Polakow-Suransky offers a succinct but reasonably thorough narrative and analysis of the rise of the Far Right in Europe.
I appreciated the fact that he (I believe correctly) marked the assassination of Pym Fortuyn in 2002 as a critical and transformative moment. I remember it well because I recall my own puzzlement in trying to understand how a homosexual secularist was 'Right-wing' in terms of the European political spectrum. The US spectrum is so very narrow, while the European Right embraces both secularism and a Judeo-Christian narrative. And let's just say in 2002 Wikipedia was in its infancy and finding out about figures like Fortuyn was a little more difficult back then.
That was back during the days that I still used to get up before dawn on Sunday morning to listen to EuroQuest radio broadcasts on the Penn State public radio station. Sometimes I would pop in a cassette, hit 'record' and go back to bed.
Polakow-Suransky traces the rise of these movements from that critical year of 2002, the same year that saw Jean Marie LePen startle the French and European Establishments in advancing to the 2nd Round of the French Presidential election. Fortuyn was gunned down just a couple of weeks later.
What is perhaps most insightful is that the author picks up on the fact that Right-wing Populism has succeeded in many ways by picking up and appropriating the narratives of the Left. We've seen the same phenomenon in the United States. Many of the same forces that supported Bernie Sanders were drawn from the same well that produced Trump. At this point it's still unclear as to how many Sanders supporters 'flipped' and went for Trump. I'm inclined to think the numbers aren't particularly high, but that in no way detracts from the salient point regarding the disaffected working class and how their frustrations and narratives can quickly and easily be appropriated by the Left... or the Right.
We've also seen a great deal of revisionism wherein the New Right in both Europe and the United States seems to pretend its standing against the current that led to 1920s and 1930s Fascism. The American Right has been far more successful in this and has convinced many of their followers that Hitler's Reich was comprised of environmentalists and homosexual activists. Blood and Soil and Brownshirts indeed. As has been said before, Obama was a heinous president and yet a Hitler he was not.
And of course there's no small irony in that these same Americans have just installed a gangster-ish semi-fascist authoritarian reminiscent of Mussolini. Or if that offends people just view him as the dystopian version of Biff Tannen, the cinematic figure that was inspired by Donald Trump himself. Even my kids picked up on that.
But I digress.
This so-called Euro-populist wave has been developing for some time. It didn't just appear. There were clues. But perhaps the chaos of the 2008 financial collapse and the seemingly endless crises that have enveloped the world since then have (for many) obscured certain movements and trends within society.
One wonders what's happening even now that's being missed?
Speaking of 1920s and 30s Fascism, this contemporary episode in many ways echoes the trends and currents that were at work in the wake of World War I. While the analogy breaks down as they all are wont to do, there are nevertheless striking even compelling parallels. Trotsky's analysis in the 1930s vis-à-vis the rise of Fascism is disturbingly prescient.
This Guardian article caught my eye because the author, Polakow-Suransky is known to me through his work The Unspoken Alliance: Israel's Secret Relationship with Apartheid South Africa. A fascinating book, it delves the controversies and yet for all that stays in what might be described as the safe zone. He could have pushed things further but exercises restraint in his reporting and analysis. I think the same could be said with his article regarding the European Right. Despite this mild criticism both the article and the aforementioned book are most definitely worthy of consideration. There's a lot to be learned and more likely than not those already familiar with the topics as well as the uninitiated will be spurred on to further inquiry.