By Nick Gier
Many countries are shifting from a universal
civil nationalism towards the blood-and-soil, ethnic sort.
—The Economist (11/19/6)
In 1992 Francis Fukuyama published a book with a very strange title: The End of History and the Last Man. Fukuyama’s thesis was that the fall of Soviet Union in 1989 meant that liberal democracy was now free to dominate the world stage. This is “liberal” in its original sense: “pertaining to the free person.”
The conflict between capitalism and communism has now ceased, so Fukuyama predicted that major international political conflict would come to an end. He evidently wrote too soon, because many free, multiethnic societies with open borders and free trade are now under theat.
The Rule of Law is Threatened
The rule of law is the foundation of liberal democracy, and one result in the 2016 American Values Survey is very troublesome. In response to the question “Because things have gotten so far off track in this country, we need a leader who is willing to break some rules if that’s what it takes to set things right,” 55 percent of Republicans agreed while 57 percent of Democrats disagreed. By electing “Law and Order” Trump the Republicans are getting their wish for rule breaking.
British Support for Trump
Last June, when so-called president Donald Trump was asked about the upcoming vote on Britain leaving the European Union, he clearly did not know what “Brexit” meant. When it was explained to him, he said he was for it. On a trip to his golf courses in Scotland after the referendum, he assumed that his hosts had voted for Brexit when in fact the Scots had voted 62 percent to remain in the EU.
Later in the same month, Nigel Farage, former leader of anti-immigrant the UK’s Independent Party (UKIP), appeared with Trump at a rally in Mississippi “with a grin,” one reporter described, “wide enough to see off the Cheshire cat.” Using alternative facts and fear mongering about immigrants, Farage, whose ancestors, ironically, were Huguenot refugees from France, was instrumental in turning voters against the EU.
Britain Takes Fewer Refugess than Others
Trump claims that Britain would still be in the EU if its leaders “hadn’t been forced to take in all of the refugees.” Actually, compared to Germany and Sweden, Britain has taken in very few refugees. In 2015, nearly 39,000 applied for asylum in Britain as opposed 431,000 in Germany and 163,000 in Sweden. The population of these nations is 65 million, 81.5 million, and 9.8 million respectively. Sweden now has, per capita, the highest number of foreign-born residents in Europe.
Brits Discriminate against Poles
Anti-immigrant sentiment is primarily directed at legal migration from other EU countries. Polish workers, from Britain’s second largest foreign community, have experienced the most harassment, mainly verbal and physical abuse. British employers, sometimes in collusion with organized crime, pay Poles less and offer poor working conditions.
Unlike Trump’s unexpected electoral victory, Farage is in no position to become Britain’s next prime minister. His UKIP party has slid from a high of 20 percent during the EU campaign to 14 percent this month. Other Eurosceptic and anti-immigrant parties are stronger, and their leaders see Trump as an important ally.
French Nationalist Le Pen Surges in the Polls; Russian Support
In a recent poll in France, the question about rules was phrased somewhat differently: instead of “breaking the rules” it was “changing the rules.” A full 80 percent said that the wanted a strong leader who “will change the rules of the game” and “restore order.” Another survey showed that the 40 percent of French citizens favor authoritarian rule.
Marine Le Pen, leader of France’s right-wing National Front, is surging in the presidential polls and will certainly find herself in a run-off with centrist candidate Emmanuel Macron, a former socialist. In an eerie parallel with the U. S. election, the same Russian intelligence agencies are spreading fake stories about Macron. A Russian bank is also lending money to Le Pen’s campaign.
Le Pen Criticizes both the EU and NATO
Le Pen is anti-EU and she is calling for a Frexit from the rest of Europe. Following Trump’s playbook, Le Pen promises to put France first as she taps into the twin fears of globalization and immigration. Among Europeans the French poll the highest on questions about the dangers of a global economy and the negative effect of immigration on society.
Like Trump Le Pen has also criticized NATO, the 70-year-old security alliance in which the French military has been a leader. Also like Trump, she wants to increase military spending, but with an emphasis on national rather than European security. She wants to have stricter border controls and limits on immigration.
The Dutch Trump is More Extreme than Trump
Geert Wilders is known as the Dutch Trump, and he was a popular guest at the Republican Convention last July. His anti-immigrant Freedom Party is on track to win the most seats (perhaps tripling its current count) in the March 15 parliamentary election.
Wilders promises to close the Dutch borders, pull out of the climate change accord, ban the Qur’an, shut down mosques and Muslim schools, opt out of the Euro currency, and leave both EU and the United Nations. Recently he was photographed cutting the Dutch star out of the EU flag.
Wilders is by far the most outspoken critic of Muslims of any major European politician. He was recently convicted of hate speech after he called Moroccan immigrants “scum” and led an audience in an anti-Muslim chant. The court declined to fine him, declaring that the conviction would be deterrent enough. Like Trump Wilders ridiculed the judges who ruled against him.
Even if he wins the most seats, Wilders will be denied the prime minister post, because all the other Dutch parties have refused to form a coalition with him. Leaders of the current coalition of conservatives and socialists have condemned Wilders, but the former is predicted to lose seats and latter will simply hold steady.
Russians Hit Dutch Government Computers
Also worrisome is evidence that the same Russian hackers who interfered in the U. S. election are penetrating Dutch government computers. False stories planted by the Russians led the Dutch to reject an EU trade agreement with the Ukraine.
Unlike some others on the European right-wing, Wilders has not curried Russia’s favor. The Dutch have taken a strong dislike to Russia, especially after an investigation proved that in 2014 a Russian missile brought down a Malaysian airliner over Ukraine, killing 200 Dutch nationals.
German Anti-Immigrant Party Gains Strength
Although conservative German Chancellor Angela Merkel is trailing her Social Democratic opponent for the fall election, she still can boast a 74 percent approval rating. This is quite remarkable considering her controversial decision to allow over 1 million refugees into her country. Contrary to what her critics claim, the crime rate has not gone up because of them.
Nevertheless, the far-right, anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany beat Merkel (21 to 19 percent) in a recent state election, even though the Social Democrats at 31 percent won enough seats to govern with Merkel’s Christian Democrats. Nationally, Alternative for Germany stands at 12 percent, so the two major parties will most likely continue their “grand” coalition after the fall election.
Frauke Petry, leader of Alternative for Germany, congratulated Trump on his victory saying she was “a natural ally at his side” and claiming that her own victory over Merkel “gives courage for Germany and Europe.” At least Petry is not calling for Germany to leave the EU.
Trump Supporter Almost Wins Austrian Presidency
Nationalist Norbert Hofer, presidential candidate for Austria’s anti-immigrant Freedom Party, won 46.7 percent (.6 more than Trump) of the votes in December’s election. But that was not enough to beat Alexander van der Bellen’s 53.3 percent (compared to Hillary’s at 48.2).
Just like Trump, Hofer has blamed the media and he has charged massive voter fraud. Also like Trump, Hofer drew most of his votes from older and less educated voters. This applies to the other parties discussed here, except Alternative for Germany’s voters have slightly higher education levels. The gap is most pronounced among Britain’s UKIP supporters.
Austria’s Freedom Party was founded by an ex-Nazi officer in 1956, and it came to prominence in the 1990s. In 1999 they edged out the conservative People’s Party and a coalition between them lasted until 2005, when a dispute about immigration drove them apart.
Did Michael Flynn Meet with Austrian Nationalists?
The Trump administration is denying reports that former national security adviser Michael Flynn met with Freedom Party leader Heinz-Christian Strache last December. Strache and his entourage, however, posted pictures on Facebook they claim are from their visit to Trump Tower.
Despite the disagreement about this meeting, the Trump and the Freedom Party agree on some basic issues. Strache and Hofer want closer ties with Russia, and they, contrary to other European leaders, support lifting all sanctions against Putin’s government. Anti-immigrant sentiment is so strong that the Austrian government, a shaky coalition of Social Democrats and the People’s Party, has closed its borders to refugees, a move that Trump would definitely support.
Danish Anti-Immigrant Party Now Second Largest
When I first arrived in Denmark as a Rotary Fellow 51 years ago, the Progress Party, forerunner of today’s anti-immigrant People’s Party, was a national joke. With its libertarian platform it called for large tax cuts and radical cuts in defense spending. Its leader Mogens Glistrup once proposed that Denmark’s only weapon should a phone message to the Soviet Union saying “We Surrender” in Russian.
The People’s Party was at one time the second largest party in Denmark, taking 21 percent of the vote in the 2015 election. In 2014 it won 27 percent of the Danish votes for the European Parliament. Recently it was charged with misusing EU funds, and as a result of the scandal, its support has fallen to 15 percent.
Because of pressure from the People’s Party, the Danish Parliament passed Europe’s strictest immigration law. Newcomers may not bring a spouse younger than 24-year-old (aimed at young Muslim wives), they must post a bond of $10,000, a welfare benefits are now nearly half of what they had been.
Just as Trump has drawn working class worker away the Democrats, the People’s Party now polls at 30 percent among unskilled workers as opposed to 25 percent for the Social Democrats, their traditional home.
After founding the welfare state in the 1930s, the party has gone from a high of 46 percent in the 1935 election to 26 percent in 2015. The People’s Party supports generous welfare benefits as longer as they don’t go to non-European immigrants.
European Borders Now Closing
A recent YouGov survey showed that Danes polled the highest on the belief that immigrants are bad for their country. In 2005 former People’s Party leader Pia Kjaersgaard said: “If they want to turn Stockholm or Gothenburg into a Scandinavian Beirut, with clan wars, honor killings and gang rapes, let them do it. We can always put a barrier on the Oresund Bridge.”
Kjaersgaard got her wish: this bridge to Sweden, which has revitalized the economies of Southern Sweden and the Danish capital Copenhagen, is now under close immigration control. The Danes have also restricted travel on its border to Germany.
Sweden, Denmark, and Austria have received permission from the European Commission to waive the requirement that all EU borders be free from customs and immigration controls. The results are dramatic: asylum seekers in Denmark fell from 21,000 in 2015 to 5,300 this September.
At one time Denmark accepted more refugees per capita than any other country, although certainly an argument can be made to limit the numbers on the basis of social resources. One of the first people I met when I arrived in Denmark in 1966 was a Palestinian Christian. I learned at least two things that day: Arabs can be Christians and some people are “stateless.”
The Economist sizes up the current situation succinctly: “Many countries are shifting from a universal civil nationalism towards the blood-and-soil, ethnic sort.” This is an obvious allusion to Nazi Germany’s call for Blud und Boden.
Nick Gier of Moscow taught philosophy at the University of Idaho for 31 years.