Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy right wing party has won Italy’s general election, and left wing media in Europe and beyond are up in arms with worry. CNN described Meloni’s party as “the most far-right government since the fascist era of Benito Mussolini.” France 24 declared that “A ‘seismic’ shift” was happening in Europe. Vox announced, “The far right is having a moment in Europe. Actually, everywhere.” And the Wall Street Journal is concerned that “Right-Wing Populism May Rise in the U.S.”
There is certainly a shift in Europe. Besides Italy, Sweden also recently elected a Right leaning Riksdag (Swedish parliament), which will likely elect a right leaning prime minister. Bulgaria, too, just had its general election, and there, too, the Right seems to have won the majority.
Even where the Right has not won majority votes, it is gaining popularity. France, Spain, Poland, Austria, the Netherlands, and several other European Union countries are seeing rapid strengthening of the Right.
However, I think that what the left wing media, as well as some politicians, describe as “far right” or even leaning toward fascism, is neither “far” nor fascist. It is a natural outcome of people’s resentment to Russia, and a natural shift that is happening anyway. The weakening Russian influence in Europe will instigate more changes and shifts, as many arrangements that were put in place after World War II are disintegrating, so we can expect many more changes to happen. These shifts may well initiate renewed border debates, and conflicts that have been latent until now may resurface.
That said, the newly elected right wing leaders do not see themselves as fascists or extremists. Rather, they regard themselves as conservative and more inclined toward the nation-state than toward the pan-European idea. Either way, I do not see a Mussolini-type leader rising in Italy or in Europe; too many forces would impede such a development.
Europe is facing many challenges: social problems, unabsorbed immigration, economic challenges, shortage of gas, and many other challenges that should worry Europeans more than the political affiliation of this or that leader. By and large, Europe should stay united, but it should improve the unity they are already in and not break it apart. They should work together on their future, or they might find themselves on par with Third World countries.
To emerge from the crisis, Europe must establish real union, unlike the “union” that currently exists, with one or two domineering countries and the rest being forced to obey dictates. Real union means that people in different countries feel united despite the differences in language, culture, and sometimes even faith.
It should not be unity against an external element, such as against Russia’s military or against the American economy. It should be unity because unity itself is a noble value that makes life easy and safe for everyone. Borders, eventually, should be all but eliminated, and economies should be integrated.
Also, the US should become more involved in Europe, but not in an authoritarian manner, but more as an assistant in bringing Europe together. I realize that this is not an immediate scenario, but the direction is clear and the sooner Europe heads toward it, the better it is for the Europeans.
Another interesting point is that the newly elected leaders, and generally Right leaning people in both Europe and the US, maintain more favorable views toward Israel. I believe this is so because they see Israel as a partner in what they would like to do in Europe, namely consolidate the nation states rather than disintegrate them, which is where the Left seems to be headed in recent years.
This does not mean that the Right leaning parties strive to break up the EU, but only to cure it from the excessive power held in the hands of a few at the expense of the nation states. Ironically, it seems as though the Right is the one aspiring for equality these days, while the Left is headed more toward endowing a few dominant figures with the power to govern the rest of Europe. For these reasons, I think that the Right is not far, but actually nearer to people’s hearts, to people’s real sentiments, and presents a healthy process that Europe is experiencing.
Leader of Brothers of Italy Giorgia Meloni reacts at the party’s election night headquarters, in Rome, Italy September 26, 2022. REUTERS/Guglielmo Mangiapane