Saturday, December 10, 2016

Why is the right winning?

The past couple of years have been difficult for the Left liberals, in many countries. The Right has been gaining ground at the expense of a declining Left. The latest shock comes of course from the world’s oldest democracy, the US. The urban Americans were so shocked by a Trump win, that they took out protest rallies in major cities. Incidents of arson and vandalism were reported from many cities.

A New York Times report from May 2016 catalogued the rise of Right Wing and Far Right parties gaining traction in Europe. In countries like Germany where Right Wing parties seldom found any following, in the post war era, saw the rise of Alternative für Deutschland (AfD), a Right Wing populist party. Since 2014, AfD has won seats in ten out of the sixteen states in Germany. In France, Marine Le Pen’s Front National made inroads by winning seats in municipal and regional elections. The Telegraph, after the win of Donald Trump, reported that there is a chance that Marine Le Pen can actually win the French Presidency in 2017. Hungary has of course seen a steady support to its Right Wing coalition which came to power in 2010 and retained its majority in 2014.

The resurgence of Right Wing in Europe is not limited to large prosperous countries like Germany, France and the UK (which opted out of EU earlier this year in a popular referendum). Smaller countries like Netherland have also witnessed rise of Far Right parties like Geert Wilders’ Party for Freedom, better known by its Dutch acronym PVV. The party has representations in both the House of Representatives and the Senate. In Austria, which saw the horrors of Second World War, Freedom Party won 35% votes in the first round of 2016 Presidential elections. It is indeed surprising that the region, which suffered the most under the Fascist regimes of Hitler and Mussolini would vote and elect Right Wing or Far Right parties. The question is why is this happening? The answer may lie in plain sight.

For too long after the Second World War, European and American politics tilted towards Left liberal politics, irrespective of the affiliations of the party in power. It was the era of political correctness and living in guilt of the War. It was also the time when decolonisation reached its peak with African and Asian colonies gaining self-rule. The Russian Revolution had established its stronghold on Russia and Central Asia and was now exporting Socialism to other parts of the world. The concept of equality and an egalitarian society were gaining currency. Just when the countries were coming out of the miseries of the War the Socialist movement swept the world. The Unions brought the UK to its knees, Germany reeled under the terror of Red Army Faction. Eastern Europe was for all practical purpose a puppet of Russia.

Before one starts fearing the change, it is necessary to that one realizes that the Right Wing and Far Right of twenty first century is not gunning for mass murder. The invocation of Fascism by a large section of media to draw parallels with the current resurgence of Right wing movements is pure exaggeration at the least and fearmongering at worst. The section of media, which involves in scaremongering does so based on emotions and not on facts. It should be noted that in post war Europe and a large part of Asia the constitution of many countries went through changes and created robust institutions. The only exceptions are Monarchies and despotic Communist regimes. Power is no longer concentrated in one person and the complex web of multilateral institutions, trade blocs and intergovernmental bodies like the UN have created dependencies and control mechanisms.

Yes, I will ban burka by leaning a little on the Right.
Image credit - NorthBridge Times
So why is the Right winning? There are many reasons this can be attributed to. The prime reason being falling standards of living as a result of economic decline. Low fertility rates and emergence of Asia as the new hub of economic growth pushed many European countries and the US into an era of extremely slow growth. Large scale immigration from war torn countries of the Middle East and North Africa has caused social tensions and fear of additional economic hardship for the locals. To top it all the so called “reputed” and “respected” media is treading the “liberal” voice where left leaning policies are the solution to everything and fear of immigrants is simply put, bigotry. What the liberals do not realise is that there is considerable discrepancy between the media and voters’ opinion.

For too long people have heard the manufactured opinion of the media and have learnt to tell truth from propaganda. They see their own standards of living falling and fear for their children’s future. The dislike for the liberal policies is more because the same liberals have failed them in the past. The welfare state created by the past governments has made people dependent on the state and created a bloated bureaucracy. With falling growth prospects and fewer people entering the workforce, the welfare state started shrinking. More people were left to fend for themselves and the safety cushion provided by the state started crumbling.

With technology, access to information and news is easier than it was in the last decade. Social media has pushed news and opinion into our workplace, cafes, restaurants and bedrooms. This has led to a sharp polarization in public opinion. People are divided on ideological lines. While the elite toes the liberal line of an egalitarian society where immigrants are welcomed with open arms. The commoners want freedom from their miseries and hence look up to the Right, which promises them jobs, security, social order and more recently a reduction in immigration. The truth is that the elite will always have a louder voice but common people will have a higher vote share. And this is perhaps why the Right is winning.

Friday, November 25, 2016

Politics and violence, a curious case of the Red Brigade

Violence has always been a part of human behaviour. It manifests itself in different forms and degrees. Humans as hunter gatherers perpetrated violence by uprooting plants and killing animals to survive. Settlements led to periodic and sustained violence by clearing forests for agriculture, killing of pests to protect the produce and harvesting the crop to feed oneself. Over a period of time some forms of violence became acceptable. Survival is the biggest instinct and humans, like all other forms of life ensure that they survive as individuals and as a species. What was not acceptable was violence against a fellow human. It was branded as crime and attracted punishment, often punishable by another set of violent actions.

Humans have moved on from being mere hunter-gatherers and farmers. We have codified laws, which warn us against committing violence against fellow humans and animals. But violence still persists. Throughout history we have evidence of violence against fellow humans. The twentieth century saw some of the most heinous episodes of violence where millions perished. The concentration camps run by the Nazis across Europe, the death march of Armenians by Ottoman Turkey, the forced labour camps run by Stalin in Communist Russia, Mao’s Cultural Revolution and the great leap forward in Communist China, were all despicable acts of violence against fellow humans. The five episodes of mass violence claimed approximately 86 million people. Of this 77% or 67 million lost their lives in Communist Russia and China. The Red Brigade was a formidable force when it came to killing its own people.

The ideology of eliminating one’s opponent has not died down even after the death of Communism in both Russia and China. Both countries remain extremely authoritative and suppress rights of their own citizens. The Communist ideology has replicated its tendencies of eliminating its opponents where ever it went. India is no exception. The seven political murders this year in Kerala is a case in point.

The only two states where the Communists could ever win elections have seen one of the worst kinds of political killings. Buddhadeb Bhattacharya, then minister of Information and Cultural Affairs, in a response to an assembly question has stated that between 1977 and 1996, around 28,000 political murders took place in West Bengal. That is almost 3.8 murders a day. The political murders in West Bengal predate their accession of power in 1977. The Sainbari Killings of 1970 is one such incident where the Communists are believed to have fed rice drenched in blood of the victims to their mother. The political opponents of the Left who were killed belonged to the Congress and later on to the Trinamool Congress. The cycle has hardly stopped after a second round of resounding defeat of the Communists.

The state of affairs in Kerala is not much different. Only the number of murders are less. There are no reliable statistics available on the actual number of political killings in Kerala. However, an RTI response revealed that between 1997 and 2008, 56 people were killed in internecine violence. The numbers would have gone up since then. This year alone has seen seven political murders in Kerala, most of them from the Malabar region where the Communists have a strong support base.

It will be wrong to blame the Communists for the spate of political murder since many of the dead belonged to the Communist carders. The blame lies equally on the other side too. But then there is the question of, “why only states ruled/dominated by the Communist parties see such political killings”? The opponents of Communists, both the Congress and the BJP are in power in many states. We do not read about mass killings carried out by either the Congress or the BJP against each other in those states. It is always the states ruled or dominated by the Communist parties, from where such barbaric stories come from.

The red brigade in India is running a riot. Killing opponents instead of defeating them at the ballot. Their leaders have the courage to write opinion pieces and give television bytes to portray themselves as victims. As India becomes more educated, more aware and more informed, there is hope that the killing machines of Communist parties will be stopped, by Indians.