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The Far-right: general characteristics

The Far-right: general characteristics
Let’s begin our exploration of contemporary antisemitism, by examining the first major realm from which it emanates - the Far-right. As mentioned, in the immediate post-war years, Far-right parties were marginalized in their ideologies, including racial antisemitism, were discredited due to the horrific actions taken by the Nazis and their collaborators during the war, particularly during the Holocaust. These ideas remained in the fringes of society, having close to no effect on the mainstream political sphere, though they did continue to develop. Major issues that arose in the second half of the 20th century, especially from the 1970s onwards, such as globalism, worldwide immigration, economic instability served to popularize these previously marginal voices, allowing them to gain a more central political position.
Throughout the 1990s and early 2000s, Far-right political parties and movements enjoyed victories in elections across Europe. Major political gains were made throughout the 2010s. Encouraged by a general dissatisfaction following worldwide recessions, by rising unemployment by separatist leanings surging in Europe, and by a continuing immigration and refugee crisis, nationalism and populism are becoming ascendant political forces to be reckoned with. Following a rising sense of disappointment in democracy and the welfare state, Far-right movements and related political parties are gaining ground in many European states, as well as in the United States; voices from the margins of the political landscape are moving to its center, transforming from fringe voices to persuasive political actors who set the agenda and frame media debates.
We have seen how in the past, groups and movements active in this sphere, advocated xenophobia, racism, and antisemitism. What characterizes the Far-right today? As we will now hear, some general commonalities can be found among the various groups defined as belonging to the Far-right, though there are of course differences, especially when describing the more extreme, blatantly, anti-democratic parties in relation to the so-called Populist ones. It’s very difficult to generalize about the Far-right, but there are some characteristic dimensions which you can attribute to all of these parties in spite of the very different traditions and contexts. It’s important to state that some of these Far-right parties are what we call ‘one issue parties.’
So, for example, they are only directed against Islam or Muslims. This is specifically the Dutch party of Geert Wilders and then there are other Far-right parties, such as the Austrian Freedom Party or the Hungarian Jobbik and Fidesz or the the German AFD which have big traditions and roots in fascism and National Socialism, and cover a huge range of different aims and objectives. And then I would also like to make a distinction between extreme right and right-wing populist, although the boundaries are blurred. But extreme right parties endorse violence, going towards fascism. I would certainly say that the Golden Dawn in Greece, or the Jobbik in Hungary are extreme right neo-Nazi parties. They have paramilitary troops.
They run through the villages of Roma, in Hungary, for example. They beat people up. They’ve killed people. The same is true for the Golden Dawn movement. Whereas the other right-wing populist parties like the Austrian or German or also Swedish or other parties still stay inside the democratic institutions, even though they try and hollow them out from inside. Antisemitism, I believe, is always part and parcel of Far-right ideologies. And it’s important to emphasize that “Far-right discourses” always means that they have certain ideological content. So it’s not just form, it’s always also content.
Because we have a limited set of linguistic resources, so they have to be sort of filled or merged with certain ideological contents, and one of these contents is always hatred of Jews.

Prof. Ruth Wodak

Before we turn to examine the place antisemitism holds in the contemporary Far-right, let’s first ask ourselves:

What characterizes the Far-right today? Why is it that despite the catastrophe of the Nazi regime in the 20th century, and the horrific outcomes of the Holocaust and WWII, extreme right-wing parties and ideologies still maintain their appeal?


  • Hainsworth, Paul, ed., Politics of the Extreme Right: From the Margins to the Mainstream (Bloomsbury: Indiana University Press, 2016).

  • Hainsworth, Paul, ed., The Extreme Right in Europe and the USA (Bloomsbury: Indiana University Press, 2016).

  • Mammone, Andrea, Emmanuel Godin and Brian Jenkins, eds., Mapping the Extreme Right in Contemporary Europe: From Local to Transnational (London: Routledge, 2012).

  • Wodak, Ruth, The Politics of Fear: What Right-Wing Populist Discourses Mean (London: Sage, 2015).

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Antisemitism: From Its Origins to the Present

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