Europe was torn apart by fascism in the 1930s, and when the Second World War ended in 1945, remnants of extreme right parties re-emerged on the margins of politics. By the 1980s, when the forgetting had started, some began to pick up protest votes as immigrants became an issue, driven by tabloid journalists looking for a cheap story.
In the new millennium, there is a step change with new political racism in Europe. For one, Jewish conspiracy and Holocaust denial have given way to the clash of civilizations and Islamic fundamentalism. Secondly, traditionally fascist right-wing parties have chosen to dilute their message and their membership to "fascist light". No longer pure fascist parties, they have become right-wing populist parties, who embrace a broad church membership that stretches from ideological fascists to racists, xenophobes and the alienated working-class whites. They now use a language of nation and tradition, sovereignty and community, rather than eugenics, extermination and fatherland. Thirdly, they are deliberately narrowing the gap between themselves and traditional democratic parties as they dress down their rhetoric, and traditional parties steal these sound bites for electoral advantage as the new racist language leaks into the mainstream. Aided and abetted by Europe's Eastern widening, which has not proved a tool for tolerance, prejudices suppressed for decades by communist regimes have re-emerged to underpin new quirky racist, xenophobic and bigoted politicians and parties.
One example of the success of these new strategies in Europe is the introduction of new legislation to enforce tolerance, where it was once given freely. Another is that the extreme right has now the numbers and self-confidence to come out officially as a European political group. The establishment in 2007 of the Identity, Tradition and Sovereignty (ITS) group within the European Parliament saw the extreme right and racist parties from Austria, Belgium, France and Italy, as well as Bulgaria and Romania--the two most recent accession countries--link up, along with an orphan Member of the European Parliament (MEP), who was expelled from the United Kingdom Independence Party not for his views but because of allegations of benefit fraud.
A reflection of current trends is that there are more racist politicians among the current 785 MEPs than members representing the 15 million ethnic minorities and third-country nationals living in European Union (EU)...