Natur och Kultur, 2011. ISBN: 9789127129795
Reviewed by Željka Černok in SBR 2012:1
Between 2006 and 2011, Lisa Bjurwald was a member of the editorial board at the anti-racist Expo magazine, founded by the late Stieg Larsson. Currently, she serves as an expert advising the Swedish government-appointed commission on how to combat xenophobia. This book is a comprehensive study of the rise of right-wing extremism in Europe, written before the two terrorist attacks in Norway in July 2011. At first, the author shows how right-wing extremism, in the form of racism, anti-Semitism and the oppression of Roma people, is no longer marginalised in European politics but strongly influences the social climate in many countries. She also points out that extremist parties are now very effective recruiters of new members, especially by reaching the young through social media websites, and analyses their public statements. Generally, the public profile is made more moderate and anything that sticks out as extreme is covered up, sometimes literally: for instance, at the meeting of an ultranationalist Swiss party, she saw a skinhead being taken aside to get his Nazi T-shirt covered with a jacket. By wearing a civilised mask, the party leaders attract the votes of people who lost their jobs or who feel that they lost their national identity in the EU.
The middle part of the book is dedicated to the analysis of the situation in different countries, including Britain, Hungary, Italy, Germany and Scandinavia, and shows how powerful the rightwing parties have become. Bjurwald has attended their meetings and interviewed their leaders, but also talked to experts and organisations who have been fighting this development. At the end of the book, she even attempts to provide a list of suggestions: What could the EU, the media, but also individuals do in this situation?
Although there are some obvious gaps, such as the rise of right-wing populism in Austria, and the analysis occasionally slips into just retelling anecdotes from various meetings, the final result is a clear and comprehensive picture of the current situation of European politics. This is a meticulously researched study by a knowledgeable and brave journalist, which should be widely read. Especially in the current political and financial climate...