Some will answer: Ten percent unemployment, eleven percent of the population below poverty-line, that explains the blossoming of xenophobic and nihilistic impulses, that is what justifies the hatred of parliamentary government or the call to denounce Polish workers. No! Far from being economic and social, the crisis is essentially mental. Taboos are disappearing. All that previously blocked the hatred of others, of foreigners, is fading away. During the campaign I heard socialist leaders stigmatise the workers of other European countries in a way only the extreme right had done before. I saw Jean-Pierre Chevènement rail against the “Brussels oligarchs”, while affirming the Putinian origins of his language. I heard delirious eulogies of French soil with distinct tinges of the past, although it is the most shameful element of our history.
Extremist impulses have acquired a varnish of respectability through the intercession of the socialist leaders of the no. At Maastricht in 1992, the divided electorate on the Right almost brought Europe to a halt. Now it’s the Left’s turn. The figures speak for themselves. In France, 40 percent of the electorate are anti-European or anti-democratic. Fabius brings the rest. The tone and style of two months of strictly ideological campaign, dominated by the fetish antinomy of the 19th century, have adopted the outdated Manicheanism of revolutionary phraseology. The pivotal question was whether this constitution is “social” or “liberal”. People liked to oppose “free and undistorted competition” on the one hand and “social protection” on the other. This translated as: either the free market jungle or protective statism. The dead overtakes the living and tosses fifty years of European construction to the wind.
For a half a century, the programmes of both Christian Democrats and Social Democrats blended economic efficiency and social security, seeking to unite liberty, prosperity and solidarity. In far more miserable circumstances than those of today, it was this gamble that pulled Western Europe from its ruins and made it the second-largest economic power in the world, and the first in terms of its citizens’ well-being. All that is over. Neither in Germany nor in France are the Leftist parties ready to defend the challenge of the “social market economy”.
Resurrecting from antediluvian anathemas, the chairman of the German SPD, Franz Muntefering, thunders against the “locusts” of international capital that pillage productive work, in the hopes that his anti-American and anti-capitalist vituperation will help ward off the anticipated electoral disaster. The turnaround of Gerhard Schroeder, the ex-“bosses’ friend”, is similar to the 180 degree turnaround of Laurent Fabius, the opportunist, liberal French prime minister of former times who is the very opposite of a Bolshevik
The success of the French no and the demagogic drift of the European socialists both result from a common moral and mental decline. If there were any new political force worth the name, such a bankruptcy of intelligence and generosity would only have local repercussions, such as the defeat of the SPD-Green coalition in Germany, or amusing twists like the ridicule of French-French narcissism. Unfortunately, no political force either in Berlin or Paris has recognised that the major event of recent months was the “orange revolution”, and the emancipation of 50 million Europeans who rose up against post-communist despotism. The European identity is being shaped by the wind of liberty blowing between Kiev and Tbilissi. France, the land of human rights, has now got cold feet, and stands cowering while proud people take up the words it no longer uses, although they are written above every voting office: liberty, equality, fraternity.
(hat tip: Adrian Gonzalez-Maltes)