As the French head to the polls on Sunday, January 22nd for the first round of leftist presidential primaries, the long-term outlook for the Socialist Party looks bleak.
France’s Socialists are bitterly divided and their standard bearer, President Francois Hollande, is so unpopular he decided not to run for reelection.
During his five-year reign, Hollande had the dubious honor of presiding over three major Islamic terrorist attacks, an increasingly struggling economy, and the migrant crisis. His ineffectualness in dealing with this triple threat to France’s security dealt a death knell to the left and gave way to the very real possibility of a Trump-style upset this April.
As France approaches the cusp of a right-wing populist uprising, we must ask: What on Earth happened to European socialism?
For more than a century, socialism in one form or another has been the dominant political philosophy of Europe. But whereas the Bolsheviks were ruthless revolutionaries and the Nazis were belligerent militarists and racists, modern socialists are little more than effeminate dolts.
One must note that fascism as a concept is notoriously hard to define. It was American political commentator Jonah Goldberg who perhaps most accurately defined “fascism” as any political idea to which someone who defines themselves as liberal or progressive is opposed. The situation becomes even more ambiguous once one realizes that on most matters, especially on economic issues, socialists and fascists actually agree quite well.
Fascism and socialism are so similar in fact that some political theorists (particularly American conservatives) have abandoned using the orthodox political spectrum which defines “fascism” and “communism” as opposite extremes, and have instead opted to use a more rational system that has “anarchy” at one extreme and “totalitarianism” on the other. This classification system places both fascism and communism/socialism very much on the totalitarian end of the spectrum. Indeed, it can be rather hard to distinguish the two.
That’s not to say that there aren’t differences between fascism and socialism, just that the differences between the two schools of political thought are neither as great nor as significant as their adherents believe/perceive them to be. Essentially, the difference between the two boils down to the fact the fascism is nationalistic in nature and glorifies militarism whereas modern socialism is “internationalist-ic” in nature and glorifies bureaucracy. But oftentimes even these seemingly fundamental differences are little more than different ways of presenting the same policies.
For example, the famously militaristic German fascists could accurately be said to love war for its own sake. Modern European socialists, of course, revile the very concept of war… until it has the stamp of the UN or the EU on it, then they’ll send their young men (and women… and transgendered individuals) to the very ends of the Earth. With strict orders not to shoot anyone unless they themselves have already personally been shot of course.
Similarly, nothing will get a socialist’s heart fluttering quite like a policy or program that smacks of international solidarity. But let any given socialist international body try to force any given socialist nation into a policy or program that the given nation didn’t already like (i.e. one that they would be happy to force on others) and watch all the good little socialists baulk and scream. By the same token, fascists hate the very notion of international organizations dictating national policies… unless they control the international organization; a scenario under which the concept seems like a very good idea to them.
One could almost say that the common thread that connects the various schools of socialism that have plagued our world for the past 100+ years – whether it be the Bolsheviks of Russia or the Nazis of Germany, right down to the American Progressives and European Greens of today – is that in every age and nation, socialism is the natural political home of the self-deluded, egotistical adherents to a specious concept of utopian society.
Socialism is the philosophy of those who feel more than they think and who actually experience a perverse satisfaction at forcing the rest of society to go along with them.
But regardless to which political spectrum paradigm one subscribes, the fact remains that fascism/socialism are extreme philosophies. And extremism grows when government grows disconnected from the needs and desires of the people (both real and perceived). The rise of right-wing socialists in Europe has been the direct result of the inaction and/or inability of moderate, establishment politicians to address what the real citizens of their respective nations are actually experiencing.
But there is another way: Classical Liberalism, derived from the ideals of the 18th Century European Enlightenment and the doctrines of liberty supported in the American and French Revolutions. The guiding principles of this philosophy are limited government (i.e. a government constrained by both a constitution and a system of checks and balances among co-equal branches) and God-given individual rights (i.e. intrinsic rights such as free speech and to be secure in one’s person and possessions, rights that are inherent to a person from birth and do not require a burden or duty to be placed on any other person such as the “right” to health care or the “right” to housing do). Furthermore this philosophy holds that free citizens should be empowered to solemnly elect representatives who will act on their behalf.
Thus, Classical Liberalism is inherently a responsible form of government because it is a government of, for, and by the people.
After five years of writhing in the depths of a socialist morass it looks like the French may just be going in that direction.
By: Benjamin Wolinski