Rising political extremism in Europe escapes control

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, UKIP, seen voting at his local pooling Station in Berrys Green in Southern England. (EP Audiovisula Services).

Nigel Farage, leader of the UK Independence Party, UKIP, seen voting at his local pooling Station in Berrys Green in Southern England. (EP Audiovisula Services).

Everybody knew it but ‘The Independent on Sunday’ said it this weekend; Nigel Farage’s UKIP political formation is the first choice of the Brits. The newspaper published a poll giving 27% to UKIP, 26% to Labour and 25% to Conservatives. Not to forget that last year this party got almost one-quarter of the English vote in local and regional elections without ever having an elected member in the Commons. UKIP is not the only indication that something is rotten in the European political system. Marine Le Pen’s racist National Front has also won first place in the French polls, while last year the comedian Beppe Grillo’s obscenely named party won the first place in the Italian legislative elections. Not to say anything about the Greek fascist formation ‘Golden Down’, that has stabilised itself in the third position after the left wing SYRIZA and the governing centre right New Democracy.

All those groups that skyrocketed lately, barely deserving the name of political formations, have only one thing in common. They defy, in the most outspoken way, the established political and economic systems, as promoted by the mainstream media. The issues currently tormenting the European societies are so huge that the ‘systemic’ political parties seem quite helpless even to discuss them in a convincing way. For example, the UK’s membership in the EU being at stake, or the continued enforced impoverishment of the entire Greek population.

The usual government ‘narrative’ about those issues doesn’t convince anybody. Even the criticism by major opposition parties all over Europe doesn’t address the problems of a large part of the population. This part is around one-third of the total, irrespective if the country has been hit or not by the crisis. Greeks, Brits, French, Italians and others turn their back to mainstream politics and media that have nothing to tell them.

In Britain like in Greece

This became evident in Britain, when the government tried to play the Eurosceptic card. The British Prime Minister David Cameron’s decision to promise a referendum on UK’s membership in the EU, if he wins the next Parliamentary election, has turned into a first-rate fiasco, at least for him. The Brits probably took it as blackmail and rejected it. They now express  their preference to UKIP, which proposes an outright exit from the EU and not on condition being voted on.

Of course this is a protest political choice by voters who reject Cameron’s conditionality rather than wholeheartedly embracing Farage’s excesses. The same is true for the Golden Down. One in every ten Greeks hasn’t turned fascist. They simply want to express their frustration with what has being for decades mainstream political parties. PASOK and New Democracy ruled the country during the past thirty-five years and brought it to the current stalemate. They have been also proved completely impotent to articulate a national exit plan from the crisis, even after four years of suffering. This same disenchantment has catapulted left wing SYRIZA to the top.

Keeping aside political and aesthetic differences, Marine Le Pen’s and Beppe Grillo’s rising to the top of the French and the Italian political spectrum has to be attributed to similar socio-economic reasons. In both countries an obsolete political system proves completely impotent to lead them safely through this economic crisis, and probably is now held responsible for it. On top of that, the fact that both Paris and Rome have accepted Berlin’s prerogative in Europe, has also nourished the rise of until recently marginal political formations.

For historical reasons Germany and Spain are saved from political extremism, at least until now. As for the usually calm Scandinavia, the Nordics are not spared from political extremism. Chauvinist national parties in both Finland and Sweden, until recently in the margins of the system, have now gained political importance. The same is true for Holland.

The third world of Europe

While analysing those political developments, many observers make the mistake delimiting the impact of economic crisis only to the South of Eurozone. Greece and Italy are considered the main victims paying the price with a new and completely fragmented and dangerous internal political environment. Those analysts forget that the percentage of people threatened by poverty has been constantly rising over the past few years also in Germany, France and Britain, even within groups of people with a job.

An always increasing part of Europeans feel threatened by the economic developments. They also see that their taxes are used to safeguard the ‘systemic’ banking system. At the same time the big multinational monopolies and cartels openly avoid to pay taxes, while they keep expanding completely uncontrolled by competition ‘watchdogs’. In such an environment the only competition the Europeans see threatening their level of welfare and wages comes from very far away in China and the other developing countries.

The threat of living under third world conditions today engulfs large parts of the EU working populations. On many occasions this is already a reality and not  a risk any more, even in wealthy EU member states. Education and hard work do not any more offer a passport to a better life. Today’s public education systems lead nowhere and hard work barely permits a subsistence living. No wonder then if the next European Parliament will be filled with Eurosceptic and extremists.

 

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