People’s protests that began during the last quarter of 2018 against ultra-rightist and neo-fascist regimes especially in European countries are gathering further momentum as the New Year dawns. The global media that promptly highlighted the growing influence of Alternative for Germany (AfD), was relatively silent on the protest march of an estimated 242000 people along the streets of Berlin against the ascendancy of neo-fascists and their anti-immigration campaigns. According to reports, this mid-October protest rally which has been the biggest in recent years was led by a broad alliance of anti-austerity initiative composed of trade unions, democratic right groups and progressive associations.
In the first week of December, thousands of people marched in several cities in southern Spain to protest the rise of Vox, the far-right party that suddenly appeared onto the political scene. Youth in large numbers who participated in the protests, blocked city lanes and entered in to confrontations with police. In some cities, the protestors blocked traffic and raised slogans: “It is fascism, not democracy,” “Refugees welcome”, etc. By the end of the second week of December, in Austria, thousands of protesters marched along the streets of Vienna raising the banners against fascism and racism propped up by the ruling coalition composed of the neo-conservative People’s Party (OeVP) and far-right Freedom Party (FPOe). Though police claimed the number of protesters as around 17000, actual turnout is estimated at 50000 in spite of bad weather. This people’s initiative was in the context of a series of tough anti-immigration measures, especially welfare-cuts aimed at immigrants imposed by the Austrian government which holds the presidency of EU till the end of 2018. In Brussels, on Decmber11, though the anti-austerity rally started as a peaceful demonstration, soon it became militant with 50000 protesters blocking streets and masked protesters even hurling fire-crackers at the police who responded by firing water cannons.
The ongoing “yellow vest” protest in France against the ultra-rightist policies of Macron is a much discussed one. His efforts to cool down people’s resentment by reducing fuel taxes are not enough to pacify the protesters. Within a year, Macron’s approval ratings have gone down by almost 30 percentage points and according to latest information, he has deployed the entire French police to suppress people’s riots. Meanwhile, the chauvinistic British ruling classes now led by Theresa May are facing repeated political reverses in the pursuit of materialising the Brexit deal and leaving the EU. Even within the arch-reactionary conservative sections divisions have arisen over the question of Brexit.
With the beginning of the third week of December, the streets of Budapest in Hungary are witnessing large-scale mobilisation of workers against the amendments in labour laws in the interests of corporate capital. The anti-worker law enacted by right-wing government led by Victor Orbán and its attempt to curtail the power of the judiciary have led to upsurges from workers characterised as “the most violent protests in more than ten years.” As in France, the protests in Hungary supported by students and youth have assumed the character of a broad people’s movement against far-right, pro-corporate austerity measures. Except the financial elite who are the beneficiaries of the neoliberal system, vast majority of the people including workers, women, youth and students are sympathetic to the protests in all European countries.
Historical Context of the Advent of Ultra-Right Politics
Today, the neo-fascist or far-right political spectrum has become a well-defined and consolidated force in almost all European countries that pursued a liberal bourgeois order for almost three decades following the Second World War. A whole set of ideological and political factors contributed for the shift towards right-wing marked by anti-communism, neo-fascism, ultra-nationalism, chauvinism, xenophobia, racism, authoritarianism and so on that often combine laissez-faire/free market fundamentalism in economic policies with ultra-nationalist/protectionist militarism in international relations. The discrediting of fascism and advance of socialism had effectively prevented the emergence of such reactionary ideologies in the immediate postwar context.
However the ideological-political setbacks suffered by the political Left since the seventies have enabled imperialist ruling classes to depoliticize the masses and put heavier burdens on the people in the mad pursuit of marking up profits. Together with this, views justifying the “superiority” of the elite and racial minority over the “inferior” masses and fascist ideas that “superior people” should have greater rights than common people have got legitimacy in political discussions. Often, these ultra-right and neoconservative thinking in the beginning was camouflaged under “right-wing populism” involving appeals to the “common people” against immigrants and refugees. It is only later that they have resorted to an exclusive neo-Nazi/neo-fascist identity-politics based orientation based on nationality, ethnicity, race, religion and even culture. Effectively utilizing the anti-establishmentarian attitude of the middle-classes, taking advantage of people’s mistrust of mainstream parties, mobilising hooligans and putting demagogues in front, the far-right could make electoral successes of varying degrees since the 1980s.
Table: Vote Share of Selected Far-Right Parties in EU
Country Name of the Party Vote Share (approximate %)
Austria Austrian Freedom Party 26
Czech Republic Freedom and Direct Democracy 11
Denmark Danish People’s Party 21
Finland The Finns 18
France National Front 13
Germany Alternative for Democracy 13
Greece Golden Dawn 07
Italy The League 17
Netherlands Freedom Party 13
Sweden Democrats 18
Switzerland Swiss People’s Party 29
More or less the same pattern of neo-fascist and ultra-right political trends in varying degrees are visible across many countries. The ascendancy of “anti-establishmentarian” Trump in the US and the coming to power of saffron fascist Modi rule in India are instances. Though their concrete manifestations are different, pro-corporate orientation in economic policies coupled with an all-out ideological-political offensive against all progressive and democratic forces is the hallmark of all of them. To camouflage this far-right offensive, along with “populism” postmodern/post-Marxist intellectuals under the service of imperialist capital everywhere provide the necessary inputs to the ruling classes for depoliticising the masses. And as already noted, to divert people’s attention from the operations of capital and to disorient their struggles against neoliberal policies, chauvinistic and fundamentalist ideas and ideologies based on nationalism, ethnicity, religion, race, and so on are suggested as the “preferred cohesion of the oppressed” against the injustices of the modern world. Quite reminiscent of the Nazi days, immigrants, refugees, low-castes, racial and religious minorities, are blamed for all the “misfortunes”. With the backing of state apparatus and corporate media, vigilante groups and storm troopers, hatred, suspicion and attacks are systematically spread and enforced to divide people’s fighting unity against corporate capital.
Return of People’s Surging Fury against the Far-Right
However, in Europe, Americas, Afro-Asian and Far East countries, the neoconservative, ultra-right forces are now facing people’s simmering discontent. Constant efforts on the part of ruling classes everywhere to keep the profit rates high have imparted heavier and heavier burdens on the backs of the working people in the form of declining earnings and falling living standards on the one hand and curtailment of hard-earned democratic rights on the other. And in order to effectively serve the corporate class, the neo-fascist rulers have replaced the veil of bourgeois democracy with authoritarian and dictatorial methods. At global level, this right-wing offensive is manifested in mounting trade/currency wars and protectionist policies. And the last several years of neo-fascist economic, political and cultural offensive together with the intensification of the inherent contradictions of the imperialist ruling system have immensely contributed in raising the political consciousness of the broad masses of people. Thus working class struggles and people’s discontent are surging in every part of the globe in one form or another. Though a revolutionary political leadership capable of leading these struggles against neoliberal policies and transform the system is yet to emerge, as noted in the beginning, people’s fury is rising up against the economic, social, political and ecological disruptions created by neo-fascists and ultra-rightists.
While these lines are being written, the French political scenario where the world has been witnessing relentless people’s struggles in recent days is becoming more critical. Being denied of decent pay and service conditions, the French police led by their unions have threatened to join the “yellow vest” protesters imparting a new political dimension to the crisis faced not only by the Macron government, but also by the ruling system as a whole. In a similar way, people’s opposition in many countries is developing in novel forms even as mainstream traditional parties and trade unions who have no alternative to the ruling class policies are remaining as spectators. Similarly, even though not so apparent and consolidated as in France and other EU countries, people’s resentment against Trump’s austerity measures (recently, thousands of teachers have marched through the streets of Los Angeles and California), especially against his anti-immigrant “child separation” policy is mounting in the US. Domestically the US ruling system itself is in a “destabilisation crisis”, as Trump the CEO of world’s leading imperialist power is facing several civil and criminal investigations especially with regard to violations of campaign finance laws during his election. Both the Republican and Democratic chieftains of American imperialism, world people’s number one enemy, are afraid of the potential damages to the system that may result from the present political crisis. And irrespective of the national specificities, as a manifestation of the crisis and rottenness of the ruling system, all the political and constitutional (as in India) institutions of the country are undermined in one way or other.
To be precise, worldwide surging people’s movements underscore that the days of class compromises and consensus are over and that contradiction between the people and the ruling elite is mounting. While struggling workers and oppressed masses are advancing, the march of unfettered neoliberal capitalism is blocked, and the latter is facing many reverses. The global crisis of imperialism everywhere has assumed an irreversible dimension as all its inherent contradictions are piling up on an unprecedented scale. Previous atraction to neoliberal ideologies are waning and concerned sections have started seriously thinking over the sustainability and continuance of imperialist globalisation. All existential tactics adopted by ruling classes have become ineffective. And the situation is very favourable for a revolutionary intervention by the political left who can put forward a people’s alternative to neoliberalism.