The failure to address economic and social justice prepared the ground for the success of right wing parties

By Carlton Joseph

Carlton Joseph

Right wing and far right political organizations are gaining significant traction in Europe and North America.  On Sunday, Swedish Prime Minister (PM) Magdalena Anderson resigned after an unprecedented right-wing and far right bloc, with roots in the neo-Nazi movement, won the election.  The bloc takes a tougher stand on crime, plans to make Sweden’s immigration rule the most restrictive in the European Union (EU), vowed to fight inflation, and to “make Sweden great again.” 

Reports indicate that the public is dissatisfied with the previous government blindly following America’s lead in sanctioning Russia, thereby creating an energy crisis in Sweden and the rest of Europe, while America is not experiencing any energy crisis.  Party leader Jimmie Akesson tweeted: “It is time to start rebuilding security, prosperity and cohesion.  It’s time to put Sweden first.”

Italy’s election is September 25, and polls are showing that the rightist coalition led by the Nationalist Brothers of Italy, the League Party and Forza Italia is on course for a clear victory.  This coalition has authoritarian tendencies, disdain for multiculturalism and gender rights and promotes national identity underpinned by racism. 

Last week, the European parliament declared that Hungary was no longer a democracy and had become an “electoral autocracy”.   The members expressed that European values were under systemic threat, and were concerned about the functioning of the electoral system, its judicial independence, academic freedom, and rights of vulnerable populations.

In Canada, anti-hate experts are urging policy makers to take action against growing right-wing extremism because their research shows that millions of Canadians have joined the far right since the pandemic.  A recent Abacus Data survey indicated that 44 percent of Canadians believe in at least one conspiracy theory, including the racist belief that political elites are trying to replace native born Canadians with immigrants who support them, and ten percent view the current Trudeau government as illegitimate.

In fact, Conservative Party leader, Pierre Poilievre, is actively courting this group and believes that it will become a political force. He has embraced convoy supporters and marched with a Canadian soldier who refused to be vaccinated. 

In the US, 91% of Trump’s candidates won their open primaries and of the 119 right-wing extremist candidates that participated in the primaries, about 25 percent of the candidates won their race, putting them one step closer to winning their general election in November and gaining access to political power.

On the US labor front, President Biden convened an emergency panel to avert a railroad strike.  Bargaining between the railroads and 12 unions, ongoing since 2019, almost collapsed over union concerns over burnout, scheduling and sick pay.   Imagine in the world’s richest country, where most workers get 10 to 15 sick days, railroad workers do not get any sick leave.  Washington Post reporter Lauren Kaori Gurley wrote on Twitter, “Workers will receive voluntary assigned days off AND a single additional paid day off. (They previously did not receive sick days.) The agreement provides members with the ability to take unpaid days for medical care without being subject to attendance policies.”

Also, important to acknowledge is that railroad workers are probably the backbone of the American economy with nearly 30 percent of the country’s freight transported by rail.  Nearly everything, from gas to everyday consumer goods, would have spiked in price, or may not have been available at all, therefore increasing inflation, and would have shut down passenger and freight rail service across the United States.   Is American company management so out of touch with its workers that after 3 years of negotiations they cannot comprehend that workers need time off and sick leave?  Have they now so embraced robot technology that they believe humans should work like robots?

Finally, workers are waking up and fighting for justice.  There are currently six strikes taking place across the country. Nearly 15,000 nurses in Minnesota walked off the job to protest understaffing, which they claim has harmed patient care and has overworked staff.  Data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, report that in 2021, there were about three times as many major work stoppages than there were in 2020.

Economic Policy Institute report that in 2021 strikes provided workers critical leverage to bargain over fair pay, safe working conditions, and a share of the pandemic recovery. Labor unions have also seen a revival, as workers at large corporations, including Amazon and Starbucks, are now unionizing to demand better pay and working conditions.

The main reason why far right parties have gained support and influence is because the traditional establishment political parties in Europe and North America are incapable of coming up with satisfactory solutions to the growing number of problems: such as financial insecurity, immigration and gun crime, refugee crisis created by endless wars, climate crisis, globalization, and a dilution of national identity.  For the last 15 years these politicians promoted free trade and globalization as a panacea, the masses bought into the promise, their spirits were high and they anticipated a bright future.  Today their dreams have shriveled like a dried medjool date.

During the post war period western democracies had political parties with mass memberships, powerful trade unions, and social safety nets. Conservatives and Liberals were united in their fight against communism, and they both promoted globalization and open markets.  The 2008 financial crisis, transfer of manufacturing to low-cost countries, outsourcing of jobs, and destruction of trade unions, brought material deterioration for large groups of voters, especially workers with high school diplomas, who lost their middle-class status.  This led to a loss of confidence in established parties and the rise of authoritarian politicians like Trump and Viktor Orban in Hungary, who do not care about freedom and civil liberties, their goal is power for its own sake and to protect personal business interests and other capitalists.

To reverse this right-wing extremist trend, western politicians must acknowledge that economic and social justice matters and that justice can only be achieved through changes in the material conditions of people’s lives, and that capitalism needs a counter weight in order to preserve democracy.  The markets always need more profits and do not care about the welfare of workers, capitalists will move production to low wage, no regulation countries in search of more profit.  More important, capitalist will easily align with authoritarian leaders, because democracy is too cumbersome.

Corporate greed and unbridled capitalism have created fertile ground for far-right nationalism in the US, Canada, Brazil, India and Europe and the rhetoric and proposals by far-right politicians, tying gun crimes to immigration, xenophobia, and protecting their countries’ own national interest have become core issues in the electoral process.  The group that is most negatively impacted is predominantly white male, under 50 years old, with a high school education; their economic issues must be addressed.  The jobs that gave them middle-class status have been outsourced, and they are at the bottom of economic ladder in a society that told them they were superior.