Return to: Search Page or to: Table of Contents Vol. 3, issue 4

Meindert Fennema, "Some Conceptual Issues and Problems in the Comparison of Anti-Immigrant Parties in Western Europe," Party Politics, 3 (October 1997), 473-492.

First Paragraph:
Since 1984, and even earlier in Great Britain and The Netherlands, anti-immigrant parties have been increasingly successful in national and European elections. Some of these parties, like the Italian Social Movement-National Right (MSI-DN),l founded in 1945, the French Front National (1972), the Belgian Vlaams Blok (1978) and the Dutch Centrumpartij (1980), have emerged from neofascist groupuscules. This genesis fits the continuity thesis implicit in the concept of extreme right. But not all anti-immigrant parties are the offspring of neofascist clubs and cliques. The German Republikaner Party, for example, was founded by members of the Christian Social Union (CSU). The Austrian Freedom Party (FPO) developed from the Verband der Unabhängigen (Association of Independents) founded in 1949 by two liberal journalists who wanted to stay clear of the socialist and catholic 'Lager'. Other anti-immigrant parties, like the Danish Fremskridtspartiet (Progress Party) founded in 1972 and the Swedish Ny Demokrati (New Democracy) founded in 1991, are based on anti-tax and anti-establishment sentiments. The Italian Leagues united in the Lega Nord by 1991 express primarily regionalist sentiments. These parties are not self-evidently extreme right. Their historical continuity with the extreme-right movements of the inter-war period 'is not always clear. Yet one thing that they share in common is resent-ment against migrants and the immigration policy of their governments.

Figures and Tables:

Last Paragraph:
If the focus is on party leadership, we tend to highlight ideological aspects of party identity. We may discover that some leaders of the party come from with an extreme-right background and still maintain friendly contacts extreme-right groupuscules. We might well conclude from this backstage research that the party is to be labelled extreme right. if we study party militants, the focus is on political style and practices. It may be the case that party militants consistently harass immigrants and attack their property and hence we will be inclined to label their party as racist. By focusing on the electorates, we may find out that most voters can properly be labelled protest voters even though some should be considered xenophobic or racist voters-. It is quite possible that an extreme-right party has voters who do not adhere to the extreme-right political doctrine. Indeed, one expert on the Vlaams Blok electorates concludes after a thorough analysis of both party ideology and party electorate: 'Whereas Vlaams Blok can best be summarized as a cul-turally racist, separatist and authoritarian party of the ultra-right, for its electors it is at most a populist ethnocentric protest party' (Swyngedouw, forthcoming). After all, voters do not belong to a party in the way that party members do.