The post-fascist Fratelli d’Italia (‘Brothers of Italy’) party led by Giorgia Meloni is expected to win the Italian general election later this month. After the strong result of the right-wing extremist Rassemblement National party in the French presidential and parliamentary elections and the fourth consecutive victory of the Putin friend Victor Orban in Hungary this seems to be the thesis of a quasi lawful advance of the right-wing nationalists to strengthen. However, there is little to support this thesis.
There is no lawful rise of the right-wing nationalists, there are only mistakes on the part of the democrats. If they pursue policies far removed from the reality of life in the middle and lower classes, their voters will switch to the right-wing populists. But this can be reversed: between 2002 and 2007, the right-wing extremists’ share of the vote in France almost halved.
Some observers believe that social democracy bears a special responsibility: “The rise of the right-wing populists must give the social democrats in particular food for thought, since many of their former voters are now turning their backs to the right,” wrote the SPD-Newspaper “Forward”.
The successful French author Didier Eribon sees direct guilt, because the left have “betrayed everything” for which they once stood: “Consequently, the workers abstain or vote for the extreme right.”
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His compatriot, the economist and best-selling author Thomas Piketty puts it more delicately when he intervenes in political debates in favor of the radical left: Social Democrats and Socialists have given up their earlier commitment to redistribution; the workers who had become homeless therefore flocked to the right-wing nationalists.
But the economist Piketty denies the polemicist Piketty. In an extensive study published in late 2021 Piketty and two colleagues evaluate 300 elections in 21 democracies from the post-war period to the present day. They show that the moderate left still tends to represent below-average voters and advocate redistribution.
In countries like France and Italywhere the far right is particularly strong, something else is striking: the decline of the moderate conservatives is paving the way for the far right.
In France, the former governing party Les Républicains, which emerged from the Gaullists, received less than seven percent of the vote in the general election in June, while the Rassemblement National got more than 17 percent. The most important reason: Politically, the Républicains have increasingly come across as a watered-down version of the right-wing extremists for years. Like the original, they rail against immigration and the alleged Islamization of public life and defame Europe as a threat to France’s sovereignty.
Consequences of the Ukraine war strengthen the protest potential
In Italy, corruption and mafia involvement have imploded the Christian Democrats. Some of their supporters have flocked to the left, to a large extent to the right-wing populists of the Lega and to Silvio Berlusconi, but also to the post-fascists. A conservative center party like that CDU exists in Italy only as a splinter group.
In Germany, too, right-wing nationalists have repeatedly celebrated successes. The consequences of the Russian war against Ukraine, rising prices for energy and some raw materials are increasing the potential for protest.
But their exponents have been fought successfully again and again. Especially by conservatives, who didn’t fall down like in France, but remained steadfast.