Event Date: 15 – 17 May 2019
Richmond University – The American University in London
Richmond TW10 6JP
A Century of Radical Right Extremism: New Approaches
Marta Lorimer (LSE) – Building legitimacy through European discourses: the case of the Front National/Rassemblement National
Ever since they first entered the European Parliament in 1979, the EU has proven to be a strong legitimizing tool for far right parties, providing them with funding, visibility and a higher degree of credibility and respectability. While some of these dynamics have been investigated (Startin 2010, McDonnell and Werner 2017), the question of whether what they say about Europe may also contribute to a more legitimate image has so far remained unanswered (although see Adamson and Johns 2008).
The objective of this paper is to analyse the far right’s discourse on Europe as to identify its possible legitimizing elements. Using the Front National as a case study and drawing on a qualitative analysis of texts produced by the party between 1979 and 2017, it argues that three features of their discourse carry legitimizing potential. First of all, the distinction drawn between Europe and the EU contributes to presenting them as ‘open’ rather than ‘closed’ nationalist parties. Second, by putting a strong focus on issues of sovereignty and autonomy, their discourse resonates with the foundational myths of the national polity. Finally, by justifying positions in the name of the ‘national interest’, it contributes to presenting far right parties as obeying the political imperatives of government for and of the people.