A month has gone by since the European elections. In this while RedMed brought light and insight for its readers on the national results of 11 countries in 8 articles. Of the six largest countries, five were covered: Germany, France, Italy, Spain, and Poland. Two more central and eastern European countries were taken up in addition to Poland, Hungary and Romania. The three Nordic countries members of the European Union (EU), i.e. Sweden, Denmark, and Finland were taken up together. And finally, Greece, the enfant terrible of the EU, was given special attention, through a party document of our sister organiser of RedMed, the EEK.
Above and beyond the national constellation of forces, the European elections laid bare certain trends with respect to the evolution of the major political forces of the continent. Of these, the most controversial was the result obtained by what we call the proto-fascist movement. The tenor of the debate on that question was again a tendency towards the underestimation of the rising menace of fascism over the old continent. There were three main arguments put forward to belittle the outcome obtained by proto-fascism. The first was that the pundits and the cassandras (of which we admit to be one) had predicted a much stronger leap forward for the movement across Europe while the actual results, when considered Europe-wide, were wanting with respect to that kind of expectation. The second was that in many countries (the Netherlands, Germany, Austria, Denmark, Greece etc.) a kind of regression was observed, let alone a triumphant rise. Thirdly, those who tend to underplay the fascist menace pointed out that there was no immediate threat from the movement at this stage of the development of the forces in play.
The first argument is deplorably identical to the reaction displayed by the ecological, postmodern, post-Leninist left as the year 2017 advanced. The first continent-wide display of the rise of proto-fascism was on the occasion of the 2014 European elections. Of course fascist and proto-fascist parties existed and were significant in a number of countries before that. But they were isolated cases. France and Austria, and somewhat later Greece and Hungary were the scene of the early rise of this new trend. But the trend became a universally European phenomenon only in 2014. It will also be remembered that 2016 brought in two alarming results in the advanced capitalist world: Nigel Farage’s UKIP emerged as the big winner of the Brexit referendum held in June of that year and in November Donald Trump won the most powerful political office in the world, quite contrary to the expectations of the detractors of the idea that a far right menace was on the horizon of the entire imperialist world. These twin scourges led everyone to cast a wary eye on the national elections to be held in the Netherlands, France and Germany in the course of 2017. In the former country, the results of Geert Wilders’ Freedom Party turned out to be much less spectacular than that suggested by opinion polls, which had persistently forecast that the party would come in first, whereas the outcome of the elections placed the party in second place.
France was of course a much bigger test. Incredibly, the general judgment was that Marine Le Pen lost big in those elections. It was not at all important for these people that in the second round Le Pen’s extremely retrogade discourse had attracted one in three French people! Nor did they notice that as opposed to her father, the founder of the party, who also passed to the second round in 2002, but did not succeed to raise his share of the vote significantly, the daughter captured an additional 10 per centage points of the popular vote in the second round. Everybody concurred that Marine Le Pen’s performance during the television debate between the two rounds with the winner Macron had been awful. But to deduce complacency from this relative failure was a real feat!
What was striking was that the complacency was due not to bad results (after all both in the Netherlands and and in France the proto-fascists had come in second, not exactly a disaster for them!), but was predicated upon a relatively smaller success than had been predicted by the “pundits” or the polls. This kind of reasoning is particularly dangerous in politics, for it substitutes subjective evaluations and predictions into a kind of yardstick on the basis of which one decides whether a political development is significant or not. But as our leftists have been psychologically comforted, the new fascist menace has covered new ground, which goes unnoticed to our post-Leninist, who now lives day to day according to the precepts of postmodernism. So, by mid-2017 the fashion was to think that the new “populist” movement had already peaked.
The German elections in the fall shattered this illusion. For the first time since the Nazi experience, Germany saw a mass exodus towards a racist party: the AfD (Alternative für Deutscland-Alternative for Germany) came in third to win around 14 per cent of the popular vote and 82 seats in parliament. This was a wake-up call for anyone, so the atmosphere of complacency was over by the end of the year.
It is remarkable how the same subjectivist urge has come to dominate the scene once more in the wake of the recent European elections. What is the reason for the new complacency? The fact that things did not turn out as bad as was predicted! But did they turn out bad? They sure did. So what does the complacency serve except the “wellness” and a better “quality of life” for the intellectuals and the leaders of the post-Leninist and Green left?
What do the statistics say?
The second reason why the results of the post-fascists are belittled has more to do with objective developments. This argument relies on certain facts, in particular pointing out that the results for post-fascism are mixed, some defeats as well some real victories. Let us then look at the statistics, but not in unsystematic and haphazard fashion but more dialectically.
First to be mentioned is the fact that the numbers clearly show the leap made by post-fascism. Out of the dozen or so political families at the European level, only three groups raised the strength of their representation in the European Parliament. The big losers were, of course, the centre right (Christian democracy and conservatives etc.) and the centre left (so-called social democratic and socialist parties), as well as the soft, post-Leninist left. The winners were the Greens on the left, the liberal democrats at the centre and the ensemble of two proto-fascist families and a group close to them on the right. It is not enough to say that these were the winners. One should also look at the rate at which each of these families advanced. Here the misnamed Europe of Nations and Freedom (the most hard core proto-fascists led by Marine Le Pen of France and the rising star Luigi Salvini of Italy), now renamed Identity and Democracy (a well-deserved ironic slap in the face to identity politics on the left!), is way ahead of all the other winners. Let us compare the percentage increase in the number of MEPs between the three most publicised winners: the Greens 44 per cent (from 52 MEPs in 2014 to 75 in 2019), the Liberal Democrats (earlier named ALDE, now “Renew Europe”) 56 per cent (from 69 to 108), and the post-fascists of Identity and Democracy by a full 103 per cent (from 36 to 73, more than doubling their number of MEPs)! The mixed family bringing together Italy’s Five-Star Movement with Britiain’s Brexit along with some other minor groups only riased its number of MEP’s by 2 (roughly 4 per cent), this despite the undeniable victory received by Brexit, and the European Conservatives and Reformists group, sometimes considered to be a potential ally of the proto-fascists, somewhat higher, by 33 per cent (from 47 to 62). So the success of the Greens is really highly inflated. Compared to the likes of Salvini and Le Pen, theirs is only a modest gain, while the latter have doubled their presence in the parliament.
There is then the possibility of a future alliance of the three groups, the full-blooded proto-fascists of Identity and Democracy, the hybrid group that brings together the proto-fascist Farage and the charlatans of the Five-Star Movement, and finally the far right European Consevatives and Reformists. The three together add up to 179 MEPs, second only to the biggest group in the European Parliament, the centre-right European People’s Party (the EPP, which currently has 180 MEPs). Before the 2019 elections, that ratio was 216 for the EPP and 120 for the prospective proto-fascist-far right alliance! One should also remember the delicate situation that was born in the EPP group immediately before the Euro elections, when Viktor Orbán of Hungary was temporarily suspended from the group for his strongman practices vis-a-vis the opposition in his country. Not only Orbán, but the party in power in Poland, the PiS, may very well become allies of the proto-fascists before the end of the five-year term of the European Parliament.
So it is not enough to say this or that political family lost or won in this or that country in a non-systematic manner, but necessary to look at the overall picture.
For a more dialectical approach to the data
But, secondly, even more important than the crude data is the dialectical analysis of the combined but equally uneven development of the proto-fascist movement. When we are talking of the leap forward of a political current, a fortiori of a current such as post-fascism, which challenges the status quo and is seen as abhorrent by many political tendencies, a linear and well-balanced development is the last thing to be expected. This would be true even within the frontiers of a single state, let alone a multifarious and heterogeneous totality such as the EU. Each nation state has its own temporality and direction of change and while early risers such as the Netherlands and Denmark may fall behind, latecomers such as Italy may very well leap light years ahead. This is precisely what happened in the 2019 elections. Moreover, the Italian surge forward is incomparably much more dangerous than an even distribution of gains across many nations.
The excellent article by our comrade Burak Sayım on Italy in the RedMed series shows clearly that Italy has become the new political centre of Europe. The results in Italy are daunting: La Lega of Salvini (Lega Nord in 2014) received 34 per cent of the popular vote as opposed to 6 per cent in 2014 and won 28 MEPs, 22 more than the 6 it had since 2014! It has become the first party of the country, receiving fully one half more votes than the Democratic Party in second place. And as if this were not enough, another proto-fascist party that goes by the name of Fratelli d’Italia (FdI-the Brothers of Italy) raised its share of the vote from 3.5 per cent in 2014 to 6.5 per cent in 2019 and its number of seats in parliament from nil to 5. Only time separates, in all probability, proto-fascism from single-handed power in Italy, one of the most decisive countries in Europe.
What being in power in one of the largest countries of Europe will mean for the further development of proto-fascism may be gauged by looking at the use Salvini has made of his position as minor coalition partner of the Five-Star Movement so far. Domestically, Salvini has exploited his position by addressing the basest tendencies of a part of the Italian petty-bourgeoisie and the less organised and disadvantaged sections of the Italian proletariat through his ignominiously racistic policies. Internationally, he has become the driving force (with the full collusion, let it be pointed out, of Marine Le Pen) of European proto-fascism. Now, if he successfully crowns his newly-found strength with victorious early national elections and forms a government of his own, getting hold of the state apparatus of one of the richest countries in the world will give him immense room for manoeuvre for building up the proto-fascist movement across Europe. That this has escaped so many analysts on the left is truly a source of astonishment for us.
In second place, the development in Britain is a true source of fresh resources for the proto-fascist movement. Having formed his new party Brexit only two months to go to the elections, Nigel Farage left behind all the other parties of the political spectrum to win the elections with 31 per cent of the popular vote, in the process raising his share of the vote from the (already immensely successful) vote of 27 per cent of his UKIP in 2014 and his number of MEPs from 24 to 29. Farage was a complete outsider in 2014. Today he is the protégé of a powerful actor on the world stage, none other than Donald Trump. The latter has already suggested to his favourite and look-alike candidate for the prime ministerial race within the Tory party, Boris Johnson, to give a role to Farage in the negotiations for Brexit with the EU! Some within the soft left tend to protect Farage from any comparison to Salvini, Le Pen or Gauland of Germany, but given the sympathy between Trump and Farage, that is rather like saying Trump is no racist like Salvini or the others.
We will come back to the British scene a propos the pitiful sight displayed by the conservatives and the formidable rise of the Liberal Democrats, but let it be said in passing that the victory obtained by Farage and the complementary defeat of Labour after its resounding success in the recent parliamentary elections are a product of Jeremy Corbyn’s own making. Having almost erased UKIP from the depressed working class regions of Britain in the parliamentary elections, he refrained from taking a decisive stand on Brexit, giving in to the Europeanist, neooliberal wing of his party. Thus he made it impossible to propose a progressive Brexit to British society, which would carry a part of the pro-remain population along with the traditional working class Brexiters. In the end, stuck between two mosques, as the saying goes in Turkish, he could not win sufficient hearts on either side and had to concede victory (and a part of the working class) to Farage.
Thirdly, the result in France deserves careful, albeit brief, commentary. The Rassemblement National (RN-National Gathering) that replaced the Front National (FN) saw its share of the vote fall from 2014 to 2019 (from 25 per cent to 23 per cent) and the number of its MEPs as well (from 23 to 22). But this should be interpreted in its concrete context. First of all, as we have already said, the 2017 elections were perceived as a defeat for Marine Le Pen by French society at large. This was coupled with the fact that Le Pen’s foremost lieutenant abandoned her to form a rival party (Les Patriotes). Hence Le Pen went through very difficult times. Secondly, despite the drop in her share of the vote, Le Pen saw her new party come in first, before the République en Marche (LREM) of her arch rival President Macron. This was sufficient to restore her confidence and that of her followers. One can safely conclude that the crisis opened by the 2017 elections has been successfully managed and overcome. Next to this, the 2 percentage point drop in the share of the Le Pen vote remains insignificant.
When we look at these three countries together, an obvious fact jumps to the eye. In three out of the four original giants of the EU, proto-fascism has come in first. This is no mean feat. All in all, the statistics show that these elections were an unambiguous victory for the proto-fascist movement.
Uneven development across the board
Some may say that the jump in the number of seats captured by the hard core proto-fascists, the Identity and Democracy family, is really due to the remarkable leap in the number of additional seats won by the two Italian parties, the Lega and FdI. This is true. Of the 37 additional seats taken by the whole family, 28 are won thanks to the Italians. We explained above how this might and probably will prove to be an advantage rather than a drawback. But let us also point out that this is true for almost all groups. Uneven development was a rule for most of the political families in the elections of 2019.
The group only second to the full-blooded proto-fascists in the increase of seats gained is, it will be remembered, the Liberals (Renew Europe). Of their 39 additional MEPs, 15 came from the British Liberal Democrats (who had a single MEP in 2014, but have raised that number to 16 now!) and another 14 were won by the LREM of Macron in France (LREM was inexistent in 2014, so the comparison is with the centrist MODEM and another small formation). This brings the contribution of two countries alone up to 29 out of total of 39, perfectly comparable as a ratio to that which applies to the proto-fascists. The same goes for the Greens. The great “victory” attributed to the Greens owes to the jump in the vote of the German Grüne (from 10.5 to 21 per cent, providing an extra 10 seats) and the French EELV (which doubled the number of its MEPs from 6 to 12). The two add up to the 16 of the 23 new seats the family of Green parties have in the parliament.
So much for the winning families. There is another kind of uneven development in the losing political families. It is not to be doubted for a moment that the centre right and the centre left took a great blow in these elections. Even in Germany, where despite everything Merkel’s CDU-CSU came in first, the total of the votes of the centre right and centre left fell from 62 per cent in 2014 to 44 per cent in 2019. But there are some other striking examples to be cited. Of these the twin cases of the French right wing Les Républicains (LR) and the British Conservatives is crystal clear. The LR came in fourth with a meagre 8.5 per cent and 8 seats (compared to 21 per cent and 20 seats in the previous elections) while the British Tories came in fifth (this is the government party, mind you!) with only 9 per cent of the vote (as opposed to 23 per cent in 2014) and 4 MEPs (as opposed to 19 seats in the previous elections). As for the centre left, the Parti Socialiste (PS) suffered another humiliating defeat in France, winning only 6 per cent of the popular vote; the German SPD, for its part, fell from 27 per cent in 2019 to 16 per cent this time around.
But uneven development created exceptions here as well. At the centre right, the shining star in the bigger countries was the PSOE of Spain, which came in first, receiving 33 per cent of the popular vote as opposed to 23 per cent in the 2014 elections. And on the centre right the spectacular event was the comeback of New Democracy, topping Syriza with its 33 per cent as opposed to the miserable 24 per cent of that government party.
Overall, then, statistics should be read with ample space for uneven development and for national particularities. It is only out of that kind of sensitive reading that the true message of the 2019 European elections can be correctly deduced.
In the wink of an eye
One last grace period. The elections to the European Parliament have provided one last chance to the organised working class movement of Europe and the left before the storm. The proto-fascist movement, which the whole world persistently and blindly names “populist”, attained great success in these elections, but nonetheless this was not the kind of victory that will create havoc immediately tomorrow. Moreover, the movement ran on two different slates for the European Parliament. It is, in other words, divided. Hence, in the short term, in the aftermath of the election, it would be incorrect to say that proto-fascism will create an immediate danger for the people on the scale of Europe as a whole. In certain countries taken singly the question may arise. Striking develoments may unfold in some of the bigger countries (starting with Italy, France, and Britain, in each of which the proto-fascist parties came first), with the proto-fascist movement becoming an important element in the day to day life of the country (in Italy this had already commenced since the Lega of Salvini joined a power-sharing scheme and became a ruling party). So in the short term the danger is distant for Europe as a whole, but in the medium term this movement is a real danger. This delay in the emergence of the immediate threat is what has given the working class movement and the left a very precious reprieve for preparation before the impending showdown. Should the left once again fall into the kind of complacency that was observed after the relative setbacks suffered by the proto-fascist movement in France and the Netherlands in 2017, for instance, woe to the working class and the poor of Europe and beyond!
These are the introductory lines to our first article on the European elections, written immediately after the event. Trying to calibre the true scale of the fascist menace for Europe, we try there to both point to the fact that the danger is not immediate, but also to sound the alarm of warning for the near future. It is this fact that fascism is still not an impending threat. This justifies, through however unconscious modalities, in the ranks of the soft left the belittling of the fascist menace.
But this is entirely deceptive. We also pointed to the following aspect of the matter in the same article:
Disciplined, fed with the lowliest ideological garbage, entranced by the feeling of superiority that derives from the erstwhile colonial feats of European civilisation and of their own country, full of rage against the immigrant and the refugee, who, they believe, has robbed them of their job, housing, educational and healthcare services, a crowd full of missionary zeal. The only missing thing is their militia, their paramilitary forces, their bands of thugs. But this is precisely why we do not label them as fascists, but proto-fascists. That they can overcome this lacuna in the wink of an eye has been demonstrated in Charlottesville, Virginia in the events of summer 2017 or in the German cities of Chemnitz and Köthen last autumn or in the chain of events in which black immigrant farm workers were attacked (and occasionally killed) in Italy after Salvini came to power in a coalition government last year.
So we again warn as to the possibility of the rapidity of the transformation of these movements and parties into real storm troopers. But not only that. There is a very concrete situation which, if and when it occurs, will give the final impetus to the march to power of the proto-fascists, through the eventual transformation of the movement into a fully fledged fascist one.
If and when the world faces a new Lehman Brothers scenario, fascism will almost of necessity be the solution many (but not all) of the national fractions of the imperialist bourgeoisie will turn to. A new 2008 will, in all probability, usher in a new 1933. It will be too late then to start building the movement that really has the ideological and political clarity and the guts to fight fascism effectively. No Wall of China separates us from that moment. So let us start to prepare now.
 On Hungary, see the article by Matyas Benyik: http://redmed.org/article/european-election-results-hungary-show-restructuring-opposition.
 For a very informative article on Poland, see Ewa Groszewska’s article: http://redmed.org/article/european-elections-poland.
 For a careful analysis on France, involving precious sociological insights as well, see the article by our comrade Guy Hesser: http://redmed.org/fr/article/europeennes-2019-en-france.
 For a fuller analysis of Germany see the article by our comrade Kurtar Tanyılmaz: http://redmed.org/article/implications-european-parliament-elections-crisis-german-bourgeois-democracy.
 For a much more extensive analysis of Spain, with the background of national elections as well see the article by our comrades of the Grupo de Independencia Obrera: http://redmed.org/es/article/espana-un-balance-del-largo-proceso-electoral.
 The perceptive analysis of our comrades of the EEK on not only Greece but Europe as well is required reading: http://redmed.org/article/what-syriza-seeded-sprouted-field-right-wing-harvest-however-must-and-can-be-only-red.
 For the national peculiarities of other countries we recommend the reader (for Romania) the article by Ana Bazac: http://redmed.org/article/what-syriza-seeded-sprouted-field-right-wing-harvest-however-must-and-can-be-only-red. As for the Nordic countries an analysis with a broad sweep is presented on the three countries of Sweden, Denmark, and Finland by an associate of ours in the region, Muzaffer Ege Alper: http://redmed.org/article/eu-elections-north-victory-anti-immigration-over-anti-austerity.
 See our “European Elections: Iron and Cotton”, http://redmed.org/article/european-elections-iron-and-cotton.