“A few weeks from now, it will likely be possible to drive all the way from the Baltic Sea to the Aegean without ever leaving what we might call the “populist belt””
Yascha Mounk (The Czech Trump)
“Thus it’s not too hard to look at the rising spiral of stresses in the European Union just now and foresee the eventual descent of the continent into a mix of domestic insurgency and authoritarian nationalism, with the oncoming tide of mass migration from Africa and the Middle East adding further pressure to an already explosive mix.”
John Michael Greer (An Affirming Flame)
The Austrian elections held on Sunday have seen a surge in support for the anti-immigrant and Eurosceptic forces within the Austrian political establishment. The “centre-right” People’s Party (“OVP”), led by the youthful Sebastian Kurz, won 31% of the national vote, according to the exit polls. Kurz campaigned on a platform of hard-line policies on borders, immigration and regaining sovereignty from the European Union (“EU”) which appealed to the Austrian electorate.
The “far-right” Freedom Party (“FPO”), which has its roots in the post-war National Socialist movement, appears to be in second place, with 26% of the national vote. The FPO is even more hard-line then the OVP on the question of the refugee crisis and has warned of the “Islamification” of Austria.
The stunning victory for the political Right in Austria comes after the surge in support for the Alternative for Germany party in the German elections, which I discussed recently. These election results will have spooked European leaders who had hoped that the populist wave had peaked earlier in the year, when Marine Le Pen of the National Front failed to break through in the French presidential elections.
Before I explore this issue further, I would like to briefly discuss the terminology used by the mainstream media when discussing Continental politics. Whilst the policies of the OVP and the FPO overlap considerably, to the point of convergence, the media refer to the OVP as conservative or “centre-right” whilst the FPO are usually referred to as “far-right”.
Whilst it is true that the OVP roots are in the far right, in terms of policies, it should be classified as a conservative/nationalist party, not as a neo-Nazi/ extremist party. The OVP do not advocate race laws, the imposition of a dictatorship or the destruction of democracy which would be expected of a genuinely neo-Nazi party. For these reason, I will refer to the FPO as a nationalist right or hard-right party and the OVP as centre-right going forward.
The crushing victory of the Right in Austria has ramifications beyond Vienna in a post-Brexit Europe. A Kurz-led Austrian government will likely align itself with the so-called Visegrad countries of central and eastern Europe, who are sceptical of further EU integration, opposed to settling refugees and hostile to the multi-cultural ideology prevalent among the liberal elites of western Europe.
As the Telegraph notes, “the governments of Viktor Orban in Hungary, Beata Szydlo in Poland and Robert Fico in Slovakia all share a deep opposition to letting in more migrants and to what they see as Brussels “meddling” in their domestic affairs.” The likely victory of a populist, Eurosceptic and anti-refugee real estate billionaire Andrej Babiš in the looming Czech elections is further evidence of the nationalist winds transforming the political map of Europe.
It therefore looks increasingly likely that under the leadership of Austria, a new regional bloc is emerging within the heart of Europe, capable of challenging the dominance of the Franco-German axis. Looking at the modern map, the new bloc looks remarkably similar to the late Austro-Hungarian Empire that spanned Austria, Hungary, the Czech Republic and Poland in the early 20th century.
With hindsight I over-estimated the electoral appeal of the populist and radical right parties at the beginning of the year. However, the bigger picture is the shift in continental politics towards the populist end of the spectrum on internal borders, shutting down the refugee flows and enforcing the integration of Muslim communities, something I analysed earlier this year.
The writer John Michael Greer, who has been remarkably prescient in his political forecasts over the years, has warned that nationalist parties could sweep to power across Western Europe in the event of another major refugee crisis or economic depression. That nationalist tsunami has reached Vienna and the chancelleries of Europe will be wondering if Italy is next, with elections next year amid a surge in support for populist and Eurosceptic parties like the Five Star Movement.
Beyond the frontiers of the EU, trouble is brewing in the frontier zones of North Africa, the Middle East and the Ukraine. The emerging warlords in the growing arc of failed states, whether they are Libyian militia, jihadi extremists or Ukrainian nationalist gunmen are growing stronger every year.
This growing wave of chaos surrounding a troubled European core is driven by structural factors, including worsening climate change, water, energy and food scarcity and the explosion of population. Should the crisis around the River Nile worsen, to give just one example, a further wave of refugees from predominately Muslim cultures will try and enter Europe. This could trigger unrest, a further surge in support for nationalist politicians and in the worst case scenario a slide into authoritarianism.
On a personal level, when visiting Verona this summer, I saw numerous illegal African immigrants around the train station, a key smuggling hub within Italy. These overwhelmingly young men are physically fit, resourceful and utterly ruthless in their determination to fulfill their dream of prosperity within the crumbling core of our industrial civilization.
I will be covering this and other issues in future posts soon so I encourage existing and new readers to sign up and follow my blog at the bottom of the page.