New Issue! Focus on Europe

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We have just sent our May/June 2017 issue to e-subscribers, and print subscribers should find the issue in their mailboxes soon. (Not a subscriber? You can subscribe online here.)

You can find the full table of contents for the issue here. Here is the page 2 editors’ note for the issue:

The Resistible Rise of the Far Right

We could be forgiven for feeling like we are living through a replay of history.

The last epic wave of capitalist globalization—whether we think of it as ending in 1914 or 1929—gave way to spasms of war, depression, and reaction. It’s not a coincidence that we see similar menaces again today, for key underlying factors leading into the two crisis periods are similar—the strength and directness of owning-class control over state policy, the growing concentration of income and wealth, and the defeat of working-class movements (especially due to their failure to overcome nationalistic impulses).

The articles in this issue tackle the current situation—the weaknesses of reformism today, the menace of far-right “populist” movements, and the necessity for clear alternative politics. Two focus on the United States; three, on Europe.

John Miller tackles the Border Adjustment Tax (BAT) proposal—a combination of import tax, export tax exemption, and corporate tax giveaway—championed by House Republicans. The design of the policy suggests a political aim, appealing to U.S. workers on the basis of “economic nationalism”—the view that U.S. workers are being ruined by foreign competition, that workers in China and Mexico are “stealing” their jobs, and that boosting the trade balance is good for jobs, the economy, and American “greatness.” But at its heart the big winners would be giant corporations—they would get a big export subsidy and an enormous corporate tax cut.

In this issue’s interview, UMass Amherst economist Gerald Epstein makes the case for a new critical response to the presidency of Trump and the menace of a “proto-fascist” regime. Progressive economists have become accustomed to doing garden-variety policy analysis: What will be the effects of a proposed policy on economic growth, employment, income inequality, and so on? “Trumponomics,” Epstein argues, calls for an approach more clearly focused on questions of political power. Progressives cannot be distracted by, say, the potential growth impact of increased infrastructure spending, when the real aim of the policy is to cement support for the proto-fascist regime.

John Weeks takes us across the Atlantic, to the UK and the situation in the wake of the Brexit vote. The result was fueled by a vile and mendacious xenophobia. It also, however, owed to the failure of “remain” proponents to make a case for what was good about the EU—protections for human rights and labor rights that restrain European capitalists. Always lukewarm toward the European project (except the supposed economic benefits), the Labour Party did little to combat the right-wing campaign against the “bureaucrats in Brussels.” With the Brexit result irreversible in the short run, Weeks argues, the task at hand is to muster resistance to a new business offensive against human rights and workers’ rights.

Marjolein van der Veen looks at the recent electoral outcome in the Netherlands, where the right-wing xenophobic-Islamophobic “Party for Freedom” finished second in a crowded field. Observers around the world, fearing that the country would be the next “domino” to fall to an ascendant far-right politics, may have breathed a sigh of relief. Van der Veen cautions, however, against a too-sanguine conclusion. The main outcomes were the collapse of the center-left Labor Party, punished by voters for its embrace of austerity policies, and the overall rightward shift of Dutch politics—a big business party being the election victor (in part due to embracing more anti-immigrant politics itself). The question now is how the left parties can confront racism and xenophobia and craft an appealing alternative program.

Finally, we have the concluding third installment of D&S co-editor Alejandro Reuss’ series on social democracy and the crisis of Europe: “Reform or Revolution?” Reuss both assesses the overall political trends of the European left—including cases where there are signs of a break from compromising “Third Way” politics and a revival of traditional social-democratic reformism. He does not, however, end there—pointing instead to the possibility of a new revolutionary anti-capitalist politics and a plausible vision for a new egalitarian, cooperative, democratic, and sustainable society.

All our authors call on us to remember that—while events today may echo those of the past and why we need to apply historical lessons to our present problems—we are not living through a replay of the past.

History does not follow a preset script. It is ever written anew, in words and in fire.

After the Vote: Results of the European Parliament Elections

vlaamsbelang

Above–an image from Wilders’ Best Friends Forever, which makes posters displaying reactionary and/or racist quotations from people allied with the Dutch far-right leader Geert Wilders.  Wilders, the far-right in Holland, and the far-right across Europe are the focus of a feature article by Marjolein van der Veen in the current issue of Dollars & Sense.  Below is a report by van der Veen on the recent European Parliament elections.  –Chris Sturr

By Monday, May 26, the results of the elections for the European Parliament were in. Most of the mainstream news focused on the “shock” of the gains the far-right had made, particularly in France and the U.K. But among the other populous powerhouses of Europe, Germany and Italy, the center and center-left were victorious. In general, the northern countries appeared to vote centrist and/or shift to the right, whereas the southern countries where the economic crisis hit the hardest—Greece, Portugal, Spain, Italy, and Ireland—is where the left had its greatest gains.

But most shocking was indeed France, where the Front National got a whopping 25% of the vote (going from three to 24 seats), and the U.K. where UKIP got 27.5% of the vote (going from thirteen to 23 seats). In Denmark, the Danish People’s Party got nearly 27% of the vote and doubled its number of MEPs (from two to four). The far-right also made advances in Austria, where the FPO got about 20% of the vote and doubled in size (from two to four seats), and in Greece, where the Golden Dawn got 9.3% of the vote and gained three seats. In Germany, the AfD got 7% of the vote and seven seats, and a Nazi-like party (the NPD) got one seat.

However, the good news is that the elections were not all rosy for the far-right parties, and not all of them made advances. In Hungary, the Jobbik party failed to grow, although it got enough votes to keep its three seats. In the Netherlands, support for Wilders’ PVV party slipped, and with 13.2% (down from 17%) it lost one seat. Support for the Finns party also fell from 19% to 13%, though enough for them to retain two seats. Belgium’s Vlaams Belang fell from 10% to 4% losing it one seat, and Italy’s Lega Nord support fell from 10% to 6% with a loss of four seats. In Slovakia, the SNS failed to win any seats, and in the U.K. the BNP lost its one seat. It remains to be seen whether Marine Le Pen and Wilders will have enough countries to form their far-right caucus group.

The other good news was the victories on the left. Greece’s Syriza party came in first with 26.6% of the vote (going from one to six seats). In Portugal, the Socialist Party got 31.5% of the vote and eight seats. In Spain, the Podemos party got nearly 8% of the vote and five seats, while the Socialist Party (PSOE/PSC) got 23% of the vote and fourteen seats. In Italy, the pro-European Renzi’s center-left party got 40% of the vote and 31 seats, overtaking Beppo Grillo’s Five Star Movement, that ended up with 21% of the vote and 17 seats. In Ireland, the Sinn Fein got 17% of the vote and three seats. In Germany, Die Linke got 7.4% of the vote and seven seats.

In the aftermath of the elections, many on the left will continue to question how best to stop the rise of the far-right, which made its gains using anti-immigrant and anti-Europe politics. Does the left need to counter this with a strong populism from the left? Should the left focus on issues of class and corporate power and continue its fight against austerity? Or should it focus on a strong campaign against racism and xenophobia? Or both? And what can be done to combat political apathy? After all, the election results were not exactly a reflection of the political leanings of European voters, given the low voter turnout (only 43% on average), but particularly low in the Eastern European countries, with Slovakia as low as 13%. Perhaps the “shock” of the gains of the far-right will wake up those who did not vote and increase their engagement in politics. But in places where the governing parties that had supported austerity experienced a drubbing and the center did not hold, it may also serve as a wake-up call to policy-makers that an end to austerity is long overdue.

Sources: Jessica Elgot, European Elections: 9 Scariest Far-Right Parties Now in the European Parliament, Huffington Post, May 26, 2014; European Elections: six parties that went left, not right, Guardian, May 26, 2014; Results of the 2014 Elections, European Parliament, (accessed May 28, 2014); Election Results from across Europe, Guardian, May 25, 2014; European Elections 2014: German Party Dubbed ‘Neo-Nazis’ Among Far Right Projected to Win Seats, Huffington Post, May 25, 2014; Seamus Milne, The Rise of Europe’s Far Right will only be Halted by a Populism of the Left, Guardian, May 14, 2014.