European politics: Plus ca change, plus ca meme chose?

Though I ought to be in bed, I unwisely took a gander at CT before dashing off. There I noticed that Henry Farrell explains that American conservatives ought not cheer for the victories of the Anti-EU right in EUrope, as the anti-EU right in Europe are all crypto-fascists and/or racists/anti-semites.

If that is so, then European politics is sicker than Americans have thought; if Henry is correct, the only two sides in Euro politics are kinder, gentler versions of Communists and Nazis. If that's so, I wonder, where the hell did the liberals[1] in Europe go? Is this the 20s and 30s all over again, with the only Euro choice in just what kind of illiberal absolutism will prevail?

fn1. To paraphrase Brad DeLong, you can suggest that the Pro-EU politicians are the liberal forces in Europe, despite the unrepresentative, unaccountable, heavy command-and-control regulatory stance of pro-EU parties. I will laugh at you if you do, but you can make that claim. But one cannot simultaneously make the claim that the pro-EU parties have any relation to the classical liberals of the 19th century who fought absolute monarchism & feudal stasis, unless you're willing to say that Smith, Ricardo, Say, etc., really didn't mean anything they said.

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Well, the problem is, I

Well, the problem is, I think, that Henry Farrell wrote about the far right EU-critics. And they can very much be defined as crypto-fascists/racists/anti-semites. There are EU-critics on the non-far right as well. But at least in Sweden, the political parties to the right does not acknowledge that, instead they only promote the pro-EU wings.

Which in Sweden this year resulted in the new, founded in february, EU-critical party Junilistan. The list was quite broad, ranging from right wing Social Democrats to the conservative Christian Democrats with some liberals inbetween and managed to get 14.4% and 3 MEP's.

At the same time, all but one (the social liberal agricultural party, Centerpartiet) of the large political parties lost voters and the small far right party Sverigedemokraterna just got slightly more than one percent of the votes.

(As I think a commenter on

(As I think a commenter on the CT thread wrote-) It seems to me that, at least in the UK sense, anti-EU sentiment has been ruled "out of bounds" for the 'sensible parties', despite the fact that a great number of normal, non-fascist-supporting individuals in Britain don't want to be part of the EU (or at least, of the EUrocrat vision of "ever closer union"). Denied a voice in 'sensible' parties, they end up voting for the extremes.

Though it may be a stretch, the 2000 US presidential election saw far-left voters, frustrated at a lack of voice in the Democratic party (at the time), voted for Nader, making what should have been an easy Gore victory into the dubious Dubya victory. The 2004 version of the Democratic party is far more Leftist ("progressive") than the 2000 model, Gore's populist rhetoric aside. I imagine that if, to keep with the UK example, the Tories became full-on EUroskeptic, the UKIP vote would disappear, and EUroskepticism in the UK would again be "non-far-right."

Sweden's growing EUroskepticism is interesting, but I wonder (and I say this honestly) if, in the case of Sweden's hyper-regulated byzantine economy, EU's brand of regulation might actually, perversely, be more liberal than the status quo (as opposed to the usual heightening of taxes and regulations on the Eastern Euro states acceeding to the EU).

I will say one thing for Henry's point, in that "right-left" comparisons in the US don't map very well (if at all) across the pond.

"If that?s so, I wonder,

"If that?s so, I wonder, where the hell did the liberals in Europe go?


Its like 'libertarian' which

Its like 'libertarian' which for years I associated with the likes of Kropotkin, only to see the term appropriated by the American right.

Bingo. :)

Bingo. :)

I can't speak much for the

I can't speak much for the rest of European politics, but I do have a grasp of British politics. Britain has three big parties - Labour, Conservative, and Liberal Democrat. Labour and Liberal Democrats are largely pro-EU, LDs rabidly so. Conservatives are split right down the centre between Eurosceptic and Europhile (in fact, Europe is what tore the Tories apart and forced Baroness Thatcher to step down as PM). Britain has three important small parties: United Kingdon Independence Party, British Nationalist Party, and Green. All three of these smaller parties are against the European Union.

The UKIP is pretty nondescript, really. I think they're basically Conservatives who have made EU withdrawal their main priority. Most of the rest of their platform reads like the Tories (or New Labour, for that matter).

The Greens aren't right-anything, obviously.

The BNP is the scariest of the small three and is one that Americans would recognise as being far right-wing. They call for immediate withdrawal from the EU, but they also call for deep restrictions on immigration of people of colour, especially Arabs and Muslims. BNP members have made the sort of speeches that are not overtly racist in the tangible, round-up-the-darkies sense, but they have plenty of speeches and support plenty of policies that let you know that they support that kind of thing (think Sinn Fein and Irish terrorism).

In the recent European Parliament elections, England's heartland gave almost as many votes to the small three parties as the big three. Samizdata coined it The Radical Mainstream. Several members of the UKIP now sit in the European Parliament, and I'm watching to see what kind of havoc they can wreak while they're there.

It will also be interesting to see if they get enough domestic support that Blair will try to call elections to head them off at the pass. Having three parties already makes Parliament unwieldy. Six would make it positively Italian.

- Josh

Kevin, as usual you're on

Kevin, as usual you're on the money in the fundamental sense, but in the relative sense NAFTA is better than the preceding regime of high tariffs; NAFTA is byzantine and chock-a-bloc with exceptions and sweetheart deals, but the tariff walls were far more egregious in terms of distortion of trade and corporate/producer welfare. You know I'm with you in the ultimate sense, though, that free trade ought to be free trade...

Josh and Jonathan - Thanks

Josh and Jonathan -

Thanks for the breakdown on the UK political side. I'm a bit more conversed with the UK differences simply because they get more airplay in the US (its an easier beat for journo's to report on politicians who already speak English). UKIP's purpose does seem single-minded, but laudable; shift the terms of the debate and force the Tories to the Euroskeptic POV to recover parliamentary representation. I'm glad to hear that the so-called "Liberal Democrats" got their arses handed to them in the local elections. Bwa to the Ha to the Ha Ha Ha. There is definitely a suppressed anti-EU voice emerging from the UK population, and that's a good thing. Britons aren't continentals, and are European only by dint of historical accident (being in sight of the continent, alas). Britons are really just reaaly far eastern Atlantic peoples, like the US.


Kevin, Not sure what you


Not sure what you mean by Friedmanites but I don't think the Friedmans are confused about what free trade is. MF has been pretty clear that free trade means absence of government intervention.

The point you made in your

The point you made in your footnote is an excellent one. I'd apply it more broadly, though. What neoliberals and Friedmanites, and proponents of GATT, NAFTA and FTAA call "free markets" and "free trade" is neither, unless Smith, Ricardo and Cobden didn't mean a thing they said.

Kevin Carson's point is

Kevin Carson's point is correct, up to a point, although it would be stronger if he could identify the "neoliberals" and "Friedmanites" he refers to. Who does he mean?

It is depressing that the UK Indpendence Party, which is campaigning for British withdrawal from the EU, has a lot of rightwingers who want to halt immigration and hold a lot of fairly reactionary views. It makes it very easy for the main parties to portray any opponent of the EU as a reactionary bigot. There has to be a way of making opposition to the EU project a progressive and liberal cause. It should not be beyond the wit of a an ambitious politician to do so.