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Analysis: Outcome of the European Elections

On June 9, the European elections were held in Germany. The result was not unexpected, but still a shock for many. The fascist AfD was able to get just under 16 percent of the vote. The reformist Left party, DIE LINKE, sank to well under three percent.

In Germany, politicization and polarization is high. Voter turnout was historically high for a European election. The main driver is dissatisfaction with the ruling coalition government of Greens (Grüne) Social Democrats (SPD) and Liberals (FDP). In a survey by the Infratest Dimap institute for ARD, 76 percent of respondents said they were dissatisfied with the current government. Chancellor Scholz undercuts all of his predecessors’ popularity ratings. The Social Democrats, SPD, is once again doing worse than ever with under 14%. The SPD maintains organic links to the labor movement through the union apparatus, but can hardly score points with the working class.

Fear of war was named as the relatively most important issue in a Germany-wide barometer before the elections. The Greens and SPD talk abstractly about “peace,” but are arming themselves and are not even verbally supporting diplomatic initiatives in Palestine or Ukraine. Added to this is dissatisfaction with market-driven climate programs that burden (and moralize) individuals. The result is the Greens’ collapse, with their numbers more than halved. The Greens have completely lost their aura within two years, particularly among first-time voters. Concern about peace was not tied to a movement. In this respect, fear was the main factor here – a climate from which the fascist Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) benefits. Other fear topics: according to Infratest Dimap, around 53 percent of eligible voters were worried that too many foreigners were coming to Germany – 19 percentage points more than in the European elections five years ago. And 74 percent are afraid that crime will increase – 22 points more.

There are many strikes that could potentially create a climate of resistance and hope. But the struggles are too fragmented and do not find expression at the political level, so they have not created a pole that could effectively counteract the mood of fear and frustration.

At the moment, the fascist right, largely united in the AfD, is benefiting in particular, while the reformist, fragmented left is losing out. At 16 percent, the AfD is clearly behind its peak in the polls in December. This is a success of the mass protests on the streets. But the street movement is leaving the organizational core of the AfD intact, so that the AfD was able to increase its share of the vote compared to the last European elections. It once again benefited from its opponents: the racist competition to outdo the established parties and Bündnis Sahra Wagenknecht (BSW, a split from DIE LINKE) after a knife attack in Mannheim pushed it up by two points from 14 percent in the polls in the last week before the election.

In France the far-right under the National Rally was able to become the strongest party in the EU elections, gaining a total of 31%. This served as a blow to Macron who called on early federal elections. This has led left-wing parties to join forces in a “marriage of convenience”. The four main left-wing forces, the Greens, Socialists, Communists and hard-left firebrand Jean-Luc Mélenchon’s France Unbowed (LFI) movement, have since agreed on a shared manifesto under the banner, the New Popular Front

In Germany, the AfD’s gains in voter support again this time came primarily from the bourgeois spectrum (CDU, FDP). It emerged from the European elections as the strongest force in all eastern German states. These are the states where the frustration is high, and at the same time the workers’ movement and the left as a whole only took relatively weak organizational roots after 1990, or were marked by the decline of DIE LINKE. In some large cities in the west, such as Cologne, with a tradition of anti-fascist mobilizations against the AfD, the AfD has only gained a little, whereas the share of votes for the left and the BSW together has clearly grown. This indicates that the gains at the ballot box can be taken away from the AfD just as quickly as it came. The full mobilization against the AfD federal party conference in Essen on June 29 can become an important milestone in the anti-fascist struggle.

An Infratest-Dimap analysis of voter migration suggests that it was a fallacy to believe that the Sahra Wagenknecht Alliance (BSW) would lure voters away from the AfD to any significant extent. Of the previous AfD voters, 140,000 voted for the BSW, which, however, benefited primarily from former SPD voters (550,000 votes) and Left Party voters (450,000 votes), as well as even more non-voters. The BSW is part of the reformist Left party family and essentially draws support from the same spectrum as the Left Party used to. The party panders to racist and anti-immigrant and anti-refugee talking points.

The Left Party continues its decline unabated. It is to be expected that after the federal election next year, only the BSW will remain as a nationally relevant party in the spectrum – although the focus on one person, the inactivity of the BSW in social movements on the street or in strikes in the workplace, as well as the selection of members (only 800 admitted so far) can make the party susceptible to extreme fluctuations.

Wagenknecht’s verbal outbursts towards the right, such as those after Mannheim, can be expected at any time, even if Wagenknecht’s main campaign appearances continue to be characterized primarily by social issues. The Revolutionary Left is faced with the challenge of dealing with the politics of the BSW in its entirety, because the party is likely to be the most important left-wing opposition party for a certain period of time – although it cannot be ruled out that the BSW will enter into coalition governments with other parties at an early stage and quickly lose its appeal in the process.

Among first-time voters, the spectrum of non-voters is at the top – ahead of the AfD and CDU. Until recently, the Greens had captured almost half of the spectrum here. A total of 14 parties from Germany have entered the European Parliament. This is a challenge and an opportunity: small groups like the Revolutionäre Linke no longer seem quite so crazy when it is normal for small parties to enter parliaments from nowhere. In any case, volatility means that the system becomes more unstable and battles can suddenly break out on fronts that we had not previously considered.

In Berlin, the “Others” achieved almost 20 percent. The fact that Mera25, another reformist party, did relatively well here should not blind us to the realities at the federal level. Despite its Palestine-solidarity and immigration-friendly stance, the party was hardly able to benefit from the ruling government’s disaster, the dilemma on the left and plays no role at the federal level.

It is extremely unlikely that the ruling government will “get its act together” as a result of the election. FDP leader Christian Lindner warned the SPD and the Greens immediately after the European elections: The condition for the FDP to join the coalition government was compliance with the debt brake and the exclusion of tax increases. A few days ago, SPD leader Lars Klingbeil had rejected major budget cuts. “What is not acceptable is simply cutting 30 or 40 billion from the federal budget,” he said, and mentioned either increasing revenue or a different approach to the debt brake as options.

Klingbeil had thus “publicly questioned the guard rails of the coalition agreement,” Lindner responded. This means that the ruling coalition will learn nothing from the election result and will carry on as before. The time until the federal election in autumn 2025 will be stormy. Only one thing is certain: Anyone who mobilizes against the AfD in such a situation with determination, courage and clear arguments, without concealing the coalition government’s responsibility for the social disaster, can quickly gain support. The fight against the AfD needs to be at the centre of the work of Revolutionary Socialists’ work, also in view of the elections on 1 September in Thuringia and Saxony, as well as on 15 September in Brandenburg.

This article was first published by the German organisation Revolutionäre Linke