The political class is in a panic, and not just in this country. From the hollowed out cities of the Rust Belt to the vineyards of France and Italy, a new nationalism is on the rise, threatening not only the perks and privileges of the managerial elites but also challenging the parameters of the post-World War II international order. Trump’s revolution in the US is but the latest and most dramatic example of an international trend that we saw manifested in the victory of the Brexit campaign, and now in the stunning transformation of the political landscape in France and Italy.
In France, the political parties of the left are in disarray, as the triumph of Francois Fillon – a populist figure who rejects the traditional statism and internationalism of the sclerotic Socialists and their conservative doppelgangers – in France’s Republican party primary dramatically illustrates. The polls are telling us that the French will face a general election choice of Fillon versus Marine Le Pen, the candidate of the National Front, a hard-line nationalist party. Both are anti-EU, and are hostile to NATO’s anti-Russian campaign.
In Italy, the government of Prime Minister Mateo Renzi is seeking “reforms” that would turn the Italian Senate into a consultative body, with no real power, and impose super-centralizing legislation that would take authority away from local governments and hand it to Rome. Renzi has said he will resign if these “reforms” aren’t approved by the electorate – and the rising populist party known as Five Stars has taken up his challenge.
Subjected to a smear campaign by all the usual suspects, Five Star is anti-EU, anti-open borders, and wants peace with Russia – a stance media outlets like BuzzFeed find intolerable. Fresh from a smear campaign purporting to show that the stars of the popular HGTV show “Fixer Upper” are “homophobes,” one wonders when editor @BuzzFeedBen and his crew will start telling us HGTV is a Russian plot to infiltrate American culture with Putinesque design ideas. Is shiplap subversive? Stay tuned, folks!
The Establishment media is naturally hostile to these populist movements, but that only fuels their momentum. Like Russians of the Soviet era, who simply took everything they read in Pravda to be a lie, the awakened masses of Europe and America simply disregard – or invert — everything outlets like CNN and BuzzFeed “report” as news.
In the Netherlands, the anti-EU party of Geert Wilders – who is on trial for daring to question the propriety of importing tens of thousands of immigrant Muslims – is slated to come in first in the upcoming elections. In Austria, the Freedom Party, which is anti-statist, pro-business, and anti-EU, is also leading or tied in the polls. In Poland and Hungary, nationalist parties hostile to the EU are currently in power. Even in Germany, which has long been the epicenter of pro-EU sentiment, we see the rise of nationalist parties that threaten the status quo: Angela Merkel’s opening of Germany to hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the Middle East is enormously unpopular, and the anti-Russian foreign policy imposed on the Merkel government by Washington is also being questioned on the right as well as the left.
These parties and movements all have their national particularities, but they have one thing in common: they uphold the primacy of national sovereignty, a concept that has been anathema to the transnational elites that have been making policy in much of the West since the end of the cold war. And in Western Europe, they are uniformly opposed to the resumption of the cold war, which is the latest international crusade being pushed by the War Party.
This reluctance to get on board the cold war train is a source of much of the Establishment’s ire: a recent piece in the New York Times reporting on the rise of nationalism in France focuses on this aspect of the new trend. The headline reads: “French Election Hints at a European Shift Toward Russia.” For the Times, it’s all about the alleged threat emanating from the east:
“The victory of François Fillon in France’s center-right presidential primary is the latest sign that a tectonic shift is coming to the European order: toward accommodating, rather than countering, a resurgent Russia.
“Since the end of World War II, European leaders have maintained their ever-growing alliance as a bulwark against Russian power. Through decades of ups and downs in Russian-European relations, in periods of estrangement or reconciliation, their balance of power has kept the continent stable.
“But a growing movement within Europe that includes Mr. Fillon, along with others of a more populist bent, is pushing a new policy: instead of standing up to President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia, stand with him.”
Note how this is all framed by the “resurgent Russia” trope. Yet as John Mearsheimer points out:
“The good news is that no country is strong enough to dominate Europe or the Gulf for the foreseeable future. Germany’s power will decline over time, mainly because of its shrinking population, while Russia has similar demographic problems and an economy that is too dependent on gas and oil revenues. Even if Russia modernizes its economy and its population grows in the years ahead – big ifs – it will still be unable to project significant military power beyond eastern Europe. And even then, the Europeans themselves can afford to build the military forces necessary to check Moscow’s ambitions. Thus, the Trump administration should encourage the Europeans to take responsibility for their own security, while gradually reducing the remaining U.S. troops there.”
The US and Russia have common interests: fighting terrorism, solving the Syria imbroglio, and successfully integrating both Iran and China into the international community. The Europeans recognize this: the Americans are beginning to recognize it. The nationalist tides that are battering the liberal internationalist order don’t require an enemy, i.e. “resurgent Russia.”
That’s because these nationalist movements are not expansionist, for the most part: they don’t dream of empire-building, but rather of maintaining and strengthening their respective homelands. France for the French – Britain first – Austria for the Austrians – America first: these are the bywords of the new rebels who are challenging the “New World Order” of our transnational elites.
And isn’t it about time?
I’ve been predicting this, in one form or another, since the inception of this web site. In 2001, I wrote: “Something’s in the wind. From the rocky shores of the Sea of Japan to the sandy beaches of the Adriatic, a new and benevolent form of nationalism is on the rise: not the dark irredentism that infected prewar Germany and the comic-opera totalitarianism of Mussolini’s Italy, but an international trend on the right” that I called “market nationalism.”
In one of my first postings, published sometime in 1995, I foretold the reaction of the elites to this rising trend:
“The builders of a "New World Order" may have their little disagreements: left-wing internationalists want to redistribute America’s wealth to the Third World and worship at the shrine of the UN, while their "right-wing" counterparts of the neo-conservative variety, call for global intervention under our own flag. But on one issue they are united: all agree that nationalism, of whatever hue, is the enemy and must be utterly crushed.”
No, I didn’t predict the rise of Trump, but in 2000 I came close:
“The whole post-Cold War trend of conservative thought in the foreign policy realm is away from the aggressive internationalism of the Reagan era and toward something closer to the original vision of the Founders….
“Opposition to internationalism run amok, and the desire to return, at long last, to the foreign policy of the Founders, is the inevitable result of the end of the Cold War. It is not isolationism, but a new nationalism which is sweeping the country That it is threatening the hegemony of the two-party monopoly is cause for celebration, and hope.”
There’s a lot more of that in the archives, but you get the idea: if you want tomorrow’s news today, you’ve come to the right web site.
Yes, there are dangers as well as opportunities in this new international trend: nationalism can turn ugly, especially some of the European varieties, which can easily degenerate into primitive tribalism. In America, it’s a different story: since the American revolution established the foundations of the first fully free society on earth, in this context consistent nationalism is inherently libertarian.
The new nationalism is succeeding in one important sense: it is neutralizing the efforts of our elites, and their European counterparts, to re-start the cold war with Russia. This has been the principal danger to world peace since the end of the George W. Bush administration, and the War Party is not pleased with recent developments, to say the least.
It’s up to us, the proponents of a noninterventionist foreign policy, to build on the momentum of these new trends in world politics – and the first step in doing so is getting some understanding of what this all means. That’s our job here at Antiwar.com — but we can’t do it without your support.
The “mainstream” media is financed by corporate giants who have a vested interest in maintaining the status quo: for example, BuzzFeed, always ready to smear anti-interventionists as “Russian agents,” and one of the chief perpetrators of the “fake news”/pro-censorship campaign, was recently refinanced to the tune of $200,000,000 by NBC-Universal. We, on the other hand, depend on … you, our readers and supporters, for the funding we need to keep going.
The War Party wants to stamp out the alternative media by any means necessary: a smear campaign, a call to Facebook and Twitter to ban us, and even government action have all been invoked. They’re desperate because they’re losing, and they know it.
We, on the other hand, are winning – or, at least, the way is being paved for our ultimate victory. We can change American foreign policy and turn it away from the path of untrammeled aggression it has taken in the post-9/11 years. But we need your help – your financial help – to make it happen.
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.