The New Face of Fascism

Extreme-right and post-fascist parties, whose rising popularity caused alarm across Western Europe a few years ago, seem to be fading from the electoral scene. But does this mean that political radicalism, extreme-right sentiments, and fascism in Europe are dying out?

Hardly. Just as both extreme-right and post-fascist groups in Western Europe weaken, Eastern Europe has seen a revival of extreme-right and fascist parties, most ominously with the successes of nationalist radicals in the recent Russian and Serbian elections.

At the same time, the costs of weakening extreme-right, nationalist, and post-fascist parties in Western and Central Europe have been high: mainstream political forces were forced to adopt some of the extreme right's vocabulary and agenda. Many mainstream European politicians and parties now espouse anti-immigration policies, express greater skepticism toward European integration, or wield a form of anti-Semitism that masquerades as criticism of Israel's policies.

Extremist parties have also been marginalized owing to their weak position in pan-European politics. Voters in Italy, France, the Netherlands, or Austria - the countries in which post-fascist or extreme-right parties incited the greatest concerns - gradually realized that mainstream democratic forces in Europe would allow extremist parties only limited influence in the European Parliament and other EU institutions. Some - for example, Jörg Haider's Free Democrats in Austria, or Gianfranco Fini's Italian post-fascists - were forced to temper their radicalism after joining government coalitions.