Words evolve. They take on new meaning over the years. Social and political movements appropriate certain words, redefine them, and then use them to shape the ideological battlefield. The classic example of that, of course, is "bolshevik" and "menshevik." The Bolsheviks were, in fact, the Mensheviks and vice-versa. The word bolshevik, derived from the word meaning "majority," was appropriated by the radicals who were in reality the minority of the old Social Democratic party. The minority labeled the majority the minority and got away with it. Clever. There are many other examples of this in history such as the insistence on calling nazis and fascists right-wing when they are clearly left-wing products.The left is very good at this since, in most if not all of the West, the left controls not only academia, but the legal, press, entertainment and arts industries as well as governmental institutions where the words are crafted, recrafted, defined, redefined, and ruled in or out of fashion.
I thought of this, again, while reading an interesting post on Europe by Walter R. Mead at The American Interest. Worth the read. In it he describes many of the phenomena I have discussed several times before (here, here, and here, for example--there are many more) re the unfortunate effects of the Euro and the EU on European politics and standards of living. I am not going to go over all that again, and Mead does a good job of covering it.
I am more interested in what he reports about the European "right." He informs us that,
In France, the people I spoke with worried about the rise of the National Front. According to some polls the ultra-right could emerge as the biggest party in France in the next round of regional and European elections. The French Socialists under the increasingly unpopular President Hollande don’t seem to have much idea about how to move forward; their most popular politician at the moment is a Minister of the Interior who is trying to compete with the National Front for the anti-immigrant vote by breaking up encampments of Roma and denouncing them as immigrants who don’t want to assimilate.And,
One of the reasons Europeans are so fearful of the Tea Party is that they assume that because it is right wing and populist it is like the National Front in France or Golden Dawn in Greece. Today’s small government American Tea Partiers are much farther from Huey Long and Father Coughlin in their political views than some European right wingers are from the darker demagogues of Europe’s bloody past, and until the European establishments understand this, they will likely continue to misjudge the state of American politics.This is very similar to what I have found in my own trips to Europe, reading the European press, and just talking with my European relatives and friends. The standard accepted notion of the political "right" in Europe is nazism, fascism, and anything else that the ruling elite does not like. In France, as I wrote before, Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Front (FN) mentioned above by Mead, is facing legal charges for having dared compare hordes of Muslims in the streets of France to hordes of Nazi occupiers. Here you have a political leader, who might be heading the biggest party in France, being labelled a far-right extremist because she makes disparaging comments about nazis and the flood of aliens swamping France's cities and society. The comfortable elites don't like Le Pen, so she gets labelled a far-right nut. If one bothers to read the platform of the FN, one won't find much there that meets the definition of "right." I have said the same, and repeat it now, about the EDL (English Defence League) in the UK, there, likewise, is not much about the EDL's platform that would qualify it as "right,"
Having read much of what the EDL has written and gone to its website, I am not clear what it is about their positions, remarkably well-written and thoughtful for a bunch of "football hooligans," that makes them far-right. I do not know what their economic policies are and what they think about socialized medicine and welfare payments or the size of government. The positions they take on defending England from Islamic extremism, however, seem very reasonable and something most Americans could support. I don't find them racist, at all. Again, I don't know them well, and might be embarrassed by some smoking gun firing "racist bullets," but I get suspicious when the media and the political establishment dismiss a grassroots movement as "far right extremists" and provide no evidence.In Greece, we see the government elites trying to ban the Golden Dawn for being far-right fascist extremist--forgetting, of course, that fascism is a left wing pathology. Some of their positions are certainly not ones I agree with, and they fall outside of the mainstream of European elite political thought, but I get suspicious of efforts to ban "far right" groups and wonder what might really be behind it--probably not hard to guess.
The European press, when writing about American politics, routinely labels the Tea Party or even many GOP politicians as "extreme right" knowing that in their readers' minds that will conjure images of nazis and fascists. Both the European and the American elite media and politicos agree on depicting any organization that opposes rampant immigration as "far right." As with the label nazi or fascist, this is curious litmus test considering how it was, in the US anyhow, for years that the labor unions, including the one once run by the now sainted and late-Cesar Chavez, were rabidly anti-immigration. In addition, of course, Democratic-run labor unions in the USA were virulently anti-black.
The American right, especially as represented by the Tea Party/movement is, in fact, one that favors smaller government, lower taxes, less regulation, and more individual freedom, responsibility, and accountability. It favors liberty, and is the antithesis of communism, fascism, nazism, and socialism, all left wing phenomena which minimize the individual and elevate the state. The Tea Party/movement is a classic liberal one from when liberal meant liberal--as it still does in Australia--not what it means in today's American politics, to wit, believer in more and more government. It is tough to find a similar pro-liberty movement in Europe, perhaps the UKIP, as Europe is a place where the political battle is conducted overwhelmingly on the left side of the field.
Be very leery of the label "far right" and reject the notion that "right" and fascism lie on the same side of the political spectrum. Jim Crow, the KKK, segregation, and slavery are fruits of the Democrat loom, just as nazism and fascism spring from the same cesspool as communism and socialism.