Europe: Rise of the right-wing parties means new challenges for workers
The European election results have revealed the deepening class polarisation taking place across Europe with the far right making substantial gains while to a lesser extent gains were made by the reformist Left.
In the UK UKIP achieved a landslide, winning 27.5% of the vote and 24 seats in the European Parliament, beating Labour into second place with 25% and the Conservatives into third place. Taking the Conservatives and UKIP together, this marks a large right wing majority and a significant lurch to the right.
Likewise in France the Front National made large gains, winning 24 seats and coming first in 70% of the countries regions. This was to some extent credited to the decline in the conservative opposition to the ruling socialists, the UMP, down from 29 to 20 seats but the rise of Le Pen and their brand of xenophobic nationalism marks a huge surge for the right in France.
In Hungary the virulently anti semitic Jobbik Party, who argue that Jewish people should be forced to sign a special register, actually declined a little, falling from 21% to 15% of the vote, but their brand of far right politics still has a substantial presence with 3 seats. The conservative Fidesz party of Viktor Orban increased it’s vote to 51% and 12 seats.
While in Greece the big news was Syriza topping the poll and winning three seats, the fascists of Golden Dawn, whose politics are more centred on the streets than in Parliament also outstripped expectations, gaining a seat in Brussels.
In Southern Ireland Sinn Fein have succeeded in becoming the new “left” and like Syriza have 3 seats. They are joined by a wide variety of independents who largely present a vague reformist perspective. Taken together they represent a confused swing away from the conservative parties, Labour was virtually wiped out. This swing is tenuous however, with Fianna Fail remaining relatively steady and the Greens making a comeback.
In Spain the Podemos Party, arising from the indignatos movement, won 5 seats. Significantly this success is more linked to a spontaneous movement on the streets while at the same time both of Spain’s establishment parties suffered heavy losses.
In Portugal the mainstream socialist opposition took 31% of the vote beating the government in to second place.
In Germany while the far Right did not have much electoral success the election of a Neo Nazi in Dortmund is significant, provoking a riot by neo Nazis who openly boast of their connection with the Ukrainian Svoboda thugs and who have produced election posters bearing the slogan, “We not only hang posters”. The Neo Nazis have been rising in Dortmund for some time, with a presence going back at least a decade.
Overall the turn out for the elections was low at 43.1% with the low point in Slovakia where 87% stayed away from the polls.
The credit collapse and the long recession that has followed it has been compared to the great depression of the 1930’s but this time the world financial system has generally been able to rely on Liberals and the reformist left to carry out their required austerity measures, with the exception of Ukraine. There, the imposition of the IMF’s and EU’s dictates could not be carried out by either the pro Russian oligarch, Yanukovich, or the pro EU oligarch Timoshenko. Despite repeated tries the IMF’s loan had to be frozen due to the recipient’s inability to impose the full extent of the required austerity measures on the Ukrainian working class. When Yanukovich opted for the easier option of a Russian bailout package the western imperialists utilised their long standing relationship with the far right, ultra nationalists and fascists to overthrow the Yanukovich government. This putsch established fascists at the core of the state, with ministers in key positions, and formalised and armed their fascist street fighters, along with other mercenaries as a ‘National Guard’.
While this is not happening in the imperialist heart of the EU, fascism has been utilised by the EU in Ukraine, within the confines of Europe, to carry out the same austerity agenda that has been introduced by other methods in Ireland and other European countries. The significance of this is not lost on the right throughout the imperialist bloc. In Greece Golden Dawn have been emboldened enough to proudly pronounce themselves as fascist and in Germany the bourgeois press turns a blind eye to the political rebirth of the eastern supporters of the Third Reich and revises their attitude to the Russian liberation of eastern Germany from the Nazis. The Russophobic atmosphere has allowed the Frankfurter Allgemiene Zeitung, with a daily circulation of 320,000, to produce a front page article that previously would have caused outrage but which now presents the Soviet army’s advance across eastern Germany as a “bad experience” rather than as a liberation from the Nazis.
The genie is out of the bottle and no matter who won the election in Ukraine the fascists have retained all their important posts, despite gaining only 1% of the vote the make up of the government remains the same.
In the North of Ireland people have long been accustomed to sectarian ‘cleansing’ and insularity but in recent years, reflecting the European wide rise in xenophobia, this has been added to by a campaign of loyalist attacks on immigrants and ethnic cleansing as the crisis deepens. It is not an accident that this pattern arises, its material basis is in the crisis conditions that exist but those conditions are mediated by the self conscious political interests of imperialism, interested in dividing the working class, diverting frustrations in the direction of fascism and sectarianism, and using racist, sectarian and fascist ideology against any resistance to imperialism’s plans.
For revolutionaries the day after the election is the most important day of the campaign, when the struggle continues outside Parliament, in the workplaces, the streets and the communities. It is there that the task of building working class resistance and a conscious revolutionary organisation to overthrow the corrupt capitalist system, and the misanthropic ideologies it produces, is carried out on a daily basis. The complacent belief of the liberal left that fascism could never rise again has not been shaken by imperialism’s murderous use of Svoboda and the Right Sector in Ukraine nor the rise of fascist organisations, racism and right wing extremists across Europe, reflected in the European elections. This is no time for complacency. For the working class the task of building resistance to the imperialist assault, economic, political and military and particularly the growth of fascism, is a pressing necessity. For imperialism all tools are at hand for the resolution of their crisis, nothing is anathema. The lessons of the European election are sobering; the lessons of Ukraine are stark!