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From the last presidential election of France, Marine Le Pen, the leader of an extreme rightist populist party Front National succeeded in entering the final ballot even though she failed to take power. And in Italy, even though the bribe scandal of Virginia Raggi, the mayor of Rome, has been exposed due to its large scale and high veracity, the M5S (5 Star Movement, populist party of which she is a member) would receive 29% votes, followed by Lega Nord’s 13.2% and Forza Italia’s 11.8%, in the next general election in September. (Demopolis, the national research institution) The two biggest nations in Europe besides Germany are falling into the hands of neo-nationalists, and this could be not only a disaster to the European Union but a great retreat of democracy within both nations, and furthermore, Europe.
The political nature of the two nations vary. There is Italy, which has been through constant struggles between traditional left and right; from children of Mussolini to children of leftist partigiani (partisans). And as for France, from the followers of de Gaulle to traditional communists, anarchists, and the children of the 68′ revolution, there have been fights between conservatives and leftist progressives.
However, the Eurozone crisis has greatly changed the game. Following the rightist regime of Chirac and Sarkozy, former French prime ministers, and Berlusconi, the former Italian prime minister and leader of Forza Italia, in the 00’s, the centrists, so-called reformists, parties have taken the power after 2011-12 under the name of ‘escape from economic crises’. But they are in decline, and neo-nationalists are rising with the support of the youth, the rather traditional nationalist parties -Lega Nord, Forza Italia- have gained more supports, and newly rising organizations -M5S, Casapound Italia, and Front National- have appeared as the next ruling parties. Their success is based on the failure of centre-left administrations and surrounding problems in the EU.
The reformists’ reformation was quite identical with which Angela Merkel has been asking, under the pro-EU agenda. “The priority is to really change the relation between Europe and citizens. If we don’t change, the risk will be Europe becomes responsible [in the eyes of citizens] for every problem in this continent” (Matteo Renzi, CNBC, 2016). The Labour Act, which was one of the main reformations proposed by Matteo Renzi, [Former prime minister 2014-2016, leader of Partito Democratico (Democratic Party)], aimed to liquidate hiring and firing. It resulted in not only broad strikes of leftist organizations and huge labour unions such as CGIL (Confederazione Generale Italia del Lavoro) but also the increase of ‘cooperative’ workers (irregular labourers). Also, Francois Hollande’s reformations were analogous to Renzi’s, which set its main point at cutting the government budgets on welfare and “unnecessary” government organization and providing subsidies to enterprises in order to reinvigorate the economy, such as the 2017 cut of French public spending by €50 billion and increase of €30 billion for subsidies of enterprises.
Also under pro-EU regimes, France and Italy took refugees from Syrian war and constant immigrants from Northern Africa. Combined with the Eurozone crisis, immigrants have become a fragile yet obvious target of the voice of conservatives, or otherwise nationalists. Those organizations have grown their power through promoting an emotional sense which the “French” and “Italians” consider that they have been given disadvantages due to immigrants and refugees and emphasizing the immediate action to these ‘problems’, and through attacking the centrists ruling parties for being the followers of neo-liberalism and globalism, isolated from people’s voice. Therefore, they share certain points under the idea of nationalism: anti-immigrant, eurosceptism, regain of ‘nationality’, and usage of violence.
“House, work, school, social statues [immigrants get] before the Italian (Casapound Italia, 2015)”. This sentence shows why they have risen: the return of privilege to dominant ethnicity in a society. The problem is that people do not actually try to see the deeper figure. The immigrants ought to be included in the lower class of a society if there is no support from the society and government. By segregation, language barriers, relatively lower education due to their background, immigrants usually fail to get jobs considered “haute”. And this phenomenon appeared clearly in Europe as they accepted thousands of immigrants from Northern Africa and Turkey in 90’s and 00’s, for the purpose of “importation” of low-income workers. They made up slums in major cities of Europe, mostly working at low income jobs or being unemployed.
The far right parties promote violence and exclusion of minority groups, especially immigrants. “Philippe Vardon, who’s now an elected member of the FN but has been sentenced to six months of prison for an assault against nonwhite people in 2014” (Ugo Pahleta, Jacobinmag, 2017). And the promotion affects even to younger generation too. On October 14th 2016, 3 minors and 4 adults from Fronte della Gioventu’ (Front of youth, close to Forza Nuova) attempted to murder of a 16-year-old boy in Plaza Cavour bt lynching him saying ‘to realise justice’. The boy ended up in hospital due to severe wounds.
The downfall of a foreign group towards the lower class created double bias and grievance of existing lower class. The double bias to them, as foreign group and lower class, non French/Italian, dirty, uneducated, inferior, peccant, querulous, and dissatisfactory due to fueled competition in unskilled jobs, create the animosity towards their existence and action. When immigrants go for the demonstrations or commit crimes, those biases worsen more and more. Then they rebel against any remedies for immigrants, for using taxes not for people but foreigners. Then the immigrants become harder to settle down and the circle goes around again.
The rise of neo-nationalism in Europe provides us with a chance to examine our democracy and nationality. They wormed into the animosity towards society and emotions of the ‘losers’ of competition or conservatives. They seem to have the answer -an immediate and effective answer- and have goals for people: more welfares and anti-elitism. However, its root is hatred against the democratic values; they set the people of one nation by blood, and say the nation should work for those with true national blood, not those who came here to seek new and better lives. And people who give up the leftist solution, which requires a lot of determination and choose the easy way to hate people with morally fragile images, leave us with the necessity of having an attitude to doubt extreme action based on an “absolute” criterion, which can easily overthrow human rights.
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