The Far-Right’s Gains & The Renewed Urgency to End Austerity

Fear remains the last political lever that drives voters to the ballot box. This was well demonstrated this past weekend when 6.4 million French voters came out to back the far-right’s Marine Le Pen in the first round of the country’s presidential elections. The backers of Le Pen didn’t total more than 20% but it was the best result achieved by a party that insists immigration is an existential threat to the French nation.

France is not the only country engaged by politics of the far-right. It reaches high absurdity in Greece where candidates for parliament are pledging to defend Greeks from the migrant searching for a day’s work. It is a country ruined by austerity demanded by the most senior of politicians fixed atop the whole of Europe. The woes of Greece originate from their failures yet it is the migrant worker who is being blamed for the terrible fate that has befallen Greek society, the migrant worker who has little say in his or her own life, let alone on anyone else’s.

Leading the opinion polls ahead of the May 6th election, New Democracy is engaging in the same anti-immigrant politics practiced across Europe. The party’s leader, Antonis Samaras, pledges a crackdown on undocumented immigrants already in the country and to step up efforts to secure the borders. Already there are plans to build thirty detention centers across the country to hold undocumented immigrants, this at a time when schools and hospitals are being shuttered to slash public sector spending. Austerity applies to anything but expensively held fears of foreigners.

But we would be mistaken to assume the right-wing is merely tapping into the worst assumptions held by voters. The extremist Golden Dawn party is attempting to fill the space previously held by the Greek state. A report by Reuters explains:

“Former Socialist voter Katerina Karousi, a 76-year old cancer patient, broke down in sobs when party members showed up at her doorstep with large bags of food on Friday morning… At another stop, 41-year-old Constantina Tassiou looked bewildered and overwhelmed as Golden Dawn members piled clothes and supermarket bags at her doorstep. ‘It’s the first time someone has brought us clothes and food. Only the church has helped us so far’ said Tassiou, an epilepsy sufferer whose family lives on her welfare benefits.”

We can easily become obsessed with the far-right and watch in idle horror as they follow up electoral gains with more electoral gains. But not everyone voting for Marine Le Pen or Golden Dawn is a fascist militant ready to fight street battles with their political adversaries. The political center is crumbling and many like Katerina Karousi and Constantina Tassiou are electoral refugees who’ve found themselves in the false shelter of the far-right. These election results for the far-right should be a ticking clock urging us to complete the task that’s been demanded of us all along: to end the austerity regime dealing out this tremendous level of suffering.

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