“A specter is haunting Europe — the specter of neo-fascism.” This is what Marx and Engels would write nowadays if they had to renew their Manifesto. Nevertheless, they would turn in their graves if they saw the new wave of far-right political parties that is proliferating like mushrooms in autumn all over Europe. However, there is an exception that proves, what unfortunately seems to be the rule, and that is Sinn Féin in Ireland.
With the coming of the 21st century arose a crisis of social democracy and the Welfare State. The response of the population in most European countries was to turn from the traditional political parties, towards brand-new populist right-wing parties. The outcome has been the decadence of the hegemonic two-party system and to a certain extent the instability of the post-WW II democratic culture.
Interestingly, the resurgence of right-wing parties began in the Nordic countries under the flags of xenophobia and neoliberalism. Hence, these parties expanded all over Western Europe to the same extent much of the population experienced a decline in their purchasing power.
In spite of attempts to create a “cordon sanitaire” around the right-wing populist parties to prevent them from gaining power, they have reached a solid position all over Europe. The far-right populist parties play an important political role in Spain and The Netherlands, have been part of the government in Norway, Austria, and Italy.
Currently, they also rule Poland and Hungary (in this country in power for 12 years). In fact, the far-right appears to have reached every corner of the region.
Even Germany has its own nationalist party with representation in the Bundestag since 2017 and in Portugal, the last country to fall under the influence of fascism, the extreme right became the third most voted party in the 2022 parliamentary elections. Finally, the populist right was twice in a row in the ballotage in France, last time almost reaching the Presidency.
Thus, what about Ireland? Surprisingly, it is the only European country where the declining two-party system derived in the increase in the popularity of a far-left party: Sinn Féin. The motives of its success are difficult to unravel in this text and would need a thorough analysis. However, Sinn Féin's social program, connected to the daily needs of most of the Irish, is certainly among them. Furthermore, Sinn Féin advocates for a strong State contradicting laissez-faire, an ideology that developed into a dogma.
In conclusion, it can be asserted that the lack of alternatives to neoliberalism is leading our societies towards a rebirth of nationalism and far-right populism. Notwithstanding this, there are a few exceptions worth noting like Ireland, which has become an island more than ever in an ongoing process that is a possible cure for the disease that is spreading throughout Europe.