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Fascism Resurges in Its Original Homeland

Wednesday 28 September 2022, by siawi3


SEPTEMBER 26, 2022

Kuttner on TAP

Fascism Resurges in Its Original Homeland

When the left fails to deliver, the far right fills the gap.

PARIS – The election of a far-right coalition in Italy with a neofascist, Giorgia Meloni, as likely prime minister is even more alarming for what it portends for the rest of Europe. Meloni’s three-party alliance, which includes Matteo Salvini’s far-right League and what remains of Silvio Berlusconi’s Forza Italia, is projected to gain about 44 percent of the vote and a majority of seats in both the Chamber of Deputies and the Senate.

Four years ago, Meloni’s party, Brothers of Italy, won just 4 percent of the vote. This time, they gained 26 percent.

The center-left Democratic Party, whose technocratic prime minister Mario Draghi ran a competent national unity government for 18 months, lost badly. The center-left coalition is expected to have just 78 seats in the new lower house compared to 238 for the far right.

Italian politics are famously unstable, but what caused this earthquake? In the short term, personal and partisan rivalry was at work. But long-term, in Italy as elsewhere, the economy is not serving ordinary people.

The center-left has led the Italian government for much of the past decade but has not been able to deliver fundamental change. Its per capita GDP has not grown for more than 20 years. Immigration and nationalist resentment, combined with more recent privations caused by Russia’s energy boycott and the European Central Bank’s austerity policies, pour oil on the flames.

In Sweden, where the far-right Sweden Democrats led the right-wing coalition to a very narrow victory over the center-left two weeks ago, similar dynamics were at work. The difference is that in Sweden, other parties agree that the far right must not serve in the Cabinet, so the traditional center-right party, the Moderates, will lead the government, but with the tacit support and unsavory influence of the Sweden Democrats.

The most alarming shock waves may be felt here in France, where serious people now believe that the far-right leader Marine Le Pen could well win the next presidential election. Granted, it’s a long way to 2027, but it’s hard to see how the lot of the average French citizen will improve much over that time, and even harder to see how an electable left party will arise from the dead. The inept regime of former President François Holland (2012 to 2017) all but wiped out the once proud French Socialist Party.

In the 2022 election, when Le Pen made the runoff, the technocratic incumbent Emmanuel Macron defeated her, but only by 58.5 to 41.5 percent. Macron’s approval rating has been running below Biden’s.

At the level of solidarity with Ukraine, the EU has been doing well. It has also promoted a common emergency energy policy. But on the economy, the EU functions as a kind of neoliberal straitjacket, preventing dramatic change.

The far right is in danger of emerging as the prime opposition to a resented status quo. The democratic left had better learn how to compete.