At the NY Review Daily, Sasha Polakow-Suransky asks if European democracy can survive the right-wing resurgence witnessed recently in countries like Austria, Germany, and France. Polakow-Suransky suggests that if the European left wants to counter the growth of the right, it needs to reject the politics of fear and reintroduce class-based rhetoric. Here's an excerpt from the piece:
The first step in any coherent political project to counter right-wing populists is to reject the fear that fuels their popularity and resist the temptation to adopt their policies. Very few leaders have done this. In Holland and Denmark, the center right and the social-democratic left have largely caved and adopted planks from the populists’ platform. The left has lost much of its old base by appearing to care only about free trade, technological progress, and limitless diversity. This scares many people who used to vote for the Democratic Party, British Labour, or European Social Democrats.
Nativist politicians like Trump or Holland’s Geert Wilders are not particularly concerned with bread-and-butter issues, and their economic policies aren’t terribly helpful to workers and the poor. But because there is often no class-based counterargument coming from the left, it is easy for right-wing populists to seize that political terrain; it is an open space. Once the old economic battle lines disappear, realignment becomes very easy. The challenge for today’s left is to acknowledge these voters’ fears and offer policies that help address their grievances without making the sort of moral concessions that lead toward reactionary illiberal policies.