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The Scarlet & Black

The New Brumaire: International neoliberalism meets its end

By Jenkin Benson ’17

Did I want the globalized neoliberalism of the European Union to dissolve? Yes. Did I want the globalized neoliberalism of the European Union (EU) to dissolve by a surging spate of reactionary populist nationalism? A resounding no.

The Western world’s apprehensive gaze has firmly fixed on the French election cycle these past weeks. In a turn of events frighteningly similar to last year’s American debacle, the French election has been trimmed down, the socialist hopes of Jean-Luc Mélenchon and Benoît Hamon ousted by Marine Le Pen’s grotesque nationalism and Emmanuel Macron’s disappointing allegiances to liberalism. While most pundits have claimed that Macron is safely ahead of Le Pen and have predicted the victory of the globalist cause and the EU, it is important to remember that the centrist media once had utmost confidence in the then faultless and indomitable Clinton campaign. While I would like to believe the lackluster promises of neoliberal credo still captivate Western voters, it would not surprise me if the French people mirrored their American counterparts and invited an abhorrent reactionary into office.

Many pundits and liberal thinkers across political and news outfits and college campuses across the West have been utterly taken aback by the rise in national conservatism, especially within the EU. It was a grand project of liberal democracy, consolidating the (worthy) states of Europe into a bond of convenient travel and capitalism. And now, as seen in a dejected USA, this rosy, elite dream is seemingly coming to its nationalistic end. The mostly smooth post-WWII decades are transitioning into a new epoch in which the logic of neoliberal globalist capitalism is being challenged by more threatening forces.

On one hand, the upcoming contest of Macron versus Le Pen is not totally unexpected. Increased influxes of migrants, particularly the Syrian refugee crisis, has exacerbated an Orientalist hatred ingrained into the ideological whiteness historically foundational to Europe. The EU’s open borders, supposedly the Union’s most beneficial and acceptable facet, is now Europe’s most contentious issue. The concept of an open border is an outwardly advantageous policy when compared to the troubling xenophobia of a closed border. While rigid national boundaries are the dividers of a flawed protectionist mythos, open borders are a more superficially welcoming ideology, one that allows the bourgeois classes to disavow strict national identities in favor of a more expansive, lucrative European relationship. Simply stated, while closed borders reinforce inflexible national sovereignties, open borders are more easily functionalized to reify an overarching identity of whiteness. As we have seen in France, Poland, Austria, the Netherlands and The United Kingdom, when this flimsy and loosely shared European character becomes endangered by the mass movement of non-Whites into their states, more old school nationalists are quick to exploit remaining prejudices and unresolved anxieties.

Wealth inequalities continue to rise globally, and while liberals have tried their very hardest to hyper-normalize free trade and unregulated capitalism as the most ideal economic systems, the lower classes have become increasingly dissatisfied with the quo. Unfortunately, this unrest can be tapped into by duplicitous organizations that only seek to further their interests under the guise of economic populism. Brexit was a key example of the feeble sense of commonality the European Union tried to foster and how far right parties were able to benefit from reimagining a national identity as an “England first” mentality obviously removed from the tenets of the EU. Of course, like all right populists/white supremacists before them, UKIP was a party of crypto-fascists whose intent was to gain power and wealth from the lower classes who were duped into supporting them.

Rest assured, a victory for Macron in 2017 will only ensure an emboldened Le Pen 2022. It remains clear that the objectives of neoliberalism will only give rise to nationalism. The vision of liberalism cannot supplant hard right populism. Only a more transformative, revolutionary and borderless politics founded in a socialist union among the working and marginalized can ensure peace and prosperity.

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