In recent years, the European establishment, both in the EU capital and government leadership, was taken by surprise twice – Brexit and the election of President Donald Trump. But both of these are none of our business. The British and American people decided; we were only observers.
As European Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker recently said in an interview with New Europe, “[Brexit is] a British problem. It is not a European problem; it is a European difficulty.”
There is a potential third surprise to come. The European elections are definitely our business. Indeed, I sense that this surprise is “ante portas” and our conservative leaders – the Christian-Democrats, Socialists and Liberals – do not admit that change in Europe is coming because conservativism at its roots is not so keen on accepting any change.
However, compared to the far-left and the far-right they are the real progressive forces of our society. As a matter of fact, the most conservative political party ever was the Communist Party of the Soviet Union which, since it was founded by Vladimir Lenin in 1912 and until it suddenly collapsed in 1991, did not change at all.
Societies are always on the course of change and when political rulers do not adapt to meet and lead change, that is the moment when anomalies and phenomena take place that shift paradigms and realities. From the old to the new.
The inability to grasp change also extends to the media. For example, outlets across Europe have taken to label Italian Deputy Prime-Minister and Minister of the Interior Matteo Salvini and his party, Lega, as far-right.
Today, Salvini and Lega, which is equally labelled by establishment parties as being extreme-right and neo-Fascist, commands the support of over 30% of the Italian people according to the latest polls. The same labeling is attributed to all rapidly growing anti-system parties in Europe, both by mainstream political forces and the media. From Poland to Austria, from France to Hungary and so forth!
Does it mean that all of a sudden, peaceful middle-class Europeans lost their minds and are looking for a new Hitler? Is it in this context that the democratic parties of Europe fight to safeguard our democratic civilisation?
No. I am afraid that our rulers are simply too conservative to adapt. A few days before the election, we see that mainstream systemic parties are mobilising all the resources they think can help stop what is coming from social media conglomerates to NGOs to everything in-between. However, such last moment attempts only come off as panic. Social trends cannot be reversed that easily and in such a short space in time.
The situation is not as bad as many believe and several others hope. Traditional parties will suffer losses, but it is highly likely that they will technically survive this European election.
Yet, what about the next one? Big organisations do not adapt, they disappear when they become overtly corrupt and unfair. This is what happened to various empires and that is what happened to the Soviet Union. This is also what may likely happen to the European Union. Because the European Union, whether we like it or not, has both in the micro scale of its member states (Austria most recently), and the macro scale of its Union, pockets of corruption, and growing sentiment in its citizenry the feeling of unfair treatment.
To understand why peaceful, family-loving people in Europe suddenly became anti-system and “far-right”, without being neither far nor even moderate right, one should look to existing logical explanations.
What has happened to these people in most of Europe in recent years?
They lost jobs, they lost income, they lost social status, they lost their security and they lost their children, who had to migrate overseas in search of a decent job, rather than deliver pizzas while in possession of two master degrees and a PhD.
That is why they will vote for the various Salvinis flourishing across Europe. Not because Europeans became suddenly far-right or neo-Nazi, but because of recession and overregulation. One could say that the surgery was successful, but the patient has died.
This is why Europe is in a Catch-22 situation today, which does not stem from the threat of the of extremism but from the uncontrolled growth of the neo-poor who constitute the asymmetrical threat to our post-War achievements.
If Europe wants to survive, we will probably all have to get used to the idea of a functional political cohabitation for the next five years with the democratically elected representatives newly introduced to power. After all, whether far left or far right, recent experience has shown that governing power, especially when shared, pushes all parties towards the centre and out of the edges of the political spectrum. And during this five-year grace period, we must correct our mistakes.
That will be our last chance for an orderly passing from the old to the new.