European politics and the Hegelian Manoeuvre

MAY 12 — When Donald Trump won the US presidency, there were millions of gaping mouths, all in utter shock. 

No one, possibly not even Donald himself, expected him to win. Not after the “grab your ” scandal emerged anyway. 

But win he did and although I do not think he would be half as fascist as the religious right expect him to be, I did think his victory would have a domino effect in Europe. 

Europe was poised to take a step towards ultra-conservatism. Neo Nazis thought their time had come. I was quite wrong.

Geert Wilders of Holland, the self-styled enemy of Islam and immigration, decisively lost in the Dutch elections two months ago. Marine Le Pen who spoke as if her time had come (she and her father Jean-Marie had waited all their lives for the Trump phenomenon) also decisively lost in this week’s French presidential elections. 

What happened to these Far Right hopefuls? This is where I believe the Hegelian Manoeuvre comes in. 

The Hegelian Manoeuvre is my own coinage named after the 19th century German philosopher Georg Wilhelm Hegel. Through his observations, Hegel observed that human civilisations progress through a process known as dialectics. 

This is a process whereby an initial idea, known as a thesis, meets with an opposing force, known as its anti-thesis. The interaction of these two forces will then result in a synthesis. 

Following this, the Hegelian Manoeuvre, would be about the battle of ideas. If Far Right ideas here could be termed as a thesis, then the Socialist, internationalist ideas opposing them would be considered its anti-thesis. 

When the two meet, there will be several compromises and perhaps even a new political centre of gravity. That will be known as the synthesis of these ideas. 

Europe has certainly demonstrated this before. When Tony Blair first came on to the scene, he was very careful not to follow the Socialism of his predecessors which caused Labour to recede during the Thatcherite years. 

Instead, he proposed a “Third Way” which kept many Socialist policies but also ignominiously led to the second Gulf war. Today, most hard-core Labour activists consider Blair’s rule to be the dark years of Labour’s history. 

Be that as it may, it was still the result of a synthesis of previous ideas. 

The victory of Emmanuel Macron to become the president of France shows me that the Hegelian Manoeuvre happened once again. 

Marine Le Pen was riding high on Trump’s victory and looked as if she would finally win. However, other things were simmering. The recent UK decision to leave the EU, known as Brexit, struck a chord with Europe. 

While Far Right nationalism always seems appealing as a chest beating exercise, when it came down to it, no one really wanted to leave Europe; they would have too much to lose (uninhibited travel and cheap booze not least of them!). This resulted in a Hegelian momentum and Macron was the result.

Macron was actually part of the previously ruling Socialist party but ran as independent in this year’s election. He had a rather left wing educational background (philosophy and public administration) but also worked as an investment banker. 

He is very devoted to the Republic but not averse to criticising its history, for example its colonial period during which atrocities were committed in Algeria (watch the disturbingly accurate film, The Battle of Algiers). 

He does not eschew the practice of religion but insists that it must be within the confines of the Republic. These policies do seem to be a compromise but it appears to be the winning formula. 

Macron had a clear victory over Le Pen of a ratio of 2 to 1 votes. I suppose ideology is a reflection of our propensities to deal with our current situation. 

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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