The European far right has cynically appropriated left-wing and pro-worker talking points for its own purposes.
by Alexandre Afonso & Line Rennwald
In the early 1980s, Jean-Marie Le Pen took pride in being called the “French Ronald Reagan.” Likening fiscal authorities to the Spanish Inquisition, the then-leader of the far-right National Front called for a radical scaling back of the French state to its “nightwatchman” functions (army, police, justice, diplomacy). Tax and expenditure was to be cut. Government, he said, should be “taken off our backs and out of our pockets.”
Thirty years later, his daughter Marine, who succeeded him as leader in 2011, is calling for the rich to be taxed, criticizing the impacts of global “ultra-liberalism,” and arguing that a strong “strategist state” is the only way to fight the increase of inequality.
Across Europe, anti-immigration parties such as the National Front in France, Geert Wilders’s Party for Freedom (PVV) in the Netherlands, and UKIP in the UK present themselves as the only real defenders of the working class. Much like Donald Trump, they have made significant gains in working-class areas suffering economic decline, and have even overtaken social-democratic parties in working class votes.