How dangerous is the new right?
The images of the Polish Independence Day march show thousands of people dressed in black, throwing fire crackers and chanting racist and anti-Semitic slogans. Although these aggressive images are dominating the media this week the right has radically changed its style - a move that makes it no less dangerous, commentators observe.
Seducers in tailor-made suits
Writing in Eesti Päevaleht Ian Buruma, editor of the New York Review of Books, notes a marked change in the behaviour and style of today's leading far-right figures:
“Until recently, figures on the extreme right had no prestige at all. Driven to the margins of most societies by collective memories of Nazi and fascist horrors, such men (there were hardly any women) had the grubby air of middle-aged patrons of backstreet porno cinemas. ... But much has changed. Younger members of the far right, especially in Europe, are often sharply dressed in tailor-made suits, recalling the fascist dandies of pre-war France and Italy. They don’t shout at large mobs, but are slick performers in radio and TV studios, and are savvy users of social media. ... These new-model rightists are almost what Germans call salonfähig, respectable enough to move in high circles. ... They crave prestige.”
Spectre now overtaking Western Europe
The new right is gaining influence in Western Europe, author Abdelkader Benali observes with concern in his column in Trouw:
“A spectre is haunting Europe. It is the spectre of the new right. It is not new, but had lain dormant in the minds of the embittered citizens of Central and Eastern Europe since the fall of the Berlin Wall and the opening of the borders. Now it is spreading to Western Europe and it is only a matter of time before the ultra-nationalists have gathered enough strength to win political power in European politics. These movements feel more strongly bound to their national legacy than to Brussels. ... Behind all the resentment lies an ideological turning away from the achievements that Western capitalism brought with open borders, individual self-fulfilment and the free market.”
Racism is the real danger
The governments in Poland and other Central and Eastern European countries are playing up to right-wing extremists, The Irish Times warns:
“The Polish government's rhetoric tends to conflate refugees, terrorism and Islam into a perceived threat to Polish values. Similar themes are heard in Hungary, Austria and the Czech republic. ... President Trump asked in his Warsaw speech last July whether the West had the will to survive against Islam. His question is utterly misconceived. European and western values are rather challenged by an Islamophobia fanned by far-right movements with support from nationalist and populist politicians. This new racism is the real threat to Europe's liberal order.”