Europe, right-wing extremism, and a frog stewing in its own juices

They say that if a frog is put into boiling water, it will jump out. But if it is put into cold water that is slowly heated, the frog will not perceive the danger and will be cooked to death.

Under cover of being a Eurosceptic, Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s National Front, is going for a purely self-serving power grab in the European Parliament. The Front’s agenda is right-wing, divisive, and racist. Le Pen is still in the process of slipping on her new mask in an effort to distance herself from the outright fascist politics of her father, Jean-Marie Le Pen. In this regard, she recently ruled out joining forces with other extreme-right parties such as Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary, and Ataka in Bulgaria. But that’s a case of la paille et la poutre, the French equivalent of the pot calling the kettle black.

Marie Le Pen has spent years trying to shake off the NF’s image as a refuge for fascist sympathisers. Now she is playing a crafty game of aligning the National Front with “a whole group of movements that are interested in taking part in a large political force whose aim would be to prevent any new move towards European federalism,” as she recently told a press conference. She means UKIP and its ilk. But that’s a cover story. She hopes to swing the European Union away from integration and towards fragmentation. Divide and conquer.

Newly empowered after her party won 25% of the European vote in France, Le Pen repeated her lunatic notion that the French Assemblée Nationale should be dissolved “because it no longer represents the French people.” She also demanded that France abandon the proposed Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership, veto Turkey’s entry into the European Union, and nationalise Alstom, the struggling French multinational that makes high-speed TGV trains and is currently the subject of takeover bids by General Electric and Siemens.

Marine Le Pen has been president of the far-right Front National (FN) – the third-largest political party in France – since 16 January 2011. A lawyer by profession, in the first round of the 2012 French presidential election she gained 17.9% of the votes. At the time, her success was attributed to her attempts to clean up the FN’s image and to make it more palatable on key issues other than immigration.

Recent survey data reveal that Le Pen’s supporters are ideologically and socially very similar to her father’s, but that she has garnered much more support from women. If this trend continues, and unless the other parties come up with a strong and more credible woman candidate, the FN’s electoral impact and influence could be greatly increased.

The National Front in France, Forza Nuova in Italy, Golden Dawn in Greece, Jobbik in Hungary, Ataka in Bulgaria, the People’s Party in Spain, and even the Swiss People’s Party in Cloud Cuckoo Land are the visible expression of right-wing extremism.

boiled_frogsLess obvious and more alarming are the number of ultra conservative and neo-Nazi groups in civil society who have nasty ideological convictions yet enormous influence.

In 2011 the highly respected Friedrich Ebert Stiftung published a lengthy report called Is Europe on the “Right” Path: Right-wing extremism and right-wing populism in Europe. Its editors pointed out that, “The goal of right-wing radicals is an ethnically homogeneous society. Thereby, the right-wing utopia of a homogeneous community promises to resolve social and individual problems by excluding ‘the guilty’ or ‘the others’. In this logic, all that is alien must be identified and ruled out in order to ensure the nation’s/the people’s survival.”

Where have we heard that before? Once again right-wing extremism is infiltrating and poisoning Europe’s democracies and societies.

Europe is a frog being boiled in its own complacency. Believing that fascism can be contained or controlled or appeased is what got us into the last unholy mess. It’s time to wake up, to leap out of the pan, and to act decisively.

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