The latest polling numbers don’t look good for Fine Gael. According to a survey carried out by Behaviour & Attitudes for the Sunday Times, Leo Varadkar’s party has fallen 12 points behind Fianna Fáil and now sits at 20%. At 19% Sinn Féin is nipping at Fine Gael’s heels. All well and good for critics of Fine Gael but this puts Fianna Fáil firmly in the lead. And under a Fianna Fáil government nothing substantial will change. It’ll be the same neoliberalism only with different faces.
More importantly, according to the poll the left vote is moribund. As a result, any effective legislative resistance to the continued immiseration and financialisation of the country will be toothless. And this is ripe for exploitation by the far right. In times of social, political, and financial unrest extremism finds willing adherents. History teaches us as much.
In The Origins of Totalitarianism Hannah Arendt also pointed out the same thing. In the aftermath of the First World War social and political norms had effectively ceased to exist. Germany was a broken country with a population who felt ignored by the political mainstream. In this environment they were ripe for exploitation by a movement able to give them answers and hope where before there were none. We know what followed.
Many countries in Europe find themselves in a similar situation. Neoliberalism has been slowly destroying societies. In Ireland we see the sick unable to get medical treatment because of an overburdened and underfunded health service. People can’t afford to pay rent let alone a mortgage and are forced on to the streets. And while this is going on our politicians do nothing and instead take what they can for themselves.
Meanwhile the far right has stepped into the gap created by Fine Gael and Fianna Fáil. It offers answers and solutions to people who feel left behind and ignored by what they consider to be mainstream politics which includes the political left. A number of independent candidates who are standing for election around the country are indicative of this. On one hand they promise to end corruption. And on the other, they are dedicated to deporting any person they believe isn’t Irish. The National Party is also fielding candidates across the country. Its election slogan is “Ireland belongs to the Irish”.
It is unlikely that they will find success at the ballot box next month. But that doesn’t mean we should be complacent. Given another few years of relatively unrestrained freedom of action and things could be very different when the following general election comes around. Because with a Fianna Fáil government nothing will change. It will be more of the same neoliberalism and with it the continued destruction of Irish society.
This will be a gift to the far right. Unless the left can become relevant to people, and the political mainstream begins to take racism in Ireland seriously, then the far right will eventually have an electoral victory. In Sweden in the mid-nineties the Sweden Democrats (SD) were political nobodies. A group of skinhead neo-Nazis, the idea of them gaining political power seemed delusional. Today, it is the third-largest party in the Swedish parliament.
So, while we bask in the glory of the possible collapse of Fine Gael’s support let’s not give a victory to its ideological partner, Fianna Fáil. Doing this ensures the continuation of neoliberal policies that have done nothing but cause hardship and death. And it gives succour to the far right who will use it to win minds and, eventually, votes.