ECONOMY

The EU “Center” Embraces the Right Kind of “Right” 


The far right surges, says the BBC and CNN, but the center holds.

The far right wreaks havoc, but thankfully the center holds, echoes the New York Times.

“…it looks like the constructive, pro-European centre has held,” European Parliament President Roberta Metsola said.

“Constructive” is one way of putting it, and that’s probably true if the goal is some combination of neoliberalism, slavish Atlanticism, censorship, corruption, extreme incompetence, and more bunkers:

What exactly does the center holding mean when this is an EU backing Nazis in Ukraine and genocide in Gaza?

It would appear to signify that there will be no change in these policies. While the “right” did indeed make some gains, it was mostly nibbling around the edges:

Even if there was a complete sea change in the makeup of the European Parliament, the fact remains the governance structure of the bloc is designed to be undemocratic and the parliament has a limited ability to do much other than provide a facade of democracy. The parliament is supposed to act as a check on commission power. It has to approve legislation proposed by the European Commission, it can censure the Commission, and the European Council has to ‘take into account’ the result of the parliament elections to nominate the Commission president – although the latter process turned into a backroom disaster in 2019 when Ursula von der Leyen failed upwards into the job.

And it looks increasingly likely that von der Leyen will be back to continue her reign that has been a disaster for most Europeans:

And so we have this to look forward to, from Gilbert Doctorow: 

This means that barring some accident, Ursula von der Leyen will be reelected and the awful, self-destructive, even suicidal policies of the EU with respect to Russia will continue for the coming 5 years, if there is no Continent-wide war as a result that wipes Europe off the face of the earth.

There is some thought that the dramatic results in Germany and France, where President Macron has already scheduled new elections, will produce some shifts in EU policy:

No doubt. But what will that look like? And is it a course the commission feels forced to take or one it embraces?

What exactly is the “far right” in Europe today?

The use of the left-right political spectrum really needs to be retired, especially in Europe. As mentioned above, the “center” is for the following: war with Russia, genocide in Gaza, all types of neoliberal economic policies, and censorship of any voices that dissent from these policies. What little remains of the authentic left is anti-war and opposed to neoliberalism.

What then of the right? The term as it is used today refers to two distinct groups, broadly outlined here:

  1. Those who take a hard line on immigration and have no problem with the EU market-friendly economic policies, but advocate for more national sovereignty. Oftentimes that is expressed through Eurosceptic or anti-EU positions with a similar view towards NATO, as well as opposition to the war with Russia since it is harming the national economic interests.
  2. Those who take a hard line on immigration and have no problem with the EU market-friendly economic policies but who have abandoned their EU and NATO-skeptic views and support the war against Russia. Both 1 and  2 typically skeptical if not outright opposed to environmental and climate change policies.

Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni is supposedly a leader of the right, but she is clearly in bucket number two. Upon her 2022 election she picked up seamlessly from her predecessor, the unelected Goldman Sachs man Mario Draghi, Meloni works well with Von der Leyen, and is a big proponent of the war against Russia despite all the damage it’s doing to Italy.

On the defining issue of the day in Europe (war with Russia), there is little to no daylight between the “productive center” and the Melonis on the right. It’s worth recalling all the hysteria over Meloni’s election back in 2022. A year and a half later, the New York Times was able to declare that Meloni solidified her credentials and “ has put the European establishment at ease. She has proved to be rock-ribbed on the question of Ukraine…”

The European Peoples Party (center), which is projected to remain the largest bloc in the parliament, is a major backer of Project Ukraine. The European Conservatives and Reformists (ECR) is too. ECR is led by Meloni’s Brothers of Italy, Law and Justice in Poland, VOX in Spain, and the Sweden Democrats.

Whatever opposition to Project Ukraine can be found on the right, is in the Identity and Democracy (ID) party, although it might be softening – at least in the case of Marine Le Pen’s Rassamblent National. Le Pen has begun to take a more pro-NATO line in recent months (although she has also criticized Macron over his eagerness to send French troops to Ukraine), likely in an attempt to show her “readiness to govern” much like Meloni did. It will be very interesting to see what line she takes in the French presidential campaign and how she will govern should she win.

In the case of the Meloni-style right it looks like what’s happening is the absorption of nationalist eurosceptic, anti-NATO right into a pro-NATO, nationalist right. That might seem contradictory, but  Jonas Elvander, the editor of foreign affairs at the Swedish socialist magazine Flamman and a PhD researcher in history at the European University Institute in Florence, makes a compelling argument in a piece in Brave New Europe that was featured in Links yesterday and really deserves a  full read, although I’ll quote liberally from it here:

Since the euro crisis of the 2010s, the EU has gone from projecting its soft-power outward to becoming more defensive and inward-looking, according to Kundnani. The union’s leadership today sees it as being encircled by threats, which since the migration crisis have increasingly become synonymous with non-white migrants and political instability in the neighboring regions. This point was illustrated two years ago by the High Representative of the Union for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borell, when he described the EU as a ”garden” surrounded by a ”jungle”.

This new rhetoric is indicative of what Kundnani calls the EU’s ”civilizational turn”; the civic and cosmopolitan elements of European identity are increasingly being replaced by an emphasis on Europe’s common cultural and civilizational heritage, that is, a more exclusionary understanding of what it means to be European.

When Ursula von der Leyen was picked as new President of the European Commission in 2019, she decided to show that she had heard the voice of the European peoples, which had just given the far right a large increase in seats in the European Parliament. This was translated into a focus on issues like migration and security, as well as the creation of the new Commission portfolio ”Promoting our European Way of Life”, a phrase first used in the early 2000s by the French socialist Prime Minister Lionel Jospin to describe the West European welfare states. What this new position entailed was not very clear; policy areas included migration, security, education, religious dialogue, and the fight against antisemitism (but not islamophobia). Symbolically, however, the move was significant.

In March 2020 a crisis erupted on the border between Turkey and Greece, with migrants trying to enter the EU before being violently pushed back by Greek border security. Even though the violence broke against the rules of conduct of the European border agency Frontex, Von der Leyen hailed the Greek police as Europe’s aspida – Greek for ”shield”.

Such incidents illustrate the ongoing shift in values that the Commission emphasizes, from openness and tolerance to security and cohesiveness. This turn has made it possible for the far right to rediscover the civilizational aspects of the EU and embrace it in the name of the defense of a common European heritage.

So what we have are the likes of Meloni and maybe Le Pen soon morphing their nationalism into a pan-European nationalism and redirecting frustration with Brussels and its neoliberal policies to the outside, against immigrants and Russia.

When the politicians in Brussels and the media talk about the center holding, they’re talking about keeping those opposed to war with Russia at bay, not the likes of Meloni. In fact, nationalists like Meloni are likely the prototype moving forward as her and her Brothers of Italy performed well in this election and continue to maintain high levels of support.

And they are mostly welcomed by “the center.” If these “nationalists” can bring their supporters along with them as they embrace the idea of Europe and servitude to the US, they are actually quite useful. They can help form the foundation for a cohesive European ideology (protecting the “garden”?) beyond just neoliberalism and Atlanticism.

Meanwhile, the real national sovereignists – whether on the left or right – are excluded by any means necessary. They face resistance from the media, spooks, and Brussels. If they’re fortunate enough to get past that, they must deal with lawfare and engineered economic crises. And even if they survive an assassination attempt, like Slovak PM Robert Fico recently did, politicians and media will hint they deserved it.

So that’s the choice for those on the right: meet resistance (or worse) at every turn or embrace a European-style nationalism and be granted the keys to power a la Meloni. Le Pen might be following her.

There’s still one more nationalist big fish to reel in to bring the European Project and Project Ukraine full circle and that is, of course, in Germany.

Germany Divided – Barely

The division between the center-right and sovereignist right is clearly delineated in Germany between the CDU and AfD.

But in reality there isn’t a ton of difference between their policies. All it would take is a Meloni-style shift from the AfD and they would essentially be the CDU.

The Christian Democratic Union head is a neoliberal former Blackrock man and Atlanticist to the bone: Friedrich Merz. The AfD has a neo-Nazi base of supporters, some of its members can help but make excuses and admire the SS, but it is also an ethno-nationalist party that opposes the EU, NATO and Project Ukraine because it hurts German interests.

I have a hard time believing that if the AfD softened its positions against the EU and NATO and got behind Project Ukraine that there would be any opposition by the centrists to it assuming power despite all its fascist baggage. Just consider:

  • Nazis in Ukraine who fight Russia = good.
  • Nazi supporters of AfD who want to leave the euro, kick US troops out of Germany, and make nice with Russia = bad.

Until the AfD understands what kind of Nazis they need to be they will continue to face all the tools of the EU, media, and spooks to keep them out of power. If they become Brussels’ kind of Nazis, well, things should get interesting.

It was a somewhat disappointing showing for a real antiwar and working class party in Germany, Sahra Wagenknecht’s new BSW party, which came in fifth with more than six percent of the vote. It’s tough to knock them too much as the party just formed early this year and is trying to rebuild a left working class politics that had completely vanished from Germany.

BSW and the AfD were largely believed to be in competition for big chunks of the dissatisfied working class vote, and Wagenknecht’s side tried focusing on three arguments in recent weeks:

  1. That BSW is the true representative of the working class while AfD opposes globalists in favor of a more national oligarchy. (The AfD, after all, did receive its seed money from a Nazi billionaire family.) BSW liked to point out AfD’s hypocrisy in supporting the recent farmers protests in Germany while the party’s program simultaneously calls for removing farmer subsidies. “This is not an anti-system party. It is the system, but undemocratic and mean,” says BSW General Secretary Christian Leye.
  2. That the AfD is an ethno-nationalist party with racial positions that harken back to some dark chapters in German history while BSW wants reduced immigration that would benefit the German working class.
  3. BSW also describes itself as the only consistent peace party in the Bundestag. The AfD, on the other hand, is not at all opposed to militarization. In fact, the party calls for the full restoration of operational readiness of the German armed forces, independence from NATO and using the military only for German national interests.

In the end Wagenknecht’s party primarily took votes from Chancellor Olaf Scholz’s Social Democratic Party (SPD) and her former party Die Linke.

That makes sense, as the whole reason Wagenknecht broke off to form her own party was because of how the center continues to swallow up the left. The SPD, founded in 1863, dropped its commitment to Marxism in 1959. Die Linke, Wagenknecht’s former party, Die Linke, which has completely collapsed after abandoning nearly all of its former working class platform in favor of identity politics in an attempt to appear “ready to govern.” Much like the Greens, The Left increasingly stands for neoliberal, pro-war and anti-Russia policies.

BSW will next get to measure its appeal in state elections in Saxony, Thuringia and Brandenburg in the Fall. One problem for Wagenknecht is that the media and political environment In Germany that continuously hypes the threat of Russia rolling across Europe is proving effective – potentially reducing the number of antiwar votes to be had. A recent survey showed that 68 percent back more defense spending at home.

Turnout in Germany was at a record high, which likely demonstrates the historic level  of dissatisfaction with the “traffic light coalition” of the SPD, Greens, and Free Democratic Party, which has been a disaster on every front and was punished at the polls.

Yet, it’s tough to see how things don’t get even worse. Germany’s economic model of cheap Russian energy, wage suppression, and exports is busted. It’s now reliant on expensive US LNG for energy, the Greens even managed to close the country’s last remaining nuclear power plants, the country is simultaneously deindustrializing while becoming more financialized, the economic war with Russia is hurting Germany much more than Russia, and it now has a government that has lost all legitimacy but has ruled out early elections (the next national election isn’t until Fall 2025). A CDU-led government could feasibly be worse, the AfD will be kept out of power unless it changes its tune on Project Ukraine.

Meanwhile, the German von der Leyen at the top of the EU mess appears to have plenty of energy to double down on all the disastrous policies of the past five years:

Europeans might be running for the exits soon as the bloc keeps inching towards open conflict with Russia and the likelihood that the garden goes up in flames.

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