Elections to the European Parliament are set to deliver a record number of far right MEPs. In Germany the AfD have pushed the social democrats into third place. In Italy Giorgia Meloni’s Brothers of Italy Party are leading on 30% and in France Marine Le Pen’s far-right National Rally has trounced the centre right coalition that supports President Macron and now he has dissolved the National Assembly and called a snap election.

The centre right European People’s Party (EPP) will remain the largest party and with its allies it retains a majority in the European Parliament. But just as UKIP/Brexit Party/Reform has succeeded in pulling Conservatives and Labour to the right, the centrist coalition at the heart of European politics will become increasingly fractured as individual parties start looking over their shoulders at far right parties challenging them in national elections.

This is why Macron has called national elections on the back of the rise of National Rally. He has no hope of defeating Le Pen in the first round of voting on 30th November but is banking on the support of left wing voters in the second round.

This is a disaster. Proportional representation has given these far right parties a foothold and once they have a toe in the door they use the national platform they gain to sow hate and division. At the same time the “centrists” shift to the right to appease their voters who are attracted to the simplistic, anti-scientific and hateful policies of the right. The answer does not lie in changing the voting system. Our system of first-past-the-post has not stopped the growth of the right in the UK. We have to challenge the way that electoralism per se dominates our thinking.

The left is so weak, partly because it is addicted to electoralism and therefore falls into the same trap as the centrists of failing to challenge the right and partly because it has turned away from any strong sense of class struggle embracing electoralism and trying to win the centre ground. The Labour Party has moved so far to the right by pursuing this strategy that, while it claims to be a democratic socialist party, you could argue that it is not even social democratic any more and has become an openly pro capitalist party, no different to the conservatives under Cameron. Centrist parties, like our own Labour Party, are not organic creations of the people and very often look down on those who disagree with them, particularly if they are poorly educated. They may adopt progressive policies but then impose them without a proper debate so that the right can home in on them and present themselves as representing the interests of the ‘people’ against the establishment elite.

What we are seeing is the chickens coming home to roost. Successive generations of socialists have wasted their energy chasing a diminishing vote, centrists have imposed a vision of society at the expense of ordinary working people and both the centre and left are increasingly unable to deal with the challenge from the right as a result.

The old political idea that the centre must hold to see off the extremists has seen the centre shift ever rightwards as it gives up the battle of ideas and adapts to the populist appeal of the far right. This appeal is strongest when you are on your own in a polling booth, casting your vote in isolation. Standing together on picket lines and in mass demonstrations and rallies reminds us of our collective strength. It is not easy and does not offer a quick fix like an election campaign. We need to be more than just small groups of elitists shouting from the sidelines. We need to build a genuine mass movement that is founded on solid principles and can be home for a growing number of people who are becoming increasingly disillusioned with any hope that the world could be a better place.

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