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Calls for mass mobilisation and politicisation as Europe shifts right

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Over 10,000 take to the streets in Rome on June 1 to protest PM Meloni’s right-wing government. The European elections held on Sunday June 9 consolidated the rightward trend in European politics, but the result has given important insights to the left. – Picture: Potere al Popolo

By Giuliano Granato

The composition of the new European Parliament will more or less trace the outgoing one. Much ado about nothing? Not really. It’s not just a question of how many votes and seats you get — the conservative European People’s Party (EPP) increased their share by 10 seats, and the ultra-right parties Identity and Democracy and European Conservatives and Reformists by 13 — but also where and how.

The ultra-right is the leading force in two key countries such as France and Italy, where it won around 30 percent of votes (40 percent if we add the votes of Zemmours Reconquuête in France and Salvinis Lega in Italy). In Germany, the quasi-Nazis of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), deemed excessive even by Le Pen and Salvini, is the second largest party, the first in all of old East Germany.

Looking at the four largest EU countries, three out of four governing parties lost. The only government keeping its strength — losing in absolute votes (-750.000) compared to the last general elections but gaining in percentage terms (+3) — is Giorgia Meloni’s Fratelli d’Italia.

In France, Macron’s liberal, pro-war party collapsed, the same happened with Scholz’s social democratic, pro-war government in Germany. Sanchez’s PSOE in Spain could stabilise its consensus, but the gap with the traditional right-wing party Partido Popular is slightly increasing (a process which started already at the general elections in July 2023).

A shift to the right of the entire European political axis

In short, the ultra-right is advancing in key EU countries and, above all, increasing its political-ideological influence even before its parliamentary weight. This is confirmed by a general shift of the entire European political picture.

Today, traditional right-wingers are often indistinguishable from their “more extreme” partners. We are witnessing a continuous “normalisation” of the ultra-right, the entering of its ideas and slogans in the political and social common sense.

Conservatives, liberals, greens and social democrats chase the ultra-right on its terrain: “Italians first”, “higher walls” and “defending of borders” against migrants, “fighting social parasites” etc., were part of the ideological weaponry of supremacist and fascist formations; today, however, they are the common heritage of most of the remaining political forces.

Italy is still a political laboratory for the continent

Even if Italy is an economic rearguard, as a political laboratory it continues to indicate the direction the entire continent is taking. The model of an ultra-right government that can be perfectly integrated and embedded in the mechanisms of power was “tested” in Italy and is now repeatable in other European core countries.

Even the President of the European Council, Charles Michel, admitted it: “There were doubts and concerns […] and then we saw that it was possible to work with governments even if there was an extreme right-wing party in the coalition,” he said, because “what really matters are the policies, the substance.”

The ultra-right can safely rule as long as it respects two constraints: absolute subordination to Nato and austerity policies against working people.

On this basis, the Italian laboratory also offers lessons to Marine Le Pen, who, in fact, has been engaged for months in moving her Rassemblement National (National Rally) to positions that will guarantee her the green light to govern the EU’s second-largest country in the upcoming snap elections.

Today, for the ruling classes it is not a question of fascism, but about a fascism that is aligned to Nato policies or not. So, the essential condition for being accepted is not linked to the neo-fascist policies tout court but being in favour of Nato.

Peace for the many vs war for the few

If the main social fault line is peace vs war, this does not necessarily translate into an electoral fault line. Because the political, economic and social framework of Europe is moving toward a generalised “war regime”.

Externally it means sending arms to Ukraine and supporting the genocide in Gaza at the hands of another imperialist power, Israel; in addition we have the military operation Aspides in the Red Sea, (for the moment) a low-intensity war against China and the silence on what is going on in Congo, Sudan, in the Sahel, etc. Internally it means prioritising military spending to the detriment of social welfare, the transformation of civilian industrial production into war production and the limitation of democratic rights.

A few days before the elections, both Ursula Von der Leyen and Josep Borrell were interviewed in warlike scenarios: the conservative leader in a Finnish air-raid bunker; the social-democratic leader surrounded by tanks.

With these images, they show the future that lies ahead of us. And this is the old line the new Parliament will follow: a large alliance between conservatives, socialists, greens, liberals and even pieces of the ultra-right, starting with Meloni’s FdI in favour of exactly this “war regime”. To quote Borrell, the EU foreign “minister”, there is a broad political consensus on the need to defend the “European garden” from the “jungle” that surrounds it.

The ultra-right imposes a regime of mass passivisation

Former Italian communist leader Palmiro Togliatti defined fascism as a “regime of reactionary masses”; today, the current situation looks more like a “regime of mass passivisation”.

It does not stand on “gatherings”, permanent organisation and mobilisation of large sectors of society as we know it from the fascist regimes in the early 1920s in Italy and Germany. The current ultra-right regime builds on the “passivisation” of the masses, it manifests itself in disillusionment, resignation, disengagement. These “feelings” are rooted in a common sense of “nothing changes anyway”.

Once again, the Italian laboratory may offer interesting insights. These elections are historical for one more reason: for the first time in Italy’s national elections, abstention wins the absolute majority.

The turnout rate stood at 49.6 percent of eligible voters. The decline in participation is a trend that has been advancing for decades and is a sign of a more overall decline in political and social participation. In fact, empty ballot boxes do not mean, on the other hand, full streets.

If we are facing a “regime of mass passivisation”, the only response is what Jean-Luc Melenchon of La France Insoumise did when France’s President Macron — as a reaction to Marine Le Pen’s victory — dissolved the National Assembly and called for early elections at the end of June: insist of street demonstrations in order to mobilise the youth, working people, women, migrants and Arab-Palestinian communities against the ultra-right and the warmongering policies.

The message is clear: we need to occupy our social and political space and it is, first and foremost, the streets.

Bipolarism is getting stronger in Italy

In Italy, as usual, almost everyone is celebrating, except the so-called centre “third pole” who lost electoral consensus and is out of parliament. The results are the mirror of the stabilisation of Fratelli d’Italia, the strengthening of the “moderate” wing of the right-wingers (Forza Italia) and the difficulties of Salvini’s Lega increasingly shifting to Meloni’s right and risking fractures due to internal contradictions.

In the opposition camp, the growth of the Democratic Party (24.1 percent, second party) and the remarkable success of the Left-Green-Alliance (AVS, 6.6 percent with around 1.5 million votes) is countered by the collapse of the 5-Star-Movement falling from 15.43 percent in 2022 to today’s 9.99 percent.

Overall, pro-Nato and neoliberal bipolarism is strengthened, with two leading parties — Fratelli d’Italia and the Democratic Party — being the most firmly militaristic and pro-Nato parties.

Within these two camps there is no possible radical alternative. Today, there is a high risk of the continuation of the vicious circle whereby dissatisfaction in the working classes with the policies of centre-left governments leads to the growth and then the victory of parties further and further to the right, which, in return, also disappoint when in government. And like this, the political picture shifts more and more to the right.

Perspectives towards mass mobilisations

These elections didn’t solve neither the current economic, social and climate crisis nor the ongoing armed conflicts and wars. The stabilisation of pro-Nato and neoliberal positions will only deepen the problems working people are experiencing.

The year 2025 will see new austerity policies due to the re-introduction of the Stability and Growth Pact. In Italy, for example, it means cuts of 13 billion per year for seven years. We are facing a social and environmental butchery.

What does it mean for our political perspective? Elections mark an important moment, because they deliver a snapshot of the consensus in our societies. But the temporality of elections does not correspond to the temporality of political processes; social transformation is a much deeper and longer process than the time of election campaigns. Chasing “immediatism” may produce some influencers, but not profound changes.

In order to fight the ultra-right, it is necessary to fight its “normalisation” by conservative, liberal, social democratic sectors. We need to accept the challenges in the battle of ideas and not retreat an inch: there is no war in Palestine, but a genocide; the right to dissent is the salt of democracy; migrants are not a problem, but allies as workers etc.

In the immediate term, it is necessary to counter the war regime. But we can not reduce our actions to general slogans for “peace talks” and “negotiations” — this corresponds just to a groan of despair. We need to put ourselves at the head of democratic battles against the shrinking spaces of freedom with our body and soul like university students did with the acampadas or encampments in their campuses.

If the war regime imposes lower wages, we need to realise our slogan “weapons down, wages up!”: strengthening the campaign for the introduction of a legal minimum wage of at least 10€ per hour, organising against the dismantling of public services, because every Euro going into the weapons industry for guns and ammunition means a Euro less for hospitals, schools, culture, etc.

In the long-term, temporality necessary for political transformation, organising, the ability to be rooted in the working classes, building solidarity and daily ties against social fragmentation plays a key role.

Daily presence, consistency and patience are key factors for the credibility of a political force. And it needs our incursion into mass spaces of communication. In this sense, organisation and communication cannot be disjointed if we don’t want to end up in dead ends which inhibit social transformation.

Giuliano Granato is an Italian political activist and spokesperson of the left formation Potere al Popolo.

This article was published on Peoples Dispatch