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Beyond Left and Right

New Perspectives on the Politics of the Third Republic

Linda E. Mitchell

The articles in this issue all reflect on the various ways in which political trends during the period of the Third Republic have been categorized by both historians of the period and the political actors themselves. Ranging in topic from political trends in the French military in the years after the Dreyfus Affair to the participation of women in the politics of the extreme Right, these pieces focus especially on the need to transcend categories of Left and Right in order to discuss more accurately the ways in which the political party system developed, in particular during the years between the world wars.

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Gérard Grunberg

The 2007 presidential elections have been the most important in France since 1981 because they provoked ruptures in the way the state and the French political system function. These ruptures, which this essay explores, include: the structural advantage the Right now has over the Left in national elections; the extension of the president's power and role in the regime; the transformation of the French political parties system into bipartism; and, finally, evolution inside the two major French parties due not only to the personality, ideas and choices of their respective candidates but also to the growing role of the president in the regime and its effects.

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Roger Karapin

Most explanations that have been advanced regarding the recent

successes of far-right parties in Western Europe suggest that these

parties should have also done well in Germany. With a high percapita

income and a strong export-oriented economy, Germany has

experienced large-scale immigration, a shift toward postindustrial

occupations, economic restructuring, unemployment, and social

marginalization of the poorest strata. These socioeconomic developments

have been accompanied by political responses which

should also benefit the far right: political parties have lost credibility, non-voting has increased, and ecological parties have become

established and have spurred environmental, feminist, and proimmigrant

policies.

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Benjamin Abrams and Giovanni A. Travaglino

Social protest is not always a simple process. Social movements, activists, or political parties can attempt to change the status quo, but they do not often do so through a single, traceable process of contention. Instead, they encounter selective participation, community dynamics, dilemmas about how and where to spend their time, and interventions by governments and other elites that seriously impact their momentum. The articles in this issue assess these complicating phenomena, examining issues of system justification, local community responses to hate, the balancing of online and offline protest, and the role of government and media elites in circumventing the rise of protest movements.

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Joanna Wojdon

This article analyzes textbooks and curricula for primary schools in Poland published between 1944 and 1989 to show how the communist regime attempted to influence Polish history education via political change and educational reform. The article focuses on five aspects of this influence: Marxist methodology of history, portrayals of political parties, promotion of a “scientific“ worldview, justification of new boundaries and alliances of the People's Poland, and a new pantheon of national heroes. In conclusion, the article investigates the effectiveness of history education in shaping Polish collective memory under the communist regime.

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Mapai's Bolshevist Image

A Critical Analysis

Avi Bareli

This article describes and analyzes the image of Mapai, Israel's ruling political party during its first decades, as an undemocratic 'Bolshevist party'. This perception is based on certain associations between socialist-Zionist collectivism and the totalitarian political culture of Soviet communism. The article reviews the public-political background regarding this image in Israeli political discourse and scholarship and then examines the reasons for its ready acceptance. Finally, it is argued that this Bolshevist image has functioned as a rhetorical tool that has allowed public leaders and scholars who had been involved with the Zionist labor movement to distance themselves from it.

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Ulrich Eith

On 9 November 1989, the government of the German Democratic

Republic decided to open the Berlin Wall, effectively signaling the

collapse of the socialist system in East Germany. The subsequent

transformation of the country’s political structures, and in particular

that of its political parties, took place in two phases. In the first

phase, directly after the fall of the wall, the GDR’s political system

underwent a radical democratic and pluralistic overhaul without

West German involvement—although the existence of a second German

state, the Federal Republic of Germany, naturally influenced

the goals, strategies, and scope of action of the actors concerned.

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Making (a) Difference

Paperwork and the Political Machine

Alexander Thomas T. Smith

Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork carried out in Dumfries and Galloway, this article describes how Conservative Party activists put a variety of discursive artefacts to work as they sought to mass produce and distribute leaflets during the 2003 local Government and Scottish Parliament elections. The leaflet, called In Touch, rendered explicit the need to demonstrate that a political candidate and political party are connected (in touch) with a wider community. This leaflet was therefore designed to invoke a set of connections between person (the candidate), place (the Council Ward/community) and political party (the Conservatives) that might register with even the most disinterested elector. At the same time, the production of these leaflets facilitated the generation of an activist network amongst the party's volunteer base, which exhausted itself by the time Polling Day passed. I argue that addressing logistical and organizational questions - that is, activist methodology - in the production of the In Touch leaflet focused the attention of political activists more than the 'issues' on which they intended to campaign, which were 'found' or 'produced' as artefacts or contrivances of activist labour. In addressing such questions, Tory strategists hoped to 'make (a) difference' given that they tended to view previous campaigns to have been executed in an amateur and disorganized fashion. Through the sheer scale of their production and distribution throughout Dumfries and Galloway, it was hoped that the In Touch leaflets would produce social as well as electoral effects.

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Helga A. Welsh

The Freie Wähler (free voters, FW) offer the rare chance to analyze parties in the making. Their long-time anchoring in local elections, centrist, middle-class political orientation, and bifurcated organizational structure distinguish them from other new political parties that aspire to participate in Land (state), national and European elections. Against the backdrop of FW success in Bavaria, where they received 10.2 percent of the vote in 2008, this article explores the FW expansion to the state level but not their national aspirations. In contrast to most studies that emphasize opportunity structures that work in favor of new political actors, this article highlights their dialectical nature. For example, the FW self-image is based on their difference from political parties, but the rules of the game push them to the status of "almost-party" at the local level and parties at the Land level. Their local roots are a source of legitimacy, but when they reach beyond, divisions among members and voters hold back their electoral fortunes. Independence and issue orientation are appealing to some voters but hamper the establishment of a clear identity and effective campaigning in state elections. Success for FW candidates is linked to the weakness of the dominant parties in the conservative camp. Spatial-temporal conditions are significant in considering the future of the FW at the Land level.

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Gerard Braunthal

Much has been written about German right-extremist groups, regardless of whether they are neo-Nazi political parties or skinheads, but little has been published about their recruitment of new members and sympathizers. As is true of any group, the rightist movement needs constantly TO replenish its ranks in order not to shrink. Thus, they seek recruits in the high school and university student populations. In the latter, they have wooed members of conservative fraternities especially. Moreover, they have sought to win over recruits and officer trainees in the German armed forces. This article assesses their degree of success and raises the questions whether the recruitment by rightist groups differs from democratic groups and whether the rightist groups pose a threat to the existing democratic system.