Tuesday 13 April 2010
The Right Advances Across Europe
As expected the far-right Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom (Movement for a Better Hungary), known simply as Jobbik, took an important stride forward in the parliamentary election held in Hungary at the weekend. With almost seventeen per cent of the vote it will send twenty six deputies to parliament, only two behind the socialists, formerly the party of government.
Although their showing is not quite as strong as some had anticipated – less than two points up from their vote in last summer’s European elections –it’s still remarkable progress for a fringe movement, a measure of both the anger at the mismanagement of the socialists and disquiet over Hungary’s declining economic fortunes. This is a country, moreover, with a deeply ingrained sense of historical grievance and a well-developed tendency to look for scapegoats, and Jobbik is all to ready to supply them, in the shape of Jews or, more particularly, Roma.
The advance of the chauvinist right is not something that should not be viewed in isolation; it’s happening across Europe, as local movements feed on mounting grievances. I would go so far as to suggest that beyond specific national grievances we are seeing a wider reaction against the anti-democratic European Union, a bureaucratic monster that only exists by sublimating and ignoring problems among a hugely diverse range of countries. Europe is merely a name for the Continent; there is no European identity, just as there is no Asian or African identity. There will never be a European identity.
If Jobbik is an expression of the national grievances of Hungary, then the National Front, once again on the advance, is an expression of those of the French. In Italy the electoral success of Silvio Berlusconi’s right-wing coalition in the recent regional elections was largely built on the continuing advance of the Northern League. In Austria Barbara Rosenkranz, the far-right mother of ten, whose husband publishes a neo-Nazi newsletter, will contest the presidency with the support of the Kronen Zeitung, the country’s best selling tabloid. In Belgium Vlaams Belang, the extreme-right wing separatist party, enjoys ever increasing support among the Flemings.
In Britain the phenomenon is much more sociologically and politically specific. Here the British National Party, which gained almost a million votes in last summer’s European elections, sending two representatives to Strasbourg, is largely a movement of the traditional working-class, disillusioned by the neglect of the Labour Party, a party whose leader makes canting speeches about defending British jobs while signing up to agreements that ensure those jobs are anything but British.
The temptation is to see all of this as a protest vote, as something that will wax and wane in accordance with the fortunes of more established parties; that it’s a kind of thermometer of discontent, if you will. The pattern is different now; for the far-right has become a permanent feature of the politics of the new Europe. I for one expect to see the resurgence of the extreme right accelerate as the process towards European integration accelerates. This is a project in which ordinary people, the voters of Europe were never involved, or if they were involved it was one that they rejected only to be ignored. If the new fascism is Caliban the European Union is its mother; the European Union is Sycorax.
What seest thou else
In the dark backward and abysm of time?