The rise of the far-right
Sir, – Your editorials “The far-right on the march” (September 7th) and “Take the fight to the populists” (September 11th) provided timely warnings about the growth in support for far-right politicians and policies in western Europe.
In addition to the factors your editorials describe as contributing to this assault on liberal democracy, we should add the malign influence of “Trumpism”.
Steve Bannon, who is generally acknowledged as “the brains” behind Donald Trump’s successful election propaganda and who, despite having been fired (surprise!) by Mr Trump, insists that his main mission in life is to spread the Trump doctrine throughout the world and especially in Europe.
To help achieve his goal, Mr Bannon has set up a well-funded umbrella organisation called the Movement, with its headquarters in Brussels, to support and coordinate the work and policies of the different nationalist, anti-immigrant and anti-EU political parties.
Speaking as a guest of Marine Le Pen at a party rally in France on August 19th, Mr Bannon told her supporters: “Let them call you racist, let them call you xenophobes, let them call you nativist. Wear it as a badge of honour.”
Speaking in Budapest in May, he said Europe’s “populist, nationalist revolt” was 18 months to two years ahead of the US, because of the work of Nigel Farage in the UK, Viktor Orbán in Hungary and the Northern League and the Five Star Movement in Italy.
On Saturday last, the Italian far-right interior minister Matteo Salvini, who has joined Mr Bannon’s Brussels-based “Movement”, speaking a day after meeting Mr Bannon, said: “We are working to be the main European parliamentary group” after next May’s European elections, which he described as “a chance for historical change and the last opportunity to save Europe”.
It would seem that there is more at stake than voting for MEPs in next year’s European elections.
A battle for the minds and hearts of EU citizens and the future of the grand European project has begun in earnest.
It’s no longer an issue of Berlin or Boston, but more a question of back to old borders or forward to a new future. – Yours, etc,