What's Wrong with Europe's Right?

WARSAW: Everywhere in Europe, traditional right wing parties are in crisis. Britain's Tories appear on a suicidal march to isolating themselves in an imaginary little England. A civil war grips the French right, with a Euro MP grandson of Charles de Gaulle abandoning the Gaullists to join Jean-Marie Le Pen's National Front. Even Germany's rock solid Christian Democrats are poised over an abyss of scandal. Only the extreme right-wing Freedom Party of Austria's Jörg Haider is on the march. Is Europe's right doomed to extinction or extremism?

I am neither a man of the left, nor of the right. Still, the troubles of the right should worry all thinking democrats; and these troubles are not confined to Europe's western half. Two years ago I admired the professionalism with which Poland's and Hungary's rightist parties came to power. Since then, like Western Europe's conservatives, they managed to – at least in political terms – botch nearly everything. Both movements now garner only around 20% of support in opinion polls. So-called post-communists are flying high with around 70%.

Perhaps the collapsing popularity of the right in our new democracies tells something about the right in Europe's old democracies. For like their Western counterparts, the Polish and Hungarian conservatives are caught between their increasingly unappealing neo-liberalism and their increasingly anachronistic communitarian traditions.