The importance of understanding possible correlations between the National Socialist Party (Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei, NSDAP or Nazi’s) and modern far-right parties cannot be understated. In the current European democratic situation, doubt remains as to whether a far-right rise would foster repetition of the Nazi totalitarian state. Under Hitler‘s leadership, the totalitarian Nazi Party rose during unstable times in an unstable democracy. Through comprehension of the variables involved in Nazi extremists garnering support from the German electorate it may be possible to develop evidentiary support as to the components which led to that rise; such evidence could be used to compare current far-right parties to the Nazi model in an effort to pinpoint future problematic extremist parties. The question which eats away at today’s globalized core: How do modern far-right parties compare to Nazi isolationist diplomacy on issues of immigration, women in the workforce and rising unemployment in a world which embraces globalization?
In an effort to answer this question we must look at the characteristics of the modern far-right and the Nazis, specifically in the realms of immigration and women in the workforce in regards to rising unemployment. Necessity deems exploration of the globalization of the far-right be compare to the Nazi preferences for technology.
By comparing the political ideologies of the Nazi party with the political ideologies of modern European far-right parties my intent is to garner a better understanding of why voters throw support to extremist views and how these extremists use that support to gain political power. Therefore, the discussion must begin with an understanding of the various influences which led the German electorate to vote for the Nazi Party in 1930. From there we can jump the annals of World War II to the technologically savvy modern Far Right parties which organize protests through text messaging and email. Once we have begun comparing the modern Far Right with the Nazis it will be interesting to see which voters are targeted and how technology is used to gain support.
Nazi Party v. Modern Far-Right (Characteristics of Extremism)
By recognizing the characteristics of voters who helped put Hitler’s party in a place of power, we have the potential to prevent the rise of another totalitarian system. “It may here be mentioned that the totalitarian maxim ‘who is not with us is against us’ applies no matter what the behavior of the outside world. It may be hostile, indifferent or friendly” (Feierabend, 738-9). There can be no argument that Hitler’s regime was ultimately totalitarian in nature, yet, ample evidence shows the Nazi’s gained power through the legal use of the political institution already in place—democracy, albeit unstable democracy.
Interestingly, Poole points out, “No evidence has been accumulated to suggest that the masses experienced any doubt of the wisdom of their choice before the outbreak of war in September 1939...” (Poole, 139). This statement implies that after Hitler initially assumed the chancellorship, German citizens were not aware of the impending totalitarian regime. Which is surprising when one considers the rhetoric Hitler uses in Mein Kampf. “There must be no majority decisions, but only responsible persons…Surely every man will have advisers by his side, but the decision will be made by one man” (Hitler, Trans. Manheim, 449).
The characteristics of voters who supported the Nazis in the “breakthrough…election of 1930 when they won 18.3 percent of the vote, up from 2.6 percent in 1928” can be utilized to understand how the Nazis came to power (O’Loughlin, Flint, and Anselin, 351). O’Loughlin, Flint, and Anselin go on to say, they focus on the 1930 election because: The distinction from “splinter group” to “national party” holds great significance to researchers in understanding the definitive historical moment when a far-right extremist group gained the foothold necessary to become politically viable (373). History shows, “Hitler assumed the chancellorship in 1933 after the party won 32 percent of the vote in the 1932 elections” (373).
O’Loughlin et al. and Brown disagree in regards to the role new voters played in the 1930 election, though they agree new voters effected later elections (O’Loughlin et al., 373 and Brown, 300). When looking at Brown’s analysis of the 1932 German electorate we find the Protestant peasants made up the majority of voters, followed by “new voters and Catholic petty bourgeois” (Brown, 285). Brown asserts that previous research “wrongly identifies the Protestant petty bourgeois as the major contributor to the Nazi vote” (285). However, in later pages she says, “the highly flaunted Protestant petty bourgeois support for the Nazis seems to have occurred mainly in the rural areas. Moreover, the Protestant urban areas seem to be just the opposite of bastions of petty bourgeois Nazi support” (300). The rural Protestant petty bourgeois played a part, while the urban Protestant petty bourgeois did not, which suggests different politics between city and country dwellers.
Even more important than the 1930 election results are the factors which influenced voters to veer towards the far right. Influences such as unemployment, women in the workforce, and immigration make for a conundrum of mitigating circumstances that raise the question: Is it possible for a current Far Right party to legally gain political power (government control) in today’s politics? Yes. On February 5th of 2000, The Economist reported Austrian “President Thomas Klestil would have no choice but to give his approval to Mr Haider’s far-right Freedom Party, along with the centre-right People’s Party, to form a new coalition government. It would be the first time that a party carrying even a whiff of neo-Nazism has entered national government in Europe, let alone a German-speaking country” (The Economist, 2000). Various European countries reacted to this far-right coalition with threats of suspending “all bilateral political contracts if the Freedom Party entered the government.” This particular threat came from 14 European Union countries, though not through the EU (The Economist, 2000).
Perhaps it can be said that Austria learned its lesson: “At the end of November 2002 in Austria, Jörg Haider’s far-right Freedom Party (FPÖ) was resoundingly defeated.” (Rippeyoung, 393). The 14 European Union countries which were so horrified as to the results of Austria’s 2000 election may well have played a part in the swing away from the right. “In 2006, Austria’s FPÖ won 11 percent of the votes, down from a high of 26.9 percent of the votes in 1999” (Rippeyoung, n394).
Austria is not the only European country to have the far-right as a contender in politics: “In the first round of votes in 2002, the National Front in France earned 11 percent of the votes for the French National Assembly, and Le Pen garnered 17 percent of the votes in the presidential election, although in the second rounds of votes the party earned only 2 percent of the votes for the Assembly but Le Pen’s support increased to 18 percent” (Rippeyoung, n394). The implications of French far-right voting are two-fold. First, citizens are not satisfied with the direction the center has headed. Thus, the vote for Le Pen in the first round can be seen as a protest vote. Second, should enough of the electorate decide to exercise their right to protest vote, it is possible for a far-right party candidate to become elected to the French presidency. Le Pen’s support dropped further “in April 2007 he came in fourth place on the first ballot” (Rippeyoung, 393).
Since it is a proven possibility for modern far-right parties to enter into government, understanding far-right extremism is more than necessary. Concurrently, understanding and addressing the issues important to the electorate is highly significant in government institutions where the voters have a viable far-right choice.
Unemployment Issues in the Eyes of the Far-Right:
The European Union happens to be an institution the Nazis simply did not have to contend with. The complex EU membership requirements make it highly unlikely that a far-right extremist party would be able overthrow an individual country’s democracy which happens to be a EU member nation. However, as evidenced earlier, EU member countries can and will go around the EU when a far-right threat is perceived in another member country (The Economist, 2000).
It is interesting to note according to Gray, one widely held perception of European institutions is the erosion of national identities. He continues with the concept of immigrant assimilation as a difficulty in countries with weak “national cultures”; said weak cultures “are the breeding grounds for a vicious populist politics that seeks to buttress identity through ethnic exclusion” (Gray, 2002).
Gray also tells us “parties that reject liberal values are entering into the political mainstream. Center-left “conventional wisdom…explains this development by the failure of mainstream parties to defend multicultural ideals and the economic advantages of immigration” (Gray, 2002). The point could be argued that regardless of whether the centrist mainstream adequately defended the multiculturism of individual nations, far-right extremists would maintain the erosion of culture as the direct influence of immigration. Or, if immigration is not at fault, then the shipping of jobs to Third World nations is always an easy target for the blame game. “In Austria, Switzerland and northern Italy, [the far-right] promotes a high-tech economy linked with the world by free trade but insulated from the legions of the poor by a ban on immigration” (Gray, 2002).
II. Women in the Workforce
Today, liberal democratic societies view the image of female workers as a matter of equality and necessity. However, in the years of Hitler’s Nazism two different Nazi ideologies were held. 1.) Women were pressured by Nazi leadership to assume the role of child-bearer in order to propagate the ‘Aryan’ race. “Just as men served the state by fighting, so women served by bearing children” (Rupp, 363). 2.) Militant Nazis “believed that women, while different from men, were as capable and intelligent and could contribute to the German people in ways other than through motherhood. In a truly German society, they insisted, women would work and fight for the common good alongside their men” (Rupp, 364). While these two ideologies are at odds, they show the broad ideology of the Nazis.
The Nazi leadership, in response to militant Nazi writers, declared, “‘Womanly work,’ the official term for employment considered in accordance with woman’s nature or essence, included agricultural labor, social work, domestic service, nursing, education, and any profession concerned with women or children” (Rupp, 372). These Nazi leaders understood there are circumstances which would require a woman to work outside the home and determined that women, who cannot marry and must work, should work only in positions which qualified as feminine work.
Modern far-right parties share the Nazi sentiment that a woman should not be employed, but should take care of the home. “While far-right parties seek a radical change in the economic order of societies, they stress the importance of returning to the traditional family structure of a single-earner male-headed household” (Rippeyoung, 381). Rippeyoung also states that far-right “parties argue that women should be highly valued for their ability to provide the nation with native-born children….to provide children with their ‘mother-tongue’, which will counteract the influx of immigrants that threatens to corrupt the purity of their national blood…Thus, it is the ‘natural’ order of life that women stay at home to care for the family and men work outside the home to earn income for the family” (382). An intriguing aspect of the female/male role is that while the woman is expected to be an inspiring mother who teaches her child about the intricacies of national pride, the male’s role seems limited to income making, with less focus on fatherly values. Though, both mother and father are expected to ensure national pride and carry on the legacy of distrust associated with immigrants.
There are other issues which are used by far-right parties to assist in spreading the woman’s return to the home. These perceived “social ills are linked with women’s increased participation in the workforce…rising divorce rates are blamed on women’s nontraditional roles…in France in particular, juvenile delinquency and drug use, as well as prostitution, immigration, homosexuality and AIDS, are all linked with women’s paid employment outside the home” (Rippeyoung, 382). France’s Front National (FN) has encouraged the return of traditional roles for women to the point that “some in the party have pushed for a wage for housewives…in contrast to their opposition to other expansions of the welfare state and desire for minimal government intervention in people’s lives” (Rippeyoung, 382). It can be said the far-right is willing to build on social welfare programs, so long as they further the far-right agenda. Though there are members of the far-right who stand up for a woman’s right to work, it appears the far-right party members prefer to share the Nazi ideology of keeping women in the house, while ensuring men are out in the workforce.
Technology Enables Far-Right Participation—Globally
Globalization is an ambiguous term which encompasses more than multinational conglomerates stretching out their hands throughout the globe. Globalization also includes the Internet and cell phones to which average citizens now have access. In a technologically saturated world it is easier for people of all walks of life to find information which lends itself to their personal beliefs. One only has to type in the appropriate key words in one’s preferred search engine to find a plethora of information written by various groups with various agendas. “Cheap, universal, and instantaneous interaction through the Internet has allowed Nazi ideology to span the globe” (Munkova, 2008). In a computerized world gathering people together for protests or other events occurs with the press of a few buttons. Munkova goes onto say, “When it comes to on-the-ground communication, cell phones are the preferred mode, because they are much less detectable. Text messages from stolen phones are invaluable for communication among group leaders or in organizing clandestine concerts” (Munkova, 2008).
The modern far-right, like the Nazis of old, utilizes technology to disseminate protest information to countless members. Unlike the Nazis, the advent of the Internet has allowed pockets of far-right resistance to spring up globally. “Far better than its fumbling centre parties, Europe’s far right knows that globalisation has losers, even in the richest countries. By linking the fears of these people with high levels of immigration, the far right is mounting a powerful challenge to the centrist consensus that has ruled most of Continental Europe since the end of the cold war” (Gray, 2002).
If centrist parties remain doubtful of the continued threat of a far-right rise, they need only look at recent history to realize that voters can vote far-right out of protest, technology has allowed instantaneous spread of information, and members of the far-right have no qualms banning together to attack the liberal values which seem to threaten their extremist views.
The far-right’s targeted audience has changed as society has changed from industrial and agricultural to service-orientated. “Whereas between the wars Europe’s far right gained strength from poverty and economic crisis, today it thrives on the insecurities of the affluent” (Gray, 2002). Regardless of the benefits of membership in the EU there are members “of Europe’s far-right parties [who] are markedly hostile to European institutions” (Gray, 2002). The far-right views the EU as an encroachment on national sovereignty and a threat to national culture. At this time “many scholars see the extreme right as a social problem…since it can be disruptive to social stability by encouraging violence and potentially returning to Europe the political powers that led to the Second World War” (Rippeyoung, 393).
Even today the far-right encompasses “a growing contingent of women who are active on the right…This is evident in a rise in women’s groups within right-wing movements, such as the Women for Aryan Unity in Germany or the Feminine Union for the Respect and Help for Motherhood in France” (Rippeyoung, 381). It is striking to note that there are women who agree with the woman as child-bearer mentality. “Others in the FN also focus on rising unemployment rates and the need for women not to take jobs away from men” (Rippeyoung, 382).
Through the use of history and understanding the human face of politics this paper serves as a reminder that while doubt remains as to a repetition of the bloodiest years of history, if society is not careful the electorate can unwittingly open the door for a totalitarian regime. Finally, as citizens, we are responsible for the actions of our governments. If we do not want an extremist government, moderates must vocalize concerns through voting and when necessary protesting.
Brown, Courtney. “The Nazi Vote: A National Ecological Study.” The American Political Science Review. 76.2 (June, 1982): 285-302. American Political Science Association. 12 Oct 2008.
Uses “an unusually complete data set for all Germany” to reassess to voting models: First, “Nazis’ electoral successes resulted from Protestant petty bourgeois and peasant support for fascism,” and second, “the Nazis gained the bulk of their support from newly mobilized voters” (Brown, 285). Study results in dismissal of the voter model: Protestant petty bourgeois consisted of majority of Nazi voters. Finds that the majority of Nazi supporters came from “Protestant peasants, new voters, and Catholic petty bourgeosie” (Brown, 285).
“A Conundrum for Austria--and for Europe.” The Economist. 354.8156 (05 Feb 2000). 12 Oct 2008. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN= 2748384&site=ehost-live>.
Opens with Austria’s far-right Freedom Party joining centre-right People’s Party to form a new coalition government. This new government constitutes the first time, since the totalitarian Nazi regime, that a far-right party holds political office in a German-speaking country. Article addresses the steps taken by various countries--which bypassed the EU--to threaten sanctions against Austria. Discusses the European reaction and dissatisfaction with Austria.
Feierabend, Ivo K. “Expansionist and Isolationist Tendencies of Totalitarian Political Systems: A Theoretical Note.” The Journal of Politics. 24.4. (Nov, 1962): 733-742. Cambridge University Press. 24 Sept 2008. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/ 2128045>
Argues expansionism and isolationism are simultaneously occurring policies designed to maintain balance. Gives an overview of the Nazi totalitarian model in regards to isolationist/expansionist practices. Discusses the need for monopolization of key sectors and the concept that should total monopolization of one of these sectors be unattainable, then said sector is a threat to the totalitarian system.
Gray, John. “The Laptop Fascists.” New Statesman. 131.4589 (27 May 2002): 18-20. 12 Oct 2008.<http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=67 17281&site=ehost-live>.
Describes modern far-right parties as similar to Nazis because “they embrace modernity” (18). Contrasts far-right parties with Nazis in that today’s far-right parties are prevalent in affluent countries with low unemployment. Insists modern far-right parties better understand the fragility of liberal values and free market economies than the centrist parties. Also, believes that the far-right is in a better position to take advantage of the fragility, because the center denies liberal systematic issues.
Hitler, Adolf. Mein Kampf. Trans. Manheim, Ralph. First Mariner Books. Boston. 1999.
Part II explains Nazi platform policy of pre-war Germany. Discusses the psychology of the “nationalization of the masses.” Includes information regarding Nazi propaganda efforts and Hitler’s visions of political alliances with foreign countries.
Munkova, Eva. “Here Come the Neo Nazis.” The New Presence. (Spring, 2008): 22-25. 12 Oct 2008. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN= 32042574&site=ehost-live>.
Reports modern propaganda efforts by Neo Nazi protest groups have increased through internet usage and cell phone text messaging. Discusses legality of Plzen demonstrations and “Law of Assembly.” Shows methods currently used by far right supporters to legally voice their opinions on topics such as freedom of speech.
O’Loughlin, John. Colin Flint, and Luc Anselin. “The Geography of the Nazi Vote: Context, Confession, and Class in the Reichstag Election of 1930.” Annals of the Association of American Geographers. 84.3 (Sept, 1994): 351-380. Taylor & Francis, Ltd. 12 Oct 2008.
Focuses on the 1930 election as the defining moment which turned the Nazi Party into a competitive political entity in the national elections. Uses various theories and models to “bridge the differences between national and regional interpretations…” (O’Loughlin et al., 351). Explains that based on their analyses the various theories discussed have “no clear-cut winners or losers” (373).
Poole, Dewitt C. “Light on Nazi Foreign Policy.” Foreign Affairs. 25.1 (Oct, 1946): 130-154. 24 Sept 2008. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h &AN=14804353&site=ehost-live>.
Uses interviews with captured Nazi leadership to recount the history of German foreign policy. Explains Hitler made the policy decisions and the leadership was expected to follow his orders. Describes the Nazi Party as a German cult on the national level, with expansionist tendencies designed to focus the German masses towards defeating a perceived enemy.
Rippeyoung, Phyllis L. “When Women are Right: The Influence of Gender, Work and Values on European Far Right Party Support.” International Feminist Journal of Politics. 9:3. (Sept, 2007): 379-397. Taylor & Francis. 12 Oct 2008. <http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=26210035&site=ehost-live>.
Explores the various reasons people join Far Right parties with a focus on women, economic pressures requiring women to work outside of home and the ideology which espouses a “woman’s place is in the home” taking care of the nation’s “native-born children.” Theorizes the reason women are less likely to be in the Far Right spectrum is because women are less likely to work in blue collar positions. Offers a view female far right supporters from Nazi Germany to modern times.
Rupp, Leila J. “Mother of the ‘Volk’: The Image of Women in Nazi Ideology.” Signs. 3.2 (Winter, 1977): 362-379. The University of Chicago Press. 12 Oct 2008. <http://www.jstor.org/stable/3173289>.
Discusses the role of women in Nazi ideology from the perspectives of Nazi leadership and militant Nazi female writers. Explains the extent to which German women were responsible for the dissemination of Nazi values. Places the propagation of the ‘Aryan’ race on the shoulders of ‘Aryan’ women who were required to ask potential spouses about ancestry in an effort to increase national purity. Develops the Nazi woman as the mother, who sings German songs and who ensures Nazi values in her children through providing a German household: cabinets filled with German-made items, groceries from German shops, etc. Includes information regarding the types of working women appropriate to supporting the German state: Those women who have to work to help support their families and those women who work because they will never be able to marry.