Global Radar Screen
The Dangerous Rise Of The Right
The increasing rise of Right wing populism in the West recalls to mind the Europe of the First and Second World Wars. Nationalism was the driving force behind these wars and we are left to wonder whether the world is biting off more than it could chew by passively allowing the re-emergence of this virulent brand of politics.
One of the theatres to watch most closely is Western Europe. Right wing and nationalist parties have made an impression at the recent European Parliament elections and centrist and Centre-Left parties would need to figure out how this Rightward tide could be turned back and rendered ineffective if the best of democracy is to be saved and perpetuated. In the Mid-May elections, the Brexit party won 29 of Britain’s seats under noted Euro-sceptic Nigel Farrage while almost equally impressive performances were recorded in France and Italy by the far Rightist Ressemblement National and League parties respectively. All such parties are nationalist and anti-migrant in essential policy orientation.
The recent Australian parliamentary poll result where the Right under Prime Minister Scott Morrison won unexpectedly and resoundingly is seen as further confirmation that the political Right is on a firm ascendant worldwide. To be sure, all is far from being over for the centrist and Left parties in the West but in degree to the proportion to which conditions ‘on the ground’ nurture Rightist sentiment, it would be foolhardy on the part of centrist and Left opinion to presume that their influence could hold out indefinitely.
Interestingly, it is in the West that the socialist and centrist parties have been holding out the longest in the post-Cold war decades, while in the global South the Left has been almost wiped off the electoral map on account of making compromises with the Right or as a result of allowing itself to be eclipsed by the Right through ineffectiveness and a failure to capture the imagination of the masses. This is the case in Sri Lanka, for instance, which had a robust Left Movement until the mid-seventies. Today, the ‘Left’ in Sri Lanka has allowed itself to be gobbled-up by the reactionary Right.
However, the Left continues to exist with some vibrancy in parts India’s North-East and is still a force to reckon with in some Latin American countries, Bolivia being one of them. Barring these exceptions, the observer could not be faulted for taking the view that the Left is very much a spent force.
This general decline of centrist and socialist parties globally is most unfortunate because such parties are needed now as never before at a time when the Right is likely to go from strength to strength on account of far flung concrete social and economic conditions that favour its sustenance. While it is true that very many countries of the South are pulling themselves out of poverty it is equally true that inequalities in wealth are growing strikingly within countries and among countries, both of the South and North.
Thus, re-distributive justice becomes a prime issue and without vibrant socialist and centrist parties the cardinal cause of re-distributive justice will go unsupported. Needless to say, with socio-economic inequalities growing, implosive violence will be a common characteristic of countries world wide.
Coinciding with these developments is the rise of religious fundamentalism. The latter is most prominent in the South but it is quite some time since such fundamentalism made inroads into Northern polities. The Trump administration, for instance, is backed by Christian fundamentalist groups. The same goes for some prominent parties of Australia.
Generally, it could be said that religious fundamentalism is a highly virulent form of Rightism. Closer to home, the ruling Bharathiya Janatha Party of India is a fundamentalist outfit and testifies to the thesis that political Rightism and religious fundamentalism mix with considerable ease.
Such hard line ideologies make strange but happy bed fellows. The ISIS and its numerous off-shoots, for instance, blend easily with militant nationalisms in the rest of the world on account of their many commonalities. Once of these is aggressive intolerance of those groups who are seen as aliens or as the ‘Other’. The Right wing parties of the West that are antagonistic to foreigners or migrants are soul-mates of outfits such as the ISIS. They differ only by virtue of the degree of anti-foreigner or anti-‘Other’ violence they exercise. In other respects they are veritable political soul mates.
It is the increasing migrant presence in Western Europe in particular that is nourishing the political Right and sustaining it. Britain’s Brexit traumas are a dire consequence of the growth of the political Right in that country. Needless to say, the malaise is spreading in the West.
What adds to the toxicity of contemporary militant Western nationalism is a reported reversion to the dreams and schemes of the colonialists of the turn of the century, on the part of hard line Westerners that contributed in a major way towards the outbreak of the World Wars. For example, there are Western nationalists who hark back to empire-building.
It does not follow from the above that we are going to have wars of the same kind today. For instance, there are no power blocs of the kind we had at the turn of the century today. Rather, we are having on our hands a world that is increasingly disintegrative, self-seeking and prone to implosive violence.
A tendency on the part of groups, such as the ISIS, to take their operations to the Southern periphery, Sri Lanka being a case in point, is likely to only aggravate these disintegrative trends. These issues will be compounded by the US’ general shunning of multilateralism and other forms of international cooperative conduct.
It will be a world which will growingly feature an ‘every state to itself’ culture. This, combined with nationalist violence, will render the world an increasingly dangerous place to live in.