Alain de Benoit, Counter Currents, March 28, 2017
Editor’s Note: The following is a translation by Greg Johnson of an interview that was conducted in French between the Russian International Eurasian Movement and Alain de Benoist, the founder of the French New Right, in February.
November 8, 2016 seemed almost impossible: a man who dared to challenge the global liberal establishment won the American presidential election. Donald Trump became the forty-fifth President of the United States of America. For me it is obvious that Trump’s victory marked the collapse of the global political paradigm, and simultaneously the beginning of a new historical cycle. What, in your opinion, will now be essential in the relationship between the US and Europe, and what hopes do you personally have for the new President?
It is evident that the election of Donald Trump as President of the United States of America is a truly historic turning point. But I would not be as categorical or as optimistic as you are. I think it’s important to distinguish between the “Trump phenomenon” and Trump the man. The Trump phenomenon is what made the election of Donald Trump possible — and what this election has revealed, in this case, is the American people’s tremendous resentment against the oligarchic Establishment that reigns in that country. The Trump phenomenon, in this respect, is not fundamentally different from the Bernie Sanders phenomenon. This is clearly a positive thing, which shows that the surging wave of what is known in Europe as “populism” has now reached the United States.
With respect to Trump the man, I am much more divided. In terms of personality, he is obviously a whimsical, egocentric, impulsive, and totally unpredictable person. He has virtually no experience in politics and apparently feels that a country can be run like a business. His first initiatives were not bad, but often awkward. It is also far too early to fully appreciate what his policies will really be: we simply do not have the necessary hindsight.
In the field of international affairs, what seems to me to be the most positive possibility is the likely reorientation of American policy towards protectionism and relative isolationism (involving a break with the imperialist and aggressive policies of Hillary Clinton, who certainly would not hesitate to declare war on Russia). But it remains to be seen how these new orientations will be implemented. Many opponents of Trump accuse him of “complicit sympathies towards Russia.” Trump did indeed give the impression of not having the same principled hostility towards Vladimir Putin as the neoconservatives who preceded him in the White House. But it is not clear whether Trump took this position for the sake of preserving peace in a world that has become multipolar, out of real sympathy for Putin, or more cynically because he would like to divide Moscow from Beijing and to make the Chinese pay the price for a rapprochement with the Kremlin. I also note that the anti-Russian sanctions have still not been lifted, and that Donald Trump even went so far as to publicly declare that Russia must “return the Crimea to Ukraine”! He has also been forced to get rid of his military adviser, Michael Flynn, who was blamed for having had contact with the Russian ambassador in Washington. Trump’s unconditional pro-Israel bias, his unjustified hostility to Iran, and his stated intention to question the nuclear agreements signed between Washington and Tehran all pose problems in the context of a possible rapprochement between Russia and the US. As for Europe, it appears to be the least of the concerns of the new American President.
For all these reasons, it seems to me that a little caution is needed as to what you can actually expect from Donald Trump. Especially in the United States, the President is far from being able to do whatever he wants, being stuck between an Establishment that is partly hostile to him, a media that despises him, a Congress that is far from sharing his views (in the Republican camp as well as in the Democratic camp), and a Supreme Court which will not necessarily always be favorable to him.
Donald Trump insists on the necessity of reforming the immigration laws, correctly regarding radical Islamic terrorism as the fundamental threat to state security. Trump, an opponent of tolerance and political correctness when it comes to the lives of American citizens, advocates tougher immigration laws and the creation of a special database containing information on all Muslims who are legally residing in the United States. Marine Le Pen also supports the idea of tougher immigrant legislation and proposes to establish a strategic alliance between Washington, Paris, and Moscow against Islamic fundamentalism. Today we can say that the multiculturalist policy in the European countries has suffered a complete collapse. The migrants are not able or willing to integrate into European society, and they have led to the problems of terrorism and the promotion of religious fundamentalism among European youth. The “policy of open borders” demands too much sacrifice. Do you support the idea of tougher immigration policies, and what specific actions do you think can resolve this problem?
Marine Le Pen, who was very pleased with Donald Trump’s election, shares with him the conviction that more restrictive immigration legislation is required. Both have clearly understood that the policy of “open borders” can only cause disasters and aggravate existing social pathologies. Both have shown their determination to fight in a more effective and coordinated manner against jihadist terrorism. But the means they intend to employ are not necessarily the same. Marine Le Pen obviously does not intend to build a wall on the shores of the Mediterranean, but only to establish stricter control over the internal borders of France. Nor do I think that she would be prepared to ban, even temporarily, any visitor from certain Muslim countries, as Trump has done so hastily, at the risk of his decree being overturned by judges. It should be noted that Iran is included in the list of countries covered by the Trump decree, which is rather strange, while a country like Saudi Arabia is not, even though it continues to support the most extremist Islamist movements.
In any event, the issues of immigration and terrorism are not synonymous, although it is clear that the former is often a source of recruitment for the latter. In economic terms, one might say that the issue of immigration has two distinct components: on the one hand those who are coming, and on the other those who are already here. With a little firmness, it is possible to change the migratory flow in order to limit it as much as possible. This can be accomplished by organizing stricter controls, by returning illegal immigrants, by suppressing political and social measures such as family reunification which act as suction pumps, and so on. The issue of the populations of immigrant origin that are already here is very different — and much more difficult to solve. France has between ten and fifteen million inhabitants of non-European origin who have already acquired French nationality. Some (but not all) of them do not conceal their hostility to the laws of the Republic, live in no-go zones, and have created a kind of Muslim counter-society established on the national territory. What attitude should we adopt towards them? Some imagine that they will be sent back (this is the idea of “remigration”), but they are generally unable to explain how. Donald Trump will not “return” all those Latinos to Mexico who have acquired American nationality, nor will he return the millions of blacks to Africa who live in the United States! Of course he does not intend to do so. Marine Le Pen relies on secularism, that is to say, on the prohibition of any display of religious belief in the public sphere, to encourage the assimilation of those she calls “our Muslim compatriots.” But many are skeptical. It is clear that the problem will not be solved either by xenophobia or by angelicism, but what exactly is the line to follow? The question remains.
In recent years, one can notice the increasing dissatisfaction with the policies of the European Union, and talk about its dissolution has become more common. After forty-three years of membership, Britain has decided to withdraw from the EU, and even forced Prime Minister David Cameron to resign. What, in your opinion, will be the fate of the EU? Will the example of the UK be repeated by other countries? Donald Trump believes that it is inevitable (mainly because of the migration crisis).
In announcing the reasons why he decided not to run for a new term, Jean-Claude Juncker, the President of the European Commission, did not hide his pessimism, which is revealing. The European Union, already greatly weakened by Brexit, is today nearly ruined, powerless, and paralyzed. Twenty years ago, everyone believed that “Europe” would solve all problems. Today, it is no more than an additional problem, which clearly aggravates all the others. From the beginning, European unification has defied common sense: founded upon industry and commerce, not politics and culture; directed from the summit (the Brussels Commission), rather than from the grassroots level, which would have meant strict compliance with the principle of subsidiarity; preferring the hasty addition of new member states to deepening the existing structures; refusing to consult the people at the various stages of this process; failing to reconstitute the sovereignty taken from the national states at a higher level; failing to take into account the geopolitical boundaries of Europe; and failing to achieve a European diplomacy, foreign policy, or common defense.
More recently, the European Union has denied its own name by dividing the European countries twice: first in the brutal division between the North and South with the adoption of a single currency, the euro, which has proved unusable by the least economically-developed countries (hence the crises that successively affected Greece, Italy, Spain, and Portugal); and second, the division between East and West, with the countries of the Visegrád Group’s reaction to Angela Merkel’s irresponsible policy of opening the borders to migrants.
For all these reasons, the future of the European Union appears to be quite gloomy. If a major new financial crisis were to emerge in the months or years ahead—which is quite possible, if not probable—there is a good chance that a united Europe will not survive. No one knows today whether the euro will still exist, at least in its present form, in two or three years! The problems of immigration will also continue to make their effects felt. After Brexit, some countries might very well be tempted to follow the example of Great Britain, although for the time being no one dares to take the plunge. Marine Le Pen, as we know, would like to organize a French referendum on a possible exit from the European Union, as well as from NATO.
Donald Trump’s election could have fostered an awareness among Europeans of the new world that is appearing before their eyes. It could also have stimulated the implementation of a common European defense policy. But this was not the case, because there was no political will. The Europeans, in whose interest it would be to look to the East and to get closer to Russia, with which they are objectively in solidarity within the great Eurasian continent as a whole, have lost all historical consciousness and all consciousness of their identity. They live in a state of weightlessness, confining themselves to repeating abstract formulas without thinking (“Western values,” “human rights,” the “open society,” etc.) that have no purchase on reality. In Washington, Moscow, and Beijing, they try to imagine the world of tomorrow. Europe, on the other hand, allows itself to drift with the current, at the risk of becoming the object of other people’s history.
After the election of Trump, the meaning of “anti-Americanism” has completely changed. If in the “Age of Obama” anti-Americanism was synonymous with anti-globalization and meant confronting the unipolar project, American hegemony, and the liberal establishment, then in the “Age of Trump,” anti-Americanism is already synonymous with globalization, North America’s imperialist policy, irrelevant pseudo-tolerance, and a multiculturalism that opens the doors for fundamentalist migrants. In other words, anti-Americanism in the current political context is becoming an integral part of the rhetoric of the very same liberal elite for whom the arrival of Trump was a real blow. For the opponents of Trump, January 20 was the “end of history,” while for us it represented a window for new opportunities and options. The configuration of political actors and political forces has radically changed. But what if the current anti-Americanism creates not only a wave of protests (such as the Women’s March on Washington), but also more serious actions? What can we expect from the globalists who are now in opposition?
Your question suggests that the liberal globalists have become anti-American since Trump’s election, so that the anti-Americans of yesterday (who were both anti-American and anti-liberal) will somehow become pro-American. I don’t think that’s the way it is. I observe first of all that the liberal elites do not assert themselves in any anti-American manner: Trump, in their eyes, rather represents something foreign when compared with the American ideology that has hardly changed since the days of the Founding Fathers. Conversely, I do not see why those anti-liberals who have shown themselves to be hostile to this American ideology in the past should forget the underpinnings of their criticism. For two centuries, the American ideology has been based on anthropological and ideological foundations that remain entirely open to criticism, with or without Donald Trump.
It would also be a mistake to believe that Donald Trump will necessarily pursue a policy that will be objectively favorable to Europe or Russia. Trump has the great merit of wanting to break with all-out interventionism, and to some extent also with the dream of a unipolar world, but he does not hide the fact that his objective remains, as always, to serve American interests first: America first! This is quite natural for an American President who promises to “Make America Great Again.” But this does not make American interests more compatible than they were in the past with Russian or European interests. And finally, I don’t need to remind you of the importance of the facts of geopolitics, in particular the age-old antagonism between Land and Sea. These fundamental geopolitical truths, this irreducible antagonism, have obviously not been abolished by the election of Donald Trump . . .
I would add that, personally, I have never defined myself first and foremost as an “anti-American.” I am not an Americanophobe! I am above all an opponent of capitalism, the capitalist abolition of limits, the primacy of market values, the “fetishism of commodities” (Karl Marx), the logic of profit, and the “monotheism of the market.” Capitalism derives its anthropology from a liberal ideology based on individualism, selfishness (the axiom of self-interest), and the idea that a society can be fully regulated by legal contracts and exchange. As far as I know, this ideology is still present in the United States. Donald Trump was certainly brought to power by a populist wave with which I sympathize. Nevertheless, he himself is a capitalist, even a super-capitalist, who has formed a government of billionaires (many among them former Goldman Sachs employees). No doubt, he will favor traditional industrial and entrepreneurial capitalism (which is entirely indifferent to ecological issues), as opposed to the deterritorialized capitalism that demands that no restrictions be placed on the free movement of goods, services, and capital. But this does not change the substance of the issue. Whatever feelings the figure of Donald Trump may inspire, and whatever policies he is going to implement, the main enemy remains liberal capitalism.
How do you evaluate Marine Le Pen’s chances of winning in the upcoming elections? Is France ready for such a change?
If the presidential election had only one round, Marine Le Pen would have the greatest chance of being elected, since all the polls put her ahead of all the other candidates. But in France, the presidential election has two rounds, and these same polls show that she will lose the second round because the other candidates will join their voices together to bar her. Of course, nothing can be definitively ruled out, especially in an election campaign that has already been rich in surprises, but at the time I am writing, this is indeed the most likely scenario. Getting into the second round would nevertheless be a great success for Marine Le Pen, especially if she faced a candidate who does not belong to either of the two great “parties of government” that have alternately governed France for thirty years.
You are asking me, if Marine Le Pen is elected, if France is ready for such a change. The question is rather whether Marine Le Pen and her party are ready for it themselves!