Nationalism, populism- European legacy and the new normal – Part 2
Australia’s hard-line immigration policies have echoes of White nationalism and the newly elected Brazilian administration has analysts making connections to White nationalism because of the president’s statements and actions relating to Brazilians of African descent and Indians.
Nationalism and populism in non-European (or its offshoots) setting have strong European roots. Present day Israel was created by Britain with some support from France, who controlled that territory.
India’s Hindu nationalism is a direct result of Britain dislodging the Muslim kingdoms that existed when it invaded and created that state giving the Hindu majority the opportunity to gain political ascendancy in democratic elections after independence. China which has taken nationalistic postures is largely trying to make up for the humiliation from European powers and Japan it under went in the 19th and early 20th centuries as that country has become communist in name only, largely to keep its political (cadres) party in control.
The list goes on in many other countries created by Europe which dislodged established powers prior to colonisation, often to make governing those territories easier particularly when such powers were minorities that had ruled over ethnical or religious majorities.
When the latter were ushered into power through elections they embraced nationalism based on their ethnic and/or religious constituents. This was notably the case of Zimbabwe where the Ndebele who ruled much that country prior to the arrival of the British and were dislodged from power giving way to the much larger Shona ethnic group.
An interesting factor is the irony, verging on the perverse of this trend. Nationalism and populism has been most pronounced in Poland, Hungary and Italy and yet both Poland and Hungary have seen large numbers of their citizen’s move to other EU countries and have and continue to receive huge flows of funds from the EU largely from northern EU states. Italy has also received large sums from the EU.
Britain’s economy which outperformed other EU states coming out of the recent great recession benefited a lot from the influx of workers from Eastern Europe. There are dire predictions that the loss of these workers after Brexit will have significant negative repercussions on services such as the National Health Service (NHS).
Even as Britain leaves the EU, English is becoming the most common language used in EU forums. In the US the prime mover of nationalism.
Trump is the most un-American President in recent history in terms of family connections and use of (undocumented)foreign workers in his businesses. After centuries of persecution and finally settling in their historical homeland, the current Israeli government is doing everything to deny the Palestinians their own state as agreed in peace settlements and emasculating Palestinian governments.
China which defeated the Nationalists is now using nationalism to mobilise its citizens. India, a state created by the British from largely Muslim controlled kingdoms has a Hindu nationalist party that is hostile to the aspirations of its Muslim minority.
The new normal relates to major political and economic shifts. After centuries a new normal has seen what many consider as unpalatable even though the process started long ago. The European tribe feels threatened at home and in its offshoots by immigration from people who are not like them racially, culturally and religiously. This anxiety has been crudely amplified by leaders like Trump who have painted a picture of marauding aliens, crudely referring to “Mexican rapist… shithole countries”, the latter in his description of African countries. He is not averse to immigration if they come from Norway and other European countries. Hungarian and Polish leaders have stressed the fact that Europe’s “Christian heritage” is under siege.
Beneath this anxiety on immigration there are underlying themes that are often not mentioned. These include the low birth rate of Whites in Europe and its offshoots, the loss of absolute and relative economic, political and technological power that Europe has enjoyed for the last five hundred years.
The incomes of the working and middle classes have been stagnant in the last few decades as those of captains of industry have risen exponentially largely because of off-shoring to China and other low cost non-European/American countries, as industrial production and jobs have moved away to those countries. In the new normal technological and economic development outside Europe, notable in Asia have out-paced that in Europe and its offshoots.
The new normal started quite some time ago, early in the 20th century. In 1905 Japan defeated Russia a “major European power” in a war sending shockwaves around the world. This process was repeated at the beginning of the Second World War when Japan rapidly dislodged Britain and America in Southeast Asia.
Europe gave up most of its colonies in Africa and Asia. Britain and France became middle level powers even as they have held on to their security council seats at the UN. The break-up of the Soviet Union left the US as the only superpower even as this European offshoot saw its relative economic ascendancy diminish on the economic front as the non-European power, China, has surged on.
In conclusion, Professor Goodwin prognosis should be adhered to with some caveats. Liberals need to listen and in the medium to short run give some to the concerns of their tribes on culture and immigration.
In the long run they should try to win the hearts and minds of citizens by arguing that in the globalised world tribalism is not the way forward, and organisations like the EU will give Europe more clout and benefits While nationalists have a strong case in Europe, the same cannot be said of its offshoots because with the exception of the original inhabitants, such as American Indians, Aborigines in Australia and Africans in South Africa, all other citizens are immigrants so why should people of European descent continue to get preferential treatment. The US will have to accept the inevitable that it is a polyglot nation where Whites will, in the next fifty years be a minority majority group.
The economy does matter and the Brookings Institute paper lists studies on how to improve stagnant incomes of workers which are antidotes to populism. Business leaders have a significant role to play, investing at home rather than their pre-occupation with off-shoring to maximise profits. That together with more equitable distribution of the economic benefits of growth through progressive taxation and other measures will avoid the wage stagnation which has largely fuelled populism.
While the world has to accept that China and India are major players that does not warrant them riding roughshod over neighbours or minorities. Interestingly there is room for nationalism for business leaders and among some of the poorest states to shore them up and Europe and America must do all they can to assist these countries which will reduce the need for emigration fuelling populism in Europe, America and other rich countries.
Nationalism and populism are the legacy of Europe, currently deeply rooted in the continent but also from a historical perspective. The continent initiated globalisation which is the root cause of this phenomenon.
Interestingly, the cheer leader of this movement, Donald Trump does not have the intellectual capability or character for the challenge as demonstrated in a number of policies.
He is hostile to the EU instead of nurturing the cohesion that America and Europe need politically, economically and militarily for the challenges ahead. And he and his ally, Steve Bannon have stoked nationalism and populism in Europe with strong support for nationalist and populist regimes in Poland and Hungary.
He withdrew from the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that Obama, the chess player had negotiated which would have resulted in two major things, namely, cleverly shifting production and the supply chain from China and introducing measures relating to environmental, labour standards etc, that improve the relative competitive position of the US and also Europe. He has reduced and threatened to reduce aid to poor countries and generally neglected them when these are exactly the kind of support that minimise emigration from those countries.
He has given total support to the hawkish Israeli government making it very difficult for Palestinians to engage in a peace process. He has given total support to the Saudi government’s war in Yemen and other nefarious activities of that regime, pulled out of the Iran agreement and is currently on the verge of war with that country, all actions that are likely to stoke tension in the Middle East that could result in conflict and increased emigration from the region.
As I finish this paper I have just watched Trump making his re-election speech and realised the huge challenge Liberals face. Trump on stage, was the true demagogue with his lies, half-truths and exaggerations sounding emotional as the baying crowd like it was almost a hundred years ago in Germany.
Liberals tend to use logic and dry statistics which do not have the electricity that demagogues seem to generate even as they lead the sheep to their slaughter.
J Boima Rogers is Principal Consultant at Media and Event Management Oxford (MEMO)
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