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How to deal with the problem of far-right extremism

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RIght wing extremist movements are a growing concern among Western nations (Screenshot via YouTube)

The rise of White supremacist and right-wing extremist movements in Europe and the USA, with even conservative ruled Australia admitting that it may have such a problem, is a nasty feature of our pandemic world.

That there is a threat of a rising fascist movement in many countries is an unwelcome truth and many minds have turned towards the danger and how to deal with it.

First comes the attempt to understand the nature of the beast.

Then comes the discussion of how to deal with it.

Characteristics of the far-Right

In an examination of why people support extreme right political views, Arash Emamzadeh in Psychology Today reviewed three studies that dealt with social dominance orientation and right-wing authoritarianism.

Social dominance orientation refers to a preference for social inequality (of course, one in which one’s group is superior to others).

Right-wing authoritarianism refers to a combination of three characteristics: submitting to authorities unquestioningly, adherence to conventional norms and morals and aggressiveness toward individuals or groups considered outgroups or deviants.

These major studies show a strong and positive relation between far-right support and prejudice, social dominance orientation and right-wing authoritarianism.

He concludes:

The key grievances of the far-Right in Europe “arise from threats to traditional norms and values, economic changes, and immigration — with immigration the most intense issue.


Their predictors (prejudice, social dominance orientation, and right-wing authoritarianism) show similar associations with support for the far Right. This is true in the U.S. and Europe, and not only in present research but also in previous investigations.

Threats to social status

Another study by Robert Pape of the issues that motivated the 380 or so people arrested in connection with the attack against the Capitol on 6 January is worthy of respect.

Many remember Pape’s work on suicide bombings and his research which demonstrated clearly that:

‘Most of the bombers were secular, not religious, and had killed themselves not out of zealotry, but rather in response to military occupations.’

He found that the insurrectionists:

‘...are mainly middle-class to upper-middle-class Whites who are worried that, as social changes occur around them, they will see a decline in their status in the future.


Only about 10 per cent of those charged were members of established far-right organisations.’

But the remaining 90 per cent are potential recruits.

The problem is not going to disappear and it is not a problem that can be solved by law enforcement alone.

As he said:

‘This is political violence, not just ordinary criminal violence, and it is going to require both additional information and a strategic approach.’

Economic insecurity

While the demographic changes occurring in England, the USA and Europe, especially the influx of refugees from South America and the Middle East, have created White angst, Gilbert Achcar suggests that the roots of this angst are to be found in the economic insecurity created by decades of neoliberalism and the mantra of the “free market” privatisation and a “flexible job market”.

He discusses Karl Polanyi who in his 1944 classic, The Great Transformation, underlined the great variety of fascisms and fascist ideologies.

Even in the absence of a functional fascist movement, a “fascist situation” could exist.

The signs are clear.

‘At least as important were signs such as the spread of irrational ideas, racist views, and hatred of the democratic setup.’

In other words, conspiracy theories, myths of stolen elections and the Great Replacement theory are all current “fascist situation” indicators.

Achcar argues that the immunity to fascism after 1945 was due not to just the exposure of the nature of Nazism and its collaborators, but also to the remedy adopted to preserve social security.

It was ‘the Keynesian democratic solution that discarded the idea of “the self-regulating market,” which Polanyi called “a stark utopia”’. It was this approach that pushed back the insecurity which gives rise to racism and fascism.

Only the adoption of measures similar to those adopted in Europe post-1945 will save our communities from the rise of fascism in the post-pandemic economic crisis that approaches.

The far-Right is already exploiting anti-lockdown movements and the fact that Trump, fully exposed, was able to increase his support by 10 million votes indicates the size of the task ahead:

‘Achieving a new state of herd immunity to fascism... requires, most crucially, a global shift away from the neoliberal paradigm that has been dominant over the past four decades.’

Bilal Cleland is a retired secondary teacher and was Secretary of the Islamic Council of Victoria, Chairman of the Muslim Welfare Board Victoria and Secretary of the Australian Federation of Islamic Councils. You can follow Bilal on Twitter @BilalCleland.

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