Introduced by Professor R Eatwell on 21 May 1999

Professor R. Eatwell is Professor of European Politics at the University of Bath.

The speaker focused on distinctions to be drawn between the overt images of "fascists" as generally seen either as young male thugs with insignia and weapons or as less distinctive right-wing politicians, whereas the supportive views of intellectuals largely go unnoticed.

After unification Germany experienced problems with asylum-seekers and economic migrants, evident through racial attacks, arson, etc. Today, however, police penetration of fascist organisations and the latter's recognition that over-activity encourages a public backlash has reduced membership and such activity. In France, right-wing parties have significant support, from the Poujadist anti-politician nationalists of the 1950's, through
the National Front coalition involving ex-colonials to Le Pen's anti-immigrant nationalism today, gaining 10/15% of the vote but reflecting a much larger working-class sympathy. Less obviously, the National Alliance in Italy secures 15% of the vote through popular and more sophisticated leaders such as J-F Fini, formerly of an overtly fascist party. In Austria the "yuppie fascist" leader, Heider, secured 42% of the votes in Corinthia this year, based on nationalism and general dislike of the E.U. Intellectual support for right-wing views has a long history, including for example the sociologist Michels, the philosopher Heidegger and pre-Hitler German academics. Today, writers such as de Benois, advocating `Gramchism of the Right', argue that diffused power across complex civil society requires broad respectability for extreme views.

This may be derived by reasoned argument, accepting minority differences but stressing majority rights. Also, `revisionists' such as David Irving weigh `evidence' for denying the Holocaust (citing private enterprise and end-of-war chaos, etc. )and claim Jewish conspiracies. In the US a `National Alliance' set up by a former university professor of physics (who published the `Turner Diaries') has been penetrated by the FBI, but the `free speech' philosophy there has allowed terrorist racial networks to flourish, particularly through Internet accessibility.

Professor Eatwell believes that the greatest danger today is from alienated young male loners being influenced by the `leaderless resistance' propagandists. These act alone but in concert with others against identified targets. There is less risk from infiltrated formal groups, parties vulnerable to `fascist' labels or to court challenges.

In discussion the speaker stressed differences between `fascists' and `extreme right', since the latter claim that their ideology is neither left nor right nor crude nationalism. Since most Europeans are broadly pro-Europe, `outsiders' can be exploited, although the immigration issue is not in itself enough. The Waffen SS was multinational, Dutchmen fought with the Nazis for the `Nordic' people, Mosley and the Nazis sought a united Europe in the past. Today, de Benois is a pan-European and anti-Americanism can be tapped. Unemployment and a variety of perceived grievances can be accessed through our modern media and exploited through a `dialogue of legitimacy'.

Geoffrey Catchpole