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Underestimate Europe's Extremist Movements At Your Peril

Editorial: From Spain's indignados to Greece's neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party, fringe groups are gaining strength in Europe. And while they don't tend to share much common ground, together they are posing a region-wide challenge to

Militants of the Greek Nationalist party Golden Dawn (Johan Norberg)
Militants of the Greek Nationalist party Golden Dawn (Johan Norberg)

PARIS - The French chose a change in government on May 6, in an orderly and indisputable way. In Greece, elections on the same day were less clear-cut; and four days later, the country is still without a government. Yes, the two elections were very different, but the differences should not mask similar undercurrents: the rise of fringe parties challenging mainstream politics. It is a trend that has been gaining steam throughout Europe.

In France, 18% of the voters took a stand against European unity and immigration in the first round of the presidential election by voting for Marine Le Pen. Two weeks later, in Greece, 7% of the voters opted for Golden Dawn, a neo-Nazi party that now has 21 seats in the Parliament. The party most notably wants to put land mines along the Turkish border to stop immigration.

In Italy, the anti-political movement "five stars' ("Movimento 5 stelle"), led by the comedian Beppe Grillo, had some success in local elections by campaigning against austerity and corruption. In Germany, the Pirate Party, which fights for free Internet downloads, has burst into politics and is worrying the leading parties on the eve of a major election set for May 13.

These movements have nothing in common. One would be hard pressed, for example, to link the Spanish Indignados movement, born one year ago in Madrid, to xenophobic movements that have existed in Northern Europe and Austria for years.

Nevertheless, whether these movements are far-right, radical left or anti-political, they have the potential to upset traditional political parties, especially those that shouldered the European project decades ago. The weight of these movements is all the more important in the context of the common European challenge: the economic crisis. And Europe's political integration means that today every national election has repercussions across the continent.

It's very tempting for traditional parties to take advantage of these movements by borrowing their ideas. Nicolas Sarkozy's shift towards the right in response to the National Front's increased influence is a good example of the risks of this trend.

It was obviously not a winning strategy. But the challenge from fringe parties remains. No institution or European-wide movement has yet succeeded in responding to this wave of refuseniks. But major parties will have to deal with it as soon as possible if they don't want to be overwhelmed.

Read more from Le Monde in French

Photo - Johan Norberg

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For Every Era, Its Own Fascism — Ours Is Starting To Look Like This

Right-wing movements have surged in Europe, and fascism is on the ascendancy across disparate regions of the world. As populist leaders gain power, the specter of authoritarianism looms large.

A man with a black hoodie painting a portait of Geert Wilders

A man painting Geert Wilders portrait

Thierry Ehrman/Flickr
Oleksandr Demchenko


Across the globe, worrying trends are emerging in both politics and society.

In the Netherlands, the Freedom Party, known for its anti-European, anti-Muslim, and anti-Ukrainian stance, recently won the national elections. In Argentina, newly elected president Javier Milei proposes an extreme solution to the economic crisis – destroying the central bank. Right-wing movements are gaining traction among young voters across Europe, seduced by neo-Nazi influences not seen since World War II.

China has long been operating concentration camps for Uyghur Muslims, while racism remains a major problem in Russia. Next year will witness a phalanx of critical elections worldwide, with over three billion people voting for new governments. Concerns over the potential rise of anti-democratic governments are growing in tandem.

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In this climate of deepening polarization and radicalization, many commentators have issued warnings about the free world losing ground to autocracy. But there's another underlying trend that's not being discussed directly enough: the shift towards fascism, itself. Left-wing radicalism, anti-immigrant sentiments, demographic challenges, and terrorism have all contributed to the rise of fascists camouflaged as populist dictators.

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