I would like to try to share some of the research that transform! europe has achieved.
What you see here1 is the expanding biotope of modernized, right-wing parties in Europe.
The characteristic properties of these parties are given in empirically oriented political science as follows:
- Authoritarian image of society
- Ethnic nationalism
- Social chauvinism
- Populist political style (i.e. the representation of the political system as divided by an irreconcilable opposition between ‘corrupt elites’ and the ‘clean, decent, diligent people’).
Although these characteristics apply in different combinations to all parties described, they do not capture the essence of right-wing radicalism on the road to power because of their descriptive nature.
I would like to present five theses:
On 10 December, 2015 seven weeks after the elections that brought PiS an absolute majority, Die Zeit titled “How a New State Emerges” wrote: “Step by step, the new government is transforming Poland into a right-wing state.”
During its first two years in office, the PiS government endeavoured to live up to these expectations and attempted to bring the dominant positions of state power under its control, for example through the reshuffling of the Supreme Court. As you know, that also called the European Union on the scene. In addition there are the control of the public media, censorship measures and politically motivated dismissals. At the same time, PiS has managed to remain popular through social measures such as the introduction of child support, ideologically motivated of course, and the raising of the minimum wage. While no Left Party is represented in Parliament, such innovations helped to keep the Liberal opposition even more distant.
PiS interprets Poland as the last bastion of white, Christian Europe. While displacing the Left, to which it counts the Communists, the Social Democrats and the Liberals wherever possible, from public life, it is mildly supportive of right-wing extremist activities, making them appear as the extra-parliamentary wing of the ruling party can.
We see something similar in Hungary. In both cases there is no reason for a presumption of innocence: Where radical right-wing parties come to power, they follow the principle of allowing just as much democracy as necessary, but enforcing as much authoritarianism as possible.
It can be shown that right-wing radicalism is a project of the elites. However opposing it requires mobilizing the majority of societies for democracy. Therefore, the question of who votes for right-wing parties is important.
In Austria, this question is classically answered by referring to the 59% FP has achieved among the workers. The typical FP voter: male, white, low income, low education, living typically in declining industrial regions outside the urban centers.
A similar picture in the Italian parliamentary elections last week: In northern Lombardy and the Veneto, the legal alliance reaches over 50%, with a share of the ‘Lega’ between 33 and 38 percent. In Piedmont without Turin the legal alliance comes to just under 50%, in Emila, in Tuscany and in Umbria to over 40% and in Lazio without Rome 40%. This takes place against the background of an economic crisis in which the lower income quarter, had to accept a loss of income of 30% in ten years.
It is not surprising that these people, who traditionally perceive themselves as middle class, are frustratedly turning away from established political parties. Thus, it is above all evidence of social arrogance when political science and the liberal media present right-wing radicalism as an ‘under-class phenomenon’, as the blind rage of the undereducated strata of society who protest against inevitable social change.
An explanatory pattern that follows the “underclass thesis” is populism. According to her, populists divide the population into ‘corrupt elites’ and a ‘good, clean people’. However populists turn to the people in a special way, through the medium of reactionary prejudice or as Adorno in his study on the ‘authoritarian character’ has shown the ‘anti-democratic resentment’. They are not in opposition to the neo-liberal worldview, however rather radicalising it, as Peter Turrini an Austrian author called Jörg Haider in the early 1980s the ‘exaggerator of the grand coalition’. Indeed, Walter Benjamin wrote in 1936: “Fascism tries to organize the proletarianized masses without affecting the ownership structure. He sees his salvation in letting the masses come to their expression (certainly not their right).“
Therefore the rebellion that right-wing populists want to lead is one whose purpose, paradoxically, is the preservation of the existing order, is a reactionary rebellion , Which is why they are invariably promoted in all cases by parts of the establishment whose interests they at the end of the day represent. But why are they elected by members of the middle class?
The mainstreaming of right-wing radical positions has several causes: Crisis: precariousness and the descent of the middle classes, disappointment with the political system, the crisis of social democracy, to name the most important ones. But these do not spontaneously lead to right-wing radicalism.
A look at the French example (see Graph 1 on the right).
What you see here is not unexpected: The blue pillar (far right) shows that Marine Le Pen scored the most votes among workers and employees by far. Not surprisingly, Emmanuel Macron performs best among executives. However, second place among the workers and employees is reached by the radical left candidate, J.L. Mélenchon.
It is sometimes said that populism is neither right nor left. But let's look qualitatively:
(see Graph 2 on the right).
The picture is clear: Mélenchon voters are on the left and Le Pen voters are on the right. That's more than a superficial political identification, as is demonstrated by the vote deciding motives.
(see Graph3 on the right).
Among the Le Pen-voters the fight against crime and terrorism are the decisive electoral motives, for the Mélenchon voters they play a minor role. Decisive for them are the question of pay, purchasing power, environment, health and precarity. Regarding the electoral motives, the Mélenchon voters show the exactly opposite priorities of the voters of Marine Le Pen. So the decision for right-wing parties is not an apolitical decision. Politics and ideology count as well as the Greek, Spanish or Portuguese examples show where the crisis has led to the growth of radical left-wing radicals.
That is why it is so fatal when social democratic or liberal parties take over or legitimize the issues of the radical right in whole or in part.
One cannot interpret this spread of the right-wing biotope in different countries as independent, parallel phenomena. It is a European phenomenon, namely a crisis of liberal democracy in the whole of Europe. From the perspective of the results of the European Parliament elections, it can be seen that within 15 years the seat share of right-wing parties has doubled.
Seat share of right-wing parties
The right-wing radicals embody an alternative, reactionary conception of European politics – based on the existing capitalist system. Which leads to the fifth thesis:
In the current European Parliament, there are three factions formed from right-wing parties: ‘Europe of the Conservatives and Reformers’, ‘Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy’ and those of Front National, FP, Lega, SPD (Cz), PVV and Vlaams Belang formed fraction of the hard core rights ‘Europe of Nations and Freedom’. Since the first two are mainly formed by British MPs, the Europe of Nations and Freedom will remain the only one and become most likely the center of attraction of the right groups in the EP as announced by FP Member of the European Parliament Harald Vilimsky.
The ENF Charter admirably clear and concise:
“[…] the parties and the individual MEPs of the ENF Group base their political alliance on the sovereignty of states and their citizens, relying on the cooperation between nations, and therefore reject any policy designed to create a supra-state or supra-national model. The opposition to any transfer of national sovereignty to supranational bodies and/or European Institutions is one of the fundamental principle uniting Members of the ENF. […] The parties and individual MEPs of the ENF Group base their political alliance on the preservation of the identity of the citizens and nations of Europe, in accordance with the specific characteristics of each population. The right to control and regulate immigration is thus a fundamental principle shared by the Members of the ENF Group.”
What we read here:
Based on the unswerving principle of ‘state sovereignty’, resistance is announced ‘against any transfer of national sovereignty to European institutions’, primarily to ‘control immigration.’
In any event nationalism is the distorted projection of an economic and social crisis and an expression of a failing democracy. Similarly the growth of nationalisms throughout Europe is an indicator of the crisis of national relations triggered by neo-liberal austerity. Therefore, there is no such a thing as a ‘left nationalism’.
A word on the principle of “national sovereignty” from the point of view of the FPÖ: The FPÖ differs from other nationalists in one decisive point: its nationalism does not refer to its own state, Austria, which Jörg Haider has described as a “communist invention”. As a German national party it considers, according to its valid party program, the Austrians of German mother tongue as part of the German nation.
Therefore, it is not possible for them to distance themselves credibly from the German national fraternities, the ÖTB and their anti-Semitism. Their German nationalism is the expression of the most reactionary, great-power chauvinistic tendencies of German capital and the related sectors of the Austrian elites. Both their relationship to National Socialism and German Nationalism place the FPÖ in opposition to the Constitution of the Second Republic of Austria, the European post-war order and the EU.
Can one speak of a fascist danger in Europe today in a scientific sense? My answer is ambivalent. It should be remembered that we today use the term ‘fascism’ with the knowledge of the hindsight, i.e. in the knowledge of the Nazi crimes and the war. However what contemporary authors, Otto Bauer, Arthur Rosenberg, Antonio Gramsci, Walter Benjamin, Karl Polanyi and others, who wrote about fascism in the 1920s, had in mind is, however, on a terrifying scale, similar to what current political science describes right-wing populism.
However in many respects the classic analyses differ in terms of the depth of the analysis. E.g. Antonio Gramsci describes the rise fascism: ‘The great masses [have] moved away from traditional ideologies [...]" and no longer believe in what they believed in ... in this ‘interregnum’ It comes to the most diverse, dangerous, morbid phenomena. ‘Karl Polanyi speaks in 1944 of a ‘double movement’, of which one part was fascism while the other part was socialism, both of them rooted in a market society that did not want to work, the cause of both formed the ‘collapse of the utopian aspiration to build societies and international relations on the basis of a 'self-regulated market system'.
The danger described here is real. Allow me to clarify the “double movement” in two tables.
Firstly, the election results of radical leftist parties last year and Italy this year:
Table: Radical left – 2017 parliamentary elections (previous election)
Electoral result 2017 (previous election)
Votes 2017 (previous election)
NL (Socialistische Partij - SP)
F (La France insoumise - FI)
F (Parti communiste français - PC)
F (Front de gauche - FG)
F (Divers gauche - Div)
0.8% (1.0% )
D (Die LINKE)
D (MLDP, DKP, etc.)
Ö (Kommunistische Partei Österreichs und Bündnispartner – KPÖ Plus)
CZ (Komunistická strana Čech a Moravy - KSČM)
The radical left, which was able to increase by 20 percent, with 10 million votes is a considerable electoral force in the same elections the radical right, however, their votes from 6 to 18 million, which is a triple.
Table: Radical right –2017 parliamentary elections (previous election)
Election result 2017 (previous election)
Votes 2017 (previous election)
NL (Partij voor de Vrijheid - PVV)
F (Front National - FN)
D (Alternative für Deutschland - AfD)
Ö (Freiheitliche Partei Österreichs - FPÖ)
CZ (Svoboda a přímá demokracie - SPD)
A) The most important experience seems to be that fascism between the two world wars has become large due to mass unemployment and impoverishment of the middle class. That is, without a fight against unemployment, for the defence, the further development and restructuring of the welfare state, for training places and legally regulated decent work, the right-wing radicalism cannot be defeated. This argument, true as it is, runs the risk of degenerating into triviality because as we have seen, the fight to defend democracy must also be conducted in the spheres of politics, ideology and culture.
B) Again, there is the danger of a trivialization. Democracy today is not threatened by one, but by two directions: by the radical right, but also by an increasingly authoritarian and totalitarian neo-liberalism. The success of right-wing populism is based on the fact that more and more people feel cheated by democracy because their wishes and votes do not count. You cannot defend democracy by defending the status quo. Civil society, feminists, churches, the Jewish community, anti-fascist groups and political liberals, who oppose the human rights abusive treatment of the fugitives, are natural allies in the fight against the radical right but also in redefining and conquering democracy.
C) If the rejection of the EU in the name of ‘national sovereignty’ is the common position of all right-wing parties it would be very short-sighted to play their game. Yes, European integration is in crisis. But its collapse would be positive only under the condition that something better came along, so if we really believed that the big problems facing societies – globalized financial markets, migration, development, climate change, security – were in a Europe of 28, 35 or 50 national currencies, National states and border regimes better. But if that is not the case, then the consequence is to defend Europe's peaceful integration against nationalism, but that means a radical social, ecological and democratic transformation of the EU, if you will, to start a new foundation.
D) And finally the most difficult, the mental and cultural problem. The right-wing, social chauvinistic world view has a real core, however upside down as in a ‘camera obscura’. The integration problem with which Europe with its 500 million inhabitants has to cope, , is not to absorb the 2.5 million refugees having arrived in recent years, but to prepare itself for integration into a world that will be populated by 10 billion people in 20 years.
We are in the midst of a global transformation which if should not lead to chaos or a world war requires redistribution of wealth, power and opportunities. This perspective, if not understood and affirmed, scares people, and this fear makes them angry towards minorities and the disadvantaged who somehow anticipate and incarnate this transformation. This malice is the political program of the reactionary rebellion. Opposing it effectively requires a break with neoliberalism and the notion that the world of tomorrow can be shaped by war and arms race. That, however, would be an issue for the next symposium.