Marine Le Pen has officially opened her campaign headquarters in Paris in preparation for the forthcoming French Presidential election. Her remarks did not tell us anything we didn’t already know about her. She simply affirmed her commitment to Euroscepticism, border checks, opposition to what she called ‘ultra-liberalism’ and the idea of good relations between France and Russia.
Most importantly though, she said that if Russia, a Trump led America and a France led by her were to join forces in the world, it “…would be good for world peace”. This is an objectively true statement, irrespective of what one might think of any or even all of her other policies. Yet this isn’t being reported to the same degree that her views on immigration, political Islam and the EU are being reported.
This got me wondering if the peace movement/anti-war movement has died a death in the west? Previous generations, the Vietnam generation in America, the Sorbonne generation of 1960s France in the aftermath of the Algerian War, the movement around Willy Brandt in West Germany and the counterculture movement of 1960s Britain; all had peace and an opposition to further Cold War as a central pillar of their values.
Like the new political groups which are gaining success today, the groups which emerged in the 1960s were by no means unified. A hippy in San Francisco would probably not have such strong feelings about the resignation of Charles de Gaulle as would a Parisian rioter, but there’s a profound likelihood that both would support a broadly anti-war stance whether it be on colonial wars, neo-colonial wars or the broader Cold War between superpowers.
On closer inspection, the anti-war movement has not died, but it has changed. In some ways it is more important and more powerful than ever, even if the delivery is less obvious and culturally impactful.
I for one do not believe for a moment that part of the appeal of Donald Trump, of a Nigel Farage led Brexit and the surging popularity of Marine Le Pen in France is unrelated to their anti-war message. Those in the media, including those who support the aforementioned individuals and their causes, are short changing the wide ranging nature of the appeal of the movements they seek to promote by suggesting that the foreign policy message doesn’t matter to voters. It matters and it resonates, even when not proselytized in flamboyant tones.
What has shifted is that the anti-war movement of the 1960s generation was very public and was part of a wider counter-cultural movement which eventually proliferated into mainstream culture. Songs like John Lennon’s Give Peace A Chance were as popular as apolitical pop tunes.
Today’s anti-war culture is different. It is a pragmatic and at times highly motivated political rather than cultural movement. There are no anthems, no fashions and no geographical flash points. What does unite this group organisationally isn’t the rock festival or the free love; it’s the internet and the free exchange of ideas.
All of the individuals who support the new political movements across the western, world generally share an opposition to war, even if they don’t articulate it. For example, Paul Joseph Watson is well known for lacerating liberal hypocrisy, but he too doesn’t want war between Russia and America. Milo Yiannopoulos is best known for lambasting those who politicise sexual and religious identity, but he doesn’t support Al-Qaeda’s affiliates in Syria the way Hillary Clinton and John Kerry do (soon to be did). Steve Bannon hasn’t been pictured at a demonstration against NATO troops stationed in Poland and the Baltic states, but he does think American priorities shouldn’t be the wasting of time, money and effort on provoking a war on Russia’s European border.
Today’s anti-war movement is more grown up, more experienced and more pragmatic than those in the 1960s and rather than just forcing resignations of well-known politicians, it is actually electing them. In other words, in today’s anti-war movement, I detect more of a mature understanding of the lessons of the May the 9th and less of a ‘peace is cool, man’ attitude. This can only be a good thing for world peace.
So too is the case with a Le Pen victory. Her policies on immigration and culture will only affect France. Her foreign policy will by definition affect the world. The priorities of the mainstream media and liberal political groups are so off kilter that one would be forgiven for thinking they are mad. They’re not, they are worse. They are pro-war, but the lessons of the 1960s in the west, mean that they can no longer openly say it.
Do not be fooled for a moment.