Monday, October 25, 2004

Europe from Right to Left (Part 1)

No, not a prediction or a tendency in time, but just the order I'm going to deal with them. On the map, it's from left to right, since I'm going to start with the UK.

What do we make of a situation where a party gains support by promising to withdraw from the European Union and drags the main right-wing opposition to within touching distance of that ? Or where a section of the right-wing press, the Mail and the Daily Express since it abandoned its brief espousal of New Labour, while remaining anti-Europe, is also anti-American and anti-Iraq War. (Somewhat bizarrely, this shift is hardly noticed : a professor of politics, analysing an opinion poll in The Guardian last year, thought that the Daily Mail favoured the war; or John Le Carre in Absolute Friends casting it as one of the villains in the denouement of a fictional neo-con conspiracy : 'The Daily Mail carried a searing attack on the "latest whistle-blower... and closet saboteurs of our nation's good name ..." ' (P379) ). The position of those, on the left or centre-right, who are pro-Europe and anti-American, makes a certain amount  of sense, up to a point. But to be anti-Europe and anti-American ? I don't read it that often, but I remember one article in the Mail on Sunday last year that tried to link the two, saying that Blair was so much Bush's poodle that he would join in the War in Iraq and also sign up for the Euro, because the Americans wanted him to do that too. But the idea hardly 'gained traction', as they say.

The Right is also anti-immigration and anti-'asylum-seeker'. I don't know if the British Right has got round to thinking about it much, but the centre-right opposition in Germany opposes Turkey's entry into the EU. The Right in Austria is against it too, talking in terms of the Ottomans at the gates of Vienna in 1683.

UKIP also is anti-the enforcement of speed limits (the police should concentrate on catching 'real criminals'). So, is this just a set of disparate, opportunistic policies ? We have to turn back to the attitudes towards Europe.

The Conservatives have always had an element of course that opposed Europe, from Powell to Ridley. But how can so many on the Right be advocating a policy, so contrary to business interests, of withdrawal from Europe. Of course, we would still trade with other nations - free movement of goods. But what about  free movement of capital ? Or labour ? Or harmonisation of regulation concerning goods sold ? As for John Redwood saying we should go back to the Europe we joined, unravelling 30 years of changes, including the single market agreed by Margaret Thatcher ?

Paul Wolfowitz, on the other hand, is in favour of Turkey joining the EU (the 'admirable things' I mentioned before can be found in his remarks to the International Institute for Strategic Studies, December 2, 2002. One questioner remarked 'you spent about... close to one third, one half of your time talking about relations between Turkey and Europe'). Is this another example of US imperialism ? A letter in The Guardian a week or two ago said that when the Americans think geopolitics, they think big and they think cynical. Is this how empires behave ? By encouraging the enlargement and closer integration of another grouping ? Aren't they supposed to destroy alternate power blocs ? (Think of Rome's treatment of Carthage.) So perhaps it's more a case of globally imposing an idea, that is liberalism (not in the American sense of the word, but in the French meaning of unrestricted capitalism). An imperialism of ideology then, if that still makes any sense.

The Left, however, wants to build a social democratic Europe.

Update (26 Oct) -  minor corrections.

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