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Wake up and smell the Nazis

  • Published at 05:42 pm August 19th, 2017
  • Last updated at 10:51 pm August 19th, 2017
Wake up and smell the Nazis
Right-wing populist movements have become a dominant force in Western politics in the recent past. Following Brexit and victory of Donald Trump in the US election, the surge of right-wing populists is facing a test in wake of the election in France and upcoming German federal election. The manifesto of right-wing populist parties the world over has shaken the core institutional and pluralist values of Western liberal democracies. The anti-establishment populist movement is bound to challenge the status quo of the liberal political order for the first time in the post WWII period since the demise of Adolf Hitler, Benito Mussolini, and Francisco Franco -- all of whom spearheaded Nazi and fascist parties. Anti-immigration, anti-EU, anti-Islam positions, and economic nationalism are the key ideals advocated by these parties. Sometimes, they propagate “disinformation” or “fake news” to create an axis of fear and fuel insecurities and grievances among people. There is a strong assumption among Western liberals that the spread of “fake news” is orchestrated by Russia. You aren’t welcome here  One of the focal points of the surge of populist movements is its anti-immigration motto. Because of the economic recession of 2008-14, people in the West were frustrated and angry with their respective governments. In the meantime, major terrorist attacks such as 9/11 and 7/7 perpetrated by illegal or temporary immigrants made people intolerant of immigrants. The negative perception about immigrants fueled the rise of right-wing politics as many populist parties like UKIP in the UK, the Freedom Party of the Netherlands, and the Tea Party movement in the US. Donald Trump, in his campaign, accused migrants of stealing jobs and prescribed building a wall in US-Mexico border to prevent illegal trespassing. Ultimately, his anti-immigration policy paid off as he managed to impress ultra-conservative catholic and evangelical voters as well as college-educated voters aspiring for a less competitive job market. And, meanwhile, in Germany, Chancellor Angela Merkel received backlash after announcing to welcome refugees from war-torn Syria. Keeping it in the family Another key characteristic of these right-wing populist parties is the promotion of economic nationalism. They are the promoter of “mercantilist” or protectionist economic policies. UKIP, National Front, Freedom Party all are anti European Union parties. UKIP had the front-line role for the “Leave” campaign in Brexit referendum. Donald Trump repealed TPP agreement after his presidential win. He deliberately repeated, somewhat in a loop, that he was not a supporter of “free trade” and that the US was being cheated by codifying treaties like TPP or TTIP. Such policies are getting popularity among people because of the false promise of creating more jobs by populist leaders as well as ultra-nationalistic or patriotic message circulated by them.
Anti-immigration, anti-EU, anti-Islam positions and economic nationalism are the key ideals advocated by these parties
Divide and conquer Growing “Islamophobia” is another essential factor which led to the surge of right-wing populism. After the 9/11 attacks, Islam was seen as the root of all evil by some who did not understand the religion. Subsequent terror attacks carried out by Islamist fundamentalists and the rise of IS consolidated the general fear and hatred against Islam. On the other hand, the Muslim population in Europe is growing faster than the Christian population because of immigration. A report by the Pew Research Centre predicted that Muslim population in Europe will be doubled by 2050 (up to more than 10% of total population). Populist parties took this information and used it as their political advantage to fuel Islamophobia and raise fear among their voters about “Islamisation.” Telling tales  Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi used his ultra-nationalist and pro-Hindu policy to bring a “saffron storm” in state election of Uttar Pradesh, the biggest province of India during February-March 2017. Without giving a single nomination to Muslim candidate in a state where 20% of the population are Muslims. And so, Modi and his BJP party sent a clear signal that BJP will not appease minorities. Populist parties of Europe and America promote each other in direct and indirect manners. 1. Liberals believe that Russian President Vladimir Putin authorised the hacking of DNC and influenced the election. 2. Donald trump himself promoted Brexit and stands against EU. 3. Former UKIP leader Nigel Farage visited the US during Trump’s presidential campaign. 4. French far right leader, Marine Le Pen visited Russia to meet Putin in March which invoked suspicion of Russian involvement in French and German elections. Another integral part of the populist surge which could not be ignored is the leadership quality of the leaders. The charismatic leadership of Donald Trump played a pivotal role in his victory. To listen to what liberals claim to be outright lies in his campaign speeches, millions of people attended his campaign rallies. With growing Islamist and Christian fundamentalism, European and American politics is passing a period of substantial change. It is apparent that the reality of right-wing populism cannot be ignored, and we can no longer overlook how xenophobic or bigoted it is. FM Arafat is a graduate student of international relations at the University of Dhaka.