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Wed May 30, 2012, 01:46 PM

The European far right: actually right? Or left? Or something altogether different? [View all]

Marine Le Pen’s ideology cannot be defined simply as “right wing”.

The success of the Front National hasn’t gone unnoticed in the popular media. In news coverage the FN and other members of the Nativist Populist (NP) party family are most often referred to as “far-right”. In the economic sense at least, the accuracy of the “far-right” descriptor is doubtful.

Le Pen’s own public utterances criticising “ultra liberalism” and mondialism (One Worldism) are evidence enough that her natural constituency is not the Davos set. Rather, she is distinctly protectionist in her economic positions, having described globalisation as “getting slaves to make things abroad to sell to unemployed people here".

French voters who support the Front National feel assailed on two fronts.
First by cheap Chinese and other foreign imports local manufacturers cannot compete against, lest they start a “race to the bottom”. Second, they fear mass non-European immigration, mainly from Islamic Africa and Asia. They perceive themselves to be overwhelmed by free markets and open borders. The NP parties portray a situation where globalising elites make all the gains while the average citizen loses job security, identity and quality of life.

NP economics are nativist in the sense they’re designed to protect the national interest against foreign capitalists in the age of globalisation, while simultaneously supporting intra-national homogeneity by restricting welfare.

Welfare for all, as long as they are us

The nativists transcend the traditional right-left dichotomy of party politics by supporting the welfare state (albeit restricted to natives), while developing economic policies designed to protect native business, workers and culture from the perceived excesses of global free trade and Islamism.

The economics of the NPs are defensive. They support welfare and state led solutions to economic problems, and often support renationalisation of key state assets.

Beyond the left/right dichotomy

Dutch political scientist Cas Mudde has developed the most considered and precise understanding of the NP party family, concluding their defining features are nativism, populism and authoritarianism.

Considering the economic positions of the party family in Europe, the “far right” descriptor is inaccurate. In the current context such parties would be better referred as nationalist, ethno-communitarian, or populist to better express their positions which are a combination of what is a combination of traditionalist patriotic, conservatism and statist, protectionist, mixed economics.

For the FN it’s not a struggle between left and right, but between nationalism and internationalism in its left, right, corporate and Islamic guises.


An interesting look at the "far-right" parties in Europe. The author, who is Australian, has come up with the term "Nativist Populist (NP)" to describe these parties in order to get away from the left-right way of looking at them. I'm not sure how the terms are used in Australia, but "nativist" and "populist" can be loaded terms in the US. I wonder if the author meant to use them that way or if she was looking for more neutral (and accurate, given their definitions) terms than "far-right" to describe some European parties.

The author was just looking at the political situation in Europe, not the US, but would the tea party here qualify as a 'nativist populist' party?

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Reply The European far right: actually right? Or left? Or something altogether different? [View all]
pampango May 2012 OP
Romulox May 2012 #1
TheWraith May 2012 #7
hifiguy May 2012 #2
Wounded Bear May 2012 #3
Romulox May 2012 #4
hifiguy May 2012 #5
Romulox May 2012 #6
pampango May 2012 #12
Romulox May 2012 #13
pampango May 2012 #14
cecilfirefox May 2012 #8
TheWraith May 2012 #9
The Magistrate May 2012 #10
ikri May 2012 #11
pampango May 2012 #15