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Drop the drama, modern Europe looks little like the 1930s-vintage

Jackboots on the shelves.

For those who don’t know it, Godwin’s law says that the longer an online discussion continues, the greater the probability of someone making a comparison involving the Nazis or Hitler. Of course, how long this takes to happen depends on what the discussion is about.

If the topic is one like the announcement last week of an alliance between Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, then things naturally get fast-tracked, with media commentators leading the way.

Take this piece on The Guardian by John Palmer entitled: “The rise of far right parties across Europe is a chilling echo of the 1930s.” I imagine the scaremongering slogan and nod to Nazism in the title attract lots of clicks. Although so too would: “The rise of Movember moustaches is a chilling echo of the 1930s.” And at least that would be more accurate.

After this melodramatic start, Palmer’s article proceeds to speed happily the wrong way down the autobahn, telling us that support for far-right parties “has been fed by the worst world recession since at least the 1930s”, that “the far right might win as many as a third of European Parliament seats in elections next May” and that “time is running out to counter them”. I won’t spoil the rest of the story for you, but Marshall Petain has a nice cameo. All very entertaining, alarming and bound to get the righteous folks in the Guardianista community fired up. But not based on reality.

Anti-Golden Dawn protests. Kokotron

In fact, taking Europe as a whole, there is no evidence that the parties of the far-right have done better during the post-2008 crisis than in the previous years of that decade. Those pushing this view tend to cite Marine Le Pen’s performance in the 2012 French presidential election and the growth of Golden Dawn in Greece. However, not only does this line of argument ignore the clear differences between Le Pen Jnr’s Front National and a violent organisation like Golden Dawn, but – more importantly – it glosses over the dips suffered by radical right parties in several other European countries during the crisis.

Toxic brand

As Cas Mudde shows in an excellent article, in only 19 out of the current 28 EU member states has a far right party increased by at least one percentage point over the 2005-2013 period. And in just four of them has it made a gain of more than five percentage points. Sure, some parties – like Wilders’ Party for Freedom (PVV) – have risen again recently in opinion polls, but there is no clear and unidirectional far-right surge caused by the crisis. And I have certainly not seen anything that suggests they could take even close to one third of the seats at the 2014 European Parliament (EP) elections, as Palmer claims.

Indeed, despite the best efforts of Wilders and Le Pen, we will not see a unified block among the Eurosceptic Right in the EP next year. For example, two such parties which seem set to increase their number of MEPs, the True Finns and the Danish People’s Party, have already said they will not join the new alliance. So too has Nigel Farage of the UK Independence Party (UKIP). For all three, the risk of being tainted with the “far-right” brush at home far outweighs the benefits of any alliance at European level.

Although rehabilitated in some countries, the far right remains a toxic brand in others like the UK where the British National Party (BNP) has crashed and burned, while the English Defence League (EDL) often attracts more counter-protestors than members to its marches. Of course, “Fascism is on the rise” makes a great story for the media and so these movements also attract a lot of cameras and column inches. As Rob Ford (this one, not the Toronto guy) put it recently during a discussion, the likes of the EDL provide a useful pantomime villain for journalists, one side of a simple morality play (as is also true of very marginal extremist Muslim groups). But their importance is greatly overstated.

More complex than jackboots

Rather, the situation in Europe is more complex and far more interesting than the “jackboots in the streets” narrative. The EP elections will almost certainly produce a parliament containing more critical voices than it ever has before. But this will be due not just to advances by those on the variegated Right, but also to the presence of new deputies from parties such as the Dutch Socialists, Beppe Grillo’s Five-Star Movement in Italy and Syriza in Greece – none of which could be classified as right-wing.

What they and the Eurosceptic Right have in common is not the promotion of any anti-democratic ideologies (on the contrary, all sides present themselves as the defenders of democracy), but the charge that democracy in Europe, at both national and supranational levels, is not working. And that the political leaders, policies and institutions of Europe have failed the people, who in turn have ever less real say over how they are governed. Although I disagree with many of the simplistic answers provided by such parties, the questions they pose are very relevant ones, grounded in the reality of 21st century Europe. But they have little in common, thankfully, with that of the early 20th-century.

Join the conversation

81 Comments sorted by

  1. David Roth

    Postgrad History Student

    Duncan, it's not a good idea to play ostrich and underplay neo-Fascism or its potential either. Cas Mudde's article shows that Jobbik in Hungary has had the strongest increase. Hungary's streets do get filled with uniformed men in jackboots shouting anti-semitic, anti-Romany and anti-foreigner slogans. Their parliamentary representatives want to draw up lists of 'harmful' Jews and actively recycle long-discredited blood libel myths against Jews. The ruling party, Fidesz, condones or plays down all…

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    1. Duncan McDonnell

      Marie Curie Fellow at European University Institute

      In reply to David Roth

      Thanks for your comment David. However, one of the main points of the article was to underline that (a) there is no evidence that the crisis per se is fuelling a rise of the far-right in any country apart from Greece and (b) there is no evidence that - whether caused by the crisis or not - the far right is rising steadily across Europe. It has made gains in some countries, but in other countries it has lost votes in recent years.

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    2. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Duncan McDonnell

      Could it be that the "Neo-Fascism" brand is just a tool used by the PC crowd to shut down any objecting views? It is the PC that are most often the real fascists in the room. A holier than thou position that seeks to Shut down any "offensive" free speech or discussion by branding it right wing, of bigoted or Hate speech..

      Fascism takes many forms and is not limited to any specific school of thought, whether it be the “anti” or “pro” or “pc” school yard bully that forces their opinion upon others…

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    3. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Joseph Bernard

      Joseph,

      You said: "Could it be that the "Neo-Fascism" brand is just a tool used by the PC crowd to shut down any objecting views?"

      That is exactly it.

      Label Tony Abbott and the LNP as fascist and you don't have to address any of their arguments for reducing the role of the state, or address the reality that their position pretty near the precise opposite of fascism in itself.

      Other examples of this approach, in the US any criticism of President Obama is labeled racist, so, again, his supporters can avoid discussions about what a bumbling fool the man is. Likewise, here in Oz, critics of Julia Gillard were labeled misogynists for no better reason than they criticised a woman, allowing her to both sidestep those critics, and be deeply misandrous time and again.

      It is a standard Fascist tactic. Smear your opponent and you don't have to address their argument.

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  2. Chris Harper

    Engineer

    To be blunt, Wilders is an idiot for making this move.

    Yes, his party is of the right, but despite the claims otherwise it is more accurately labeled liberal democrat than anything else. While it is true the National Front has tried to soften its image over recent years, Wilders has no business associating with it.

    As for the UKIP, the suggestion it could associate with Le Pen is nonsense. UKIP is a truly liberal conservative party, the only thing it has in common with the far right is, well, nothing really.

    That UKIP, and the Freedom Party can be labeled far right, lumped in with Jobbik, Golden Dawn or the National Front, shows what a category error the label is in the first place.

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  3. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    Fascism on the rise in Australia?
    That would be good article.

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Chris Harper

      And if Eastern European style fascism were on the rise in Australia, then there would be plenty of people keen to assure that it wasn't, eh Chris?
      Short article?
      Not likely to be any articles at all, but lots about witches, communists and evil planet worshiping, heretic environmentalists etc etc.
      What a complete joke is some people's understanding of history.

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    2. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to James Hill

      James,

      Thank you for that reply. Do you have any serious evidence for any claim that one or more Fascist movements are rising in Australia?

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    3. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Chris Harper

      The pre-requisite conditions such as a similar religious dominance of politics as occurred in southern Europe including Bavaria, post the Great War, seem to be present.
      The pre-occupation with communism as a repeat of the French Revolution seems to be present among these religiously inspired politicians.
      However, our guns for hire, which is what bikie gangs essentially are are being suppressed and the prospect of a leftist revolution led by what are in reality peace loving hippies seems quite remote…

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    4. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to James Hill

      James,

      I find your preoccupation with religious beliefs to be a tad questionable, after all, until a generation ago enligtenment civilisation as we know it was built and maintained largely by believing Christians and Jews. Even the socialism of the English speaking world was influenced less by Marx than it was by Jesus. I don't find, in general, that people are believers in these religions to be a cause for concern, at all. This is just scare tactic.

      Your attempt to paint liberal democrats…

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    5. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Chris Harper

      Everything is questionable, Chris, surely that is how progress is being made.
      And that final definition of fascism of yours applies more accurately to the Roman Republic at the time of its foundation.
      The modern versions, the Third Holy Roman Empire, for example, had more to do with the Roman Empire than the early Roman Republic.
      Mussolini, with his Mare Nostrum and all, was merely resurrecting the bread and circuses of Juvenal's Satires, to provide a cloak for his service to the corporates…

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  4. Pat Moore

    gardener

    It is the centre right which imposes and implements orthodox policies of neoliberal economic 'rationalism', the ideology of the current globalised, highly inequitable and socially divisive system which has been widely recognized as the cause of the financial collapse, recession and austerity measures in the first place, the effects of which are adding to the appeal of the racist and exclusionist slogans used by the far fascist right to attract support.

    In other words the entrenched and globally-organised…

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    1. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Pat Moore

      Pat,

      How do you reconcile your claims here with the reality that Fascism is no less anti capitalist in either philosophy or rhetoric than is Marxism?

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    2. Pat Moore

      gardener

      In reply to Chris Harper

      Chris, Mussolini, brownshirt muscle man himself, said "Fascism should more properly be called corporatism because it is the merger of state and corporate power." (Wikip) Fascism has never been "anti-capitalist". The word refers to a secreted structure of power. It is not an economic system. As James has pointed out earlier elsewhere, its Roman genesis is in the metaphor of a bundle of sticks that are made stronger by their being bundled together, mafia-like. And its brotherhood, tribalistic…

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  5. Thomas Fields

    "progressive" watcher

    It's common for "progressives" to simply shout "Nazi" whenever some disagrees with them on any issue. It often doesn't matter what the topic is or what the contents of the rebuttal to their position is, they'll just shout "Nazi" to shut them up. The damage done to intellectual discussion by "progressives" can probably never be repaired.

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    1. David Roth

      Postgrad History Student

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Your comment is neither an argument nor a rebuttal. Btw I like to think I am an historian, not a 'progressive'.

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    2. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to David Roth

      I'd call it an observation and experience that has repeated itself too many times to count. Is that okay with you?

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    3. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      I would say it makes them feel "progressive" and "caring" and it will give them that warm fuzzy feeling. Not too long ago an article appeared on this site about Arena, celebrating 50 years of a Marxist Magazine as if it was something to be proud of.

      And before anyone calls me a Nazi, my grandmother was one of those rare people who were shielding Jews from the Nazi's during WW2.

      A rather imposing individual with a higher standing in society than those celebrating 50 years of Arena

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    4. David Roth

      Postgrad History Student

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Is that relevant to this topic? I certainly don't have a warm fuzzy feeling about neo-fascist movements. They are pretty scary and drawing proper attention to them does not necessarily have anything to do with Marxism or 'progressives'.

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    5. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to David Roth

      Not particularly fond of Nazi's, but oddly enough a Marxist Magazine is celebrated.

      Marxists, Nazi's, two sides of the same coin, so yes it is relevant.

      One side rightfully is rightfully despised, the other side is celebrated by "the intellectual left"

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    6. David Roth

      Postgrad History Student

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      What on earth made you think that I support Marxist magazines? Or that my contribution is Marxist?

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    7. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to David Roth

      How on earth did you come to the conclusion I was particularly singling you out.

      I said a Marxist magazine was being celebrated for its 50th birthday

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    8. David Roth

      Postgrad History Student

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      You were referring to Pat Moore then. I didn't care for his contribution either and I don't wish to be lumped in with him. And you are still way off topic.

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    9. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to David Roth

      I wasn't referring to anyone specific, I said a Marxist magazine was celebrated, and it is on topic.

      References are made way to easy when referring to Nazi's, Nazism, when referring to the likes of Wilders. He doesn't even remotely get close to be referred to like that.

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    10. David Roth

      Postgrad History Student

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      I can't see where anyone was referring to Wilders as a Nazi. I know that he has a Jewish wife and supports Israel etc. But Duncan is saying that we shouldn't overestimate his influence. John Palmer's Guardian article said that the Dutch populists were carefully keeping their distance from the neo-Nazis. Frankly, I don't see how someone's unrepresentative and unreferenced opinion about a Marxist magazine some time ago has anything to do with this thread.

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    11. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to David Roth

      If the topic is one like the announcement last week of an alliance between Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, then things naturally get fast-tracked, with media commentators leading the way.

      Take this piece in The Guardian by John Palmer entitled, “The rise of far right parties across Europe is a chilling echo of the 1930s”. I imagine the scaremongering slogan and nod to Nazism in the title attract lots of clicks

      It's right there

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    12. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Since when did shouting "Nazi" ever shut up a Nazi?
      A laughable knowledge of history.

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    13. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Marx is still taught proudly in the academe as well. He's looked on as virtuous by the "conflict theorists" and other assorted socialist types.

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    14. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to David Roth

      It is. Unfortunately, though, "progressives" control about 90% of social research, so I can't count on academic journals to help me here.

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    15. David Roth

      Postgrad History Student

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      The evidence for this remarkable proposition is solely your own opinion or are you repeating a claim made in Quadrant? I suppose that if you re-define 'progressive' and 'Marxist' as anyone who disagrees with you, it is essentially an unfalsifiable claim. Perhaps you need to understand what constitutes valid evidence and what does not. You might try a textbook on the subject of scientific method, but no doubt these are also mostly written by 'progressives'.

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    16. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to David Roth

      I thought a postgrad in history would be up to date on what a "progressive" is. Considering you're in the Humanities department, you should have some inkling as to what one is, as that's where they mostly congregate.

      Let me give you a basic outline: feminists, Marxists, post-modern deconstructionists, usually pro-gay, anti-Christian, anti-Australian/European history, pro-multicultural, anti-monocultural if it's a white nation, but pro-monocultural if it's not, anti-capitalist, pro-socialist…

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    17. David Roth

      Postgrad History Student

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Well, Thomas, we history postgrads try to assess evidence objectively according to accepted scientific methods and we have a wide diversity of political and philosophical views. Personally, I spend most of my time looking hard at evidence, analysing it and trying to be objective. My view is that tolerance, equality and diversity are essential to civilised life and discourse. Have you actually done any research yourself to back up your bizarre caricatures of social science academics? I think not. I have tried to suggest that you have a due regard to evidence and argument, but I think that this attempt is doomed to failure. Over and out.

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    18. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      So if any of your listed "demons" mention the word "Nazi" then that is then, indisputable proof that there never ever was such a thing as a "Nazi" for them to complain about?
      A very interesting mind-set, Thomas, nothing for your legion of demons to complain about, and yet they do?
      Must be very difficult for you this "progressive watching", though someone had to do it, one supposes.
      Must we bow to your expertise on the subject of progressives?
      And overlook your ignorance of Nazis as the cost of…

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    19. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Logically, I would expect "progressives" to be more interested in change, research and future developments, since the opposite, "regressives", are more likely to insist that we turn back the clock...
      Are you seriously suggesting that "regressives/conservatives" are not welcome to join academia? To me it looks as if academic pursuits develop a change in understanding and views in the learner which naturally lead to more 'progressive' views and a change in world view.
      The opposite tendency of conservatism or entrenched 'regressive' views is less interested in learning about new ideas and more interested in reinforcing established ideas - naturally, this reduces the effectiveness of academic pursuit and might limit its usefulness for those who prefer this world view. Maybe it's more accurate to say that conservatives feel uncomfortable with the pursuit of knowledge of the unknown and therefore exclude themselves from exposure to this within academic settings?

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    20. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Suzy,

      I agree, but it cuts both ways. There is a strong far left element here, but not all social democrats, or even socialists, are Marxists. Calling them 'progressives' is just a shorthand way of lumping them all together. Although, Social Democrats don't really deserve to be lumped in with the more violent extremes.

      However, it cuts both ways. There is a tendency here to label anyone even a tad less socialist than Kevin Rudd as Fascist, even though Fascists have much more in common with Marxists than they have with liberals, libertarians or conservatives, regardless of how extreme the latter might be. After all, an extremist in the cause of freedom is unlikely to find common cause with someone who wants to close it down, as do both Marxists and Fascists.

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    21. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to David Roth

      Indeed I have engaged in research. It may not be published, but if you could tell me the name of a journal that would be interested in publishing such material, would you let me know?

      I've studied, researched, and taught in the academe for 10 years (I have a doctorate), so I think I have some credibility when it comes to this topic.

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    22. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to James Hill

      Can you write properly formed paragraphs, please? The one-sentenced paragraphs makes your post unclear as to what you want me to say in return.

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    23. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Can you point me to some conservative journals from the Humanities and Social Sciences area?

      Conservatives have just as much right to express their views and have them included in Humanities and Social Sciences courses and journals as "progressives" do. Just because conservatives do not desire to perpetually over turn the established order, does not mean they do not have anything to contribute. In fact, conservatism is required to temper the radicalness that emits from the academe. Conservatives like Durkheim and Burke have timeless knowledge to teach us.

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    24. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      You might improve your capacity for comprehension by reading James Joyce's stream of consciousness.
      Other wise you have nothing of which to complain in what I wrote to you.
      Perhaps you are only interested in your own opinions?
      That might explain your limited comprehension.

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    25. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Nah simply saying that if those on the left who put Wilders in the far right category really have to start thinking twice, because he is nowhere near the far right.

      So for those who claim he is far right, you have to be seriously far to the left to make that claim

      But that's the thing with lefties, they like the title "progressive" so they can refer to the "righties" as conservative/old fashioned and that's probably done to give themselves that warm fuzzy do-gooder feeling.

      So why should there be any difference if the lefties refer Wilders as the far right and call you "progressive lefties" Marxists

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    26. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      You said: "So why should there be any difference if the lefties refer Wilders as the far right and call you "progressive lefties" Marxists"

      Because that makes you as bad as them, that's why.

      Someone may be a social democrat or a Fabian. Still left wing, still 'progressive' in one form or another, but definitely not Marxist.

      Rene, anyone who can term Abbott, or the LNP, as fascist is simply demonstrating they have no credible argument to counter the arguments for freedom, choice and liberal democracy. It is unnecessary to pull similar smears against them, because the arguments against socialism are concrete, rock solid and unanswerable.

      Argue using rationality, logic and firm definitions. Do that, and they can't win. Use smear, and you concede the argument.

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    27. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Chris Harper

      Because that makes you as bad as them, that's why - that's exactly the point, Chris

      And like you said, anyone who can term Abbott or the LNP as fascist has to be Marxists.

      Was just pointing out the stupidity in the rationale to refer the likes of Wilders as being far right - but for some odd reason they keep doing it

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    28. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      The fact that conservatives do not contribute and don't publish is not an indication of being excluded, rather that they may not have any new insights to share with the rest of us.
      Those who do have contributions probably do write.
      But maybe you belive there is a conspiracy against "regressives"? Do you have proof of this rather than your hunch of them not being allowed to publish?

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    29. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      "Left" and "right" are both relative, as are "progressive" and "regressive", I suppose. One can only compare relative positions by placing them along a continuum.
      And a continuum has no beginning and no end, so distances are also relative - since far right or left can be very or extremely distant from each other, depending on the observer.
      It's hardly an accurate way of judging another person since judgement is completely dependent on the position of the self.
      Wilders is left of some and right of others, so is everyone else, including you and I.
      Maybe you need to define at which point of the continuum you place yourself, so we can understand why the left/right references draws such a reaction from you.

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    30. Rene Oldenburger

      Haven't got one

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      Well I know all that, I just wonder why people continue to place Wilders to the far right, when they fully well know he's nowhere near the far right - which usually is connected with fascism and nazism

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    31. David Roth

      Postgrad History Student

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Remarkable and implausible. You claim to have taught at University for ten years and have no publications. Is that even possible? Perhaps you could try Quadrant, but you will find that they will require some arguments and evidence.

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    32. Arnd Liebenberg

      self-employed carpenter and joiner; exploring the possibilities of post-capitalist society

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      And that is assuming that political views can be positioned on a linear one-dimensional spectrum. What if that line does not go straight from left to right, but is, say, horseshoe-shaped. In my quest for freedom and equality I certainly found myself considering principles, which, when taken to their logical conclusion would impose strictures on society and individuals that would make any Fascist look like a paragon of democratic moderation.

      I have seen two-dimensional outlines for political positioning…

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    33. Joseph Bernard

      Director

      In reply to Arnd Liebenberg

      @Arnd

      I agree with your observation "even if we were to devise a three-dimensional representation, we'd still unduly pigeonhole people."

      It would help if our digital view of the world (universe) is expanded to encompass it's holographic nature and plus, incorporate the basic human self-interest that sits within, say, a spiral dynamics type model of human thinking that we recognize is driven by the values with which we are somehow imprinted with.

      Although a long sentence, the "self…

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    34. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I disagree. I've seen the exclusion first hand and the bigotry the "progressives" have for conservatives. The publications on this phenomenon are rare, but there are some. Try Roger Scruton and Roger Kimball.

      Don't fall into the trap that something has to be "new" for it to be academic. This is the appeal to novelty fallacy.

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    35. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Arnd Liebenberg

      A continuum doesn't have to be linear in my understanding - just continuous - but I suppose current (Western) understanding tends to plot things in straight lines. When I look at it from a permaculture perspective the 'line' follows the outer margins of the contents and natural edges are more like fractals than straight lines with infinite variations on smaller and smaller levels.
      Still, my point was only that it is impossible to establish 'far right' and 'far left' without placing oneself somewhere on the continuum - there is no universally accepted position, only degrees of variation both ways.
      BTW, Nazi was abbreviated from 'Nazi'onal Sozialismus and initially affiliated itself with some of Marx and Engels theories as well as supporting Lenin, but did not share the same ideological goals and was even funded by global and local industrial oligarchs - their (Nazi Party) ideological and financial support was not limited to Germany.

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    36. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I suppose you could call my view bigoted of "progressivism", but then again, I've never stated I was "tolerant" or believe in "equality" and all that jazz the "progressives" speak of. Conservatives are usually up front in their views; "progressives", however, like to talk of "tolerance" and "equality" but then contradict themselves in the next sentence when they're lambasting capitalists or Christians (or the plethora of other groups they dislike).

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    37. Thomas Fields

      "progressive" watcher

      In reply to Suzy Gneist

      I am intolerant of some views, yes. This is just being honest. Everyone has their likes and dislikes.
      Inequality is a fact of life. Equality of opportunity I believe in, but equality between people in a general sense does not exist. Measured empirically, people have various ranges of skills and talents. The claim that we are all equal is a metaphysical statement that has no empirical grounding, and relies on wishful thinking or a feel-good factor.

      Conservatives do contradict themselves sometimes. I don't deny they are not perfect.

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    38. David Roth

      Postgrad History Student

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Equality is an ethical issue. It's not about 'wishful thinking', but about the right way to live and treating people as an end in themselves. About whether people have an equal right to life and liberty. Being 'metaphysical or having no empirical grounding' doesn't discredit or discount a topic; we all live our lives according to a set of metaphysical assumptions which are constantly tested against reality. Btw, what was your doctorate in?

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    39. Suzy Gneist
      Suzy Gneist is a Friend of The Conversation.

      Multi-tasker at Graphic Design & Montville Coffee

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Thanks for your honesty.
      There seems essentially to be less difference in the nature of the two - progressive and regressive - apart from the expression of their views.
      Tolerance would be to accept this is the case and that it doesn't make one or the other wrong. Intolerance, in my view, expects to change the other view or dominate it in some way - the realist would see that this is either impossible or impractical.
      Acceptance that both opposites exist at the same time and that both are valid is a way forward and can lead to new insights which both sides of the spectrum can agree on. This would lead to a cooperative approach rather than a reactive and antagonistic one. Which do you think is more likely to succeed and benefit all concerned?

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    40. Marijose Cruz

      logged in via email @shineaustralia.com

      In reply to Thomas Fields

      Hi Thomas,

      I’m interested in contacting you.

      I’m working on a new documentary series on asylum seekers and came across your opinion on this matter.

      Please don’t hesitate to give me a call. Would love to have a chat with you.

      Thanks,

      Marijose
      E: marijose.cruz@shineaustralia.com
      D: +61 2 8345 4753 or 4763 | M: +61 402 694 453

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  6. Arnd Liebenberg

    self-employed carpenter and joiner; exploring the possibilities of post-capitalist society

    Yeah, I think these are credible observations by Duncan McDonnell. Obviously we ought to keep an eye peeled for any resurgence of Fascism of any kind, but there is no point going all hysterical either.

    An attitude that bothered me a bit lately showed up on the first Federal Election Gruen Transfer special, where they all seemed to be over taking the piss out of politicians in election mode (talk about shooting fish in barrels), and one of the panellists - Russel Howcroft - struck a more sober…

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Arnd Liebenberg

      That'd be the "Fuehrer Princip" then Anna?
      Didn't the Ancient Greeks observe a pattern?
      Democracy inevitably dissolves into chaos.
      A strong Person, (doesn't have to be a man) imposes order on the chaos.
      The people, in gratitude, offer Monarchy to the strong person,
      Eventually his or her descendants generously confer democracy on the people.
      And then the democracy, corrupted, descends into chaos.
      I'd blame Murdoch for the present corruption, but where is the strong person, not Abbott obviously.

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    2. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to Arnd Liebenberg

      Sorry, bad eyesight, Arnd not Anna.
      Might be laziness as well.
      Sorry again,

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    3. Arnd Liebenberg

      self-employed carpenter and joiner; exploring the possibilities of post-capitalist society

      In reply to James Hill

      Whether or not we are talking about the 'Fuehrer Prinzip' depends on how far you want to extrapolate. If you add in the apparently immutable laws of (bourgeois) global economics, it really does look like we are set on rails to perdition - compare for example the high level decision making concerning the Barangaroo development in Sydney Harbour. The Great Unwashed didn't get a look-in - not that they really had any contribution to make - and we are now lumbered, it seems, with a 230m tall priapism to put to shame any of Albert Speer's Germania-phantasies.

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  7. Rene Oldenburger

    Haven't got one

    It's an interesting topic and article but it loses credibility when the likes of Wilders are associated with the far right.

    Not quite sure but one has to be quite far to the left in order to call Wilders the far right

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    1. Russell Walton

      Retired

      In reply to Rene Oldenburger

      Yes, which of Europe's so-called "Far Right" parties are actually far right is an interesting question. From the interviews I've seen Wilders, made some accurate observations in regard to Islam and didn't appear to be the Fascist menace that he's often portrayed. Of course context is important.

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  8. Paul Miller

    logged in via LinkedIn

    "in only 19 out of the current 28 EU member states has a far right party increased by at least one percentage point over the 2005-2013 period."

    This is a strange sentence. I think the figures quoted would be more accurately presented as:

    "in only 9 out of the current 28 EU member states has a far right party failed to increase its support over the 2005-2013 period".

    But I suppose that would run counter to the point of your article..

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  9. Paul Prociv

    ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

    While deteriorating economic and social conditions will always draw the loonies out of the woodwork, I suppose the one big advantage we have now over the folk of Europe in the 1920s and 30s is our possession of the retrospectoscope, allowing us the benefit of 20/20 hindsight (oh, and there’s the internet, and the mobile phone – but they can be readily subverted). We can see clearly how the Communists in Russia, the Nazis in Germany and the Fascists in Italy clawed their way into power. By maintaining clear heads and open channels of vigorous, civilised debate, we should avoid going down any of those paths again, although there still might be others we haven’t considered yet. Anyone for theocracy?

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    1. Arnd Liebenberg

      self-employed carpenter and joiner; exploring the possibilities of post-capitalist society

      In reply to Paul Prociv

      Yeah, look... I'd go for theocracy. Though we'd have to find a way to ascertain that it is actually God who is in charge, not merely some trumped-up clergy. Any ideas?

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    2. Paul Prociv

      ex medical academic; botanical engineer at University of Queensland

      In reply to Arnd Liebenberg

      Yep, but it's always the usual suspects, isn't it? I suspect that Marx-Engels, Lenin, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot et al., maybe even the Pope, were just god-proxies. Your god might be telling you to do one thing, while mine will be pointing in another direction. You'd think they'd communicate more. It's easy to see how wires could get crossed, and maybe even lead to some confusion and disagreement. I know you'll have trouble believing this, but even religions of peace have been known to lead to human (let alone other animal) bloodshed and cause wars.

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  10. Evan Smith

    Postdoctoral Research Fellow in History at Flinders University

    One of the things to remember is that although these far-right parties have no chance of winning power in the near future, it does have a detrimental effect on those sections of society that the far-right opposes. UK data has shown (and I would expect similar things across Europe) that whenever there is a rise in the presence of the far-right, there is a corresponding rise in physical and verbal attacks on ethnic minorities. Anti-immigration and eurosceptic groups can skew the centre to the right and allow the violent fascist minority to perpetrate attacks.

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    1. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Evan Smith

      Euroskepticism helps facilitate fascist violence?

      Seriously?

      Some people will say anything, if it can help smear their political opponents.

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    2. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to Evan Smith

      I'm sorry, but the right, liberal democrats, libertarians, conservatives, are no more inclined to violence than are social democrats, and a damned sight less so than Marxists. This claim is just one more of the baseless smears that so many progressives indulge in. Anything to subvert a real understanding of history.

      Pah, what drivel.

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    3. David Roth

      Postgrad History Student

      In reply to Chris Harper

      I think Evan was talking about far-right groups, not conservatives or libertarians in general. The fact is that ethnic minorities are now being attacked in Greece and Hungary. Attacks on minorities are used by extremist groups to claim a breakdown in public order and thus gain political leverage.

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    4. Chris Harper

      Engineer

      In reply to David Roth

      David,

      Yes, Evan was not claiming that liberal democrats, libertarians, conservatives commit violence, but he was claiming that they facilitate violence, by existing.

      In the UK for instance, euroskepticism is a characteristic of liberals (as opposed to to the thoroughly illiberal Liberal Democrats) and conservatives, although prior to 1988 it was primarily a position held by the left.

      I stand by my responses.

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    5. David Roth

      Postgrad History Student

      In reply to Chris Harper

      Yes, I agree that euroscepticism doesn't necessarily lead to violence or encourage fascism. Evan has it wrong there. But I would point out that extreme nationalist groups have also adopted eurosceptic positions, which I suppose is logically consistent. But one is not a consequence of the other.

      I have always been puzzled by economic liberals being eurosceptics, because a policy of autarchy leads to mutual impoverishment, cultural and economic.

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  11. James Hill

    Industrial Designer

    And in all this discussion there is no recognition whatsoever from posters that the template for totalitarianism was forged in the Spanish Inquisition.
    So much for the concept of progress and progressives.
    Sinking in the mire of ignorance?

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    1. James Hill

      Industrial Designer

      In reply to James Hill

      G.G.Coulton, 'Medieval Panorama'.
      Book Review, Freethought and Inquisition, page 470,
      second paragraph,
      "The Church anticipated in discipline the Soviet-Nazi theory of Totalitarianism".

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  12. Terry Daley

    logged in via email @gmail.com

    Beppe Grillo's 5 Star Movement might not be traditional far-right but it has plenty in common with previous right wing personality cults, and is most definitely not of the left. Grillo has bigged up that headcase Farage on his blog (calling him a 'great statesman'), and one of their members of parliament recently trotted out the old 'Mussolini did some good things for us Italians too you know...' line. They're also getting into bed with this highly dubious 'Forconi' movement.

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