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.