Suzanne Daley Photo by Gyuri Han
Last month, French towns led by so-called “far right” politicians stopped serving non-pork alternatives to students in public school cafeterias.
This move, which directly antagonized Jewish and Muslim students who do not eat pork due to their religious customs, was just one in a series of anecdotes employed by New York Times foreign correspondent Suzanne Daley to illustrate the increasingly extremist political ideology holding sway over Europe.
Daley spoke Thursday night, May 15, in the HUB about the “Rise of the Far Right in Europe.” She was brought to the UW by the Jackson School of International Studies (JSIS) and the Hellenic Studies Program.
The far right is authoritarian in nature, founded upon the establishment of strict social hierarchies, and often “baldly racist and anti-Semitic,” according to Daley.
Daley’s talk was given in light of the upcoming European Union (EU) parliamentary elections, to be held May 22-25. She said the far right is likely to make big gains.
“[This] is a dark curtain that has fallen over Europe,” said Taso Lagos, professor of Hellenic Studies.
In the past, this political view has appealed only to the very old, according to Daley. However, many working class citizens and young people have begun to identify with the far right groups following the recent economic crisis and the resulting high unemployment rates.
These economic issues have been linked with increasing immigration. Many see immigrants as responsible for high unemployment, because they are believed to be taking jobs away from natural-born citizens. Others believe immigrants are coming into a new country to collect benefits that other citizens are paying for.
These beliefs have been exacerbated by the rhetoric of these extremist political parties, which blame the EU for many of these problems because it brought open borders to Europe.
“Before the economic crisis, the EU gave out goodies,”
Though citizens have always resented certain aspects of the EU and its policies, these issues were not widely vocalized due to the popularity of other EU programs. However, when the economic crisis hit, the EU started to be seen as the bad guy.
“[The EU] was trying to get everyone to meet their budgets,” Daley said of the post-crash period. “Austerity was everywhere and it hurt.”
However, Daley said the rise of the far right is not limited to economic strife. She said the numerous historical factors at play are important to consider.
For example, Greece and Spain, the two countries hardest hit by the crisis, have very small far right parties. Switzerland, by contrast, has not experienced any economic strife, yet its extremist political party is growing in numbers.
Daley said the difference seems to be that the Greek and Spanish remember their totalitarian history (both were ruled by dictators in the middle of the last century), whereas other countries, like Switzerland, do not have negative connotations surrounding authoritarian ideals.
Laura Hidalgo, a UW student with a passion for human rights, said this new understanding of European politics will help deepen her understanding of the region and its relationship to her field.
“It touches on racism among the people of Europe because of history,” Hidalgo said. “I had never looked at the ‘right-est’ in that sort of way.”
Reach Special Sections Editor Eleanor Cummins at email@example.com. Twitter: @elliepses
Please read our Comment policy.