Europe for Europeans

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The European far right is not a cohesive bloc

The growth of the extreme right in voting intentions in several European countries, combined with the systematic meetings of its leaders, gives the impression that its parties form a cohesive bloc. Actually, it's not quite like that. They have, of course, common flags, which also manifest themselves with nuances and variants on other continents, as in the case of Donald Trump in the United States, Javier Milei and Jair Bolsonaro in Latin America, Benjamin Netanyahu and his government in Israel.

I list a few: xenophobic nationalism, which targets immigrants and refugees, especially those from outside Europe; growing Islamophobia, replacing in Europe, but not always, anti-Semitism; a marked distrust of the European Union, at least in its current state; a discourse that is based on retrograde moralism and often on religious arguments; opposition to identity movements, such as feminism, appreciation of cultural diversity and others; actions and speeches of hate and violence, against those they consider to be their adversaries and enemies; condemnation of traditional politics and politicians, whether conservative, liberal or left-wing.

Having common flags does not necessarily mean having a common program, nor even a shared historical identity. “Europe for Europeans”, is a slogan that mobilizes the extreme right, from Ukraine in the east to Portugal in the west, from the Polar Circle in the north to the Mediterranean in the south.

But the “Europes” of the Portuguese Chega, the Spanish Vox, the French Rassemblement National, the Alloy and Brothers of Italy in Milan or Rome, from alternative for Germany (AfD) in Germany, to name a few examples, do not have the same meaning, nor the same historical roots.

A testament to this diversity, which can be conflicting, is the recent crisis that befell the far-right bloc in the European Parliament, “Identity and Democracy”, on the eve of the election for that continental legislative house, scheduled to take place from 06 to June 09th.

The crisis began with an interview given by Maximilian Krah, one of the main deputies of the alternative for Germany German in the European Parliament and candidate for re-election, to the Italian newspaper La Reppublica. In it, the deputy declared that a member of the former SS, the main Nazi para-military organization, “was not necessarily a criminal”.

The statement fell like a bomb in the middle of the block. French leader Marine Le Pen, from Gathering, immediately retorted that he would from now on refuse to work together with members of the AfD. With support from Alloy in Italy, all members of the AfD ended up being literally expelled from the parliamentary bloc. Within one's own Alternatives there was an earthquake: the party leadership decided that Maximilian Krah would no longer be able to participate in its rallies and the campaign for Parliament, although it kept him as a candidate.

The crisis shows, on the one hand, how the German deputy's statement could harm Le Pen's efforts to move closer to the political center and erase the stain of anti-Semitism from the party founded in 1972 by her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, as Front National. This same effort to get closer to the center is shared by Alloy Italian.

It also highlights the AfD's own fear of falling further in voting intentions, which were once 23% and today are around 15%, still comfortable, but a considerable drop.

The Portuguese Chega cultivates the memory of Salazarism; the Spanish Vox, that of Francoism. Many Vox supporters see themselves as heirs of the Knights Templar of the Middle Ages, accentuating a strongly religious content. The same cannot be said about Alloy or Brothers of Italy, although it shares flags with conservative Catholic movements, such as anti-abortion or anti-same-sex marriage. Religion itself is also not part of the main menu of the National Gathering, not even from the German AfD. On the other hand, it is much stronger in neighboring Poland and other former Eastern European countries. In some of these countries, including Ukraine, there is greater tolerance towards the use, by far-right militants, of symbols reminiscent of those of former Nazism.

There is a new feature, however, in the landscape. Contrary to what happened in the first decades of the last century, the extreme right has not found enthusiastic support in European business circles, which generally prefer to rely on politicians of traditional conservatism, austere in social budgets, and sometimes liberal in customs. and always neoliberal in the economy.

Such circles do not welcome the extreme right's distrust of one of the dogmas of the European Union, whose freedom regarding the movement of capital represents, after all, a very good business, a very advantageous deal. For this reason, in almost all countries the majority of extremists come from urban and rural middle classes, or even from the poor who feel threatened, seeking easily identifiable “enemies”, such as foreigners or culturally diverse people.

Flavio Aguiar, journalist and writer, is a retired professor of Brazilian literature at USP. Author, among other books, of Chronicles of the World Upside Down (boitempo). []

Originally published on the website Radio France International, Radio-Web Agency.

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