We have seen that nationalismhas exhibited different faces throughout history. While it was initiallyassociated with liberalism and democracy in the 1800s, it turned aggressive inthe 1900s, with the two World Wars completely discrediting nationalism as anideology.
The latter form of nationalism made a return in the 1990s followingthe dissolution of Yugoslavia. Nowadays, such nationalism is increasingly beingemployed by far-right parties. The PRM and ND in Romania share fairly similarnationalist goals despite being inspired by opposing forces (the PRM is acontinuation of Nicolae Ceau?escu’s national-communism, while the ND isinspired by the fascist Iron Guard). Most of their efforts have been directedtowards maintaining Romania’s territorial integrity and reducing outside (andspecifically Western) influences. While these two are accompanied by a numberof other smaller far-right parties, ultra-nationalists in Romania have receivedlittle public support in elections.
The PRM has been the most successful of thegroup. However, it has virtually lost all its support. In contrast, the GoldenDawn in Greece has maintained a consistent support base since it establisheditself as the third largest party following the 2015 general elections. It iswidely considered to be one of the most extreme far-right ultra-nationalistparties in Europe, often labelled as fascist and neo-Nazi.
The party holds anidealized vision of the Greek nation, which they believe will one day emergefrom its underdog status and recapture its glory. Only true Greeks would beaccepted according to the party, determined according to biological andcultural traits. Commentators such as Ellinas(2015) and Halikiopoulou and Vasilopoulou (2015) argue that we cannotunderstand Golden Dawn’s increasing popularity solely as a result of theeconomic hardship following the financial crisis and the Greek bailout. Theyargue that Greece’s economic struggle spilled over to other fields such aspolitics, exposing a number of systemic weaknesses within the Greek state. Withthe current politicians no longer offering viable solutions to their woes, whatstarted off as an economic crisis evolved into an ideological one, questioningthe state’s very legitimacy.
This is precisely where Golden Dawn offerednationalism as a legitimizing force to overcome the ideological crisis(Ellinas, 2015) (Halikiopoulou and Vasilopoulou, 2015, pp. 8-9). Despite its extreme beliefs,under the leadership of Nikolaos Michaloliakos Golden Dawn has become the thirdmost popular party in Greece. The party rose to prominence with the 2012general election, winning almost 7% of the popular vote. This translated into18 seats, making Golden Dawn the fifth largest party in parliament.
Thissuccess was closely followed by another in the European Parliamentary electionsin 2014 when the party won 9.4% of the vote and three seats. Support has been consistentand it now still boasts of 18 seats in the Greek parliament, making it thethird largest party (Ellinas, 2015).Next we have Golden Dawn’sidea of a ‘rebirth’ of the Greek nation under nationalist ideals. Thisultra-nationalism is built on a number of principles.
First, Golden Dawn drawsa strict division between ‘true’ Greeks and outsiders. It employs a primordialunderstanding of nationalism, stressing the continuity of the Greek nation andits culture from antiquity till present day. Given the strict biologicalcriteria, the party rejects the possibility of naturalized citizenship andovertly opposes any form immigration (Ibid, pp. 71-72). Indeed, it hasrepeatedly been accused of violence against minorities such as Turkish andKurdish immigrants (Ibid, p. 4). Next, Golden Dawn attempts to portray thesuperiority of the Greek nation by ascribing to it traits which are commonlyfound in Greek mythology, such as heroism and bravery. From this supposedsuperiority stems the idea that the Greek nation will emerge from its currentunderdog status and recapture its past glory.
They define this as a sort of”spiritual liberation” (Ibid, pp. 73-74). Finally, the Golden Dawn has awardedthemselves the duty of carrying out this rebirth, embodying “the collectivewill of the Greek people and the epitome of the Greek nation” (Ibid, p. 75).Golden Dawn maintains thatpast Greek governments have contributed towards the social, cultural, economicand moral decay of Greek society.
They believe that this degradation isexemplified in the weak role that Greece has acquired in the world whencompared to its glorious past. Golden Dawn differentiates between two ‘enemies’which must be overcome. First, we have external enemies who they believe tocomprise of all those not sharing Greek cultural and biological heritage. Theyalso identify internal enemies in liberal democracy and communism. According toGolden Dawn, democracy as it has been applied in Greece has only resulted in itsexploitation by external enemies. This deep mistrust of anything not Greek hastranslated into an anti-Western and anti-Semitic stance (Ibid, p.
59-60). It isonly by getting rid of these enemies that Greece may once more attain itsformer glory.Certainly one of the mostextreme 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 racistbeliefs. Where it differs, however, is in its promotion of National Socialismand its quasi mythological belief in the rebirth of the Greek nation. It hasoften been compared to the German Nazis (even their logo remarkably resemblesthe Nazi swastika). However, the party has rebuked these claims, arguing thatit is unfitting to compare the application of National Socialism in differentstates (Halikiopoulou and Vasilopoulou, 2015, pp. 2-3).
In order to properlyunderstand the Golden Dawn ideology, one has to consider their belief on thedegradation of Greek society and the eventual ‘rebirth’ of the nation led by truenationalists. The PRM made a slight comebackin the European Parliamentary elections of 2009 after they had formed analliance with the New Generation Party (PNG-CD), resulting in three EuropeanParliament seats (Turcanu, 2010, p. 15). Nonetheless, the party’s influence hasdecreased greatly (especially following Tudor’s death in 2015) and it wasunable to win any seats in subsequent elections; a far cry for the stature itenjoyed in the 1990s (Stoica, 2016). Despite this early success,the PRM came nowhere near achieving the same feat in subsequent elections. Infact, by the 2008 general election the party had lost such a substantial partof its public support that they were not able to win a single seat inparliament (Stoica, 2016). Some believe that this decreasing support may be putdown to the economic prosperity that Romania experienced at the turn of thecentury.
As the numbers of discontent voters dwindled, the PRM’s supportersmigrated over to less radical (and more electable) parties (Turcanu, 2010, p.11). Other commentators argue that the party’s failure is due to Tudor’schanging rhetoric; for instance, he pledged to depart from his anti-Semiticrhetoric and he had also become less resistant to EU and NATO membership, andeven attempted to form part of the European People’s Party (they wereultimately rejected). These commentators argue that such decisions were notreceived well by the party’s supporters (Stoica, 2016).
As we have seen, while the PRMclaims to be left-leaning on the political spectrum, it’s rhetoric and beliefsare still very much consistent with the ones advocated by Romanian far-rightparties. Thus, scholars such as Cinpoes (2012) have argued that we can include”the party among the representatives of the extreme right in Romania.” The PRNhas certainly been the most successful from the latter, its core public supportstemming from those who feel hard done by the post-Communist experience or whosimply express nostalgia for the past (Ibid, p. 6). The party initiallyexperienced moderate success. Tudor’s aggressive style accompanied by hisanti-Hungarian and anti-establishment (corruption has been a key issue inRomanian politics) rhetoric saw him finishing second in the presidential raceof 2000 (Stoica, 2016). This increasing support also translated into the PRMbecoming the second largest party in Parliament following the general electionin the same year.
Their vote share jumped from 4.46% for the House ofRepresentatives 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 usualapproach of far-right parties, the PRM are essentially an anti-establishmentparty. They claim that the moral degradation of Romania and the proliferationof corruption has been partly due to the supposed incompetence of theestablishment politicians and influences of minority groups such as the Romaand LGBTIQ+ communities. This belief has been adapted from the RomanianChristian Orthodox tradition which is central to the PRM ideology (Ibid).The PRM, while being certainlythe 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 consideredas a continuation of Nicolae Ceau?escu’s national-communism (for example, theydenied Romania’s role in the Holocaust) (Turcanu, 2010, p. 3). Indeed, much ofthe same values advocated within his regime have been adopted by the PRM. Thereare many similarities between the ND and the PRM’s beliefs. For instance, theyboth share the same anti-Western, anti-Semitic and anti-Hungarian sentiment.Moreover, the PRM also envisions the restoration of Greater Romania.
Fearingfor the country’s territorial integrity, the PRM has repeatedly conflicted withthe Democratic Alliance of Hungarians in Romania (UDMR) who they accuse ofpotential 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 theUSA 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 ofcontesting the Romanian general elections (Turcanu, 2010, p. 20), they did seekto enter the running in 2011 under ‘the Nationalist Party’ name. Nonetheless,their application was rejected and thus, their activities have been limited topolitical demonstrations and marches (Cinpoes, 2012, p.
8). Interestingly, one countrywhere the crisis did not translate into increasing support for far-rightparties is Romania. In my analysis I shall be focusing on two main parties; theNoua Dreapt? (New Right, ND) and the Greater Romania Party (PRM).
Founded in2000, the ND movement is a celebration of interwar fascism exhibited by theRomanian ‘Iron Guard’. Positioning themselves as a “new generation ofnationalists”, the ND primarily attracts young adults particularly through itsextensive online and media presence (Cinpoes, 2012, p. 8). Maintaining theusual discourse characterising Romanian ultra-nationalism, the ND repeatedlyengages in anti-Hungarian and anti-Semitic rhetoric (Turcanu, 2010, p. 21),while employing Christian Orthodox symbols. They advance a revised vision ofthe Romanian territory, in line with the 1918-1940 borders and the nostalgia of’Greater Romania’.
Moreover, the ND has also targeted minorities such as theLGTIQ+ and Roma communities who they believed have contributed towards thesocioeconomic and moral deterioration within Romania (Cinpoes, 2012, p. 8). Themovement exhibits anti-Western (and specifically anti-American) tendencies. Itvehemently opposed the established of American military bases within Romanianterritory, and has also campaigned against the supposed American culturalimperialism in Romania.
The ND is against European Union (EU) membership(Turcanu, 2010, p. 21) and other international organizations such as the WorldBank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF) (Cinpoes, 2012, p. 8). It was alsoone 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 andparticularly after the financial crisis of 2008, nationalism has experienced asort of rebirth in Europe. Some explanations for this phenomenon are the decreasedprosperity due to lackluster economic growth, increasing immigration levelsparticularly from the Middle-east and Africa, and a general disillusionment incertain parts of the public with the political establishment (Rachman, 2014).All this has been accompanied by increasing public support for far-right partieswho employ populist and (bad) nationalist rhetoric. This leads us to ‘bad’nationalism which is in complete opposition to classic nationalism and is characterizedby aggression and militarism. This is sometimes called ‘expansionistnationalism’.
It repudiates the liberal values of classic nationalism andpromotes the chauvinistic belief of the supposed superiority of one’s ownnation over others. Thus, this type of nationalism is often accompanied withfeelings of racism and xenophobia. Some commentators have argued that it issomewhat natural to experience a preference for one’s own group, andconsequently, all forms of nationalism essentially contain traces of racism (Ibid,pp. 165-166). The 1900s was characterized by the rise of expansionistnationalism. While the Nazi ideology is probably the most infamous example, itwas also apparent in other cases.
For instance, the aforementioned colonizationof Africa, Asia and South America was fueled by expansionist desires, and thisform of nationalism could also explain the outbreak of World War One.Furthermore, expansionist nationalism was manifest once more with the Bosniangenocide following Yugoslavia’s dissolution in the 1990s (Ibid).Prior to the Revolution, countrieswere largely seen as kingdoms or provinces, with the people being the rulers’subjects. This changed after the French Revolution, with loyalties shiftingfrom 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, whatwe understood by nationalism became confused, leading to the differentiationbetween what we may call ‘good’ and ‘bad’ nationalism. The former could beidentified immediately after the French Revolution, and can be more accuratelylabelled ‘classic nationalism’. It is closely associated with liberal values,while promoting beliefs of popular sovereignty and national self-determinacyand thus, is consistent with the principles of democracy (Miscevic, 2014).Classic nationalism was particularly manifest within Europe in the 1800s ininstances such as the unification movements of Italy and Germany respectively,as well as the push for independence in the Austro-Hungarian, Ottoman and theRussian empires (Heywood, 2011, pp. 161-163). The same states then sought toextend their power through expanding into other continents. Ironically, one mayargue that this expansion ultimately imported the nationalist ideology into thecolonies, and may have contributed towards the independence movements in Africaand Asia post-World War Two (Ibid, p.
164).Modernists, on the other hand,contend that with the rise of individualism that came from industrializationand capitalism, societies were in search of a new unifying principle, resultingin the creation of national identity. The latter was intensified as educationlevels increased. Finally, they argue that the state exists before the creationof a national identity, and thus contributes towards the latter’s development(Ibid, p. 161). Much debate has been made onwhether 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 biologicalcontinuity of one’s group, territorial belonging, as well as common culturalheritage including language and feeling of kinship (Coakley, 2017, p.
3). Thisunderstanding could be traced back to German romanticist philosophers such asHerder who claimed that a nation’s volksgeist(spirt of the people) is manifest within cultural productions such as song andliterature (Heywood, 2011, p. 160).In this essay I will firstprovide a brief history of nationalism, using the French Revolution of 1789 asthe key starting point.
We will see how the precise definition of nationalismas an ideology has been deeply contested, and how these differentinterpretations contributed to major events within the modern global (andparticularly European) history. Then I will proceed to discuss how nationalismhas experienced a sort of ‘revival’ in Europe, citing the Noua Dreapt? and theGreater Romania Party in Romania, and Greece’s Golden Dawn as examples as howfar-right parties use nationalism.