My answer to a local residents question.
What is your view on the growth of eurosceptic and anti-immigration parties across Western Europe?
I think that the growth of euro-skeptic and anti-immigration parties across Western Europe are an inevitable consequence to the issues I’ve described in previous blog posts:
- The failure of politicians to address the root cause of the problems in our society (neoliberalism).
- The agenda of the far right press that seeks to divide and rule through scare mongering and a refusal to debate issues intelligently
- A consumerist economic culture that feeds off people’s self-doubt.
But overall the reason is that quite simply for the majority of people their quality of life is visibly decreasing and they are scared. Not only that but for many the experience has been so overwhelmingly negative that they have been emotionally scarred, and layered within the context of a post-truth world they have no idea what has scarred them.
For the majority of us living in 21st century Europe we feel as though there is an insurmountable threat, be it real or otherwise, such as job uncertainty, fear for our children’s future, a loss of cultural identity, global economic forces acting beyond our control or global warming. For all of these threats (and again, whether they are real or not is largely irrelevant) the simple fact is that people are scared and feel as though there is no hope.
Where the establishment parties fail is that they never offer people any explanation or solutions to the problems we face which just leaves people ever more bewildered and fearful.
Look at the last General Election. We all knew that the system was not working for the vast majority of us and yet the Conservatives, Labour and Lib Dems all stood on manifestos that had varying degrees of Austerity as the solution to our problems. They were simply incapable of acknowledging that their blind faith in neoliberal economics is the root cause of the problem.
I often think of the analogy of the survival principle Fight or Flight as being apt here and that people, when fearing for their future, have two options. They can ‘Fight’ (for a fairer economy and a better democracy) or Flight (in terms of just running from the problem and abandoning politics). To fight, when the problem is so complex and no solution is ever presented by the politicians or mainstream media, is rarely the typical response. Instead people flee, and who they see as they run from the problems are far right parties projecting themselves as a place of sanctity.
These far right movements, often lead by charismatic figures, build there movement on the back of these politically inactive (and usually desperate) people who have been the losers of the economic ineptitude of our politicians for the last thirty years.
These people feel, often quite rightly, that they have no voice at all in politics or the future of their own lives. Because it is not in the far rights interest to actually address the problem (they too want to maintain the neoliberal economic model) they just simply describe all of the problems as the fault of ‘others’.
Far right parties deliberately create echo chambers of simplistic messages, slogans and symbols which for many listening will be the first time in in their lives that a politician is able to describe a tangible explanation to why their life is so hard. Of course, what the far right describe is neither correct nor offering any form of solution, but they are offering people an “answer”, and that is what the others within the political spectrum repeatedly fail to do.
Simplistically this ‘answer’ is that all problems are down to migration.
Now, migration does of course change society, although far less so than, for example, technology, economic austerity, inequality, globalisation or climate change. But it patently isn’t “The Greatest Threat to our Way of Life” or the cause of all of our problems. The actual threat, as shown by the rise of Trump, is that we will swallow the narrative that immigrants, refugees or people from non-European countries are less human than the rest of us, that they think and feel less, that they matter less.
But that’s the whole agenda of the far-right. Create a scapegoat, demonise them and make the rest of the people believe that as long as they’re not the biggest loser, then they’re a winner.
And History shows us that this never ends well.
So where do we go from here?
Immigration is likely to remain an overarching theme in European politics for a long time yet. It was at the heart of the UK referendum campaign and it is set to dominate French and German elections next year. I would argue that the issue of migration broke free from the facts a long time ago, but in todays Europe facts don’t matter anymore.
The establishment political parties are now embracing this new reality and countering the surge in popularity of extreme right politics. Many are lurching ever further to the right to take advantage of these fears. Just look at the moves by the Conservative Party over recent months (although if I were asked a few months ago and I wouldn’t have thought it even possible for them to lurch even further to the right than they already where).
The only positive I see coming from this is that finally there will be the rise of an ideology that looks to challenge all of the problems caused by modern economics.
The simple truth is that of all the problems sweeping the globe the biggest one is fear itself. A solution must plainly include helping the majority, revolves around a livable planet, justice and equality. And the answer must be to reject neoliberal economics and promoting an economic system based on the values of support and sharing. Through programs such as Citizens income we can remove the fear and destitution created by our current paradigm of greed and exploitation and when everyone benefits the same there will be no envy or fear of others taking benefits that you feel should come to you.
Ultimately I believe that we can create a system that doesn’t destroy our planet, doesn’t blame minorities, doesn’t make people with disabilities suffer and doesn’t walk away from people with problems.
And if we can do that, there will be nothing to fear. And when there is nothing to fear the far right will have lost the only thing that gives them strength.