Brussels, 27 May 2019 – ‘Poor’, not ‘divided’, is the word explaining the far-right parties surge and, more widely, what is happening in Europe. You might say, along with mainstream media, that UK, France, Italy after these EU elections are more divided countries, but division reflects democratic dynamics and different/opposite positions (whether on Brexit, immigration, single market).
The actual divide we should be concerned about, instead, is not a consequence of views on EU, but of the growing wall separating one increasingly restricted and interconnected elite from the rest of the society in which middle class political influence, economic impact and social mobility are quashed.
Middle classes across the EU 28 are increasingly poor; overall the Union counts 118 million citizens in poverty, and those who are slightly above the narrow criteria set to define poverty line are not counted, therefore they are many more. Contract in its specific form of job contract and tenancy agreement is disappearing, that means the social contract itself is broken, consequently the role of trade unions keen to protecting only slices of societies protected by contracts, is over. On the base of these facts, why voters in the UK should back Labour Party and its traditional ally Unite the Union, and maintain a damaging status quo ?
Making of Brexit stances the only parameter of analysis of this EU election result is strongly reductive and turns very comfortable to those interested in hiding the structural decline of our societies and in particular of the middle class, increasingly deprived of basic rights, opportunities, space of social rebellion against reckless anti-social policies; as a consequence rebellion is channelled through voting.
They want Brexit, Farage’s army say: but now electorate want any change leading to the disappearance of the status quo (whichever the main party is) because they understood there is no way out to this induced poverty, to this precarious jobs, housing and even reduced access to basic food, health, education. We are not talking about lower quality life here, but about structural long term precarisation of lives.
It is wrong, after this electoral result, failing to address structural issues such as companies not employing anymore apart from top jobs available to circles of wealthy elites or to few luckily coopted. This system excludes the majority and slogans such as “for the many not for the few” mean nothing if words are not substantiated by factual politics. Interconnected circles of elites managing and ruling middle size companies and multinationals, circles of people working in banking and financial sectors, investors in financial and real estate speculation are consuming our economies by interrupting the circular cycle of production and revenue: finance burns money and multiply wealthiness of the very few as well as big property investments (many times the very end of money laundering) are strangling middle and lower classes through cartels of rent prices that nothing have to do with real economy and wages: these are common patterns in western Europe.
You may ask, then, why France voted Le Pen and not gilet jaunes? After all Melenchon’s movement is leading a rebellion against Macron’s neo-liberalism and EU elections were the right moment to give them a chance. That could be a counter argument, but it is instead the confirmation French squeezed middle class does not share gilet jaunes’ violent and radicalised protest; this turned clear over the last months; the movement would not fit Brussels’ blue hemicycle.
Yes, it’s true, EPP, S&D and ALDE, survived and still hold the status of main political groups. Centre conservatives and socialists lost seats while liberals grew as seen for British Lib Dem exceptional result (20.3%) now second party in UK and first party in London (after a symbolic win in Islington, Jeremy Corbyn’s constituency), far right ENF reached 7% only instead. Yet Salvini said the group could reach 113 MEPs through alliances with Farage and Le Pen (without counting Fidesz).
Like European middle classes, traditional political parties can’t content of surviving witnessing their own radicalisation. Still the main dynamic highlighted by the result is socialism decline, except for Spain’s PSOE, the party recently triumphed at national elections confirming Sanchez as PM, an isolated case of success in Europe. Although Italian PD regained trust reaching 22,7%, here alliance is yet the key word: facing far-right Salvini (34.3%) who now is rushing to general elections and looking forward to getting rid of declining 5StarM, (17.1%), the new Democratic leader Zingaretti must look to possible convergence for the country’s sake and for the sake of a European Union in which members who fight for social justice and fair economy still play a central role.