The 1980s and early 1990s have witnessed, not without some sense of alarm, a rising tide of right-wing extrem ism.1 Attacks on immig rants and racist viol ence have occurred with an ugly regu lar ity across Europe. Anti-immig rant senti ment on the streets has been matched by elect oral success of prom in ent parties like the French National Front, the Italian National Alliance and the German Republicans. At the same time, many new parties have sprung up, some of which share an agenda with the racist right. Other new parties stress ing radical region al ism, anti-polit ical senti ments, or frus tra tion with taxa tion policies more than immi - gra tion issues have added to the impres sion of a resur gence on the far right. The Austrian Freedom Party has come up from near dissol u tion to gain 23 per cent of the
vote – its best ever share of the national vote – in the 1994 elec tion with a charis matic leader and an agenda focused against immig ra tion. The rise of the Northern Leagues as a polit ical force in Italy has been matched by the start ling success of media magnate Silvio Berlusconi in forming a new party and gaining the largest share of the vote with Forza Italia in the 1994 elec tions. Switzerland has seen its own regional league in the Ticino League which has joined the Automobilist Party as two of the newest parties in the polit ical system, both clearly on the right. In Scandinavia the long-estab lished Danish and Norwegian Progress Parties that emerged as anti-taxa tion parties finally found a sibling in Sweden where New Democracy broke through in a seven-month period to gain elec tion to the parlia ment in 1991. In Belgium, the radical nation al ist Flemish Bloc achieved its best national elect oral performance in the 1991 elec tion. All these parties have combined elements of nation al ism with neo-liberal economic policies, and have presen ted this package in a style that confronts polit ical systems while, simul tan eously, oper at ing comfort ably within the realm of parliament ary polit ics. It has been tempt ing to see a mono lithic tide of right-wing extrem ism sweep ing across
Western Europe, but a closer exam in a tion reveals two trends. Avowedly racist and neofascist move ments have had limited success in their parlia ment ary aspir a tions. There have been signi fic ant elect oral gains on the far right but those parties that have been elect or ally success ful have shared certain features with each other rather than with the ‘conven tional’ extreme right. Employing a compar at ive perspect ive this article suggests that the recent trend towards protest parties of the right repres ents a ‘New Populism’. This New Populism fuses the anti-polit ics stance of the New Politics with the broad-based protest of the popu list right. Issues such as race and immig ra tion are, for such parties, touch stones of dissent. Along with issues of radical region al ism and oppos i tion to taxa tion, the racist right’s agenda is employed as a means of mobil ising a larger vein of discon tent that has as its focus a
dissat is fac tion with the found a tions that under lie the ‘postwar settle ment’. The New Populism is there fore a telling indic ator of import ant changes in West European polit ics.