The Right Rises in Europe


A few months ago on Hit & Run, I wondered why, despite a monumental opportunity afforded by the financial crisis, Europe's traditional parties of the left—specifically its mainstream socialist parties—were losing ground to populist, Euroskeptic, and traditional right-leaning parties. It's an oversimplification, to be sure, but Drudge's headline ("USA MOVES LEFT, EU GOES RIGHT") about sums up the results of Sunday's European elections. As noted by the Associated Press, "Right-leaning governments were ahead of the opposition in Germany, France, Italy and Belgium, while conservative opposition parties were leading in Britain and Spain." We can add to this incomplete list Sweden, Poland, the Netherlands, Austria, and Hungary, all of whom saw right-leaning parties either hold the line or increase in size. A few developments worth paying attention to:

– In the UK, Labour was trounced, managing a paltry 16 percent of the vote and increasing calls on Prime Minister Gordon Brown to resign and call early elections. The British National Party (BNP), a populist, anti-immigrant party, had its best showing ever, grabbing two seats in Brussels. BNP Obergruppenfuehrer Andrew Brons will represent Yorkshire and party boss Nick Griffin, seen here sharing a stage with American Nazi David Duke, will besmirch the reputation of northwest England. According to a report in The Guardian, Brons one explained, in a private letter to a supporter, that "on [the subject of burning synagogues] I have a dual view, in that I realise that he is well intentioned, I feel that our public image may suffer considerable damage as a result of these activities. I am however open to correction on this point."

The great libertarian MEP Dan Hannan makes a point worth repeating: The BNP is not a right-wing party, but a fascist party. It will be of no surprise to anyone who has read the party's manifesto that the BNP appropriated votes from Labour, not the Tories. As Hannan points out, in his victory speech Griffin shifted quickly from talk of immigration—everyone knows he isn't too fond of it—to the tub-thumping, rally-the-proles declaration that "his priority was to expose the way in which public assets had been privatised." To save you, dear reader, the trouble of digging up a ghastly manifesto written by a lumpy fascist, Hannan describes its contents: "[I]t wants nationalisation, subsidy, higher taxes, protectionism and (sotto voce) the abolition of the monarchy." This is pretty de rigueur for nationalist, "far-right" parties in Europe. The German NPD, for instance, routinely denounces capitalism (specifically the "Anglo-American financial aristocracy") and has entertained a "Volksfront" with far-left anti-capitalist activists.

– Also making the front page of Drudge is the ascension of the Swedish file-sharing Pirate Party (PP) to Brussels, with 7.1 percent of the vote, enough to guarantee a single seat. Not mentioned in the English language accounts of their victory is the party's strong libertarian streak. Party leader Rick Falkvinge told the Stockholm daily SvD, in reference to a recent proposal that would massively expand the state's ability to monitor electronic communications, that "We don't accept the state's wiretapping. People should understand that the state is not always on the side of good." Perhaps an obvious point, but a sentiment just short of revolutionary in Swedish politics. Even more contronversial was Falkvinge's declaration, in an interview with the magazine Fokus, that he considers himself "an ultra-capitalist," a sentiment so alarming that state television believed it worthy of top billing on its website.

– Bonus Dan Hannan video, reading Dr. Seuss to Gordon Brown: