Total fertility rates in Europe (children per woman), 2010. (Source: Eurostat)
My early political thought was in large part opposed to the “myth” of the demographic collapse of Europe, particularly as promoted by American neoconservatives and other Anglo-chauvinists, supposedly caused by spirit-killing effects of “liberalism” (welfarism-socialism), which, tied with Muslim immigration, would lead to “Eurabia.” These writers were taking a grain of truth, and as propagandists and vulgar polemicists are skilled at doing, turned this into an unadulterated fantasy pandering to the prejudices of their readers.
But there was a grain of truth. In whole swathes of Europe, entire nations, people have lost the will to reproduce themselves and/or are fleeing their country for prosperity elsewhere. This dramatic trend, which is affecting virtually all of Southern and Eastern Europe, will significantly change Europe’s internal balance of power and the continent’s relationship with the world. Italy, Portugal, Spain, Greece, Cyprus, Latvia, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania and virtually all of the Balkans are just some the “childless and jobless” countries which risk falling into econo-demographic death traps.
Marine Le Pen at a May 2012 Front National rally after finishing third in the presidential elections.
This is a guide to the French far-right nationalist party the Front National, based on numerous interviews, articles and polls. It also covers broader issues of French attitudes towards their democracy, immigration and Muslims. It is composed of the following subheadings:
What is the Front National?
Is support for the Front National growing?
Do the French agree with the Front National?
Where does support for the Front National come from?
What do French people care about? (It’s the economy, stupid.)
Conclusion: Permanent protest or a party of Government?
Last January a poll claimed that 87% of French said they wanted “a real leader in France to restore order.” The media were equally alarmed with a poll the same month which found that a majority of French thought there were too many immigrants, that Muslims had too many rights, that the police were not tough enough, and that “traditional values” were insufficiently defended. Most remarked upon was that 31% of people said they “completely or mostly agreed with the ideas” of France’s far-right party, the Front National.
A typical, and unsurprising, response was that I was idealizing national democracy today. This is a legitimate point of discussion. The fact is that virtually nowhere is classic Western-style liberal democracy working well, at least not in the North American and Western European heartlands. This suggests there are broader trends at work affecting all these countries.
The eurozone is an easy target as it is formally undemocratic (elected representatives of the people have no say over monetary policy, soon will have limited “wiggle room” for budgetary policy, as Jörg Asmussen puts it, and eventually the same for wage, labor and general economic policies). But euro-critics need to answer the charge: isn’t it necessary that national democracy itself to have become heavily dysfunctional for 17 national democracies to create the euro-regime? The eurozone may be merely an aggravating factor or the most open expression of democratic decline in the West.
I write this post to further a debate I’ve had with Leigh Phillips on his Austerityland blog and Twitter. It was supposed to be a mere summary of our debate. It’s grown into an opusculo developing the extent of my thought today on democracy in the Twenty-First Century. I add it is only an interpretation given my vantage point and others are possible.
In short, the question is: Do we really need to break up the euro? To which I answer, if one is attached to democratically accountable economic policymaking and moderately progressive, Keynesian economics, simply yes.
This post seeks to document, and partly explain, collaboration between the United States of America and Western European states (most being democracies founded under U.S. protection after World War II) in military and political interventions in the Balkans and the Third World.
I am more and more optimistic these days. I say this even as, or especially because, of the ever-worse economic figures. Even as EU leaders are declaring the “end of crisis” and are hailed by the markets for saying with apparent conviction they’ll “do whatever it takes,” we find out the eurozone’s recession accelerated at the end of last year shrinking -0.6% annually in Q4 and with ever-higher unemployment at 11.9% now spreading even to core countries like Austria and the Netherlands.
Why does this make me optimistic? Here is Emmanuel Todd (one of the few French intellectuals worth listening to):
The euro is not an economic problem but a psychological one. The right comparison is with the Algerian War. Like back then, the ruling classes knew they had failed. But it took four years for de Gaulle to get us out of there. Why can’t we grant the same credit to Hollande? He arrived saying: “I’m going to keep the euro.” Just like de Gaulle had said: “Algeria will stay French.” I have one reason to hope, the interest that Hollande has shown on questions of medical relentlessness [at] the end of life [e.g. not keeping the fatally ill alive beyond all reason]: the euro could be his warm-up!
Euro-lemmings charge for “MOAR EUROPE!” By Matador, El Tiempo, Colombia.
The phrase “more Europe” should be abolished from our vocabulary. I know it is an utterly futile wish. The need for “more Europe” is something repeated ad nauseam by Brussels-based MEPs and commissioners, generally when they have nothing of substance to say. The German media and political class, among others, are also big on the idea. Der Spiegel reports that “more Europe” is “the official stance of almost all German political parties [in] response to the crisis”. In the words of Deutsche Welle, “For months, [German Chancellor Angela] Merkel has stressed the need for more Europe to solve the debt crisis.” There is international consensus too, as when Merkel met with French President François Hollande in Paris in June to show their common will for “more Europe” and “deepening the economic and monetary union”. My what a wunderbar consensus we have!
While tax cuts for the rich are being maintained, or expanded, across the Western world, France’s Socialist President François Hollande is doing something unthinkable: reducing the deficit by taxing the rich. And the Anglo-American business press and the “1%” are terrified the idea will spread.