Anti-Soros nationalists to form pan-European movement supported by foreign plutocrat

, by T-J Marsden

Anti-Soros nationalists to form pan-European movement supported by foreign plutocrat
Steve Bannon speaking at the Conservative Political Action Conference in the USA in 2017. Photograph: Gage Skidmore // Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

We have news from the furthest right, and it seems that the self-proclaimed arch-populist is on his way to Europe. Having rallied around calls to ‘Stop Soros’ in recent elections, the various national populist movements around the European Union are now being invited to fall into line behind a shadowy billionaire of their own. Stephen Bannon has been keeping busy since the White House job fell through, sketching out the broad idea of his movement. Called ‘The Movement’, Bannon’s new project means to do for illiberal democracy what organisations like the Open Society Foundation aim to do for the regular kind.

Reactions so far indicate that this move is far from universally popular. Take the responses from Germany, where all partners in the Coalition as well as much of the opposition can find common ground in their distaste for the Bannonite vision of a future divided into walled-off nation-states all trying to bill each other for their border infrastructure. The SPD, FDP and even the CSU have issued strongly-worded rejections of the whole idea, with some calling for vigilance against untoward efforts to influence the 2019 European Elections.

In any case, Bannon at least claims to have standards – he won’t be accepting any ethno-nationalists, which rules out some of the most fringe elements of the far right from the start. Instead, the ideal candidates are apparently any and all parties that follow the model set in Scandinavia by the Finns Party and the Sweden Democrats. We can expect a lot of heated rhetoric, then, followed by an acrimonious split halfway through the next parliament.

It is, however, a fascinating step that is being taken by the populist right. And it’s not only Bannon – for example this month we have seen Italy’s Salvini telling the world that his ambition for 2019 is to build a ‘League of Leagues’ across all of Europe, referencing his own brand of easy answers for difficult problems. It’s almost as if they’ve decided that the only way to stop Europeans from cooperating across borders and uniting is to… unite and cooperate across borders in a kind of integrated pan-European organisation.

In all seriousness, we can have a debate about exactly what powers belong where, what our European institutions do and what priorities we set for them. It is in fact about time that we had precisely that debate. We can debate and discuss policies we like and policies we disagree with, without necessarily having to constantly sidetrack into a nihilistic discussion of whether we should simply abolish government. The European stage should be no different, with or without populist elements in the debate.

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