A pan-European radical right – contradiction in terms?

Besides, in today’s Europe, when some radical right leaders such as Salvini praise the Russians and share the Kremlin’s desire to destabilise the European Union, others, such as Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński and the Law and Justice Party – despite sharing Salvini’s aim to break the ‘Germany-France axis’ in Europe – come from a very different perspective, that of Poland’s traditional suspicion of Russia.

And where some, such as Geert Wilders and, to some extent, his new rival Thierry Baudet of the Forum for Democracy – whose penchant for highfalutin verbiage has already become notorious – talk of defending European freedom in the face of a supposed Islamist advance, others, such as Orbán and Le Pen, are more socially conservative.

Even if Europe’s radical right leaders share certain fundamental ideas, however, such as a belief in the need to defend the ‘white race’, a hatred of Islam, a desire to stop immigration, and a basic ultra-nationalist position, it is hard to see how the clash of nationalisms that conferences such as Salvini’s will expose can survive the experience.

Indeed, we have been here before. During the interwar period, attempts to create a ‘fascist international’ were set in motion on several occasions. Historians who have recently conducted research into ‘transnational fascism’ – such as Federico Finchelstein, Aristotle Kallis or Arnd Bauerkämper – have shown the extent to which fascist ideas and personnel criss-crossed the continent of Europe and beyond (to the Americas, for example), so that fascist ideology and practice were often shared.

Examples might be fascist aesthetics, racial ideology, or training camps. Fascist leaders such as Mosley or Coreneliu Codreanu were inspired by and devoted to Mussolini. And Fascist Italy and Nazi Germany established an uneasy alliance. But the analysis can only take us so far, before it becomes clear that such collaborations might have been set in motion but could not be sustained, as the different groups with their rival nationalisms ran aground on the rocks of mutual suspicion.

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