Hebdo Fallout: Greater Odds of Frexit as Marine Le Pen’s Star Rises

The odds of France leaving the Eurozone, or Frexit, have just gone from a tail risk to plausible thanks to the boost the Hedbo shootings have given to the leader of France’s far right party, the National Front, and its leader, Marine Le Pen. Opinion polls indicate that that she would win the first round of a presidential ballot were elections held now.

As political scientists have found, a depression or prolonged recession tends to move political sympathies to the right. The murders in Paris playing straight into National Front themes: anti-immigration, anti-minorities, pro-law and order. But Marine Le Pen’s campaign has also gotten support from the far left for her anti-globalization, anti-fat-cat, anti-Eurozone stance, since the only way to get out of the austerity hairshirt appears to be to abandon the Eurozone entirely. If the French professional left, like our homegrown Vichy Left, took those issues seriously, they would not be seeing defections to Le Pen’s style of rancid populism.

In the wake of the Paris killings, Marine Le Pen has called for a referendum to reinstate capital punishment, which was eliminated in 1981. This alone would put France on a collision course with the European Union, which forbids it. As Aljazeera noted, “A referendum on capital punishment, however, would amount to a stealth fast-track mechanism for achieving the party’s EU-phobic goal. That’s not a proposal Hollande is likely to entertain any time soon.”

Slate give a good overview of Le Pen’s strategy:

Mainstream French parties have tried to fend off the National Front’s advance ever since it unexpectedly made it to the final round of presidential elections in 2002. Last May, its nationalist, xenophobic message helped the party capture 25 percent of the vote in the European Union parliament elections. After Wednesday’s tragic attack, the party’s relevance can no longer be doubted.

Marine Le Pen’s challenge has been to dissociate her party from its founder, her father Jean-Marie Le Pen, a polarizing figure known for frequent racist and anti-Semitic commentary. Shortly after taking control of the party in 2011, she gave more important roles to younger party members and started reining in the impolitic language of party functionaries. She sent her deputy to Israel to meet with officials there and met personally with the Israeli ambassador to the United Nations. Last June, Marine confiscated her father’s video-blog on the party’s website after he said that a Jewish rock star and National Front critic should be included in the “next batch going into the oven.” She understands that the French far right will never succeed at the ballot box until its embraced by the mainstream—and that means dragging it out of the gutter.

The Charlie Hebdo attack will further weaken the taboo of voting Le Pen. Although it may have been the most deadly, Wednesday’s shooting is actually the third such terrorist assault in the past two years…

Le Pen’s attractive force, however, does not rely on the logic of the political world as it is. It lies in the brand her father built as a political pariah speaking “truth to power” in a system dominated by Gaullists and Socialists who all attended the same elite schools. She wears mainstream media contempt as a badge of honor and enjoys kibitzing from outside national political institutions. Although the National Front has run candidates at every level for more than 40 years, the party has never governed anything larger than a small municipality. Its lack of a parliamentary or executive record works in its favor at a time of disillusionment with the ruling political class. Le Pen doesn’t need to prove she can do it better. For now, pointing out others’ failures will be enough to keep her center stage while she waits to run for president in 2017.

A row over efforts to defuse Muslim-related hostilities is playing into Marine Le Pen’s hand. A march in solidarity for the victims is set for this Sunday in Paris. All major French political parties will participate, and major Muslim groups have are also encouraging their members to join. But the National Front was not invited, giving Le Pen the opportunity to attack the event falling as well short of a “uniting of the nation.” Hollande is giving her a boost in stature by deigning to meet with her on Friday.

A Telegraph story (hat tip Scott) takes stock of Le Pen’s rising fortunes and what it means for the Eurozone:

The regional elections in March will give us an early clue to any shift in opinion. What is certain is that unless the mainstream political establishment finds a way of regaining the initiative on law and order as well as the economy, it is no longer inconceivable – though still unlikely – that she could one day win an election. This would be catastrophic, not just for the business community and for investors, but also for everybody else in France, in Europe and around the world.

A National Front victory would signal the final demise of the EU and euro: she has pledged to exit both, with the unravelling guaranteed to happen in the worst, most irrational way possible. It ought of course to be possible for clever politicians to negotiate the dismantling of the disastrous single currency in a sensible way and to replace the dirigiste, increasingly centralised EU by a pure trading block – but Le Pen’s brand of aggressive, protectionist, anti-market poujadisme would merely precipitate a monumental and entirely destructive crisis in international relations.

Her vision is the very opposite of the free-trading, decentralised Europe that British Eurorealists have long advocated. Under Le Pen’s world view, free trade and economic integration would come to an abrupt halt; the shock would be similar to the return of trade barriers that followed the Great Depression and helped to prolong and worsen it. The National Front would undoubtedly repeat the errors of the US Smoot-Hawley tariffs of 1930. A Le Pen victory would thus be bound to trigger a collapse in economic output across Europe, a banking crisis and a meltdown in the financial markets.

The Telegraph stresses that the leading parties will take up security measures and messaging to try to take the air out of the massacre-induced Marine Le Pen bubble. The faster and more forcefully they act, the more likely they are to succeed.

But the sad irony is, as Patrick Cockburn points out in Counterpunch, is that these political efforts at self-preservation do nothing to address root causes and even make matters worse by telling terrorists their actions are effective:

One of the characteristics of the modern jihadi movement has been to commit highly public atrocities both as a method of intimidation and as a demonstration of the religious commitment of those carrying them out.

This was a feature of 9/11, suicide bombings in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan and the ritualised murder of journalists and aid workers on camera. An added benefit from the jihadis’ point of view comes if they can tempt the government into an overreaction that helps spread their cause…

Can anything be done to reverse the trend towards the spread of Islamic fanaticism? Catching and punishing those responsible for the Charlie Hebdo massacre is not going to deter people who have martyrdom as a central feature of their faith. But bringing to an end, or even just de-escalating the war in Syria, would begin to drain the waters in which violent jihadism flourishes.

Such a de-escalation means the US, Britain, France and their allies accepting that they are not going to overthrow Bashar al-Assad and Assad accepting that he is not going to win back all of Syria. There should be ceasefires between government and non-jihadi rebels. Power would be divided within Syria and, for the first time, governments in Damascus, Baghdad and Paris could unite against violent Sunni jihadism.

Whether Hollande has the wisdom to do that and defuse the Marine Le Pen threat remains to be seen. And given Obama’s new found love of warmongering, even if Hollande aspires to taking the high road, he can’t go there without the US. I’d love to be proven wrong, but the neocons appear to be firmly in charge. That means more carnage in the Middle East, with blowback used as justification for more unproductive violence.

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  1. Working Class Nero

    That is quite an informed and balanced look at Marine Le Pen.

    Currently there is a hostage situation going in a small town on the edge of the forest in Picardy. The two suspects are holding a hostage in an industrial park. Francois Hollande just left his meeting with Marine Le Pen and walked to the Interior Ministry to video-assist in the assault – à la Clinton and Obama for the Osama bin Laden assault.

    Before going to the war room, Hollande just gave a speech which was basically aimed at fixing his huge problem with the “unity” march and the exclusion of the Front National. He said that all citizens were welcome to the march, etc. There will be others on the Socialist side who will continue to state “Charlie Hebdo would not have wanted” the FN participating. This is a winning hand for MLP but obviously there are politics being played on all sides.

    On foreign policy MLP has long recognized that assisting America in her Middle East wars is a disastrous policy for France and will lead to terrorist attacks. On the other hand she has supported the French intervention in Mali, which does not have an overt American element.

    Her economic policies are seriously Keynesian and she is the closest thing to an MMT follower among major Western politicians.

    I don’t like the death penalty gambit, it smacks of a cheap culture-war stunt, but MLP seems to know what she is doing.

    In terms of winning in 2017, that may still be a bit too soon, but these attacks are game changers and will give her a huge boost. But the only way she is can rule effectively is to pull out of the Euro. For that she needs to win a referendum and I am not sure France is quite ready yet (but they get closer every day). If she wins the Presidency but is stuck with the Euro she will be just as ineffective as Sarkozy and Hollande have been. On the other hand not many people who vote for her want to keep the Euro.

    Would America intervene in France militarily if the Le Pen wins the Presidency? Would the US sit back and allow France to pull out of the Euro? Would the French establishment claim they are under attack by “nativists” and demand America intervene to stop Nationalism from spreading? If France refused to accept refugee ships from America’s various military interventions, would US troops intervene to insure the refugees could enter into France?

    One huge point in the background of all this is that on the morning of the attacks, Michel Houellebecq released his latest novel, “Sousmission” which is based on the story of a (perhaps, who knows now) fictional 2022 French Presidential election that Marine Le Pen is about to win. All the mainstream parties combine behind a Muslim politician, who ends up winning the election and then imposing a type of Islamic law on France and then he turns into a sort of Napoleon and through negotiation, re-establishes a political unit in much of the former Roman Empire and unites Muslim and Christian territory . In France, women stop working, they wear more modest clothing, the economy gets better, unemployment disappears, and everyone (male-at least) is happy. There was a huge media build-up with Houellebecq in the days before the attack. Now he is hiding in a secret undisclosed location!

    The exclusion of Marine Le Pen from the “unity” march in the light of the Houellebecq novel has an air of reality being as strange as fiction since vision of the mainstream and Left parties will be marching Sunday with Muslim organizations with the exclusion of the FN will have a strong resonance with the plot of Sousmission. Houellebecq himself said he was compressing time and that Islamists could never take over that soon. The ambiguity is whether Houellebecq was advocating an Islamic takeover or whether he was planting a seed of doubt in the French Left as to where France was heading.

    1. Moneta

      Everything points towards the French wanting more control over their territory and their printing presses. And the sentiment seems to be growing.

      I don’t think the neolibs will be able to contain it. The neolibs don’t care about anything but the color of money so they have acquired no special skills in dealing with social issues… for most of them social sciences are of no value…their solution will be to cut rates some more and when they finally realize they are now pushing on a string they will call in the police for reinforcement.

      The problem is that if they can’t print because of austerity, they won’t be able to pay those doing the deeds and these unpaid workers are not going to attack their own mothers and sisters.

    2. Working Class Nero

      Update: Now there are two hostage situations. One in Seine-et-Marne, which is north of Paris and not too far from Charles de Gaulle airport. Chérif et Saïd Kouachi are surrounded in an industrial park with one hostage.

      Yesterday in Paris a policewoman was shot dead by an AK-47. After denying any connection for 24-hours, the French authorities now admit that in fact the perp is close to the Kouachi brothers. This perp is right now holed up in a supermarket at Porte de Vincennes in Paris with at least two hostages and a huge police presence surrounding him. This urban situation is much more dangerous than the one up in the countryside north of the airport.

      There is growing anger in France that it seems the French authorities did not know (or are not admitting they knew) about Saïd Kouachi’s visit to Yemen.

        1. TheraP

          Kosher market, with today being the Muslim holy day – believed to be an especially good day to die AND the Jewish Sabbath about to begin at sundown in France very soon. Quite a confluence of events here.

      1. Oregoncharles

        As of now (1:00 Pacific time), the terrorists and 4 hostages at the supermarket are dead. that raises the death toll a LOT – I get 20, counting police but not the terroists (3). One, a woman, is still on the loose.

    3. EoinW

      Your post is balanced and informed. The main article reeked of “Le Pen Is Evil And Must Be stopped At All Cost!” Exactly what one expects from the Left. Doesn’t matter if it’s Haider, Farage or Le Pen, the Left will always rise to the occasion to defend the status quo. The Left will only tolerate the change it wants. If that can’t be had then it will tolerate neo-liberalism. This means doing the dirty work of fear mongering to keep nationalist parties from ever being electable. One has to wonder about the Left and exactly whose interests they now represent. Many already sold out to neo-liberalism. Those still fighting the good fight do so verbally and abhor anything that smacks of extremism. Doesn’t seem to matter that their civilised criticisms will never change anything for the better. I also wonder if they also oppose change and are simply the trojan horse battalion of the Left that didn’t appear to sell out, yet are just as happy with the status quo.

      The evil is not Le Pen, as the main article insinuates. The evil is the cartel of oligarchs running the western world, destroying our standard of living and killing our democracy. Plus don’t forget their endless warmongering. We are running out of time for democratic change. In fact we may already be out of time. We need to be desperate for any change – Right or Left – because such change will give the public some say in matters again. Yet the Left that claims to oppose neo-liberalism still prefers the status quo over nationalist, populist movements. Thus MLP anf the FN can count on being attacked until the cows come home. The Left/Right narrative is old news. It’s time for the Left that didn’t sell out to support any movements for change as it’s the first step to breaking the neo-liberals power. But does the Left want any change that doesn’t include its globalist views?

      1. MikeNY

        ITA that the political future is populist. I also agree that the mainstream parties haven’t grasped this — or maybe can’t.

      2. Moneta

        In the developed world, left and right are looking to save their standard of living. It’s all about keeping the world resources for themselves.

        So I would imagine that from the standpoint of someone living in an emerging country, both the left and the right in developed countries are indistinguishable…. we are insatiable.

      3. jrs

        Gee the left is so intolerant of change for the worse, but don’t they know it’s change afterall? Shouldn’t they support change? That and hope and $2 will get you a coffee.

    4. MikeNY

      MLP has long recognized that assisting America in her Middle East wars is a disastrous policy for France and will lead to terrorist attacks

      She’s right about that. Maybe someday the US ruling class will recognize that incessant trouble-making in other people’s kitchens, in pursuit solely of your own self-interest, does not engender much goodwill abroad. And there will be ‘blowback’,

      Nice comment, Nero.

      1. jrs

        But if the terrorist attacks are for U.S. policy why not here? Now of course I don’t wish for terrorist attacks in the U.S. either, that goes without saying. But one has to wonder why not in the U.S.?

        1. MikeNY

          9-11 and the 1991 terrorist attacks here were the result of US policy, with special reference to our propping up the corrupt Saudi regime. In addition to that, there have been numerous small ‘jihadi’ attacks foiled in the US, and in NYC in particular (I recall a handful while I lived there). It’s amazing to me that there haven’t been more; I ascribe that primarily i) the Atlantic Ocean, ii) our security state, and iii) luck.

      1. Working Class Nero

        Thanks — yes I’m in Belgium but I pay more attention to the French media since it seems more interesting down there…

  2. Scott

    What amazes me most about this article is that the political elites in both the US and Europe continuously underestimate the threat posed by the radical right and fail to learn from history. It was the Great Depression, not Weimer hyperinflation that led to the rise of the Nazi party and in the US figures like Huey Long and Father Coughlin were far more influential and threatening to democracy and capitalism than domestic communists were.

    One thing that I noticed in the Telegraph article was the obligatory reference to the Smoot-Hawley Tariff and its role in the Great Depression. The article stated as a fact that it was a major factor in extending the Great Depression, when there are a number of economist who state while the tariff did not help, other factors played a much stronger role. Most notably, the combination of the Gold Standard and desire for balance budgets underminded many of the preliminary recoveries.

    1. Moneta

      What amazes me most about this article is that the political elites in both the US and Europe continuously underestimate the threat posed by the radical right and fail to learn from history
      For the elite, the humanities does not represent a living organism but a status symbol (I.e. Picasso in their private collection).

      The neolibs will fail because their ideology is based on hard assets and a failure to value the humanities.

      As long as the masses were gaining in the material world, they could advance but as the fight for the distribution of resources intensifies, they will fail because after more than 40 years of acquiring no great skills in integrating the humanities in their model, they will lose control.

    2. Moneta

      For the elite, the humanities are used for status (I.e Picasso in private collection) and do not represent a living social organism. The neolibs promote the hard sciences over the social sciences.

      Over the last few decades the elite has developed great skill in financial engineering but lack greatly in the undervalued humanities. That is their Achilles heel.

    3. ex-PFC Chuck

      Roosevelt told his aide Rexford Tugwell that the two most dangerous men in America were Huey Long and Douglas MacArthur. He said this in 1932, before he was elected to his first term!

    4. TG

      Minor point on Smoot-Hawley: of course it came after the start of the great depression, so it could not, as many have claimed, help to start it. Some less dishonest economists will then switch to ‘oh it made the depression worse.’ But you have to remember that at the time, the United States was a functioning autarky. Foreign trade made up something like 5% of GNP (same as GDP in those days) and after Smoot-Hawley it declined to maybe 4%. So it’s a non issue. I mean, if we banned trade with the planet mars that wouldn’t affect our economy at all, because there is no trade with the planet mars…

    5. Vatch

      Ha-Joon Chang is one of the economists how has explained that the Smoot-Hawley tariff had little significance in either causing or worsening the Great Depression in the U.S. And today, a new tariff will only cause problems for a country in which exports exceed imports. That is not the case in the U.S., and I doubt it is the case for France, but I’m not sure about that.

    6. ex-PFC Chuck

      Franklin Roosevelt remarked to his aide Rexford Tugwell that he thought Huey Long and Douglas MacArthur were the two most dangerous men in America. He said this in 1932, nearly a decade before the USA entered World War II. http://bit.ly/1xZrdn6

    1. Working Class Nero

      You have to see the ISIS as just a chess piece created by the US Empire to counter Hezbollah and drive the Iranians to the negotiating table. There will very likely soon be a deal between the US and Iran which will put an end to much of the conflict in the Middle East. The deal will roughly be that Iran and Syria kiss the US ring, accept US hegemony, and Assad gets to keep power. Iranian support of Hezbollah has to be stopped, and in return US/Saudi support for the ISIS will dissipate. These military organizations will be transferred to political groupings in a similar was the IRA (for the most part) melted into Sinn Fein. This will take some time though.

      In any terrorist organization there will always be a few true believers who slip out of the puppet master’s control so shutting down the ISIS will not be as simple as switching off a light. Al Qaida’s job was to help justify a US ME presence that took secular, nationalist, and socialist Arab states and turned them into Islamic Republics. ISIS is there to help flip Iran/Syria into the pro-US column

      After the Iran deal, if required, some elements of “ISIS” will be redeployed to the Caucuses to help open a southern front against Putin who is already struggling with his western front in Ukraine.

      1. Ned Ludd

        Going back a bit further, Robin Cook, former British Foreign Secretary, published this after the 7 July London bombings:

        Al-Qaida, literally “the database”, was originally the computer file of the thousands of mujahideen who were recruited and trained with help from the CIA to defeat the Russians.”

        This leads back to a secret operation by President Jimmy Carter, as detailed by his National Security Advisor:

        Zbigniew Brzezinski: Yes. According to the official version of history, CIA aid to the Mujahadeen began during 1980, that is to say, after the Soviet army invaded Afghanistan, 24 Dec 1979. But the reality, secretly guarded until now, is completely otherwise: Indeed, it was July 3, 1979 that President Carter signed the first directive for secret aid to the opponents of the pro-Soviet regime in Kabul.


        That secret operation was an excellent idea. It had the effect of drawing the Russians into the Afghan trap and you want me to regret it? The day that the Soviets officially crossed the border, I wrote to President Carter: We now have the opportunity of giving to the USSR its Vietnam war. Indeed, for almost 10 years, Moscow had to carry on a war unsupportable by the government, a conflict that brought about the demoralization and finally the breakup of the Soviet empire.

      2. ignim Brites

        Could be but this means there is no justification for the US war against ISIS. Whether or not France has any justification for waging war against ISIS is a separate question. But if France continues to fight it should not be surprised that a portion of the war is waged on French soil.

        1. EoinW

          Blow back, what a shock! Like how dare they fight back. We had blow back in Canada a month after our government decided to join the Endless War…again! One gunman in the House of Commons and our Fearless Leader hiding in the closet(something no one in the Canadian media, except Michael Harris, considered newsworthy enough to report on).

          Your first point is the excellent one. Why this war with ISIS? Just shows how far gone we already are and that there has to be some war going on somewhere for us to fight. It’s now unthinkable for our “peace loving” countries to actually be at peace with the rest of the world.

      3. Jackrabbit

        What makes you think that negotiations with Iran will be successful?

        And why would “kissing the ring” follow?

        The ‘Supreme Leader’ in Iran just said that the US/West refuse to lift sanctions upon a deal and that he doesn’t trust that they ever will. Where will the trust need to complete a deal come from? Iran has no doubt taken the experience of Iraq, Libya, Syria, Ukraine, Eqypt to heart. The neolibcon goal of a unilateral NWO doesn’t tolerate ‘hold out’ nations.

        It seems just as likely, if not more so, that no deal is reached and Iran joins SCO and BRICS. SCO is working on military structures (not yet ready) – which would create something similar to NATO.

        H O P

        1. Working Class Nero

          The negotiations are on-going and I read the Supreme Leaders comments are conditioning a deal. He was trying to get more sanctions lifted earlier. They are in the horse-trading stage. It is clear President Hassan Rouhani is pushing hard for a deal and trying to create popular pressure on Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to accept it.

          In terms of the BRICS, the US is doing everything possible to make Russia look weak with the Ukrainian situation and the economic attacks on the Russian currency. The aim is to make Iran think twice about counting on Russia to support it.

          We will see, but I think we are getting close to a deal. I’ve been wrong before though…

          1. susan the other

            I don’t see how this Charlie Hebdo (false flag) attack has much to do with Iran or anything else. I think it was good ole Sarkozy getting rid of all his enemies in one fell swoop. It will certainly not benefit Marine Le Pen or Hollande. It will not hurt Russia. The facts about the oil industry are in and done. The Saudis are using their trump card to out produce and out sell every other oil producer because the Saudis don’t want and don’t intend to have any “stranded assets” left. And their supply will last for a few years. The transition to other sources of energy, especially geothermal it seems, is well underway. I’m just wondering what ISIS is gonna do when oil is a dead question. The islamic countries are not stupid. They already know this is happening. So Charlie Hebdo is even bad for them. It makes them look like raving fools. So the whole thing is just more murderous politics to control the economy of France so that free trade is not interrupted. Kinda makes you wonder why it is so important for neoliberal free trade to be an all-or-nothing proposition. Either every country joins or it all falls apart. When in fact any number of trade arrangements can be made between countries.

            1. Jerry Denim

              “…the Saudis don’t want and don’t intend to have any “stranded assets” left.”

              Hmm. Good point. never thought of it that way.

            2. Working Class Nero

              I wasn’t trying to link Charlie Hebdo to Iran in any way.

              Sarkozy was already on track to win in 2017. I’m not sure how creating these attacks would help him.

              I think you need to further develop the false flag thesis. French television just released interviews with two of the hostage takers that were recorded today during the stand-offs. Chérif Kouachi claimed he was working for Al Qaida Yemen (under the orders of the American Anwar al-Awlaki). Amedy Coulibaly, the hostage-taker at Porte de Vincennes in Paris, claimed to be working for the Islamic State.


              1. susan the other

                Also the blurb on ZH that the kosher grocery hostage taker had ties to Sarkozy because of a recent “interview” regarding employment…. odd. Just asking, Who benefits from all this pointless destruction? Anyone pushing France to become an internationalist neoliberal free trader without a sense of humor. That would be Sarkozy. And the US. And the TTIP.

                1. susan the other

                  Insofar as this terrorism is directed and used as a form of extortion so France falls in line. Which is probably what it is.

              2. Seamus Padraig

                Thierry Meyssan at VoltaireNet has given his opinion as to why he thinks the attack could be a false flag: Who ordered the attack against Charlie Hebdo?

                And yes, the whole bit about the two assailants later holding a kosher grocery store hostage, until being shot dead by police, does seem just a little too perfect, doesn’t it?

          2. Jackrabbit

            I’m not sure that the Iranian’s know what they will ultimately do at this point. Depends on a lot of factors, many of which are in flux. They will try to get the best possible deal while playing for time at the same time.

            But whatever they do, I don’t see them “kissing the ring”/falling in line on other issues. They will almost certainly, I think, choose team SCO/BRICS over team NWO. The big question for giving up the nukes is how much they think they can count on Russia+China or SCO security guarantys.

    2. jrs

      Well if the true intent is to defeat ISIS, it would allow the most rational course toward that goal possible which might well include cooperation with Assad who is no friend of ISIS. But then that’s a very big IF.

  3. Sam Adams

    And so USA torture and gulag camps seems to have continued the radicalization of Muslim youth. Yep, torture really helped?

  4. Dino Reno

    Recent wars in the Middle East are but a footnote to two hundred years of French colonialism in the Middle East. The roots of French dominance, entitlement and cruelty in this region go very deep. Current events need to be viewed in a wider historical context. The shifting fortunes of one political party over another are almost a footnote to the bigger picture of empire conquest and collapse. France is unique and special in this regard.
    The USA has only a couple more hundred years to go before it is on an equal footing in the region.

    1. FederalismForever

      Didn’t France suffer through a string of similar terrorist attacks in the 1990s from the terrifying Groupe Islamique Ame? That group was quite similar in some respects to ISIS. They had even taken over a large part of Algeria, if memory serves.

      1. Dino Reno

        Thank you for reminding me. France has lurid past in the entire region. Would they want it any other way?

  5. AS

    “MLP has long recognized that assisting America in her Middle East wars is a disastrous policy for France and will lead to terrorist attacks.” One has to wonder to what degree the US is pressuring Europe to take the refugee load generated by wars the US started from Afghanistan to Syria. If the US took responsibility for its actions we could give a green card to all Syrians, Iraqis and Afghans and easily fly them out to the US. After a few deployments I can say that very very few, those making money of our interventions, would turn down that offer. The last 100 years of Wilsonian intervention in Europe and elsewhere have been disastrous. The blowback of our involvement in WWI, taking sides in a war that would have ended a lot sooner otherwise and unbalancing Europe and the mid east, is with us today.

  6. Jackrabbit

    It seems the neolibcon hate of nationalism and religion is well founded (especially when mixed as it is for many muslims).

    Consumers and workers/unions have proven to be powerless in a neolib, money-driven world.


    Strange for humanists that see the shortcomings of each. Perhaps together they will clog the drain.

    H O P

  7. Banger

    MLP seems to be a smart politician and will milk the current mood I’m sure for political advantage. I want to put the situation in Europe in a broader perspective.

    For me the main dynamic of political struggle in the world are between forces that favor a strong nation-state and those who favor a global Imperial order sometimes called neoliberalism. One wants to maintain ideas of national interest against those that believe in the interests of oligarchs and multi-national corporations. I believe all struggles can be kind of boiled down to this issue and goes to the heart of the struggle between the West and Russia, for example. The wars the U.S. have fought, as far as I can see, are not fought in anything we might calle the national interest–the wars are very expensive and fought not to “win” but simply to fight. I have never seen a winning strategy in Afghanistan or Iraq that made any sense. The same “mistakes” were made in those wars as were made in Vietnam. We could see this shortly after the invasion of Iraq, for example, when the U.S. military did virtually nothing to establish order and rule-of-law and the U.S. government emphasized money-making schemes for U.S. corporations, big contractors and courtiers and took no interest in any practical rule of Iraq or Afghanistan for that matter.

    National interest in the U.S. and much of Europe has become obsolete. Immigration is opened up to lower wages and to undermine the leverage of labor; “free-trade” is used to give a competitive advantage to the largest corporations in the world and financialization makes the world financial system dependent on the big banks and investment houses who, through their influence on sovereign funds and institutions like the Fed dominate the political economy.

    MLP and the right in Europe may be the only force presently working against the ultimate victory of “free-trade” enoliberals if the two major trade deals go through. Also, I think the presence of large numbers of Muslims and Eastern Europeans is causing a big identity crisis in Europe–and let’s be clear here this opening up of immigration is, again, not for the benefit of the countries that receive the immigrants but to help multi-nationals.

    Now, I’m willing to admit that neoliberalism has enabled us to buy cheaper goods, operate restaurants more efficiently, made more people able to hire servants and so on but is that what we want out of life? Are we prepared to give up on the nation-state? Do we understand what that world will look like?

    While I can see the negative effects of nationalism and tribalism I think we need to rebalance things in the direction of the nation state if possible though it may be too late in the USA because the USG has become radically more corrupt in recent years so that it has, to me at least, become a pure instrument of the Global Empire of neoliberals and appears to take no interest in the well-being of the people in the U.S. other than to keep everybody well-drugged and sufficiently spaced out to ignore reality.

      1. Jim

        Let’s assume for a moment that what has happened in France over the past few days was not some kind of false flag operation.

        If this assumption is accurate than there is another key player in the main dynamics of political struggle in the world–it is the nation-state, it is the global imperial order and also a strain of fanatic Islam which is trying to create bands of individuals capable, at a minimum, of also destabilizing empires and nation-states.

        If modern Western nationalism (in France, England and the US) has largely spawned a form of human consciousness or culture which is secular and believes in the fundamental equality of those considered members of the nation, as well as the belief that such a national community is self-governing and also a source of law and authority as well as the belief in the value of human life and the right and capacity of individuals to construct their own destinies—then such a consciousness may have also created a culture which gives little support in helping to form individual psychological identity.

        For instance, in an isolated village community in which all the residents are of a single religion, obey the same authorities and speak the same language and engage in similar habits it would be expected that personal identify would form easily and quickly.

        But in large cosmopolitan areas (like Paris) in which people of different religions, political persuasions, levels of wealth, and styles of life mix together, it would seem that the creation of personal identify would be a more difficult task.

        Operating in such a pluralistic and rhetorically egalitarian climate comes a religious/cultural
        strain in the form of prepackaged identity that glorifies the holy warrior brought up by a strict code of loyalty to a certain interpretation of Islam and who consequently may experience any desire to adopt to the West as shameful.

        I would submit that this type of individual is an extremely serious/motivated player on the international stage and cannot be ignored or continually dismissed as some kind of false flag operation.

    1. Seamus Padraig

      I could not agree more, Banger. Not every form of nationalism is murderous and insane, while not every form of internationalism is benign. I think what the elites have been trying to establish for the past 20 years or so is a kind of ‘post-modern empire’, where nations may appear to be sovereign, while they’re really just the playthings of the big banks & multi-national corporations. Sadly, even hallowed concepts, such as ‘human rights’ and ‘anti-racism’, have been perverted so as to serve the interests of capital rather than the people.

  8. barrisj

    Patrick Cockburn is one of the very few Western commentators who has tried to add context to what has been a wholly decontextualised mass media reaction to the Hebdo massacre. Virtually everything written recently about the attack refers to “Islamic terrorism”, “Islamic fanaticism”, Islamic radicalism”, etc., as if acts of terrorism directed against citizens of Western (Christian) countries occur spontaneously, with no motive(s) other than the aforementioned “fanaticism”. Only one story I read in the last couple of days cited the effect of the Abu Ghraib revelations as turning one of the alleged perps into a “jihadist”; in point of fact, the US and its Nato tools have been waging war on Muslim countries for years, and each drone attack in the Yemen or Waziristan stimulates a further reaction on the part of young Muslims looking for revenge. Action – Reaction, a well-worn trope, has locked the West and its Muslim “enemies” into a downward spiral of ever-increasing violence on both sides. Iraq, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iran, Palestine, the list grows, with little or no respite in sight, and the consequences of “blowback” go unheeded by Western governments and their military and intelligence services. M. Hollande has been too accommodating of US requests to join yet another “coalition of the willing” in the West’s seemingly endless “crusade” (as GW Bush once put it) against Islamic terrorism, and regardless of what the motives were for the Hebdo shootings (“insulting the Prophet”), France (and even more particularly, the UK) will continue to be prey to such atrocities in direct proportion to her involvement in military actions in Muslim countries.
    As an aside, the NF position on immigration and Muslim immigrants in particular in France is the most publicly emphasised posture it takes, as that serves as a convenient populist rallying point to gain media attention; in point of fact, it has a very anti-capitalist, anti-Eu, anti-globalism economic agenda, which is much more worrying to the national elites than crude and vulgar xenophobic rhetoric. Working-class outrage against immigrants and les Patrons have been effectively channeled by the NF, to the detriment of the leading national parties, who only have themselves to blame for precipitating worker angst throughtout the French economy for years now, and continued elite fealty to ECB/IMF/WTO strictures and precepts only strength this alienation.

  9. jerry Denim

    Great synopsis of the French political situation concerning Marine LePen and National front but this last part from Cockburn seems hazy/hopey and naive at best:

    “Such a de-escalation means the US, Britain, France and their allies accepting that they are not going to overthrow Bashar al-Assad and Assad accepting that he is not going to win back all of Syria. There should be ceasefires between government and non-jihadi rebels. Power would be divided within Syria and, for the first time, governments in Damascus, Baghdad and Paris could unite against violent Sunni jihadism”

    Assuming the unlikely scenario in the first two sentences actually happens I would say there’s a less than 1% chance the scenario in the last sentence follows.

    The Europeans I speak with these days are increasingly fretful and express openly racist and islamophobic attitudes, especially the white males. I think the bumpy ride is only going to get worse across the pond.

  10. FederalismForever

    “As political scientists have found, a depression or prolonged depression tends to move political sympathies to the right.”

    Absolutely correct, which is why it’s so baffling that many on today’s Left fervently support a “no-growth” agenda, or otherwise disparage policies designed to support economic growth. As you point out, based on the findings of these political scientists, a low-growth or no-growth environment will likely cause a shift to the Right.

    It’s no accident that the Civil Rights movement emerged in the 1950s. White America (outside the deep south) was on top of the world economically and full of optimism about the future (aside from some Cold War jitters) – exactly the mindset that is most accepting of a movement designed to benefit others. When you feel your needs are met, and that your kids will inherit a better world, you are then more likely to feel more generous towards other groups. We see the same pattern in the Roaring Twenties. At the end of Wilson’s term, when he was bed-ridden from strokes and AWOL, the country was in the midst of an economic crisis and plagued by race riots. Klan membership exploded. But as the prosperity of the 1920s set in, Klan membership would sharply decline again, and there were far fewer race riots and lynchings.

    1. Banger

      I agree with you. But I don’t share your view of growth or “groaf.” Some of us on the left are in favor of assessing costs to environmental degradation and consider today’s idea of growth to be fraudulent. I see growth as something that may not necessarily involve rising amounts of fiat currency but something we might say about myself. When I say that I’ve really “grown” this year (as an adult) I mean that I’ve gained compassion, knowledge and insight into my life and life in general–I don’t mean I’ve made more money. Why do we see “growth” as a matter of GDP? It’s crazy. Having said that, the left in the U.S. has not made a case for a new definition of growth–I would start with creating, for example, a less stressed society, a more convivial society, one where I’m not worried how to rob Peter to pay Paul or whether my parents or children can stay in their underwater mortgaged houses. You get my meaning?

      1. FederalismForever

        @Banger. I think I get what you’re saying. If a large enough percentage of the population were to agree upon and thoroughly internalize such a revised definition of “growth,” then maybe it could work.
        But if most of the population thinks it is mired in a period of no growth (however it understands “growth”) and/or thinks its country’s long-term growth prospects are in decline, then you will more likely see increased tension among the tribal groups within that population, as opposed to increased cooperation among them. I think we’re seeing this now in much of the EuroZone.

        It seem to me this point is well supported by history, which is why it is so surprising to continually encounter Left-minded types who try to achieve cross-tribal solidarity (united, perhaps, against the 1%) while at the same time advocating “no-growth” policies. As you point out, there are ways to re-think what “growth” means to lessen this tension, but I submit that, if forced to choose between: (1) eight years of a President with unimpeachable progressive policies w/r/t racial justice, gay rights, pro-labor policies, etc, but with zero economic growth, or (2) eight years of a Presidential administration that pays little to no attention to racial justice issues, etc., BUT who is a genius at economic policy, such that her administration generates, say 5%-6% GDP growth per year, with such growth spread across a large chunk of the population – I submit that the overall level of racial and class tension will be lower under the reign of President (2), all else being equal.

      2. jrs

        If real wages (inflation adjusted wages) have been stagnant from the 1970s or whatever well …. weren’t 1970s wages good enough? Didn’t people mostly live well in the U.S. back then? (perhaps better than now) And even in the 50s and 60s when real wages were lower? I suppose the answer is “it depends”, those wages were good enough for those who weren’t poor probably. But for the underclass probably not. But if a wage was enough then (so not the underclass let’s say) does it really need economic growth (groath) at all, shouldn’t inflation adjustment suffice? So yea that’s the argument that what is needed is a change in attitude. And that’s probably somewhat true.

        But I suspect more is going on. There’s been a change in distribution and greater inequality among the 99s by which I mean among those who work for a living (lowest saw a 5% DECREASE in real wages). There’s greater insecurity (when a 3rd rail like SS is being constantly threatened to be cut and replaced with cat food … how can this not be insecurity?). Etc. Does groath or the lack of groath in real wages (or have they really declined quite a bit and that is what isn’t being talked about with bad cpi measures etc.?) even begin to capture what is really going on to make people so economically insecure these days? If the wages were adequate in 1970 or 1960 then lack of growth in real wages can’t alone be the problem.

  11. Pelham

    The comment from the Telegraph, very much a UK establishment paper, should be seen in the light of Britain’s long strategy of stirring up trouble in Europe by keeping continental powers divided and weak. The existence of the euro — which the UK is notably not a party to — minus any kind of political union in the eurozone does the job of keeping its members forever at odds quite nicely and without any UK intervention.

    Secondly, Patrick Cockburn’s proposal to ally the West with a blood-soaked Middle East dictator to keep native forces from discarding Western-imposed Sykes-Picot and redrawing their own national boundaries in that part of the world speaks for itself.

  12. Propertius

    Power would be divided within Syria and, for the first time, governments in Damascus, Baghdad and Paris could unite against violent Sunni jihadism.

    It might be helpful if our “friends” the Saudis would stop funding the murderous bastards, too.

    1. Banger

      The Saudis don’t fund jihadis for their own ends but have the full backing of the security services of the West. The more terrorism the more power for the martinets. This has been going on in earnest since it became obvious in the early 80s that the Soviet Empire would collapse–the oligarchs must have enemies to keep us in line. Until that stuff gets deconstructed there will be more trouble.

      1. Vatch

        I think a major motivation for Saudi funding of jihadis is to placate the Wahhabi fanatics within Saudi Arabia. If the government and members of the royal family (is there a difference?) don’t provide huge sums for jihad and other proselytizing outside of the country, the domestic fanatics will start causing serious problems within the country. Think of it as protection money.

        1. Banger

          Yes, that’s the conventional argument but I don’t buy it. The Saudis have the security services to crush any opposition. You have to remember that the Saudi royals started being very close to British intelligence and later with the CIA and the Bush family. The CIA plays a very rough game even if you think they only work of foreign affairs they overthrow gov’ts and assassinate leaders and have since the beginning.

  13. Oregoncharles

    I’ve long been afraid that Europe, at least some countries, would eventually declare their Muslim immigrant populations persona non grata – a huge moral and humanitarian disaster. That just became much more likely, at least in France.
    The cultural clash is much more severe in Europe, probably because they’re much closer to the immigrant homelands, and perhaps because they don’t have the immigrant background that we do. I don’t doubt that most immigrants there, as well, are just trying to fit in and get by; but the rate of outright terrorism there is shockingly high (here, the cases are almost all created by the FBI). Few countries would tolerate that from people they consider guests – which might be part of the problem. Long historical memories don’t help, either; maybe we’re better off without them.

    And on the topic of the article: the eurozone is looking more and more fragile, essentially because of bad initial design. Building neoliberal policies into their currency was a really bad idea, something we at least aren’t stuck with.

  14. Oregoncharles

    The whole piece raises a serious question whether MLP’s party is actually right-wing. Apparently her economic policies (still just rhetoric, of course) would be quite comfortable here. And her immigration policies are closely tied to those.
    In general, I think immigration poses a severe dilemma for the left, which we don’t usually admit to. On the one hand, it’s a humanitarian issue; a high proportion of immigrants are really refugees, often from American or neoliberal policies. On the other, large-scale immigration clearly benefits employers (and undocumented immigration even worse), not workers.

    It behooves us to find solutions to this dilemma – and it isn’t easy.

    1. Oregoncharles

      Unintended ambiguity: by “here,” I meant here on nc, not here in the US.
      I’m surprised nobody responded to either of my posts (which took FOREVER to appear). I raised serious questions, that I think we should deal with.

  15. Paul

    If you want to openly mock a persons religion, then be prepared for the consequences

    Hebdo is juvenile and offensive…it’s tantamount to bullying via the pen


    1. Vatch

      Members of many religions mock the beliefs of members of other religions. Hell (or rebirth as vile creatures) is typically proclaimed inevitable for members of the wrong religion. There wouldn’t be many people left on Earth if everyone who mocked another religion were to be killed.

    2. Cynthia

      I don’t think Charlie Hebdo is the kind of place you’d work at if you weren’t prepared for what may come. People worked there for a reason, for a passion, and with passion comes inevitable downsides, in this case fatal.

    3. jrs

      Really the cartoons are racist pretty much. They remind me on first view of racist cartoons against the Japanese during WWII (Dr Seuss did some of these too unfortunately). But that’s how they appear to American eyes and they might be perceived somewhat differently in French culture. But that’s kind of the whole point. They might also be perceived very differently in Muslim culture than French culture as well. Yea fine write polemics against religion, but cartoons like that that make fun of religion hmm … bad note there.

      And I didn’t even say they weren’t funny, but they can still be ugh even if you laugh.

  16. VietnamVet

    I agree with the post and comments; except to add, neoliberalism feeds off of the universal human tribal emotion of us versus them. Hatred is useful as a propaganda tool to encourage fear and obedience. After all, Muslims and Christians have been at war for almost 1500 years. Crusades enrich war profiteers.

    Also, we are the “them” to the Chosen Ones, Western Plutocrats. We will be exploited ‘til we cannot take it anymore. Rulers who failed to kowtow to them from Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei to Russia’s Vladimir Putin suffer economic sanctions or outright conquest from Iraq’s Hussein to Libya’s Gaddafi if too weak.

    If we admit we are serfs to a few thousand powerful families who are gathering the world’s wealth to themselves, the inexplicable becomes clear.

  17. Lisa FOS

    The key thing to remember that whether or not it is a ‘false flag’ or a Blowback/AQ/IS/domestic grievance/nutjob/etc sort of thing (or even a ‘grey area’, such as the security forces knowing and turning a blind eye), the AIM is the same. That is to get the French Govt to demonise and crack down and repress the Muslim community there.

    If is NOT a ‘false flag’ then this is classic guerilla tactics (101 in fact), do something to provoke the state to oppress lots of people so they come over to your side.
    If it IS a ‘false flag’ then this is classic totalitarian state stuff, ‘pick a weak minority to demonise and repress to justify more state powers and general repression of everyone’.

    So the key thing to watch is what the French state does next. Are they going to be smart or stupid/complicit.

    What makes me suspicious is the target was very politically clever. It enrages the left and stirs them up against Muslims whom they normally support, it seriously damages, maybe finishes, a publication that the far right in France hate (Charlie’s most common target).

    The proof, one way or another, will come out over the next few months. Naturally, what is NOT said will be as important as what will be endlessly covered, the ‘non barking dog’ thing, (as per the Sydney hostage situation and many others like it).

    1. Cynthia

      No doubt the West will try to forget about the context to all this. Sure, the killings were cold blooded murder but what the hell do people think the western Armies have been doing in the Middle East for decades on a much grander scale?

  18. James

    Best of luck to Marine Le Pen, the true saviour of Europe! All your anti-NF ranting is not gong to change matters. She will be the next President of France and she will bring down the neo-liberal globalist project that has done so much damage. Viva Marine, France’s Joan of Arc!

  19. Seamus Padraig

    Has anyone here reflected on the fact that this is the second time in a month that we have been band-wagoned into standing up for ‘free speech’? Remember when North Korea was accused of hacking Sony, and the Obama administration suddenly stepped in and started saying how this is an attack on ‘free speech’? They never even furnished any evidence that the Norks were behind the attack. In fact, most experts now suspect they had nothing to do with it. Now they are using similar rhetoric to whip us into an anti-Islamic frenzy. Je suis Charlie! is all over Facebook. What gives? Have too many people in the west grown wary of the ‘freedom agenda’ abroad? Do they now need to convince us that our domestic rights are under attack? For what purpose?

  20. Nomas

    Slate – “Mainstream French parties have tried to fend off the National Front’s advance ever since it unexpectedly made it to the final round of presidential elections in 2002. Last May, its nationalist, xenophobic message helped the party capture 25 percent of the vote in the European Union parliament elections. After Wednesday’s tragic attack, the party’s relevance can no longer be doubted.”

    Its amusing to listen the western liberal establishment whine about “nationalism and xenophobia” when its working against their interests, instead of on behalf of them as in Iraq, and Libya and Syria. As in In The Ukraine and against Russia, etc.,

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