The Return of the Far Right

by: Maria Whitten

Europe has seen a recent surge in far-right politics and demonstrations, a shift from policies that have been in place since the World Wars. Far-right policies and demonstrations have focused on anti-immigration and anti-Islamic rhetoric.


Europe, specifically eastern Europe, has seen a rising state of far right politics and protests in the past year, following an increasing interest in anti-immigration policies and a fear from a “threat of Muslims”. This is comparable to a time when countries were focused anti-Semitism instead of a focus on the threat of Muslims.

Eastern Europe                          

Poland, Austria, and Germany have all seen the return of far-right themes in the past year.

Poland has seen an increase in far-right acceptance over the past few years. Every year, Poland celebrates its Independence Day on November 12, and marches arise including the far-right. This year, however, was the largest march to date, including 60,000 right-wing nationalists. The march openly broadcasted racist and anti-Islamic speeches, in which thousands of policemen protected the march. Additionally, Islamophobia and xenophobia have risen as well, with an increase information postings and media broadcastings from both private and religious media.

Austria has shifted politically to the right in recent months with their recent elections. In October, Austria elected the youngest leader in history, Sebastian Kurz at 31, a member of the People’s Party (OeVP). However, Sebastian Kurz supports far-right themes and is expected to form a coalition with the Freedom Party (FPOe), whose values are centered on Islamophobia and immigration. The Freedom Party was founded by former members of the Nazi party after the second world war, and has continued with similar themes since.

Germany has also shifted politically with recent elections. For the first time since World War II, a far-right party has entered parliament. The AfD “official party platform may be 76 pages long and offers many positions on everything from taxes to public TV to animal rights, but a recent study by the respected Bertelsmann foundation found that the only topic upon which significant numbers of Germans believe the AfD had any expertise was immigration”. Also, the AfD campaign listed asylum seekers, immigration, and Islam as the top reasons to vote for their party. Currently, the potential Jamaica coalition has broken down due to AfD’s disagreement on hot button issues, especially immigration.

Western Europe

Western Europe has not seen the push to the far-right as has eastern Europe, but some of the far-right themes have been increasing.

Italy has seen far-right gains in upcoming elections. Although the national election is not set until next year, the fascist party is looking to secure the vote. This is also fueled by migration and public welfare programs in the country.

The United Kingdom has not elected any far-right parties into parliament. However, the UK voted to leave the European Union and “anti-immigrant prejudice was a major factor in the deciding vote”.

The United States

The United States has also seen an increase in tension from ultra-right groups, such as neo-Nazis. The events in Charlottesville, Virginia, and also other protests and monument destruction demonstrate that increase.

For the United States, the rise of the far-right can be seen in attributed statistics on hate crimes. Although protests and high-profile violence is not seen regularly, it painted differently statistically. The FBI has released the statistics for 2016, they are broken down below and depict current trends within the United States.

  • Of the 6,121 hate crime attacks recorded by state and local law enforcement, 6,063 were what are called ‘single-bias’ crimes. Of these, 57.5% were motivated by a victim’s race or ethnicity; 21% by religion; and 17.7% by sexual orientation. Of the 7,615 total victims reported in 2016, 4,720 suffered crimes against their persons; 2,813 crimes against property. Victim numbers may be low, due to reporting issues among the more than 15,000 law enforcement agencies.
  • It should be no surprise then that while just 3% of the U.S. population is Jewish, those Americans were targeted in more than 54% of the hate crimes recorded in 2016, with a total greater than all other religious groups combined.
  • Hate crimes against Muslims made up the second largest total of crimes based on religion, and showed the biggest rise at more than 19%. Meanwhile, African-Americans, who make up 13% of the U.S. population, were targets in over half the crimes motivated by race or ethnicity.

The Danger of the Return

The debacle that stems from the return of the far-right in Europe and elsewhere is the internal disorder it creates for countries. These issues are the foundation for what sparked the second World War. Instead of a hate for Jewish people, it is becoming a hate for Muslim people. This is becoming rampant with the increase in terrorist attacks from which the terrorist claims the Muslim religion. This is also directly connected to immigration and migration issues resulting globally.

As eastern Europe seeks to alienate itself from a specific group of people, the region will create a conflict much like was seen previously during World War II. During every protest, there is a backlash. Racism is not legally tolerated. However, politically, it is becoming more normalized by public figures and politicians displaying overt racism. Austria and the United States are both prime examples of this.

As hate crimes are on the rise, becoming more targeted, and more prevalent in society, it is becoming more dangerous that this trend goes unnoticed. As the far-right find a welcome place in society, they will only grow larger. Russia has also fueled this movement online through social media propagandizing to divide Americans, and possibly other countries, in far-right issues such as immigration and Islamophobia.

This issue requires a much-needed policy focus to prevent such events from happening like the events from the past. Although the solution is unknown, something must be done to prevent the far-right from gaining power in Europe and beyond. “Pushing back requires urgent and persistent responses from all who understand that a society’s strength is found in its diversity.”