Socialist Worker

Europe—the struggle against the right

Issue No. 2657

The far right have mobilised across Europe, but recent elections show that, while it can take advantage of the racism whipped up by those at the top, it can be pushed back

The far right have mobilised across Europe, but recent elections show that, while it can take advantage of the racism whipped up by those at the top, it can be pushed back (Pic: PA)


The advance of far right forces in the European elections is a warning of where it can lead when our rulers push racism.

A decade ago crisis ripped through global capitalism and Europe’s leaders responded by scapegoating migrants and minorities to displace people’s anger.

One of the starkest examples in Hungary.

Prime minister Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party won over half the votes. The party, which believes in a world Jewish conspiracy, didn’t receive less than 40 percent of the vote in any district.

Orban finds a solid base of support among the middle class, which was hit hard by the financial crisis. His campaigns blame Jewish billionare George Soros and refugees for undermining Hungarian state. 

In Austria the Tory OVP party increased its vote to 35 percent. The Nazi FPO—which until recently had been in coalition with the Tories—held onto third place. Its vote only went down by 2.5 percent despite its then leader, Heinz Christian Strache, being at the centre of the scandal.

Elsewhere the crisis of the neoliberal “centre” ground has seen support for traditional Tory and social democratic parties collapse.

In some countries, this process has seen the rise of new centrist parties that hope to mount a defence of neoliberalism. In other places the far right has benefited.

Driving back the far right requires mass opposition on the streets and taking on the state-sponsored racism that fuels it. But it also requires fighting for a radical alternative, not propping up the crisis-ridden status quo.


Germany

The far right Alternative for Germany (AfD) grew at the European elections, but it failed to meet its target.

It had a strong response in eastern German states. It became the strongest party in Saxony and Brandenburg, which is really scary because in these states we have local elections in the autumn. AfD could build a regional coalition government.

We can push the racists back and organise internationally.

We have other results which show it’s possible to change the situation.

In the city of Bremen we had a regional election. The AfD was pushed back to 7 percent, which is still too much, but we can see that it is possible to stop its growth.

Last year in Chemnitz Nazis and racists hunted migrants through the city. The AfD went up to 18 percent in the polls. We then had a wave of demonstrations against racism. This started to change the situation gradually.

The city of Erfurt, the capital of Thuringia in eastern Germany, is the stronghold of the hard right of the AfD. It called a march, but was not able to get more than 300 to 400 people in the streets.

We had a huge counter-mobilisation and had 7,000 in the streets and 15,000 at an anti-racist festival. It was so important to show there is a mood in society against this racist and fascist force.

The second example is in the city of Chemnitz where we have seen big racist and fascist mobilisations. The AfD won, but they wanted to win by much more.

We see these frightening figures—but it’s important to see that we can challenge the racists. We can push them back and organise internationally, challenge the racist threat and push them back.

Christine Buchholz, Aufstehen Gegen Rassismus (Stand Against Racism)


Greece

Regional elections in Greece, which ran alongside the European elections, last week brought a hard defeat to government party Syriza and its leader Alexis Tsipras.

The distance between it and the Tory party New Democracy reached close to 10 points. Now Tsipras has announced snap parliamentary elections.

The once-radical left Syriza party ends its term in government by surrendering power to New Democracy. The blame for this is undoubtedly its disastrous adaptation to the ruling class and the needs of Greek capitalism.

We shouldn’t leave any room for new fascists to organise in the wake of Golden Dawn’s failure.

Syriza has demonstrated the tragedy of the reformist left’s attempts to manage the inhuman mechanisms of the economy of profit and the state that supports it.

This miserable system is in a deep crisis. But it is not inevitable that the left will gain.

The Greek Communist Party (KKE) failed to gain from those that turned their back on Tsipras. It never sought joint action with the people who have fallen to the left from Syriza.

Popular Unity—a left split from Syriza—was at levels below 1 percent. The break with Syriza in 2015 never ended in a break with the reformist strategy.

The anti-capitalist left, Antarsya, which includes the Socialist Workers Party, has to draw valuable conclusions from these experiences. It has also fallen from what it achieved in 2014.

It is urgent that Antarsya emerges as a force that drives forward joint action and shows in practice the value of the revolutionary strategy.

We have before us struggles against redundancies, cuts and privatisations.

We have to continue and step up the fight against racism and the fascist threat. The fall of the Nazi Golden Dawn from third to fifth place is a fruit of the struggles of the anti-fascist movement.

The anti-fascist Keerfa organisation has contributed to this. We shouldn’t leave any room for new fascists to organise in the wake of Golden Dawn’s failure.

This is an abridged version of a statement by the Socialist Workers Party in Greece


France

The far right National Rally (RN) of Marine Le Pen came top, ahead of president Emmanuel Macron’s list. That will give new strength to her movement. It will strengthen all the most rotten elements in our politics.

Overall the RN had 23.5 percent. Detailed polls show its typical voter was male, 35-60 years old and, worryingly, a manual worker or unemployed. One survey has the RN taking 40 percent of the manual worker vote.

Macron is widely hated. His whole campaign was based on defending the EU.

The RN list was headed by Jordan Bardella, a 23-year-old. It’s part of an attempt to say they have broken from its fascist past.

There’s struggle but the left isn’t capturing it. And we desperately need a united movement against the Ntional Rally.

But what really boosted the RN was the argument that they were the only force that could beat Macron.

I know even members of my family, good left wingers, who considered voting RN just to knock down Macron. They didn’t but I am sure this factor was very important.

It’s also why some who had been involved in the Yellow Vests voted RN. But many of the Yellow Vests I know didn’t vote.

The Greens did very well, a new development in France that reflects the big movement we have seen of demonstrations and student action over the climate. They got 13.5 percent, well above what polls had indicated.

That’s a good thing but it also underlines the big space that exists where there ought to be a powerful left.

Both the Socialist Party and Jean-Luc Melenchon’s party each scored 6 percent and the far left less than 1 percent.

That’s very low. Now there is much soul-searching on the left. We need to work out how to relate to the Yellow Vests, strikers, climate activists. There’s struggle but the left isn’t capturing it.

And we desperately need a united movement against the RN.

Angelique Caillaud, health worker, Paris


Poland

The ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party had a big success in the European parliamentary elections.

The right wing party won 45 percent of the vote, taking 27 out of 52 MEP seats. This result is record-breaking for any political party in any national parliamentary, local or European elections in Poland.

The party has pushed filth against migrants, refugees, Muslims and Jewish people and marched alongside the fascists in Warsaw last November. Its election campaign was marked by lots of racism and homophobia.

Jaroslaw Kaczynski, the Law and Justice leader, said that LGBT+ rights and gender theory were an “existential threat” to Polish values. “These ideologies, philosophies are a threat to Polish identity, to our nation, to its existence and thus to the Polish state,” he said in the run up to the election. 

And Kaczynski accused the opposition of pushing the “sexualisation” of children and young people.

The government added a cash bonus for pensioners and extended child support just before the elections to boost its support.

The main opposition group, the centrist European Coalition, took 38 percent of the vote. The parties within the coalition range from the neoliberal Civil Platform, the conservative Polish People’s Party, to the Blairite SLD and the Green Party.

Spring, a new liberal left party led by LGBT+ politician Robert Biedron, won 6 percent of the vote.

The good news is that the Confederation group, made up of fascist, far right and racist parties, did not win any seats. But it still managed to win 4.6 percent—with over 600,000 votes.

Andy Zebrowski, Workers’ Democracy in Poland


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