Time for another hysterical rant I think... Europe never learns…
A few weeks ago I heard several commentators try to explain how the extremists of Le Pen's far right party in France would join up with the extremists of the French Communist party to elect a socialist, without admitting that nutty extremists are far closer together than the so-called differences between the so-called Left and Right really pretend.
Surprising who exactly?
Even the Australian media operates under the delusion that our mainstream parties represent a left and a right option. With some particularly bad journalists coming to the ridiculous conclusion that Australia has an extreme right party!
(Actually we possibly do, but it is Bob Katter's party, not anything main stream. Just as the extreme left party is the remnants of Bob Browns theoretically green party, now starting to openly reveal its unrepentantly communist ideology. These are both simplistic nutter organisations for shallow thinkers, and have more in common with each others extremism than with any party attempting a balanced political platforms.)
By contrast the leader of one of Australia's major political parties is currently committed to soft socialism policies (and hard line pork barrelling), in the form of paid parental leave and taxpayer funded nannies for children.
This party is called the 'Liberal' party.
Unfortunately this party has moved almost as far from the principles of true liberalism as the so called 'Labor' party has moved from any interest in the average worker. In truth both parties are soft left parties, without much to separate their wishy washy social democratic viewpoints apart from a slight variety in the honesty with which they admit to their vote grabbing strategies.
One is a little biased to its modern 'big government, big business and big unions' deal, and the other, at least theoretically, to small traders against big government. But neither is very convincing even in that distinction.
In practical terms, the political spectrum is a circle. 12 o'clock is extreme libertarianism (possibly even anarchism, but in the correct 'government is fundamentally a bad and automatically corrupt idea' version, rather than in the popular fantasy of mad bombers) and 6 o'clock is extreme government control (which can be called either Communism or Fascism, more depending on how well designed their uniforms are than real differences in attitude to the worth of people or how they should be treated).
Australia's main political parties - Labor and Liberal - come in at about quarter to ten, and quarter past ten respectively on such a spectrum. So close together in so many ways, that the points of difference can only be considered hugely significant by the most rabid of the chattering classes. Both are so fixated on middle class welfare to buy votes, that genuine attempts to actually do something useful for their supposed 'natural' constituencies hardly get a look in.
The farce of a supposedly Liberal government massively expanding the public service while competing flat out in pork barrelling, is as absurd a concept as the supposedly Labor government working flat out to increase unemployment through over-regulation in the interest of the ever less relevant union power-brokers who hold their leashes. (Australian unions now only represent 18% of the workforce even though they enforce an effectively closed shop in many industries... mainly non traditional white collar public sector ones. If you go to the private sector, the percentage drops below 13%, and is only kept that high by thuggery in the building sector, and by the continued inclusion of everyone who never got around to resigning on their registers. That includes dead people.)
As for the minor parties, Greens at 7.30, but fast headed for the ideological 7. Katter at 4, and likely to pick up enough Hansonites to go further to the 'right' and move to at least 4.30.
The Australian National party could possibly claim to be perhaps the party of the middle right. Say 2.30. Their version of protectionism is based on farms rather than industry, which seems to be the distinction between left and right. Primary industry protectionism being apparently right wing, and manufacturing industry protectionism being apparently left wing. Apparently.
I have never really understood how one version of protectionism makes you right and the other left, any more than I understand how racism about keeping out cheap labour makes you left (the White Australia policy being a Labor party invention and policy no matter how much they try to pretend it wasn't), and racism about stopping foreigners buying farms makes you right.
(As a side issue, the Nationalists preference for protectionism is further towards 6 than even the Labor party, making the Liberals seem unlikely partners. But the Labor party would never stoop to seeking voters amongst the primary industry classes when the 'workers' in Australia's inner cities are so numerically dominant as to make this unnecessary. The Nationals are forced into partnership with the Liberals despite the fact that they are much further from Liberal preferences on protectionism than Labor ones.)
My confusion on this fantasy of left and right possibly goes back to my Uni days of studying who voted for the Nazi's. The full name of the party being National Socialist Workers Party. The Nationalist part was real enough to classify as right wing, but the Socialist Workers part was equally real, and would usually be considered fairly left wing, if not for the fact that they could be written off as right wing due to their supposed voting base.
In truth the success of the Nazi's was because of the breadth of their appeal. They offered something for everyone. They promised to increase protectionism, increase exports, and increase industrial production, for the 'left' city workers... and they delivered (at the cost of a military buildup and eventual war, but they did deliver). They promised protectionism and increased exports and production for the 'right' wing farmers... and delivered. They promised increased bureaucracy and civil works programs to the 'right' white collar classes and 'left' civil services, and delivered everything from autobahns to frontier fortifications. They promised increased orders of heavy industry, from tanks to warships, to the 'right' wing bankers and industrialists, and delivered. They promised increased nationalism and eventual revenge for Versailles to the conservatives and nationalists, and delivered. They promised economic stimulus to the middle classes, both left and right!
As far as I can see, the difference between the Communists and Fascists was more that the Communists limited their over simplistic appeal to factory workers only, while Fascists stretched their over simplistic appeal to anyone they could suck into their crude and simplistic world view. (And the Fascists had much better tailors...)
They both had a cretinously unlikely 'them and us' storylines but the fascist version had a much wider appeal. Communist 'us' was the factory workers, and 'them' other Germans. Nazi 'us' was Germans, and 'them' non Germans (and Jews).
Guess which version could garner more votes?
The main apparent reason for calling the Fascists right wing rather than left appears to be that their most vicious conflict was with the Communists, so people like to pretend they were some sort of opposites. Given that historically the most vicious conflicts are between the parties competing for the same segment of the electorate, this is most unlikely.
The truth is that parties at 5.30 and 6.30 will be far more violently in conflict with each other for relatively like minded voters other than parties that are at 11.30 or 12.30, which would really be the opposite end of the political spectrum from their viewpoints.
People like Fascists and Communists are both pursuing people who think that the worlds problems can be solved by letting the government organise everything. They are much closer together than people who are genuinely at the opposite end of the spectrum, and who think that more individual freedom and less government interference is appropriate.
The Australian version is watching the Labor party losing ground to the Greens amongst the nuttier end of the left, and the Nationals losing ground to the Hansonites and Katterites at the nuttier end of the right. The fact is that both nuttier ends believe that all their problems can be solved by government protectionism and regulation and financial subsidies.
(In fact the Labor party is the natural home of racism, or at least xenophobia, in Australia's cities, just as the Nationals fit the bill in the country, so Labor loses at least as many votes to the 'right' wing extremists as the Nationals and Liberals. But this is not something the newly political correct Labor party wishes to admit to its new middle class base of chattering drones. As has been said repeatedly, the ALP has moved from representing the cream of the working class, to the dregs of the middle class.)
In truth the more extreme elements are just a step further away from individual rights than the major parties with their vast welfare programs, but the distinction takes the division from the mere foolishness of the unthinking swillers at the troughs of the major parties, to the genuinely frothing at the mouth idealism of those stupid enough to think they have discovered a major truth. A truth so obvious that anyone who does not agree is probably not even just blind, but in an organised conspiracy against what obviously is the only possible good and proper form of behavior.
(I met one of my teenage piano students soon after he went on to University. He was campaigning for some idealistic cause with all the self righteous passion of unthinking ignorance. I managed to quietly fob him off without commenting that 'anyone who is not socialist at 20 doesn't have a heart, and anyone who is still a socialist at 40 doesn't have a brain'. To my own self righteous perspective, those without brains include both Communists and Fascists.)
Meanwhile the debate in Europe is between those who believe the lies they have voted for these past 50 years (that the government can provide unlimited support on credit), and those who recognise this is crap and will inevitably lead to disaster. The latter are more towards the middle (or at least between 10 and 2), and the former nearer to 6 (or at least between 4 and 8).
Some of the bottom dwellers are calling themselves Communists, and some Fascists, but they are fighting for a base of protectionist xenophobes who think they are owed a living by their government.
Unfortunately the European Socialist parties who have dug this hole in the first place (from about 9 on the clock), are scrambling away from the more centralist position reality was almost forcing on them - in an attempt to hang on to their lower elements - while the supposedly right parties are heading away from the centre to satisfy the racists they are in danger of losing (see Sarkozy for one).
Unfortunately extremism is always more likely to attract the ignorant and unthinking in a democracy, when things go wrong with the comfortable lies they have always voted for. Their choice comes to admitting that they have been cretins, or striking out against whoever they can think of to blame. Foreigners, capitalists, Jews, whatever.
It would be nice to think that steadily improved education over the last century would leave an electorate less susceptible to stupidity. Unfortunately this has two problems.
First, a genuine liberal education where people might learn minor elements of social behaviour such as ethics and history has been thrown out by 'progressives' concerned with producing a technocratic labor force instead. (Consider the Communist desire for 'useful idiots' or the Nazi preference to train people to accept the 'big lie'?)
Second, and perhaps more important, the expansion of the voting classes from those who qualify through contribution - military service or property or contribution to taxes or whatever - to any idiot who reaches a certain age regardless of their uselessness, has led to a 'rights' fantasy where voters think the government owes them a living. These pathetic drones have been the unprincipled voters that irresponsible politicians have trained into useless leeches for generations.
(I am not just talking about the unemployed, and certainly not those who can't work. As Heinlein pointed out, any useless drain on the public purse, from civil servant to university lecturer to High Court judge, can always get a useful job and work for a genuinely productive living. Such unthinking chattering class drones are possibly more dangerous than the genuinely ignorant who just fall into stupid behavior. Many of the chatterers spend a lifetime trying to justify the patently ridiculous things they parrot. As a single recent example, Australia had a 'love media' of incompetent, often government subsidized, journalists who have argued in recent years that 1 - previous governments control f immigration was ethically evil; 2 - that getting rid of any reasonable controls would not lead to disaster; 3 - that the subsequent disaster was not the fault of the stupid changes in policies; 4 - that changing g policies back would not solve the problem; and eventually 5 - that the only solution is far more radical policies, and that anyone who defends the less offensive policies they previously poo-pooed must be ethically evil! These hypocrites genuinely believer that they are the moral voice of reason!!)
I do not have great hopes for the future of Europe. As the 'Union' starts to fracture into the self interest that has only been kept at bay by the promise of unlimited gravy subsidised by stupid Germans, those same Germans are starting to work out that this third attempt to conquor Europe in a century might be almost as painful as the last two.
The penalty for the overly socialist leaning governments impossible promises is economic chaos, and the reward is likely to be the revenge of the ignorant voters who fly to more and more extreme parties to avoid admitting that their own stupidity is to blame for their problems. Better, in their limited imaginations, to assume some horrible conspiracy.
Yet stupid and ignorant voters are not limited to Europe. If things get worse in democracies, so will the decisions of the modern voters.