The French election – staving off the worst…

David Leonhardt has a very good column in the New York Times on the contribution of the establishment to the rise of fascism/authoritarianism in the United States v. France. That is a big and important difference. Generally speaking, the old elite plays a decisive role in fascism, for example in the rule of the KKK in the Jim Crow South, or in the triumph of Mussolini (marches by four generals proceeded his arrival in Rome in a sleeping car to become Il Duce) or Hitler who was appointed by President von Hindenburg. R. Palme Dutt, Fascism and Social Revolution makes the point that there has to be a surge in class conflict or, one might say, broad social change in terms of benefiting most people, but in which the left does not triumph for elites to get frightened enough to push fascism as a form of rule. The Obama election, in part, was such a great change – the election of a black President in a country in which racism is the decisive form of divide and rule and many ordinary people are losing out. So far, however, Trump is mercifully not backed by a mass fascist movement, though the power of the Presidency, particularly in harming immigrants, is large.

Leonhardt rightly underlines Trump’s, Rohrbacher’s and King’s odious celebration of Le Pen.

But David and others are way too celebratory this morning – the disintegration of the two major French parties means that even if he had a program which will work – and it is not clear he does – he could not enact it. Many of those oppressed by the establishment will not get help or get help quickly. Breaking with austerity in the European Union, along with public education (funded) and retraining for jobs is at least a part of the alternative but that, so far, is Melanchon (or Sanders) and not Macron. And Macron wants better trading arrangements for France and Europe, but Brussels is, in this regard, very dogmatic, authoritarian and dangerous.

In America, the Democratic Party needs to be changed from the ground up, and its powerful, establishment (corporate) forces will fight this. Fortunately, there is a deep movement from below of fear and protest but it needs to go much further.

And the Republican party has already been transformed into abettors of the rise of authoritarianism – a climate change denying (enemies of the survival of humanity as a whole), racist, and despicable organization. But as Leonhardt says, what happened in France is, comparatively, heartening.

Leonhardt does not slur Melanchon and the non-establishment left – but that is unusual in the Times. He does speak mistakenly of “white nationalism” – the nationalism of lynchers or those who conduct gas chambers is not the same as of those who are themselves oppressed and the victims of these things (though of course, nationalism turns oppressive – though sometimes not quite as oppressive – as new leaders come to power). There are also in between cases, as in the American Revolution where those oppressed by the British nonetheless enslaved and massacred blacks and native americans, or even the Union in the Civil War, emancipationist for blacks, genocidal in Colorado and the West…

Leonhardt does rightly note, however, Le Pen’s sickening comments on the Holocaust. The National Front remains pretty much the pure Nazi stuff, though the focus, as in the Trump/Bannon/Sessions crowd, is on Muslims…


“David Leonhardt
Op-Ed Columnist

White nationalism lost in France yesterday, and it lost big.

Marine Le Pen, the far-right presidential candidate, won only 34 percent of votes in her two-way race against Emmanuel Macron, who will soon be France’s president. Roger Cohen calls Macron’s victory “an important demonstration that reason and coherence still matter in politics.” Nate Silver notes that Macron outperformed the pre-election polls by more than either Brexit or Donald Trump did.

Yet Macron’s victory is also a depressing reminder of the state of conservative politics in the United States. In France, the center-right and center-left united to oppose Le Pen’s extremism. (Le Pen went so far as to lie about the Holocaust during her campaign, Julia Ioffe reminds us.)

The United States also had an extremist presidential candidate — one who mocked the disabled, retweeted neo-Nazis, called Mexicans rapists, promised to ban Muslims from the country and bragged about molesting women. He won the presidency, thanks to overwhelming support from the Republican Party.

Not only that, but several prominent Republicans, including Trump, then publicly rooted for a Le Pen win in France. Steve King and Dana Rohrabacher, two members of Congress, visited Le Pen during the campaign to discuss, in King’s words, their “shared values.”

Matthew Yglesias had perhaps the pithiest summary yesterday: “You see in Trump vs Le Pen once again that authoritarian nationalist movements only win with the support of the establishment right.”