National liberalism

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National liberalism is a variant of liberalism, combining liberal policies and issues with elements of nationalism [1] [2] and/or a term used to describe a series of European political parties that have been especially active in the 19th century in several national contexts such as Central Europe, the Nordic countries and Southeast Europe.

Liberalism is a political and moral philosophy based on liberty, consent of the governed, and equality before the law. Liberals espouse a wide array of views depending on their understanding of these principles, but they generally support limited government, individual rights, capitalism, democracy, secularism, gender equality, racial equality, internationalism, freedom of speech, freedom of the press and freedom of religion. Yellow is the political colour most commonly associated with liberalism.

Nationalism is an ideology and movement characterized by the promotion of the interests of a particular nation, especially with the aim of gaining and maintaining the nation's sovereignty (self-governance) over its homeland. Nationalism holds that each nation should govern itself, free from outside interference (self-determination), that a nation is a natural and ideal basis for a polity, and that the nation is the only rightful source of political power. It further aims to build and maintain a single national identity—based on shared social characteristics such as culture, language, religion, politics, and belief in a shared singular history—and to promote national unity or solidarity. Nationalism, therefore, seeks to preserve and foster a nation's traditional culture, and cultural revivals have been associated with nationalist movements. It also encourages pride in national achievements, and is closely linked to patriotism. Nationalism is often combined with other ideologies, such as conservatism or socialism for example.

Europe Continent in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere

Europe is a continent located entirely in the Northern Hemisphere and mostly in the Eastern Hemisphere. It is bordered by the Arctic Ocean to the north, the Atlantic Ocean to the west, Asia to the east, and the Mediterranean Sea to the south. It comprises the westernmost part of Eurasia.



National liberalism, whose goals were the pursuit of individual/economic freedom and national sovereignty, [3] refers primarily to an ideology and a movement of the 19th century, [4] but national-liberal parties exist also today.

József Antall, a historian and Christian democrat who served as the first post-communist Prime Minister of Hungary, described national liberalism as "part and parcel of the emergence of the nation state" in 19th-century Europe. [5]

József Antall Prime Minister of Hungary, 1990-1993

József Antall Jr. was a Hungarian teacher, librarian, historian, and statesman who served as the first democratically elected Prime Minister of Hungary, holding office from May 1990 until his death in December 1993. He was also the leader of the Hungarian Democratic Forum from 1989.

Christian democracy is a political ideology that emerged in nineteenth-century Europe under the influence of Catholic social teaching, as well as Neo-Calvinism. Christian democratic political ideology advocates for a commitment to social market principles and qualified interventionism. It was conceived as a combination of modern democratic ideas and traditional Christian values, incorporating the social teachings espoused by the Catholic, Lutheran, Reformed, and Pentecostal traditions in various parts of the world. After World War II, the Protestant and Catholic movements of the Social Gospel and Neo-Thomism, respectively, played a role in shaping Christian democracy. Christian democracy continues to be influential in Europe and Latin America, although it is also present in other parts of the world.

Prime Minister of Hungary

The Prime Minister of Hungary is the head of government in Hungary. The Prime Minister and the Cabinet are collectively accountable for their policies and actions to the Parliament, to their political party and ultimately to the electorate. The current holder of the office is Viktor Orbán, leader of the Fidesz – Hungarian Civic Alliance, who has served since 29 May 2010.

According to Oskar Mulej, "in terms of both ideologies and political party traditions it may be argued that in the Central European lands a distinct type of liberalism, peculiar to this region evolved through the nineteenth century" [6] and citing Maciej Janowski, "the word 'national' acted as more or less synonymous with 'liberal'" ("'national' alone was sufficient to arouse suspicions of liberal associations"). [7] Also according to Mulej, in Southeast Europe "'national liberals' also played visible if not central roles, but with rather different, region-specific characteristics, which to a considerable extent distinguished them from their Central European counterparts." [6] [8]

Central Europe Region of Europe

Central Europe is the region comprising the central part of Europe. Central Europe occupies continuous territories that are otherwise sometimes considered parts of Western Europe, Southern Europe, and Eastern Europe. The concept of Central Europe is based on a common historical, social, and cultural identity.

Southeast Europe Geographic region in Europe

Southeast Europe or Southeastern Europe (SEE) is a geographical region of Europe, consisting primarily of the coterminous Balkan Peninsula. There are overlapping and conflicting definitions as to where exactly Southeastern Europe begins or ends or how it relates to other regions of the continent. Sovereign states that are most frequently included in the region are, in alphabetical order: Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Greece, Kosovo, Montenegro, North Macedonia, Romania, Serbia, and Slovenia.

In his book Up From Conservatism, Michael Lind defines national liberalism in a way that The Progressive describes as matching historian Arthur M. Schlesinger Jr.'s use of the expression "Vital Center". [9] Lind himself defines national liberalism as uniting "moderate social conservatism with moderate economic liberalism". [10]

Michael Lind American journalist

Michael Lind is an American writer.

<i>The Progressive</i> magazine

The Progressive is an American magazine and website of politics, culture and progressivism with a left-leaning perspective. Founded in 1909 by Senator Robert "Fighting Bob" La Follette and co-edited with his wife Belle Case La Follette, it was originally called La Follette's Weekly and then simply La Follette's. In 1929, it was recapitalized and had its name changed to The Progressive.; For a period The Progressive was co-owned by the La Follette family and William Evjue's newspaper The Capital Times. Its headquarters is in Madison, Wisconsin.

Historian person who studies and writes about the past

A historian is a person who studies and writes about the past, and is regarded as an authority on it. Historians are concerned with the continuous, methodical narrative and research of past events as relating to the human race; as well as the study of all history in time. If the individual is concerned with events preceding written history, the individual is a historian of prehistory. Some historians are recognized by publications or training and experience. "Historian" became a professional occupation in the late nineteenth century as research universities were emerging in Germany and elsewhere.

Gordon Smith, a leading scholar of comparative European politics, understands national liberalism as a political concept that lost popularity when the success of nationalist movements in creating nation states rendered it no longer necessary to specify that a liberal ideal, party or politician was "national". [11]

Gordon Smith (academic) British political scientist

Gordon Smith was a British lecturer, professor and political scholar in the field of German and comparative European politics, who served as Head of Department for Government at the London School of Economics. He is said to have been one of Britain's leading scholars of comparative European politics.


The roots of national liberalism are to be found in the 19th century, when conservative liberalism and/or classical liberalism was the ideology of the political classes in most European countries and in particular those of Central Europe, then governed by hereditary monarchies.

At their origin, national liberals, although pro-business, were not necessarily advocates of free trade and economic liberalism per se and sometimes favoured cooperation between the government and the national industry, moderate levels of protectionism, the establishment of preferential custom unions, subsidies for infant industry or companies considered of national strategic importance and various forms of industrial planning.[ citation needed ]

National liberalism was popular in a number of countries including Germany, Austria, Denmark, Sweden, Finland and Romania during the 19th century. [12] In Germany, Austria and Romania, national liberals and/or "National Liberal" parties were long in government.[ citation needed ] More specifically, in German-speaking countries national liberals were also in favour of a more authoritarian or conservative political regime because of the multi-ethnic character or heterogeneous nature of countries like the Austrian Empire (later officially renamed Austria-Hungary) or the newly created Germany under Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.[ citation needed ]


In 19th-century Germany, believers in national liberalism differed from liberal nationalists in that they believed in a more authoritarian presence in Europe and a strong German Empire. Liberal nationalists, such as Max Weber, were looking towards a democratic Germany in cooperation with the other European powers.[ citation needed ]

At the time of the German Empire, national liberalism was represented by the National Liberal Party (NLP), the largest in the Reichstag for several years. National Liberals supported Bismarck, who served as Chancellor from 1871 (unification of Germany) to 1890, until the late 1870s when the Chancellor reversed his early free trade policies, became a proponent of protectionism, opposed increasing parliamentary powers and ultimately pandered for the support of the German Conservative Party (largely representing the wealthy landowning elite Junkers of Prussia). [13] [14] [15] [16] Additionally, the NLP (which had obtained around 30% in the first three federal elections, including 30.1% in the 1871 federal election) suffered huge losses in the 1878 federal election and especially the 1881 federal election (when it was reduced to 14.6%). Later, the party experienced a steady decline in its share of vote, contextually with the rise of the Social Democratic Party and the Centre Party at the turn of the century.

During the Weimar Republic, the NLP was succeeded by the German People's Party (DVP), whose main leader was Gustav Stresemann, Chancellor (1923) and Minister of Foreign Affairs (1923–1929). The DVP, which was joined by some moderate elements of the Free Conservative Party (FKP) and the Economic Union (WV), [17] was generally thought to represent the interests of the great German industrialists and has been classified as a national-liberal party by several observers. [18] [19] [20] Its platform stressed Christian family values, secular education, lower tariffs, opposition to welfare spending and agrarian subsidies and hostility to "Marxism" (that is to say, both the Communist Party and the Social Democratic Party). After Stresemann's death, the DVP, whose ranks included several anti-republicans, veered sharply to the right. [21]

The current Free Democratic Party (FDP), which was the joint successor of the DVP and the social liberal German Democratic Party (DDP), originally featured conservative and partly nationalist efforts, which were particularly strong in some state associations until the 1950s [22] and more occasionally after that (an interesting example is that of Jürgen Möllemann, FDP leader in North Rhine-Westphalia in 1983–1994 and 1996–2002) [23] and still includes a national-liberal faction, [24] which holds a consistently Eurosceptic position, differently from the rest of the party. [25] Some right-wing elements, including Sven Tritschler (former leader of the Stresemann Club), [26] have more recently joined the Alternative for Germany (AfD), [27] which has in turn been characterised by some observers as national liberal. [28] [29] [30]


In Austria-Hungary, the Constitutional Party was the main representative of national liberalism. [6] In Austria, national liberalism has remained the basis of one of the three Lager, or ideological camps, in the country, dating back to the Revolutions of 1848 in the Austrian Empire. [31] During the interwar period, the national-liberal camp was gathered into the Greater German People's Party. [32] By 1938, with the Anschluss of Austria into Nazi Germany, the national-liberal camp had been swallowed whole by Austrian National Socialism and all other parties were eventually absorbed into Nazi totalitarianism. [33] Both Socialists and Christian Socials were persecuted under the Nazi regime and the national-liberal camp was scarred after the war due to guilt by association with National Socialism. [33]

In 1949, the Federation of Independents (VdU) was founded as a national-liberal alternative to the main Austrian parties. [34] It incorporated an array of political movements, including free market liberals, populists, former Nazis and German nationalists, all of whom had been unable to join either of the two main parties. [34] [35] [36] The VdU evolved into the Freedom Party of Austria (FPÖ) in 1955–1956. [37] [38] [39] When Jörg Haider was chosen as new FPÖ leader in 1986, the party started an ideological turn towards right-wing populism, which resulted in the split of most liberals, who formed the Liberal Forum (LiF), which took over the FPÖ's membership in the Liberal International and would later eventually merge into NEOS. Haider himself would split from the party and form the Alliance for the Future of Austria in 2005.


In Denmark, from the 1840s the core concept of national liberalism was that the nation and the state should have the same extent. National liberals supported the union the Kingdom of Denmark and the Duchy of Schleswig under a common constitutional framework. On the economy, the state should not interfere with trade and the national-liberal economic vision was transposed in the 1857 Law on Freedom of Business, which abolished the last remnants of the feudal monopolies which had previously formed the framework for the craft of the cities. [40] Danish national liberals supported Scandinavism and thus Scandinavian unity. [41]


In Sweden, in the 1860s liberals described themselves as national liberals (nationalliberaler) and constituted a coalition of monarchists and liberal reformists in support of parliamentary reforms. [12] Swedish national liberals also supported Scandinavism. [41]


In the Grand Duchy of Finland, an autonomous part of the Russian Empire, where as many as 80% of the population was Protestant and Finnish-speaking, somewhat under 20% Protestant Swedish speakers (Sweden ruled Finland until 1809) and a small number Russian Orthodox, the term "national liberal" was used by the elite Swedish-speakers of the Svecoman movement who advocated liberal ideals, but wanted to keep Swedish as the dominant language, an idea opposed by Finnish-speaking nationalists of the Fennoman movement. [12] The Svecoman movement gave birth to the Swedish Party, which was later renamed Swedish People's Party in Finland, which has since moved to mainstream liberalism and social liberalism and is often a party of government in the country.


In Russia, "national liberalism" was a 1990s movement claiming to be redefining "liberal" principles as understood in the Western tradition to produce a "national liberalism" better suited to Russian culture, [42] being practically a variety of Russian nationalism.


In Romania, the National Liberal Party (PNL), founded in 1875, revived in 1990 and enlarged in 2014 (when it absorbed the Democratic Liberal Party, PDL), has also been part of the national-liberal tradition. Today, it is one of the country's two main parties. President Klaus Iohannis hails from it. The PNL is now mainly liberal-conservative and pro-Europeanist placed on the centre-right of the political spectrum concerning economy, society, culture, freedom of expression and civil liberties.


Freedom and Solidarity (SaS), the liberal [43] and libertarian [44] main opposition party after the 2016 parliamentary election in Slovakia, has been shifting from liberalism to Euroscepticism and nationalism and/or combining liberalism and nationalism. As a fact, SaS is not a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe Party, but of the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe, along with conservative and Eurosceptic parties. SaS leader Richard Sulík described himself both as a liberal and as a nationalist, [45] but later corrected himself by saying that he was a liberal and a patriot while condemning chauvinism, racism and religious fanaticism and opposing the withdrawal of Slovakia from the European Union. [46] However, the party has never been classified as national-liberal by third-party sources.

Czech Republic

In Austria-Hungary the Young Czech Party, emerged in 1874 after a split from the Old Czech Party, was a national-liberal force. During Czechoslovakia's era (1918–1992), a few parties were described as national-liberal: Czechoslovak National Democracy, the National Labour Party and, after 1989, the Czech National Social Party.

Today, the conservative Civic Democratic Party (ODS) in the Czech Republic has been described as a national-liberal party. [47] The ODS is a member of the Alliance of Conservatives and Reformists in Europe, as Slovakia's Freedom and Solidarity, and the International Democrat Union.


In Israel since 1973 operates Likud–National Liberal Movement, main centre-right and Zionist political party in the country.

Other uses

Several political parties have included "national liberal" in their names or ideology. A list is available at National Liberal Party.

See also


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