27th March 2017
Photo: Marine Le Pen meets Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Kremlin
While the UK media has been tying itself in knots over the meaning of Brexit, and the likely consequences of EU departure, far more sinister developments have been taking place. The visit to Russia of Marine Le Pen, Front National candidate in the French presidential election, was greeted with howls of outrage by some sections of the media. Quite why a meeting of right wing nationalists should be a cause of such outrage is an interesting issue, given that the ascendancy in Downing Street, the White House and Berlin confirms that this is the political direction of travel in the West at present.
Following the accusations of Russian interference in the US presidential election, currently being investigated by the National Security Agency, the meeting of Putin and Le Pen is seen as an attempt to influence French voters. It is remarkable that, even in the post-Soviet era, the West’s fear of Russian capacity to undermine liberal democracy runs as deep as ever. In Soviet times the view was that the illusion of Western democracy would buckle under the weight of its own contradictions. That is has, for the time being, proved to be more resilient than anticipated is a tragedy of historic proportions.
However, having dispensed with the ‘Soviet threat’ the West does not seem capable of settling with the monster it has created in the form of post-Soviet Russia. Like Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein the West, having finally found the means to give the monster life, cannot exert sufficient control over it. It turns out to have a mind of its own. Fortunately, the requirement to have an external bogeyman, against which we all unite, runs as deep as ever and Putin’s Russia is routinely characterised as being as grey, drab and anti-democratic as the picture painted of the Soviet period.
While al-Qaeda, Isis, Iran, North Korea and the Syrian government have all been in contention for the public enemy number one accolade recently, the Russians still occupy a special place in the Western shop of horrors, due to their nuclear capability, economic strength and latent anti-communism in the West. None of which prevents Russians from buying up national newspapers, premier league football teams or half of London but then, in the capitalist world, business is business.
Putin’s take on the meeting with Le Pen is interesting, as reported by the international news agency, Reuters,
“We attach great importance to our relations with France, but at the same time we try to maintain equal relations both with the current authorities and with representatives of the opposition,” Putin told Le Pen at their meeting.
“We do not want to influence events in any way, but we reserve the right to talk to representatives of all the country’s political forces, just as our partners in Europe and the United States do.”
No doubt Putin was being just a bit disingenuous in suggesting that “we do not want to influence events in any way” but more interesting still was his assertion that Russia wants to behave “just as our partners in Europe and the United States do.”
There can be little doubt that Putin’s “partners” in Europe and the United States behave in ways designed to “influence events” in a whole range of scenarios across the globe. Each is locked in a battle to gain the upper hand in a renewed international economic order. Any prospect that alliances can change and that influence can be shifted will be taken. This will be no less the case in the actions of the West to undermine the government of Ukraine, than it will be in the case of Putin lending tacit support to Le Pen, as a lever to de-stabilise the European Union.
With Trump in the White House, Putin in the Kremlin and even the prospect of Marine Le Pen in the Elysee Palace, a dangerous new world order is shaping up. With or without Brexit, the European Union is too weak and divided to put up a great deal of resistance, even if it was inclined to.
The liberal UK press has characterised the moment when article 50 is triggered as Black Wednesday, a moment when,
“…the UK will throw into jeopardy the achievements of 60 years of unparalleled European peace, security and prosperity from which it has greatly benefitted. And for what?” (The Observer 26.03.17)
For much of that time the (West) German economy was supported by the United States as a bulwark against East Germany. West Germany had to fulfil its role as capitalism’s shop window. The people’s of the former Yugoslavia will hardly subscribe to the glossy brochure version of peace. Nor will those who have struggled for a united Ireland against UK military and economic occupation. It was not until the mid seventies that Spain, Portugal and Greece emerged from fascist or military rule to become the poor economies of Europe, routinely castigated as ‘failing’ by other EU members.
Having supported NATO intervention to undermine Syria, the European Union does all it can to keep the refugees it has created from its door. The EU is no paragon and never was. It is not even the best we can do. The sooner the people of Europe can unite around their class interests for peace, jobs, homes and health care the sooner they can extend their hands to the rest of the world. Trump, Putin and Le Pen, for all of their so-called populism, will not do that. Sadly, neither will hanging on to the sinking ship of the EU.