With support from the University of Richmond

History News Network

History News Network puts current events into historical perspective. Subscribe to our newsletter for new perspectives on the ways history continues to resonate in the present. Explore our archive of thousands of original op-eds and curated stories from around the web. Join us to learn more about the past, now.

You may be worried about the rise of rightwing parties in Germany. Daniel Pipes isn’t.

In a typical assessment of recent European elections, Katy O'Donnell writes in Politico that "Nationalist parties now have a toehold everywhere from Italy to Finland, raising fears the continent is backpedaling toward the kinds of policies that led to catastrophe in the first half of the 20th century." Many Jews, like Menachem Margolin, head of the European Jewish Association, echo her fear, seeing "a very real threat from populist movements across Europe."

Of all countries, Austria and Germany naturally arouse the most concern, being the homelands of Nazism. The surging success of the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) and the Alternative for Germany (AfD), with 26 and 13 percent of the vote, respectively, has made them both important political actors and horrified observers. Thus does Germany's foreign minister, Sigmar Gabriel, call the AfD "real Nazis." "A nightmare come true," says Charlotte Knobloch, the former president of Germany's Central Council of Jews.

Are they correct that we are slouching back to the 1930s? Or, to the contrary, might this insurgency indicate a healthy means for Europeans to protect their mores and culture? I shall argue the latter.

To begin with, these parties are not nationalist as of old, boasting neither of British imperial power nor German bloodlines. Rather, they have a European and Western outlook; to coin a term, they are civilizationist. Second, they are defensive, focused on protecting Western civilization rather than on destroying it as Communists and Nazis dreamed to do, or on extending it, as the French government long attempted. They seek not conquests but to retain the Europe of Athens, Florence, and Amsterdam. Third, these parties cannot be called far-right, for they offer a complex mix of right (culture) and left (economics). Marine le Pen's National Front, for example, calls for French banks to be nationalized and attracts leftist support.

Rather, these parties are anti-immigration. A massive and sometimes uncontrolled immigration of non-Westerners, causing a sense of feeling like strangers in one's own home, fuels their appeal. Pathetic stories of pensioners surrounded by foreigners and scared to leave their apartments ricochet around Europe, as do tales of a single indigenous student in a school otherwise entirely made up of immigrant children. The parties all aspire to control, diminish, and even undo the immigration of recent decades, and especially of Muslims. ...

Read entire article at Daniel Pipes Blog