Europe's surging, far-right, "anti-establishment" parties: funded by billionaires, voting for billionaire-friendly policies, lining their own pockets

On May 26th, Europeans will vote for the next EU Parliament, and the region's far-right, "nationalist/anti-establishment" parties (AfD Germany, UKIP/Brexit UK, PiS/Poland, etc) are expected make large gains, possibly prompting a realignment of power in the EU; the far-right parties have campaigned as "anti-establishment," tapping into frustration with elites and their corruption.

But careful research from the Corporate Europe Observatory (previously) reveals the massive gap between the far-right parties' rhetoric and their actions.

Even as these parties are campaigning as insurgent anti-establishment forces, they have been largely funded by massive cash infusions, sometimes laundered through financial secrecy havens like Switzerland, sometimes openly attributed to the richest, most powerful people in Europe. What's more, the voting records of these parties reflect their debt to the super-rich, consistently opposing progressive taxation, anti-tax-evasion measures, strong labour laws, social benefits, and other measures that would benefit the voters who have backed these parties.

Predictably, the leadership of the far-right parties have been frequently embroiled in corruption scandals, lining their own pockets with taxpayers' funds, embezzling millions from party coffers, and handing out patronage appointments and lucrative contracts to connected insiders.

Some of these scandals have revealed that Russian billionaires and banks with close ties to the Kremlin are funding these parties, either through cash loans or out-and-out gifts in the millions.

Getting turkeys to vote for Christmas is a time-honoured tradition in right wing circles: convincing working people that they are temporarily embarrassed millionaires who should vote for policies that benefit the rich people they're sure they'll be someday. But Europe's far-right has perfected the tactic.

These parties have become water-carriers for giant, rootless multinationals, including the fossil fuel industry, and the oligarchs that own them, and if their past records are anything to go on, they will spend the next five years enabling looters, money-launderers, environmental criminals and tax-dodgers, at the expense of useful idiots who voted for them because they promised to mount spectacular shows of performative cruelty to brown people, Muslims and women.

These parties’ voting records in the European Parliament show disdain for policies aimed at supporting working people or low income communities, such as on tax and workers’ rights. Our research shows that none of the parties studied voted to support a minimum 25 per cent corporate tax rate across member states, while almost all voted to oppose or abstain on creating a pan-EU tax evasion authority...

Much of their political rhetoric centres on some form of "draining the swamp" of corruption in politics; yet what is most notable about many of these parties’ national and EU politicians, is the consistency with which they have been caught up in numerous scandals, from political corruption, to dodgy donations, to personal enrichment schemes, to fraud. For example under the Fidesz regime in Hungary corruption levels have increased; ANO’s leader is being investigated by Czech authorities for funnelling EU money for his own use; Rassemblement National politicians have been indicted on charges of funding misuse in France; large fines have been levied against UKIP and the AfD; a bonus scandal has rocked the PiS government in Poland; the Lega Transport Under-secretary is currently being investigated in Italy for supposed bribery; raids have taken place in FPÖ offices in Austria; and there are ongoing European Anti-Fraud Office investigations into several EU groups closely connected to authoritarian parties. Far from being on a mission to tackle ‘corrupt politicians’, these parties are among the perpetrators...

Furthermore, a number of these so-called anti-elite politicians are not averse to lucrative side-jobs to supplement their salaries. These include French MEP Jean-Luc Schaffhauser who initially ‘forgot’ to register his €140,000 kickback for arranging the Front National’s Russia loan; the UKIP’s Nigel Farage who is number two on the list of top-earning MEPs, with outside income of at least €360,000 a year; and Italian MEP Angelo Ciocca from Lega who declares being a freelancer but doesn’t explain who he works for. The swamp, far from being drained, looks engorged; and it stinks...

PiS is known as the “pro-coal party” and the fossil fuel industry can surely count on its support.

Europe’s two-faced authoritarian right: ‘anti-elite’ parties serving big business interests [Corporate Europe Observatory/Report]

Europe’s two-faced authoritarian right: ‘anti-elite’ parties serving big business interests [Corporate Europe Observatory/Summary]

(via Tax Justice Network)