Turning and turning in the widening gyre

The falcon cannot hear the falconer;

Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;

Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere

The ceremony of innocence is drowned;

The best lack all conviction, while the worst

Are full of passionate intensity.

 

Those are the faithful words of W.B. Yeats in his 1920 poem ‘The Second Coming’. Many argue that this poem was a foreseer of the harm that would be inflicted upon Europe during World War II – perhaps also those words reflect what is happening within European political and social spheres in the aftermath of the European elections.

The European project set up in the aftermath of World War II – or in 1952 to be precise with the Treaty of Paris – has long since lost its community ethos as the race to become a regional superpower becomes ever more pressing. Unelected bureaucrats sympathetic to the free market and neo-liberal politics drive a globalisation agenda that is ever more far removed from the needs and wants of individual citizens.

In one sense, this can be seen as quite amusing. Recent joiners to the European Union simply don’t give a damn as any elected representatives from Slovakia or the Czech Republic will testify with a ringing ‘endorsement’ coming from voting turnouts of 19 percent and 13 percent respectively. These countries want to be part of a common union but they fought long and hard to escape communism without sacrificing themselves to another unilateral force ruling from distant locales.

In another sense, it is altogether quite dangerous. As political entities allow the poll results to sink in, what are we left with? The growth of far right nationalist groups across Europe is a direct result of national governments and the European Union failing to recognise ordinary people’s deep apathy with the European project. Having the freedom as they see it to be ‘promiscuous’ with their vote with little consequences for their actions, the voters have responded far more extremely than they would in national elections. Hence the vote of UKIP in Britain and the National Front in France are as much a protest with the European establishment as a vote for the values of these parties.

But don’t be lulled into a false sense of security either. We live in volatile times where the vast majority of working people see themselves as being attacked from all sides with austerity policies promoted across Europe and/or with rising emigration challenging what they see as their traditional way of life. Far from offering a vision for a prosperous future, European politicians have defined themselves by constant infighting, reactionary policies and the inflicting of one of the crudest economic experiments in austerity inflicted on rich and poor nations alike in the name of ensuring fiscal unity.  Therefore the door has been opened for mostly radical hard right parties – as in the aftermath of World War I – to seize the day and offer an alternative that threatens not only the fabric of European political life but also the relative social and economic calm that has marked European life over the past 70 years.

What is the reaction of European politicians and parties to the record election of radical, anti-establishment candidates? Pro-European center-right EPP and center-left S&D will keep control of around 70 percent of the seats in the chamber with both parties forming a grand coalition in order to keep the other less palatable parties out. Far from grasping the nettle, European politicians seek to ignore it wallowing in their detachment from reality. S&D leader and European Commission president candidate Martin Schulz remarked on the French results:

“All people looking to the results in France, this is a bad day for the European Union, when a party with a racist, xenophobic and anti-Semitic programme gets 25 percent or 24 percent of the vote”

But where is his alternative vision of a prosperous Europe? Europhiles talk of all the EU can do for its member states and while the EU as a loose community concept did credible things in increasing the living standards of poorer members, it is now a Frankenstein concept without a distinct purpose.

From being a revolutionary concept that acted as a catalyst to create a modern, and peaceful Europe with a community of nations coming together to help each other prosper in this brave new world, the EU has lost its way in bureaucrats, red tape and the worst excesses of modern politics as lobbyists increase their stranglehold pushing the corporate agenda. As the EU gains more power for shaping the continent, it becomes more impersonal and destructive to its well-being as all 28 states within it cannot be forced to forge a single path.

Nationalism will always exist as citizens cling to their distinct regional identity and way of life. The EU’s continued failure to accept this as they ignore the will of growing swathes of EU population by pushing through policies aimed at creating a super-state can only end in further divisions within the continent. The centre of this EU establishment will be unable to hold thus further legitimising the causes of UKIP, the National Front and their ilk across Europe.

As Yeats remarked at the end of ‘The Second Coming’:

 

The darkness drops again but now I know

That twenty centuries of stony sleep

Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,

And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,

Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

 

Yeats predicted the emergence of a Hitler type figure on the European scene in a time of great upheaval. EU leaders would do well to heed history as the same trends repeat themselves during the current great depression.