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Generational Dynamics Web Log for 20-Apr-2017
20-Apr-17 World View -- EU officials increasingly fear a Marine Le Pen upset victory in France's elections

Web Log - April, 2017

20-Apr-17 World View -- EU officials increasingly fear a Marine Le Pen upset victory in France's elections

The threat to the 'European project'

by John J. Xenakis

This morning's key headlines from

EU officials increasingly fear a Marine Le Pen upset victory in France's elections

Far-right politicians: Marine Le Pen of France, and Brexit champion Nigel Farage of Britain (AFP)
Far-right politicians: Marine Le Pen of France, and Brexit champion Nigel Farage of Britain (AFP)

Marine Le Pen, leader of France's far-right Front National party is still considered to be a very long shot to become the next president of France, but it's no longer considered an impossibility, mainly because of three factors: the unexpected passage of the Brexit referendum in Britain last year, the unexpected election of Donald Trump in the US last year, and a trend of rising nationalistic, xenophobic political parties in countries across Europe in recent years.

The first round of the presidential elections will be held on Sunday, April 23. There are 11 candidates, so it's almost impossible for anyone to win by getting over 50% of the vote. The top two candidates will then take part in a runoff election on May 7, to determine the final winner. President François Hollande, a Socialist, has had abysmal popularity ratings, and so has chosen not to run for a second term, a decision unprecedented in modern times.

The polls put the top four candidates at around 20% each. Emmanuel Macron is the youngest, a 39-year-old former investment banker, and former economy minister under Hollande. He's considered to be the favorite among the mainstream "globalist" European politicians.

The early favorite was Republican François Fillon, but his support has crashed because of a scandal where he allegedly arranged for his wife to receive a large salary for a job that required little or no work.

Jean-Luc Mélenchon is the far-left candidate, a kind of political mirror image of Marine Le Pen, though not entirely. Le Pen is anti-immigration, while Mélenchon is pro-immigration, but the two candidates do agree on one important issue: Neither of them likes the euro currency.

Although Le Pen could flame out in the first round, it's widely expected that she will be one of the two leading candidates. Mainstream politicians are hoping a second round matching Le Pen with Macron. In that case, it's expected that Macron will pick up voters from the candidates that have dropped out, while Le Pen's core group of supporters would stay the same, with the result that Macron would defeat Le Pen by a wide margin.

The scenario that most fear is that in the first round on Sunday, the two winners would be the two extremes, the far-right Le Pen and the far-left Mélenchon. This would be considered a disaster for the eurozone, as either one would like to return to the original French franc currency.

After last year's unexpected Brexit and Trump victories, there's a great deal of anxiety among European politicians who fear that anything could happen. BBC and Market Pulse and Foreign Policy and Euro News and Daily Signal

Marine Le Pen fights accusations of anti-Semitism

Marine Le Pen is the current leader of the Front National party, which had a strong history of anti-Semitism under its previous leader and founder, Marine Le Pen's father, Jean-Marie Le Pen, a Holocaust denier.

At some point, she came to the conclusion that she and the Front National party could not become successful without completely breaking with its anti-Semitic past. She did so by breaking with her father, and banning him from the party. She has not repeated any of her father's anti-Semitic remarks, and has even condemned them. But in interviews, she's always asked about Jewish issues, and her answers are always heavily scrutinized by a mainstream press that is as consumed with hostility to her as with Donald Trump.

One of the most controversial examples occurred in a recent interview where she insisted that France was not responsible for a July 1942 atrocity known as "Vel d'Hiv," where French officials rounded up 13,000 Jews and turned them over to the Nazis to be deported to Auschwitz. She had to scramble to explain that the "real" French government at that time was in exile, while the perpetrators of the atrocity were the puppet government in Paris under Nazi control.

In fact, Le Pen has appealed to Jewish voters by saying that she's best support of Jews because she's so strongly opposed to Muslim immigrants, essentially using one form of xenophobia to claim that she's innocent of another form of xenophobia. It's quite a remarkable argument.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, there are two important things to be noted here, things that I've written about many times.

First, nationalism and xenophobia do not come ftom the politicians. They come from the people. If Marine Le Pen had not stepped forward to represent anti-Muslim and possibly anti-Semitic voters, then someone else would have done so, because the people were demanding it.

What a politician can do is represent nationalistic and xenophobic voters, but then do everything possible to ameliorate the worst abuses of those attitudes. As I've noted in the past, Donald Trump has backed off from his early remarks about Mexicans and Muslims, and appears to have adopted a course that takes into account the anxieties of his supporters, while preventing any abuses from taking place. Theresa May in Britain is similarly trying to chart a course that accommodates Brexit supporters, while avoiding total disaster for Britain's economy.

The second important point is that nationalism and xenophobia are growing around the world. Whether it's Chinese vs Japanese, Chinese vs Vietnamese, Buddhists vs Rohingyas in Myanmar, Hindus vs Muslims in Kashmir, or Sunnis vs Shias in the Mideast, nationalism and xenophobia have been growing around the world, in one country after another. This is what always happens in a generational Crisis era, and it always leads to major wars or world wars. The Local (France) and Books and Ideas and Atlantic and News Max

The threat to the 'European project'

The phrase "European Project" refers to the efforts, begun in the 1950s, to take steps to prevent another massive war in Europe.

It's hard today to remember the mood of the public in those days. Here's what Hannah Arendt wrote in her 1950 book, The Origins of Totalitarianism:

"Two world wars in one generation, separated by an uninterrupted chain of local wars and revolutions, followed by no peace treaty for the vanquished and no respite for the victor, have ended in the anticipation of a third World War between the two remaining world powers [America and the Soviet Union]. This moment of anticipation is like the calm that settles after all hopes have died. We no longer hope for an eventual restoration of the old world order with all its traditions, or for the reintegration of the masses of five continents who have been thrown into a chaos produced by the violence of wars and revolutions and the growing decay of all that has still been spared. Under the most diverse conditions and disparate circumstances, we watch the development of the same phenomena -- homelessness on an unprecedented scale, rootlessness to an unprecedented depth.

Never has our future been more unpredictable, never have we depended so much on political forces that cannot be trusted to follow the rules of common sense and self-interest -- forces that look like sheer insanity, if judged by the standards of other centuries. It is as though mankind had divided itself between those who believe in human omnipotence (who think that everything is possible if one knows how to organize masses for it) and those for whom powerlessness has become the major experience of their lives."

The purpose of the European Project was to prove that mankind was not completely powerless after all. If Europe could set up a new world order that would prevent the "sheer insanity" of another world war, then the European Project would succeed. This lead to the Treaty of Rome in 1957, and eventually to the formation of the European Union.

What we see today is huge centrifugal forces pulling the European Project apart.

Whether it's the Brexit referendum in Britain, Marine Le Pen in France, the "True Finns" in Finland, the Alternative for Germany (AfD) in Germany, the Golden Dawn party in Greece, the Jobbik party in Hungary, or any of the nationalistic movements in other European countries, what's become clear is that people, particularly young people, have no fear or concerns about the lessons learned in World War II. This is what Generational Dynamics tells us always happens.

In the last century, there were two world wars that destroyed Europe. The first World War was also devastating for Russia and the Mideast, while the second World War was also devastating for Japan and the Pacific. However, there were other massive wars in the last century, in Asia, in Africa, in the Americas. These wars of the last century are not well remembered by Americans, since Americans were not as heavily involved, but they're well remembered by the people of the countries that fought in them.

And that's just the last century. If you look at the earlier centuries -- the 1800s, the 1700s, the 1600s, the 1500s, and so forth -- there were also massive wars in Asia, Europe, the Mideast, Africa and the Americas in those centuries as well. No century has ever escaped this.

The point is that these huge, massive wars have not yet begun to occur in this century, and so people, especially young people, have come to believe that they never will. And yet, there's absolutely no hope of avoiding them. Anyone can see that the world has become increasingly unstable in the last 10 or 15 years, and that countries around the world have become increasingly nationalistic and xenophobic. It's like the world is a pressure cooker, ready to explode.

France enjoyed "La Belle Époque" starting in 1871, with advances in the arts rather than wars. That was the "Old World Order" that Hannah Arendt was talking about in the quote above. And yet, World War I exploded in 1914 completely without warning, when a high school student decided to shoot an Archduke of another country.

From the point of view of Generational Dynamics, Hannah Arendt was right -- that powerlessness is the major experience of our lives. Politicians are powerless to stop the flow of generations, as young, foolish generations displace older, traumatized, experienced generations, and repeat all the mistakes of the past, once again, over and over. BBC and Washington Post and AFP

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(Comments: For reader comments, questions and discussion, see the 20-Apr-17 World View -- EU officials increasingly fear a Marine Le Pen upset victory in France's elections thread of the Generational Dynamics forum. Comments may be posted anonymously.) (20-Apr-2017) Permanent Link
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