Watch European politics for any length of time and you will hear certain fringe political parties and groups (and in some cases not-so-fringe) described as far-right or ultra-right-wing. Typically, these groups become identified thus because of strong nationalistic and anti-immigrant positions, but when their economics are considered, they are often as statist as any of the left-wing or socialist groups. It’s not likely you will find many who will claim that the USSR’s system was far-right, but you will certainly see that debate when it comes to the Nazis (despite the name “National Socialist”, and it’s almost common-knowledge that Fascist Italy was far-right. Far be it from me to redefine a commonly used political definition, but I do feel it behooves us to realize that the “left-right” spectrum in European politics is a far, far different animal from the “left-right” spectrum in today’s American politics.

Why does this matter? Because statists in this country will misapply the far-right or ultra-right-wing label to people and groups in a (deliberate or subconscious) effort to conflate them with some of the most reviled leaders and worst political systems in history. Libertarian political debate is usually about the size and role of the state, and it’s quite common for libertarian positions to be denigrated as “ultra-right-wing loonies” by those who don’t share libertarians’ distrust of government and desire for less of it. While we libertarians recognize the inadequacy of the left-right spectrum as a descriptor, and most embrace the Nolan Chart with its two philosophical axes, that’s far too wonkish for most armchair political debaters.

Over in Europe, there has been a rise of far-right groups and political parties, and many such groups hold seats in parliaments in a long list of nations, including Macedonia, Serbia, Greece, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, Finland, Norway, France, Turkey, Denmark, and Russia. Some of these groups hold ideologies that correlate with American social conservatism in the family-values realm and most or all hold a mix of nationalism/ethnic identity, anti-immigrant and anti-EU views, but economically they’re all over the map. Some groups embrace free markets and laissez-faire, but many are unabashedly statist, going well beyond what American statists believe to, in some cases, overt demands for state ownership of the means of production or state ownership of all assets (socialism and communism).

Contrast this with what you find on the American right. As I noted, there is a commonality in the family values area. There is also a commonality to some degree in views on immigration. But, lets consider the nationalism/ethnic identity bit. That’s a European euphemism for racism and bigotry. Here in America, white Europeans are rarely subdivided when it comes to the politics of race and ethnicity, but in Europe there is a long, long history of ethnic clashes, with the most obvious recent examples occurring in the Balkans. While the embrace of racism and bigotry are labeled right-wing in this country as well (set aside liberal racism as a discussion for another day), this phenomenon is on the fringe, and there are no groups of this sort that have any real voice in politics. Nor do they get candidates elected to political office.

So, beware of those who declare that Nazism and Fascism are right-wing political ideologies, especially if they’re making arguments regarding the political Right in the US. Chances are they’re either ignorant as to why, by the book, those ideologies are considered thus, or they’re being deliberately deceitful in attempts to win an argument.

Peter Venetoklis

About Peter Venetoklis

I am twice-retired, a former rocket engineer and a former small business owner. At the very least, it makes for interesting party conversation. I'm also a life-long libertarian, I engage in an expanse of entertainments, and I squabble for sport.

Nowadays, I spend a good bit of my time arguing politics and editing this website.

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