What happened to the Far Right threat to the EU? Despite all the threats and resulting headlines it has disappeared. Probably because they may no longer be a threat to the EU, but the saviour – for neo-liberal interests.
Mathew D. Rose is an Investigative Journalist specialised in Organised Political Crime and an editor of BRAVE NEW EUROPE.
Odd. You read about it nowhere. The usual media pundits do not mention it anymore, nor those analytically sharp Lefties. Even the EU political class does not warn of it anymore: the Far Right as a threat to the existence of the European Union. Domestically Far Right parties, including those in government, when convenient, still hold up the EU as a threat to national identity, but this has become ritualistic posturing and playing to the domestic gallery. There is no more talk of exit or smashing the EU. The polemic has been toned down. It is ignored by foreign state and corporate media and the EU political class. This is one of the most important political developments in Europe in 2018, but why is it not being mentioned?
The Far Right did not have to change its EU policy. Some may claim they pulled back from the brink, fearful of a pro-EU backlash among their voters. As was proved by the Brexit referendum in Britain and the OXI vote in Greece – both of which had nothing to do with the Far Right – voters are not that committed to the EU when they believe they have a viable alternative.
The Far Right has discovered that the EU offers many advantages that fit well with their anti-democratic leanings. More importantly, they have become aware that the Centrist Political parties are not capable of leading the EU to its preordained goal of totalitarian neo-liberalism, fascist-corporatism, or whatever name one wishes to give it. It is there that the Far Right has discovered a future for itself in the EU.
The Centrists are being repudiated by voters throughout Europe, be it France, Britain, Italy – even in the EU hegemon, Germany. While the leftist commentariat is celebrating this under the assumption that they shall inherit the EU (much as the European communists did in the Great Depression – and who inherited power?), things look very different on the ground.
It is not only the people who have fallen out of love with centrism, but international corporations and financial institutions, who feel European Centrists are failing in bringing their neo-liberal project forward quickly enough. President Emmanuel Macron in France is the most recent example. The brutality he is using to quell the popular uprising of the Yellow Vest is a sign of his desperation and fit for any authoritarian government. Just watch the videos posted in social media on Saturday and Sunday evenings. It is something that polite EU society politely ignores. Macron had one job: carry on the introduction of the new, harsher neo-liberal policy begun by the French Social Democrats under previous president Francois Hollande (and his then right-hand man, Macron), no matter what it costs in human suffering (the cri de coeur of neo-liberalism). Neo-liberalism has reached the point where it needs the real thing: fascism.
Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán, by reducing democracy to a thin veneer, is proving more efficient with the introduction of his “slave law”, which raises the yearly limit from 250 overtime hours to 400, allowing companies three years instead of one to pay for this overtime He appears to have the political situation under control without excessive violence, while Macron is waging a sloppy, ruthless war on his own people.
The Far Right is catching onto the EU scam quickly. They have seen the savage attacks by the Spanish government against peaceful Catalan citizens and now the French government against its protestors. The EU has not interfered. Had Orban – or the PIS in Poland – done the same a year ago the EU´s reaction would have been ferocious. Spain´s justice system has become a farce, driven by a nationalist, political agenda. Hungary and Poland are censured, accused of doing just that. Macron could increase his budget deficit to 3%. That was no problem for the EU. Italy wished to raise its budget deficit to 2.4%, and was censured by the EU. Romania is being criticised by the EU for its rampant corruption. The Romanian political class knows that among its fellow Social Democrats in the EU south of Scandinavia corruption is endemic. So where is the difference? The Far Right is learning quickly: it is not what you do in the EU, but who you are and how you do it.
This power to determine “right and wrong” lies with the political class that currently dominates the EU. It has been a very cushy and simple affair up to now for the dominant centrist EU politicians and their parties: push through the neo-liberal agenda and help yourself to the seemingly unlimited EU funds; the perks from international corporations – take a look at the register of revolving-door cases; and the privileges that one enjoys at the EU.
Yes, they are still advancing neo-liberal policy and protecting international corporations, although with the current dissonance with the US and increasing pressure to observe national interests from the Far Right, American corporations are now being asked to pay some tax, something that the EU political elite, including EU president Jean-Claude Juncker, emancipated them from years ago. Low taxes for corporations are part of the hardwiring of neo-liberalism in the EU. A few well paid jobs, contributions, and bribes for Centrist politicians will re-impose normality. And if not, the Far Right can jump into the breach.
The real problem that Centrist politicians are having is that they have become bogged down by the illusion of democracy they have spun around the EU. First it was the referendums, as European citizens voted against adopting the euro and the EU Constitution, or joining the Schengen agreement. The EU got around these with sleight of hand, adopting the EU Constitution as the Lisbon Treaty, or sending the people back to the polls until they got it right. The EU has learnt its lesson by avoiding referendums, and considers David Cameron a moron for letting the British people vote on Brexit. Then there was the interference during the TTIP trade negotiations as EU citizens and a provincial parliament had the cheek to demand that they participate in the process. All was legislated away by the next trade treaty (CETA).
Democracy slows down the progress of neo-liberalism in the EU. With each protest against EU policies by its citizens, structures are developed to mobilise voters against policies that are contrary to their interests. Not that democracy is of any concern to the EU, which is one of the most undemocratic political constructions in the world. The Far Right has latched onto this and is offering corporations a better, still more undemocratic regimen. Last week the German far right party Alternative for Germany (AfD) also changed its anti-EU policy. It no longer wishes to abolish the EU, but to reform it. Probably the most important of these reforms is to do away with the European Parliament. The EU Parliament is certainly not a bastion of democracy. Where else in the world, maybe with the exception of North Korea and Saudi Arabia, is a parliament not permitted to create legislation and some critical policy areas are excluded from the Parliament’s sphere of power? For the Far Right and neo-liberalism any democracy is too much democracy. And this commonality is exactly what is making the Far Right so attractive for neo-liberals.
Do not think that Centrists will somehow be a bulwark against this. Remember that it was not long ago that the EU was threatening recalcitrant nations like Hungary and Poland – which have an anti-immigrant policy – with sanctions. In the meantime Centrist governments are adopting the same policies.
Centrists hope to co-opt the Far Right parties: get them to Brussels and let corruption do its work. This is pretty much what Franz von Papen thought some 75 years ago when he brought Hitler and the German Nazis into government. That may be the carrot, but then there is the stick. The European Parliament decided in September to launch the first step of a procedure asking the Council to establish the “clear risk of a serious breach” of the democratic values in Hungary. Now it is threatening to cut EU funds to member states that undermine the rule of law or allow corruption, meaning Poland, Hungary, and Romania. . This appears more like vacuous showmanship when one considers that Orban’s Fidesz party is still a member of the centre-right European People’s Party together with Merkel´s Christian Union, whilst the Social Democratic Party of Romania remains in the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats. No action there.
The Far Right is already starting to flex its muscles in preparation for EU parliamentary elections in May, calling for a “European Spring” and the creation of an anti-migration block in the EU parliament, with the declared ultimate goal of taking over the EU. This will benefit from the desire of EU citizens to settle the score for austerity inflicted upon then by the Centrists. Centrists in turn can only hope that voters’ persistent disinterest in the EU maintains the status quo. If their electoral fortunes decline further, resulting in a weakening of their resolve to press on unabated with their neo-liberal policy, their paymasters may find the Far Right a much better investment.