By Kevin Holland
While the EU is a supranational project the elections to its parliament are generally a national and fairly low key affair, often used for protest votes and passing judgements on sitting governments. But things are changing. What we are seeing now is a coordinated move by nationalist forces to work together, paradoxically, across borders. The elections in May this year could prove a critical turning point for the EU.
That the ‘alt-right’ work closely around the world is already known. Online, in particular, they effectively share one space that encompassed the AfD, Trump supporters, UKIP in Brexit Britain, le Pen supporters in France and many more.
They typically operate using smears, vitriolic political attacks, viral memes, Islamophobia and racial stereotyping. The populist angle is central, the glue that binds: all the ills they cite are really part of a globalist conspiracy, managed by a treacherous, aloof elite operating in national capitals. Unsurprisingly, anti-Semitic tropes are commonplace.
But in these chaotic days things move fast. What we are seeing now, and what is a significant change, is the extent to which online fraternity is moving into the real world. They are meeting, travelling, coordinating and lobbying together and working to build a coherent movement in the offline world. The EU elections are right now their most sought after prize.
Mattero Salvini, the hard right deputy PM in Italy’s ruling coalition, recently went to Poland to announce the opening of a ‘Polish-Italian axis’ with the Law and Justice party, Poland’s aggressively anti-immigrant ruling party. The move was welcomed by Hungary’s notorious leader, Viktor Orban, who openly talks of wanting an “illiberal democracy”. Salvini is also close with Marine le Pen and, from the U.S. side,Steve Bannon, Trump’s fallen star.
But as with all movements based on lies and fantasies, at some point reality intrudes. Bannon has largely failed and his reputation is in serious decline, his ability to move events has faded largely to nothing. There are also clear tensions between these groups’ interests. Western groups are typically opposed to immigration from Eastern Europe, who are in turn opposed to immigration from almost anywhere. They are united by only one theme, nationalism: the strange opposition to cooperation across borders, unless in the service of keeping those borders as hard and impenetrable as possible.
Where will they lead people, what is the land of milk and honey which awaits? A quick look at Brexit Britain should be a clear warning sign to all. Nigel Farage and his UKIP party were instrumental in forcing a terrified Conservative party to call the infamous referendum on EU membership. The country is now falling apart. Both its main parties are being torn apart. A level of poison has been introduced into the country that has not been known in most people’s lifetimes. You cannot simply shatter decades of progress and cooperation and hope all the pieces land intact. The reality is chaos, hate and uncertainty.
It is time to turn the tables on the nationalists, to show up their lies and fearmongering for what it is: an ugly attempt to turn back the tide of progress. The EU and all who shares its aspirations of peace, cooperation and friendship must stand strong. Nationalism must be defeated.