It’s been three-quarters of a century since 160,000 Allied troops landed on the coast of Normandy, France. For a heavy price, they won a battle that opened the way to the liberation of Europe (and the world) from a Nazi-fascist grip.
Much can be said about the Allied force’s, and particularly America’s, reasons for getting involved in such a gruesome battle—and war—so far away from home. Money was a factor, of course. So was the prospect of everlasting global political influence. But while governments may have had ulterior motives, it is hard to discount the plain heroism of the thousands of soldiers who fought, often to their deaths, to defeat an insidious ideology.
World War II, of course, didn’t end totalitarianism—the USSR, China, North Korea, and many other countries were just getting started with their own dictatorships—but it did defeat fascism and far-right, xenophobic, nationalistic ideology. Once the war was over, most of Europe was free from these kinds of regimes. The only exceptions were Spain, which would remain under Francisco Franco’s control until 1975, and Portugal, whose far-right Estado Novo held power until 1974, making it the longest surviving dictatorship of the 20th Century.
The war left Europe and parts of Asia destroyed and impoverished, but the years that followed were a time of great growth and development—both economic and in terms of human rights. The United Nations was founded. Former imperial powers finally let go of most, if not all, their colonies around the world. International conventions were drafted and ratified to define the rights of people beyond nations, and the relationships of nations with one another. Poverty decreased significantly, life expectancy went up, and despite the turbulences that continued to disturb the course of progress (the Cold War, the Vietnam War, the dictatorships that replaced colonial powers), no major global conflict again erupted.
So it is with some surprise that today, in 2019, there is an ongoing global revival of xenophobic, nationalistic political movements. While such political groups have never ceased to exist completely, in the past few years they have managed to take back a spot on the stage, either in coalition with conservative governments or by themselves.
The list below looks at the countries that were involved in World War II and are now witnessing a resurgence of nationalistic, right-wing and even far-right movements large enough to win elections, and form governments. In many other countries, including France, Greece, or—perhaps most troublingly—Germany, far-right, xenophobic, and nationalist parties and movements have been on the rise, too, but have fallen short of representing a majority of voters.
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