World in View: European voters hold off fascism

From the July-August 2017 issue of News & Letters

by Gerry Emmett

The recent elections in France and Britain have been a welcome setback for that fascist Right which saw Trump and Brexit as a cresting wave carrying them to state power.

The defeat of Marine Le Pen’s bid for the French presidency by an unexpectedly large margin gives the world a slight breathing space. It doesn’t cancel the fact that her fascist National Front has effectively established itself as one of the major French parties—as the election also saw the collapse of the left and right “mainstream.”

LEFT RETHINKING?

Paris Communards on the barricades.

Paris Communards on the barricades.

There are signs of new thinking appearing on the French and European Left. The comments of outgoing Socialist Party Secretary General Jean-Christophe Cambadélis are revealing: “The left must change everything, form and substance, its ideas and its organizations. It is a question of rethinking the roots of progressivism, for its two pillars—the welfare state and the continuing extension of freedoms—are being challenged. It is the indispensable foundation of a new political offer on the left to counter both neoliberalism and nationalism.”

The Socialist Party won’t be the vehicle for this, however, and neither will Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s “Unsubmissive France.” We haven’t entered an era of “populist” politics, but rather a period of disorientation among the Left.
Rather than raising the banner of 1789, or of the Popular Front of the 1930s, the needed rethinking will begin from the 1871 Paris Commune and the profound internationalism of the 1960 Manifesto of the 121.

New President Emmanuel Macron showed his true colors June 22 when he declared his effective support for the genocidal Assad regime in Syria. His neoliberal policies of cutting social programs, lowering taxes on the rich and privatization of government will be no less heartless.

A GENUINE ALTERNATIVE?

The British Labour Party’s gain of 30 seats in Parliament, coupled with stunning losses for Theresa May’s Conservatives, represented in large part a rejection of the “Carnival of Reaction” (attacks on immigrants, etc.) that followed last year’s Brexit vote.

As in France, young voters led in rejecting the Right’s racist politics. It will be difficult for Labour leader British to negotiate the exit from the European Union that he signed off on—which by damaging the UK economy could undermine his populist economic program. A dilemma the Conservatives didn’t give a damn about.

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