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Jun. 21 2009 - 11:12 am | 22 views | 2 recommendations | 13 comments

The Wall Street Journal: Fear Wins in Europe and That’s Awesome

Americas self-declared progressives see the U.S. future in Europes welfare model. Across the Atlantic, meanwhile, voters en masse are dumping the political movement that gave them the nanny state. Hmmm.

Of late, the winning political formula in Europe is simple: Promise to ease heavy tax and regulatory burdens and shake up stagnant economies. The welfare system is seen as broken. Frances Nicolas Sarkozy and Italys Silvio Berlusconi took this path to power. In the largest economy, Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel looks poised to defeat a divided left in Septembers elections.

Across the Continent, the left is in disarray. Frances Socialist Party, which last won a Presidential election in the 1980s, refuses to move to the center — and further sinks in the polls. Italys leftist parties compromised themselves in a brief two-year stint in office, before Mr. Berlusconi swept them out in April of last year. The center-left ruling parties in Britain and Spain, which inherited economies revitalized by courageous politicians who implemented free-market ideas, are also in trouble.

Even in a recession so widely attributed to unfettered capitalism, socialists are unable to take advantage. Consider the results last week of elections for the European Parliament. Center-right parties gained in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and across most of eastern Europe. Sweden, Denmark and Greece were exceptions.

via The Lefts Collapse… – WSJ.com.

(Image from newsweek.com)

(Image from newsweek.com)

It’s difficult to be an optimist these days if you’re a Conservative: your last guy in the White House wrecked the planet and your economic ideology nearly brought about the apocalypse. Things have gotten so bad that the Wall Street Journal is looking to Europe for some good news. According to the geniuses running the newspaper (can we still call it that?,) it’s time to celebrate the series of political victories for Conservative parties that successfully capitalized on the fear, xenophobia, and homophobia of some European voters. 

The WSJ’s diagnosis for why this happened isn’t even that the neo-conservative philosophy of unfettered capitalism is superior to regulation, but that Socialists simply failed to aggressively utilize their ruined economies as catalysts for fear, the only tool left in the Conservatives’ handbag of tricks. Once again, the right out-feared the left, and some ultra-conservative crazies picked up a few parliamentary seats. You can see why that would inspire the WSJ to wet themselves from sheer glee. After all, check out these immaculate slices of humanity: 

  • Nick Griffin, leader of the British National Party. Griffin is famous for calling the Holocaust the “Holohoax.” The BNP picked up two seats in Parliament.
  • David Cameron, leader of the British Conservatives. Cameron formed an alliance with the ring-wing Polish Law and Justice party (PiS), which brings us to
  • Urszula Krupa, leader of PiS, is famous for co-signing an open letter to the Polish people that states homosexuality is a “pathology” undermining the sanctity of family, and that Christianity was the root of European greatness. Krupa’s party won 29.5% of the vote. PiS also favors strengthening restrictions on abortion, a practice already illegal in Poland except in extraordinary circumstances.
  • The Austria’s People Party made large gains and won 30% of the vote. The party partly ran on an agenda of being anti-affirmative action and anti-rights for sexual minorities.
  • Søren Krarup, a key member of the Danish People’s Party (DPP,) which picked up one seat in the European assembly, has previously stated, “Islam has for 1,400 years attempted to conquer and repress European Christianity…” and “It may sound offensive, but Islam is a totalitarian regime that has thousands of human lives on its conscience. The headscarf is a symbol of this regime and the Quran may very well be compared with Hitler’s ‘Mein Kampf.’” 
  • Krisztina Morvai, a candidate for the far-right Jobbik party in Hungary — and which won 22 seats —  wrote 

I would be greatly pleased if those who call themselves proud Hungarian Jews played in their leisure with their tiny circumcised dicks, instead of besmirching me. Your kind of people are used to seeing all of our kinds of people stand to attention and adjust to you every time you fart. Would you kindly acknowledge this is now OVER. We have raised our head up high and we shall no longer tolerate your kind of terror. We shall take back our country.

  • In the Netherlands, Geert Wilders’ anti-Islamic Party for Freedom won 17% of the vote and secured four of 25 seats. Wilders’ political wish list includes a ban for immigrants from non-western countries, a ban for the founding of mosques and Islamic schools, and yet another ban on preaching in any other language other than Dutch. To put worried Netherlands liberals at ease, Wilders explained, “I don’t hate Muslim. I hate Islam.” 
  • The ultra-right Greater Romania Party (PRM) won 8.7% of the vote. PRM promotes strong nationalist policies and has been characterized as homophobic, anti-Semitic, xenophobic, anti-ethnic Hungarian, irredentist, and anti-Roma. PRM’s leader, Corneliu Vadim Tudor, founded the nationalist weekly Greater Romania, a publication Time magazine calls a “crude mixture of anti-Semitism, racism, and nostalgia for the good old days of communism.” Additionally, a former reporter at Romania Mare, Dan Corneliu Hudici, claims Tudor has a “secret blacklist” of politicians, journalists, and businessmen to be arrested if PRM ever comes to power.

So what is the WSJ celebrating here, exactly? I’m not suggesting the editors of the WSJ embrace homophobia, or anti-semitism, but they do seem pleased that fear is conquering the European people. Fear is always behind these kinds of shifts toward racism and xenophobia.

The conservative solution for cleaning up the mess left in the wake of decades of corruption and deregulation is more of the same policy. And the Conservative Party’s only defense for when (naturally) poor people keep suffering is to say, “Well, it’s not like the lefties are saving you!” The truth is that the policies of deregulation and the free market never went away — they’re still with us — and that’s why the underclasses continue to suffer. In fact, it was Gordon Brown’s overzealous attempt to embrace right-wing politics that partially led to his demise, as journalist Johann Hari explains. Hari also explains that the BNP was able to secure seats in Parliament — not because ultra-right wing ideology is somehow superior to Labour — but because voters are afraid:

[I]t is not the case that 10 per cent of people in Yorkshire are sympathetic to Holocaust-denying lunatics. No: they were overwhelmingly broke young white men who would, a generation ago, have formed the Labour core vote. They are angry about low wages and chronic shortage of housing – and simply telling them they are bigots won’t get us very far.

A prolonged exposure to Thatcherian abuses and subsequent decades under deregulation have resulted in poverty and enormous fear of “others,” who are coming to take their jobs. In order to save themselves, and their livelihoods, a small percentage of the British population turned inward and became more conservative out of fear — not out of love for an ideology that has left them more poor and more afraid. Voters are understandably afraid of losing their jobs, and so they look for an easy “other” to blame, whether it’s Jews, or immigrants, or the gays, or some scared, pregnant woman. 

Regulation and fair taxation have not failed — most of the world hasn’t even tried them yet. The dominant ideologies are still deregulation and the free market, and to say that voters gave leftism a chance — and things just didn’t work out — is intellectually dishonest.


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  1. collapse expand

    Fear is the ultimate motivator and the right, both in Europe and the U.S., is using it unmercifully to regain control. The truth, that conservative economic and social policy are the cause of the current economic mess, must remain a well-kept secret. The center-right parties, a.k.a. the responsible left, dare not expose the truth because it is dangerous to their funding sources.

    It is so much easier to blame immigrants or gays or Moslems for the current malaise than to admit that the deregulation and unfettered capitalism supported by all the major political parties are responsible.

  2. collapse expand

    Another aspect left out of the WSJ piece is that the social safety net really doesn’t come into play in the right-left battle of Western Europe. Even Thatcher knew enough to leave national health care alone.

  3. collapse expand

    Europeans have to watch who they are voting for, because all these parties seem to be much like Hitler’s Nazi party. They started out with little support, but because of a depression the Nazi party started to gain support and even though he didn’t win the election against president Hindenburg, his party won many seats in Parliament and Hitler himself won 36.7% of the vote. one must keep in mind that Hindenburg got 53.1%, and Thälmann of the Communist party got 10.1% of the vote, so 36.7 percent is a lot. Hitler then was appointed chancellor by Hindenburg(because of pressure from businessmen)and then he utilized the already existing fear of Communists(and the Left in General) after the Reichstag fire when it was blamed on the communists, after that he convinced Hindenburg to declare a state of emergency that suspended the constitution and had the Enabling Act passed is what cleared away to have him in power. He also had his own fear based campaign when he made up the Jewish Bolshevik conspiracy and we all know what happened during Hitler’s dictatorship. But the whole point is that any of those political parties could pull something off like this and then we would have more Genocide and political killings on our hands, but the Europeans must look to the past in order to stop it from happening again. Also that Romanian party leader is very reminiscent of Hitler, because the first targets by him were his political opponents(mostly the Left) and they were put into concentration camps and beaten, tortured, and some of them were killed.

    • collapse expand

      Justin — True. A campaign of fear can lead to terrible things. We saw this domestically when the Bush administration led the country to war by utilizing propaganda and fear to scare Americans into believing Saddam had WMDs. We all remember Condoleeze Rice saying we didn’t want “the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud.” Classic scare tactic stuff.

      In response to another comment. See in context »
  4. collapse expand

    Good Post.

    It’s amazing the type of propaganda papers like the WSJ get away with it. Seriously the problem is that the Socialist Party of France is that it’s not centrist enough?

    Even the most casual observer of French politics knows that one of the primary reasons for the UMP electoral success is because the left in France is divided between people who are pro-business and those that aren’t.

    For instance, in the latest European Elections, the left won the most votes pretty easily in France. Unfortunately the majority of righ-wing voters voted for Sarkozy’s Party Do the math.

    The Left (I.E. Liberals, Democratic Socialists, and Communists): Socialist Party 16.48%, Green Party 16.28%, Democratic Movement 8.45%, Left Front 6.47%, New Anticapitalist Party 4.88%, Worker’s Struggle 1.20%. That is 53.76% of the vote.

    This means they won 45.31% of the vote.

    The Right (Free Market Conservatives and Fascists): UMP 27.87%, National Front 6.34%, Libertas 4.80%, Independent Ecological Alliance 3.63%, Arise the Republic 1.77%. That’s 44.41% of the vote.

    Even if you call the Democratic Movement and the Independent Ecological Alliance moderates. They personally proclaim themselves beyond labels of right and left wing. Then you still have the left winning the most by almost five percent, 45.31% to 40.78%.

    So how from this could one conclude that the left’s failure in France is because the Socialist Party is too far to the left? When the left-wing wins the most votes and the Socialists are the most moderate left party?

    Especially when one considers that the most popular politician in France at the moment, according to polls, is the far-left politician Olivier Besancenot?

  5. collapse expand

    “Even in a recession so widely attributed to unfettered capitalism, socialists are unable to take advantage. Consider the results last week of elections for the European Parliament. Center-right parties gained in Germany, France, Italy, Belgium, Britain, the Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and across most of eastern Europe. Sweden, Denmark and Greece were exceptions.”

    Other than being a bit deceitful in cases such France, I would just like to point out that this bit is actually false with both Germany and the Netherlands – though the rest seem to be at least technically correct.

    1) The Center Right didn’t gain in Germany. The CDU/CSU, Merkel’s Party, lost 7 seats while the Socialists lost none. Even if you factor in the Free Democratic Party gain of 5 seats. The right still lost 2 seats overall. 1 of which went to the Green Party, the other of which went to “The Left” Party. Both leftists parties. So how did center-right gain in Germany? Simply put, it didn’t.

    2) The Center Right didn’t gain in The Netherlands. They lost 2 seats. The Party for Freedom gained a ridiculous 17 seats, but as you rightly point out, they are crazy nationalist party.

  6. collapse expand

    1) Yes, as you can see there the left-wing could form a ruling coalition in Germany if they wanted. It’s just the Social Democrats and the Left Party have refused to be part of the same coalition.

    2) You’re right. I mixed up the Netherland numbers. Geert Wilders Party gained 17% of the vote, 4 seats, as they didn’t exst in the previous election. The center-right conservative party, the Christian Democratic Appeal, lost 4.33% of the vote from the previous election, going from 7 seats to 5 seats.

    So my point is still correct, in that it was the far-right, not the center-right, that gained in the Netherlands.

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    I co-host Citizen Radio, the alternative political radio show. I am a contributing reporter to Huffington Post, Alternet.org, and The Nation.

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