Monday, 24 April 2017

Outsiders In?

La Patrie En Danger! The prospect of a victory for the French National Front leader, Marine Le Pen, looms over the future of the European Union. In the year of Brexit and Trump many would consider it "Strike Three - and your out!" for the neoliberal order. Will the key issue of immigration drive New Zealand politics in a similar direction?
IF FRENCH VOTERS advance Marine Le Pen and Jean-Luc Mélenchon to May’s run-off presidential election, the European Union will tremble. Both the far-right nationalist, Le Pen, and the far-left firebrand, Mélenchon, are committed to a fundamental reconstitution of the European Project. Victory for two such uncompromising enemies of the status-quo would send crushing shockwaves through the entire European political class.
The French punditocracy are, however, supremely confident that this worst-case scenario will not eventuate. As they see it, the pro-EU, neoliberal standard-bearer, Emmanuel Macron, will squeak through just ahead of Mélenchon and the scandal-plagued conservative, François Fillon. Faced with the prospect of the quasi-fascist Le Pen, they argue, conservatives, socialists and the far-left will be forced to unite behind the “centrist” Macron. Extreme ideas, rejected repeatedly by the French electorate will, out of fear of even more extreme ideas, finally secure their long-delayed admittance to the Élysée Palace.
Or will they? The colossal cynicism underpinning such a “choice” may stick in the French electorate’s craw. Given the choice of a France fastened to the Procrustean Bed of the EU’s unyielding rules and regulations: or, the fast-fading glories of historical France; the France of hilltop villages and cathedral towns; the France of Liberty, Equality and Fraternity; then, who knows, they might just vote for Marine Le Pen – and the cynicism of the political class be dammed!
Here in New Zealand, meanwhile, the leader of NZ First, Winston Peters, will be assessing the results of the French elections with particular care. As the man who predicted both Brexit and Trump, Peters has every right to feel confident of his ability to both interpret and exploit the worldwide populist surge.
Scornful of the pollsters’ ability to any longer intercept and measure accurately the volatility of twenty-first century popular opinion, Peters relies upon the direct, face-to-face feedback of the public meeting to inform him of the electorate’s mood. He understands that those sufficiently motivated to come out to a political gathering are also the ones most likely to vote. Even better, they are the civic-minded types who encourage others to join them in doing their democratic duty. Opinion leaders in their local communities, they will put into forthright public utterances sentiments that their less confident neighbours only mutter in private.
In other words, one modest meeting in a suburban community centre may contain multitudes.
If reports of such meetings are accurate reflections of the opinions of active citizens (as well as those of citizens who can be easily activated) then NZ First’s leader will be in no doubt about which “hot button” issues he needs to push.
The biggest and hottest button of the 2017 General Election may be summarised in the question: “Who the heck are our politicians listening to? Because they’re sure as hell not listening to us!”
All over the world, this is the question which aggrieved and alienated voters are asking.
There is no shortage of answers. Among those accused of commandeering the attention of the people’s representatives are: bankers; corporations; politically correct elites; “the lying media”; globalisers. Ordinary, decent, hard-working people; people who pay their taxes and follow the rules; people like themselves; have, in the opinion of these voters, been shunted aside and their preferences ignored. Or, even worse, they have been made to feel that, in the greater scheme of things, they no longer count.
The alienated and aggrieved look around them for evidence of their displacement and everywhere, from Taihape to Toulouse, their unfriendly gaze settles on the ones who were not present in the land of their childhood; their parents’ country; but who are now everywhere they look. Speakers of foreign languages; wearers of outlandish clothes; followers of unfamiliar faiths; purchasers of “their” real estate, “their” local businesses, “their” local clout: immigrants!
In New Zealand, as Peters well knows, this anger with the immigrant extends not only to the record numbers of people arriving from overseas, but also to those who have emigrated from those impoverished fragments of New Zealand which, until quite recently, had been reserved for the losers of the great colonial struggles of the nineteenth century. Successful Maori generate almost as much rancour among aggrieved Pakeha voters as successful “Asians”.
If France’s two populist “outsiders” advance to the second round, what conclusions will our own populist outsider draw from their success?
This essay was originally published in The Waikato Times, The Taranaki Daily News, The Timaru Herald, The Otago Daily Times and The Greymouth Star of Friday, 21 April 2017.


Guerilla Surgeon said...

Well, Macron has squeaked through. And so has Le Pen. I notice she is getting a lot of support in the countryside, just as the Nazis did. Luckily demographics changes mean that there are far fewer people living in the country these days :).

Nick J said...

We could take the view that the centre no longer holds. The political classes and the media with whom they are indistinguishable, have since 1945 have gotten used to designating the status quo to be whatever they say it is. Their Bernays style “Consensus” is now under siege, it suffers “crushing shockwaves” and regards any movement towards a new democratic consensus as a “worst case scenario”.

I would contend that the ills of this enforced centrism are a good indication that democracy is in rude health, if not the underpinning structures. People have discovered that they don’t need to agree with the consensus setters of the status quo, that they can read alternative media, that they can have and express their own opinions. And their method is public meetings, web media discussions, and consequent voting. The term "popular vote" comes to mind.

Stark reality has awakened the aggrieved / alienated sections of the public, but few of the political class know how to address their needs in the manner of a Peters, or the likes of Farage. I find it comforting from a democratic viewpoint that the valid questions raised by “populists” now have to be addressed rather than merely rubbished by a tame media. That stark reality is short wage packets, high priced housing, immigration, insecurity, diminished public services. All things the centre has been immune to, or has benefited from. The bill now comes due, and must be paid. The centre no longer holds, and democracy can again mean more than something that underpins stasis.

jh said...

Successful Maori generate almost as much rancour among aggrieved Pakeha voters as successful “Asians”.
I don't agree with that at all it is the "successful Maori" who are professional Maori (riding indigenous politics) rather than Maori Professionals.
what is a nation state? Can and should the government manipulate national identity via political power and domination of the media (Eg Nigel Latta and TVNZ's corporate clients)?
A nation is at its core an ethnic group living in its homeland, with shared elements of culture and means of communication. A nation can exist without its own state, an example being the Kurds. And most states are not limited to one nation’s territory. All nation states are built around a founding ethnic core
Smith, A. D. (1986). The ethnic origins of nations. Oxford, Basil Blackwell
Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. Among people without fellow-feeling, especially if they read and speak different languages, the united public opinion, necessary to the working of representative government, cannot exist. John Stuart Mill

jh said...

And the elephant in the room is that the migrants sway the vote (as intended by Helen Clark).

Daniel Copeland said...

There may be equal prejudice against immigrants and against Maori, but my observation is that these prejudices vary independently in different sectors of the New Zealand political landscape.
In particular, on the Facebook page still titled "John Key Has Let Down New Zealand", I don't think I've ever seen prejudice against Maori or against Pacific Islanders. But there's lots of anti-immigration sentiment, all of it directed at Asians; I've developed a reputation now as one of the nuisances on the page who keeps butting into complain-about-Asians threads and calling people racist. I've even seen people say outright "They should change the rules so Pacific Islanders can get in but Asians can't."
And occasionally you get conspiracy theorists muttering about Jewish people and the Rothschilds and the Zionist Protocols (seriously).
The other surprise is that there's virtually no paranoia about Islam or terrorism.
It makes me wonder what sorts of prejudice you'd see on equivalent National-slanted pages. Would it be the mirror image of "John Key Has Let Down New Zealand"? Is there lots of anti-Maori and anti-Pacific Island sentiment, and lots of freaking out about "Muslim extremists", but nothing about Asian or Jewish people?

jh said...

Attendees at the Mexican conference were to be briefed by the Parliamentary State Secretary from the German Federal Ministry of Labour and Social Affairs, but she was understandably detained in Germany to discuss and develop an approach to the Syrian refugees.
The German Ambassador read her speech notes. They made one thing very clear.
A rather different understanding of what constitutes modern Germany – and what the European Union should do – has emerged.

The German briefing notes were honest about some reasons for the change of heart.
An ageing German population (second only to that of Japan) means that the country is increasingly desperate for sourcing a new and younger population. [yeah right!]
almost simultaneously, decisions were being made about New Zealand's immigration
policies that were to have far reaching consequences for the cultural politics of New
Zealand, although it was to be almost a decade before there was an awareness of what
exactly this meant.
But what of the hew and cry? There is a layer between decision makers and the people: an oligarchy of business interests, media and a tribal liberal elite.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"I don't agree with that at all it is the "successful Maori" who are professional Maori (riding indigenous politics) rather than Maori Professionals."

Wrong – just wrong. And my unsupported opinion and anecdotal evidence is just as good as yours.

"A nation is at its core an ethnic group living in its homeland, with shared elements of culture and means of communication. A nation can exist without its own state, an example being the Kurds. And most states are not limited to one nation’s territory. All nation states are built around a founding ethnic core"

Wrong and out of date. Actually out of date when it was written. A nation is an "imagined community." In other words, people who think they belong - belong. The US, being one of the most successful nationstates ever in many ways was composed of migrants from almost everywhere. And don't crap on about a white ethnic core either, because half the people who you consider to be the white ethnic core – in your passive-aggressive racist way, wouldn't have been considered white when they were admitted.

"Free institutions are next to impossible in a country made up of different nationalities. "

More Bullshit. What about Britain? Scots/Irish/Welsh – and others who consider themselves slightly separate. Czechoslovakia had free institutions and split, with dignity because it had free institutions. Belgium has free institutions. Finland has free institutions. Canada has free institutions.
Christ, I didn't think you could even make this stuff up. Why don't you go and post this rubbish on Alex Jones's website? He'd probably lap it up.

jh said...

An imagined community is a concept coined by Benedict Anderson to analyze nationalism. Anderson depicts a nation as a socially constructed community, imagined by the people who perceive themselves as part of that group
"More than 94 per cent of Chinese permanent residents and more than half of those with NZ citizenship told University of Auckland researchers that they felt a greater sense of belonging and identified more with their country of origin than New Zealand."
"The study also found that Chinese migrants aged 15 to 44 felt significantly more attached to their homeland identity than those aged 45 and over."

In Philip Temples Christchurch - A City and It's People 1976 you don't see one Asian face.
That was just after Labours 1987 Burke Report where the "infusion of new elements" would be of "immense benefit" to "the country".

In his epic series Landmarks 198? [kept in the back room at TVNZ]
Kenneth Cumberland wrote: Bold Young Men Drove Sheep on to The Grassland to found pastrol empires and land owning dynasty's. From the squatters wool and later from grain after ploughing grew a city of grace scholarship and dignity

jh said...

What Science Says About Race and Genetics
"Anything that has a genetic basis, such as these social instincts, can be varied by natural selection. The power of modifying social instincts is most visible in the case of ants, the organisms that, along with humans, occupy the two pinnacles of social behavior. Sociality is rare in nature because to make a society work individuals must moderate their powerful selfish instincts and become at least partly altruistic. But once a social species has come into being, it can rapidly exploit and occupy new niches just by making minor adjustments in social behavior. Thus both ants and humans have conquered the world, though fortunately at different scales.
Conventionally, these social differences are attributed solely to culture. But if that’s so, why is it apparently so hard for tribal societies like Iraq or Afghanistan to change their culture and operate like modern states? The explanation could be that tribal behavior has a genetic basis. It’s already known that a genetic system, based on the hormone oxytocin, seems to modulate the degree of in-group trust, and this is one way that natural selection could ratchet the degree of tribal behavior up or down.
Human social structures change so slowly and with such difficulty as to suggest an evolutionary influence at work. Modern humans lived for 185,000 years as hunters and gatherers before settling down in fixed communities. Putting a roof over one’s head and being able to own more than one could carry might seem an obvious move. The fact that it took so long suggests that a genetic change in human social behavior was required and took many generations to evolve.

jh said...

Indirect evidence that the ghost of Franz Boas still haunts the antipodean ivory tower comes from leading scholars of ethnicity and nationalism who I contacted. They could not name one Australian scholar who professes biosocial theory. This is in line with the survey reported in the first essay in this series in the June issue.[2] No political science or sociology department reported a scholar basing his or her research or teaching on behavioural biology. The skew towards Marxist and other environmental theories means that scholars of nationality do not know what to do with the wealth of findings drawn from evolutionary psychology, ethology, and sociobiology—except ignore them.

Further evidence comes from a recent student in a leading university studying nationalism, who reports that the approach was heavily Marxist. In the first year his course consisted of one week covering supposedly primordial theory and thirteen weeks of the usual fare. The core texts were Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities and Eric Hobsbawm’s Nations and Nationalism since 1780. I have also drawn on these texts as teaching material. But they need to be treated critically because both are radically constructionist. Both argue that ethnicities and nations are socially constructed, not based on realities of genetic and cultural similarity. The late Eric Hobsbawm was a Marxist at the London School of Economics who emphasised the recency of ethnic traditions and whose formulaic dismissal of behavioural biology allowed him to downplay primordial origins.

jh said...

Here's an interesting take on the alt-right
In the aftermath of the UNESCO statement on race in 1950, the triumph of post-war social democracy and its attempt to instill guilt over crimes of various regimes generally characterized as "fascist," the subject of race was to be made an indefinite taboo that lasts to the present.
This would come at a very awkward time. Just as race had been declared as nothing but an indefensible social construct, advances in population, behavioral and molecular genetics were being made that would fine tune the definition and precision of race to degrees greatly surpassing the older schools of physical anthropology. As a result, we are caught in the rather paradoxical situation that we are penalized the most when talking about race at just the same time that we know the most about it.
On the other hand, it is nevertheless quite astonishing how thoroughly the race question (a specific take on it, too) has been made the ultimate theory of society and of history of the modern far-right, subordinating all other concerns as being a mere "superstructure" to the "base" of genetics. Today's alt-right essentially consists of a synthesis of revolutionary ethnonationalism with sociobiological materialism. True, these were the animating ideas of an older white nationalism, also. But today's right is seeing a determinist racialism incrementally growing into a consensus position. Around this racialism, a sort of clownish archetype of what "European civilization" is supposed to be has formed around it, an archetype I have difficulty describing except as a Greco-Roman-Nietzschean composite.
I think that is a straw man argument. I can only draw on my own interpretation of sociobiology and that is in the context of a push by elites to create utopian multicultural societies where ethnic behaviours are neutralised by the experts from the Department of Humanities and Social Scientists [One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest/Clockwork Orange]. I think there is plenty of evidence that minorities are/will pursue their own interests while the ordinary European new zealander (of several generations) will be living in a country Ranganui Walker described as "ruined" and "just like anywhere else" - for what Professor Spoonley's career advancement?

Victor said...

I'm rather pleased I'm not French as I'd have had difficulty in voting for any of this atrocious melange of mediocrities, opportunists and fanatics.

But, now the first round is over, I would no doubt feel an urgent sense of responsibility to vote for whoever was the alternative to Mme le Pen.

Let us hope that there is more substance to M. Macron than has thus far seemed apparent (though I doubt it). And let's hope that Martin Schulz becomes Germany's next chancellor and drags Macron somewhat leftwards in his wake.

But, above all, let's hope that Fascism is defeated, for, make no mistake about it, that's what this election is now about.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"Conventionally, these social differences are attributed solely to culture. But if that’s so, why is it apparently so hard for tribal societies like Iraq or Afghanistan to change their culture and operate like modern states? "

Why was it so easy for the Japanese and the Chinese? Even if we accept your premise as true, that they cannot change their culture and operate like "modern states", it may easily be attributable to fundamentalist religion? Who knows? Certainly not you. As I said before, perhaps you would be more at home and Alex Jones's website? Pretty much literally no one here takes what you say seriously. And I only comment on your posts for the sake of the children :-).

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Oh – the other reason which I failed to mention JH, is that I have an almost visceral hatred for the fringe/pseudoscience you keep bombarding us with. Oh dear, here's me trying to put off doing an assignment where I barely understand the question let alone the implications of the question. Ah well.

greywarbler said...

jh I hope your stuff is worth reading. Perhaps someone can kindly give a summary of it in case it is not about immigration this time.

greywarbler said...

And if people are replying to another comment (Guerilla Surgeon to jh!) woulc those commenters please put the recipient at the top so we can see who's who and what is being quoted from where.

jh said...

Oh – the other reason which I failed to mention JH, is that I have an almost visceral hatred for the fringe/pseudoscience you keep bombarding us with.

But then you think Johnathon Haidt is an idiot.

jh said...

You'll see in other cultures they don't fear the things we fear, for instant snakes. “That must be universal” “it turns out that's not true at all”. “A lot of cultures are not afraid of snakes at all”
Jeff Sluka Massey University,-social-conditioning-and-belonging


jh said...

On Nine to noon Katherine Ryan says "the U.K dominates as a source, on the work visas anyway" and then goes on to ask Paul Spoonley how we can have a debate. Spoonley says we should listen to Radio NZ.
But RNZ is wrong

Guerilla Surgeon said...

JH. I don't necessarily think the man is an idiot, but he is at the least controversial. And you sometimes use his work in ways which I suspect he wouldn't like. And he is almost certainly the best of your sources, because most of the rest of them (VDARE being a prime example.) are a load of pseudoscientific right wing wingnuttery. At the very least I hope you have taken my comment about Alex Jones to heart? :-)

Nick J said...

Victor I am not so sure a creature of the banks can be dragged "left". And I am constantly left wondering how we might define the "centre" in Europe. The term "fascist" springs to mind. By definition corporatist, by nature intolerant of opposing philosophies, absolutist in outlook (reference Fukuyamas End of History proclaiming the universal triumph of liberal democracy).Something the centre internationally proclaimed as a truth to date rarely challenged.

Undemocratic...that defines unelected Brussels. Yet when an old fashioned nationalist conservative like Farage mentions this he is labeled Fascist.

What is this "fascism" you mention? Is it populism that by definition defines the popular will on issues of popular concern? Seems to me to be a definition via the ballot box of democracy in action. As in Brexit. The minority seem to contend the majority got that often have you heard "they were lied to and were too thick"? Consequently the vote was wrong. Democracy we had better ignore their vote and put it right! Yes very elitist....not very democratic. Likely quite fascist.

Victor, have the "left" and liberalism worn the Ring of Power and become our own Dark Lord? I am not sure who now can play the "f" word honestly. Enlightenment please.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"they were lied to"
Well, they are still waiting for that £350 million a week to go into the NHS. There is a certain brand of politician these days, fascist or not, who lie instead of just shading the truth. Nigel Farage and Trump belong in this bracket. Probably Le Pen as well. Certainly her father did.

jh said...

"pseudoscientific right wing wingnuttery."
You need to be specific.

I see Winston suggesting that the two Herald reporters are biased in relation to their report on where our migrants are coming from. I believe people have ethnic interests and while like global warming you can't say a particular weather event results from global warming you can predict that overall that will show up ( a weighted dice). All those herald reporters needed to do was email Michael Reddell. These journalists know dam well where particular commentators stand on an issue.
I soon learnt that when looking for my first home you go to look at a second with another agent the second agent sure won't be slow to mention the holes in the roof.

jh said...

Immigration debate – Peters goes full racist - Anthony Robbins

The punters don't agree (except for GS)

Is it racist to claim that people have ethnic interests?

Jeff Sluka of Massey University on RNZ says:

but “we” totally reject the biological determinism position on this. While our brains are wired to experience fear it's our culture that shapes that.
Take ethnocentrism for example which is universal experience: all cultures believe that they are superior to others. But that doesn't lead to fear and it doesn't necessarliy lead to racism. It has to be interpretted in that way; it is our culture which gives us the interpretive framework that gives us the meaning to those things. We who are not racist teach our children that we shouldn't be afraid of people who are different from ourselves. "


"Our biology is essentially irrellevant. It is like having a computor, you wouldn't blame a computor for the programs that are in it would you? The fear doesn't come from our biological heritage it comes absolutelly one hundred percent from our cultural conditioning.”

That position is opposed to evolutionary psychology. Evolutionary psychology is "gradually gaining acceptance" and the idea that ethnocentrism has a biological basis [which interacts with the environment] is supported by experiments with oxytocin [the dice is weighted]. Someone observed that ideas change when academics retire. Students must be starting to question the inadequacy of social scientists to explain the world in other than a racist paradigm.

Examining the Acceptance of and Resistance to Evolutionary Psychology

jh said...

But is racism a visceral (by which we understand deeply instinctive) superstition? Evolutionary psychology says not, “From an evolutionary perspective, it’s unlikely the mind would be designed to attend to race as race would not have been a feature of the social environment over evolutionary time” (Pietraszewski et al. 2015. P26.) While biological sex has existed for millions of years, humans were all African until fifty to sixty thousand years ago, and then lived in small hunter-gatherer groups defined by kinship until ten thousand years ago. There has simply been no longstanding need to form cognitive mechanisms for racial categorisation.
Pietraszewski tested the significance of race to alliance detection, and found that whilst gender and age remain firm categorizations, race does not become significant until correlated with patterns of association, co-operation and competition.

At some point people start to say "they are taking over" and it is incumbent on the protagonists to prove that the benefits are better than Asian cuisines? All they do, however, is cry racist!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Guerilla Surgeon said...

I really can't be arsed with this JH. Did Peters argue on the facts or did he just attack their alleged bias because of their ethnicity? If he did point out errors and then suggested they were biased because of their ethnicity it wouldn't be quite so bad, but I didn't notice a hell of a lot by way of evidence produced, at least nothing that they couldn't answer by saying they'd already covered it. Again, could I suggest that you go comment on VDare or Alex Jones, or perhaps the whale oil blog. Everyone would love you there. And think of the children. :)

Guerilla Surgeon said...

"You need to be specific."
You must be kidding. I have consistently pointed out evidence of your right wingnuttery, particularly in your sources, at some length and in some detail. I have consistently pointed out specifically in areas where you are twisting the conclusions of the relatively sound research that you use to your own ends. And yet you want me to be more specific? By geez, it's no secret that if I was in charge of this bloody show you would be banned, not so much for being consistently bloody wrong, but the boring the pants off everybody. You have one idea! And you just repeat it over and over again. No matter what the topic. So no, I'm not being more specific – just go and read some of my earlier posts and replies.:)

Chris Trotter said...

To: JH

I have hesitated to do this for some time, JH, but the clear exasperation of Bowalley Road's readers leaves me no choice.


I have allowed you a great deal of leeway on these matters because they touch on an important public issue and the views you espouse are, I am confident, widely shared. But ... enough is enough. Your position on race and immigration has been made abundantly clear, and endless repetition will not make it more so.

Please feel free to comment on other issues, but be aware, any further comments received from you on matters to do with race and immigration will not be published.

Victor said...

Nick J

I seem to have spent much of my now rather long adult life arguing that this, that or the other political phenomenon is not fascism.

But now, finally, when this grizzly phenomenon makes a quite predictable and palpably obvious reappearance, I’m amazed to find myself having to argue that it is what it is.

I’m totally nauseated by this development but should add that my nausea owes much to the fact that a very large number of my relations, on both sides of my family, were murdered by fascists, some of whom, incidentally, were French.

The Guardian columnist Hadley Freeman obviously shares my nausea and for very similar reasons:

I don’t expect that you will agree with her or with me. And I suppose she’s right in thinking that you should be congratulated on your good fortune.

Anyhow, to business: To my way of thinking, it’s absolutely mistaken to use the term ‘fascism’ as a generalised form of abuse for people on the right wing of politics or for just about any undemocratic regime.

It might be emotionally satisfying to use the word in this promiscuous way. But, in doing so, you blunt its explanatory value and deprive it of all effective meaning.

Fascism is something a bit more precise than that. It’s a style of political thought and action that, in one form or another, gained extensive influence and power in Europe during the inter-war period, albeit that its roots go back a lot further and its influence has (as we're now experiencing) never completely gone away.

Many of the political movements that were fascist, proudly proclaimed their identity. Others used different nomenclature but still identified themselves with regimes that were themselves openly and proudly fascist. For this reason, I use these movements as the basis of my definition.

A problem with defining fascism, though, is that, from the start, it deliberately meshed together an eclectic selection of ideas drawn from both the conventional left and the conventional right. There were also differences between the fascist movements of various countries.

Even so, some identifying characteristics can be found, including (just for starters) self-pitying, mystical nationalism, ethnic scapegoating, leader-worship, ‘dirigisme’, autarchy, brutalism, rank demagoguery, militarism, an overall lauding of the visceral over the cerebral and a tendency to see all your opponents as linked together in a sinister cabal against poor little you.

A hint of violence (and sometimes more than a hint)is also normally part of the mix, as it was for the fascistoid Trump campaign in last year’s US election. And, of course, a sliver or more of anti-Semitism and, latterly, Holocaust denial/relativism recurrently forms part of the melange, although it’s nowadays often soft-pedalled in favour of Islamophobia.

....more to come

Victor said...

Concluding previous post.....

That's not to say that everyone who holds to just some of these positions is a fascist. I suspect that most political movements contain some of these characteristics, as do most of us as individuals. But, to my mind, a movement that combines a large cluster of such characteristics certainly deserves the title ‘fascist’.

Of course, there are much more obvious ways in which the Front National is fascist. There’s a continuum of personalities that link it to the Algerie Francais conspiracies and, through these, to the Vichy regime, the fascist “leagues” of the 1930s and the proto-fascist Anti-Dreyfusard movement, ‘Action Francais’.

In the light of this geneology, I think its naive to be taken in by Mme le Pen’s attempts to de-fascistise and de-Vichyise the FN’s image. Apart from anything else, the mask still slips occasionally, as it did last week over the issue of France’s historic partial responsibility for the Holocaust.

Be that as it may, I would agree with you that the neo-liberal consensus of the past thirty years has imposed something of an intellectual dictatorship and that some (though by no means all) of the EU’s institutions suffer from a democratic deficit.

Even so, the EU has performed an amazing task in helping to keep Europe (of all places!) at peace with itself for two thirds of a century, as a free and consensual confederation of democratic states.

In the 1970s, a desire to join this confederation spurred the one-time dictatorships of southern Europe in their unexpectedly peaceful transitions to democracy. In the 1990s, a similar desire fired the transition to democracy of the former member states of the Warsaw Pact, albeit that some of these are now falling short of EU standards.

Where in the world today is democracy stronger than, for all its imperfections, in Europe? Please tell me as I’d genuinely like to know.

As to the subservience of the EU to corporate interests, I would suggest that such interests are better regulated by the EU than by any national government in the developed world. That’s one of the reasons why UK Tories are so keen to leave the Union.

I also think you misunderstand the nature of fascist corporatism. Mussolini’s concept of the “Corporate State” didn’t mean government doing what corporate business wanted it to do. On the contrary, it meant corporations (i.e. local government, business, labour unions and voluntary and charitable organisations) all doing what the government wanted them to do.

And, finally, no-one of any standing in the UK is arguing that the Brexit referendum result should be ignored. As the nation-wide party most completely opposed to Brexit, the LibDems are arguing that the final result of negotiations should be subject to a vote by the democratically elected House of Commons. And they’re currently seeking a popular mandate for this to happen. What is remotely undemocratic about that?

Victor said...

Nick J

One more point....

I suggest that there is a chance (but only a chance) that Martin Schulz could pull Macron leftwards because Germany has by far the more successful economy and because every French president since de Gaulle has seen the German chancellor as his most important partner.

I also suggest it because both Schulz and Macron share a commitment to reinvigorating European integration and to imposing a stringent settlement on Britain. This should make Macron keen to dovetail his policies with those of Schulz on other matters.

And I suggest it simply because, as an "Enarch" and, hence, a quintessential insider, Macron will be tempted to align himself with whatever becomes the EU's dominant meme over the next few years.

Schulz is a genuinely interesting man of the sort that modern party politics rarely bring to prominence. It's almost always a bad bet investing hope in any individual politician. But he has ever so slight a whiff of Bernie Sanders about him.

Guerilla Surgeon said...

Victor. You forgot authoritarianism. But you are correct about Le Pen jr.'s trying to put lipstick on a pig. I do believe she's just fired someone for Holocaust denial. It tends to be a modern aspect of fascism, all too often associated with anti-Semitism, but sometimes characterised merely as "fringe".

Nick J said...

Enlightenment indeed Victor, well presented. I would add that from my personal viewpoint after 60 years observation is that all humans and consequently institutions contain multiple influences and characteristics. I would contend that it is possible to act concurrently in both fascist and democrat manner, we are that complex.

Where in the world is democracy stronger than in Europe you ask? I am not sure that this is any longer a valid question, democracy in Europe seems to mirror its development worldwide as form of agreeing assent for the citizen to be ruled. It would appear that equally in Europe as in the rest of the world that the individual assent has been compromised by corporate interest groups (yes corporates not just business corporations). The individual has I would argue less voting power over his/her assent than at any period since 1945. I am going on instinct and observation, I cannot prove this empirically.

At heart this diminution of the individual seems to be why I maybe misinterpret, or misrepresent the current democratic systems as becoming fascist. They certainly no longer in my belief have democracy as the single fundamental guiding principle which is why I suspect the ballot box success of Brexit, Trump, Le Pen etc is as much a democratic "kick in the balls" from the dis-empowered as it is a triumph for those you identify as "fascoid".

With Europe in general I remember well as a schoolboy the arguments for and against Britain joining the European Common Market. They aim of the European Community was by then transforming into an economic union, as opposed to a manner of unifying / moderating Europe from German dominance and Communist expansion. Britain saw the whole thing in post imperial economic terms, they did not foresee or agree to loss of sovereignty, or diminution of local democracy in favour of the then unborn bureaucratic behemoth that is Brussels. At heart I suspect that this is the core issue facing Europe today. Nobody gave consent for what has evolved / developed, and the ills of the system are blithely ignored by the beneficiaries. This as history tells us is a very fertile breeding ground for next gen reactionaries of Left and Right. Add to that the very festering example of Greece versus the Euro banking system then there is plenty of s**t to heat the compost.

Macron I know very little of, nice run down of where they are. Le Pen, not desirable at all, however we might ask the question seeing as how these types are appearing everywhere, is she the zeitgeist? There is a strong scent in the breeze.

Victor said...


I never claimed to be giving a comprehensive list. But, you're right. 'authoritarianism' was big one to miss out.

Another big one I missed was 'mass movement'. Fascists don't just want to rule you. They want to make you part of their movement and active (if uncritical) participants in what they see as their and their nation's onward march. They may not be democratic but they are, in this sense, part of the democratic age of mass involvement. And, when they can, they like winning elections. Plebiscites are even nicer.

In this sense, Prince Metternich was not a fascist and nor was his latter-day panegyrist, Henry Kissinger, which only goes to show that not all bad guys are fascists.

Nick J

I would agree with you that democracy is largely, these days, a matter of passive consent and that fewer and fewer of us have much of a sense of controlling our own destinies.

However, I think this trend predates the start of neo-liberal dominance. In fact, I recall it looming large in the 50s and 60s, when it was linked to "managerialism", a sickness perceived as afflicting, above all, governmental organisations and government-backed industries. Hence that recurrent sub-theme of the students' revolts of the 1960s, viz. the call for more "participation".

To my way of thinking, our sense of powerlessness is largely the product of the sheer size of modern organisations (both governmental and private) and their consequent bureaucratisation, a trend now reinforced by technology. But, I would agree, we have rendered ourselves even less powerful by allowing neo-liberal privatisation to seal-off ever increasing areas of life from the purlieu of democratic choice and debate.

The dominance of commercial models (as encouraged by neo-liberalism)has also corrupted our sense of what politics is all about. We have become consumers instead of citizens, in a world of showy, insubstantial hucksterism and celebrity flim-flam. No wonder we vote for rulers of palpable shallowness, whom we would never dream of taking seriously.

But, although I would agree that what we now call democracy is a poor shadow of what, say, nineteenth century radicals or early twentieth century socialists fought for, I really don't see much that's fascistic about it, unless you're using the term as an all-purpose form of abuse.

In contrast, many of today's populist stirrers are fascist in the sense that I've discussed in my previous post. And, yes, they have stirred a voters' revolt that is democratic in the sense intimated in my above response to GS. That doesn't mean that I don't think they're profoundly mistaken both on the issues that preoccupy them and in the leaders whom they've chosen to trust. Nor, long term, do I think their revolt good for democracy.

Is it elitist of me to take this view? By no means! I'm as entitled to my opinions as anyone else and, if I think the majority is wrong on any issue, then I have the right to say so!

As to the EU, I appreciate that it's had a very bad press in the Anglophone world. But I continue to see it as a largely benificent organisation. And, who knows? It might , ultimately, be strengthened by getting rid of Britain, which has long acted as a millstone round its neck. First, though, the EU has to get past the French and German elections.

Victor said...

Nick J

I should add that however poor a creature our democracy has become,it remains, in Churchill's words, "the worst form of government apart from all the others".

I don't know about you, but I have no desire to live in Belarus or Zimbabwe.

Is Marine the new Zeitgeist? Perhaps. If so, the Zeit is out of joint, and dangerously so.

Victor said...

Nick J

Whilst I'm thinking about it....although the institutional machinery of democracy might not, where it exists, ensure as much choice as it might have done earlier in the post-war epoch, it's nevertheless undeniable that this machinery exists in a considerably larger number of countries, as compared to (say) 1970.

In Europe alone, this means that there is now more democracy than heretofore in Spain, Portugal, Greece, Albania, Croatia, Serbia, Slovenia, Montenegro, Bosnia, Bulgaria, Romania, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, as well as in approximately a quarter of Germany.

I'd add Ukraine to the list were it not that I don't want to get sidetracked into yet another argument with the "Moscow is always right" brigade. I could, though, also add France, as de Gaulle's successors have often had to contend with "cohabitation", which has made them, ipso facto, less dictatorial than the Fifth Republic's formidable founder.

I doubt that you'll come across many Spaniards who would argue that they had more say in their destinies under Franco than they have now. Ditto, for all its current problems, Greece under the colonels.

And though you might want more from your political system than mere government by consent, government without consent is hardly a desirable option.

Nick J said...


Cant fault your overall assessment, you state it far more thoroughly than me. And yes the zeit is decidedly out of joint. Those who voted for the zeit worry me most: when they discover that they have been "had", it does not mean that they will revert to former models. The revolutionmay then demand blood and begin to devour who?

Just a little addition, yes the disengagement with democracy goes back a long way, I am thinking that Bernays influence might just be a key to this.

Victor said...


I seem to have gone on a bit. But it's good to discover we're on more or less the same track.