A charred corpse lying unre cog niz able in an under ground bunker in Berlin, a body hanging all too recog niz ably upside down from the gantry of a petrol station in Milan: if single images can be worth pages of histor ical analysis then the fates of Hitler and Mussolini in April 1945 certainly point to a dramatic water shed in the history of the radical right. The Duce’s prophecies that his regime inaug ur ated a ‘century of the Right, a Fascist century’, and the Führer’s claims to have founded a thou sand-year Reich had proved cata strophic misread ings of unfold ing polit ical real it ies. The increas ingly geri at ric personal dictat or ships of Franco and Salazar soon seemed grot esque anachron isms. In 1994 the oldest and most success ful neofascist move ment, the Movimento Sociale Italiano, became a ‘right-wing party’, declar ing at its first congress held in Fiuggi that the collapse of actu ally exist ing social ism five years earlier had meant the end of an era char ac ter ized by the struggle between anti-fascism and fascism, and that parlia ment ary demo cracy now remained ‘the only solu tion without negat ive side effects to the problem of compet i tion between polit ical forces for the conquest of consensus’.1 In the run up to the congress in December 1993 the MSI’s leader, Gianfranco Fini, had asser ted that ‘Fascism was now irre vers ibly consigned to history and its judge ment. . . . Like all Italians we are not neo-Fascists, but post-Fascists’.2 Symbolically at least, Fiuggi was the Bad Godesberg of the European radical right. Liberal demo cracy had triumphed. With its Faustian urge to probe beneath the surface of human phenom ena to find ‘what

holds together the world at its inmost level’,3 polit ical science clearly cannot be content with such punchy story-lines and cine ma to graphic dénoue ments. However, once it is asked to recount how things ‘actu ally have been’ for the radical right since 1945 a number of factors come into play which make it hazard ous to offer any sort of script at all, even if only in the form of a rough treat ment. For one thing, even if the scope of the ques tion is restric ted to Europe, the failure of the radical right to achieve hege mony has a differ ent story in every country.4 Moreover, the concep tual prob lems involved compound those raised by the sheer quant ity of empir ical mater ial. Apart from the increas ingly contested nature of the fundamental term ‘the right’,5 the concept ‘radical right’ can be defined and delim it ated in several conflict ing ways,6 and in each case subsumes a number of distinct forms of organ iz a tion and ideo lo gical rationale. Moreover, the specific connota tions of the term in differ ent languages (when it is possible to trans late it liter ally) and its signi fic ance, both histor ical and contempor ary, vary signi fic antly from country to country and from one part of the world to another (e.g., in German ‘radical right’ is regarded as still within the bounds of legit im ate polit ical debate, while ‘extreme right’ is not). In some Anglo-Saxon usages it embraces thou sands of indi vidual groups, move ments, and parties the world over, ranging from the vast and wellestab lished to the ephem eral and minute.7 In addi tion, the sublim inal polit ical values, not to mention the histor ical assump tions and shadowy tele olo gical imagin ings, of the social

scient ist who attempts to sketch the ‘big picture’ cannot fail to influ ence the way it is composed, which empir ical features are high lighted, and what infer ences for the future are drawn from it. Fortunately, three factors operate to bring the remit of this article just within the bounds

of the manage able. First, it is written as one of a series of articles primar ily concerned with general patterns of devel op ment discern ible over the twen ti eth century within some of the major modern polit ical ideo lo gies, rather than with specific polit ical form a tions and the events they helped shape. Secondly, the right-left dicho tomy is a product of the French Revolution, and the term ‘radical right’ acquires its most precise connota tions in the context of ideo lo gic ally elab or ated rejec tions of parlia ment ary liber al ism of the type which first arose in late nine teenth-century Europe. Considerations of tradi tion al ist forces oper at ing outside Europeanized soci et ies in a non-parlia ment ary context, such as Islamic funda ment al ism, or of ideo lo gic ally vacuous dictat or ships, whether milit ary or personal, thus need not detain us. Thirdly, one of the most signi fic ant events in the recent history of the radical right argu ably concerns not the object of research but the lens through which it is seen. After several decades in which even the most rudi ment ary agree ment over the defin i tion of fascism was lacking, a signi fic ant pocket of consensus has emerged about its basic defin i tional contours. This conjunc ture of factors enables an area of empir ical data which poses irre du cible defin i tional and taxo nomic prob lems to be cut down to size, at least for heur istic purposes, by consider ing within a relat ively uncon ten tious concep tual frame work those aspects of the post-war radical right which can be seen as outlets or conduits for the same ideo lo gical ener gies which fed inter war fascism. Having cleared some of the terrain it will then be possible to suggest in a more spec u lat ive spirit that the most signi fic ant devel op ment that has taken place since the war in the radical right has occurred outside the para met ers of fascism: the spread of ‘ethnocratic liber al ism’. The anti-liberal currents of ideo logy it feeds may prove even more insidi ous than modern ized forms of the inter war fascist right in their liber ti cide effects because they are so easily absorbed into the blood stream of liber al ism itself. There is now a growing consensus that fascism is best seen as a revolu tion ary form of

popu list nation al ism which emerged in the inter war period at a time when a systemic crisis seemed to many within the Europeanized world to be affect ing not only national life, but civil iz a tion as a whole.8 A neces sary precon di tion for the rise of fascism was a cultural climate satur ated with apoca lyptic fore bod ings and hopes for immin ent or even tual renewal captured in such works as Spengler’s Decline of the West and H.G. Wells’s The Shape of Things to Come. It artic u lated, fomented, and chan nelled incho ate but extraordin ar ily wide spread long ings for a new type of polit ical system, a new élite, a new type of human being, a new rela tion ship between the indi vidual and society, for a more planned economy, for a revolu tion ary change in the values of modern life, for a new exper i ence of time itself.9 The mobil iz ing myth which can be treated ideal-typic ally as the defin i tional core of fascism (the ‘fascist minimum’) is that through the inter ven tion of a heroic élite the whole national community is capable of resurrect ing itself Phoenix-like from the ashes of the decad ent old order (‘palin gen etic ultranation al ism’). It is this myth which informs the obsess ive preoc cu pa tion with national/ethnic decad ence and regen er a tion in a post-liberal new order which is now widely acknow ledged to be the hall mark of all fascism.10