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Thu Mar 26, 2015, 05:04 AM

Liberalism in Europe 'facing its biggest fight' against the far-right and 'the politics of fear'

Following a meeting of Liberal international in Oxford, Catherine Bearder, Hans van Baalen, Graham Watson and Cecilia Wikström write that liberals must stand together against the rise of the far-right and the 'politics of fear'.

Liberalism in western Europe is facing its biggest fight since the 1930s. Last May's European parliament elections showed just how steep the mountain we have to climb is. The forces of xenophobia and racism - the populist right across Europe - polled strongly in the UK, France and Italy and in many smaller EU member states.

As liberals, we will be standing together against the racists, the xenophobes and those who believe Europe needs to return to its fragmented past. Liberals are naturally internationalist; it is in our DNA. We view the world as a global stage, not one subdivided by borders. We see friendly cooperation with our neighbours as the very key to unlocking a more secure, sustainable and prosperous future for Europe and the rest of the world.

At an international Liberal conference last week, Grigory Yavlinsky, a prominent Russian liberal and founder of opposition party Yabloko, said the fight for liberalism in Russia against Putin is alive and kicking, but is facing an increasingly tough battle. What's more, Putin is now more determined than ever to put a block on liberalism across the whole of the continent by funding anti-EU parties, putting up barriers not just in his own backyard but further afield too.

We need to spread the message that liberalism is a home for people who don't seek to brand migrants as 'other', for people who believe a Europe without the EU would be weaker and for people who see a reversion to separatism as the very worst outcome. Only in countries with strong civic values and political engagement are the politics of fear and blame denied a wave of popular support. It is up to us as liberals to keep making the internationalist case.

https://www.theparliamentmagazine.eu/articles/opinion/liberalism-europe-facing-its-biggest-fight

The rise of the 'politics of fear', of branding immigrants as 'others' who should be feared, of xenophobia, racism and separatism (teapublican divisive tactics that we have all experienced) are all things that American liberals have in common with those in Europeans. I am not so sure that we share the European commitment to internationalism, at least not to the same degree, which probably results for decades of experience as the "world's policeman" with its negative consequences. European liberals may see internationalism more as FDR saw it - as a way to tie the world together and promote shared peace and prosperity.

Europe and America seem to also share a decline of a belief that 'friendly cooperation with our neighbors' (down the street or across the border), rather than every man - or country - for itself with its reliance on the mythical 'invisible hand to produce the greatest good, will lead to shared, sustainable prosperity. The more conservative "my country first" (a variant of "me first" seems to be increasingly replacing the "we are all in this together" mentality that was dominant during more liberal eras in both places. There is no evidence that an 'invisible hand' will actually produce the greatest good when many 'me first' actors (individuals or countries) compete, rather than cooperate, with each other.

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Arrow 29 replies Author Time Post
Reply Liberalism in Europe 'facing its biggest fight' against the far-right and 'the politics of fear' (Original post)
pampango Mar 2015 OP
joshcryer Mar 2015 #1
pampango Mar 2015 #2
joshcryer Mar 2015 #3
Yorktown Mar 2015 #4
pampango Mar 2015 #7
Yorktown Mar 2015 #10
Quantess Mar 2015 #14
muriel_volestrangler Mar 2015 #21
GliderGuider Mar 2015 #5
jwirr Mar 2015 #26
rogerashton Mar 2015 #6
pampango Mar 2015 #8
rogerashton Mar 2015 #9
pampango Mar 2015 #13
rogerashton Mar 2015 #18
pampango Mar 2015 #19
rogerashton Mar 2015 #20
muriel_volestrangler Mar 2015 #24
Yorktown Mar 2015 #11
pampango Mar 2015 #15
muriel_volestrangler Mar 2015 #23
rogerashton Mar 2015 #28
muriel_volestrangler Mar 2015 #29
TheKentuckian Mar 2015 #12
pampango Mar 2015 #16
TheKentuckian Mar 2015 #22
pampango Mar 2015 #25
TheKentuckian Mar 2015 #27
The2ndWheel Mar 2015 #17

Response to pampango (Original post)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 05:40 AM

1. It is impossible for me to comprehend.

How EU is literally repeating history by reaching out to right wing fascism.

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Response to joshcryer (Reply #1)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 06:00 AM

2. I suppose the collective memory of the evil of fascism is dying with that generation passing away.

The lure of the rhetoric of "us vs them" and "every country for itself" seems attractive to those who seek simple solutions and who don't remember history and where that rhetoric can lead.

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Response to pampango (Reply #2)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 06:06 AM

3. True, that.

But it seems that kids would still be taught history lessons. I mean, look at Germany. Germany will never forget and never allow it to happen again. It seems as if other EU countries weren't as, shall we say, indoctrinated as to the evils of this line of thinking. It's like it's brewing just under the surface and it doesn't take much to bring it back.

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 06:21 AM

4. I think they are misguided

 

The far right parties in Europe rose due to two causes
- the 2007/8 Great Recession
- the cumulative influx of African immigrants

The first cause is sadly a repeat of the 30's in Europe
The second cause contains an element of reasonable fear
If the percentage of muslims rises to fast, they won't have time to amend their religion.

Charlie Hebdo anyone? Segregated swimming pools like in London's Tower Hamlets?

At the meeting of Liberal international in Oxford, did they discuss that real anxiety of the people?

I fear they didn't.

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Response to Yorktown (Reply #4)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 06:39 AM

7. The liberals are "misguided" but not the far-right? The latter simply reflects "reasonable fear"?

The second cause contains an element of reasonable fear

I suspect that the right's "politics of fear" is 'reasonable' in the eyes of most liberals. Does the rise of teapublicans show that their 'politics of fear' is a reasonable response to America's problems?

At the meeting of Liberal international in Oxford, did they discuss that real anxiety of the people?

I fear they didn't.

Since they were discussing the rise of the far-right, I am sure that they discussed the "real anxiety of the people" since that is what the far-right plays on to fuel their rise. How they differ from the far-right is in their proposed solutions to this anxiety. The liberals do not propose racism, xenophobia and separatism which distinguishes them from the right.

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Response to pampango (Reply #7)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 07:02 AM

10. You got me wrong

 

On another forum, I regularly ridicule the European 'far rights'.
They are wrong on a score of subjects.

But even a broken clock gives the right time twice per day.

There is a reasonable worry about the rate of cumulative influx of muslim immigrants in Europe.
Open wide the dams, and there won't be a Liberal International in Oxford anymore.

Feminism? Gay rights? Freedom of speech? Separation of church and State?
They will be gone faster than you can say 'Allah Akbar'.

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Response to Yorktown (Reply #10)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 07:34 AM

14. Yes. The violence in the middle east

and terrorist acts are causing many europeans to say no, we don't want that here.

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Response to Yorktown (Reply #4)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 11:22 AM

21. OK, I'm trying to find your Tower Hamlets segregated swimming pool story

and I can't. Are you just taking the word of some far right net user for this?

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 06:29 AM

5. The same thing is happening in the States, for many of the same reasons.

 

IMO it's driven by a subliminal awareness that this cycle of civilization is sliding into the dustbin of history, driven by climate change, resource shortages, excessive complexity, alienation and the consolidation of wealth and power. Watch for its spread down the pyramid into the rest of the world.

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Response to GliderGuider (Reply #5)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 11:58 AM

26. And that is what we need to address. These things are fearful but FDRs words ring even truer today

than they did back then. "What we have to fear is fear itself." I am not saying that I am not afraid of where we are going but we cannot let that fear drive us into an even worse situation.

In the 30s the fear was in the lead in Germany. Here we went the other way to elect FDR and the New Deal. We as a world need to make sure that fear is not leading us again. We need to make sure that the answers we come up with for these problems will be answers we will not regret in the future.

I am not hopeful at this moment because I do not see many of us saying no to the fascists. Instead here in the USA we elected them to our congress.

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 06:36 AM

6. Don't forget that

in Europe, a "liberal" is a believer in free markets. More or less what we call a libertarian in this country, though not tainted by the association of libertarianism with Reagan's southern strategy Republicanism in the US. In that sense they are more consistent than our libertarians, and draw on a much more distinguished tradition, such as John Stuart Mill. Nevertheless, they are committed to the "invisible hand."

The association of "liberal" with a more dirigiste approach in the US originates in FDR's cabinet, where the liberals opposed the "populists" (progressives) such as Huey Long, who called for much more sweeping change. They were "liberal" by comparison, much as pale ale is pale by comparison with Guinness.

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Response to rogerashton (Reply #6)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 06:46 AM

8. Most liberals in Europe do believe in markets though they have tempered that with strong safety

nets, high/progressive taxes to support those safety nets, support for strong unions and better corporate regulation. I am not sure that qualifies as 'libertarian' in the US.

Do you think that conservatives in Europe do not believe in the "free market" and the "invisible hand"? I have not seen signs of that from the far-right there.

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Response to pampango (Reply #8)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 06:59 AM

9. In Britain, since Maggie's time

the conservative party has imitated the American Republican party. If you call that a free market position, then maybe, but I call in crony capitalism. Other than that, the European right is associated with nationalism, not "the invisible hand." That said, antiracism is common to liberals of all stripes -- and that cannot be said of any conservatives that I know of. However, I don't think you will find that any European liberals are pro-union.

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Response to rogerashton (Reply #9)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 07:29 AM

13. "I don't think you will find that any European liberals are pro-union." Really?

Where do the strong unions of Europe get their support? Certainly not from the conservative end of the political spectrum.

In Britain, since Maggie's time the conservative party has imitated the American Republican party. If you call that a free market position, then maybe, but I call in crony capitalism. Other than that, the European right is associated with nationalism, not "the invisible hand."

I think most of us would associate Maggie with a republican-like adherence to the 'free market'. Calling that "crony capitalism" is fair enough.

I don't see why you contend that Maggie or the modern far-right not are not committed to the 'invisible hand' and the 'free market'. The nationalists in France want France to compete with Germany, not cooperate with it. The same with the nationalist far-right in the UK. They do not seek cooperation but rather competition. Anyone who believes that enhanced competition (and less cooperation) will produce a better greater good is a believer in the 'invisible hand' of competition.

... individuals' efforts to pursue their own interest may frequently benefit society more than if their actions were directly intending to benefit society.

Led by an invisible hand to promote an end which was no part of his intention, by pursuing his own interest he frequently promotes that of the society more effectually than when he really intends to promote it.

The 'invisible hand' applied to the actions of countries would be "by pursuing its own interest each country promotes that of the greater society more effectually than when it really tries to enhance the greater good intentionally.

To me that fits nicely with the far-right's nationalism.

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Response to pampango (Reply #13)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 08:57 AM

18. Read Adam Smith a bit more carefully!

Competition among nations is mercantilism, which believers in the free market and the invisible hand reject. Oppoosition to mercantilism was Smith's main purpose. Smith's passage that you quote refers quite clearly to the pursuit of self-interest by "men of business" -- by individuals, as you quote explicitly.

For a short version of Smith's economics, see http://www.pages.drexel.edu/~mccainra/excerpts/asmith.html

As to support for unions, they are supported by Social Democrats in the continent of Europe and by the Labor Party in Britain. Of course, that's why it is called the Labor Party. All of these are opposed by Liberals -- the Lib Dems in Britain, Free Democrats in Germany, Radicals in Italy, etc. I'm not sure there are any Liberals in France.

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Response to rogerashton (Reply #18)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 09:29 AM

19. Mercantilism is not 'competition among nations'. It is economic policy to benefit one country over

others. In fact, mercantalists specifically reject open competition among nations by using policies such as high tariffs, export subsidies and non-tariff barriers to trade that do the exact opposite of promoting 'competition among nations'.

Mercantilism was an economic theory and practice, dominant in Europe from the 16th to the 18th century, that promoted governmental regulation of a nation's economy for the purpose of augmenting state power at the expense of rival national powers. It is the economic counterpart of political absolutism. Mercantilism includes a national economic policy aimed at accumulating monetary reserves through a positive balance of trade, especially of finished goods. Historically, such policies frequently led to war and also motivated colonial expansion. The Mercantilism theory varies in sophistication from one writer to another and has evolved over time. High tariffs, especially on manufactured goods, are an almost universal feature of mercantilism policy. Other policies have included:

Building overseas colonies;
Forbidding colonies to trade with other nations;
Monopolizing markets with staple ports;
Banning the export of gold and silver, even for payments;
Forbidding trade to be carried in foreign ships;
Export subsidies;
Promoting manufacturing with research or direct subsidies;
Limiting wages;
Maximizing the use of domestic resources;
Restricting domestic consumption with non-tariff barriers to trade.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mercantilism

Believers in the 'free market' do not reject competition among nations. Germany, Sweden and essentially all European countries trade more "freely" (without tariffs or other restrictions) than the US does. Such trade inherently represents a competition among nations as opposed to mercantilism.

With respect to support for unions, you seem to be differentiating between Liberal and Social Democratic parties - which in a European context is fair enough. From an American perspective 'liberals' tend to support unions and 'conservatives' tend to oppose them.

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Response to pampango (Reply #19)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 10:05 AM

20. You previously wrote:


The nationalists in France want France to compete with Germany, not cooperate with it. ...

The 'invisible hand' applied to the actions of countries would be "by pursuing its own interest each country promotes that of the greater society more effectually than when it really tries to enhance the greater good intentionally."


And the mercantilist policies you describe are the policies a country would use to pursue its own interest.

Now, it is true that European Liberals favor free trade, which allows individuals in Germany and France to compete with one another, and they expect that competition among individuals to promote the interest of the greater (international) society.

My point was that the invisible hand cannot be "applied to the actions of countries" without doing serious violence to the ideas of Smith and the European liberals.

To be fair, the ambiguity is inherent in the word "competition." When Mr. Putin has his business rivals put in prison on trumped-up charges of tax evasion, he eliminates a competitor -- that is a very aggressive form of competition. But that is not, I gather, what you mean. In that your terminology agrees with modern economic theory, which uses the term competition in a much narrower sense. I prefer to call that narrow concept "competitive offering" as opposed to competitive threats, competitive violence, etc. By the way, free trade is considered a "cooperative solution" in the terms of game theory -- treating the determination of trade policy as a game among nations each pursuing its own interest. Mercantilism is considered the "noncooperative solution." That's pretty standard in the professional literature on the economics of trade, I believe.

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Response to rogerashton (Reply #18)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 11:36 AM

24. The Lib Dems do not oppose unions

See, for instance:

Tories and Lib Dems in row over union fees deductions

Danny Alexander and Francis Maude are engaged in a fraught coalition row over Conservative plans to stop Whitehall departments deducting millions of pounds in trade union subscriptions from civil servants’ pay packets.
...
Liberal Democrats say they are determined to curb what they see as Maude’s plans to neuter public sector trade unions – comments that will be seen as an attempt to differentiate the party from their coalition partners. A senior Lib Dem said Maude was acting after clashing with the unions over changes to the civil service.

http://www.theguardian.com/politics/2014/oct/03/tories-lib-dems-row-union-fees-deductions

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Response to pampango (Reply #8)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 07:06 AM

11. The so-called European 'far Right' is National Socialist

 

Military Nationalism.
State controlled Economy.

Rings a bell?

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Response to Yorktown (Reply #11)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 08:01 AM

15. That certainly proves that nazis din't believe in the 'free market'. Nationalism and militarism

are, as you say, more their things.

Hitler faced the choice between conflicting recommendations. On one side a "free market" technocratic faction within the government, centered around Reichsbank President Hjalmar Schacht, Minister of Economics Walther Funk and Price Commissioner Dr. Carl Friedrich Goerdeler calling for decreased military spending, free trade, and a moderation in state intervention in the economy. This faction was supported by some of Germany's leading business executives, most notably Hermann Duecher of AEG, Robert Bosch of Robert Bosch GmbH, and Albert Voegeler of Vereinigte Stahlwerke AG. On the other side the more politicized faction favored autarkic policies and sustained military spending. Characteristically, Hitler hesitated before siding with the latter ...

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Economy_of_Nazi_Germany#Pre-war_economy:_1933.E2.80.931939

You are right. Hitler eventually came down on the side that opposed the 'free market', decreases in military spending, free trade and a decline in state intervention in the economy.

He very much did come down on the side of a state-controlled economy and 'autarky' (opposing international trade and striving for economic self-sufficiency).

Most modern conservatives in the US and Europe could not fairly be described as proponents of Hitler's wild economic beliefs. The 'technocratic faction' the advice from which Hitler eventually rejected was more similar to modern conservatives - "'free market', decreased military spending, free trade, and a moderation in state intervention in the economy".

In some respects the disagreement between Germany's 'technocrats' and its 'more politicized faction' resembles that between the republican establishment and the tea party wing of their party. And resembles the different philosophy of 'center-right' conservatives in Europe and the far-right like the French National Front and UKIP in the UK.

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Response to rogerashton (Reply #6)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 11:32 AM

23. The 2 British politicans in the OP are Liberal Democrats

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graham_Watson
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catherine_Bearder

They are not 'libertarian'. I would say they are roughly equivalent to mainstream US Democrats (who are, of course, believers in free markets) - they're not socialists.

Look at their website, for a feel of their stances: http://www.libdems.org.uk/

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Response to muriel_volestrangler (Reply #23)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 12:30 PM

28. Right, well

The lib dems were founded by the merger of the liberals with the social democrats -- who in turn were rightists who left the Labor party when it still was more or less socialist. Liberalism, per se, has never been friendly to unions.

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Response to rogerashton (Reply #28)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 12:39 PM

29. Yes, as I said, they are not socialists, and neither is the US Democratic party

They're not a party with many links to the unions, unlike Labour, but they're not looking to limit them, unlike the Tories. Lib Dem policies are not libertarian - they are in favour of heavy government involvement in environmental protection, for instance. They proposed a top income tax rate of 50% when Labour were in power with the top rate at 40%; eventually, Labour adopted it.

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 07:26 AM

12. The EU exists only to further neoliberalism and capital run amok so I hope it busts.

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Response to TheKentuckian (Reply #12)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 08:11 AM

16. Let's hope that the income equality and overall prosperity in Europe does not go bust

at the same time. Europe has had no other era with this much widely shared peace and prosperity.

If the EU is to go bust - and I agree that is a distinct possibility - I hope there is a liberal order that takes its place and not a return to the conservative closed borders, hyper-nationalism and economic suffering that preceded it. Unfortunately, the prevailing political force attacking the existence of the EU is from the far-right so it is much more likely that any new order that replaces the EU will be right-wing in nature.

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Response to pampango (Reply #16)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 11:28 AM

22. The whole agenda of the EU is to undo income equality, strip away those protections,

make democracy meaningless, funnel wealth to the top, make government subordinate to capital, and to increase poverty via shock and awe austerity.

Right wing or right wing? Who gives a fuck?

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Response to TheKentuckian (Reply #22)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 11:49 AM

25. If that were true, Europe would not have the world's best income equality and would have lost

those protections long ago.

Right wing or right wing? Who gives a fuck?

I'm not sure what that means.

If you meant "Right wing or left wing? Who gives a fuck?" The answer is, "I do." If you think the left and the right are equally evil, you are welcome to your opinion. It is a little unusual coming from a DU'er.

If you think the far-right is on the correct track wanting to dismantle the EU, be careful what you wish for. Don't be surprised with the other policies they bring with the demise of the EU.

I'll stick with the "left wing" that created the 'welfare state' in Europe and its widely shared prosperity and opened up borders for Europeans.

Does the left in Europe have some bad policies? You bet. Austerity is at the top. Does that mean we throw in the towel and side with the far-right? Not me. FDR messed up and went with an 'austerity' budget in 1937 which caused a plunge in the economy. Before and after that mistake he was a great liberal leader. Thankfully liberals did not throw him overboard because of that mistake. I hope Europeans do not make that either.

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Response to pampango (Reply #25)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 12:23 PM

27. No, I meant what I said not what you want to jump off on. Why do you just put words in people's

mouths? That is fucking dishonest, I said right wing or right wing and didn't stutter. Neoliberalism isn't left wing but rather just a different permutation of rightist ideology.

As for your first point, it is happening right now the fact that the process isn't instant and that there is significant citizen push doesn't negate the situation.

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Response to pampango (Original post)

Thu Mar 26, 2015, 08:44 AM

17. Thermodynamics

It takes a lot of energy(in various forms) to keep something like the EU, or the US, together. The more people you bring together, the more complex it becomes, the more energy is required. It can work great when it's always growing, when there's more energy available. Everyone can have everything. One size can fit all, because it's easy to incorporate more variables. Everything changes when you have to start making choices.

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