Last Thursday’s elections saw the right win the largest share of the vote in the majority of European Union states.
The media was quick to gloat that the left had failed to gain from a growing recession.
It is worth pointing out that at the onset of the Great Depression in the 1930s there was not an immediate swing to the left. That came in the middle of the decade, as the immediate shock of the slump wore off.
Tony Benn explained the right’s success by arguing, “When people fear that they are not protected by their governments, they go back to nationalism.” But the real picture is more complicated.
For a decade and a half, Labour and its European “socialist” counterparts have embraced neoliberal economic and social policies. The gap between the centre-right and the centre-left has narrowed.
The centre-left offered no message of hope or change last week – and it paid the price.
The fascists and anti-immigrant parties gained in some countries but, for instance, in Ireland the centre right Fianna Fail collapsed.
The left all too often failed to advance because of division–in Italy, for example, no communists were elected.
All elections are a snapshot of the popular mood. These elections show a volatile mood which can shift direction quickly.