What no one is considering is that the resurrection of fascism in the EU could well be a logical consequence of the EU’s policies of the past decades, actually stabilising the European Union and allowing the EU to fulfil its true goal: the absolute reign of neo-liberalism.
Mathew D. Rose is an Investigative Journalist specialised in Organised Political Crime and an editor of BRAVE NEW EUROPE.
Fascist policies and parties are on the rise again in the EU. This was not in the least unexpected. For years academics have been warning that the devastating effects of the EU’s neo-liberal policies, especially austerity, would result in such a political reaction: the re-awakening of nationalism, extremism, and racism. The so-called experts, europhiles, and the traditional political parties in the EU nations are bewailing this success of the far right, claiming it threatens the very values of the European Union. What no one is considering is that this development could well be a logical consequence of the EU’s policies of the past decades, actually stabilising the European Union and allowing the EU to fulfil its true goal: the absolute reign of neo-liberalism.
That Neo-liberalism , which by its nature is anti-democratic, has an affinity to fascism must come as no surprise. The first testing ground for neo-liberal policy of its godfather, Milton Friedmann, was Pinochet´s Chile. The neo-liberal ideologue, Friedrich Hayek, commented approvingly, “my personal preference leans toward a liberal dictatorship rather than toward a democratic government devoid of liberalism”. With liberal Hayek understood freedom from regulation, tax, and unions – all essential tools to defend the rights of citizens against corporate might in a democracy. Key to this was removing the control of economic policy from representative democracy.
The problem with discussing fascism is that most people think of dictators, black or brown uniforms, people raising their right arm in salute, runes, and concentration camps. These are however mere manifestations of fascism. Due to the fact that fascism has been pathologised most people do not understand it and what its true goals are – and that the similarities to developments within the EU in the recent decades are alarming.
As Thom Hartmann points out, according to the Italian fascist leader Mussolini, “Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power.” A government that does not serve the necessities of its citizens, but that supported the nation’s most powerful corporate interests. The main goal of fascism is primarily economic: creating a modern version of feudalism by merging corporate interests with those of the state.
The main obstacle that corporatism had to overcome 85 years ago was democracy in order to create a strong, absolutist nation state. That is why the Italian and German fascists replaced their parliaments with assemblies without a democratic mandate. While Hitler substituted the rubber stamp “Greater-German Reichstag” for the democratic Reichstag, Mussolini was less inhibited, creating a new Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni – Chamber of the Fasci and Corporations. Its members were appointed by the fascist party and the fascist national Council of Corporations (no regulatory capture needed here).
If we follow the history of the EU, it has increasingly become a tool to impose a neo-liberal agenda dictated by the interests of international corporate interests upon its member states. Contrary to Italian and German fascism, this has not entailed creating a stronger nation state, but to the contrary, hollowing out the political power of member states’ national governments, especially their parliaments, while transferring power to a largely unelected EU government. This dismantling of national sovereignty has been, in effect, a dismantling of democracy. As John Weeks wrote, “Over the last forty years this re-regulation involved a decommissioning of representative government while maintaining it as a rhetorical facade.”
The major problem the EU leadership has had, as was the case of Italian and German fascism, in achieving its neo-liberal regimen has been democracy itself. The EU institutions have been plagued by interference from national parliaments, as was the case as Belgium almost blocked the CETA trade deal with Canada. The same is true of national referendums, whereby citizens of some EU nations rejected among others the proposed EU constitution and the Euro.
The political elite of Europe have been developing strategies and laws to get around these democratic hindrances. In the case of the rejected constitution, it was later adopted – in one of those great moments of political legerdemain – as the Treaty of Lisbon. An EU treaty of course does not require approval by EU voters. As the former German Finance Minister, Wolfgang Schäuble, summed up the German and EU’s definition of democracy in the case of the Greek government’s desire to renegotiate its debt: “Elections change nothing. There are rules”. But who has made the rules, how are they being interpreted, and by whom? The answer is simple: the EU institutions, and more recently, Germany.
When one observes how laws are created in Brussels – and there are a number of NGOs that provide this information – it is a closed shop between non-elected EU technocrats and corporate lobbyists (Camera dei Fasci e delle Corporazioni reloaded). These negotiations are then formulated into legislation by the appointed, not elected, European Commission, something that only it is permitted to do. One has to search far and wide to find another parliament, like that of the EU, which cannot initiate legislation.
This has made possible a merger of capital and state. Not only has it unchained finance capital as was seen before, during, and after the Great Financial Crisis, but opened the door to the undermining of free markets, something the EU claims to be defending.
Today in the United States we are experiencing the rise of monopolies, the exclusive control over a commodity or service by a single company, due to unfettered neo-liberalism. In Europe it is the dominance of cartels, an association of companies obtaining the total control over a market. These are nothing less than trans-European monopolies, where major corporations in a number of nations share the illicit profits. This is apparently what the EU political elite understands as European solidarity. This has nothing to do with a free market. Monopolists and cartels are interested solely in power and profit. They refute equal opportunity, and thereby democracy itself.
What about the “Four Freedoms” that the EU so proudly extols? Freedom of movement of goods, people, services and capital over borders are not liberties for citizens, but for international corporations. They represent the three columns upon which neo-liberalism is constructed: deregulation, financialisation, and globalisation. The EU has become a guarantor of corporate profits. How different from the “Four Freedoms“ of the former American President Franklin D. Roosevelt: Freedom of speech, of worship, from want, and from fear. Which Four Freedoms sounds more like the principles of democracy?
There is just one catch as Dani Rodrik writes: “The fatal flaw of neo-liberalism is that it does not even get the economics right. It must be rejected on its own terms for the simple reason that it is bad economics.” The radical increase in inequality within the EU puts paid to this. The Great Financial Crisis of 2008 did as well. The aftermath of which proved that with enough political might, one can defy reality. Following the crash of 2008 EU institutions, following Germany’s dictate, successfully transformed the crisis as the outcome of out-of-control state fiscal policy rather than the result of an out-of-control financial sector, thus placing the burden on the taxpayer and justifying austerity, in reality what Simon Wren Lewis terms “a political deceit: a pretence that cuts were necessary to reduce government debt when in reality the aim was to reduce the size of the state”: the inexorable long march of neo-liberalism towards its desired absolute reign.
Weapons of mass distraction
In corporate media one is bombarded with claims that the current rise of fascist sentiment is an attack upon liberal democracy. Is it really, or had Europe´s traditional political parties already trashed liberal democracy? Most of these parties have in the course of their brutal drive to impose the reign of neo-liberalism lost the support of many of EU’s citizens. The “OXI” vote in Greece and Brexit referendum in the United Kingdom, the decrease in voter participation in EU parliamentary elections, not to mention the radical increase and success of illiberal political parties, are clear signals that the magic of “A better Europe” in a liberal democratic EU is discredited. Little wonder, when poverty and inequality are increasing, unemployment and under-employment are high, wages are low (often sinking further), services by the state are deteriorating. The traditional political parties have lost their credibility. This did not bother them, especially as they seem to have believed that those discontented with the EU did not matter because they had little electoral voice.
These traditional political parties however are becoming a liability for neo-liberal interests in the EU. They have done their service, rather well from the neo-liberal perspective, but now, because of the inherent failures of neo-liberalism, those political parties are being held responsible by voters. This is what the ultra-right and fascist parties are however very good at: distracting attention from economic and social reality, instead concentrating on racism and anti-immigrant sentiment. Just as state profligacy was made responsible for the Great Financial Crisis ten years ago, refugees and immigrant are now being blamed for the social wreckage wreaked by neo-liberal policy in the EU. It is interesting to note that despite their popular national and anti-immigrant rhetoric, most of the ultra-right parties are more neo-liberal and pro-globalisation than their predecessors, although that lies in the nature of fascism.
What no one wants to admit is that racism in the EU did not return with the ultra-right political parties. It had never gone away, it was simply less important as long as the belief in a more just, democratic, and social European Union was still compelling for the broad majority of its population. Now that that is no longer the case, the moment has once again returned for these “weapons of mass distraction”, as Carlo Clericetti so well explains.
The traditional political parties in the nations that make up the EU are currently in a dilemma. To survive, they can either address the harm they have done with their neo-liberal policies, as we are witnessing in Britain with Jeremy Corbyn and the Labour party, or they can adopt anti-immigrant rhetoric and policies, aping the ultra-right political parties. The most have opted for the latter. Is anyone really surprised?