14 February 2017

The Guardian: “The ruthlessly effective rebranding of Europe’s new far right”

This nostalgia has an unmistakable appeal, but not necessarily for the sort of voters one might expect. Whereas young Britons overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU and the elderly voted to leave, in France it is the opposite. According to Julian Rochedy, the former FN youth leader, appeals to nostalgia work better with the young in France – who dream of an era they never witnessed – than with the old, who lived through the era Marine Le Pen promises to restore. It is older voters, Rochedy argues, who are the greatest obstacle to Le Pen’s victory. They are afraid of leaving the euro, he says. They are afraid of huge changes. Rochedy is convinced that the FN will never win simply by fetishising the past. They just want to go back 30 years, he said of his erstwhile colleagues. It’s a discourse that doesn’t at all take into account the world as it is and what France has become.

By framing its anti-migrant politics as a battle against imperious elites and political correctness, the PVV has been able to capitalise on a panoply of grievances, from anger over asylum seekers to Euroscepticism. Meanwhile, many causes of the radical left – including anti-racism and anti-colonialism – have now become establishment thinking in the Netherlands. Idealism has been bureaucratised, argues the journalist Bas Heijne, who writes a column in the liberal daily newspaper NRC Handelsblad. And when the establishment enforces universalism, you react against it. That’s why there is such a strong anti-PC tone to the Dutch right: do not tell us what to say, what to celebrate and who we must live next to.

Sasha Polakow-Suransky

Remarkably similar to Trump’s tactics in the US – and just as dangerous. If I remember my German history lessons correctly, Hitler also played this ‘normalization’ card until he seized power, and we all know how well that turned out for Europe and the world.

Marine Le Pen with French flag
Whereas young Britons overwhelmingly voted to remain in the EU, and the elderly voted to leave, in France it’s the opposite. Photograph: Franck Pennant/AFP/Getty Images

There are some voices of reason throughout the article, but I’m afraid too few people are listening to moderates these days:

Bent Melchior, Denmark’s 87-year-old former chief rabbi, was outraged. He bristled at the suggestion that refugees are rich because they flee with some money in their pockets. He would know: although Denmark is always hailed for saving its Jews during the second world war, it is often forgotten that Danish Jews paid fishermen huge sums to ferry them across to Sweden. Melchior’s family paid the equivalent of “almost a year’s rent of a six-room flat” just for his own passage. “Denmark is not a poor country, for God’s sake”, Melchior says. “There’s food for everybody here, and even if we get a few tens of thousands more people, there will still be food for everybody.”

“A lot of refugees were just parked on social welfare instead of [the state] recognising their education and their skills”, Soei told me, citing the case of his own mother, who arrived in Denmark with a physics degree that was regarded as worthless. “If your motivation is to create a liberal society where the individual can create a good life for him or herself, then you would have solved this problem years ago”, he argues.

Instead the state has effectively provided newcomers with an allowance and keys to an apartment, and ignored them – assuming that its work was done. The problem, Soei claims, is that there is no political incentive to integrate asylum seekers into the job market. “It doesn’t have consequences for the politicians… because they don’t have the right to vote.” Either way, it plays into the DPP’s argument. “Immigrants can’t do right,” said Gyldal Petersen. “When they’re unemployed they’re a burden to society. When they’re in a job, they just stole the job from a Dane.”

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