Why is Nationalism gaining strength in Europe?
The growing social unrest that exists in the European Union (EU) is fueling the rise of the right.
The Freedom Party (FPÖ) was about to win the Austrian presidency in 2016, the Party for Freedom (PVV) became the second political force in Holland in March and the National Front’s Marine Le Pen could be the most voted candidate in the first round of the French presidential elections on April 23.
Like their predecessors in the interwar period, these parties are nourished by the disenchantment of the population affected by the crisis with the policies applied by the traditional parties and especially by the Social Democrats.
Unlike their predecessors, these parties do not advocate ending parliamentary democracy. But Fidesz parties in Hungary and Law and Justice (PiS) in Poland – whose members behave as right-wingers while denying to be part of that political family – have begun to transform their states after achieving an absolute majority and defending a “Non-liberal National Democracy”.
The right is fed in the first place by malaise due to growing social inequality, high unemployment, job insecurity, loss of purchasing power, impoverishment of the middle class and cuts in social protection.
Added to this is the fear of losing employment and the standard of living of those who have not yet fallen into precariousness. Its voters are workers, wage earners, self-employed, merchants, petty bourgeoisie, farmers and artisans, say experts Matthew Goodwin, Pippa Norris and Cas Mudde.
The social unrest is the result of the effects accumulated by the turn of the late 1970s with neoliberal economic policy to restore the high rates of return on capital lost since the crisis of 1973 and which meant the breakdown of the postwar social contract, as historians Tony Judt and Josep Fontana describe.
Neoliberal policy has been characterized by a drastic reduction of taxes on companies and people with higher incomes, the rise of indirect taxes for all, and globalization and deregulation at all costs – financial and economic liberalization, privatization of companies and public services and cuts in labor rights and social spending.
The corporate tax rate has fallen by more than 20 points in the EU since 1981 and the maximum rate of income has fallen by about 30 points since the late 1970s in the West.
These conditions coupled with the passivity with tax havens and the tax evasion of multinationals, has generated growing public deficit problems and has transformed the welfare state into the current State of Austerity.
Globalization and deregulation have allowed the financial sector, large corporations and the elite to escape the control of national governments, as they can relocate their factories and shift their profits and wealth to tax havens.
It is now the financial sector and big companies that dictate laws and budgets to governments and the EU through their lobbies, say sociologists Colin Crouch and Wolfgang Streeck.
In this post-democracy, the political class has lost credibility and is seen as a privileged group alien to the problems of the people and given to favoritism. This allows the right to present itself as an anti-establishment alternative.
The most affected are the Social Democrats, who assumed neo-liberal dogmas and whose voters feel betrayed, as professors Vivien Schmidt and Florian Schui point out.
While the Social Democrats insist on defending “official” economic policy, the right wing echoes social unrest and raises social measures and protects labor rights.
The National Front and the Freedom Party are already the main labor parties of France and Austria and the Danish People’s Party (DF) get more workers’ votes than the Social Democrats.
The Euroscepticism of voters is the fruit of the negative impact of labor reforms and the austerity policy dictated by Brussels and Berlin against the ideal of EU social justice and the loss of democratic control over economic policy.
This is designed and imposed by the technocrats of a European Commission with repeated and unpunished scandals within a normative framework that deprives of political autonomy to the national governments and parliaments. It is what the sociologist and philosopher Jürgen Habermas denounced in ‘The Lure of Technocracy’.
Only 35% of Europeans see the EU as positive, which is exploited by the right with slogans such as “regain control” and “regain power” and the idea of national retreat in a world that must be ridden of Globalism.
The problems associated with immigration, which most parties deny, leaving the debate to right groups, and which have been exacerbated by the unresolved crisis of the refugees, is another factor that favours their electoral success.
The right also describes the need of the citizen who are economically weakened to cling to a security and identity, before the anguish that generates the precariousness of transforming a problem of inequality into a national-foreign conflict.
The failure of integration policies and the accumulation of cuts in social spending have also created a perception among many citizens that they must compete with immigrants for increasingly scarce resources in education, health, housing and social protection.
It has also negatively affected the use by businesses of immigrants from inside and outside the EU and the US and the contracting of works and services to companies located in the East, which pay their displaced employees the salary of the country of origin, to replace local labor or lower wages and labor conditions.
The development of a political Islamism in the EU, which militantly rejects European values, and the succession of attacks have been pointed out by the Right to encourage citizens’ to pay attention to their identities and to abandon the hoax called multiculturalism.
Although this Wahhabi-Salafist Islamic radicalization, funded by Saudi Arabia and the Gulf countries, serves as an ideological breeding ground for European jihadists, parties, the Left has been passive before it in order not to be labeled as islamophobic, which has left Right groups with almost the monopoly of the debate, as sociologist Gilles Kepel points out.
The EU and its governments have helped make right groups and parties legitimate by accepting government coalitions in Austria, the Freedom Party (FPÖ) with Christian Democrats, and in Italy by Silvio Berlusconi with National Alliance and the Northern League.
The Social-Democratic Government of Slovakia has a representative of the Slovak National Party (SNS). The Danish Government depends on the parliamentary support of the Danish People’s Party (DF), and in Holland, Austria and France the power of the Right conditions the national political agenda.
Nationalism both in Europe and North America has certainly awaken. The question is whether it happened too late, or if Nation-States still have the power in their hands to deny the globalists their dream to control it all.