Monday, April 29, 2002

I've been thinking more about the French presidential elections recently and it's raising a lot of very interesting points. Firstly, is there any chance of Le Pen's winning? Martin Sieff in this article in National Review Online, thinks there's at least a chance. What then? Clearly, it wouldn't be the biggest-imaginable cataclysm in EU politics (one can certainly conceive of greater), but it would be the biggest actual upset so far in the whole Euro project. Le Pen has pledged to restore the Franc and take France out of the EU. Now, there's no chance that he could muster the requisite parliamentary or popular support to do either, but hitherto even the mention of such things has been anathema to the Euro-elite. They've done a very good job of painting even moderate nationalists as swivel-eyed fascists. That these topics are even on the agenda is a shift of quite some significance.

Secondly, the furore that greeted Le Pen's success does seem to bear out one of his statements, namely that it is not so much that Le Pen has moved to the right but that Europe has moved to the left. The incomparable Mark Steyn once again hits the nail on the head when he coins this wonderful inversion of Voltaire's aphorism: "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death my right not to have to listen to you say it." Are there simply some subjects that are outside the bounds of discussion? Does Le Pen's reputation as a fascist (whatever that means: q.v. George Orwell) mean that those of his agenda that resonate with normal, decent people (taxation, crime, illegal immigration) are so outré as to be silenced? Is that not a profound disenfranchisement of those normal, decent people? Is there not a grave danger to the democratic process by this forced disengagement from representation?

Moreover, protests against Le Pen have focused on his stance as a right-winger. Why have there not been comparable protests at the presence, in the electoral processes of a 21st Century European democracy, of a Trotskyite? It always, to my mind, appeared somewhat unseemly to point out that Communism's toll has been far more grievous, and its effects more long lasting, than those of Fascism. I regard them, Hayek-like, as two faces of the same twisted Janus. But nonetheless, Communist and socialist ideology has butchered tens, hundreds of millions and condemned billions more to misery and deprivation. Where is the outrage at the 27-year old pipsqueak of a Communist postman standing as a presidential candidate, wrapped in a flag whose sanguinary hue is the result of a century of enormity, of terror, of lies and filth and despair?

Finally, is there any chance of it happening in the United Kingdom, my native land? I feel not. First and foremost, the very nature of the electoral process in the UK militates against fringe candidates. They and their parties may win a handful of municipal or even Parliamentary seats, but their influence is limited by their vestigial representation. But more important, I believe, is the distrust of most Britons of the very animus of extreme politics. Mosley's BUF in the 30's notwithstanding, there has never been a tradition of mainstream, pro-totalitarian politics in Britain. That is not to say that the hard Left did not have its successes after WW II. But there has always been a countervailing sense of the ridiculous that has dogged the ascent to power of the totalitarians. Perhaps P. G. Wodehouse (no Nazi-sympathiser he, despite the smears) put it best when he has Bertie Wooster upbraid Roderick Spode, Mosley-esque leader of the Black Shorts: "The trouble with you, Spode, is that because you have succeeded in inducing a handful of halfwits to disfigure the London scene by going about in black shorts, you think you're someone. You hear them shouting 'Heil, Spode!' and you imagine it is the Voice of the People. That is where you make your bloomer. What the Voice of the People is saying is: 'Look at that frightful ass Spode swanking about in footer bags! Did you ever in your puff see such a perfect perisher?" Amen to that.


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