The farmers’ protests in France and Germany unfold against the backdrop of the electoral competition for Brussels scheduled for June. These protests are expected to provide additional arguments and perhaps votes to the already thriving populist right-wing movements. Marine Le Pen’s RN is leading in polls in France, as is Wilders’ Dutch PVV. In Germany, the AfD is credited with significant scores. Vox in Spain is experiencing relative decline, but it might be a passing phase. In Poland, PiS of Mateusz Morawiecki has just suffered a setback, primarily due to the female vote, as it sought to ban abortion. The trend is similar in Central and Eastern Europe, as well as in the United States. Chega in Portugal has gained significance, while in Italy, the former members of the Italian Social Movement are in power.
Some are terrified, others are hopeful, but is there a reason for it?
Firstly, let’s not talk about the same formations. AfD is a CIA-Stasi joint venture tasked with delivering a blow to German ambitions. The PVV is a party expressing a strong Old Testament imagery. The other parties are more composite but face serious underlying problems. Their common success arises from the social and psychological imbalance in every capitalist nation today. The strategic interests of capital and its technological evolution, combined with openness to “unfair” competitors, have fueled reactions, frictions, and disasters. The catch-all populisms – for almost all, this is the fitting definition – have capitalized on the middle-small-bourgeois protest, even more than the popular one they claim to champion but instead manifests in mass abstention.
Is it wrong to position themselves as the, albeit talkative, union of some of the classes that bear the brunt of capitalist evolution? No. However, there are at least three major shortcomings. The first is that, unlike the national revolutions of the last century, populist parties have no concrete formula to reverse the trend and ensure that the disadvantaged segments benefit from the economy. The second is that, lacking a social-national solution, it all turns into a rhetorical logic of class struggle that, unlike the Marxist one, does not find its solution in a miraculous tomorrow but in the nostalgia of the day before. The third is that, due to a lack of solutions and an abundance of slogans, whenever a populist formation comes to power, it must be guided by experts, bend to the force of circumstances, and become the continuation of those it defeated.
Will an eventual populist success be a disaster then? Only in Germany, but it won’t happen. Elsewhere, it will be both an uncertainty and a challenge. Because, to the extent that the logic of things abandons the sovereigntist illusions and anti-centralizing tendencies within Europe, as happened in Italy, the underlying discourse, emotional as it may be, will serve a new concept of a fortress-Europe already present in the elites of several nations. It might then lead to the miracle where, despite the apparent inadequacy of almost all of them, the bearers of some social reactions can become the solvent for a new chemistry that transcends them. Or they will be part of it if they manage to understand that almost none of their slogans or ghosts are correct, and one cannot oppose a trend without understanding its capitalist nature and without opposing it with, obviously updated en european, formulas of national revolutions. If they don’t, they will only serve to allow Big Capital to absorb, through them (as already experienced with the Five Star Movement), the shocks that disturb it.