Is extreme right the best hope for researchers?

All across Europe, far right of extreme right parties have been conquering larger and larger shares of the voters in the past few years. Among others, in 2017 the Front National in France and the Alternative für Deutschland in Germany intend to overcome traditional parties and come to power.

Rise of nationalism in Europe, from BBC, April 2016

In this view, their propositions have been extended to themes which are unfamiliar to these kind of movements, including higher education and research. And at first sight, the result seems quite positive: the Front National offers to increase spending to 3% of the GDP, to create a stronger ministry in charge of higher education. The AFD promotes freedom of research, without ideological constraints and British UKIP pledges for a better higher education system.

Such promises are far more enticing than the policies currently applied by most European governments (reduction of the number of researchers, decrease in the number of grants, increased bureaucracy, …). So… nowadays, is the extreme right the best hope for researchers?

Let’s kill the suspense: the answer is strong NO! The day to day work of these parties, their action were they are elected are in total contradiction with the respectable vows above mentioned. First, the devil is always in the details: yes, the French FN wants to increase the funding of research… but without increasing public funding and without details of where the money could come from!

Moreover, the main goal of far-right parties such as FN, AFD or UKIP is that their country should be protected from immigration. For example the first aims to restrict immigration to 10 000 people per year (including Europeans), the second insists in keeping German as the language of research, the third offers to tax European students to increase the budget of universities… In Great Britain, advising the government is already restricted to British citizens. How can Research – a world where people and ideas circulate freely – can evolve in such conditions?

But I think that the biggest danger of extreme-right is its will to control everything. In municipalities governed by the FN, the administration has started to cut the subsidies of anything going against their ideology : oriental dancing associations are shut down, library’s subscription to left-wing newspapers is cancelled, and so on…

As research is mostly state funded, how long would they take to cut entire themes, especially in social sciences ? Not long I guess: AFD has already promised to put an end to gender studies!

I hope I convinced you that far right is a dead end for research. Don’t hesitate to give your opinion or to decipher your country’s extreme right propositions for Research!

Adrien Jeantet
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4 thoughts on “Is extreme right the best hope for researchers?”

  1. For a period in the years 2001 to 2003 in my function as Mng. Director of Austria’s largest research center I had to experience governance from the ministry of technology, having been allocated to be governed by the rightist party FPOe. In 2003 I was substituted by party minded successors or even party members.
    The history of them running the research institute ended in a desaster for the research center in 2008 with aggregated debts bringing the institute close to bankrupcy. But much worse: The political managers exercised a management style which, for a research institution, was highly demotivating employees and damaging their productivity.
    For the period, when the ministry established “their” preferred management in parallel to me, my experience also was never ever to support such people with rightist mindsets: they follow the idea to master and direct research after their command and control ideology.

  2. In Spain, due to historical reasons, extreme right is not separated from right and is still influencing the dominant ideology. We will see there what will be the project of the new government even there is a strong pressure for research and innovation. It should be quite indicative. Scientists, at least the intellectual branch, are subversive by nature, due to their putative inclination for objectivity and universality. This will not help to get open science supported by people used to promote ignorance. How will science reach its citizen goals: a better future, a peaceful world, a re-birthing nature, if the EU goes that way? Mass media are welcome to escape to their neo-conservatism attitude and to defend a humanist view instead of a reactionary spirit. This should help. We cannot reproduce the 1930-1940 dark time!

  3. I think the article misses the point.
    First, we can certainly complain about the poor quality of extreme right science policy propositions. But what is the alternative? Are mainstream parties any better? Crisis in academia is only getting worse: unhealthy funding systems, overproduction of graduates, lack of permanent positions etc. etc. Neo-liberal corporate language dominated entirely contemporary science policies. The “socialist” president Hollande changed nothing in the French academic world. Far-right offers a new narrative, and since people get more and more frustrated, they may fall for it. Anyways, can it get any worse than it is now?
    Second, far right does not appeal to academia, but to the abandoned working class who, in spite of the tremendous techno-scientific progress, barely profits from it. Liberal democracies slowly but continuously devolve in techno-dystopias with rich ruling classes and apovrished masses. These masses more and more often identify scientists with the arrogant oppressive system. The rise of creationists, climate deniers or anti-vaxxers in Europe only confirm this tendency.
    I believe that extreme right is nothing but a response to neoliberalism. But, I am afraid, they are the only ones to speak loudly against it.

    1. Hi,

      I don’t thin that the extreme right propositions are “poor”. I think that their behaviour is completely antagonistic with research in itself.
      Now, I’m pretty sure that almost no one casts a vote because of the candidates opinion about Research, and that it is mostly a concern for scientists themselves…
      I do not agree that extreme right is the only movement criticizing liberalism, but it certainly is the one who has the best access to mass media 🙁