The close contacts between the parties of the European extreme right, the meeting held in Milan to form a political bloc, the consultation between them on the elections to the European Parliament - not forgetting the "advice" of the USAmerican fascist operative Stephen Bannon -- are facts that confirm that the goal of these forces is to create an international structure that brings them together. This goal puts them well beyond the nationalist programs that they preach, as well as their anti-Europeanism [anti-EU]. It is vital for the left to know what it is facing.
The lure of the ‘nation’
"Nationalism," in the sense of returning to the nation, which is the theme these forces have used to promote themselves, gradually shows itself as camouflage. It is only a useful argument to gain support in each country, exploiting the naive idea that each people deals better with "its own" leaders, with "its own" ruling classes, and that it can thus better determine its political destiny. That was one of the strongest arguments for Brexit, just as in the rest of Europe.
The anti-Europeanism that they preach, in the sense of renouncing the European Union, is also revealed as a cloak under which they try to co-opt, in each country, popular discontent with the EU’s course: austerity policy, degradation and downgrading of democratic institutions, concentration of power in a highly centralized bureaucracy, the "gulf" between voters and elected representatives, etc. -- all this provides them with good arguments.
Competition between national bourgeoisies, each of them striving for a position of advantage at the European level, nurtures competition among the forces of the extreme right. However, this does not prevent the rightists from cooperating effectively towards one goal: to become the leading group working together within the EU. To paraphrase a well-known idea, the movement that the extreme right embodies, and which represents various interests, is nationalist in form, but internationalist in content and objectives.
It is no surprise that the hatred they express against the EU - which at first would seem to lead to a separation into nations, each on its own - is ultimately transmuting (at least in the continental countries) into pro-Europeanism of a fascist nature. As the Italian rightist Matteo Salvini made clear, “now we can aspire to lead the EU in our own way.” This is what he means when he talks about "restoring the power of the member states" within the EU.
In other words, the “democratic” imperialism of the EU tends to become an anti-democratic, fascist imperialism, under the action of the hardliners of the extreme right and with the gradual adherence of the forces of the traditional right to key points of the extremists’ ideology and political platform.
A global plan
Why is it more precise to call them "fascists" and not just "populists," as the bourgeois forces of the traditional right are kind enough to call them?
In truth, this is not the fascism or Nazism of Mussolini or Hitler that re-enters the scene with its old-fashioned folklore. The new forces of the extreme right, with the support from a considerable sector of the masses, appear without the Nazi salute or brown shirts. Their political maturity has left this choreography of small sects behind them.
Calling them fascists fits them because, in their basic political nature, they defend the same program as fascism -- overcoming the weaknesses of liberal democracy (of bourgeois liberalism in crisis) by means of anti-democratic authoritarianism. The program of the extreme right points to the establishment of a "new type" of power with the mission of "restoring order" - expressions that convey a bourgeois dictatorship without democracy, in place of the bourgeois dictatorship legitimized by democratic processes.
The plan is not Italian, or French, or German. It is a plan on a European scale (for the time being, centred on the EU) and it is also global, as shown by the examples of Trump in the USA and, on a different scale, Bolsonaro in Brazil.
The active intervention of the Trump gang, both in the United Kingdom - encouraging Brexit at any price, promising advantageous agreements to British capital - and in supporting the extreme right-wing forces throughout Europe, confirms the movement's collusion and its global ambitions. What is more, it shows the commitment of U.S. imperialism to becoming the commander-in-chief of this vast political change.
Trying to escape the quagmire
The decomposition of liberal capitalist democracy is obvious. And it is on this unstable foundation of capitalist democracy that the extreme right is advancing towards establishing its so-called "new order."
This decomposition, which stems from a historical crisis of liberal regimes, cannot be reversed. It can only be overcome in one of two ways. The first is through the revolutionary, definitive way that overcomes capitalism -- this way does not correspond to "getting capitalism out of the crisis" but to "getting out of capitalism in crisis," in the happy expression of Samir Amin. Or through the reactionary, always provisional way that seeks to pull capitalism out of the swamp through the establishment of a "new state."
It is with this "new state" that the extreme right hopes to eliminate the weaknesses that afflict bourgeois democracy as it faces the great crisis of capitalism -- like fascism and Nazism did between the two world wars in the 20th century, not neglecting the differences between that era and the current one.
Just as it was then, now the great economic powers converge with these [fascist] political movements because the ruling classes see that the liberal order has deteriorated and has become incapable of guaranteeing capital accumulation and the security of political power. They are therefore working actively not to reform the institutional architecture of the political system, but to overcome it, to cast it aside. (1)
Power and the people who speak for it treat the issue as if it were a simple confrontation of conceptions or political "philosophies." They even give credibility to the supposed "democratic nature" of the fascist forces because these forces participate willingly in elections.
They attribute the electoral success of the extreme right to demagogy and "populism." This means, at best, talking about the processes used to gain electoral support, not the reasons behind the phenomenon.
Everything is still left unexplained. In particular, why does the traditional right wing lose support to the extreme right? Why does it accept proposals from the extreme right, even incorporating them into its programs? Why does it establish alliances and form governments with the extreme right? Why does it, in the end, finally slide within its boundaries?
The traditional right follows this trajectory of bending towards the extreme right because the living forces of power, big business, the elite of the ruling classes, gamble on extreme solutions and push the party forces that can serve them in that direction.
Where, in the political sphere, does this change lie?
The crisis of capital in the background
It is impossible to understand what is happening without relating this evolution to the crisis of decadence, to the dead end in which world capitalism finds itself.
In order to bring the root of the issue to the surface, it is necessary to emphasize that world capitalist accumulation has stagnated and that there are no signs on the horizon that the economy can resume the rhythms necessary for capital to accumulate. Capitalism flooded the world and developed as far as it could. It now faces the limits of its own growth: falling profit rates, gigantic capital accumulation with no possible appreciation and stagnation.
"Social unrest," the end of "social peace" -- that is, the growth of the class struggle -- are factors that accompany this decadence and that enter into the political calculations of the bourgeoisie. Anticipating the possibility of large-scale mass actions, capital is trying to provide itself with the means to ensure the stability and effectiveness of its power, freeing it from inconvenient constraints.
The democratic exception
It is with the aim of trying to break that stagnation and prevent the risks of revolutionary waves that the political aims of the bourgeoisie are being transformed. Representative democracy, glorified as the model and summit of "civilisation”, is ultimately perishable, closely following the decadence of the economic system.
In fact, it is not too much to remember that in the imperialist metropolises the power exercised in its democratic form was implanted and survived in the conditions of continuous material progress, that is, of a growing accumulation of capital. Such a political system was rarely established nor did it last for a long time in the countries of the capitalist periphery.
It was the unbridled, colonialist and imperialist exploitation of the peripheries that allowed (in the dual material and ideological sense) the democratic regimes established in the centers of capital accumulation to persist. The bourgeois democratic "model" is, on the scale of the world and of history, an exception enjoyed by the peoples of the imperialist metropolises.
Globalizing means a race to the bottom
Now, the general crisis, the present stagnation, has brought to the capitalist metropolises what was associated with "underdevelopment": colossal and growing inequalities, rising poverty, permanent unemployment, degraded social services. This also brought with it the crisis of the political systems that underpin their existence and owe their stability to material progress.
The end of this material progress began with the destruction of the conditions of bourgeois, social-democratic and "socialist" reformism, and of the entire political and party apparatuses that surrounded it. This is shown by the electoral losses of the "center" parties. But beyond that, it now reaches the foundation of the democratic regime itself. Bourgeois democracy, the most perfect form of capital domination over the working masses, is dragged down the drain by the crisis of the capitalist social system.
Two steps in the same direction
Trying to put the events in perspective, we can see that the so-called "neoliberal" impulse, initiated in the 1980s, was an initial movement towards freeing capital from its confrontation with labor (2) - succeeding in actually postponing for two decades the outbreak, in 2007-2008, of the crisis that continues until today.
The exhaustion of this impulse now requires the bourgeoisie to take a step further to the right. A step that, from the bourgeoisie’s point of view, this time definitively overcomes the obstacles and the inefficiency of the remaining democratic process. (3)
It is in this environment of capitalist decadence that the new fascisms arise with their brutal solutions, in an attempt to overcome the growth of class struggles in their various manifestations. One example of this are the mass migrations, which fascists -- not by chance -- so often blame for causing the problem.
The aim, let us repeat, is to create a new institutional framework more favorable to the exploitation of labor and the recovery of capital; it’s a project of power based on class violence. Nothing less serves the interests of today's big bourgeoisie, which is increasingly restricted as a class and justifiably haunted by the specter of social revolt. (4)
Neither reformism nor nostalgia offers solutions
We are therefore facing a fundamental wave that is shaking the global balances that existed until recently, redrawing the map of the confrontation between the major powers, particularly the imperialist powers, and putting the workers and the peoples up against new challenges.
That is why the social democratic, reformist approach, which promises to make “improvements” to the political system, does not in itself help, because it insists on ignoring the root of the problem. The recent attempt by the European socialist parties to forge a “front” with the liberal right -- such as the one represented in France by President Emmanuel Macron -- in order to oppose the fascist bloc -- is a sign of weakness and not of strength of the so-called “center” parties, which are thus tied to the right-wing drift of the traditional right.
Nationalism and patriotism advocated by the left (5) are also incapable of stopping the growing fascist wave. Either because they represent an unattainable flight to a time of "national capitalism" that no longer exists and will no longer exist; or because they feed the mirage of transforming "from within" the institutions of European imperialism. In their different gradations, they maintain the illusion that the imperialist power of the EU can be undermined either by a return to the national past or tempered in the name of “the people,” “reason” or “civilisational achievements.”
It is important to specify that these currents, commonly called left-wing, are the left-wing of the regime. In other words, they are the left that is possible within the limits of bourgeois democratic institutions. And it is this condition that prevents them from raising before the working masses the objective of overcoming -- through an anti-capitalist, socialist social revolution -- the impasse to which capitalism has led the world of today.
It is in this emptiness, to which the disorganisation and lack of a program of the European revolutionary left have also contributed, that the extreme right has progressed without arousing a resistance of a similar magnitude up to now.
Capital as a target
But for a growing number of workers, it is not confidence in capitalism that leads them to accept it -- the growing abstention in elections also shows this. It is rather the real notion that there is no coherent political program to replace it, and that there is no organized force today that can bring it down.
Also the prevailing democracy, the one that really exists, is perceived by the great masses as a monopoly of the bourgeoisie in which the workers' and popular interests have no room for manoeuvre to impose their interests. The lack of commitment to defend it [bourgeois democracy] or to "perfect it" thus reveals a natural class reflex.
The brutal evolution that the events prefigure makes it evident that the mass struggle will only be effective if it hurts the interests of capital, and this will only happen if the working classes are in the leadership. This is the only way for the resistance movement to accumulate the force that allows it to stop the reactionary drift of those in power.
Raising the fight against capital itself is not, therefore, a utopia, nor does it represent narrowing the field of mass struggle, as the reformist left argues against “the unrealism" of revolutionary slogans. On the contrary, it is the condition of awakening the class sensibility of the workers, of putting them at the forefront of action and of increasing resistance.
The willingness to struggle must be encouraged -- at the trade union, political and general social level -- and extortion based on the alleged dangers of "social upheaval" must be rejected. With the argument of "keeping order," the ruling classes want to secure the conditions for continuing to crush the people at the bottom. Against this, it is necessary to unite all the forces participating in the mass struggle and declare the legitimacy of the social struggle in all its forms. The popular movement needs to break the blockade that has limited it: its voluntary subjection to the capitalist order.
The response to the crisis of capitalism, of which the ongoing global changes are a mirror, lies not in the ability or in the inventiveness of the proposed solutions, but in the strength applied to class confrontation. The key to defeating the extreme right and its supposed "new order" lies in the solidity of anti-capitalist combat.
(1) The Corporate Europe Observatory, an organization with no leftist aspirations, which investigates the influence and privileges of big business in EU policy-making, states in a May 2019 report that in countries like Italy, Hungary, Austria, Germany and others, “business leaders advocate cooperation with, or actively support, authoritarian parties that are in government or when they have a real chance of getting there.” The recent scandal that shook Austria's far right revealed that the FPÖ, one of the ruling parties, was funded by arms manufacturer Glock and giants such as Japan Tobacco International and British-American Tobacco, as well as maintaining close ties with the Austrian Industry Federation.
(2) In the imperialist centers, of course, because in the rest of the world the savagery of a "deregulated" capital has always been in place. In addition, the decline and collapse of the USSR and the regimes of Eastern Europe have eliminated the pressure on capitalism to make social concessions to the workers with the aim of disrupting the revolutionary movements.
(3) That is to say, the essence of the social state set up in the second post-war period [post 1945] in the imperialist metropolises, namely: rights and protection of workers, the defense of women and minorities, individual rights, the "redistributive" tax system, legal limits to the action of capital. The right to vote can even be maintained ad eternum, as long as it is well manipulated, as a cloak to "legitimise" the "new order."
(4) Nevertheless, seen closely, the slogans with which the extreme right appeals to the discontented masses (the nation, racism, religious hatred, plus corruption and insecurity) are narrow slogans that do not form real proposals for a new future. The program is short: to administer by other means the same decadent and dead-end capitalism. Unlike what happened in Europe and Japan almost a hundred years ago, the prospects for the renewal of economic growth are nowhere in sight, neither in the large capitalist-imperialist blocs, nor, much less, in each isolated nation. This will be the main weakness of the proclaimed "new order" and will dictate, in time, its death sentence.
(5) Whether it is in the 'hard' version of the Portuguese Communist Party (PCP), which proposes exiting the EU and the euro in the name of “left-wing patriotism,” or in the “soft” version of the Left Block (BE), located within social democratic reformism, of “demanding” advantages in Brussels. With local differences, we can see much the same in the positions of Podemos in Spain, La France Insoumise in France, Syriza in Greece, Die Linke in Germany.