Czech Babis, Austrian Kurz and others threaten Europe with nationalist populism

Visit of Prime Ministers of the Visegrád Group, to the European Commission. Jean-Claude Juncker, President of the EC (in the middle), received Bohuslav Sobotka, Czech Prime Minister (first from left; the socialist PM is to resign today and will be soon succeeded by Babis), Beata Szydło, Polish Prime Minister, Robert Fico, Slovak Prime Minister (second from right), and Viktor Orbán, Hungarian Prime Minister (second from left). Date: 18/10/2017. Location: Brussels – EC/Berlaymont. © European Union, 2017 / Source: EC-Audiovisual Service / Photo: Etienne Ansotte.

Andrej Babis, a media magnate and second wealthier Czech leading his anti-immigration, nationalist and populist ANO party, won last Sunday’s election, with around 30% of the vote. He is to become the next Prime Minister of the Czech Republic. Babis did that on an anti-systemic Trump-like ticket. He was recently implicated in a tax fraud rig, but this didn’t stop him from winning the election. In the European ‘Pantheon’ of populism and xenophobia the new Prime Minister of Czechia is to appear next to Hungary’s Victor Orban, Poland’s Jarosław Kaczyński and the latest arrival from Austria of the 31 years old young Chancellor-elected Sebastian Kurz.

On 19 October this newspaper wrote “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”. The European Sting also analyzed why the electoral victories of the pro-EU and moderates Emmanuel Macron in France and Mark Rutte in Holland some months ago just covered up the frightening drift populist-wise of European politics. Let’s dive into this abyss.

Babis and Kurz

Kurz and Babis electoral wins prove ‘par excellence’ that the anti-immigration, xenophobic, anti-EU, ersatz anti-systemic and chauvinist rhetoric is a sure way for every scoundrel to become a protagonist in his country’s political arena. In some way, aggressive nationalism has again become a safe passage to prominence for cunning politicians like the Catalan President Carles Puigdemont or the British lead Brexiteer Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson.

In the process, the usually right-wing politicians add to their traditional conservative electoral clientele, the ‘left behinds’ of our brave new world, and thus become leading political powers. All analysts agree that globalization and the free movement of goods, capital and people have severely hurt a large part of the working population all over the western world; it’s the less educated and the less qualified workers. With their votes they avenge the established political system, which obliges them to compete with low-cost countries’ workers.

Center left and right alike

The traditional center-left parties (or socialists) together with the established center-right political forces have endorsed and promoted globalization and its neo-liberal ‘laissez faire laissez passer’ addendums, right from the beginning in the early 1990s. Gradually then, almost the entire established political spectrum of the past decades lost its appeal to the many ‘left behinds’, abandoning them as pray to bogus anti-systemic political vultures. As a result, Babis, the media super-rich mogul easily managed to pass as an anti-systemic agent, exactly as Donald Trump did. The same is true for Boris Johnson, a darling of his country’s mainstream media.

To the measure however that this new class of chauvinist politicians starts getting government posts, globalization champions hit back. The core and main force of globalization, the banks, are not at all happy seeing anti-globalization political views gaining momentum. The Spanish banks with central seat in Barcelona moved it elsewhere in Spain, after the ‘independence’ ticket acquired momentum. The London City mammoth banks, mainly American, are threatening the Tory Brexiteers of Theresa May’s government with transferring their business to Frankfurt.

It’s the banks again

In the case of the US though, Trump rushed from his very first day in the White House, to caress and overtly favor the New York bankers. Now, he prepares to altogether abolish the few checks and controls Washington has imposed on them, after the 2008-2009 financial catastrophe. So, in the Trump era, the US banks are ready to repeat what they had been doing before and bring again the world to its knees. To be noted, the banks are presently driving all stock exchanges to dazing highs, at breathtaking rates, many times higher than the growth of the real economy. This totally unsubstantiated financial explosion is achieved with the 10 trillion handed to bankers by the monetary authorities. Borrowing has surpassed the dangerous levels of the 2008-2009 crisis. The bubble may burst at any time. But let’s return to politics.

As things stand now, European and other nationalists, at the exception of Trump’s deceitful game of ‘America first’, are increasingly becoming an obstacle to the neo-liberal management of the world by the bank leviathans. The banking giants, apart from fearing of losing their hub in the City of London, now dread  the prospect of being targeted by jingoists of all sorts.

Globalization hits back

Of course, Macron and Merkel are still politically able to guarantee that the lenders will continue having a free hand on the real economy. However, the chauvinists of central Europe and elsewhere plus some flag-wavers in the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) may one day arrive at an understanding with politicians in the heart of the Western world like Boris Johnson and Marine Le Pen. The result of such collusion may be an abrupt or gradual unraveling of globalization and the introduction of checks and controls on the free movements of capital, people and goods. Then, the banks will be obliged to return to their real job which is accepting deposits, granting loans and nothing else, as they had been doing until the early 1990s. At that time, their cut of national income was two to three percentage units in comparison to around ten per cent today.

Coming back to Babis, despite his self political positioning as centrist, he fought the electoral battle with anti-immigration cries, verbal abuse of the EU integration efforts, populist divisive dilemmas and anathematizing the open door and the receptive attitude of the modern world. In short, he swiftly abandoned political centrism and unscrupulously boarded the train of populism, in order to win the election.

The effectiveness of this routine also proved successful last week in Austria, performed by a callous young man. In different circumstances and on a vivid historical background, Carles Puigdemont, the President of Catalonia threatens to amputate Spain. The same scenario, but in an elegant Italian style is currently unfolding in Lombardy and Veneto.

In conclusion, the stunning success of remorseless politicians hungry for power and riding on anti-immigration platforms, reveals that there is something more deep beneath this surface. On this question though everybody agrees, it’s the anger of the ‘left behind’ of our brave new world that simmers. The problem is what will happen when the new populist political breed is exposed as charlatans, promising greener grass. In the US this revelation is already unfolding, leaving the country almost ungovernable. The same scenery unfolds in Britain, with the unbridgeable chaos dividing the Brexiteers from the Bremainers. In Spain the Barcelona- Madrid feud has become unpredictable. Can the new Paris-Berlin initiative for a new European Union be enough to answer all those questions…? rather not…more is needed.

 

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