The Politics of Projection in the West

To many on the political left, Europe’s new right-wing parties seem to represent the perils of Europe’s dark history.  The rise of new right parties in Europe during the past decade led to widespread panic among many Western observers.

When European right-wing parties gain in polls and win elections, newspapers overflow with articles declaring the end of democracy. Following the Swedish parliamentary elections in September 2010, Newsweek's Denis MacShane wrote :

Thus the arrival of a new politics in Europe. A decade ago extremist politics was confined to fringes and street protests. It has now arrived as a parliamentary force and is beginning to change how other parties behave and speak.

According to Daniel Sandström, the editor of the large Swedish newspaper Sydsvenskan, Jimmy Åkesson, the leader of Swedish Democrats, “is a clever populist, careful not to cross the line and say anything that seems undemocratic. But his party has a tremendous acceptance of racism.”

New York Times columnist, Roger Cohen claimed that “hatred of Muslims in Europe and the United States is a growing political industry. It’s odious, dangerous and racist.”

However, True Finns (Finland), Swedish Democrats (Sweden), MSI (Italy), or PVV (Netherlands) are proponents of parliamentary democracy and individual rights. More importantly, they are political parties born out of a liberal political culture. None of the new right parties of Europe are advocating the limiting of personal freedoms or embracing fascism.

In 2010, one the vilified leaders of Europe’s new right, the leader of the Vlaams Belang party in Belgium, Filip Dewinter, said the following:

We can’t change the past. We can’t deny the dark spots in our history. But we are not prisoners of that history. This bitter experience has been a sobering lesson. We will never ever again believe the false promises of totalitarianism. One could only wish the left-wingers had learned that lesson too.

Today many Europeans celebrate the rise of democracy in the Middle East. However many are fearful of how the democratic will of the Europeans will manifest itself. Interestingly, these fears are not always applied to other parts of the world.

The Muslim Brotherhood received 36 percent of the vote and the Salafists 24 percent in the recent Egyptian parliamentary elections. When a right-wing party in Europe does well or even barely passes the electoral threshold, no one talks about the triumph of democracy. On the contrary, following a positive result for a right-wing party, many European newspapers are immediately painted with op-eds and headlines decrying the end of democracy.