Yves here. A colleague who followed the French regional election reporting closely and also has high level contacts says that French leaders understand that Marine Le Pen’s rise is the result of poor economic performance and they plan to Do Something. But my contact and I both don’t see how, under the current Eurozone strictures, they could do enough by 2017 to make a dent. And that’s before you get to the fact that the European elites have so deeply drunken the neoliberal Kool Aid that it doubtful they’d be willing to take aggressive enough action even if they weren’t hemmed in by Germany and Brussels. As one wag put it, “They have changed their minds, but they have not changed their hearts.”
By Raúl Ilargi Meijer, editor-in-chief of The Automatic Earth. Originally published at Automatic Earth
Many people are cheering now that yesterday Marine Le Pen and her Front National (FN) party didn’t get to take over government in any regions in the France regional elections. They should think again. FN did get a lot more votes than the last time around, and, though she will be a little disappointed after last weekend’s results, it’s exactly as Le Pen herself said: “Nothing can stop us”.
And instead of bemoaning this, or even not believing it, it might be much better to try and understand why she’s right. And that has little to do with any comparisons to Donald Trump. Or perhaps it does, in that in the same way that Trump profits from -people’s perception of- the systemic failures of Washington, Le Pen is being helped into the saddle by Brussels.
The only -remaining- politicians in Europe who are critical of the EU are on the -extreme- right wing. The entire spectrum of politics other than them don’t even question Brussels anymore. Which is at least a little strange, because support for the EU on the street is not nearly as strong as among politicians, as referendum after referendum keeps on showing.
Some of which have rejected (more power to) the EU outright, like the one in Denmark last week, while others do it indirectly, by voting for anti-EU parties -see France this and last weekend-. There’s a long list of these votes going back through the years, with for instance both France and Holland saying No to the EU constitution in 2005, which led to many countries to postpone their own votes on the topic.
Brussels had an answer, though: by 2007, the Constitution proposal was converted into a Treaty (of Lisbon), which said basically the same but in a different order, and only through amendments to existing treaties. It was still rejected again in an Irish referendum, but in a second vote in 2009 accepted.
Importantly, the switch from Constitution to Treaty meant unanimity among EU nations was no longer needed; a majority was good enough. And so the whole thing was pushed through regardless of what people thought -and voted .
The overall picture is clear: Europeans in general are fine with the EU, but when it tries to grab more sovereign powers, they say NO, time and again. Only to be overruled by their own domestic politicians as well as Brussels. Their worries, frictions and arguments have only one way to go: the far right. All other political currents are united in unwavering support for the EU, basically no matter what.
But people see what’s happening in Greece, and with refugees, they see the way the Union treats the Russia and Ukraine issue, they see the new-fangled unholy plans with the EU border force, and they don’t want Brussels to tread on their respective nation’s sovereignty anymore than it already has.
They find no resonance for their worries at home, however, other than with people like Le Pen, Nigel Farage and similar ‘political outcasts’. And therefore that’s where they will turn. All Le Pen has to do is wait for the economy to get worse, and it will, and she can reap what the EU has sown.
As soon as Brussels threatens to turn into an authoritarian body, something it has already very evidently done, people will resist it.
The European Union could have been a very useful and appreciated organization, with many obvious advantages for the people of Europe. But as soon as it oversteps its boundaries, it is destined to self-implode. This process and outcome has become inevitable, because the Union has de facto appointed itself the arbiter of these boundaries.
The unelected high lords of Brussels have become too greedy, and too unaccountable, and they will end up achieving the exact opposite of what they claim the EU stands for: they will lead the continent into conflict, armed and otherwise.
The new border force concept is the perfect example for what is going wrong in Europe. A group of the largest, and therefore most powerful EU nations, have agreed on a rainy Monday afternoon that they’re going to set up some sort of military police force that will ‘protect’ the borders of member nations even if these nations don’t ask for such protection and/or outright resist it.
This is obviously directed mostly at Greece for now, and the EU thinks it can do with Greece as it pleases. But ask any German, French or British citizen if they want entrance to their countries controlled and decided by a para-military bunch of foreigners, and they’ll think you’ve lost it. But that’s the idea behind the border force: take away nations’ sovereignty. Start with the smaller and weaker and work your way up.
That this has some interesting legal implications, as I wrote recently in Greece Is A Nation Under Occupation, that few seem to even contemplate, will add to the entertainment.
There are 28 separate constitutions in the EU. Under which of these is it legal for a government to sign away control of its own borders? In how many of these countries will this be appealed at their own version of the Supreme Court? And how many of these courts will say: sure, sovereignty is way overrated anyway!?
The EU could have been a useful union. Not all those border checks, for one thing, not all those forms to fill out all the time. But with the advent of the euro, things got out of hand. You can have a functioning union between very different entities. But only as long as those differences are recognized and respected.
The euro is an idea that seeks to deny the differences between the people(s) of Europe, it seeks to claim that Germany IS Greece. To that end, it must then take away all nations’ sovereignty. The euro cannot exist without that. To function properly as a currency, it needs a banking union, a fiscal union. And then take it from there.
These are all things that nobody properly thought or talked about before it was introduced. Perhaps because everyone knew that these things would be unacceptable to the European people. And now the euro’s here, and all these things will have to be pushed through anyway. Brussels thinks it has plenty experience pushing things through despite the will of the people, so this one will work too.
But all it takes is for someone to point this out in clear language to people. Unfortunately, the only ones who do today connect this with resistance to refugees, to open societies, to all sorts of things that have nothing to do with why the euro is a failure.
Meanwhile, as I’ve written many times before, the EU is this body that self-selects for sociopaths in its hierarchy, being its undemocratic self. What few people recognize is that it also self-selects for the likes of Marine Le Pen.
And we haven’t seen anything yet. As I said before, all Le Pen has to do is for the economy to pine for the fjords. And looking at the current commodities slaughter, that might happen before anyone can look it up in the dictionary.
And Angela Merkel, after having pushed aside the Dublin accord on refugees and opened German doors, now wants to close them again. As if that works. The EU now wants to hand Greece tens of millions of euros just to keep refugees in the country.
But what happens when the recent projection of another 3 million arriving in Europe in 2016 comes to fruition? What happens when the refugees don’t listen to the Berlin/Brussels dictates? One can only imagine the chaos. The EU has offered Turkey €3+ billion to keep them there, but president Erdogan doesn’t look like the kind of guy you can make a deal with and expect him to live up to it.
Europe seriously risks being flooded with people, while its economy shrinks like a cotton jersey in an autumn rain storm. And who’s going to be looking at the wannabe dictators in Brussels for help then? Nations will end up deciding to decide for themselves. And because all politicians but the far right have unequivocally supported the Union for many years, guess who’ll be coming to dinner?
Today the victims are the Greeks and the refugees. And all those whose governments cut their benefits to ‘balance their budgets’. Tomorrow, those budgets must be balanced all over Europe, in this line of thinking.
As we witness the commodities plunge, and the stock market crash that must of necessity follow it, it becomes hard to see how countries like Italy, Spain, even France, could escape resembling Greece a whole lot more in 2016. And then Europe will be right back where it left off 70 years ago.
Napoleon and Hitler had the strategy all wrong. Instead of invading other countries they should have just started the European Union. Helmut Kohl accomplished what others could only dream of doing: the subordination of most of the governments of Europe to the control of one sole nation. And not a single shot was fired in anger.
At least, not yet.
Actually the Eurozone is many respect similar to the multicultural empires that have arisen many times in history going back to Sargon of Akkad. The difference is that the Eurozone was not created by military means. However if the Eurozone is to survive much longer it probably needs a1
n armed force. This border guard may be the start of such a force.
Considering that most ‘multicultural empires’ that I can think of had one culture (or at least a group of closely related cultures) at the top (Ottomans, Russians, Persians, Mongols, etc), youre probably about right.
Hitler might have had it wrong, but his predecessor, Kaiser William, did not. In 1916 Germany recognised that ruling the continent by force is going to be a tough job, so they came up with the plan for Mitteleuropa. An economic and monetary union, where the common currency would be used to rule and exploit the countries of Europe. Sound familiar? Read it up!
A while ago I read something that makes a lot more sense to me than this article: this European crisis is creating a pull to the far right in the core, richer countries (security, immigration concerns) and to the far left in the periphery, poorer countries (austerity, poverty concerns). I think that looking only to the centrifuge forces to the right is absurd.
I first read about the arm twisting of Greece (ask for help with your borders or else) in keeptalkinggreece and ekathimerini (I itch whenever I read FYROM, which was one of the bones of contention, but it must be me). I can very well imagine that Greece resisted any help (read interference) with its borders, but the fact is that it is one of the points of the European territory where the flow of migrants is extreme. It’s not the only one: some days ago I read that, because of a lull in bad weather, the Italians had rescued (or intercepted, I don’t know which) more than 4600 people off the Libyan coast in 3 days. But to talk of a “rainy monday afternoon” is also absurd as Frontex was created 11 years ago to guard “forteress Europe”:
Darn, so Frontex has failed for 11 years already. And I wasn’t talking about Frontex re: ‘rainy Monday afternoon’, but about its soon-to-be unconstitutional replacement. It’s absurd, alright, but not in the way you think.
As much as I agree with you about COP21, I think you are forgetting your own insights in the context of EU politix. Obviously the EU is not a viable union. But had all things remained equal and eternal NATO would be winning right now and without a war. The EU needs to withdraw back to economies that make sense and are sovereign. And I think that is the takeaway for a world in deflation and transition away from global warming. It’s too difficult to pledge to supply the entire world with salvation from ocean rise and bad air, etc. But local governments can do this by cooperation. Just like the EU could be rescued by cooperation – except that it was nonexistent when Greece asked for it. The whole world is in chaos. We are shutting down industry as fast as we can because enough “leaders” understand the extreme danger we face and we have no choice. If we don’t shut down neoliberal capitalism it’s We’ll be gone, they’ll be gone, everybody will be gone.” Neoliberal economix has become our greatest nightmare. Except that it accelerated what would have happened anyway eventually and since there is a structure of global economic cooperation it can now be used to take itself down. Life is so full of irony. Shut it down and start over. Marine and Donald could be as useful as Hollande and Hillary.
Laughing to keep from crying. How to take down a pack of hypocrites?
Send their way wave after wave of hungry mouths to feed so that they fight harder and harder amongst themselves over what’s a terrorist in disguise and whose duty is whose. New definition of “army.”
Today’s WSJ handily supports that conclusion—likely Pentagon’s not-so-secret climate-change plans are again under advisement.
Very facile article. The EU should have been a Confederation but salter and Monnet never intended it other than it has turned out, a “creeping coup d’etat” to hollow out nation states and have a shadow government behind the scenes. It was the basis of The Plan. The European Movement that Josef Retzinger dabbled with was funded by MI6 and later CIA as a means of bundling Western Europe into an Economic Bloc as counterpart to NATO as military bloc. Now as COMECON and Warsaw Pact have faded away the EU has become an economic sub-committee of NATO which is how the US runs Europe.
The system is basically a US front with Bilderberg as the real “European Council” directing matters. The populace in Europe is about as relevant as it was under the Congress of Vienna after 1815
Very facile article. The EU should have been a Confederation but Salter and Monnet never intended it other than it has turned out, a “creeping coup d’etat” to hollow out nation states and have a shadow government behind the scenes. It was the basis of The Plan. The European Movement that Josef Retzinger dabbled with was funded by MI6 and later CIA as a means of bundling Western Europe into an Economic Bloc as counterpart to NATO as military bloc. Now as COMECON and Warsaw Pact have faded away the EU has become an economic sub-committee of NATO which is how the US runs Europe.
The system is basically a US front with Bilderberg as the real “European Council” directing matters. The populace in Europe is about as relevant as it was under the Congress of Vienna after 1815
Facile is a little extreme I think. Illargi lays out the state of affairs currently operating pretty well. unelected brussells technocrats implementing a format not unlike the one you describe and indeed ignoring the will of the people, basically being an abusive parent to greece to make sure the other kids know there are consequences to disobedience. He points out that the kids don’t like it, put their headphones on and listen to something else, in this case marine le pen. It remains to be seen whether the people can withstand the assault by your mentioned bilderbergs. They do contol the money and as I recall “who has the gold makes the rules”…
The EU is acting as intended by Arthur Salter and Jean Monnet. It simply never anticipated the collapse of Communism. Unelected Brussels Technocrats are no different from Executive Agencies in the USA where only ONE elected official controls the whole Executive and is C-in-C of the Armed Forces.
The UK is controlled by The Privy Council which has a Subcommittee called “Cabinet” but ultimate decisions are made by The Privy Council which legislates through Secondary Legislation as an Enabling Act.
The illegitimacy of the EU Commission is hardly unique in Western “Democracy”. The major factor is that what was simply an attempt to facilitate German Rearmament in 1956 to alleviate pressure on US/UK by giving France control over Germany’s main heavy industries in return for the populace buying overpriced agricultural products predicated on grain grown in The Ruhr as a benchmark, has had the major economic limitation that FRance could no longer afford to bribe farmers for votes without additional members like the UK to pay the bills.
The EU was designed to featherbed France and lock Germany into a West European market for industrial goods. It worked with The Six. Once Communism collapsed the USA treated the EU as a basket to collect all the problem economies like Bulgaria, Romania, Poland, Hungary and seep them up into a new alliance the Us would control through NATO.
The logic of Gorbachev’s European Trading Bloc would be the sidelining of the USA once it had withdrawn from Europe and the possibility of a major Eurasian Economic Power.
Greece is an irrelevance in fact. It was the aping of US/UK financialisation that left German and French banks cash-rich with no lending to corporates now sourcing direct from bond markets. They simply forced credit down the throats of smaller nations much as NY banks did in the 1970s to South America with recycled petrodollars. That Greek politicians, and Irish politicians were corrupt and took bribes from Siemens or HDW or bought tanks and submarines and frigates is typical for any country that has been in the Ottoman Empire as Greece was for 400 years.
The shattering of the EU will cause shockwaves across the world as the local regimes are toppled and replaced with new political movements. In 1932 Germany had the choice – Communists, Military Coup or Adolf Hitler. 1938 Britain refused to back General Beck’s proposed Coup to remove him. History will repeat but in different costumes
” And all those whose governments cut their benefits to ‘balance their budgets’. Tomorrow, those budgets must be balanced all over Europe, in this line of thinking.”
German chancellor Bruning tried that…
To be fair, Greece is a state built on patronage like Austria. Corruption is horrendous.
Fair enough as far as it goes, but there’s much more to this phenomenon. For example:
Firstly, the fact that the FN did not win any of the regions is entirely due to the Left withdrawing its candidates in the second round in some cases, and asking the faithful to vote for the Right instead. It’s not clear how many times this trick can be pulled off. Otherwise the FN would probably have won three regions, and it’s striking that even where they lost, the three major figures polled 40-45% of the vote against effectively the whole French political establishment
Second, there are many problems with the way that Europe has developed over the last twenty years, but that’s far from being the whole of the story. The FN is tapping into something much more basic – a sense that French elites during that time have simply floated away, and no longer think about, or even care much about, France any more. Politicians, businessmen and the media look abroad for any and every initiative, and seldom speak of France except in terms of exasperation and criticism. Most of them speak (badly) a kind of strangled globisch English, and lard their conversation with Anglo-Saxon terms. The traditional discourse of praise of French history, culture etc., normal until a generation ago, is now regarded with at best amused contempt, at worst as a sign of racism and xenophobia. And all opposition whatever to any European initiative, no matter how insane, can be dismissed in the same way. For a society which is still proud of its history and culture, this doesn’t go down too well. The sense of losing identity has more to do with this sense of dislocation than it does with immigration, although that is an issue for some – notably the poor- who have been its victims.
And third, the FN’s votes come overwhelmingly from the poor and marginalized, who feel angry and betrayed by a political system that is no longer interested in them. The head of the MEDEF, the French employer’s association, unwittingly let the cat out of the bag when he claimed (correctly) that the FN(‘s programme greatly resembled that of the Left in 1981. He appealed to voters not to support the FN’s policies for improving living standards, since that would make France “uncompetitive”. Enough said.
As many have noted, the relative success of the FN is less due to its own virtues than to the incompetence and stupidity of its opponents, and their abandonment of large swathes of the French people and of traditional French political culture. There’s a large space open for a patriotic, national preference and populist political party, and, surprise surprise, some quite dangerous people have come along to occupy it. But none of the French elite commuting from Paris to Brussels understands that, and, by the time they do, if they ever do, it may well be too late.
Since Reagan and Thatcher, it is very hard for elites anywhere to think of “the national interest” as anything more than the bottom lines of the larger banks, brokerage houses, and corporations based in their respective countries. Where the statement made in 1959 that what was good for General Motors is good for America was met with disdain or distrust, today it is an unshakeable article of faith for almost all national politicians in the major Western countries (substituting Mitsui, or Deutsche Bank, or AXA, or Royal Dutch Shell for GM). The axiom is if you take care of the corporations, they will take care of the economy, and that it turn will take care of the people. Thus we have the corporate neoliberal state. The fact that millions are unsure of that formula, or simply dismiss it out of hand as self-serving on the part of both the corporations and the politicians who suck at their teats, is dismissed as naïve or irrational by the elites and their intellectual shills (virtually everyone being educated at elite institutions). This leads to the societal disconnect you so ably set before us in your post. I see no way the two sides can stop talking past one another and wallowing in their mutual contempt. In the end, one side will win and one will lose, or the system will collapse and both will be thrown into the darkness. My money is on the last of those options.
It is Capitalism as Marx forecast, detached from locality and driven to commoditise.
Excellent comment, thanks. These seem to be common themes.
“And third, the FN’s votes come overwhelmingly from the poor and marginalized, who feel angry and betrayed by a political system that is no longer interested in them.
There’s a large space open for a patriotic, national preference and populist political party”
I agree about the pull rightward being basically the fault of the europhiles filling every other party. The really sad part is how many of them are ostensibly more nationalist while campaigning. No one is ever put in office promising to put Brussels first, yet they all seem to once elected. As put so succinctly, what choice is left?
By the way, one of the first rules of diplomacy (and any interactions really, even with animals) is don’t force anyone into a corner; it doesn’t end well. That’s basically what the EU did to the European populations by not ever letting them say no to expansions. (As an addendum, one could easily draw parallels here with Trump.)
But I do have to mention, as it often comes up in these discussions, my issue with the article’s take on the Euro. I agree completely, by the way, and think most here would say it goes without even saying. Right?
Now, what about the poor Southern US? Isn’t it actually all so-and-so’s fault or if only they weren’t so dumb or had instituted such-and-such policy or whatever the complaint is today?
It couldn’t possibly be that it’s a huge geographic area with different industries and culture than the Northern US and always ends up with the short side of the currency stick as the decision makers are all decidedly northern…
Taken in this context, doesn’t that reasoning sound an awful lot like the crazies in Germany sipping champagne complaining about the lazy Mediterraneans, and how it’s all their fault?
Yeah–that is what it actually sounds like to southerners, fyi. Please remember that next time you hear an anti-Southern diatribe. (Also, bear in mind the first point about forcing people to pick crazy and how it may relate.)
With regard to US South, it would help if you were more specific with regard to its “different industries and culture.” On industries, given the hollowing out of both north and south, I would be surprised if there were major sectoral differences across regions. Just because those calling the shots are disproportionately in New York and other financial centers (Atlanta? Houston? Dallas?), that certainly does not redound to the benefit of most residents of the north. Nor do the vast majority of us identify with them.
And I would guess the same for culture, despite the drawl and hokum. You do know that country music and rightwing talk dominates in every major market?
It’s not north vs. south. It’s “in” vs. “out.” And virtually all of us in flyover land, north or south, are out.
We should be so lucky if it was simply a Germany plus heart vs mind battle, which would offer some chance for some switch in consciousness of leaders. Unfortunately the politicians in charge across the EU are lightweight halfwits. The real power elites that run them don’t want statesmen of whatever ilk, no more Churhills, de Gaulles, Adenauers, etc, even mafiosi like Andreotti, people you can suggest to but can’t simply command. Saddest truth possible is that people like Cameron, Holland, Renzi etc are put there exclusively to not cause any trouble, right or left, and any expectations of any sort are a delusion like expecting a chimp to start driving a car. There is no heart/mind struggle, there just a low IQ resonate drone like a bad fluorescent light in the room.
Not true, to Italy’s surprising credit and to Beppe Grillo’s foresight (since 2009) M5S has managed to channel a good part of the dissatisfaction in Italy to the left denying the right a monopoly on the discourse like in more virtuously democratic France. So far M5S has managed to keep an open, honest, intelligent anti-EU discourse going, about all that can be asked for given the relentless and monolithic media mud machine they face, not to mention the envious, bristling hatred of the traditional tribal left, and they have pretty much managed to keep a solid hold on ~20% of the vote. They are completely nonexistent in the anglophone press and commentariat (Grillo’s a clown in as much as Lenny Bruce or George Carlin were) but they are the are the only significant leftist block outside the mainstream left in a significant country giving voice to the no global, occupy, mmt movement in the EU.
Good that you brought up M5S in Italy. Here’s a blueprint on how to build a populist political party from scratch on a shoestring using the internet that owes nothing to either the neoliberal elites or the neo-fascist extreme right. You say it can’t happen in your country? I say it can. The establishment left deride M5S as right wing and the right disparage it is far left. I think that’s a sign they’ve broken the code.
Beppe is kinda… Crazy… But he IS at least sort of Left-ish in his rhetoric at least, and does move the conversation in Italy left. By the way I found this choice quote on Wikipedia:
“At the 2013 general election the M5S won the second most popular votes for the Chamber of Deputies, but obtained just 109 deputies out of 630 due to an electoral system which favoured parties running in coalition”
Democracy in action!
I fear that they are like the Bolsheviks unable to gain power through the ballot box or otherwise until war creates the collapse. I doubt if the thoroughly-bureaucratised societies of modern Western society will permit interlopers to disrupt the cartel of political and economic power
Nope, you find anti-EU voices on the “extreme” left as well. the proper workers left, not the champagne left that appropriated the “workers” label during the port-war anti-communist environment.