A tentative table on far-right radicalism

Recently I’ve been researching the far-right and became intrigued by a section in the report Blind Spot? Security Narratives and Far-Right Violence in Europe, in which the author identifies both parallels and crucial differences between the old neo-Nazi far-right and the new anti-Muslim far-right. More recently I read Preventing and Countering Far-Right Extremism, a valuable country-by-country report on these movements. One of the authors, Anders Ravik Jupskas, divides far-right movements into three categories: neo-Nazi, white nationalist and anti-Muslim (using slightly different terms). Another of the authors, Matthew Goodwin, wrote of three distinct waves of far-right activity in the UK that closely mirrored these categories.

I’ve become interested in whether this three-way categorisation is valuable or if it is an oversimplification. Are there clear distinguishing characteristics for each of these three categories, and do groups neatly fit into them?

For this reason, I’ve made this table listing what I consider to be the key characteristics of each of these strands, based significantly on those two reports but also on my own research so far.

This typology is of far-right radicalism, not far-right extremism. Therefore all the groups in it are radical (in that their politics diverge substantially from the mainstream) but not all are extremists (hostile to liberal democracy and condoning illegal activity, particularly violence).

The title says “tentative” for a reason. A big reason I established this blog was to get feedback on ideas while they are still in the formative stage. I am keen to hear thoughts (through comments, Twitter or email) on what you think this table may have right or wrong, and why.


White nationalist


Construction of the invading enemy


Non-whites (some flexibility for those who adopt “our” way of life)

Muslims (often cast as simply extremist Muslims, but very broadly defined)

Construction of the establishment enemy

Jews and the Zionist Occupied Government

Multiculturalist elites (often with talk of Jewish influence)

Multiculturalist elite (often using the term “cultural Marxists”)

Construction of the identity group under threat

White race

White nation

Liberal society, Judeo-Christian civilisation (often narrowly defined)

Form of exclusivism

Biological racism

Cultural racism (“new” racism)


Attitude towards the state

Explicitly hostile

Often hostile

Less often hostile (though Brievik and others could be foreshadowing a change)

First substantial emergence

After Second World War

1970s (though these ideas were often mainstream in earlier decades, so activism to maintain white exclusivism was less necessary)

After 9/11

Position on Israel


Anti-Israel (though changing recently)


Position on Nazism

Pro-Nazism (often explicit adoption of symbols, though this is less common now)

Disassociate themselves from Nazism, rarely draw on Nazi texts and tend to promote non-Nazi forms of white exclusivism drawn from their own national traditions (such as the White Australia Policy)

Anti-Nazi (often compare Muslims to Nazis, and European anti-Muslim groups sometimes compare themselves to the resistance movements from the Second World War)

Position on gender and sexual orientation

Opposed to gender equality and homosexuality

Often opposed to gender equality and homosexuality but not a major focus

Often explicitly support gender equality and homosexuality, claiming that Muslims are a threat to both (anti-Muslim groups with a strong conservative Christian influence are an exception)

Examples in Europe

Blood and Honour (UK and elsewhere), National Front (UK), SvP (Sweden), SMR (Sweden), Danish National Socialist Party, Danish National Front, Vigrid (Norway), Norwegian Patriots, Norwegian Resistance Movement, Dutch People’s Union, National Democratic Party of Germany,

British National Party, ND (Sweden), NU (Sweden), Danes’ Party, Democrats in Norway, Peoples Movement Against Immigration (Norway),

English Defence League, Swedish Defence League, Stop Islamization of Denmark, Danish Defence League, Norwegian Defence League, Stop Islamisation of Norway, Freedom Party (Netherlands)

Examples in Australia

Blood and Honour, Southern Cross Hammerskins, Women for Aryan Unity Australia, Australian Nationalist Movement (now defunct), White Pride Coalition of Australia (now defunct)

Australia First Party, Australian Protectionist Party, Nationalist Alternative, Australian New Nation, Confederate Action Party (now defunct), Australians Against Further Immigration (now defunct), National Action (now defunct)

Q Society, Australian Defence League, Rise Up Australia Party

A few further points:

This table is largely based on European examples, and might not fit the United States well.

This typology inevitably leads out many movements commonly grouped under the term far-right, such as many anti-abortion movements, Sovereign Citizens, old-fashioned groups established to fight perceived communist threats, etc. It is not meant to be comprehensive, and might be better characterised as a table of far-right groups that oppose the current immigration policies of Western governments.

In practice there can be a lot of overlap between the three categories, as with any typology. For example, an attempt by anti-Muslim groups to create a European wide network with a meeting on 31 March 2012 ran into trouble when a newspaper revealed the neo-Nazi connections of one of the speakers. It was also not very long ago that Nick Griffin was denying the Holocaust (see below).

One reason there is a lot of overlap is because sometimes neo-Nazi or white nationalist leaders make strategic decisions to repackage their ideology in a more palatable manner. For example, neo-Nazi leaders may instruct their followers to not mention Hitler because it drives people away.

Individuals and groups can move from one type to another. In the 1990s Nick Griffin (leader of the British National Party) was denying the Holocaust. However, when he assumed control of the BNP in 1999 he helped steer it away from neo-Nazism to the point where it is now white nationalist and even quite close to being primarily an anti-Muslim movement.

While sometimes the differences between these groups are simply a matter of calculated ideological rhetoric by some leaders, for many participants and leaders the differences are genuine and extremely important. Many people who would join the British National Party would never join a neo-Nazi group, many neo-Nazis would detest the BNP for being pro-Israel, and many non-white people might join anti-Muslim groups but almost never join white nationalist groups.

Many of the anti-Muslim groups would dispute being characterised as anti-Muslim, and claim that they are simply opposed to extremists. In practice, they perceive even the most innocuous Muslim activities as evidence of extremism and clearly hostile to Muslims as a whole.

By “attitude towards the state”, my concern is whether the groups in question see the state as an outright enemy, or whether they simply see it as simply unable or unwilling to counter the perceived threat from non-Whites or Muslims. That neo-Nazi groups are the most hostile to (current) states is shown in how they often direct violence towards the state, their construction of the “Zionist Occupied Government” (ZOG) as the source of their troubles, that they are often opposed to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, that they usually oppose increased security measures and counter-terrorism powers (fearing that they may be the targets), and that they are more willing to break the law.

By contrast, anti-Muslim far-right groups often support these wars and counter-terrorism measures, anticipating that they will be primarily directed at Muslims. As Arun Kundnani has shown, these groups are strongly influenced my mainstream security discourses. Ehud Sprinzak’s writings on “split delegitimization” are valuable here, as he argues that far-right groups usually begin with hostility to a minority and only later, gradually, become disaffected with the state. With the major exception of Breivik, anti-Muslim groups have not directed their violence at the state, whereas neo-Nazi groups have directed violence at the state for decades.

Update 1: Moved the definitions of radicalism and extremism from below the table to above.

Update 2: Storified some of the the Twitter discussion following this post. You can read the discussion here.

11 thoughts on “A tentative table on far-right radicalism

  1. how would you categorize ultra religious groups such as ultra orthodox Jews or Muslims? Breivik seems to be more of an aberration rather than a reflection of any main stream right wing group. More of a psychological issue than a political one.

  2. A most interesting exercise. I have to declare, that I am a retired army officer and was born in a Nazi camp. I’m told I’m one of thirteen so born to survive. Whilst not being jewish, I do fit into the Australian anti-muslim block. My question is; within the table, where do organisations in Oz such as the Friends of Israel fit? This especially so since so many of our political leaders, of both complexions, are members. Are they necessarily anti-muslim?

  3. Is it problematic to use the term ‘Nazi’ instead of ‘fascist’? I’m not sure how much difference there is between the ‘Neo-Nazi’ and ‘white nationalist’ groups there are (which many would simply called ‘fascist’) besides a questions of tactics and public image. If you look at the far right in the UK from the 1950s onwards, for example, many of the same personnel go from explicitly pro-Nazi groups in the 1950s to the NF of the 1970s to the BNP in the 1990s. Looking at the fascist far right through the lens of ‘Nazism’ might not be useful to distinguish these kind of groups.

  4. Andy – Don’t know enough to comment on your table but just one point. Your typology comes from Jupskas who was studying (according to the book title) right wing extremists, but you stress that your table is about right-wing radicalism. Is that a problem??

    Elke – I don’t know much about Breivik but I even i would imagine he gain inspiration from right wing groups, even if only via the internet or something…so doubt it is accurate to say it was just pychological.

  5. Thanks for the comments guys.

    Elke, I wouldn’t automatically put ultra religious groups in any category, it would depend on what political stances they have, particularly on immigration. The table’s not comprehensive and mainly covers far-right groups that try to appeal to a majority community against the supposed threat of an invading minority.

    Re Breivik, I disagree that it’s more of psychological issue than a political one, but I’ll talk about that more in a follow up post as I’ve been getting a lot of comments about Breivik on Twitter. I’ll address a bunch of them in one go. Also I agree that he’s not a reflection of mainstream right-wing organisations, but he was definitely influenced by radical and extremist ones,

    Hackneywick, I know almost nothing about Friends of Israel, and Google suggests there’s a bunch of different groups using that name. I’d only consider any of them to be far-right anti-Muslim groups if they call for restricting Muslim immigration, portray Muslims as a collective threat, and go on rants about Halal Vegemite. Supporting Israel certainly doesn’t make someone anti-Muslim, but I won’t comment on those specific groups without knowing more.

    Hatful, I’ve been thinking more about the fascism issue since our Twitter convo, but haven’t yet escaped the definitional dilemmas. I’ll get back to you. You raise a very important point.

    Jonny, while the title of the report Jupskas writes in refers to right-wing extremists, it uses the word extremism quite broadly. I’m essentially using “radicalism” in the way that the report uses “extremism”.

  6. How do their economic ideas affect this? BNP is clearly in the fascist tradition – it hates the Left but would like to nick its ideas – it wants a much more state-directed and egalitarian economy, if only for the people it cares about. UKIP is very different – it thrashes between protectionism and libertarianism. The FN in France is economically like the BNP. The right fringe of the UMP is more like UKIP, but it doesn’t hate the EU.

    AFAIK Pim Fortuyn’s lot are economically libertarian when it suits them but hate immigrants. US neocons don’t care about deficits as long as the money is spent on weapons, and quite like protectionism too. Tea Party types are libertarian except for stuff they like.

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  8. What about more modern examples and further east? Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary and Svaboda in Ukraine. Perhaps different phenomena, but last two are primarily anti-Semitic/anti-Roma in case of Jobbik and anti-Semitic/Russophobic in case of Svaboda.

  9. The attempt to tar liberal democratic parties and persons with mainstream liberal views as “far right-wing” who see Muslim extremism in Western societies as well as elsewhere as a civilizational threat, is highly partisan and prejudicial in itself and amounts to smear tactics. It is an attempt to shut down debate of any sort regarding this threat. Thus it supports suppression of free speech. I notice that the term “Islamophobia” is, typically enough, applied to those who notice the world-wide occurrence of Islamist terrorism and murders, and that these Islamists, often quite knowledgeably, cite Qur’anic and other mainstream Muslim texts and authorities for their views. It is as if 9-11, and its equivalents in most European countries, are all dismissed as a chimera. Any fear of Muslim violence is “Islamophobia.” Tell that to the victims in almost all Muslim countries, as well as of Western ones.

    If all this is “far-right” (I notice the attempt to define all such views as “marginal” and “extreme” when they are often representative of very large percentages of the population of Western democracies, and are quite mainstream), then I guess the views elaborated here are “far-left”? It is characteristic of extremists to paint all other opinions than their own as illegitimate and extremist, including that of the broad center of the population.

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