[Marxism] Far Right Fever for a Europe Tied to Russia

Louis Proyect lnp3 at panix.com
Wed May 21 05:59:05 MDT 2014


NY Times, May 21 2014
Far Right Fever for a Europe Tied to Russia
By ANDREW HIGGINS

LE CHESNAY, France — At a rally last week near the Palace of Versailles, 
France’s largest far right party, the National Front, deployed all the 
familiar theatrics and populist themes of nationalist movements across 
Europe.

A standing-room-only crowd waved the national flag, joined in a 
boisterous singing of the national anthem and applauded as speakers 
denounced freeloading foreigners and, with particular venom, the 
European Union.

But the event, part of an energetic push for votes by France’s surging 
far right ahead of elections this week for the European Parliament, also 
promoted an agenda distant from the customary concerns of conservative 
voters: why Europe needs to break its “submission” to the United States 
and look to Russia as a force for peace and a bulwark against moral decay.

While the European Union has joined Washington in denouncing Russia’s 
annexation of Crimea and the chaos stirred by pro-Russian separatists in 
eastern Ukraine, Europe’s right-wing populists have been gripped by a 
contrarian fever of enthusiasm for Russia and its president, Vladimir V. 
Putin.

“Russian influence in the affairs of the far right is a phenomenon seen 
all over Europe,” said a study by Political Capital Institute, a 
Hungarian research group. It predicted that far right parties, 
“spearheaded by the French National Front,” could form a pro-Russian 
bloc in the European Parliament or, at the very least, amplify 
previously marginal pro-Russian voices.

Pro-Russian sentiment remains largely confined to the fringes of 
European politics, though Mr. Putin also has more mainstream admirers 
and allies on both the right and the left, including Silvio Berlusconi, 
the former Italian prime minister, and Gerhard Schröder, the former 
German chancellor. Mr. Putin’s authoritarian leanings and pugnacious 
nationalism have generated widespread and diverse opposition to him 
across Europe; at a gay pride event in Brussels on Saturday, marchers 
wore masks featuring Mr. Putin’s face, colored pink and daubed with blue 
eye shadow and red lipstick.

Even among far right groups, the sympathy for Russia and suspicion of 
Washington are in part tactical: Focused on clawing back power from the 
European Union’s bureaucracy, they seize any cause that puts them at 
odds with policy makers in Brussels and the conventional wisdom of 
European elites.

But they also reflect a general crumbling of public trust in the beliefs 
and institutions that have dominated Europe since the end of World War 
II, including the Continent’s relationship with the United States.

“Europe is a big sick body,” said Alain de Benoist, a French philosopher 
and a leading figure in a French school of political thought known as 
the “new right.” Mr. de Benoist said Russia “is now obviously the 
principal alternative to American hegemony.” Mr. Putin, he added, is 
perhaps “not the savior of humanity,” but “there are many good reasons 
to be pro-Russian.”

Some of Russia’s European fans, particularly those with a religious 
bent, are attracted by Mr. Putin’s image as a muscular foe of 
homosexuality and decadent Western ways. Others, like Aymeric Chauprade, 
a foreign policy adviser to the National Front’s leader, Marine Le Pen, 
are motivated more by geopolitical calculations that emphasize Russia’s 
role as a counterweight to American power.

Russia has added to its allure through the financing, mostly with 
corporate money, of media, research groups and other European 
organizations that promote Moscow’s take on the world. The United States 
also supports foreign groups that agree with it, but Russia’s boosters 
in Europe, unlike its leftist fans during the Cold War, now mostly veer 
to the far right and sometimes even fascism, the cause Moscow claims to 
be fighting in Ukraine.

Hungary’s Jobbik, one of Europe’s most extreme nationalist parties and a 
noisy cheerleader for Moscow, is now under investigation by the 
Hungarian authorities amid allegations that it has received funding from 
Russia and, in a case involving one of its leading candidates for the 
European Parliament, that it has worked for Russian intelligence.

No longer dismissed, as they were for decades, as fringe cranks steeped 
in anti-Semitism and other noxious beliefs from Europe’s fascist past, 
the National Front and like-minded counterparts elsewhere on the 
Continent are expected to post strong gains in this week’s election, 
which begins on Thursday in Britain and the Netherlands and then rolls 
across Europe through Sunday.

But they are unlikely to form a cohesive bloc: Nationalists from 
different countries tend to squabble, not cooperate.

Nigel Farage, the leader of the United Kingdom Independence Party, a 
group zealously opposed to the European Union, and a critic of American 
foreign policy, is already engaged in a bitter feud with Ms. Le Pen.

But Mr. Farage and Ms. Le Pen have at least found some common ground on 
Russia. The British politician recently named Mr. Putin as the world 
leader he most admired “as an operator but not as a human being,” he 
told a British magazine.

Ms. Le Pen has also expressed admiration for Mr. Putin and called for a 
strategic alliance with the Kremlin, proposing a “Pan-European union” 
that would include Russia.

In general, said Doru Frantescu, policy director of VoteWatch Europe, a 
Brussels research group, the affections of far right Europeans for Mr. 
Putin are simply opportunistic rather than ideological, “a convergence 
of interests toward weakening the E.U.”

This convergence has pushed the far right into a curious alignment with 
the far left. In European Parliament votes this year on the lifting of 
tariffs and other steps to help Ukraine’s fragile new government, which 
Russia denounces as fascist but the European Union supports, legislators 
at both ends of the political spectrum banded together to oppose 
assisting Ukraine.

“Russia has become the hope of the world against new totalitarianism,” 
Mr. Chauprade, the National Front’s top European Parliament candidate 
for the Paris region, said in a speech to Russia’s Parliament in Moscow 
last year.

When Crimea held a referendum in March on whether the peninsula should 
secede from Ukraine and join Russia, Mr. Chauprade joined a team of 
election monitors organized by a pro-Russian outfit in Belgium, the 
Eurasian Observatory for Elections and Democracy. The team, which 
pronounced the referendum free and fair, also included members of 
Austria’s far right Freedom Party; a Flemish nationalist group in 
Belgium; and the Jobbik politician in Hungary accused of spying for Russia.

Luc Michel, the Belgian head of the Eurasian Observatory, which receives 
some financial support from Russian companies but promotes itself as 
independent and apolitical, champions the establishment of a new 
“Eurasian” alliance, stretching from Vladivostok in Russia to Lisbon in 
Portugal and purged of American influence. The National Front, 
preoccupied with recovering sovereign powers surrendered to Brussels, 
has shown little enthusiasm for a new Eurasian bloc. But it, too, 
bristles at Europe’s failure to project itself as a global player 
independent from America, and looks to Russia for help.

The European Union, said Marion Maréchal-Le Pen, a member of the French 
Parliament and the niece of Marine Le Pen, “is the poodle of the United 
States.”

Russia offers the prospect of a new European order free of what Mr. 
Chauprade, in his own speech, described as its servitude to a 
“technocratic elite serving the American and European financial 
oligarchy” and its “enslavement by consumerist urges and sexual impulses.”

The view that Europe has been cut adrift from its traditional moral 
moorings gained new traction this month when Conchita Wurst, a bearded 
Austrian drag queen, won the annual Eurovision Song Contest. Russian 
officials and the Russian Orthodox Church bemoaned the victory — over, 
among others, singing Russian twins — as evidence of Europe’s moral 
disarray.

At the National Front’s pre-election rally, Mr. Chauprade mocked the 
“bearded lady” and won loud applause with a passionate plaint that 
Europeans had become a rootless mass of “consumers disconnected from 
their natural attachments — the family, the nation and the divine.”



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