In an era of increasing collaboration between far-right actors in Europe and the United States, a new conference, bringing together influential representatives of major far-right groups and political parties from France, the United States, and other countries in Europe, took place for the first time on November 10th, 2023. The “Worldwide Freedom Initiative” (WFI), held at Montparnasse Tower in Paris, assembled major figures from the American Republican Party, Reconquête (France), the UK Reform Party, Fidesz (Hungary), Debout la France (France), and Les Patriotes (France), in addition to radio hosts, representatives of think tanks, and spokespeople from activist organizations like Mom’s for Liberty (USA) and the Freedom Convoy (Canada).
The main sponsor of the event was the Republican National Committee-affiliated organization Republicans Overseas, the arm of the US Republican Party abroad, whose mission has been to encourage Americans living abroad to vote for Republicans in elections. This collaboration with major far-right political figures in multiple countries, however, marks a watershed moment in the evolution of the organization’s activities.
Hosting WFI demonstrates the group’s reorientation away from just encouraging Americans to vote, and towards broader coordination between far-right parties in Europe, and especially the spread of Trumpism internationally. Another sponsor of the event, the Danube Institute, based out of Budapest, has a long history of collaborating with far-right groups in Europe and the United States (see GPAHE’s report on the Danube Institute here). The organization receives much of its funding from the Orbán regime and largely functions as a vessel for spreading his anti-immigrant and anti-LGBTQ+ politics abroad. István Kiss, a representative of the Institute, was present to encourage the group to continue to organize more events in the future.
Solomon Yue, an RNC official, is the CEO of Republicans Overseas and one of the organizers of the event, along with the bilingual French-English, pro-Trump lawyer Randy Yaloz, who is the Republicans Overseas’s President. The event was organized, according to Yaloz, as a way to fight for “their liberties.” Yue is known for having pushed the Oregon Republicans to adopt a resolution claiming the January 6th Capitol insurrection was a “false flag” event intended to “discredit President Trump.” He also appeared on Greyson Arnold’s YouTube show. Arnold has a history of making racist, antisemitic and pro-Nazi statements. In June 2021, Arnold stated that Nick Fuentes, and his organization America First Political Action Conference (AFPAC), should play a role in picking candidates to run for office. Yue later distanced himself from the white nationalist views of Fuentes and Arnold. Yaloz, for his part, is known for allegedly co-drafting an RNC resolution, later adopted in January 2022, that “held Communist China accountable for Covid-19.”
Present from France were a handful of major political and cultural figures of the French far right. Éric Zemmour, the leader of the Identitarian-oriented political party Reconquête! (Reconquest), and major advocate of the “Great Replacement” conspiracy theory, alleging a secret conspiracy of European elites to “replace native Europeans” by way of immigration, was the opening speaker. Despite his prior hesitancy to align with Americans due to their “influence in French affairs,” he described the urgent “existential” need for the global far right to “work together” on common crises related to Islam, immigration, demographics, “wokeism,” the Left, support for Hungary, and the overarching “war of civilizations.”
Other French political figures included Nicolas Dupont-Aignan of Debout la France (France Rise up) and Florian Philippot, leader of Les Patriotes (The Patriots) and former Front National vice president under the leadership of Marine Le Pen. Dupont-Aignan and Philippot are both known for their antigovernment conspiracy theories during the coronavirus pandemic, blaming a “tyrannical” and “totalitarian” French state for the alleged suppression of personal liberties, and expressing a belief that the American and French elections were “rigged.” Recent adherents of Zemmour’s party, such as Laurence Trochu, a convert from Éric Ciotti’s faction of the Républicains (Republicans), and Jean-Frédéric Poisson, leader of the far right Christian Democratic party Voie du Peuple (VIA), were also present at the conference. This reunion of major French politicians of the far right is significant as Zemmour and other Reconquête activists, such as Marion-Maréchal Le Pen and Phillipe Vardon, have been calling for a broad “union de droites” (union of the right), consisting of all far-right parties, to contest future European Parliamentary elections together. Two speakers, Virginie Joron, MEP with Marine Le Pen’s Rassemblement National (National Rally) and an unnamed official from Les Républicains, were scheduled to speak at the event, but did not show up.
Other personalities of the French far right included Eric Morillot, journalist for far-right outlets Sud Radio and CNEWS, and the “French Trumpist” André Bercoff, a major media personality and radio host at SUD radio, who gave a speech during the “Free Speech, Censorship and Lawfare” panel. Bercoff is known in France for his unflinching support of Trump and spreading of Trump-aligned conspiracy theories about the “Deep State” and the “stolen” 2020 U.S. presidential election. His partner, entrepreneur, essayist, and founder of the l’Institut des Libertés Charles Gave, was also present for a discussion on “Globalism.”
The American participants could be mainly characterized as representing the pro-Trump faction in the GOP. Slated to be the headline speaker of the event was the newly elected Christian Nationalist Speaker of the House Mike Johnson (R-La.), who was unable to attend the event at the last minute. The other officials attending included former California Congressman Devin Nunes, now the CEO of the pro-Trump social network Truth Social, who joined virtually from California, and Congressman Alex Mooney (R-W.V.), known for his hard-line stance against immigration and who is seeking to replace current democratic Senator Joe Manchin.
Covid denialist Kerry McQuisten, the former Republican mayor of Baker City, Ore., who unsuccessfully ran for Oregon governor in 2022, was also present to speak on her experiences running for office during the pandemic to oppose the “tyranny” of pandemic measures. Two of Trump’s former campaign managers, David Bossie and Corey Lewandowski, were also present, and waved part of their time to speak in order to put their phone up to the microphone so that Trump could speak to the crowd by speakerphone. Finally, Quisha King, the head of the far-right “parents’ rights” group Moms for Liberty, recently designated an antigovernment group by the Southern Poverty Law Center, attended the event to speak on the “communist Marxist” ideology and critical race theory allegedly festering in American schools. South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, a Trump ally, was present to give the closing remarks.
Finally, a handful of far right figures from across Europe and North America also attended the event. Elected figures, such as Dutch MEP Rob Roos, who takes issue with the erosion of democracy due to “globalist values,” and former British MEP and Brexit advocate Nigel Farage, joining by video call, were invited speakers. For his part, Farange referred to “wokeism” as a form of Marxism that replaces race, and complained it had “entered the banking sector,” a reference to Farage’s alleged “debanking” claims concerning the private bank Coutts’ decision to close his account. Balázs Orbán, the political director for Hungarian strongman Viktor Orbán, and chairman of the Board of Trustees at the Hungarian government funded Mathias Corvinus Collegium (MCC), was present at the conference alongside the head of the MCC Rodrigo Ballester. Other participants included Tamara Lich, organizer of the Freedom Convoy and Yellow Vest demonstrations in Canada, who attended by video conference, and Sieta Van Keimpema, the spokesperson for the Farmer’s Defense Force and former candidate for the Belang van Nederland (Interest of the Netherlands), a splinter party from Thierry Baudet’s anti-Muslim Forum voor Democratie (FvD), which calls for the expulsion of non-whites to their home countries and spreads the “Great Replacement” conspiracy. The far right Romanian politician and talk show host, Dorin Iacob, spoke about a conspiratorial “Deep State” and “Neo-Marxist” ideology that was, according to him, degrading democracy. He also compared the state of politics today to the authoritarianism of Romania while it was under the control of the Soviet Union.
image attribution: https://wfi2023.org/