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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Le nationalisme, poison mortel pour la démocratie

by Francis Wurtz

Nationalism: Deadly Poison for Democracy

Translated Thursday 28 January 2016, by Spencer Russ

A column by Francis Wurtz, Honorary Member of the European Parliament.

Europe must restructure itself with each of its nations, involving citizens in the choices to be made.

“Having been elected President of region, I will cut all subsidies to associations that provide assistance to migrants!” This was one of the last statements by the head of the ‘de-demonized’ Front National (FN) before the second round of regional elections [1]. This illustrates a vision of a society supportive of a dire chain of events. Events which history has taught us could lead to the worst. The spirit of stigma and discrimination begins by going after the Migrant, then, along the way, the Frenchman ‘of foreign origin’, then the Muslim or presumed ‘Muslim’ and all those who ‘are not like us’. A part of society - the most vulnerable - then gradually risks becoming seen as the other. La Fontaine, for example, already denounced them as "these scabs, these lepers who bring us all evil.” And, moreover, it is "a vision of a world where France holds a net historic and cultural superiority over other countries, (...) painting the foreign as a major creator of our evils" [2].

In such mythology, there is hardly any room for rational reasoning. On December 6, in some Alsatian communities where more than 60% of the inhabitants work in Germany, half of voters supported a party advocating the closure of borders! They are worried about migrants taking their work across the Rhine [3]! It is still unclear where this logic of exclusion and division starts, but we know where it can end. There is nothing more vital for democracy than to eradicate all these seeds of nationalism, racism and xenophobia. These poisons are deadly to living together peacefully! To paraphrase Pastor Niemöller, let’s react swiftly when they attack the ’immigrants’ or ’foreigners’, so we do not regret our actions when they come for us!

And what about Europe in this context? Should critics on the left, in reaction to the its Europhobic nationalism, ’smooth things over’ with the FN over the disastrous policies pursued in its name, like the outrageous abuse of powers at its heart? Certainly not! The type of European structure currently in force is doomed. Both its failure is evident and its legitimacy shattered in the eyes of the majority of Europeans. But when a major break with the current European model inevitably comes to pass, the alternative is certainly not to look to a nationalist throwback! Some on the left advocate a ’union of nations and sovereign peoples and associates’ and encourage, in this framework, common policies to be carried out in each nation’s “chosen form” [4].

This proposal has a double benefit. First, it fully takes into account the lasting importance of national events and expresses them in the context of the reality of our time: interdependence across borders. This is the opposite of the dominant forces’ current practices. The goal of the fight for this new ’Reformation’ of Europe is to achieve a structure that is not imposed from above, but starts with each nation expressing its will with the involvement of its citizens in the choices to be made. The other benefit of this alternative vision of Europe’s structure is that it provides for each member country to be able independently to decide its degree of commitment to these common policies. This debate is now clearly of unprecedented importance.

[1On RMC on December 10.

[2François Miquet-Marty, president of Viavoice ("Libération" on December 11).

[3See "le Monde" on December 11.

[4See "Refonder l’Europe", French Communist Party text from November 15, 2013.

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