The far right are no threat to the establishment
The far right are on the rise in Europe. In the British general election last year, UKIP beat the Liberal Democrats into fourth place in terms of vote share, whilst in the elections to the German Lander earlier this year, the Alternative for Germany party (AfD) came second in Saxony, achieving 25 percent of the vote.
The rise of the Front National in France also seems unassailable, with the party coming first in the opening round of regional elections last year, having achieved their big breakthrough back in 2002 when Jean Marie Le Pen made it to the run-off in the presidential elections. Hostility to immigration and Islam are the common themes.
However, much as the mainstream parties like to portray such groups as ‘beyond the pale’, outside the boundaries of respectable political discourse, the truth is the reverse – that is, it is precisely the mainstream parties themselves that are providing respectability to the discourses pursued by the far right.
Let me give some examples. In January, the AfD leader Frauke Petry caused a stir when she suggested that refugees should be shot at the German borders – a position also voiced by AfD MEP Beatrix von Storch. But who is it that not only advocates, but also actually implements, a policy of drowning refugees before they even arrive in Europe? None other than the ‘respectable’ British Prime Minister David Cameron. It was Cameron’s government that successfully lobbied for an end to Italy’s ‘Mare Nostrum’ search and rescue operation in the Mediterranean, which rescued an estimated 150,000 refugees during the time it was operational (October 2013 - October 2014), arguing that they should instead be left to drown so as to send a message to anyone else attempting to flee his glorious new democratic Libya. And drowning they have been. Since the end of Mare Nostrum and its replacement by Operation Triton – with a third of the budget, and a remit extending only 12 miles from the Italian coast – refugees have been drowning in the Med at a rate of about 1,000 every four months, up from 10 per month when Mare Nostrum was operating. So suck on that Petry. The AfD are going to have to do a lot of shooting to come anywhere close to Cameron’s murder rate.
Likewise, who is it that has effectively torn up the 1951 Refugee Convention in order to forcibly return Syrian refugees to Turkey, a country which already does shoot refugees at the border? Not Le Pen, Farage or Petry - but the supposed ‘refugee-lover’ Angela Merkel.
And who was it that opened the door in Britain for a vitriolic hate campaign against Muslim women wearing face coverings? None other than former Labour Foreign Secretary Jack Straw who, in 2006, went on the offensive over Muslim women wearing the veil. He said he was aiming to “start a debate.” This he did: in the words of Gary Younge, “Muslim women passed, in the public imagination, from being actually among the group most likely to be racially attacked to ostensibly being a primary cause of social strife.” Subsequently, as Younge put it, “having inflating racism’s political currency, New Labour vacated the electoral market so that others with a more ostentatious style might more freely spend it."
Everywhere you look, it is mainstream European governments themselves that are rolling out the very fascism of which they accuse the far right.
In this sense, the far right perform a very useful role for these governments – as a bogeyman to whom they can claim to be ‘moderate’ in comparison. At the same time, the rise of the far right justifies their own reactionary policies – ‘if we do not clamp down on immigrants/welfare recipients/Muslims etc – then we will lose votes to the fascists!’ What a convenient excuse for their own vicious policies. But the far right also play a more fundamental role for the liberal establishment – diverting public anger away from the wealthy, the bankers, and indeed the socio-economic system itself, which produces and reproduces ever growing unemployment and inequality – and towards the most readily available scapegoat: the refugee.
No wonder, then, that it has been the Western European ruling class and its media that so vilifies the far right that has done so much to facilitate their rise. In the first place, it has provided them with false credibility by always giving them a ‘badboy’ image when reporting on them, promoting the myth that such groups are ‘anti-establishment’. Just as Islamic State are effectively given free advertising by Western media, which dutifully reproduces all their propaganda, publicizes their foreign fighters, and constantly projects a false image of them as being ‘anti-Western’ (when in fact they are the vanguard of Western-sponsored regime change) - so too with the far right. Both gain recruits every time the ‘establishment’ pretends to be against them, as both rely on a false image of being anti-establishment, and the establishment know this!
The truth is, capitalism employs a division of labor between its liberal governments and its far right ‘opponents’. The liberals’ job is to actually wage the wars, cut the services, and channel the wealth upwards. The far right’s job is to shoehorn all the social frustration and anger this generates away from the underlying economic system and those who control it, and towards whatever scapegoat is most readily available (the Muslim immigrant in the contemporary case). The whole charade relies on the promotion of the far right as a ‘genuine threat’ to the established order, because the reality is they are part and parcel of it.
The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.