Four years ago it all looked so different. Social Democratic parties had swept to office in all but three European Union states, in some cases, as in Britain, putting an end to over a decade of right wing rule.
Now Le Pen's success in France has underlined the failure of those governments and the bitterness they have created. His breakthrough in the first round of the presidential election comes after a series of successes for fascist and far right forces in Europe.
Two years ago Jörg Haider's Freedom Party entered the Tory-led coalition in Austria--it is still there. The Italian government of right wing tycoon Silvio Berlusconi came to power last year. It contains members of Gianfranco Fini's self styled 'post-fascist' National Alliance. Last November the anti-immigrant Danish People's Party took 22 out of 179 parliamentary seats. The maverick hard right candidate Ronald Schill took 19.4 percent of the vote in local elections in Hamburg, Germany, last year.
In the last few weeks Pim Fortuyn's far right formation in the Netherlands got a third of the vote in Rotterdam, and the Popular Party in Portugal got 8.8 percent of the vote in an election that saw the Conservatives oust the centre left.
These results are a sign of one side of the polarisation in European politics to the right and the left as the parties of the centre are seen not to deliver. Some of Europe's Christian Democratic parties have learned the lesson and are pitching themselves to the right over immigration, law and order and other themes.
So the CDU in Germany has selected a hard right candidate, Edmund Stoiber from Bavaria, to fight the general election later this year and has campaigned over immigration.
The far fight formations vary from the hardened Nazis of the DVU in Germany, Le Pen's National Front to looser groups such as Pim Fortuyn's in the Netherlands. All of them, however, seek to consolidate a base on the right and their growth directly encourages Nazi forces inside and outside those parties.
Even Le Pen is a long way short of translating votes into a coherent Nazi machine with paramilitary forces at its core. However, he will do that given space. Stopping that means building the forces on the other side of the polarisation, the left, and those forces reaching out to the mass of workers still influenced by the social democratic parties--through united activity against the fascists and against attacks from the bosses.