Monday, May 8, 2017

Viva La What Exactly...?

Well, the dust has already started to clear; and the inevitable, inordinate triumphalism appears to have begun in earnest. No sooner had news of Macron's 65-35 victory over 'the dreaded' Le Pen become public, than the caterwauling chorus of 'usual suspects' had come out of the woodwork to proclaim this some combination of the Midway and the D-Day in the ongoing fight of once-dominant neoliberal globalism back against the newly resurgent 'specter' of more economically left nationalism.

But was it really?

Either the sort of triumph to be celebrated; or some sort of implicit death-blow to the wave of popular nationalism [widely, and wrongfully derided by frightened elites - and their lackeys - as "Naziism"] presently sweeping the globe, I mean?

Of course not.

Take a look at this chart, sourced from the popular Political Compass website.

[Political Compass concept & graphic sourced from Political Compass]

Now, obviously Political Compass is not necessarily always entirely accurate; but it is a point agreed upon by quite a raft of commentators that Macron is well to the right of Le Pen in an economic sense.

What this means in practice, then, is that any number of so-called "left-wing" activists chalking up Macron beating Le Pen by a closer-than-expected margin ... really ought to take a moment to consider what they're actually celebrating.

It would, to put it both in New Zealand terms and rather bluntly, be basically akin to getting wildly excited about David Seymour beating a slightly more extreme Labour-New Zealand First coalition.

Because apparently, a certain skerrick of social liberalism beats something much closer to an actual left-wing economic position every time.

Indeed, about the nicest characterization I've yet found of why so many nominal lefties are queuing up to sing the praises of Macron goes something like this:

"Do you hear the people sing?
Singing the song of boring men
He's a shady neoliberal
But at least he's not Le Pen!"

Phrased in absolute terms, then, it is exceptionally difficult to conceive of Macron's win as being a victory for the forces of leftism and progressivism.

Further, if looked at in relative terms, then everybody championing Macron as some sort of Le Pen-ender has just taken an inordinately large gamble on what's quite likely a very questionable horse.

There is a very real risk that Macron's new party will fail to make meaningful headway in the upcoming French legislative elections. This will leave him in a precarious position as applies his ability to propose and implement policy. Or, worse, he might find himself actually able [whether in co-operation with the French economic right, or off his party's own bat] to advance strongly neoliberal policy.

What does this mean in practice? Well, in either situation it seems fairly plausible that the National Front will be the likely beneficiary. Thirty five percent of the Presidential vote is certainly not a winning number. But such a strong performance does indeed give some credence to Le Pen's claims that the Front National is now the leading opposition party of France.

Situations of chaos and/or iniquity from ruling parties [with the apparent, and unfortunate exception of New Zealand] rarely fail to benefit their main opposition counterparts.

This is particularly the case if we consider the very likely phenomenon of ongoing falling turnout in French electoral contests, heralded by disenchantment with what Macron represents. There is an argument that falling turnout often benefits 'incumbent-establishment' parties [as has been seen here in New Zealand in recent years, wherein the 'missing million' NZ voters helps inordinately to keep the National Party in power - on grounds that if these people DID vote, they'd disproportionately do so for parties to the left of National]; however, as can be seen from the below infographic, it also appears to be the case that the adherents of certain sorts of parties - with very 'committed' supporters - are less likely to 'drop off' in situations of overall declining turnout than more mainstream voters.

[Infographic sourced from the Financial Times]

Or, in other words, even if apathy and antipathy toward Macron DOESN'T lead to more voters switching over to Le Pen ... a sufficient number of Macron voters simply choosing not to vote for anybody at all at the next Election can also help to significantly boost the main anti-Macron opposition candidate by comparison.

As a demonstration of this phenomenon in practice, one only has to look at last November's US Presidential contest - wherein Clinton lost not so much because Trump managed to beat her in a few battleground states ... but because she failed fairly comprehensively to get many of the people who'd had no problem voting for Obama to turn-out on her behalf. Some of them, it is true, wound up switching over to Trump on the motivation that he'd be a better President for the ordinary American Worker than Clinton had positioned herself as ... but many more just simply didn't vote.

[image sourced from the Washington Post]

Further, if we consider the historical evidence ... if there's one surefire way to generate popular support for fascism, it seems to be out-and-out hard-neoliberal economic policy. Casting our minds back to Greece once the Troika started to feel able to exercise its untrammeled will shows exactly this trend in action. Every successive round of EU-inflicted economic pain was tumultuously accompanied by a Golden Dawn surge in the polls and in the polis.

Even though 'Neoliberalism' as such didn't exist in the 1920s, the broadly analogous conditions in Germany and an array of other European countries certainly seemed to produce a 'particular' set of political outcomes within them. Ones with flashy uniforms, and striking insignia, if you get my drift...

So really, if people think that supporting a strongly neoliberal Presidential candidate is the best way to 'head off fascism' ... then the Story Thus Far of Europe At Large would appear to suggest that - if anything - the CONVERSE is true.

Time will tell whether this perception turns out to be accurate; but it's additionally worth considering how this result will most likely be read by the Doyens of the Eurozone. Namely, as a tacit endorsement for whatever they've got planned next, after the potential 'danger-flashing signals red' [REVERSE COURSE!] 'suggestion' represented by #Brexit.

It's probably not accurate to state - as some breathless pundits already appear wont to do - that the defeat for Le Pen represents some sort of turning [back] point in the ongoing struggle of globalism/neoliberalism versus nationalism and nativism. It is certainly a prima-facie setback for one 'side'; but by no means a potentially fatal body blow.

But about the only thing even relatively 'certain' at this point in time, is that having already openly endorsed Clinton, and then moved further to the right with Macron ... the next figure picked for hagiographizing by a certain sort of 'left-wing' activist will almost undoubtedly be further to the right again.

How long, I wonder, before we're at "ALL HAIL ANGELA MERKEL! DEFENDER OF SANITY!" [and never mind her own seriously questionable legacy - from a left-wing perspective - in Greece].

Because that is SURELY where this path leads.

Oh, and remember always - oppose the status quo and become a genuine threat to the neoliberal agenda? You may very well find yourself labelled a Nazi.

[image-credit for header: Eric S.J]
[image-credit for footer: some of the  finer minds/memes of Facebook]

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