By James Petras, 99GetSmart
Throughout Europe, the Middle East and Asia, rightwing governments have increasingly adopted extremist socio-economic policies, slashing social expenditures, labor and welfare legislation, while increasing corporate subsidies and reducing taxes for the elite.
The rightwing has launched increasingly reckless military interventions via-invasions, proxy wars and massive weapon build-ups on the frontiers of Russia, China and Iran, while engaging in military provocations.
In this essay we will outline the scope and depth of rightwing extremism on a global scale, analyze its consequences and then evaluate the successes or failures of the ‘hard right’. In discussing the rise of hard-right socio-economic regimes and policies, we include traditional social democratic parties, which have pursued extremist agendas.
Washington as the Center of the Hard Right Policies and Militarization
US empire building has been at the forefront promoting military confrontations, invasions, occupations and proxy wars. Washington’s direct involvement has been magnified through its alliances with regional powers and client regimes, which provide soldiers and weapons.
The US military empire-building has led to the growth and consolidation of similar policies among follower regimes throughout the world. Likewise US longstanding reactionary socio-economic policies have served as templates and ‘standards’ for its followers in Europe and Asia as they shred the social ‘safety nets’ and civil contract with their citizens.
In other words, US empire building sends ripple effects throughout the world; its military and pro big business postures have been incorporated, to a large degree, into Baltic, Scandinavian, Eastern and Western European, Middle Eastern and Asian regimes, whether run by traditional, rightwing or social democratic parties. Their policy decisions are largely a result of internal processes: Dominant classes, international bankers and multi-national corporations set the socio-economic agenda while local military elites, with long-standing ties to NATO, have assimilated US military goals.
Among US allies and clients, hard-right militarist and confrontational politics are driven by the notion that they will have their share of imperial booty and that they will benefit from a redrawn geo-political map. The hard-right policies and the assimilation of US militarist doctrines by European, Middle Eastern and Asian regimes are an ‘insurance policy’ for their own survival as well as a weapon to deflect domestic class discontent. In sum, the military build-up is a weapon of regional expansionism and a tool to secure domestic cohesion and maintain power.
Rightwing Extremism in Europe: Baltic, Scandinavia, East and West Europe
Sweden, Norway and Denmark, whether under rightwing or social democratic regimes have slavishly followed the US lead in demonizing Russia and fabricating military threats – even evoking phantom Russian submarines within sight of Stockholm without providing a shred of evidence! The Scandinavian regimes are hardline advocates of US sanctions against Russia and Iran, supporting the kleptocratic-neo-Nazi coalition regime in Kiev, as well as the US bombing of Iraq and Libya and the EU-backed jihadi-terrorists against the secular Syrian government.
The ‘liberal-militarist’ Social Democrats in Sweden, Denmark and Norway back the massive US military build-up in the Baltic states of Lithuania, Latvia and Estonia. The latter have engaged in full-scale air, sea and land military maneuvers within view of the Russian border.
Brushing aside their critical leftwing allies,, Swedish and the Danish Social Democrats have slashed social expenditures, increased their military budgets and lowered corporate taxes in the name of “competitiveness” – another euphemism for raising capitalist profits! In other words, the Scandinavian ‘center left’ has ‘stolen’ the domestic and foreign policy agenda of the hard line neo-liberal Right. Moreover, what currently passes for the Red-Green ‘alternative’ has ended up in post-election alliances, providing parliamentary support. The entire spectrum of Baltic and Scandinavian regimes provide military bases, store NATO ‘heavy weapons’ and engage in military exercises designed by the Pentagon and NATO command and directed at Russia. Rightwing radicalism is rampant in Latvia and Lithuania and Finland despite being stuck in a deep recession for almost a decade, resulting from their servile implementation of the IMF’s regressive “austerity programs”.
Poland, always a hothouse for US-style Cold War Russophobia, has been in the vanguard of rightwing extremism. Warsaw provides arms and training to Ukrainian neo-Nazi extremists, and urges the US to station nuclear missiles on Polish territory. Warsaw’s anti-Russian fanaticism is clearly evident in its refusal to import Russian oil and gas, relying instead on highly toxic ‘brown coal’, which has caused about 41,000 premature deaths a year, according to Polish scientists. The Polish public policy toward Russia puts a new twist on the ancient slogan, “Homeland or Death” – it now reads ‘Homeland and Death!’
Western Europe, the principle ally of Washington’s anti-Russian strategy, has witnessed a similar embrace of the hard right US military and economic agenda. Germany’s center-right regime has sacrificed hundreds of billions in trade and investments by enforcing US sanctions. Germany’s rulers have backed US sponsored terrorists invading Syria, just as they now support the US-Saudi-Israeli invasion of Yemen. The German regime has frozen its own citizens’ salaries and wages for the past decade while increasing productivity and profits. Germany, it should be remembered, is governed by a coalition of Christian and Social Democrats!
In England the hard-right Conservatives coalition with the Liberal Democrats backed every US war throughout the world! They slashed social benefits, tripled university fees, closed scores of public hospitals and schoolrooms, evicted thousands from council houses (with the collaboration of local Labor Party municipal officials), and privatized large sectors of the National Health System while beefing up their war machine. The Conservative hard-right policies are an extension of the Labor Party policies pursued by Tony ‘The Phony’ Blair and Gordon ‘Blowhard’ Brown.
In the Balkans, Romania, Bulgaria and Albania-Kosova thuggish politicians combine servility to NATO with massive corruption and unbelievable stupidity. Bankrupt Bulgaria has sacrificed a billion-dollar-oil pipeline deal with Russia, in slavish response to US-EU pressure. Albania-Kosovo, run by drug and human trafficking gangsters with criminal networks throughout Europe, are full of US troops and military bases. Camp Bondsteel, the largest US military base outside of the US, is located in Kosovo – a country with 60% unemployment and with over half of its population ‘abroad’ having fled its brutal thugs. This is what NATO ‘liberated’ as a result of its horrendous bombing campaign against Yugoslavia.
The arc of rightwing radicalization and militarization stretching from the Baltic and Scandinavia regimes in the North, through Eastern and Central Europe, and to the Balkans is a product of the US-German effort to encircle, weaken and dominate Russia and move on to isolate China.
The massive US military buildup of heavy armament on Russia’s border is anchored by the hard-right Polish regime, which in its hysterical hatred of Russia seems oblivious to the fact that its military provocations could trigger its own nuclear obliteration!
The radical right’s economic policies and militarization of Southern Europe have plunged the region into the worst economic and social depression in almost a century. Italy has been in negative growth or stagnation since 2007 with nearly half its labor force underemployed or jobless. Italy is flooded with immigrants from Africa, refugees from the NATO war against Libya, which Italy backed. The destruction of Gaddafi’s regime led to the loss of two million jobs in Libya and undermined multi-billion dollar oil deals between Rome and Tripoli. The Renzi regime’s support of sanctions against Russia is so prejudicial to top Italian firms, that many, especially in the oil and gas sector, have defied the sanctions and gone through third parties to pursue lucrative trade and investment contracts with Moscow.
Greece and Spain, ruled by the “Hard Right” up until 2015, have experienced a “lost decade” as the EU oligarchy imposed onerous debt payments and draconian social conditions. Spain, under the ultra-rightist regime of Rajoy, and with support from the ‘opposition’ PSOE in parliament, has provided the US with new military bases from which to launch more wars against North Africa and the Middle East. Despite the bitter depression in Greece, the ‘hard right’ and ‘marshmallow left’ have maintained a military budget taking the highest percentage of the GNP of any NATO member. The Spanish hard-right regime presided over more household evictions, the highest unemployment rate and the most authoritarian laws against public assemblies since the end of the Franco dictatorship. Portugal has pursued the same militarist, austerity and repressive policies as Greece and Spain.
Supposedly the Mediterranean flank of the ‘hard right’ US-EU Empire is under challenge from insurgent electoral parties. The Social Democratic parties in Greece (PASOK), Spain (PSOE), Italy (Democrats), France (Socialist Party) and Portugal (Socialist Party) have deeply discredited themselves in the eyes of the workers and employees. The Socialists have been in the forefront enforcing deep cuts in social programs and are aggressive advocates and material supporters of NATO military policies everywhere. As a result, they are in retreat and face major challenges from the left and nationalist right (in France).
The Boomerang Effect: Evaluating the Hard Right Performance
There is no question that the US strategy of encircling Russia is succeeding: new political alignments have emerged, including countries in the Nordic region which previously were outside of the US orbit but are now part of the imperial arc of aggression. However, these regimes have paid an enormous price in terms of their national security, as Russia has responded by increasing its missile defense, aimed precisely at strategic targets in the bordering countries. Moreover, the military costs preclude any prospects of recovery from economic stagnation.
US sanctions policy toward Russia, which was initially backed by most European regimes, has been a major failure with major leaks springing up from all sides. According to the Financial Times (6/15/15, p. 3) “European oil groups extend deals in Russia despite EU sanctions.” BP (UK), Shell (Holland), ENI (Italy), and Statoil (Norway) are signing multi-billion dollar contracts with their Russian counterparts. The biggest loser is the US oil giant, EXXON Mobil, which is blocked from multi-billion dollar joint ventures.
Most US and EU businesses have exploited “loopholes in sanctions to insure business as usual” (FT 6/15/15, p. 3). US military and economic aggression to Russia has led to divisions between the imperial corporate and military elite. In the meantime, Russia’s domestic industrial and agricultural sectors have prospered due to the decline of Western imports. Western threats have also boosted Putin’s public support from the mid-sixties to the high eighties, while the US backed-opposition in Russia has been reduced to a marginal force, or as one western funded Russian NGO operative complained, “Our conferences can barely fill a telephone booth”.
The austerity policies, imposed by the EU, have aroused mass opposition in Greece and Spain, leading to the defeat of incumbent hard-right Conservatives and Social Democrats, although the new regimes have yet to develop alternatives.
The US and EU wars in against Syria, Iraq, Libya, Chad and Yemen have created millions of desperate refugees who are flooding Europe and overwhelming public facilities. Washington’s wars (both direct and proxy) have aroused large-scale, long-term national-Islamic resistance movements. Militarism and its ‘war on terror’ ideology have served to temporarily distract the masses from their socio-economic class interests. In France, Southern Europe and even among sectors of US public opinion, militarism and austerity are wearing thin. As the US and EU escalate their involvement, the resistance grows, while the cuts to domestic programs erode incumbent hard right regimes.
Since most of the Social Democratic and Democratic Parties are deeply implicated in highly militarized policies and austerity programs, they have nothing to offer the disenchanted electorate. The so-called ‘radical-left’ movements, insofar as they continue to tail-end the discredited Social Democrats, have failed to build an alternative. Their pyrotechnical politics, whereby they burst on the political stage full of energy and radical promises and quickly deflate into impotence before the warlords and bankers, effectively erode their mass support. Nevertheless, the underlying economic crisis continues to gnaw at the loyalty of the great mass of the population toward the existing hard-right policies.
US militarism and its exponents abroad are forced to rely on mass media propaganda campaigns, demagogic promises of future rewards and increasingly severe internal police state repression, surveillance technology, radical threats and mindless and meaningless electoral charades.
Rightwing radicalization and militarization in Europe is reaching a breaking point! To go forward is to commit nuclear suicide. Already there are elite defections, electoral retreats and huge social costs. Lost wars, perpetual stagnation and class-based austerity have created a world of great economic and personal insecurity and uncertainty. Rightwing radicalism has peaked and is in decline. What will replace it is difficult to ascertain. The euphoria, arrogance and smirks, which accompanied the rise of rightwing radicalism, are dissipating into foul sulfurous odors only waiting for a fresh wind to blow them away.