We have seen that nationalism
has exhibited different faces throughout history. While it was initially
associated with liberalism and democracy in the 1800s, it turned aggressive in
the 1900s, with the two World Wars completely discrediting nationalism as an
ideology. The latter form of nationalism made a return in the 1990s following
the dissolution of Yugoslavia. Nowadays, such nationalism is increasingly being
employed by far-right parties. The PRM and ND in Romania share fairly similar
nationalist goals despite being inspired by opposing forces (the PRM is a
continuation of Nicolae Ceau?escu’s national-communism, while the ND is
inspired by the fascist Iron Guard). Most of their efforts have been directed
towards maintaining Romania’s territorial integrity and reducing outside (and
specifically Western) influences. While these two are accompanied by a number
of other smaller far-right parties, ultra-nationalists in Romania have received
little public support in elections. The PRM has been the most successful of the
group. However, it has virtually lost all its support. In contrast, the Golden
Dawn in Greece has maintained a consistent support base since it established
itself as the third largest party following the 2015 general elections. It is
widely considered to be one of the most extreme far-right ultra-nationalist
parties in Europe, often labelled as fascist and neo-Nazi. The party holds an
idealized vision of the Greek nation, which they believe will one day emerge
from its underdog status and recapture its glory. Only true Greeks would be
accepted according to the party, determined according to biological and
cultural traits.

Commentators such as Ellinas
(2015) and Halikiopoulou and Vasilopoulou (2015) argue that we cannot
understand Golden Dawn’s increasing popularity solely as a result of the
economic hardship following the financial crisis and the Greek bailout. They
argue that Greece’s economic struggle spilled over to other fields such as
politics, exposing a number of systemic weaknesses within the Greek state. With
the current politicians no longer offering viable solutions to their woes, what
started off as an economic crisis evolved into an ideological one, questioning
the state’s very legitimacy. This is precisely where Golden Dawn offered
nationalism as a legitimizing force to overcome the ideological crisis
(Ellinas, 2015) (Halikiopoulou and Vasilopoulou, 2015, pp. 8-9).

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Despite its extreme beliefs,
under the leadership of Nikolaos Michaloliakos Golden Dawn has become the third
most popular party in Greece. The party rose to prominence with the 2012
general election, winning almost 7% of the popular vote. This translated into
18 seats, making Golden Dawn the fifth largest party in parliament. This
success was closely followed by another in the European Parliamentary elections
in 2014 when the party won 9.4% of the vote and three seats. Support has been consistent
and it now still boasts of 18 seats in the Greek parliament, making it the
third largest party (Ellinas, 2015).

Next we have Golden Dawn’s
idea of a ‘rebirth’ of the Greek nation under nationalist ideals. This
ultra-nationalism is built on a number of principles. First, Golden Dawn draws
a strict division between ‘true’ Greeks and outsiders. It employs a primordial
understanding of nationalism, stressing the continuity of the Greek nation and
its culture from antiquity till present day. Given the strict biological
criteria, the party rejects the possibility of naturalized citizenship and
overtly opposes any form immigration (Ibid, pp. 71-72). Indeed, it has
repeatedly been accused of violence against minorities such as Turkish and
Kurdish immigrants (Ibid, p. 4). Next, Golden Dawn attempts to portray the
superiority of the Greek nation by ascribing to it traits which are commonly
found in Greek mythology, such as heroism and bravery. From this supposed
superiority stems the idea that the Greek nation will emerge from its current
underdog status and recapture its past glory. They define this as a sort of
“spiritual liberation” (Ibid, pp. 73-74). Finally, the Golden Dawn has awarded
themselves the duty of carrying out this rebirth, embodying “the collective
will of the Greek people and the epitome of the Greek nation” (Ibid, p. 75).

Golden Dawn maintains that
past Greek governments have contributed towards the social, cultural, economic
and moral decay of Greek society. They believe that this degradation is
exemplified in the weak role that Greece has acquired in the world when
compared to its glorious past. Golden Dawn differentiates between two ‘enemies’
which must be overcome. First, we have external enemies who they believe to
comprise of all those not sharing Greek cultural and biological heritage. They
also identify internal enemies in liberal democracy and communism. According to
Golden Dawn, democracy as it has been applied in Greece has only resulted in its
exploitation by external enemies. This deep mistrust of anything not Greek has
translated into an anti-Western and anti-Semitic stance (Ibid, p. 59-60). It is
only by getting rid of these enemies that Greece may once more attain its
former glory.

Certainly one of the most
extreme far-right parties in Europe is the Greek Golden Dawn. Founded in 1980,
it is similar to other far-right parties in its ultra-nationalist and racist
beliefs. Where it differs, however, is in its promotion of National Socialism
and its quasi mythological belief in the rebirth of the Greek nation. It has
often been compared to the German Nazis (even their logo remarkably resembles
the Nazi swastika). However, the party has rebuked these claims, arguing that
it is unfitting to compare the application of National Socialism in different
states (Halikiopoulou and Vasilopoulou, 2015, pp. 2-3). In order to properly
understand the Golden Dawn ideology, one has to consider their belief on the
degradation of Greek society and the eventual ‘rebirth’ of the nation led by true
nationalists.

The PRM made a slight comeback
in the European Parliamentary elections of 2009 after they had formed an
alliance with the New Generation Party (PNG-CD), resulting in three European
Parliament seats (Turcanu, 2010, p. 15). Nonetheless, the party’s influence has
decreased greatly (especially following Tudor’s death in 2015) and it was
unable to win any seats in subsequent elections; a far cry for the stature it
enjoyed in the 1990s (Stoica, 2016).

Despite this early success,
the PRM came nowhere near achieving the same feat in subsequent elections. In
fact, by the 2008 general election the party had lost such a substantial part
of its public support that they were not able to win a single seat in
parliament (Stoica, 2016). Some believe that this decreasing support may be put
down to the economic prosperity that Romania experienced at the turn of the
century. As the numbers of discontent voters dwindled, the PRM’s supporters
migrated over to less radical (and more electable) parties (Turcanu, 2010, p.
11). Other commentators argue that the party’s failure is due to Tudor’s
changing rhetoric; for instance, he pledged to depart from his anti-Semitic
rhetoric and he had also become less resistant to EU and NATO membership, and
even attempted to form part of the European People’s Party (they were
ultimately rejected). These commentators argue that such decisions were not
received well by the party’s supporters (Stoica, 2016).

As we have seen, while the PRM
claims to be left-leaning on the political spectrum, it’s rhetoric and beliefs
are still very much consistent with the ones advocated by Romanian far-right
parties. Thus, scholars such as Cinpoes (2012) have argued that we can include
“the party among the representatives of the extreme right in Romania.” The PRN
has certainly been the most successful from the latter, its core public support
stemming from those who feel hard done by the post-Communist experience or who
simply express nostalgia for the past (Ibid, p. 6). The party initially
experienced moderate success. Tudor’s aggressive style accompanied by his
anti-Hungarian and anti-establishment (corruption has been a key issue in
Romanian politics) rhetoric saw him finishing second in the presidential race
of 2000 (Stoica, 2016). This increasing support also translated into the PRM
becoming the second largest party in Parliament following the general election
in the same year. Their vote share jumped from 4.46% for the House of
Representatives and 4.54% for the Senate in 1996, to 19.48% and 21.01%
respectively four years later (Turcanu, 2010, p. 8).

Consistent with the usual
approach of far-right parties, the PRM are essentially an anti-establishment
party. They claim that the moral degradation of Romania and the proliferation
of corruption has been partly due to the supposed incompetence of the
establishment politicians and influences of minority groups such as the Roma
and LGBTIQ+ communities. This belief has been adapted from the Romanian
Christian Orthodox tradition which is central to the PRM ideology (Ibid).

The PRM, while being certainly
the most successful of the two, is arguably the hardest one to properly define.
While it identifies as centre-left, its beliefs and goals beg to differ.
Founded in 1991 by Corneliu Vadim Tudor and Eugen Barbu, it may be considered
as a continuation of Nicolae Ceau?escu’s national-communism (for example, they
denied Romania’s role in the Holocaust) (Turcanu, 2010, p. 3). Indeed, much of
the same values advocated within his regime have been adopted by the PRM. There
are many similarities between the ND and the PRM’s beliefs. For instance, they
both share the same anti-Western, anti-Semitic and anti-Hungarian sentiment.
Moreover, the PRM also envisions the restoration of Greater Romania. Fearing
for the country’s territorial integrity, the PRM has repeatedly conflicted with
the Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) who they accuse of
potential secession attempts of Romanian land (Cinpoes, 2012, p. 5). Furthermore,
the PRM’s anti-Semitism has translated into a deep mistrust of Jews and of the
USA who they believe are a threat to Romania’s existence.

While in 2009 Tudor Ionescu,
the ND leader, expressly stated that his movement has no intention of
contesting the Romanian general elections (Turcanu, 2010, p. 20), they did seek
to enter the running in 2011 under ‘the Nationalist Party’ name. Nonetheless,
their application was rejected and thus, their activities have been limited to
political demonstrations and marches (Cinpoes, 2012, p. 8).

Interestingly, one country
where the crisis did not translate into increasing support for far-right
parties is Romania. In my analysis I shall be focusing on two main parties; the
Noua Dreapt? (New Right, ND) and the Greater Romania Party (PRM). Founded in
2000, the ND movement is a celebration of interwar fascism exhibited by the
Romanian ‘Iron Guard’. Positioning themselves as a “new generation of
nationalists”, the ND primarily attracts young adults particularly through its
extensive online and media presence (Cinpoes, 2012, p. 8). Maintaining the
usual discourse characterising Romanian ultra-nationalism, the ND repeatedly
engages in anti-Hungarian and anti-Semitic rhetoric (Turcanu, 2010, p. 21),
while employing Christian Orthodox symbols. They advance a revised vision of
the Romanian territory, in line with the 1918-1940 borders and the nostalgia of
‘Greater Romania’. Moreover, the ND has also targeted minorities such as the
LGTIQ+ and Roma communities who they believed have contributed towards the
socioeconomic and moral deterioration within Romania (Cinpoes, 2012, p. 8). The
movement exhibits anti-Western (and specifically anti-American) tendencies. It
vehemently opposed the established of American military bases within Romanian
territory, and has also campaigned against the supposed American cultural
imperialism in Romania. The ND is against European Union (EU) membership
(Turcanu, 2010, p. 21) and other international organizations such as the World
Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (Cinpoes, 2012, p. 8). It was also
one of the founding members of the umbrella group comprising European far-right
(and often fascist) parties called the European National Front (Turcanu, 2010,
p. 21).

In recent years and
particularly after the financial crisis of 2008, nationalism has experienced a
sort of rebirth in Europe. Some explanations for this phenomenon are the decreased
prosperity due to lackluster economic growth, increasing immigration levels
particularly from the Middle-east and Africa, and a general disillusionment in
certain parts of the public with the political establishment (Rachman, 2014).
All this has been accompanied by increasing public support for far-right parties
who employ populist and (bad) nationalist rhetoric.

This leads us to ‘bad’
nationalism which is in complete opposition to classic nationalism and is characterized
by aggression and militarism. This is sometimes called ‘expansionist
nationalism’. It repudiates the liberal values of classic nationalism and
promotes the chauvinistic belief of the supposed superiority of one’s own
nation over others. Thus, this type of nationalism is often accompanied with
feelings of racism and xenophobia. Some commentators have argued that it is
somewhat natural to experience a preference for one’s own group, and
consequently, all forms of nationalism essentially contain traces of racism (Ibid,
pp. 165-166). The 1900s was characterized by the rise of expansionist
nationalism. While the Nazi ideology is probably the most infamous example, it
was also apparent in other cases. For instance, the aforementioned colonization
of Africa, Asia and South America was fueled by expansionist desires, and this
form of nationalism could also explain the outbreak of World War One.
Furthermore, expansionist nationalism was manifest once more with the Bosnian
genocide following Yugoslavia’s dissolution in the 1990s (Ibid).

Prior to the Revolution, countries
were largely seen as kingdoms or provinces, with the people being the rulers’
subjects. This changed after the French Revolution, with loyalties shifting
from the kingdom towards the ‘French nation’; with subjects becoming citizens. Consequently,
the nation became the defining principle of political organization (Kohn,
2017). Throughout the next two centuries following the French Revolution, what
we understood by nationalism became confused, leading to the differentiation
between what we may call ‘good’ and ‘bad’ nationalism. The former could be
identified immediately after the French Revolution, and can be more accurately
labelled ‘classic nationalism’. It is closely associated with liberal values,
while promoting beliefs of popular sovereignty and national self-determinacy
and thus, is consistent with the principles of democracy (Miscevic, 2014).
Classic nationalism was particularly manifest within Europe in the 1800s in
instances such as the unification movements of Italy and Germany respectively,
as well as the push for independence in the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and the
Russian empires (Heywood, 2011, pp. 161-163). The same states then sought to
extend their power through expanding into other continents. Ironically, one may
argue that this expansion ultimately imported the nationalist ideology into the
colonies, and may have contributed towards the independence movements in Africa
and Asia post-World War Two (Ibid, p. 164).

Modernists, on the other hand,
contend that with the rise of individualism that came from industrialization
and capitalism, societies were in search of a new unifying principle, resulting
in the creation of national identity. The latter was intensified as education
levels increased. Finally, they argue that the state exists before the creation
of a national identity, and thus contributes towards the latter’s development
(Ibid, p. 161).

Much debate has been made on
whether the nationalist ideology is natural development or a social construct.
On both sides of the spectrum we find Primordialists and Modernists,
respectively. Primordialists stress the natural historical and biological
continuity of one’s group, territorial belonging, as well as common cultural
heritage including language and feeling of kinship (Coakley, 2017, p. 3). This
understanding could be traced back to German romanticist philosophers such as
Herder who claimed that a nation’s volksgeist
(spirt of the people) is manifest within cultural productions such as song and
literature (Heywood, 2011, p. 160).

In this essay I will first
provide a brief history of nationalism, using the French Revolution of 1789 as
the key starting point. We will see how the precise definition of nationalism
as an ideology has been deeply contested, and how these different
interpretations contributed to major events within the modern global (and
particularly European) history. Then I will proceed to discuss how nationalism
has experienced a sort of ‘revival’ in Europe, citing the Noua Dreapt? and the
Greater Romania Party in Romania, and Greece’s Golden Dawn as examples as how
far-right parties use nationalism.