These are difficult times for Europe. The ethnonationalist, xenophobic and intolerant discourse of the extreme right is gaining more and more followers. The traditional parties, comfortable in their easy chairs and disconnected from the citizenry, are unable to hold back the tide; some have been gradually assuming part of the reactionary discourse with the stupid pretense of competing electorally with the ultras in their field, and the only thing they have achieved is to contribute to the normalization and rise of these in political life.
Three decades ago, a far-right party winning a handful of seats in an election caused a stir in Europe. Today the ultra parties, after a sustained process of whitening, enjoy a wide presence in most national parliaments, govern in Poland and Hungary and, led by Marine Le Pen, may reach the Presidency of France on the 24th . Le Pen, of whom numerous media have naively highlighted his supposed metamorphosis towards more moderate positions, announced this Wednesday that, if he arrives at the Elysée, he will break the Franco-German axis, which has been the engine of the construction of the Union European; it will promote a security alliance with Russia, and will promote a fundamental reform of community rules, including the elimination of supranational courts. If nothing fixes it, in the near future we could witness the fracture of what has been in recent decades, despite its innumerable flaws, the most successful democratic, economic and social justice project in history.
In France, as in Germany and other European countries, there is still the cordon sanitaire of the traditional parties against the extreme right. But reality threatens to overwhelm these protection mechanisms, as the Le Pen phenomenon is showing. In Spain, although the practice of the cordon sanitaire does not exist, the PP had managed until now to benefit from the support of Vox without incorporating it into government tasks. However, this mechanism was blown up in Castilla y León, and the conservatives opened for the first time in a democracy the entry of the extreme right to an autonomous government. A decision “without complexes”, in the words of President Mañueco, which will go down in history as the definitive whitening of the ultras in Spanish politics. Some analysts maintain that the new president of the PP, Alberto Núñez Feijóo, does not like Vox and that the agreements with Abascal’s party are a “bear hug” to swallow it or, at least, stop its growth. What we have seen so far is how Vox’s inflamed rhetoric permeated the inauguration speech of the once moderate Mañueco and, at the same time, how the first CIS barometer after Feijóo’s arrival in Genoa reflects a slowdown in Vox’s growth. It remains to be seen where this marriage of convenience between the right and the extreme right will lead, but there is no doubt that it has come to Spanish politics to stay. And to influence her.
Another alarming sign of the winds blowing across Europe is coming from the post-Brexit UK, whose Prime Minister Boris Johnson has announced an infamous plan to deport thousands of asylum seekers to Rwanda. We are not just talking about a tightening of immigration policies that will speed up the deportations of people whose sin is trying to flee misery in their home countries. We are talking about a new and perverse category in the treatment of the migratory phenomenon: paying a miserable country a bribe disguised as aid, and that will surely end up in the pockets of the corrupt local rulers, so that it becomes a ‘dump ‘ – surely that’s how the bureaucrats who designed the plan see it – of undesirable immigrants. The premiere Johnson has cynically claimed that the goal is to send a “clear message” to the “vile human traffickers who are preying on the vulnerable and turning the Canal into a watery graveyard.” No: here what is revealed is a deep contempt for the vulnerable and for the most backward countries, which are bought with small change (150 million euros in a first package) to act as accomplices in an evil plan of “resettlement”.
The outlook could not be more bleak. Europe’s reaction against the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been presented as a defense of “European values”, but what we are witnessing is a break in the consensus that existed until now around these values. Messages of firmness are launched from Brussels churchillian against Putin, but these do not arouse in the masses the enthusiasm that the tenants of the Berlaymont building would expect: what is observed is a jaded citizenry, far from the centers of power and increasingly politically disarmed. It will take much more than well-deserved rants against Moscow to preserve the European project, at least as we know it today.
A few months ago, rivers of ink were flowing about the ‘renaissance’ of European social democracy, remember? Many progressives celebrated the return to power of the left in most EU countries, including the Nordics and Germany. It would be important to know what ideas the Social Democratic leaders have, now that they have so much power, to stop the ultra wave that is sweeping the continent, beyond warning that the ‘fachas’ are coming. We are already seeing that.