The Far-Right Rise!

Kaiesha Page

Image © David Hayward

Last year thousands watched across the world with a mix of uneasiness and anticipation as the face of the monster behind the Norwegian mass-murder was revealed. The revelation of the attack in what is normally a peaceful and quiet country was greeted with a gasp of shock by the world. How someone could do such a terrible thing? However, this shock was to be outweighed by the shock that was expressed when his face was to finally grace our screens sometime later. The man behind killing of many innocent teenagers looked so ordinary, so human. Perhaps, in many ways, Breivik is the perfect image to represent the far-right movement: a normal looking person who has radical and dangerous beliefs. The biggest threat of the far-right’s is how far they are willing to go and how unnoticeable they often are.

Although his actions were unprecedented and his murders unique, his beliefs are far from new and are part of a growing movement that’s arms are spreading far and wide. Breivik is the epitome of this growing movement, a warning of exactly what radical hatred can cause a person to do. Across Europe over recent months we have witnessed the far-right parties exceeding expectations and polling a significant number of votes. In Greece, the Golden Dawn Party (discussed in detail later) received almost 7% of the vote, securing themselves 21 seats in the parliament. Just two years previous in the 2010 election they achieved just over 5%. In the recent French presidential election the National Front party achieved a staggering 18.5% of the vote. Why are these parties on the rise?

The theoretical explanation for the rise is written in history and repeated across the centuries: when times are rough and people poor, a scapegoat is needed.  Just like the mass-ignorance of the anti-Semitic measures in Nazi Germany, today it tends to be Islam that is targeted.

The far-right in England is also gaining speed but not in the same way that of those in Europe. The far-right growth in England has not been demonstrated by electorate success. The British National Party appears to be the exception. Despite the electoral trend across Europe and the sweeping advances that they have apparently made, the British National Party made embarrassing losses in the local elections this month, although they did receive 9% of the vote. Their loss of seats to Labour, they claim, was a natural result. The economic situation in the country has yet again taken a downturn, the double-dip recession announced just before the polling day perhaps worked splendidly in Labour’s favour. It proved exactly what Labour have been arguing all along: that right-wing austerity is failing and there is a better way. While the Liberals lacked credibility given how they sold their voters out for a few cabinet positions, Labour were the only party that offered a credible economic strategy and as a result voters turned away from the BNP altogether.

It is my opinion that there is threat to the BNP other than Labour. A threat that is far harder for them to presently assess and one that could cause lasting damages to British society on the whole. That reason is the English Defence League. The EDL have seen a massive rise in membership and activity since the start of the year and they now believe themselves to have more than 33,000 members in total. However, despite these numbers they can only seem to get up to 2,000 at their famous and controversial marches. While the EDL, a street protest group, marched up and down the streets of Luton shouting their racist and unfair remarks at Muslims, they struck a cord with many disgruntled Brits. There is a rising number of people that believe that immigration have gone too far and one woman I interviewed admitted that she “felt intimidated” when she saw Muslims on a bus. This retired moderate women understood and even supported the actions of the English Defence League, saying “someone has to make a stand.” It is these underlying beliefs that may tempt people to vote for the far-right in the next elections.  I wonder how appealing their policies may seem to others, speaking to relatives of mine it is clear that many feel anxious and scared of immigration and Muslims in particular.

I know many people would laugh at the idea we should fear the English Defence League. They are not a political party and do not talk in political way. They hold marches where drink is consumed and men socialise with each other while angry at the same people. This is what makes them attracted to the movement. It offers a welcoming atmosphere. The leader, Tonny Robinson, is an ordinary, working-class man as opposed to the Eton educated posh boys that the other party leaders often appear to be. As a leader, they feel he represents them more. They fit in and therefore the EDL is their new political home.

So, as an apolitical, relatively small in activity movement, are they really that much of a threat? I would argue yes, simply because I think that a lot of disengaged youngsters risk being caught up in their movement. Add to this the fact that the EDL have announced that they will stand in the next elections and we have a potentially scary situation on our hands.  Look at the Golden Dawn in Greece and you will see that their development  into a political party followed a very similar path.

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