This article is a joint publication of TheNation.com and Foreign Policy In Focus.
Now that the dust has settled from the recent elections for the European Parliament, it is time to take a deep breath and see what really happened.
No, Britain is not about to toss its immigrant population into the sea. No, France’s Marine Le Pen is not about to march on the Elysée Palace. And as repulsive as the thugs of Hungary’s Jobbik Party and Greece’s Golden Dawn are, it was the continent’s left to whom the laurels went in last month’s poll.
Parties that targeted unemployment, austerity and the growing wealth gap in Europe did well. The dramatic breakthrough of right-wing, racist and xenophobic parties in France, Britain and Denmark had less to do with a neo-Nazi surge than with the inability or unwillingness of the mainstream parties in those countries to offer a viable alternative to a half-decade of economic misery.
Indeed, if there was a message in the May 25 EU elections, it was that those who trumpeted austerity as the panacea for economic crisis were punished.
Hence Britain’s Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition took a drubbing, France’s ruling Socialists were blitzed and German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democrats lost eight seats, while her Social Democratic opponents picked up four.
In contrast, where there was a clear choice between economic democracy on the one hand and “let’s blame it on the immigrants and Roma” on the other—as in Greece, Spain, Portugal, Ireland and most of Central and Eastern Europe—voters went left. As Srecko Horvat, Croatian philosopher and author of What Does Europe Want?, commented in the wake of the election, “The European left is back in the game.”
“Earthquake” was the metaphor most used in describing the triumphs of Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) in Britain and the Danish People’s Party in Denmark.
But if there was a result that shifted the foundations of Europe, it was the victory of Greece’s Syriza Party and the “out of nowhere” appearance of Podemos—“we can”—in Spain.