The two contemporary extreme right

Clara Figueiredo, series_ quarantine records, delivery, São Paulo, 2020


The current extreme right movements constitute a serious obstacle to the development of anti-capitalist struggles

The consolidation of extreme right movements in the current political scene of most of the European Union States, accompanied by the chronic activism of small neo-fascist groups, is a legitimate concern for all trade union and political organizations whose legacy includes an anti-fascist dimension. Is fascism at our doorstep?

To answer this question, we must first ask ourselves about our historical situation, compared to that which saw the (temporary) triumph of fascism in the 1920s and 1930s.

Beyond superficial similarities, a fundamental difference

Today as then, we are going through a phase of structural crisis of capitalism worldwide, which obliges it to overcome all previous modes of regulation and to question all acquired situations. Today as yesterday, the extreme right movements are above all the expression of those traditional “middle classes” (in agriculture, handicrafts and small industry, commerce and services) that the transnationalization of the economy directly threatens with impoverishment and proletarianization. Today as yesterday, we are tormented by a serious crisis in the labor movement, which deprives the proletariat of any strategy and any organization capable of globally resisting the neoliberal offensive against its previous conquests that it has been suffering after some fifteen years. Consequently, today as yesterday, entire sectors of the proletariat, at the same time disoriented, frightened and infuriated by the increase in unemployment and precariousness, by the degradation of their material and social conditions of existence, desperate for the lack of perspectives, allow themselves to be seduced by propaganda populist and nationalist. Today as in the past, leftist parties, or what remains of them, are unable to resist the constant progression of the extreme right, even favoring it with the neoliberal policies they practiced while they were in government, or taking on xenophobic themes. and racists of your opponent.

Are we therefore about to observe fascist regimes in France, or elsewhere in Europe? I don't think so.

The preceding similarities between the European situation of the 1930s and the current one should not obscure the profound differences between the two. The main one is that the challenge of the structural crisis that capitalism has been facing since the 1970s is not, as in the 1930s, to build and strengthen States capable of regulating, each one in its own national space, a more or less self-centered development of capitalism monopolist that has reached maturity. Today it is exactly the opposite: based on a dismantling of nation-states, now invalidated as an autonomous instance of capital reproduction, it is a question of building a minimal supranational structure to regulate the transnationalization of capital. For this reason, the counterrevolution, through which the hegemonic fraction of the bourgeoisie imposes its interests, is no longer conducted today under the banners of statism and nationalism, resorting to xenophobia and racism, but under the colors of a neoliberalism whose word is of order the “minimum state” and the overcoming of national milestones.

The two contemporary extreme right

And this is what explains the resurgence of far-right movements in Europe, and gives them meaning. But which, at the same time, also circumscribes its limits, by highlighting in particular its division into two opposing trends.

These are, on the one hand, nationalist movements that fight against the weakening of nation-states by neoliberal policies: against the liberalization of the international circulation of capital, the deregulation of markets, the loss by states of their former capacity for regulation. of economic and social life to the benefit of supra or transnational instances, the deterioration of national cohesion as a result of the worsening of social and spatial inequalities, etc. Its main representatives are the Front National [now called National Gathering] in France, the alternative for Germany (AfD: Alternative for Germany), the Freiheitspartei Österreich (FPÖ: Austrian Liberal Party), the Danish People's Party (Danish People's Party), the Basic Finns (True Finns), the Vox in Spain and the Fidesz - Hungarian Civic Association (Hungarian Civic Alliance). These movements bring together or seek to bring together classes, class fractions and social strata that are among the “losers” of neoliberal globalization or who fear being part of it: elements of the bourgeoisie whose interests are linked to the national State apparatus and the national market; the traditional “middle classes”; elements of wage earners who are victims of neoliberal globalization and who lack the traditional capacities for organization and struggle of the wage-earning class (trade union organizations and political representations). Consequently, they seek to (re)constitute nationalist blocs with the aim of returning their full sovereignty to nation-states, advocating a national-capitalism with populist traits.

At the same time, on the other hand, far-right “regionalist” movements have emerged that intend, on the contrary, to benefit from the weakening of nation-states in order to promote or reinforce the autonomy of subnational geopolitical entities (regions, provinces, metropolitan areas, etc. .), or even to demand and obtain their split and political independence from the nation-states, of which these entities are currently a part. The two most typical examples are the vlams belang (Flemish Interest) in Belgium and the Lega North (today simply Alloy) in Italy, to which are added a myriad of others less known, as they are less important. These movements bring together classes, class fractions and social strata that are part of the “winners” of neoliberal globalization or that hope to be part of it: elements of the regional bourgeoisie that were able to advantageously insert themselves in the world market, elements of the salaried class or liberal professions linked to the first, as long as they are free of what they consider to be the dead weight of the nation-state. Thus, these movements seek to form “regionalist” blocks (autonomist or even independentist) destined to emancipate themselves (partially or totally) from the nation-state of which they are currently a part, understood as a burden (fiscal) or an obstacle (normative) to its advantageous insertion in the world market.

The main current obstacle to the fascistization process

At the same time, we clearly perceive the main obstacle to a process of fascistization of power in Europe today. As in the 1920s and 1930s, such a process would ultimately presuppose the conclusion of an alliance between the hegemonic fraction of the bourgeoisie, with its essentially financial composition and resolutely transnational orientation, and one or other of these extreme right movements.

Such an alliance is certainly not inconceivable for a movement of the “regionalist” type, insofar as it does not in any way question, quite the contrary, the process of transnationalization of capital nor the remodeling of the State apparatus that it implies, but seeks to provide simply a better insertion – so he thinks – of a fraction of capital with a “regional” base in the transnational space. But neither would such an alliance assume a fascist socio-economic content or socio-political form: it would at most embody an authoritarian version of neoliberalism, of which there have been some examples in recent decades, most notably the United Kingdom under the direction of Mrs. Thatcher. We can even reasonably bet on the fact that, within the framework of such an alliance, right-wing extremism would decrease as the project was successful, contrary to the rise to extremes, which is characteristic of the fascistization of power. To convince ourselves of this, it is enough to observe the evolution of the influence of the Fleam's concern, which diminished as the cause of Flemish autonomy gained ground… to the benefit of its competitors in the Nieuw-Vlaamse Alliantie (New Flemish Alliance) and the Christen-Democratisch in Vlaams (Christian and Flemish Democrats).

On the other hand, a strategic alliance between the hegemonic fraction of the bourgeoisie and an extreme right-wing nationalist movement is strictly impossible. This certainly does not exclude the possibility that such a movement could come to power within a State at the mercy of a parliamentary majority of which it would be the predominant element. But as soon as it seeks to implement its political program, taking measures that really threaten the transnationalization of capital, it will inevitably find itself financially strangled: public debt is today the most formidable weapon at the disposal of the financial fraction of capital to bring any government in line. try to get in their way, whatever the political coloring, as long as they abandon the logic of capitalism – and we cannot expect any of that from an extreme right-wing government. Nor is it ruled out that the electoral strength of such a movement obliges the organizations of the classical right, which represent the interests of the hegemonic fraction of the bourgeoisie, to enter into a governmental coalition with it. This is exactly what happened in Austria when the FPÖ ruled with the ÖVP (Österreichische Volkspartei: Austrian People's Party) between 1999 and 2005, with the main result not being a fascistization of power, but an electoral weakening of the FPÖ, after being forced to adhere to the liberal and conservative orientations of its partner. The renewal of this black-blue coalition after the parliamentary elections of September 2017 provoked the same setback, further aggravated by cases of corruption, causing it to lose almost ten points in the general elections of September 2019. And similar observations could be made about the consequences of participating in National alliance, heiress of Social Movement Italian, openly neo-fascist, in governmental experiences alongside the training Forza Italy by Silvio Berlusconi: resulted in the dissolution of the movement in 2009 within the centre-right coalition Il Popolo della Libertà. In both cases, in the tandem of the extreme right and the neoliberal and neoconservative right, it was the latter that had the last word.

You could object to the existence of a huge number of groups and micro-organizations with a clearly neo-fascist orientation, outside the previous far-right movements, which are waiting for their moment (the coming to power of one of the organizations mentioned). to give vent to the violence they already practice from time to time. But, just as one swallow doesn't make a summer, fascist groups don't make fascism: if their existence is one of the latter's necessary conditions, but certainly not one of the most important, neither do they constitute its sufficient condition. Otherwise, it would be difficult to explain why fascism only triumphed in determined socio-historical circumstances, while the permanence of fascist groups was revealed throughout Europe for almost a century.

stay tuned

However, this is not about sitting idly by. On the one hand, even if they do not carry the danger of the fascination of power, the current extreme right movements constitute a serious obstacle to the development of anti-capitalist struggles, by weakening the field of salaried workers: by putting a part of their members in tow and under the control of elements of the bourgeoisie, by launching them, moreover, against a part of their own camp, under the pretext that they are “immigrants”, that they are not truly “nationals”, that they would be “unassimilable to European culture”. ", etc. And it is for this reason that they must be fought.

On the other hand, fascism is not the only possible form of reaction and counterrevolution. The “globalist” bourgeoisie, the one that today drives the process of transnationalization of capital, has not yet emerged from the crisis, its crisis, quite the contrary. It is far from having stabilized a process essentially based, at the time, on the ruins of national regulations and social commitments that, however, had ensured the beautiful days of capital reproduction during the “Glorious Thirty”. On the contrary, neoliberalism, currently converted into its policy, is increasingly showing its character as a dead end, forcing transnationalized capital to redouble its attacks against wage earners from developed formations and the peoples of the South. And the socioeconomic consequences of the current viral pandemic will only reinforce this coercion, with the aim of making them pay the bill (in terms of unemployment, precariousness, liquidation of the public debt, etc.).

Above all, the continuation and worsening of the socioeconomic crisis run the risk of exacerbating economic and political rivalries between the different poles (United States, European Union, China, Southeast Asia and Japan) of world capitalist accumulation. The destabilization of states or even entire regions on the periphery around these poles (in the case of the United States, Central America or, more broadly, Latin America; in the case of Western Europe, North Africa, the Middle East or Eastern Europe), with its share of wars, mass exodus of populations, waves of terrorism, etc., is likely to also increase the dangers in some of the immediate borders of these different poles, as well as to increase collective panic, which it is conducive to the authoritarian strengthening of powers. These same effects can produce a deepening of the planetary ecological crisis, of which the current pandemic gives us an anticipation, making entire territories unviable, by producing genocides and mass migrations, by making scarce water, arable land, raw materials and energy sources, by exacerbating the competitive struggle for their appropriation. In the event that a minimal resurgence of proletarian conflict occurs, halting the process of dismantling social conquests by neoliberalism, without being able, however, to impose revolutionary solutions, certain bourgeoisies would have no choice but to resort once again to some kind of strong State formula, crushing all resistance and mobilizing the population to defend its position within the framework of the international division of labor.

These different “dangers” have already led to a noticeable authoritarian hardening of the exercise of power in different European Union states, in Central Europe (in Hungary and Poland), but also in Western Europe (in France), especially involving repeated attacks on freedoms. public. If they get stronger, the “Iron Heel” of capital will be felt again: then the hour of the fascists, or at least that of their spiritual heirs, will strike again.

Alain Bihr is professor of sociology at the Université de Franche-Comté. Author, among other books, of From the Big Night to the Alternative: the European Labor Movement in Crisis (Boitempo).

Translation: Fernando Lima das Neves.

Originally published on Revue L'Anticapitaliste, no. 124



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