By Malik Miah and Barry Sheppard
Hard right leader Giorgia Meloni’s victory in the Italian elections has been met by a loud celebration by the rest of the European far right.
Among them were:
Hungary’s hard right prime minister Viktor Orban sent letters of congratulations to Meloni and to her right-wing allies, Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi.
Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki of Poland, the other country with a hard right government, also hailed Meloni. The head of Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, declared Meloni’s election “a day of hope, hope that the EU will start to change.”
France’s Marine Le Pen, who won 41 percent of the vote in France’s presidential election, congratulated Meloni and Salvini for resisting “threats from the [EU]”.
Eric Zemmour, who ran to Le Pen’s right in the first round of the presidential election, and got 7 percent of the vote, also sent congratulations.
Santiago Abascal, leader of Spain’s VOX far right party, tweeted “millions of Europeans are placing their hopes in Italy.”
Members of the European Parliament’s Identity and Democracy group which Salvini’s party belongs, also celebrated.
“Italians are taking back their country. Bravissimo!” Tweeted Harold Vilimsky of the Austrian Freedom Party.
The Alternative for Germany party sent congratulations.
Top leaders of the U.S. Republican Party were also enthused. Meloni was a speaker at this year’s Conservative Political Action Coalition (CPAC), also addressed by Trump and other Republican leaders. CPAC endorses the candidates of the far right Republican Party.
One thing these parties have in common is white racism. They play upon the fear that white people and their domination are being “replaced” by people of colour. This is manifested in various ways, including opposition to non-white immigrants and asylum seekers, and to equality of oppressed people of colour within their countries.
Racism is central, as can be seen by Poland and West European countries accepting Ukrainian refugees, who are white, while severely limiting asylum seekers from the Global South, who are not.
Another common far right concern is fear that traditional Christian identity is under attack, primarily by Islam.
Under the slogan of supporting “traditional family values”, they oppose the movement for LGBTQ rights, espouse the subordinate role of women to men in the “traditional” family, and oppose abortion and the right of women to control their own bodies.
These movements are authoritarian. Some have roots in fascist parties of the past, including Meloni’s party in Mussolini’s, and the Swedish Democrats and the Alternative for Germany in the Nazis.
Fascism in not on the agenda at the moment because the ruling capitalist classes are not threatened by socialist overthrow. But other less extreme forms of authoritarian rule can emerge under capitalism in a situation of disarray and deadlock among the traditional parties, where a “strongman” (or woman) emerges, and promises to “set things right”.
Marxists have characterized such regimes as “Bonapartism”, after the dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew, Louis, that was established in 1851 in France. Marx, quoting Victor Hugo, called Louis “Napoleon the Little”, in his analysis, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, which is worth reading to help understand the question in the present.
Bonapartism can take various forms. Fascism can be thought of as the most extreme form.
What appears to be emerging as the model looked to by these far right parties is the regime of Viktor Orban in Hungary, which Orban himself describes as “illiberal democracy”. The trappings of bourgeois democracy continue to exist, but the reality is authoritarian rule. There are still elections, but the rules have been changed so opposition parties have little or no influence. The media outlets are tightly controlled.
In the United States, half the states are under Republican control and many have passed electoral laws that restrict African Americans from voting.
Voter suppression of Blacks — used against them after the defeat of Reconstruction in 1877 in the Jim Crow era in the South — wasn’t ended until 1965 under the pressure of the mass civil rights movement.
This was done by various schemes, not by openly saying Blacks couldn’t vote, but something more aptly described as “illiberal democracy”.
Now the Republicans are reversing this gain of the civil rights movement, and in many more states, not just in the old South.
Trump embraced Orban, and Republican politicians have travelled to Hungary to show their solidarity.
Whether Italy or Sweden become “illiberal democracies” remain to be seen. Poland is already in the same mold.
The far right parties have grown.
In the U.S. Republicans are not only restricting Black voting rights, but are banning books in the schools about systematic institutionalized racism or that mention gender identity. They are restricting or outright banning abortion.
In Sweden, the far right Sweden Democrats party received 20.5 percent of the vote on September 11, becoming the second largest party in the Riksdag. In Germany, support for Alternative for Germany has risen to 15 percent, while in France Le Pen got 41 percent of the vote in the second round of Presidential elections held in April.
Meloni’s victory puts wind in all their sails.
The economic crisis in Europe, especially soaring inflation, has become a theme of the far right, and is being emphasized by the Republicans in the U.S. In Europe the energy crisis is another theme.
In the Czech Republic, there were mass demonstrations September 28 called by the far right as the energy crisis has stoked popular unrest. The largest was in Prague.
The New York Times reported from Prague, “Despite a rain-soaked start, demonstrators hoisting Czech flags and shouting ‘Shame! Shame!’ turned out for the second time in a month to rally under the slogan ‘Czech Republic First’.
“They were a hodgepodge of figures with a broad range of issues, including Kremlin sympathizers and those who said they are fighting a ‘global elite’.
“But many at the protest were there to express their concern about soaring prices and energy costs as winter loomed, with the Czech Republic one of the first countries in Europe to face such large protests over the issues.
“Many protesters linked their economic woes to the European Union’s tough sanctions on Russia after its invasion of Ukraine — repeating the line propagated by the Kremlin, which is advancing the narrative that E.U. sanctions against Russia are to blame for inflation and other financial troubles on the continent.”
The Times repeats what is in all the major media, that the sanctions don’t cause the soaring inflation and the energy crisis. To say they do is just Russian propaganda. But many European people, not just in the Czech Republic, know differently.
Obscured by U.S. and E.U. propaganda, it was the E.U. that announced many months ago that it would cut off all oil and gas from Russia by December.
When the U.S. first announced that it was sanctioning Russian oil and gas, prices jumped across the world. U.S. sanctions on Russia’s financial system, announced at the same time, resulted in de facto sanctions against Russian wheat and fertilizer, and prices for those commodities soared. This became one of the sources for the food crisis in many countries of the Global South. Many in Europe remember this.
What is happening now is the continuation of inflation made worse by the continuing sanctions.
The Times reported that “E.U. efforts [to mitigate the energy crisis] are viewed sceptically among protesters in Prague, the Czech capital, where some raised E.U. flags crossed with red Xs, while others raised the flags of the Czech Communist Party and far-right factions.”
It should be noted that the small Czech Communist Party, like the Russian Communist Party, are socially conservative Kremlin supporters.
Also of note is that at the Prague rally there were speakers from the Alternative for Germany.
It is a sad commentary on the state of the left in Europe and the U.S. that it by and large supports the sanctions against Russian oil and gas, and against Russian wheat and fertilizer, while the far right capitalizes on the issue.
The Prague demonstrations are a harbinger of what looms in the rest of Europe as winter approaches.