An unusual study, entitled “The new face of digital populism,” was published in early November by the think tank Demos, which asked 10,000 far right militants across Europe to explain how they viewed the development of society.

In constructing an analysis of the “new right” based on the reasoning of its members, Demos met with these activists in the environment where they are most at home, that is to say on social networks: most of their activity is on-line, although, from time to time, they do vote, demonstrate and display their commitment by other means.

The movement ranges from the troublemakers in the English Defence League to established political leaders, like Geert Wilders in the Netherlands and Jimmie Åkesson in Sweden.

Disappearance of national identity

Its members, who have no confidence in politicians or in the judicial system, go to the polls with hardly any conviction that their votes will make any difference. Most of them are men — only a quarter of these militants are women — and most of them are young (two thirds of far-right netizens are aged under 30).

It is a cross-border digital movement, which paradoxically campaigns for the restoration of borders, and an international organisation made up of individuals that do not like foreigners.

The European far-right encompasses several trends and movements, and we should be reluctant to generalise. But it is clear that large sections of the population in Europe are worried about the disappearance of their national identity, which they consider to be threatened by European integration and globalisation.

Given that Europe has already experienced war and genocide, it should be immune to the lure of the nationalist road. However, it seems that this is not the case.

Which country is next on the list?

Amid concerns about spending deficits, much has been said about the need to restore market confidence in Europe and its member states. But people’s confidence is even more important, and in particular the confidence of the young generation. But European leaders do not appear to care.

As it stands, the management of the crisis has increased inequality and marginalised entire sections of society. The situation is at its worst in Greece which has suffered the most pain from austerity: in one year, 400,000 people have lost their jobs in the country, where a quarter of the population is now living below the poverty line. Which country is next on the list? What will happen in Italy now that Berlusconi has gone?

The current situation resembles a textbook example of how not to treat people if you want to avoid a social explosion that will once again bring out the jackboots from Europe’s shoe cupboards.