Whither France?

In the post-9/11 world, our attention has been fixated on the Middle East, Afghanistan, and the Arab states in the north of Africa. More recently, North Korea has been added to the mix, as Kim Jong-un’s antics capture the spotlight. And yet the world beyond the Mideast and Eastasia is in turmoil, and the media is taking a break from it obsessive focus on these two regions to notice.

In Europe, the French election has become a referendum on three interconnected issues: immigration, the European Union, and relations with Russia. In combination, these ideological flashpoints boil down to what I said on the subject last year: “The main issue in the world today is globalism versus national sovereignty, and it is playing out in the politics of countries on every continent.” As early as 2000, I predicted that the end of Communism would have to mean a political realignment along the lines were are seeing now:

“Now that the epic battle between Communism and capitalism has been decisively decided in favor of the latter, a new struggle of ‘isms’ is breaking out, this time between globalism and nationalism.”

Traditional notions of “left” and “right,” I wrote, were headed for oblivion, and the real divisions would arise between a transnational political class that is aggressive, “soft” authoritarian, and militantly internationalist, and insurgent nationalist movements arising from both sides of the political spectrum that would challenge the “world order” beloved by Western elites.

We are seeing that scenario play out now in the United States, and on a world scale, with the presidential election in France the latest battleground. What’s interesting is that all the major candidates except one – Emmanuel Macron, a “centrist” economist formerly a minister in a Socialist government – oppose the globalist design to varying degrees. Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the right-wing National Front, says she wants out of NATO, out of the EU, and opposes immigration. Jean-Luc Melenchon, the candidate of a movement he calls “France Unbowed,” is routinely branded “far-left,” wants out of NATO and advocates “renegotiating” the terms of France’s EU membership. Francois Fillon, the center-right candidate of the Republican party, beat out his more centrist Republican rivals, including former President Nicolas Sarkozy, on a platform of cutting back the public sector and repairing relations with Russia.

As the Putin-obsessed Washington Post put it: “Of the four candidates with a realistic chance to become France’s next president, three oppose Western sanctions against Russia. Two would take France out of NATO’s military command, or perhaps remove it from the alliance altogether.”

The globalists are in a panic: their “international architecture” of alliances is collapsing as those peasants with pitchforks storm the gates of the transnational bureaucracies. And the Davos crowd isn’t very imaginative in their defensive tactics: as in the US, they’re claiming Russian “interference.”

One story in the New York Times claimed that the instruments of this Russian intervention are two Moscow-subsidized web sites: RT, formerly Russia Today, and Sputnik. While acknowledging that the French audience for these sites is insubstantial, we’re told that the real threat comes from their content being shared “on social media.” So what’s being “shared” – and to what extent? The Times is mum on this subject.

As the election came down to the wire, Macron whined that the Russians hacked his web site: naturally, he didn’t offer any evidence to back up this assertion. Who needs evidence when you have an all-purpose villain to blame? Macron is offering the same amount of proof for his accusation that our own intelligence agencies did when they claimed the Russians hacked the Democratic National Committee and fooled John Podesta with a phishing email, i.e. precisely none.

The same nonsense is being repeated in the case of Germany, where Angela Merkel is facing a challenge from a new right-wing populist party, the Alternative for Germany slate, as well as from the German Social Democrats. Merkel has been dubbed “the leader of the free world” by the NATO/EU crowd, and once again Vladimir Putin is being portrayed as the sinister manipulator out to undermine the West.

As I approach my deadline, it looks like the French election has resulted in a Macron-Le Pen run-off, with Fillon endorsing Macron. Melenchon refused to endorse anyone. Le Pen may well claim a good portion of his support: voter defections from “far left” to “far right” are quite possible. A great deal of the National Front’s base consists of former Communist voters who are disaffected from the mainstream parties.

Despite the recent terrorist attack in Paris, and the National Front’s effort to distance itself from its more extremist elements, Le Pen only beat her father’s first round vote total by some 5 percent.

Whatever the end result, the battle lines across Europe and the rest of the world are clearly drawn: it’s internationalism versus the new nationalism, the elites versus the Great Unwashed. The failures of the latter have, I think, been due to the imperfect vessels of populist anger: Le Pen, for one, is still the leader of a party whose origins are dicey, to say the least.

In any case, the trend is clearly established, and the elites are thrown on the defense. Whether the populists can organize an effective challenge to their rule remains to be seen.

NOTES IN THE MARGIN

You can check out my Twitter feed by going here. But please note that my tweets are sometimes deliberately provocative, often made in jest, and largely consist of me thinking out loud.

I’ve written a couple of books, which you might want to peruse. Here is the link for buying the second edition of my 1993 book, Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement, with an Introduction by Prof. George W. Carey, a Foreword by Patrick J. Buchanan, and critical essays by Scott Richert and David Gordon (ISI Books, 2008).

You can buy An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard (Prometheus Books, 2000), my biography of the great libertarian thinker, here.

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Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo is the editorial director of Antiwar.com, and a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He is a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and writes a monthly column for Chronicles. He is the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].