Euro elections mark system failure
Euro elections mark system failure
Crossposted from A World to Win. Euro elections mark system failure
The populist electoral revolt against European Union state institutions and their policies – combined with mass abstentions – is the clear signal that the old politics is not just dying but is opening the door to rabid nationalism, racism and neo-fascist parties.
UKIP’s triumph at the European parliamentary poll is the first time in a 100 years that neither the Tories nor Labour have achieved victory at a national election. Nigel Farage’s party won 28% of the vote – while two-thirds of the electorate stayed at home (over 80% sat on their hands in the Czech Republic).
In France, the openly anti-Semitic, xenophobic National Front finished with 25% of the vote, humiliating the ruling Socialist Party of president Francois Hollande. Its leader, Marine Le Pen, has vowed to destroy the EU from within. Her party will be joined by an open fascist elected in Germany and far right MEPs from Holland, Denmark and several East European countries.
In a refrain that could be echoed by nationalists anywhere in Europe, Le Pen said: “The people have taken back the reins of their own destiny. This means policies of the French, for the French, by the French. They do not want to be ruled from outside.”
This simplistic formula plays well with the anti-politics sentiments of people disillusioned with existing political institutions, whether located in Paris, Westminster, Copenhagen or Brussels. It finds a response from people betrayed by existing parties (Labour in the UK springs to mind) or who have suffered from the policies of austerity imposed since the crash of 2008.
France for the French or Britain for the British (just its white citizens, naturally) fills a vacuum created by the totally undemocratic nature of the EU, run by committees and commissioners in secret who are negotiating away social rights and working conditions through the Transatlantic Trade Partnership.
The crass nationalism of UKIP, combined with the homophobes, racists and neo-nasties that fill its ranks, chimes with an electorate disaffected by Westminster parties. The same parties that uphold the status quo of a globalised market economy in which the fittest survive while inequality grows apace.
But it’s not just the mainstream parties that are the issue. In Britain in particular, the state itself is set up in such a way that the democratic process is subordinate to big business at every twist and turn. Parliament is irrelevant while local councils are proxies for Westminster’s decisions. This is a corporatocracy, where the aspirations of the electorate are marginalised to vanishing point.
The far right address this issue while the bourgeois democratic parties wring their hands in horror. The National Front want to tear down the EU house and build some kind of neo-fascist France free from foreign capital. An alliance with UKIP is on the cards which will no doubt have the endorsement of the continent’s greatest nationalist, Vladimir Putin.
Meanwhile, Labour leader Ed Miliband says today that his party is making “progress” (actually, excluding London, it would have finished third in the share of the vote). Labour’s response is to look again at its policies on immigration in a bid to thwart UKIP. How shocking is this?
Tories like London Mayor Boris Johnson make light of the European elections, describing it as a “a kind of peasants’ revolt” with “pitchfork-wielding populists” across Europe “drunk on local hooch and chanting nationalist slogans and preparing to give the federalist machinery a good old kicking with their authentically folkloric clogs”.
But behind scenes the Tories, like the other mainstream parties, are nervous. They see their grip on power at Westminster under threat and have no solutions. The Euro elections are a profound blow to the post-war political settlement, of which the Common Market and then the European Union was part.
In practice, the EU is a club for the corporations and the bankers, a trading bloc that is increasingly a neo-liberal entity that is competing with emerging economies for a share of a diminishing global capitalist economy. When push came to shove, the EU joined with the IMF to impoverish Greece and make the people of Ireland, Spain and Portugal victims of the financial crisis.
If we want to create a genuine alternative it needs to be a quite different proposition. A party of the old type that seeks to recreate a social democratic-influenced type of capitalism will not work and is in practice not an alternative.
A progressive movement has to challenge not just the mainstream parties but the oppressive capitalist state itself, wherever it is located, from a standpoint that is internationalist and democratic. This is something the defenders of the present system are incapable of doing, caught up as they are in manoeuvring for power for themselves.
Instead, we have to extend democracy in ways that build on the achievements of the past centuries of struggle, including those against nationalism and fascism.
This has to involve the transfer of political power in a genuine way to ordinary people, removing control of the economy, banks and the land from shareholders and corporations alongside new democratic institutions.
Failure to heed the warning from the European elections, or to sit back in the forlorn hope that a general election in 2015 will restore business as normal, would be a grave and historic mistake.
A World to Win editorial team
26 May 2014
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