Chauvinism and xenophobia will lead to global assertiveness and more wars

The winner of last Sunday’s election in Austria Sebastian Kurtz (on the left) was received in London by the British Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson on Wednesday, 4/10/2017. (Austrian government work. Foto: Dragan Tatic).

The immigration crisis of 2015 in Europe exposed the hollowness of the political system of the new millennium in the Old Continent, anguishing to cover the huge social cavities the economic neo-liberalism has created. Unfortunately, economic neo-liberalism didn’t lead to political liberalism, but instead to chauvinism, xenophobia and the insurgence of the extreme right wing political forces all over Europe.

Donald Trump is also the same product of the ineptitude of the established American political parties to cover the social holes that neo-liberalism has dug into society. The results of last Sunday’s elections in Austria proved how easy it is for the populists of the extreme if not fascist right, to ride the anti-immigrant ‘horse’ and win the contest. Unprincipled populist politicians now seem unstoppable. A young man in Austria, Sebastian Kurz, easily proved this by being voted to become the youngest Chancellor in history. But let’s start from the beginning.

Austro-German parallels

For historical reasons the German counterpart of the Austrian anti-immigration populists, the Alternative für Deutschland – AfD (Alternative for Germany) party got ‘only’ 13% in last September election. The AfD entered the Bundestag for the first time, despite its deep internal divisions, which led to a secession of a number of deputies right on the election night. The reappearance of the German liberals, the Free Democrats (FDP) in the country’s political scenery was achieved also on an anti-immigration ticket. Altogether, the German political system shifted to the right last month, dragged by the nationalistic and populist rhetoric of the extreme right.

The Europeans had relaxed in the first months of the year with the electoral wins of Emmanuel Macron in France and Mark Rutte in the Netherlands. Yet, a meticulous analysis is needed in both those cases. For one thing, Marine Le Pen the leader of the populist and anti-immigration National Front party, was not at all new in the French political life. She already had an aura of the old establishment and failed to penetrate the youth. Le Pen was also stained with information about being financed by Russia. On top of that, she has been punished by the French two rounds electoral system (two Sundays), with all constituencies electing one deputy. Due to this fact, Macron and his months old political party ‘En Marche’ managed to triumph in the Presidential and the legislative elections with just one third of the vote.

Only one flying Dutchman

Last March in Holland, the liberal and moderate Mark Rutte had a much more difficult job. His anti-migrant, nationalist and populist opponent, Geert Wilders, was more aggressive than Marine Le Pen. Wilders went as far as to propose to throw out all immigrants old and new, in this way luring the left behind Netherlanders. Rutte, however, was very lucky. Before the election, the Turkish President, the ‘Sultan’ Erdogan seriously offended the Netherlands.

Rutte handled this crisis very successfully, by adopting a stern position against the Turk. He denied entry to Holland for the Turkish Foreign minister and also escorted the Turkish Family affairs minister to the German borders. They both wanted to address their compatriots living in the Netherlands, before the election. Then, Rutte invited the Turkish Prime Minister to dinner and Binaly Yildirim accepted. In this way, Rutte diffused the crisis and at the same time showed quite a resolute attitude towards the Turkish interference in Dutch politics. In this way, he won the part of the public opinion he needed. As a result, he prevailed in the Wednesday 15 March election, despite his party losing one quarter of its votes.

A shallow young Austrian

In the case of Austria, the Turks refrained from any interference, despite the fact that this EU country maintains a very tough stance against Ankara’s European prospects. Erdogan finally understood his blunder. So the populist, anti-immigrant and shallow Kurz easily got 32% of the vote and came first. It becomes clear then, both Macron and Rutte in a sense ‘covered’ the strong underlying tendencies of the European voters. In Austria, Germany, Poland, Hungary and elsewhere, they have clearly showed their inclination to turn to the far right.

In Austria, the center – right wing People’s Party (OVP) – under Sebastian Kurz 31 – won around 32% of the votes by very quickly shifting rightways and becoming within months a rather far right wing party. Kurz actually offered the Austrians almost the same anti-Islamic and anti-immigration rhetoric as the Freedom Party (FPO), which was founded by ex-Nazis some decades ago. FPO was a ‘red cloth’ for Brussels for many years; not any more. The extreme right has now won a place in the establishment, through its populist rhetoric.

Germany follows

It’s very indicative that the sister party of the German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s CDU, the Bavarian Christian Social Union CSU seems to have taken the Austrian message. According to Reuters a high ranking CSU politician said, “We see Kurz as a model for conservatives in Germany. We applaud him. He will change the dynamic in Europe.” To be noted, in the last September election, the CDU-CSU center-right alliance had lost one million votes to the extreme right wing anti-immigration AfD. This last German party presented a political platform very close to Kurz’s OVP and to Freedom Party’s anti-immigration chauvinistic rhetoric.

In short, the extreme right wing groups have emerged as a major constituent in Europe’s political life, in the brief period of a few years. They were there for a longer time, but their exploitation of the immigration crisis catapulted them to prominence. What happens in Europe has already produced ugly results in the US, with Trump and in Britain with Boris Johnson and Nigel Farage.

It’s the West stupid

The common characteristic of all those new political phenomena in the Western world are, an aggressive nationalism and a laic repulsion of globalization and of the ‘Laissez faire, laissez passer’ economic ideology and practice. It’s a semantic and relevant observation that the hard Brexiteers in Theresa May’s government show the least interest for the problems the London City financial hub will face in case of a no-deal Brexit. Actually, there is no communication between 10 Downing Street and the big banking leviathans, which made the City what it is today.

The obvious reason for that must be looked for in the utter irrelevance between the 10% of UK’s GDP the City of London produces, with the rest of Britain and the ordinary Brits. For the same reason, Trump managed to steal the votes of the left behind Americans – exactly as Kurz did in Austria, expanding his electoral base with the ballots of the left behind Austrians apart from the traditional right wing votes.

Do it like Trump

Of course, Trump is now doing exactly the opposite of what he promised to the left behind Americans. He plans to further loosen the controls on the New York banks and let them drive the world to its knees again. It’s the same with his prodigious proposals to offer reductions of tax rates for the very rich and the corporate America of his heart and pocket. And all that justified and dressed in an extreme nationalist rhetoric. This is invariably the scheme the extreme right-wingers machinate all over the Western world. In Europe the full-size tribulations have started in Britain with the Tory Eurosceptics under Boris Johnson. The problem is, though, that in each country, this kind of aggressive nationalism and xenophobia will soon be confronting the aggressive nationalism of other countries. As a result, soon the borders may acquire again their lost importance. Then what, when the chauvinistic swindle will be exposed? Wars? Very probably, as Trump is showing the way.

 

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