João Camargo, Leonor Canadas – The left, the far-right, and climate chaos

Electoral politics and compromises won’t save the climate or stop the far right

João Camargo and Leonor Canadas are members of Climáximo, an open, horizontal and anti-capitalist collective.

Translated by the authors for Climate & Capitalism from the Portuguese website Setenta e Quatro


The far-right is rising everywhere. The fact that it had a massive result in the recent Portuguese elections is only a surprise for those who haven’t been paying attention. In communicational terms, the far-right is the anti-system. It exists, was built with huge amounts of capital on the ashes of neonazi groups, the remnants of colonialist, old time fascists and opportunists with the support of mainstream media and a huge boost from social media. It was an organizational effort, planned and executed with a lot of money, time and energy. In Portugal, the far-right venture Chega has mobilised more than one million to vote, many of them out of abstention.

In Portugal, the left refused any form of ruptural program, stating its willingness to support the center from day one of the electoral period to try and theoretically block the ascension of the far-right, which had by then already had part of its cruel program adopted from the center to the right. After the election, the strategy seems to be the same.

In terms of climate justice, the campaign was a veritable sequel to “Don’t Look up.” No party, from the far-right to the left, proposed a program compatible with even a 2ºC scenario of the long insufficient Paris Agreement. In 2024 no party made even a nominal effort to have a plan to stop climate chaos. The pull to the center has been terrible. The electoral results were also terrible.

The climate crisis means fascism. This isn’t a new insight, it’s just physics. In rising material scarcity, authoritarianism and violence to maintain capitalist order, privilege and property will always push into fascism, even if that wasn’t the plan. But fascism is clearly one of the key plans of capitalist elites. Last week European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen accompanied Italy’s far-right prime-minister Georgia Meloni to Cairo to bribe the Sisi Egyptian dictatorship with over 7 billion euros on behalf of the EU into imprisoning climate and war refugees there.

The European People’s Party has already signaled they will ally with European Conservatives and Reformists, one of the two far-right European parties, in the upcoming years. The center-right is already ruling with far-right policies. The far-right and its program has been normalized in every sense and everyone was pulled to the right. All polls for the upcoming European Parliament elections point to a majority of the far-right and the conservatives which will very likely dismantle even the most meagre progressive policies in the EU.

In the UK, the coup against Jeremy Corbyn ushered in a centrist Labour leadership under Keir Starmer, which will succeed the Tory government with a new wave of conservative politics that will make Tony Blair seem left-wing.

The gradual convergence of Podemos and then Sumar in Spain to the “establishment” (as an organization as well as in the public eye) keeps feeding Vox as an alternative. Biden’s disastrous climate and Palestine policies seem designed to guarantee Trump’s return. In Germany, attempting to govern through the neoliberal consensus, SPD and the Greens are at the 10-15% interval, both below the neonazi AfD.

On a variation, in France Macron has directly incorporated Marine Le Pen’s politics into his own agenda, with the far-right in power without taking power (although polls show them higher than ever). It’s less and less credible to try to explain away the trend of the rising far-right using contextual, national stories. The mistake is not tactical or communicative. The mistake is in the analysis of the political situation and where we are headed.

The rise of fascism could have been avoided with a very different political approach to the last structural crisis of capitalism more than a decade ago, with the creation of revolutionary programs and praxis. That time is gone. The rise of fascism must now be met face on, while simultaneously we dive deeper into the climate crisis – which means crop failures, bankruptcies, cost of living crisis, austerity and hatred, fueling anti-system sentiment among the people.

To meet the rise of fascism head on now means dropping analysis of electoral cycles as a frame of reference. Power in 2024 is certainly not based on any national or regional parliament. There is no more normality to cling on to.

The left and the greens haven’t done everything wrong, they have only done most things normally. In this age, that means doing most of them wrong. The organizational culture of most left-wing and progressive organizations (party and non-party, including the greens) was developed or stabilized in a time of regularity, predictability and slow development of ideas. That time is over. On the other hand, far-right organizations have developed and thrive in this context. It wasn’t moderation or respectability that delivered huge results to the far-right in recent elections.

A plan to stop climate collapse in our current situation can be nothing less than a revolutionary plan. The necessary emission cuts to stop climate breakdown are incompatible with any sort of capitalist normality. This plan must overhaul a lot of the current social relations developed under capitalism, and create new ones. It means creating productive systems which are directly opposed to the interests of the current elites, which have chosen to crash civilization and the environment rather than abdicate any measure of their wealth and power.

We make a simple statement: winning elections isn’t making a revolution or changing the system. It never was. Winning formal power in capitalist institutions means to make small shifts in this system. Some might be beneficial in the short term, but no real measure of change can be achieved and the likelihood of it being quickly reversed is high, not to say certain. That is clearly the Portuguese experience after the 2015 government supported by the left. That time is gone. The backlash is obvious. The culture war waged by the far-right at the global level is happening in a tilted table that should be abandoned. Media and social media will not deliver us power, they will only take it away from us.

There is a new specter haunting Europe. That specter is the far-right. But it is only a specter, an apparition, no matter how many likes, shares and even votes it gets. Behind that specter there rises a very meaty and material monster — the climate crisis — that will destroy capitalism no matter how many small Hitlers and Mussolinis it pushes as influencers, electoral candidates or even as coup d’etat dictators. The question that should now be put in every meeting of every left-wing and progressive leadership is if they will let themselves be destroyed together with capitalism.

Is there a plan on the left, at the international level, to stop that meaty monster that will eat up civilization? Waiting for the next “electoral cycle” and then coalescing into the center, delivering all anti-system and rebellious spirit and feeling to the far-right has not been a good plan. It has been tried repeatedly in the last years and failed.

If an organization is working to take power, its strategy must definitely not focus on elections in any other way than instrumentally. We need a plan for power and to step up with radically just programs to tackle the climate and social crisis. That means becoming a real threat to the status quo, It means taking risks, being popular and bold.

The lack of a revolutionary program and of a revolutionary praxis, no matter how green it is, is one of the reasons why the far-right is rising. There is no political polarization, just a complete shift to the right, with the left pulled into the black hole of the center and actually presenting plans that aim at saving capitalism, when they should be pushing all the wrecking balls to take it down before it takes all of us down with it.

We need a real polarization with the far-right, not appeasement politics. That means a revolutionary shift, and in 2024 it means a change of tactics into action and mobilization for a radical eco-social program of how society is to be organized to prevent breakdown and deliver social and historical justice.

We have waited long enough. If the institutional progressive forces on the left and the greens set themselves as gatekeepers of revolution, instead of their promoter, they need to step out of the way. There is a very narrow path for us to win and a thousand dead ends. None of them include waiting any longer.

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