Return to Recent Articles menu

European elections: rise of the far right runs alongside the capitalist war drive

17 June 2024

AfD leaders celebrate the election results.

Most of the analysis of the European elections reflects the Irish method of the tallyman. This produces enormous detail on voting patterns, shifts and transfers, but tends to obscure a broader political picture. The claim in the European elections is of a slight weakening of the centre and a shift to the right, caused by anti-migrant sentiment. As in Ireland, the immiseration of the working class and the drive towards war in Europe are ignored, as is the genocide in Gaza.

The reality is that the centre right parties are by far the most effective oppressors of migrants and are united behind the US. There is much discontent, but this is only weakly reflected in the vote. The story behind the story is the collapse of left-wing forces and the absence of an alternative programme against capitalism, war and racism.

So, the most important element of the migrant issue is European support for occupation and genocide in west Asia and across the global south, challenged by the left on humanitarian grounds. In Europe itself, the war in Ukraine has led to catastrophe, with left groups supporting the advance of NATO and the US war drive, each iteration leading to further escalation towards a direct intervention by the US and a drift towards nuclear war.

The collapse of the USSR in 1991 and the steady collapse of the social democracy was accompanied by socialist groups moving to the right. It is often forgotten that the German Greens were founded in1980 by socialists with the rationale that it was impossible to build a socialist movement and they should take the opportunity to mobilise around climate concerns. Today the German greens are the most ferocious militarists and imperialists, demanding all-out war with Russia.  A later burst of opportunism led to the formation of Die Linke, a mild social democratic group that applies austerity politics and is unable to even criticise zionism.

Because of the decay of the left, immiseration in many countries caused by the war drive meets no effective opposition. Much opposition is based on red-brown populist parties with a jumble of policies or by support for far-right parties. However, when the overall modest shift to the right across Europe is combined with the growing fragmentation between the states, political collapse becomes clearer.

 In Austria, the far-right Freedom Party won the most votes in the European elections on a “Stop the EU Madness” platform calling for an end to “warmongering.” In France, Marine Le Pen, the far-right leader with pro-Russia sympathies, trounced French President Emmanuel Macron. In Germany, those opposed to arming Ukraine — far-right Alternative for Germany and a new red-brown party led by Sahra Wagenknecht — were the only political forces to see their ranks swell. Backing for the AfD jumped by 4.9% to climb to 15.9% and Wagenknecht's anti-war party won 6.2% of the vote in its first elections.

It is at the national level that the European crisis really asserts itself. In France Macron won 15% of the vote and has called a snap election.  In Germany Scholz did worse, yet no-one points to the proximate cause - Macron's role in spearheading the drive to direct war with Russia and Scholz's role in standing by as the US destroyed Nord Stream 2 and trebling energy costs for German voters. This gives an opening on the right, as many of the far-right parties oppose war.

A theme in the elections was divisions between member countries over the proxy war in Ukraine: The attempted assassination of Slovakian prime minister Robert Fico by a pro-western activist.  Bulgarian doubt about the possibility of a Ukrainian victory, Hungarian Viktor Orbán has negotiated a special deal to absent the country from war plans. Georgia was the subject of mass demonstrations when organisations in receipt of US and European funds were asked to register these interests.

The situation in Europe is similar to that in the US. The capitalist parties are increasingly violent, chaotic and lawless. The choice is between Tweedledum and Tweedledee. The left is largely invisible and tied to liberalism and the far right make significant advances.

In France there is panic. The left groups propose a popular front around a simple call to stop the Fascists. There seems to be no need for a wider programme. But matters are not so simple. Simply uniting the left will not counteract the 1/3 of the electorate who voted right. The right themselves have moved away from a directly fascist programme to a horrible rascist and anti-working class programme that does not go so far as to dissolve the bourgeois state. The victory of Giorgia Meloni in Italy shows that these parties are willing to be loyal servants of imperialism.

A proposal for no electoral challenge to members of the left bloc may help maximise the vote, but without a political programme such manoeuvres, will, not for the first time, fail.  The issue in front of our eyes is the disintegration of Europe under the pressure of US hegemony, the proxy war in Ukraine and the ever-looming danger of nuclear conflict. In this battle many leftists are effectively on the side of the US and NATO. Until they reverse course they will not be able to build a genuine defence of the working class.

Return to top of page