Where the Front National played a major role was that they were really the inspiration of other parties.


Globalisation & economic change

A shift from manufacturing towards the service sector in Western European economies leads to the deregulation of financial services.

These shifts, combined with the effects of globalisation, create social divides that far right groups will seek to exploit.

National Front becomes a political force

In France, the National Front makes headway.

Fall of the Berlin wall & break up of the Soviet Union

The Revolutions of 1989 sees communist regimes fall across Central and Eastern Europe, and the break-up of the Soviet Union.

Globalisation & economic change

British Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher shares a joke with American President Ronald Reagan, at No. 10 Downing Street, London. | PHOTO BY KEYSTONE/GETTY IMAGES

The changes were led by Margaret Thatcher’s Conservative government, which pushed through radical reforms.

The shift to the right of mainstream politics that had sidelined the British far right, was matched by changes to the economy that proved to be both decisive and divisive.

The country that had long remained in post-war Europe’s shadow, would now light a new way for others to follow...

And the far right to exploit.

National Front becomes a political force

April 9, 1986: The French leader of the National Front, Jean-Marie Le Pen, speaking in front of the National Assembly. | PHOTO BY PATRICE COTTEAU/KEYSTONE/GETTY IMAGES

In 1983, French President Francois Mitterrand’s socialist coalition was roundly defeated by right-wing opposition in municipal elections.

The following year, a controversial television appearance by the leader of the National Front, would help the president reclaim ground lost to the mainstream right, and, lead his critics to question the opportunistic timing.

Jean Marie Le Pen’s National Front was largely absent from mainstream French television, but his 1984 appearance on the political debate programme L’Heure de Verite was a milestone that, four months later, helped secure 2.2 million votes in the European Parliamentary elections.

The National Front’s grab of right-wing votes away from mainstream right-wing parties struck a chord with France’s left-wing president.

In 1985, in what some claimed to be cynical manipulation of national politics, Mitterrand changed France’s electoral system to proportional representation. It was a move that the following year, would help the National Front claim 35 seats in the French National Assembly.

The National Front’s electoral success would lay the foundations for other far right groups to come.

The 1980s had also seen the European Economic Community grow to include Spain, Portugal and Greece.

The European project that had been patiently evolving, was beginning to gather pace.

The 1980s drew to a close with increasing Western European unity.

But the East would experience a seismic contraction.

Fall of the Berlin wall & break up of the Soviet Union

East Berliners climb onto the Berlin Wall to celebrate the effective end of the city's partition, December 31, 1989. | PHOTO BY STEVE EASON/HULTON ARCHIVE/GETTY IMAGES

In 1989, the Soviet Union was on the verge of collapse.

President Mikhail Gorbachev’s perestroika reforms had failed to dampen dissent, particularly in satellite states - nowhere more so than East Germany.

Divided by a wall, West and East Germany, juxtaposed the trappings of western capitalism with the austerity of what had become communist stagnation.

Tearing down the Berlin Wall was to symbolize the crumbling of the Soviet empire and the end of the 20th century’s ‘grand narrative’.

Nationalism, suppressed and manipulated by Soviet power for half a century, was now freed from the communist yoke.

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