Global Ethics Forum: Europe’s Far-Right Political Movements with Marlene Laruelle


(slow electronic music) – Welcome to Ethics Matter. I’m Magalie Laguerre-
Wilkinson and joining us today is Marlene Laruelle. She is professor at
the Elliott School of International Affairs at
George Washington University and is also a Carnegie
Council Fellow and author of Eurasianism
and the European Far Right. Dr. Laruelle, welcome. – Thank you.
– Thank you for being with us. – Let’s just get right to it. You’ve been very busy lately with what you’re doing. Your expertise on the
far right in Europe. What is contributing,
if you will, generally speaking, across
Europe to this climate? – Well, I think
it’s a combination of several different issue. There is a general feeling
of many things are changing inside the European
political landscape. There is kind of
identity crisis, also political crisis about the
future of the European Union and of each member
state and the kind of the feeling that the world
is changing, also, globally. And that the place of Europe inside it is also
kind of moving. So, all that contribute
to a kind of shifting the political landscape
and giving, suddenly, a rise to far right parties. – You know, you
talked about this, the word of identity crisis. What is that exactly,
in the sense that what was the identity or what
was perceived to have been the identity versus
what it has become, which is such a worry and which is causing the
rise of the far right? – I think it’s a general feeling
that we don’t know exactly what the nation state
sovereignty, in its
traditional way, is and the far right
is playing off that. – They’re playing into that. – into that by trying to say
that our cultural sovereignty is in danger because
of immigration. Our political
sovereignty is in danger because of European
Union and globalization, and our economic sovereignty
is also in danger because the world is changing. So it’s a combination
of all these elements that make the nation state
less and less relevant, politically or the impression that it is less
and less relevant. – So, we’ve seen,
we’ve had Brexit. We’ve seen the rise of
the far right in France and the success, even
though she was defeated of Marine Le Pen in France. And even though
she was defeated, it’s still very much
alive and well in France. Explain a little
bit, the position now of the far right in France. – Well the French far right
is a really interesting case because it has been really
one where we can see the change of strategy
of Europe and far right and the evolution
since the ’80s. So, when her father,
Jean-Marie Le Pen, was very active and became
more visible in the ’80s, it was still too radical to speak to a more
mainstream electorate. What she was really able to do when she became the leader
of the party in 2011 and to push for more
respectability of the party by shifting the topics she
was discussing in public, and that really
contributed to her success. And so, even if
she was defeated, and now the party’s
in a kind of a crisis, she was able to kind of shift the general political landscape and give more legitimacy
to the far right. – Now, it was
interesting because she, while keeping up
with that ideology, she wanted to disassociate
herself with her father, to the point where
people referred to
her by her first name. She was Marine
everywhere she went versus Vote for Le Pen. Was that strategic from her
point of view, do you think? – Yeah, I think she’s
personally convinced, of course, that the
change is needed, but that’s also a
strategic choice. To put on the side topics that
are considered too radical, that are too much linked to
what were the far right before, the kind of post-war far
right, still very much linked to the Nazi past, to
kind of fascist topics, to being too much antisemitic, these topics are
now put on the side and she’s bringing new
issue that are much more well received by
the public opinion, like anti-Muslim sentiment and
anti-immigration narratives. – What has the left
done, or not done, to make many people look
towards the far right? – I think there are several
kind of big structural changes. First, in the ’80s and the ’90s, the collapse of the
traditional left, the Marxist left,
played a big role in not having any more kind
of new leftist ideologies that seems to be relevant
in the current world. Then I think the
socialist party, also, once it became a
government party and it was not able
to change things that they said they would
also create disillusion among the leftist electorate. And then I think the
mainstream right parties are also facing changes, so
it’s also difficult for them to find their place between
the right of the far right and this kind of socialist
government party oriented so it’s much more difficult
now for mainstream party but center right and center
left to dissociate themselves, because once they are in power, they do relatively similar,
not totally similar, of course, policies, and so that
gave rise to the far right coming with a narrative
about we are the only ones able to really change things–
– and to tell you the truth, – We’re not going to backpedal
on something that we’ve said. – Exactly. – Speaking of France, we
can also expand to Germany, Austria, the Netherlands, also. It seems there’s been
a societal crisis, and this is back to the point
you were bringing before, where, while in the past, there was antisemitism
and so forth and now it’s this kind of
anti-immigration sentiment. Is it that these societies
feel that their own societies are threatened by the presence
of Islam in these countries, which is very present,
particularly in
France, I would say. – I think there is one
specificity, really, in the European case of
thriving anti-Muslim feeling and especially in
the French case, which is that it’s also
linked to our colonial past. And the fact that the migrants
are former colonized people, so it makes things
even more complicated– – They speak the language
already, for instance. – They speak the language. We have these kind of long
historical interaction. The feeling guilty
of the colonization and then suddenly feeling
that oh, they are arriving and now we are the
one getting invaded. So that’s something which is
quite important, for example, in the French case. More than in the German one,
because the colonial past is still very much present
on the French case. So, that’s contributing to
this kind of identity crisis, but I think it’s also deeper
linked to more societal and the other change
of the job market is also playing the big role. So there are many people who
don’t find any more their own in the job market as it is now, and it’s easy to find scapegoat. – You know, Germany still
continues to seem to be, anyway, the rock of Europe, of strength. And so, for it to
happen there as well, seems quite surprising, no? Considering their past and how they’ve had to
reconcile many things. Is it surprising that there’s
a far right rise in Germany in this modern age? – Well, I think it’s
normal to have it compared that it’s happening
all over Europe and I think it would
have been very strange to think Germany would
have been immune (laughs) at that point. Of course, for them,
it’s really something new because of the Nazi past trauma. They were really immune to that, but now we can see
things changing. And of course, the
refugee crisis probably
played a big role in allowing this new
German far right to rise, but what I think is
much more important, even in the German case, it’s not so much the
right or the far right, it’s the collapse of
mainstream parties, in that they made their kind
of one of their lowest score – Which is also–
– in the last election, – So the two are being– – Which is what happened
in France too, by the way. – Totally. – With the arrival
of Emmanuel Macron. – Total collapse of
the socialist party. Total collapse of
the socialist party, and partial collapse of
the mainstream right. – What does that say,
though, to these countries? Is it sort of, it’s
a reflection on just simply evolving with
time, I would imagine, and not being stuck in the old
ways, old traditional ways. But how do you readjust
these societies into not swaying too to
one side or the other? – I think there is
a real change needed from the traditional
political elite. I think the society’s
clearly sending signals about what they want. They want another kind of
narrative about the job market. They want another
kind of narrative with the role of
the European Union, and I think that’s
a critical element. That many people feels that
we have been delegating a lot of power to
the European Union without making the
Union more democratic. And so you have this
kind of contradiction where as the
citizen, your rights, your political rights
are still mostly at the nation state level. At the same time, you feel
like decisions are taken at the European Union level, and so there is a
kind of mismatch. – Like a disconnect in a way. – Disconnect between what
people would like to be asked as citizens, and the fact
that the European Union is not considered as so much
a democratic institution, but too much a kind
of technocratic one. – When we were
speaking at one point, you mentioned that when Marine
Le Pen saw Brexit occur, she assumed it might
make her chances better at getting to the Presidency. But yet, it seems
to have backfired. What caused that, do you think? Is it false to think that if
it’s going in one direction, it’s going to continue that way? – I think one of the big element is that voting for far right
is part of a protest culture. It’s a sign to say you are
discontent with something. But then, when suddenly,
you see this protest becoming a real
political reality, meaning Brexit, that
suddenly kind of backfire at her ability and
we know, by survey, that her narrative about France will be also exiting
European Union really contributed to her
losing some of the votes. So, people who
were voting for her were sharing her
anti-immigration narrative, but they were much more
afraid about France leaving the European Union
because for many people, even if they’re aren’t happy
with the European Union, you still have to deal with it. It would be difficult to
imagine France leaving and going back to being
purely a nation state. So, that difference was Brexit, where in U.K., they were
probably much more people who were ready to really
exit and even now, we see that it is also
backfiring on them. – It’s backfiring. It seems to be there is
some regret, even at that. Why has the far right been
so appealing to Russia? Because it seems as
though, here we are again. We’re talking about Russia. We talk about
Russia and America. Talk about Russia in Europe, really seeping into
Western European societies. How come? What’s happened there? – I think there are
two level of analyzing. The first one is that, yes, there are some genuine
ideological connection. And then there was also
just access of convenience. After the Ukrainian crisis
and Crimean excision, Russia lost most of its
political connection to mainstream parties in Europe. So, in a sense, pushing
for the far right was more or less what
was left for Russia to try and interact with
European politicians. So, if Russia could interact
more with mainstream, they would prefer to select
mainstream than the far right, but the far right was kind of… – The last thing.
– the last. – France and Europe,
they could have, so that the convenience access. But then you have real genuine
more ideological connection about for example,
being anti-NATO, anti-U.S., anti-liberal values,
so that’s a shared agenda. Promoting what they
call Christian or
conservative values, being very
anti-establishment, anti-E.U., criticizing the
political correctness… Both the Europe and far right
and the Russian establishment share this kind of
ideological agenda. – So, yes, it was appealing. The far right is there. Russia sees a chance. No one else wants
to sit with them because of Ukraine and Crimea. But how do you rebuild? How do they go back to
the discussion table with the mainstream parties? What do they have to do? What does Russia have to do? – I think, in a
sense, they are slowly going back to the table. We can see that, for
example, around Syria, and the role of Russia. You can see that Russia is
trying to go back to the table, saying, okay we have issues
in Crimea and Ukraine, but we also share kind of
fighting against terrorism in the Middle East
and so and so. They have those that
are open to try to push to reconnect between Europe
and political elites in Russia, and I think Russia is very
much hoping that it will work. – And that there’s also the… there’s something called
forgetfulness too, that people, sort of, with time. – Yeah, with time,
topics of interest for the public
opinion are changing, and if Ukraine is not really
put back in the light, then probably it will
kind of slow down and be less and less visible
and there will be more important issues where Russia
will look like a partner and not like the enemy. – I want us to revisit, a little
bit, the key element here, which is the
elephant in the room. Forgive the common proverb, but it is immigration in France, and in Germany, and in Austria,
and in the Netherlands, as the key problem and that
is feeding this far right. How are mainstream
parties tackling that? – Well, in fact, immigration
is not the main problem. It’s the main issue
raised by the far right to look like it’s
the main problem. I think the main problem is–
– That’s interesting, right. – The main problem is, really,
the social economic landscape and the evolution
of the job market. In Europe, every European
country is facing issues of integration, so it’s
both domestic issues about integrating
the Muslim minority that are living in Europe, and many of them don’t
care about Islam. Many of them are kind
of secular people. They just are identified
as migrant or as Muslim. And then it’s also the
relationship to the Middle East, and to the southern part of
the Mediterranean region, which is a big issue. So what to do with
the Syrian crisis? What to do with Egypt,
Libya, Tunisia, Algeria? So that’s kind of two issues. One is a foreign policy issue, about what do we do with the
refugees arriving like that? At that level, what do we do
to try to help these countries. – Stabilize and…
– Stabilize them. – And then what do
we do with people living in European countries
and asking for more integration and our integration mechanisms are kind of dysfunctional now. – But this is
something, actually, I think now because we
have access to media and it’s something that we see. We’re seeing migrants
on boats and things, but this isn’t something
that’s new either. I mean, it’s something
that’s always existed, this migration of people coming, and probably not at
this level, for sure. But what has been done in
the past for assimilation versus being not done now? – Well, I think before,
the flows were more, kind of, economic
workers, so it was- like, for example in the
’70s, it was migrants who were invited by European
firms to come to work because we needed workforce. Now, except Germany,
almost no European country needs workforce. All of them have huge or
high level unemployment. So the context has changed. And then the first
generation of migrants got very well integrated
because at that time, integration mechanism were
working relatively well. So there are two issues. There are the second generation,
the children of migrants, who are French citizens,
German citizens, but who don’t feel good at home because they feel they
are still considered not well integrated,
as foreigner, they would like to display
some element of their identity. It can be a religious
one, but not necessarily, and they don’t find the room
to express that specificity. And then we have
migrants arriving now, and now they’re arriving
more as refugee flows, And that’s creating other issues because it’s also
geographically different. They are arriving by
southern countries, so it’s Italy, Spain,
Greece and the Balkans who have to face this
arrival of refugee. – You’ve been doing
this a very long time. You’re an expert in this. How has this rise of
the far right evolved in the years that you’ve
been following this? How has it changed to you and
what surprises you in this? What’s new about it? What’s newer about it? – What’s, for me, the most
kind of striking element is how they have
been able to combine this anti-immigration narrative, which was already
there in the ’80s, with a kind of more
pro-welfare state narrative, which traditionally, the
far right doesn’t have this kind of pro-welfare
state narrative. But, for example, Marine
Le Pen was very well able to combine anti-immigration and
pro-welfare state narrative, which then resonate with
part of the social groups who were voting for
the left before. – So, for example– – So she was able to
pull from that side. – Exactly. So, for example, traditionally,
the French far right were very much in
favor or Catholicism and criticizing the secular
nature of the French state. Now, Marine Le Pen
says she’s representing the traditional secular
nature of the French State against Islam, so she
captured that element. Then she captured
the welfare state, like we should be
protecting the social rights and the social benefits
of our cities– – Which is very different
from the United States, by the way. – Which is, of course, one of
the big political, cultural differences between
the two countries. And, so with this
narrative that migrants are taking our social
benefits and so on. So, the combination of
this kind of leftist social argument with
the anti-immigration
is very powerful. – And that’s really what has fed that far right aspect in France. Are you able to tell me in some of the other
European countries, what the appeal, what
the change has been there of the far right and
how they’ve shifted? – It’s also relatively
the same combination for Germany, for
Sweden and for Finland. It’s a little bit different
for Central European countries because they have less migrants, so even if they play on
the anti-immigration card, they are still more traditional in being anti- their
own ethnic minorities. They are less pro-welfare
state and more free market, just because they integrated
the European Union later, so they are more
traditional far right than what the western
European ones have been. So, the evolution is
slightly different. – One of the surprises has
been Poland, I think, too. Talk a little bit about the
rise of the far right in Poland. – I think Poland is a
really interesting case and, of course, a case for
concern for Europe with Hungary. And I think Poland
is a good example to deconstruct
what is often said, that it’s also
Russian influence, because there is almost no
more anti-Russian country than Poland, and still
they are having this wave of populist party and a
liberal narrative thriving, so it’s a good example on how a country successfully
integrated the European Union. And for long, Poland was
really a success case, economically, for
the European Union, and then suddenly
you feel that society is still having difficulties
managing that fast changes and is suddenly promoting
this very liberal narrative while staying inside the
European Union framework, so that’s the big
difference with Brexit. Poland and Hungary are
criticizing the European Union, but they don’t want to leave. They want to stay and to
change it from the inside, which is a very
different strategy than Brexit just
asking to leave. – Does it surprise you that
the current political structure in Poland is as
far right as it is, and that it’s gotten this
far as well, this high level? – Well, I think it shows that
it can be done democratically. The rise of the far
right can be the result of a democratic election
and a real societal shift, so that’s something
we should consider because this means
these things can happen inside the European
Union framework and
in a democratic way. So, that’s, of
course, a huge concern because it means other countries could also potentially shift. – And are there other countries that are looking toward
Poland and saying, “huh, they doing it this way. “Maybe this is the way
that we should go.” – Well, Hungary has its
own (laughs) tradition with Victor Orban
not going so far, but being also– – on that precipice,
on the cusp there. – Exactly. And Czech Republic is
also, slowly, and Slovakia, evolving toward that
direction, so clearly there is a Central European
cluster emerging there. Then, Austria is also having
a far right integrated into the government, so
that’s where you can see these kinds of, yes,
Central European… Thinks it’s more complicated in France, Netherlands,
Sweden or Finland, where this far right
party are important but they are not necessarily
becoming government parties. – But these are also countries, when you’re talking about
the Netherlands and France, where there’s much more of
a spotlight focused on them versus it seems that
Poland, Czech Republic, these countries,
it sort of happened under the table a little bit. It kind of snuck in there, no? – Yeah, it’s just because
they are still young members of the European Union, and we
were not used to look at them under that kind of spotlight. And now we have
to deal with that and the fact that
they are growing in liberalism inside the
European Union framework, which means that these countries
have the right to vote, their MP’s are the
European Parliament, so probably their
influence will be growing on the way they can
try to change things from the inside of the
European Union structure. – Is there a risk that the
E.U. will dismantle itself at some point because
of this atmosphere of what’s going on
with the far right? – Well, dismantling, I
think is, to me, too much because I think
France, Germany, Italy, you know the core members
will try to maintain things and to really put their
own weight in the balance to be sure it will
not get destroyed, but that it needs a lot
of reforms for sure, and that maybe there need
to be some different level of integration between
those who want more and those who want less because
between northern countries, southern, western, eastern,
there are really big differences so maybe there should be
several levels of integration, some pushing for
really higher level and some just being
part of something more, kind of, general
but with less involvement. – I want to know
what the future holds for the far right in
Europe, in general. They’re not going anywhere, and can’t be ignored. Where will we be in
two years, five years, 10 years, with the far right? – Well, I think they will stay part of the political landscape. They are an integral part of it, and we should also accept
that as democratic country you have part of your
population that express this kind of unhappiness
with the system. They will probably continue
to push for their strategy of respectability. At the same time, it’s
also a sensitive one because if they
became too mainstream, then what will be the difference
with the mainstream right? So they need to keep
this protest element, and at the same time find a
way to be respectable enough to gain election,
to gain more votes. So the balance
isn’t easy for them, and we can see inside the
National Front, for example, that it’s kind of difficult
now for Marine Le Pen, after the defeat, to maintain
this kind of balance. Then I think in some countries, they will become
part of coalition, of
government coalition, which means that they
will be able to influence part of the decision
making process, probably around
identity politics,
anti-immigration things. I don’t think their economic
program can be implemented, even if they are part
of government coalition because that’s
the most difficult and the least realistic element. And then you have case
like Poland, Hungary, that show that, in
fact, you can have a liberal government that
you don’t know if they are far right, mainstream
right, populist… – It’s a bit of a gray area. – Yeah, that can
certainly be in power, and therefore they
will be taking decision and we can see how
Hungary is able to resist European
Union decision and not to implement
European Union decision on its own territory. So the combination will
be kind of complex, but the far right
is here to stay. – Well, Professor Laruelle, thank you very much
for joining us. – Thank you.
– This was fascinating, and I’m sure you’re
going to be very busy in the years to come. (slow music) – [Narrator] For
more on this program and other Carnegie Ethics
Studio productions, visit CarnegieCouncil.org. There you can find
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Author Since: Mar 11, 2019

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