The victory of Alexander Van der Bellen over Norbert Hofer in the Austrian presidential election was greeted with relief by leading lights in the EU political establishment and many parts of the media. A seemingly unstoppable tide favouring right wing populists had been turned back by a candidate described as left leaning.
Left leaning is political code for liberal and Bellen’s Green credentials confirmed his place on the bourgeois political spectrum. Hofer, in turn, was regularly described as “far right”, political code for racist nationalist tending towards fascism.
The irony is the very establishment that greeted, indeed celebrated, Hofer’s defeat is the EU nomenclature, a body united by the aim of constructing a pan-European corporate state. Fascism has moved on in its service to capitalism: no more Nuremburg Rallies, uniforms and jackboots, rather it’s sharp suits and soft shoes.
To be clear, fascism is the ideology of the corporate state, a comprehensive state that deals with all aspects of economic, social and political life in a unitary manner. It is the guarantor of free markets and workers’ rights, allowing for no contradiction.
Political elites have been taking something of a beating through 2016 as people have used their votes to signal their mounting discontent. What this reflects is workers as a class in itself reacting against the austerity imposed since the 2008 financial crash.
There’s a generalised awareness that things aren’t as they might be, but the atomized nature of society means people identify specific symptoms – national sovereignty, immigration, out of touch politicians etc., as the problem. So, that’s what they vote on.
As yet workers are not united as a class for itself, acting collectively in their common best interest, identifying the source of the symptoms, capitalism. Indeed, anything more radical than left leaning – Van der Bellen, Bernie Saunders, Jeremy Corbyn – has a collective deaf ear turned towards it.
Except in the fantastic political world of the Daily Mail, Marxists exert little of no influence in society. They do not run the BBC, or the Labour Party, or the Trade Unions, although many think the opposite which shows the Mail has more clout than the socialist press.
Until workers act as a class for itself, accept responsibility for confronting the actuality of capitalism and then transcending it to achieve socialism, then voting will change little. Whichever way the EU referendum had gone, capitalism was still in charge. The same with Trump, with Van der Bullen, with the recent vote in Italy.
For the moment Marxists can be little more than the irritating grit in the capitalist oyster until the working class decides the time is right to take the plunge and prise the pearl of socialism from the empty shell of capitalism.