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A Common Populism: Trump, Le Pen and Putin: Do they Portent the Beginning of the End for the EU? A Common Populism: Trump, Le Pen and Putin: Do they Portent the Beginning of the End for the EU?
by Dr. Emanuel Paparella
2017-01-22 12:40:23
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“The Brussels wall will have come down just like the Berlin wall came down. The EU, this oppressive model, will have disappeared. But the Europe of free nations will have been born… The EU should not last more than two minutes longer.”

                                                                                                                                   –Marine Le Pen

Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s far right National Front, seems poised to become the next President of France in 2018. Political pundits are predicting her victory following Donald Trump’s victory in the US. They aver that Trump’s populism has paved the way for a veritable political revolution in Europe which portends to reshape the existing world order.

How so? Well, for one thing, Le Pen wants the EU to withdraw from NATO, alleging that it would end American dominance in Europe. She repeats Trump’s assertion that NATO is now obsolete, and has in fact declared publicly that Trump’s victory makes such a feat quite possible now. To her way of thinking, NATO is a “tool for making sure countries that are part of it comply with the will of the United States.” She finds this unbearable. What would she substitute it with? She has some interesting proposals in this regard. She has called for “cooperation agreements” with Russia with close cooperation between European capitals and Moscow. In other words, Washington gets substituted with Moscow. She claims that there is “absolutely no reason we should turn systematically to the United States.”

This may sound a bit incoherent. She sees Trump’s victory as an additional stone in the building of a new world order but at the same time wants the EU to take its distance from the US. How does Le Pen square this circle? Thus: “Obviously we have to compare this victory [Trump’s] with the rejection of the European constitution by the French people, of course, with the Brexit vote, but also with the emergence of movements devoted to the nation—patriotic movements in Europe. All these elections are essentially referendums against the unfettered globalization that has been imposed upon us, that has been imposed upon people, and today has been clearly shown to have its limits.” That is to say, she sees Trump’s victory as a “victory of the people against the elite.” This of course is populism at its best, or perhaps its worst.

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What is most intriguing about the above glaring statements is that they seem to reveal a mind-set quite similar to that displayed by Trump and Putin. All three seems to have quite a few affinities and seem to like each other. The major affinity seems to be this: they see the political struggles currently going on as struggles of civilizations against each other. Le Pen is on record as saying that next year’s presidential election in France would “establish some real choices of civilization.” She made such a statement in the context of a lashing out against the EU and its immigrant policies based on open borders. She added: “Do we want a multicultural society, following the model of the English-speaking world, where fundamentalist Islam is progressing…or do we want an independent nation, with people able to control their own destiny, or do we accept to be a region, managed by the technocrats of the European Union?”

She has gone as far as comparing the European Union to the Soviet Union: “I don’t see why we should recreate, virtually, this wall between European countries and Russia, unless to obey the orders of the United States,  which up until now, have found an interest in this.” She has moreover blamed the EU and the US for destabilizing Europe’s relations with Russia, and has claimed that there is not “a hair’s breath” between her party and the UKIP regarding immigration and the European Union. Keep well in mind that Russia is currently footing the bill for her campaign expenses.

What can one conclude from the above analysis? It could prove useful in answering this crucial question: is this the beginning of the end of the world order established after World War II with its culmination the formation of the European Union and the NATO Alliance? To put it another way: is this the beginning of the breakdown of European stability? Let’s attempt an answer beginning with some historical background in a rather personal mode.

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Back in the 50s, when I was a teen-ager, still living in Italy, when the EU institutions were still fragile, I remember writing an essay launched by the lyceum I was attending at the time, where I opined that I was rather skeptcal that the Western Alliance and the European Union would ever take off. In the 70s I was living and studying in the US (where my father was born) and lived through the Vietnam War and read the news about the Red Brigades, and began having doubts again about the survival of the West. I was then in college and was reading books like “The Decline of the West” by Oswald Spengler. That might have influenced me. But in all my adult life I am hard pressed to remember a dramatic moment such as the one we are now witnessing. All we need now is for good men to do nothing and the decline and possible destruction of the West is pretty much assured.

I hope I am wrong, but, following Trump’s inauguration on January 20, 2017, with a President, so called, totally uninterested in “shared values” with our allies (“not worth American lives” as he puts it), seeming to prefer the company of dictators such as Putin with whom he can make deals, to that of democratic allies, deeming the geo-political world as a huge transactional stage to be exploited on which to negotiate deals, incapable of conceiving the greater good, it would appear that  we are two or three bad elections away from the end of NATO, the end of the European Union, and possibly the end of the liberal world order. The almost inevitable consequence will be the return of nefarious ultra-nationalism and fascism in Europe and the loss of democracy in America. Putin and his Trojan horses all over Europe are waiting in the wing. Their strategy is simple: divide and conquer.  

To repeat the urgent question: are the lights going out; is it the end of the West as we presently know it?

What I call “the Caligua Presidency” constituted by political entertainment and double talk, has begun, people unfortunately end up getting the government they deserve and the monsters they have created. The omens are bad, but let’s not forget Le Pen. She is now the front runner in next year’s French presidential elections and she also finds alliances burdensome. Some of her campaign commitments are that she will withdraw from both NATO and the EU, will nationalize French companies, will restrict foreign investors, will promote a special relationship with Russia, the same Russia whose banks are funding her election campaign.  

The question persists: is Le Pen at least partially right in considering what is going on a civilizational breakdown? More specifically: once France is out of the EU too (after Brexit), possibly followed by other copycats, can Europe’s economic single market survive in any shape or form? Will NATO and the Atlantic Alliance crumble? Trump of course will not be sorry for that, as his misguidedly appealing rhetoric to his misguided followers has made clear; indeed, the short term cost of alliances is easier to see and assess than the longer-term benefits. Let’s not forget that his span of attention is that of the time needed to write a tweet.

There is little doubt that shared economic space, nuclear deterrence via the NATO alliance, and standing armies, while being costly short term, produced more than half a century of political stability and prosperity in Europe and North America. We all take those benefits for granted now, until they are gone for good.

Those who have ears to hear, let them hear. 

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Emanuel Paparella2017-01-22 13:32:20
A footnote to the above:

one of the above mentioned Trojan Horses of Putin executing a strategy of “divide and conquer” is located in Italy via the Lega Nord Party, which aims at seceding from Italy, abandon the EU and NATO, and begin the process of establishing closer relations with Putin, in effect substituting Moscow for Washington. Its present leader is Matteo Salvini. One of his advisors, Gianluca Savoini, was interviewed recently by Andrè de Marenches and the interview appeared in Modern Diplomacy on January 16, 2017. Among other things reiterating those ideas Savoini said that “NATO has no more reason to exist,” also this: “2017 might truly be the decisive year in the history of Europe…Trump and Brexit, I hope they are not signals into space.” Those statements speak for themselves.


M. Andreacchio2017-01-23 00:21:51
Post-WWII Western history is characterized by the progressive and systematic massive exportation of slavery/war in the non-Western world. Local relative stability has come at the twofold price of horrors abroad (not least of them the rise of the Chinese Pyramid) and internal dissolution of political conscience/order. The fact that the new West’s unification has been conceived as grounded in techno-economics is not an accident. The « common good » it recognizes is no medieval SUMMUM BONUM, but a marketable currency (not that the medieval dream should be reinstated). The freedom spoken of by modern « liberals » is by no means the fruit of virtue, but of financial exploitation.

There is an alternative West, a conservative West that stands for Democracy, rather than for mass-democracy; for a freedom rooted in necessary or natural Principles independent of the tide of the times, rather than in self-referential or vain promises of a future Triumph of a global Will.

Trump’s rhetoric is clearly sounder than that of Globalization's demagogic/populist heralds. He speaks of the primacy of national interests over international ones. This makes eminently sense, especially in the face of the falling apart of national political orders. The appeal to international governments/authority is failing or has failed to make up for the dissolution of internal, national civil consciences; why the two have gone systematically hand in hand.

In fact, arguably in a dire attempt of escaping nihilism, Western nations have tended to (re)ground or hypostatize themselves in the empty shell of international governments—as if these Castles in the Sky could replace low but solid ground. As if Bruxelles could or should result more credible to an ordinary Italian than Rome. (For an important antecedent, compare the relation between Sicilian and French-backed Turin authorities in Di Lampedusa's IL GATTOPARDO.)

As for the TRUE COMMON GOOD, this is the Good of The People of EVERY Nation as an independent entity unwilling to let its Identity be defined by any Global elite.

The fact that Western Nations may be letting go of their Globalist pretenses need not translate in the rise of Western Dictatorships, even though these are likely to fill a political vacuum wherever or to the extent that national identities have already been turned into a hollow function of international dreams.

Of course, if economic international governments were the primary guarantors against the rise of Western Dictatorships (though they need NOT be), then what awaits us would be a pretty rough ride.



Emanuel Paparella2017-01-23 13:13:16
The rough ride began in German democracy in the early 30s and in Italian Constitutional Monarchy in the early 20s and ended up in an unmitigated disaster. In fact, the ultra-nationalist remarks by Mr. M. Andreacchio above, could easily be imagined coming from the Frankenstein monster called Mussolini. Now of course we have our own brand neo-monsters: Trump, Putin, Salvini, Le Pen, etc. pullulating all over the EU, preparing the second unmitigated disaster called World War III which may well end the West as we know it.


Emanuel Paparella2017-01-23 14:04:18
A follow-up to the above comment by M. Andreacchio:

there is a misguided reference to the novel The Leopard by Giuseppe di Lampedusa in the above comment which can only be construed as a gross misunderstanding and misconstruing of that famous novel. That novel is not in any sense a defense of populism, of the people inveighing against the elites and organizers of the new nations; rather, it is more of a reflection by an aristocrat in observing the mixing of knowledge and ignorance, good taste and vulgarity, truth and utility, as the new bourgeoisie class (Don Calogero) takes over and supplants the old aristocracy so that “the hyenas and the jackals will mix with the lions and the leopards…” One can take issue with the fact that the novel champions elitism, (as Tancredi puts: what difference does it make uncle, we are just substituting one king--that of Turin--with another…), but to claim that it champions the people and their democratic claims, and their right to choose their own destiny, is an unadulterated fabrication.


M. Andreacchio2017-01-24 13:32:23
Mr Paparella, you are placing a foul argument in your interlocutor's mouth. Your demonizing of your interlocutor's intervention seems to be based upon your crude reduction of republicanism to statism.


Emanuel Paparella2017-01-25 11:51:01
Indeed,"foul argument,"crude reduction," as unsupported generalizations ex catedra, thrown on the wall to see if they stick...worthy of the fact free, alternate facts, post truth Trumpan era, in which we live and have our being nowadays.


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