BRITAIN JOINS THE EUROPEAN ECONOMIC COMMUNITY (EEC)
In 1973, Britain joins the EEC, alongside Ireland and Denmark.
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THE 1973 OIL CRISIS HALTS GUEST WORKER PROGRAMMES
1973 oil crisis brings an end to Europe’s guest-worker programmes.
Multiculturalism becomes more visible, and immigration begins to become politicised.
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FRANCE: AN ORGANISED FAR RIGHT BACKLASH BEGINS
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MARGARET THATCHER: BRITAIN MIGHT BE ‘SWAMPED’
During the UK’s 1979 election campaign, Margaret Thatcher adopts some of the rhetoric of the far right on the issue of immigration.
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THE BIG PICTURE: THE MAKING AND BREAKING OF EUROPE
Britain joins the European Economic Community (EEC)
On January 1, 1973, the English population read of the United Kingdom's entry into the EEC on the front page of their daily newspapers. | PHOTO BY KEYSTONE-FRANCE/GAMMA-KEYSTONE VIA GETTY IMAGES
The 1973 oil crisis
At the beginning of 1973, after nearly three decades of looking in from the outside, Britain, along with Ireland and Denmark, finally joined the European Economic Community.
Later that same year, an economic cartel on another continent would shock the world and force Europe to face its immigration challenge.
Demonstration Of Wingles Bsn Glass Factory employees in Paris on February 11, 1975 | PHOTO BY KEYSTONE-FRANCE/GAMMA-KEYSTONE VIA GETTY IMAGES
“It was clear that the guest workers weren’t going home”
A hike in the price of crude oil, following an oil embargo by the multinational oil cartel OPEC, sparked an economic crisis that was part of a wider downturn in European fortunes.
It would leave the so-called ‘guests workers’ with no work and no thought of going back to where they came from.
“The irony is that actually the numbers of immigrants kind of went up after that, particularly through family reunion.”
“Workers were more visible because they came with their families, with the wives, with their children, and they were supposed now to stay and they wanted to stay, because the immigration laws were more restrictive.”
“It was clear that the guest workers weren’t going home and only then when they weren’t going home and they increasingly moved out of that kind of factory owned apartments and went into mostly white working class areas, that it became an issue because only then it became clear that they were here to stay and they were going to be part of society.”
Governments attempt to reduce the number of foreign residents, but the number of immigrants actually rises through family reunion.
Foreign guest workers become more visible in society and now become visible local fixtures.
Customers at a London store do their Christmas shopping in semi-darkness during an electricity strike, December 20, 1973. Hurricane lamps provide a scant amount of illumination. | PHOTO BY P WADE/FOX PHOTOS/HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES
WHAT CAUSED THE INTERNATIONAL ENERGY CRISIS IN 1973?
The 1973 oil crisis began in October 1973, when members of the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) proclaimed an oil embargo.
The embargo was a response to American involvement in the 1973 Yom Kippur War - which was when Egypt and Syria launched a military campaign against Israel on the Jewish holy day of Yom Kippur.
After the Soviet Union began sending arms to Egypt and Syria, US President Richard Nixon began to re-supply Israel with arms.
In response, members of OPEC reduced their petroleum production and proclaimed an embargo on oil shipments to the United States and the Netherlands, the main supporters of Israel.
Though the Yom Kippur War ended in late October, the embargo and limitations on oil production continued, sparking an international energy crisis.
By 1974, the price of oil had risen from $3 a barrel to nearly $12 globally.
Despite the United State’s assumption that an oil boycott would financially hurt the Persian Gulf, the increased price of oil more than made up for the reduced production.
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France: An organised Far Right backlash begins
“Jean-Marie Le Pen was the taboo breaker and the big taboo was immigration.”
In France, this shift was met with an organised far-right resistance that had historical foundations.
All of these different groups with different routes came together in 1972 in the National Front and one of the main leader was Jean-Marie Le Pen.
JEAN-MARIE LE PEN
Jean-Marie Le Pen is a French politician who led the National Front party from its foundation in 1972 until 2011.
French far right-wing and nationalist politician, founder and President of the National Front Jean-Marie Le Pen, attends a meeting at the Maison de la Mutualité | PHOTO BY ALAIN NOGUES/SYGMA/SYGMA VIA GETTY IMAGES
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Jean-Marie Le Pen was long established in the French nationalist movement but had failed to achieve any popular success.
Many considered his views of non-European cultures as racist, with anti-Semitism a recurrent theme of his politics.
But with guest workers now seemingly a fixture of French society, Le Pen’s new National Front saw a new opportunity.
“Jean-Marie Le Pen transformed Front National from kind of an elitist and a backward looking far right party with extreme right anti-democratic tendencies into the prototype of the modern populist radical right party where he started to say that he was the voice of the people and that he said what other people thought and he was the taboo breaker and the big taboo was immigration.”
“I had the feeling that France was losing its territory and that as a consequence of these failures that she would know other hardships in particular due to decolonization, and it’s after that I engaged myself. And so from that moment on I conducted a political campaign of “ressurgimento” [resurgence] if you will.”
Jean-Marie Le Pen
This self-proclaimed “resurgence” of far right sentiment wouldn’t just be confined to French soil.
But just as the far right looked to take advantage of favourable conditions, their ideas would achieve a victory, but leave their parties at a loss.
Margaret Thatcher - Britain might be ‘swamped’
“People are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture.”
In Britain, the National Front had increased its support during a decade of political and economic turmoil.
But in the run-up to the 1979 general election, Conservative Party leader Margaret Thatcher would steal the clothes of the far right and steal a march on her rivals … including the National Front.
“What they try to do is to change the terms of political debate. So immigration, the consequences of decolonisation and so on, the pressure on mainstream politics to start talking about immigration, to restrict immigration, particularly non-white immigration, these are things that mainstream politics responds to, often by stealing the clothes of the far right. So they think that the way to see off the challenge of the far right is to adopt some of, if you like, the more palatable varieties of its politics. This shifts the political discourse in general to the right.”
British Prime Minster Margaret Thatcher acknowledging the crowd, on stage at the Conservative Party Conference in Bournemouth, October 1986. | PHOTO BY KEYSTONE/HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES
“For the first time we start to get this idea of culture being the dividing line and this idea of an alien culture coming to … to kind of overwhelm a sense of British national identity, right? That language had been National Front language, had been Enoch Powell language, now it’s mainstream Conservative party language.”
“People are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture. If we do not want people to go to extremes we ourselves must talk about this problem and we must show that we are prepared to deal with it. We are not in politics to ignore people’s worries. We are in politics to deal with them.”
The Conservative Party victory in the 1979 UK general election marked a turning point in European politics.
The next decade would bring defining social and economic shifts, and lead to the far right being both embattled and emboldened.
THE MAINSTREAMING OF FAR RIGHT RHETORIC