Hard right leader Gloria Meloni’s victory in the Italian elections was celebrated by the European far right.
Hungary’s hard-right Prime Minister Viktor Orban sent congratulations to Meloni and her right-wing allies, Matteo Salvini and Silvio Berlusconi.
Polish far-right Prime Minister Mateusz Morawiecki also hailed Meloni’s victory. The head of Poland’s governing Law and Justice Party, Jaroslaw Kaczynski, declared her election “a day of hope, hope that the EU [European Union] will start to change”.
France’s Marine Le Pen, who recently won 41% of the vote in the presidential election, congratulated Meloni and Salvini for resisting “threats from the [EU]”. Eric Zemmour, who ran on Le Pen’s right in the first round of the presidential election, winning 7% of the vote, also sent congratulations.
Santiago Abascal, leader of the Spanish state’s far-right party, VOX, tweeted: “Millions of Europeans are placing their hopes in Italy.”
The Alternative for Germany (AfD) party also sent congratulations.
Members of the European Parliament’s Identity and Democracy group, which Salvini’s party belongs to, also celebrated.
“Italians are taking back their country. Bravissimo!” tweeted Harold Vilimsky of the Austrian Freedom Party.
Leaders of the Republican Party in the United States were also enthused. Meloni addressed this year’s Conservative Political Action Coalition — also addressed by Donald Trump and other Republican leaders.
Racism, sexism, Islamophobia, homophobia
One thing these parties have in common is white racism. They play upon the fear that white people are being “replaced” by people of colour. They oppose non-white immigrants and asylum seekers and equality for oppressed people of colour.
The historic divisions in Europe that led to two world wars have been suppressed by US domination. The colour line is central, as can be seen by Poland and Western European countries’ accepting Ukrainian refugees, while severely limiting asylum seekers from the Global South.
Another common theme is fear that their countries’ “Christian identity” is under attack, primarily by Islam.
Under the slogan of supporting “traditional family values” they also oppose the movement for LGBTI rights, espouse the subordinate role of women to men in the “traditional” family, and oppose abortion and reproductive rights.
These parties are authoritarian. Some have roots in fascist parties of the past, including — in Meloni’s case — Benito Mussolini’s Republican Fascist Party, or the Nazis (in the case of the Sweden Democrats and AfD).
Fascism is not on the agenda in the countries where the far-right parties exist, as the ruling capitalist classes are not threatened by socialist overthrow. However, other less extreme forms of authoritarian rule exist under capitalism, where a “strong man” (or woman) emerges in a situation of disarray and deadlock among the traditional capitalist parties, and promises to “set things right”.
Marxists characterise such regimes as “Bonapartist”, after the dictatorship of Napoleon Bonaparte’s nephew, Louis, which was established in 1851.
Karl Marx, quoting Victor Hugo, called Louis “Napoleon the Little”, in his analysis, The 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte — 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 Orban’s regime in Hungary, which he himself describes as “illiberal democracy”.
Under this model, 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 are tightly controlled.
Whether Italy or Sweden become illiberal democracies remains to be seen. Poland is already in the same mold.
In the US, a form of illiberal democracy exists in the Republican-controlled states. Many have passed electoral laws that restrict significant numbers of African Americans from voting.
Historically, voter suppression of Blacks — used after the defeat of Reconstruction in 1877 during the “Jim Crow” segregationist era in the South — ended in 1965, under the pressure of the mass civil rights movement.
Now, the Republicans are reversing this gain, 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 with the regime.
Republicans are also banning books in schools and in some public libraries that talk about systematic, institutionalised racism, or mention gender identity. They are also restricting or outright banning abortion.
Far right emboldened
In Europe, the far right has surged in Sweden and Italy. In Germany, Support for AfD has risen to 15%.
Meloni’s victory puts wind in their sails.
The economic crisis, especially soaring inflation, has become a theme for the far right in Europe, and is being emphasised by the Republicans in the US.
In Europe, the energy crisis is being seized on by the far right. In the Czech Republic, mass demonstrations called by the far right were held on September 28. The largest protest was in the capital, Prague.
The New York Times reported: “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 sympathisers 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 EU sanctions against Russia are to blame for inflation and other financial troubles on the continent.”
The NYT repeats what is in all the major media: that the sanctions don’t cause the soaring inflation and the energy crisis, and to say they do is just Russian propaganda. But many European people, not just in the Czech Republic, know differently.
Obscured by US and EU propaganda, the EU announced many months ago that it would cut off all oil and gas from Russia by December. Russia’s recent halt on sending gas through one of its pipelines to Germany was a response to that.
When the US first announced it would sanction Russian oil and gas, prices jumped internationally. US sanctions on Russia’s financial system — announced at the same time — resulted in de facto sanctions against Russian wheat and fertiliser, and prices for those commodities also 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 against Russia.
The NYT reported that “EU efforts [to mitigate the energy crisis] are viewed skeptically among protesters in Prague … where some raised EU flags crossed with red Xs, while others raised the flags of the Czech Communist Party and far-right factions.”
(The small Czech CP, like the Russian CP, are socially conservative Kremlin supporters.)
The Prague rally also featured speakers from AfD.
It is a sad commentary on the state of the left in Europe and the US that it, by and large, supports sanctions against Russian oil, gas, wheat and fertiliser. Meanwhile, the far right capitalises on the issue.
The Prague demonstrations are a harbinger of what looms in the rest of Europe as winter approaches.