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Sun 26 May 2019
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In the run up to EU Elections, Arnold le Goeuil explores how Trump’s former campaign manager is trying to unite the disparate parties of the Far Right around ‘White Christian Europe’

Paris, Monday 15 April, the burning iconic Notre Dame de Paris is broadcast live world-wide. Before long, Far-Fight groups started to spread conspiracy theories arguing the fire wasn’t accidental but rather intentionally caused by Muslim workers.

Though also excuse for Islamophobia, the Notre Dame fire symbolizes the existential threat facing Christendom. In reaction, Far Right groups are organising and trying reverse the course of history. Instead of their usual rhetoric about the “decadence of 1968” or “the Great Replacement” (in which ‘white’ society is being supplanted by migrants mainly of Muslim background) they have a new rallying call: vowing to defend European Christendom.

But they can’t do this without making a few changes to their political rhetoric.

From “Out of Europe” to “Another Europe”

The stance far-right parties over Europe has quite changed substantially over the past few years. For decades these parties were ideologically opposed to the EU as a supranational organization, condemning what they understood as a loss of sovereignty. To this they added the examples of the management of the 2008 financial crisis, the example of Greece in 2011 and in 2015 the ongoing refugee crisis in the Mediterranean Sea. Whether it’s the British UKIP, French Front National, German AfD or the Italian Liga, they have all constantly rejected the European Union because of what it represents – liberal values – and what it means – loss of sovereignty and of national control.

Their common anti-immigration ideology put apart, they are far from being united on other issues.

But in recent years something happened – particularly noticeable in the Liga or FN stances. They decided to moderate their Euroscepticism and, if not embracing the EU, at least no longer called for its (immediate) destruction.

In Western Europe, the only major far-right parties which continue to advocate for an exit of the EU is UKIP/Brexit party. But they are basically alone. Whether it’s the FN, the Liga, the AfD, Vlaams Belang (Belgium), Vox (Spain), PVV (Netherlands), FPÖ (Austria), no one is any longer proposing a (insert country’s name) – exit.

White Christian Europe – Steve Bannon’s Influence

All of these parties – which could represent a third of the next European Parliament – have changed their strategy. Instead of focusing on national issues, they tend to highlight how “white Christian Europe” is in danger – gaining political traction on recent terror attacks. Just as centuries ago with the Crusades, this presupposes an wide alliance of armies defending Christianity.

With, his well-funded and efficient Brussels-based organization, The Movement, Bannon his spreading a single co-ordinated political message.

In order to take control of the EU, these groups have a valuable and effective ally in the name of Steven Bannon, former Chief Executive of Donald Trump’s presidential campaign who hopes to replicate that recipe in the upcoming European elections. Bannon’s project is essentially connecting Far Right parties all across Europe, organizing them and making them converge on a single Europe-wide political platform.

With, his well-funded and efficient Brussels-based organization, The Movement, Bannon his spreading a single co-ordinated political message.

With alleged support from Russian investors and directly the Kremlin as well as big US donors (Koch brothers) “The Movement” has already attracted key European figures as Mischaël Modrikamen a Belgian lawyer and managing director as well as Italy’s Interior Minister Matteo Salvini and Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban. They all met along with several other far-right parties in Milan just a few months ago to discuss strategy, immigration and Christianity.

No surprise then that the former White House Chief Strategist has established its Italian HQ in a former monastery in Collepardo where he wants to form future generations of Far Right leaders. Steve Bannon’s project seems to be unchallenged either by the left or by the moderate right, but it could well be that its biggest threat is the Movement itself.

A Difficult Alliance – Economics

At first appearance, Steve Bannon’s EU wide movement seems as frightening as the Komintern’s influence was in the 1930s on European Communist parties. But this time the project may not work.

These parties have huge difficulties to agree on a common Europe-wide platform. Just as social-democrats and traditional conservatives are struggling to form coherent coalitions, Far Right parties make no exception. Apart from their common anti-immigration ideology, they are far from united on other issues.

Just as social-democrats and traditional conservatives are struggling to form coherent coalitions, Far Right parties make no exception.

Take the economy. What links the French Front National, which advocates for a greater state interventionism, welfare state and protectionism with the British UKIP or Spanish Vox parties which want nothing less than a Thatcherite pro-market economy?

Can the long-standing German financial orthodoxy, known as a ‘ordo-liberalism’, accommodate with the as long-standing Italian love for public expenses and deficit to which the Liga-M5S recent budget make no exception?

Would the small business owners and lower middle-class voter who support the FPÖ be willing to support the Hungarian or Polish economy through European subsidies?

These differences on economic programs are noticeable – and could be crucial.

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More Splits – On Foreign Affairs and Social Issue

The economy is not the only thing that divides rather than unites Bannon’s new alliance. Let’s take a closer a look to their stance on foreign affairs.

Representatives from main West European Far Right parties recently gathered in Crimea after being invited by Putin to witness how peaceful the region is – and how better managed by is it by Russia.

Both Salvini and Le Pen both fell in love with Putin’s model. (That both were funded by Russian banks might have helped.) But though Orban in Hungary and Kaczyński in Poland are arguably even more conservative, they are far from supporters of Russia and its maneuvers in Baltic countries, or in Kaliningrad or East Ukraine. This difference appears irreconcilable.

In Western Europe, the only major far-right parties which continue to advocate for an exit of the EU is UKIP/Brexit party.

When it comes to social issues most of these parties are similarly divided.

It’s no surprise that Hungarian Fidesz or Polish PiS are against LGBT rights, abortion or any or the major social progress made in recent decades. But during the same-sex marriage debate in France in 2013 and you’d probably hear nothing which indicates Marine Le Pen’s opposition.

While not supportive of LGBT rights (the rank-and-file members aren’t) Le Pen has been very discreet on the issue in France while, in Italy, Salvini does not miss an opportunity to criticize liberal ‘decadence’. Meanwhile Geert Wilders PVV in Netherlands uses LGBT-rights and 1968 values as a tool to oppose Islam. Here again, the gap seems difficult to bridge.

The Historical Precedent

Viktor Orbán launched his campaign by vowing to turn the European elections into a fight for the defence of European Christendom and against immigrants and ‘1968’ liberals. Others have now followed. But just as it was with the Crusades centuries ago, Far Right parties are not yet in a position to reclaim their Jerusalem.

Will Russia’s support, Steven Bannon’s influence, and the current difficulties Europe is facing help them to boost their votes and impose a lasting conservative change?

This remains uncertain because of the divisions between the different parties. In 2014 they were unable to form a single and strong group at the European Parliament. Will it change this time?

The precedents are not promising. Edward I’s expedition in 1272 against the Mamelukes was one of the most wisely and intelligently organized crusades, but his lack of means, troops and eventual unity shattered all his efforts.

This time, far-right parties have vowed to strengthen their union, unify their political platform and defend Christendom. Time will tell how this 10th Crusade will end.

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