European parliament in Strasburg: more and more seats for the far right

The centre is cracking

EU parliamentary elections have shocked the political establishment and the soft left alike. Barış Graham looks at the far right’s surge in support

Spend enough time on certain sectors of the left and one starts to notice a general attitude of aloofness when it comes to any significant discussion of electoral politics and elections themselves - as if it was all a simple façade to brainwash the masses, while, no matter who wins, bourgeois politics continues as normal.

While this is a rather crude description of how capitalist dictatorship functions, it is quite surprisingly a reasonable description of the EU parliament. Of course, whatever de facto practical political control it lacks, it still possesses a symbolic value as the de jure voice and representative of Europe’s peoples.

The 27 countries of the EU went to the polls between June 6 and 9 to decide the composition of its next parliament. The results show a surge for the far right on a supranational basis (driven mainly by votes from Germany, France, Italy and the Netherlands) and the trouncing of the centre-left, along with the mushy green-liberals.

European Commission president, Ursula von der Leyen, bravely says, the “centre is holding”. But while her European Peoples Party remains the biggest bloc in the EU parliament, it is clear that the whole project of ‘ever closer union’ is dead in the water. Especially if Donald Trump is elected in November, the EU could be facing a Frexit, a Dexit and a Nexit.

The remainer left in Britain - Momentum, Alliance for Workers’ Liberty, Anticapitalist Resistance - marched again and again in 2016 under the banner of ‘Another Europe is possible’. In reality they simply provided radical cover for the mainstream liberal bourgeoisie and business as usual. No wonder financial backing came from George Soros and other capitalists.

Well, another Europe is taking shape in front of their eyes right now. It is anti-migrant, bigoted and xenophobic, yes - but, for a short while at least, it offers hope, given the years of austerity, decaying social services and lack of well-paid job opportunities that have come with neoliberal globalisation.


The collapse of the green-liberal vote is not exactly surprising, given that promises of liberal and ambiguously ‘green’ reforms were never going to be viable in the medium or even short run, due to the cost of living crisis across Europe, on the one hand, and American demands that Europe pay the main price for Nato’s proxy war in Ukraine, on the other. Largely cosmetic greenwashing is hardly going to stop global warming and the danger of ecological catastrophe anyway. And the programmatic capitulation of green parties in return for seats in centre-left coalition governments certainly led to a feeling of betrayal from younger, more idealistic voters.

But, whatever von der Leyen says, there can be no hiding the increase in the vote for far-right parties - in particular the Alternative for Germany (AfD), the Brothers of Italy (FdI) and France’s National Rally (RN). Given that Germany, Italy and France form the political, economic and strategic core of the EU, this matters.

Of course, the far right does not constitute an ideological monolith. Each national party has slightly different bases of support and its own political needs. RN, for example, has called for AfD’s expulsion from the far-right Identity and Democracy bloc in the EU parliament. That, after AfD’s lead candidate’s favourable comments on the Waffen-SS.1 Meanwhile, the FdI sits with the more ‘moderate’ European Conservatives and Reformists. Nonetheless, all of them share a common hostility to migrants, are keen to fight ‘culture wars’ against ‘woke’ liberalism and cosmopolitan integrationism, and adopt a ‘sceptical’ attitude towards environmental policies. Nation, not class, is where people will find their sense of belonging, their sense of community.2

As for the left, no doubt its craven opportunism, its complete capitulation to bourgeois nationalism, is a major factor in its lack of appeal. Germany, the EU’s most populous country, saw the far-right AfD come second to the CDU/CSU centre-right. Energy shocks caused by Nato’s proxy war, the sabotage of Nord Stream 2 and the decommissioning of nuclear power stations have caused huge economic strains - especially in the crucial manufacturing sector, where the production index has failed to return to pre-pandemic levels.3

Germany’s main left party, Die Linke, once the hope of disorientated leftwingers everywhere, is now in a hopeless mess. Having joined the ‘anti-Zionism equals anti-Semitism’ chorus, having backed Nato over Ukraine, having joined regional governments as the junior partner, DL finds itself splintered and completely marginalised. The Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW, named after its leader) has meanwhile garnered support of disaffected voters from both left and right, positioning itself as opposing more migration and supporting both ‘anti-woke’ traditional social values and left-populist economics - a model for George Galloway and his Workers Party. Either way, the first time it has been tested in the polls, BSW has managed to surpass Die Linke’s electoral numbers twice over, gaining 5.7% of the vote.

Wagenkecht, it should be noted, opposes more arms deliveries to Ukraine and calls for a diplomatic solution. “Many people”, she says, “are worried that the war will also come to us.” When asked where the BSW sits on the political spectrum, Wagenknecht, a former Die Linke star, replies: “It’s not on the right.” We should expect more of this red-brown politics in the period to come.


Unlike previous EU elections, however, this year’s have caused major national changes in their immediate aftermath. RN’s resounding victory over Emmanuel Macron’s Ensemble list has seen him announce snap elections for the national assembly - a decision that could conceivably see an RN victory and an RN prime minister cohabiting with Macron, while he remains the French president. (His second term in office ends in 2027 and he cannot run for a third term - well, not until the 2032 election).

Not exactly convinced of Macron’s ‘strategy’ and with the threat of Le Pen ever looming, the participants of the previous leftwing Nupes alliance - headed by the ‘charismatic’, though visibly ageing, Jean-Luc Mélenchon - once again united sufficiently to run a joint list in the election, this time under the somewhat quixotic ‘New Popular Front’ label.4 On the other side of the aisle, however, the leader of the Gaullist Republicans Party, Éric Ciotti, has toyed with the idea of a joint list with the RN - too much for the hierarchy. He has been dumped. But one thing is clear: RN is less and less viewed as untouchable.

Belgium, having its general elections concurrently with the European elections, has also been affected. The former Maoist/Stalinist PTB/PVDA has extended its reach in Flanders and Brussels, while retaining its influence in Wallonia, its primary support base. It now boasts of winning 14% of the vote. Meanwhile, the Flemish separatist, far-right Vlaams Belang also gained support, causing the government to fall. There will surely be a lengthy period of hedging before the centre parties cobble together another coalition.

Leave aside the exact make-up of the EU parliament, one thing is clear: the centre of gravity in Europe is shifting to the right. What of the left? Tailism will get us nowhere. Selling principle in return for junior coalition status is a disaster. No, what is needed is class politics and building a serious working class party that fearlessly champions internationalism, solidarity and socialism.

  1. www.politico.eu/article/far-right-national-rally-marine-le-pen-says-it-will-cut-ties-with-german-afd-after-recent-statements.↩︎

  2. In Germany, those of ‘working class’ and ‘low-income’ backgrounds were the most likely to vote for the AfD: see www.tagesschau.de/europawahl/wahl/europawahl-wer-waehlte-wen-100.html.↩︎

  3. www.destatis.de/EN/Press/2024/06/PE24_222_421.html.↩︎

  4. www.france24.com/en/europe/20240610-france-french-left-calls-unity-ahead-snap-legislative-elections-nupes-melenchon-far-right.↩︎