empowered right-wing extremists by allowing the far-right Freedom Party to join his coalition when he was elected in 2017.
The Freedom Party has well-documented links to extremist groups and it claims to want to “Make Austria Great Again” with its continued stance against immigration, especially from Muslim countries. Even as Kurz downplays ties to Russia, countries like the U.S., the UK, and Germany do not share intelligence with Austria, fearing it will land on the wrong side.
However, most European countries with nationalist governments try to avoid actively boosting extremist groups. Germany even clamped down on Hans-Georg Maassen, the then chief of domestic intelligence in 2018, when he expressed sympathy with demonstrators from the far-right.
Recently, the Neo-Nazi leaders of Greece’s Golden Dawn Party were sentenced to 13 years imprisonment. Various supporters were given lengthy prison terms for assault, murder, and possession of weapons. Just two years ago the party had won 10 seats in the Greek national parliament of 300 seats.
White supremacists in the U.S.
In the U.S., most extremist murders are home-grown and attributed to white-supremacist terrorism. Unfortunately, the threat has been downplayed by the Trump Administration, and many people feel that he has not distanced himself enough from extremists. During his term resources used for addressing the threat were considerably reduced.
Instead of treating white supremacists as a threat, the task force of the Department of Homeland Security says it is concentrating on “racially motivated violent extremism.”Hate crimes continue to be on the increase in the U.S.
Extremist political organizations and how they rise
Extremist political organizations are drawing supporters by appealing to people who feel ignored by the mainstream parties in their countries. They draw strength by using racism, misogyny, and anti-Islam (or anti-western) propaganda. Their supporters are usually from the conservative religious base of their country.
Fiona Dove from the Transnational Institute in Amsterdam is quoted from a report in The Nation: “At the root has been the right wing’s capacity to harness people’s sense of alienation—the discontents of globalization.”
The interconnected global economy has created a bigger gap between the world’s poor and rich. Traditionally people used to choose organizations to the left, but as seen in France, people have shifted toward the far right. However, the middle class has as also played a role in the right-wing movements, especially in Brazil, the Philippines, and Thailand. However, one concern not currently addressed by extremist political organizations are the concerns about climate change.
Ideally, voters need to be steered away from concerns about migration, abortion rights, etc. Increased intelligence and law enforcement can only be one side of the solution. The other solution entails educating the youth who are most vulnerable to extremist rhetoric. Education is the only way to increases their understanding of democracy, cross-cultural differences, and empathy.