Naomi Klein’s ‘anti-globalisation’ polemic No Logo, first published in 2000, makes no mention of the European Union (EU), which is odd on the face of it as the twelve-starred EU ‘flag’ is as much of a corporate logo as any discussed in the book. Perhaps, from her Canadian home, she didn’t even think about it. The only indirect reference to the EU is a photograph showing French farmers protesting about cuts to farm subsidies by throwing bags of corn gluten and chicken feed into the Seine during a protest in November 1992; this is shown above a photograph of G-8 leaders posing for the official ‘family’ photo in Cologne in June 1999. If the juxtaposition is supposed to represent the farmers protesting against globalisation then it shows how little Klein understands, or at least at the time understood, about the EU’s Common Agricultural Policy (CAP).
The CAP pre-dates the transformation of the European Economic Community (EEC) into the European Union and was used as a means of integrating the agricultural economies of the member states in preparation for eventual political union. France has always received the largest individual slice of the CAP cake and French livestock farmers are renowned for their militancy in opposing cuts to their subsidies and/or low prices for their goods. The real reason that subsidies could be cut, but rarely are, is more meat being produced than will ever be eaten, as farmers have been subsidised to breed too many animals. This oversupply in meat production results in low prices. But the farmers want to have it both ways, to breed too many animals and to be paid a high price for their carrion.
In all areas of agriculture, heavily subsidised European farmers – the French in particular – are able to undercut African farmers, destroying the livelihoods of the latter and keeping their countries in a state of post-colonial dependency on Europe; the real reason for the continued poverty of African countries. Concomitant with this, the EU imposes stringent import duties on agricultural products from outside the EU. This is a distinctly French economic model, of which former French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing, the friend of post-colonial African dictators, would be proud: a policy of protectionism at home whilst preaching ‘free trade’ elsewhere.
If mentioning the CAP appears to be going off at a tangent to the subject of France specifically, then think about how the attitudes of French farmers reflect that of the French political and economic elite, who are happy to use ‘Anglo-Saxon’ methods when it suits them, Électricité de France (EdF) being a prime example of French protectionism at home, whilst exploiting free trade abroad. EdF owns all of Britain’s nuclear power stations, so these are again ‘nationalised’, it is just that they are owned by a different nation. As with globalisation, so with the EU, the French establishment are happy to flout the regulations (border controls, budget deficit in relation to GDP for Eurozone membership), when it suits them, but protest about other countries doing likewise.
Returning to the subject of farmers, another good example of French hypocrisy was that of José Bové (pictured above), a celebrity in the ‘anti-globalisation’ movement, who became famous for demolishing a McDonald’s outlet in 1999 and being imprisoned for it a few years later. (Although Klein’s book mentions the McLibel trial in London, it omits any mention of Bové’s protest). His protest wasn’t for environmental, let alone vegan, reasons. Rather, it was against US import tariffs on Roquefort cheese, i.e. against the US taking a leaf out of the French book, practicing protectionism at home, whilst preaching ‘free trade’ elsewhere. Bové is now an MEP, a corporate ‘Green’, ensuring that the subsidy taps keep on flowing.
Why I am rambling on about all this, is because these French attitudes appear to have been forgotten by the mainstream media and numerous bloggers when dealing with the forthcoming French presidential election, where personality politics have taken over.
French cultural protectionism has long-been directed against the English-speaking world, even when the French themselves are happy to exploit ‘Anglo-Saxon’ economic methods when it suits them. So whilst Marine Le Pen may be championed as an outsider, the only woman in the race, her support amongst the Anglospheric Alt-Right (the Breitbart crowd) may well work against her. Aligning herself with the loose cannon in the White House may go down well with the Trumpkins, but is unlikely to do so with the French domestic electorate. On the basis of mine enemy’s enemy is my friend, many British opponents of the EU are hoping that she will win to hasten the EU’s demise. I am sceptical that first of all she will win and even if she does that France will leave the EU, because French Eurosceptism is based, not on a weak sense of European identity (as British Euroscepticism is), but on a strong one. To put it bluntly, the French are happy to be European as long as they are in charge, or they think that they are. It was the French, after all, who twice vetoed British membership of the EEC.
Prior to German reunification, France was an equal partner to West Germany in the EEC and as far as their respective capital cities were concerned, the Bundesdorf of Bonn could never compete with Paris. However, since German reunification, followed by European Monetary Union and with it the dominance of the German economy, France has become a junior partner. My other scepticism on France leaving the EU is precisely why I rambled on so much about the CAP, as whilst Marine Le Pen’s views may appeal to some rural conservatives, she will have a very hard job in convincing French farmers to give up the CAP privileges that they have become so accustomed to. If she were to be elected and commit to take France out of the EU, I think that it may well be that militant farmers would bring her down; and there would be nothing whatsoever that the Trumpkin Alt-Right could do about it.
No Logo – Naomi Klein, Harper Collins / Flamingo, 2000; first paperback edition, 2001, photograph referred to above on p 438. I purchased and read the paperback edition in early 2002. Before typing all the above, I had a skim through it again and was surprised to find no reference to the EU, other than that photograph.