For many people, the last decade of the twen ti eth century will be remembered for its violent, ethno cen tric, xeno phobic and racist features. Most of the horrific mass killings and ethnic cleans ings have taken place in Africa and the Balkans. Still Western Europe has not escaped bitter mani fest a tions of polit ical extrem ism, espe cially of a right-wing nature. Since the early 1980s, many Western European coun tries have exper i enced a steady increase in the power of extreme right-wing parties. Furthermore, a neo-Nazi subcul ture is thriv ing and violent attacks against refugees and immig rants have become common place. Democracies, by their very nature, open their gates to debate, compet it ive polit ical
activ ity, and struggle over resources and power. Most citizens in western demo cra cies see these freedoms as the moral basis for the legit im acy of the regime. Others citizens, fewer in number, exploit these same freedoms to chal lenge exist ing polit ical arrange ments and under mine liberty, equal ity and civil rights, some times seri ously endan ger ing them. For decades, the most prom in ent polit ical actor posing these chal lenges was the radical polit ical party. From the late nine teenth century onward, and more prom in ently follow ing World
War II, demo cratic regimes adopted legal meas ures to exclude extreme right-wing parties from the polit ical game. In this way liberal demo cra cies acted to assure their own stabil ity. Political dynam ics in the last few decades have intro duced a new threat to the stabil ity of demo cra cies. This threat, which we will refer to as the ‘uncivil society’, is far more fluid in nature and struc ture than the polit ical party and thus presents an even greater chal lenge than subvers ive polit ical parties to demo cratic regimes looking for meas ures to assure stabil ity. We contend that, at the begin ning of the new millen nium, achiev ing stabil ity by outlaw ing extreme polit ical parties is no longer an effect ive strategy. Furthermore, contrary to the ‘party decline’ and ‘trade off’ theses, we argue that the ‘uncivil society’ and extreme right-wing parties operate jointly to promote similar goals and thus present a double threat, one oper at ing from within the parlia ments and the other from the surround ing envir on ment. The first part of the article will explore the chan ging struc ture of the polit ical process
which has allowed the expan sion of demo cracy’s enemies. The second part will identify old and new enemies of demo cratic regimes; define their ideo lo gies, bound ar ies and modus operandi; and eval u ate the level of threat they now pose to Western European democra cies. Finally, we will assess whether ‘uncivil society’ has replaced the subvers ive party as the prin cipal mobil izer of extrem ism, or rather whether it co-oper ates with this same extrem ism.