A fascist audience to watch the decadence

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By ALEJANDRO MARCÓ DEL PONT*

Projections indicate that the far right could be the third largest force in the European Union this year

The year is 1980 and Mossad agents have just captured an unlikely prisoner: Adolf Hitler. The romance timeline The Portage to San Cristobal of A. H. [The transfer of AH to São Critovão], by George Steiner, narrates that the former dictator fled Germany after 1945 to a transatlantic hideout. After falling prisoner to a squad of Nazi hunters, the man, now 91 years old, gives a defense speech in which he reflects on the future of humanity. The work raises philosophical questions about guilt, redemption and the nature of evil, using fictional transference as a framework to reflect on these questions.

“This is a world in which they tortured political prisoners, stripped the Earth of plants and animals, emerged from a hell that should be extinct and is worse.” We could add that wars multiplied after the bombs of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, promoted poverty and increased inequality. It is a more dangerous, unfair, cruel and dark world. In his speech, the old murderer prophesies: “However, one day my species will return and its crimes will be equal or greater than those of these others”.

It's hard to ignore George Steiner's contemporary resonance. Four decades after the publication of his novel, the far right is on the march again. While it is clear that the trend is global in scope, stretching from New Delhi to Washington, there are continents that have experienced a surprisingly aligned trend toward the far right: Europe, and in America, first the United States, then Brazil, El Salvador and now Argentina.

The new dangers of the extreme right now bring with them a fragile Europe, on the verge of decadence, constantly losing participation in the world economy, facing a planned war on another continent that threatens it, deindustrializing it in such gigantic steps that the Franco-German axis is notable by its absence.

Around 47 years ago, when Henry Kissinger was US Secretary of State, he asked in public what “number he had to dial to call Europe?”, alluding to the division between his countries and the absence of a joint foreign policy; now the numbers are all from the US State Department. Anton Jäger, professor at University of Oxford, writing in NYT says that since the Maastricht Treaty was signed in 1991, which froze low public spending and deflation, European politicians have found themselves increasingly indebted to corporate interests to the detriment of citizens, while the rise of the far right in Europe It has been brewing for some time.

“For nearly three decades, major parties across the continent have remained in power, unchallenged by serious opposition… Without the checks that previously balanced unstable European societies – such as the powerful left-wing parties and unions that were defeated in the decades of 1970s and 1980s – European parties and governments lost discipline. During his tenure, inequality increased, economies failed and public services began to deteriorate. In this unfortunate context, the extreme right has managed to position itself little by little as the only credible challenge to the system. After accumulating support on the margins, his time has come.”

What is strange, or perhaps not, are the differences between the old far right and the current one. Hitler and Mussolini promised their national elites the equivalent of the colonial empires that their French and British competitors had long since acquired, as well as strong economies. Today's far right has an alternative vision of the world. Instead of expanding abroad and strengthening development, their main desire is to protect Europe from its loss of competitiveness and global interference and, in South America, to be just a supplier of labor or a supermarket shelf without having less decision-making power.

“The international strategy of the far right, starting with the European Union, is characterized by its limited ambitions, they even advocated leaving the Union. Far right politicians continue to attack immigration laws, but on the other hand, the European Union it is increasingly dependent on the United States in geopolitical terms and its industry is losing ground to China. While Hitler sought to disrupt the Anglo-American order and claimed global dominance, Europe's new authoritarians were content to occupy a niche within the existing power structure. The goal is to adapt to the decline, not reverse it.” And in the case of Argentina, not even that.

For most of the 1980s and 1990s, it was Helmut Kohl, the German chancellor, who Henry Kissinger had to call. And from 2005 until the end of 2021, it went to Angela Merkel. Germany was so big, rich and generally so important that nothing of substance happened in Europe unless its chancellor wanted it, and what the chancellor wanted he usually got. Until now. The conservative magazine The Economist, mocks today's Teutons by claiming that a Google search reveals that the leader of Germany is a man called Olaf Scholz, but he is such a colorless and insipid figure that one would be forgiven if they didn't know better. As the European economy stagnates, the far right is rising in opinion polls across most of Europe.

What the English magazine outlines with its mockery of the German leadership is that it is very difficult to politically tow a Union in which the biggest locomotive, Germany, and its leaders, conclude in an event organized by the American news portal Bloomberg: “The Minister of Economics [Robert Habeck] says that Germany is no longer competitive, even from a fiscal point of view. The Minister of Finance, Christian Lindner, says that “Germany is getting poorer because it has growth, it is falling behind”. If they recognize that it would be difficult to avoid the effects of a prolonged period of low or no growth, it is inconceivable that a government would not draw conclusions from this analysis.

The euro zone economy faces stagnation in 2024 and the threat of a likely recession, pressured by the impact of inflation and rising interest rates, in which borrowing has not produced the expected results. The European Commission presented an overview in its latest economic forecasts, in which it worsened its estimate of the euro zone's GDP for 2024 by 1,2%, then lowered it to 0,8% and even 0,6%. And this economic recession does not help the June elections, when 400 million people across the European Union will be able to vote to send 720 representatives to Brussels.

Although it is a crucial election year for the world, in which voters from dozens of countries – representing half of the world's population – will go to the polls, public spending is expected to increase. In macroeconomics, this phenomenon is known as “budget policy cycles”: politicians in power want to stimulate the economy to improve their chances of being re-elected, which is why they increase public spending. The problem is compounded by the question of whether Europe is in recession.

No indicator is optimistic. Recent geopolitical tensions and the certain cost of the war in Ukraine, with energy prices remaining high, as well as subdued inflation, although still well above five-year moving averages, have hurt the parties in power. Although European economic growth is expected to stay weak This year, Europe is also grappling with the adverse economic effects of Joe Biden's Inflation Reduction Act, which uses tax incentives to attract European companies. Donald Trump's possible return to the White House in 2025 could require a painful adjustment, and it is alarming to see that European leaders do not appear to be prepared for such a scenario.

The 2024 European Parliament elections are believed to represent a significant shift to the right in many countries. Anti-Europeans are likely to lead the polls in nine member states (Austria, Belgium, Slovakia, France, Hungary, Italy, the Netherlands, Poland and the Czech Republic) and come in second or third place in another nine countries (Bulgaria, Estonia , Finland, Germany, Latvia, Portugal, Romania, Spain and Sweden). There could be a “sharp turn to the right” with significant consequences for the European Union's foreign policy.

Although Parliament is not the European Union's most important institution when it comes to foreign policy, the way in which political groups align after elections and the impact these have on national debates in member states will have significant implications for the country's ability to of the European Commission and the Council to take foreign policy decisions.

The European Council on Foreign Relations makes a prediction for the 2024 European Parliament elections (here), where it is possible to read more about the methodology and have a complete explanation of this model with the projection of likely seats. The results show that the two main political groups in parliament – ​​the European People's Party (EPP) and the Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats (S&D) – are expected to continue losing seats; despite this, they expect the EPP to remain the largest group in parliament and therefore maintain most of the power to set the agenda, including the election of the next commission president.

But the main winner of the elections will be the right. The big winner will be the radical right-wing group Identity and Democracy (ID), which is expected to win 40 seats and, with almost 100 deputies, emerge as the third largest group in the new parliament.

In a world that destroys “plants and animals”, as George Steiner’s Hitler predicted, “he who came out of hell” seems to have returned. However, he is far from having returned with the appearance we expected. The clearest idea of ​​the imbalance and insanity of the model is in Argentina, which is astonished to witness the cataract of stupidity and the loss of legitimacy of a president whose trigger is himself.

*Alejandro Marco del Pont is a journalist and economist.

Translation: Ricardo Kobayaski.

Originally posted on the blog El Tábano Economista.


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