Jack Cohen

Jack Cohen – Nationalism and Nomenclature


Jack Cohen – Nationalism and Nomenclature

I wrote a posting entitled “Nationalism” (May 19), before my trip to Europe with the MEF and Daniel Pipes and before the EU Elections on May 23-26  documenting a move towards more right-wing populist and nationalist parties in Europe.  The results of the EU elections showed that the center right and center left were defeated throughout Europe, with the more right-wing and environmentalist parties improving their status.  In France the National Rally of Marine Le Pen, in Germany the Greens becoming the largest party, in Hungary Victor Orban’s right wing party Fidusz increased its lead, and in Italy Matteo Salvini’s League also won.

Many people are worried by the move towards more right-wing nationalist parties in Europe.  There is no doubt that some of them in the past were both neo-Nazi and anti-Semitic.  But, it is now claimed that the old parties have changed and the new parties no longer look to the fascist past, but have a new outlook, that is basically against immigration, particularly of non-integratable Muslims.  They see the degradation of life in western European countries (like France and Germany) and very liberal countries (like Denmark and Sweden), as the model to avoid.  The question is what to actually call these new rightist parties.  To call them nationalist is not enough, because that evokes comparison with the ultra-nationalist parties of the past, namely the Fascists in Italy and the Nazis in Germany.   To call them populist is not enough because other parties, such as the Greens may also be populist.

Daniel Pipes has suggested calling these parties “civilizationist” in the sense that they seek to preserve European civilization against the mainly Muslim threat to overwhelm and overthrow it (see for example https://www.meforum.org/58546/who-are-europe-civilizationists).  But, I find this label too prejudicial, for three reasons: 1. It implies that there is or will be a “Clash of Civilizations” as outlined in Huntington’s iconic book of that name. 2. It implies that the opponents are uncivilized, which is certainly not the case, even Muslims have a civilization, albeit not one most Europeans want to adopt; 3.  It does not fit into the well known labels of left-right that has dominated European politics for centuries.

I find the nomenclature suggested by John O’Sullivan, former editor of The National Review, as more appropriate (see https://www.nationalreview.com/corner/orbans-switch-back-to-the-center-right/).  He argues that to distinguish these right-wing parties from previous historical nationalist parties that were also fascist, their name should be modulated with another term, and he chooses “National Conservative.”  I like this dual label because for example, no one could confuse the Conservative Party in the UK as being fascist, yet these new parties are certainly more nationalist than it generally is (although it may be on the point of splitting over Brexit).   There are many examples of such bifurcated party labels as precedent, “Social Democrat,” “Christian Democrat,” “Liberal Democrat,” and so on.  In fact there have been “national conservative” parties in the former British Dominions of Canada, South Africa and Australia and even in the USA.  So this may be a convenient descriptor to adopt to define this new phenomenon.

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