by Chris Jarvis.
With results from all countries except Ireland, the European elections depict a bleak picture. Across the continent, an array of hard right parties has seen electoral success as the vote has swung in their direction. Ranging from the latent, little Englander racism of UKIP, to the Muslim hating nationalism of the Front Nationale and the openly fascistic Golden Dawn, they all, at root, have a core based in the politics of division, the politics of fear and the politics of hate.
Of course, they are not all the same. UKIP are not wholly comparable to Golden Dawn, whose representatives have holocaust deniers among their ranks or Hungary’s Jobbik, whose Deputy Parliamentary leader has referred to those with Jewish ancestry as a threat to their nation’s security. To claim them as the same would be to downplay the truly repugnant and terrifying anti-Semitism of some of the parties who will be taking seats in the new European parliament.
Off the back of a crisis of capitalism, they are telling you that the reason for your plight is the man and woman who speak a different language
But what the rise of both the Neo-Nazis and the hard right, anti-immigrant parties share is a form of scapegoating and hatemongering that cannot be ignored. It indicates that a movement is rising in several countries that is asking you to blame the person next door. Off the back of a crisis of capitalism, they are telling you that the reason for your plight is the man and woman who speak a different language, whose skin colour differs from yours and whose place of birth was elsewhere.
Opportunistically, these parties are using a right-wing ideological shift in our political elites which has seen neoliberalism further exploit the people and the planet, even after the greatest economic downturn since the 1930s, to tell you that rather than government’s failure to provide proper employment, welfare and an income high enough for people to live on, the real culprit is the immigrant and the other.
Some will write these results off, and say that we shouldn’t worry about them. European elections are always used, across the continent, as a protest vote, where fringe and extremist parties gain a foothold. To take this approach is dangerous.
It is dangerous for three reasons. Firstly, this is the first election that has taken place to the European parliament where parties of the hard right have seen such success. Although in previous years, UKIP have picked up a fair share of representatives, alongside Lega Nord in Italy and the Dutch Party for Freedom, none of these parties had come close to topping the poll, and their success has not been spread over so many nations. This year, both the Front Nationale and UKIP have won the most seats in France and Britain respectively, and countries including Greece, Germany and Sweden have seen the hard right win seats for the first time. This is unsettling and unprecedented.
Secondly, we cannot simply say that having fascists, racists and migrant bashers elected to one of the most important political bodies in the world does not matter. Elections to the European parliament aren’t merely an opinion poll which has no ramifications for policy proposals or implementation. Those neo-Nazis and those across Europe calling for repatriation of Islamic immigrants will now be taking seats in a body whose decisions have implications across the whole of Europe. The European Parliament matters and it matters that these people are sitting in it, with the power to make laws that affect us all.
the left has failed to capture real ground in these elections, and that is a worrying sign.
And finally, the rise of the hard right matters, because at a time of unprecedented attacks on working people, of mass unemployment, of continued austerity that is robbing the poor, the people of Europe are choosing to turn rightwards, rather than to the left. With a few exceptions, such as SYRIZA in Greece, the left has failed to capture real ground in these elections, and that is a worrying sign.
For those of us on the left, for those of us who are committed anti-fascists, and for those of us who want to see a world where the politics of hope and equality triumph over that of hate, we need to take lessons from these elections. We need to think hard about how we are going to beat the far right, how we can combat their call for the people of Europe to turn against each other, and how we move forward to build a movement for a world free from discrimination and exploitation. And we need to do it quickly, before the flag of hate begins to fly high across Europe again.