“Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold.”
So wrote the Irish poet W B Yeats as he surveyed the turmoil across Europe in 1919.
It would be an exaggeration to say that Yeats words fit Europe’s political situation in the wake of the European elections.
The centre is holding but the fraying at numerous edges is obvious.
In Greece, the radical left Syriza won more votes than the Tories of New Democracy, raising questions about how long the current government can survive.
In Spain one in five voted to the left of the main social democratic party. In France, it was Marine Le Pen and the fascist Front National which topped a national poll. The same was true for Ukip in Britain.
The centre did hold in Germany, the most powerful state in Europe. In Italy the centre left Democratic Party under its new leader Matteo Renzi’s saw its vote leap to win a commanding victory.
But Renzi may find his support rapidly crumbles as he attempts to push neoliberal measures through, as it has for Francois Hollande, elected with enthusiasm as French president two years ago.
Europe may have returned to a faltering growth but 26 million remained unemployed across the European Union.
The crisis and austerity have placed huge pressures on the social and political structures build up in earlier periods to bind people to the system.
Those countries that have seen the highest level of struggle, above all Greece and Spain, saw the greatest advances for the left.
But rise of racist and fascist parties should sound an alarm that if the working movement doesn’t provide a focus, the forces of barbarism will seek to exploit the bitterness in society.
In this issue of Socialist Review we take snapshots of political developments in Britain, France, Denmark, Ireland, Spain and Greece.
UK: a dangerous shift to the right
France: a warning from Europe
Denmark: crisis for the right despite strong Euro vote
Greece moves to the left
Indignados surge in Spanish polls
Ireland: a huge step forward
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