EU Elections: Europe swings to the right, now we need to strike back

Equinox Initiative for Racial Justice responds to the EU Elections. A crucial lesson mainstream political parties should take from the EU election outcome is that without providing meaningful alternatives to our unequal system, the far right’s popularity will only grow.  As the so-called ‘centre’ parties cling to a slim majority, in the long run, you can not beat the far-right at the politics of division and racism. 

The far-right made significant gains in the 2024 EU elections, topping polls in Germany, France, Italy, and Austria. With fascist parties taking a record number of seats in the European Parliament, centrist political parties must take responsibility for their role in Europe’s far-right surge.

People in the EU are struggling. One in five people live in poverty and one in seven young people cannot find employment. Wages are falling, the cost of living soars and the climate crisis ravages people’s homes and livelihoods. In times like these communities need sustainable jobs, affordable and accessible housing, hospitals, aged-care facilities, schools, public transport and social services. 

Yet time and time again, centrist parties at the right and left of the spectrum pass policies that maintain the status quo of poverty, criminalisation and environmental degradation. In times of crisis, they ramp up austerity for everyday people but give giant corporations subsidies and tax cuts. They allocate disproportionate resources toward military, police and border forces, whilst cutting or privatising much-needed social services.  It’s no wonder that  the richest 10% of people own 67% of Europe’s total wealth. This leads to heightened violence, surveillance and criminalisation rather than policies that nourish and care for people and the planet.

As centrist parties drag their feet on fixing our broken system and holding those responsible for it accountable, the far-right step into the gap. They use racism and fear to blame the most marginalised: racialised people, women, people seeking asylum, queer and trans people and precarious workers. It’s a tactic we have all seen before – divide and conquer us so that the ruling classes can maintain free reign.

Centrist parties need to look inward to explain the 2024 election results. They must realise that in the long run, appeasing the far-right only boosts the right-ward surge. The reality is that mainstream parties at the “centre” have shifted so far to the right that, at times, they bear little difference.

Mainstream parties have already capitulated to the far-right tactic of throwing marginalised communities under the bus in the last EU mandate. Playing into the fascist playbook, the Migration Pact tarred migrants with one brush of ‘illegality’, ramped up the criminalisation of migration through increased surveillance, deportation and detention, and effectively ended the right to asylum. Here, ‘centrist’ parties used a semblance of political neutrality to introduce one of the most violent, racist migration policies Europe has seen. 

At the Member State level, supposedly socially ‘liberal’ parties have embedded far-right rhetoric in their policies. In Denmark, the Social Democratic Party defended decisions to reject asylum applications from people fleeing war in Syria. In France Macron has spearheaded a policy of state-islamophobia, targeting Muslim women specifically, under the guise of French universalism and laïcité.

The far-right have built on this and increased their presence in the European Parliament taking at least 150 seats. Fascist parties across Europe have sought to target women, queer and trans people, roll back the right to abortion, oppose climate justice, and generally divide and conquer communities. Now, it will be harder than ever to legislate for the rights and protections of the majority of us, including marginalised communities, as well as for climate, racial, migrant and gender justice.

The only feasible response now is to change course. The full spectrum of European political parties need to make a radical shift away from their politics of criminalisation and ostracisation and build a meaningful alternative based on care and social protection for all. 

For the rest of us, what we do next is resist. 

Not just at the voting booths, but on the streets, in local communities, and wider political arenas. With expanding police powers against the right for workers to strike, anti-genocide movements, migrant solidarity actions, climate protesters, and farmers, it will be even harder for us to challenge the far-right. 

We need to build an unapologetic alternative to racist narratives, one that is pro-migration, pro-worker and pro-marginalised communities and that holds those at the top responsible for the unequal system we live in. We must build mass movements across issues, and understand our struggles are interconnected. We must centre, not trade away, the rights of marginalised groups.  Finally, we must continue to hold those in power to account and force them to keep the far-right in check.