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NYTimes.com Article: America's Restive Partners
by swsystem
28 April 2002 13:38 UTC
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This article from NYTimes.com 
has been sent to you by swsystem@aol.com.


Intelligent commentary today by Tony Judt.  

"Europeans today are being forced to weigh the social costs of abandoning the 
postwar welfare state. The far right offers one solution  close the borders 
against change and newcomers and confine state-provided social and welfare 
services to the "native" community. The left would retain the ideal of the 
social democratic state, at the expense of profit and efficiency if need be. 
And both sides juxtapose their European understanding of the good society, the 
cohesive community, to the American market-driven variant. This widely debated 
contrast is the common, binding thread at the heart of European 
anti-Americanism, and it is set to grow, not diminish."



swsystem@aol.com

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America's Restive Partners

April 28, 2002 

By TONY JUDT


 

The news from Europe sounds grim. Synagogues have been
fire-bombed; Jews have been assaulted; one in five French
voters chose the far right candidate, Jean-Marie Le Pen, in
the first round of the country's elections. American
observers have wondered whether these events presage a
return to the murderous hatreds and anti-Semitism of
Europe's dark past. Are things really that bad? Maybe not.
Above all, they are not that simple. 

The ultranationalist, xenophobic right is manifestly on the
rise, and not just in France. In the most recent national
elections in Austria and Switzerland, anti-immigrant
parties got 27 percent and 23 percent of the vote,
respectively. In Antwerp, the hypernationalist Vlaams Blok
won nearly 40 percent at the last local elections, in 2000.
Last month one in three of the prosperous burghers of
Rotterdam gave Pim Fortuyn, a flamboyant gay populist,
their backing: half of all Dutch voters under 30 support
his proposal to ban Muslim immigration and say they'll vote
for him and his party in the country's national elections
next month. 

The antiforeigner Danish People's Party won 12 percent of
the national vote last November. Even in Britain, there is
similar sentiment. The anti-immigrant, ultranationalist
British National Party scored an unprecedented 14 percent
of the vote in some decaying industrial towns with large
Asian populations. 

These groups have in common three interlocking obsessions:
crime, immigration and the loss of national "identity." The
first issue is real: violent street crime is on the
increase in Europe, and mainstream politicians who ignore
it will be punished by voters. Everywhere the far right
blames immigrants for crime. In France there are some five
million Muslims, and they are Mr. Le Pen's primary target.
In the Netherlands there are only 800,000 Muslims (5
percent of the population), but that is enough for Mr.
Fortuyn to write a book called "Against the Islamization of
Our Culture" and declare that his country is "full." In her
best-known campaign poster, Pia Kjaersgaard, the leader of
Denmark's People's Party, showed a pretty little blond
child with the caption: "By the time you retire, Denmark
will be a majority-Muslim nation." Yet in Denmark just 1
person in 15 is of foreign origin and most of these are
thoroughly assimilated. 

The extreme right abhors dark people and other newcomers;
it always has. But the common thread in right-wing populism
today is something new, what Mr. Le Pen astutely captures
when he appeals to the "little people ruined by
Euro-globalization." Many Europeans today, especially the
citizens of small, unimportant states (the French are an
exception here), feel bewildered and lost. Their countries
and their institutions have lost their place in a
globalizing world economy - and above all in an
institutionally homogenized European Union. 

Just as Americans would be wrong to project Europe's morbid
past onto its troubled present, so they perhaps take too
seriously the rhetoric of European unity, writing of "the
European project," "European attitudes," or even "European
anti-Semitism." Tip O'Neill used to insist that in the
United States all politics is local. In Europe today, all
politics is national. Jean-Marie Le Pen is a French
dilemma. There is no such thing as the "European" far
right; there are only the French, Dutch, Danish, Austrian,
Italian and other variants. They share certain dislikes,
one of which is the idea of "Europe" itself. "France" or
"Denmark" is a concept with which men and women can
identify, for good and ill, and on whose behalf prejudices
and fears may be mobilized. "Europe" is not. 

The emphasis has changed, and the new sources of violence
and xenophobia are not primarily rooted in traditional
European anti-Semitism or the dark European past. Jews have
been beaten in recent weeks, and synagogues attacked. But
the perpetrators have often been those same young Muslims -
in France and elsewhere - whom the far right itself
excoriates. And though Europeans are typically more
sympathetic to the Palestinian cause, to suggest, as some
American commentators have done, that European guilt over
the Holocaust is eased by the sight of Israeli violence -
and that Israel's behavior has released Europe's innate
anti-Semitism - is to simplify a complex situation. It is
also a slander on people in countries like Sweden or
Portugal who quite properly feel no such guilt. 

The extreme right in Europe is nowhere on the verge of
power. Mr. Le Pen has no hope of winning 30 percent of the
electorate, much less becoming France's next president. But
the European social crisis of which the far right is a
pathological portent will not disappear, and on this score
Americans have grounds for anxiety. It has for some time
now been clear that Europe and America are drifting apart.
On free trade, Iraq, the Middle East, international courts
and many other post-cold war international issues, the
Western allies are at odds. Yet the most important
difference of all frequently passes unmentioned. 

Europeans today are being forced to weigh the social costs
of abandoning the postwar welfare state. The far right
offers one solution - close the borders against change and
newcomers and confine state-provided social and welfare
services to the "native" community. The left would retain
the ideal of the social democratic state, at the expense of
profit and efficiency if need be. And both sides juxtapose
their European understanding of the good society, the
cohesive community, to the American market-driven variant.
This widely debated contrast is the common, binding thread
at the heart of European anti-Americanism, and it is set to
grow, not diminish. 

In these circumstances it is reasonable to be anxious about
the future of the Western alliance. In the arrogance of
power, officials in Washington have taken to describing the
Europeans as "our fair-weather friends," whose
sensibilities can safely be ignored. The assumption is that
the Europeans are bound to follow the American lead - how
else could it be? But this is imprudent. Fair-weather or
not, the Europeans are our closest friends. But many
Europeans see the world very differently, and it is a
dangerous illusion to suppose that the logic of
globalization must needs bring us together. Recent events
in Europe suggest that the opposite may be happening. And
that would be grim news indeed. 


Tony Judt is director of the Re marque Institute at New
York Uni versity.

http://www.nytimes.com/2002/04/28/opinion/28JUDT.html?ex=1021000929&ei=1&en=9ca5178ed48f1f65



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