Article by Josette Combes, Ripess Europe

The far right is continuing to gain ground in Europe’s governments. In Finland, the Conservative Party is governing alongside the Party of the Finns, and the government’s No. 2 minister and leader of the far right has had to apologise for her racist remarks. In Italy, the Fratelli d’Italia party is openly anti-immigration; in Hungary, Victor Orban’s Fidesz party has been in power for over ten years and won a landslide victory in the 2022 general election. In Poland, the ultra-conservative and anti-LGBT Andrzej Duda was re-elected in the 2020 presidential elections and in the Polish Sejm (parliament), the Law and Justice party (PiS) came to power in 2015. In the 2019 parliamentary elections, it won over 43% of the vote. In Sweden, the Sweden Democrats, a very right-wing, anti-immigration party, became the second largest in terms of votes obtained in the 2022 parliamentary elections. In France, Marine Le Pen received 23% of the vote in the first round and 41.45% in the second round. She only lost thanks to the transfer of some left-wing votes to Emmanuel Macron. The Rassemblement National brought a record 89 deputies to the Assembly, while the Républicains (the “traditional” right) had just 61.  In Spain, Vox, a far-right Spanish party that has steadily increased its presence since it was founded in 2013, won an absolute majority in 13 Spanish municipalities in the latest municipal and autonomous elections on 28 May 2023, doubling the number of its representatives in these cities. In the elections held in Greece on 25 June 2023, three far-right parties entered the Greek parliament. The Spartans, the reincarnation of the Golden Dawn group, whose leaders are still in prison for membership of a criminal organisation. Together with the pro-Russian Greek Solution and ultra-Orthodox Niki (Victory) parties, the far right won more than 12% of the vote and 34 seats out of the 300 in the House. This is a worrying development for the political system, particularly given their views on issues such as abortion, immigration and LGBTQ+ rights, and could have repercussions for Greek politics.

On the whole, these parties share an anti-democratic, authoritarian, racist and nationalist ideology that tends to exclude a section of the population. Their discourse expresses nostalgia for a golden age, the apology of elitist societies and virile strength, fear of miscegenation, censorship of morals and rejection of intellectuals. In Poland and Hungary, women’s access to abortion is strictly regulated, homophobia encouraged and racism exacerbated. Throughout Europe, we are witnessing the rise of institutionalised violence, the return of censorship, and openly racist and virilist public discourse. Statistics show that the far right is particularly supported by people from disadvantaged backgrounds, and by men more than women. In Sweden, for example, almost three times as many men as women voted for the far-right Sweden Democrats in 2022. Populist parties often have nationalist leanings and are generally in favour of weakening or even abolishing the EU. They have also won seats in the European Parliament.

The rise of the far right is worrying in more ways than one. In all countries, it is leading to a right-wing shift in the traditional parties, with an complacency of ideas and statements previously considered unacceptable in a democracy, and a legitimisation of authoritarian and tendentious methods of government. In France, for example, the Cazeneuve law authorises police officers to use their weapons in cases of “legitimate self-defence”, in a way restoring the death penalty without trial. The right to demonstrate is undermined depending on the reason of the protest, and ever so often when the demonstration is aimed at resisting industrial projects that are devastating the planet. This has given rise to the term “ecoterrorism”. In France, a movement known as Soulèvements de la terre was attacked and disbanded by the government,  leading to potential prosecution of sympathisers. The expression of political satirists is curbed. The press is increasingly owned by billionaires, who can exercise their political power by imposing or censoring editorial contents.

Faced with this situation, two attitudes are conceivable: the armed revolt advocated by certain movements or the work of conscience to awaken those – the majority – who believe that disaster is inevitable. We may be tempted by the first solution, given the unbelievable level of cynicism of the elites, the unbearable injustices and, last but not least, the urgent need to change social behaviour in order to stem the ecological catastrophe.

For those who don’t believe in violent revolutions that have only ever given birth to new dictatorships, the only possible solution is to work on changing people’s behaviour, to invent their own active resistance by creating new ways of producing, trading, exchanging and living. It’s a race against time between the furies of virilist supremacy and the builders of utopia. It will take pugnacity and courage. But it can be done. At least we are betting on it.

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