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The New Radical Right: violent and non-violent movements in Europe


As well as a policy brief, this paper includes substantial sections on the rise of the radical right in Europe and on right-wing extremist violence. The division of these sections underpins an important point from the paper: that voters for radical right parties do not necessarily endorse violence, and that these movements often seek to disassociate themselves from each other and cannot be simply placed along a single continuum, from moderate to extreme.

The section on the rise of the radical right seeks to explore the electoral successes (allowing for their subsequent failures, but on this note see the gains made by Le Pen’s National Front in the recent French elections) of radical right wing parties, as well as their broader influence on national policies. The authors provide a typology of these parties based on their origins, and explain how through discussions of identity politics they have garnered support for their concerns from across the political spectrum. Increasingly using the language of liberal democracy, championing causes around homosexuality and gender rights, they have also mobilised across national borders. This section of the paper provides a concise and useful introduction to this family of parties.

The second section of interest is that which seeks to understand the causes and consequences of right-wing extremist violence. Written by the Nottingham University academic Matthew Goodwin, perhaps the primary message is the paucity of data in this field. Whilst providing insights into factors that might drive citizens towards violent right-wing groups, as well as some explanatory comments about levels of ideological commitment to groups (being higher after joining), Goodwin is rightly at pains to point out that this is an explanatory report, and that with such limited data it is difficult to speak comprehensively about these issues.

Part of the problem lies in a lack of comparative data across Europe, but perhaps more of an issue is that whilst much attention has been paid to religious extremism in recent years, relatively little has been paid to that coming from the Far Right. This has been due to a feeling that Far Right extremism has been on the decline, as well as the lower incidence of major events perpetuated by Far Right extremists in comparison to religious extremists. With these caveats in mind, Goodwin is still able to argue that what limited evidence there is suggests that most perpetrators are young men, with above average likelihood of a criminal past, with very low or average levels of education and who were more likely than the average to have experienced unemployment. For these and other qualified nuggets, Goodwin’s report is worth reading, as well as for how he sees potential future research contributing to a clearer picture.

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