Throughout the past year, we have experiencedmajor changes in our political system.
Far-right political parties andideologies have gained major support throughout the west, and although thesemovements have always been present, the success of this magnitude across Europeand the United States has not been seen since World War II. In just 18 monthsthe world has experienced the election of a populist authoritarian in theUnited States, the withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union,the Austrian Freedom Party almost gain presidency, the National Front in Francegain great success rates, the Party for Freedom dominating the Netherland’spresidential polls, Alternative Germany winning 94 out of the 709 seats inParliament1,a strong growing force behind the Gold Dawn in Greece and the growingpopularity of the Podemos party in Spain2. The rise of all these nationalist andpopulist campaigns have thrived on one mayor fundamental common ideology ofrestricting immigration from the middle east.
So, has globalism helped fuel theextraordinary recent political shifts? Globalization throughout the last decades hasaccelerated the free movements of capital, goods, and people. However, todaypeople around the world are pushing back against a globalized world. Antagonisticfeelings have aroused within nations towards free trade and the free flow ofimmigration, and as a consequence demand change within governments.
Throughoutthe last couple of decades, many Western countries have experienced economiccrisis’, mass terrorist attacks and uncontrollable immigration flows causingdomestic crisis within the EU. Migration has always existed. People havealways moved in search of a better life or economic opportunities.
However,today globalization has forced massive groups of people to resettle due toinequality, poverty, government abuses, war and conflicts within their nations.Throughout the past couple of years, European countries have had to assume responsibilityfor more than one million refugees into their territories, predominantly fromthe Middle East and Africa; a great amount of these immigrants being Syrians,escaping the Syrian war. Through European Union Law, countries within Europehave a legal and moral obligation to protect those in need, coercing all EUcountries to grant refugees asylum even when their nation cannot financiallycope with them. This immigration crisis along with other factors has causedgreat tensions and resentment within the European community, particularly fromcountries faced with the disproportionate burden of having to take in a lot ofthese refugee’s due to their geographical location. Whilst immigration concerns have become themain factor in driving today’s popular right movements it has clearly disguisedother political issues that have been occurring for many years. Since thesummer of 2008, a financial crisis hit the global market. This financial crisishas made an extensive impact on the economy of the European Union, affectingsome countries more than others.
Countries such as Greece, Cyprus, Spain,Portugal, Italy, and Ireland have experienced the greatest financialturbulence. With the economy falling apart, debts growing, and many non-sustainablewelfare systems, the working and middle-class Europeans began facingunemployment, salary cuts, no welfare access, pension cuts and no access tohealth care.As history has shown us, in moments of economiccrisis, a population tends to become more vulnerable to extremist groups. Whenwe look back to how the Nazi Party arose, it is evident that it was due toGermany’s vulnerability after World War One. The economic crisis that Germanywas facing at the time led the population to support the Nazi Party. Hence,considering the economic crisis of our time and taking consideration of historicalknowledge one can get a superior understanding of why these far-right partiesare rising at this moment in time.
As mentioned, it is easy, through history, tosee how populations tend to lean more towards right ideologies in moments ofcrisis, however, what makes these right parties so appealing during thesetimes? After World War Two these nationalist or populist parties, in order tostay relevant had to modernize their principles. They combined statist economicideologies along with democratic fundamentals. It is evident that in moments ofeconomical insecurities people feel more comfortable with a more controlledeconomy, which is why nationalist or populist ideologies begin to gain morepopularity and momentum throughout these times. In addition, these parties donot include immigrants in their welfare agendas. With the rapid growth inglobalization and uncontrolled immigration, citizens in many countries aroundthe world fear that immigration will create greater economic instability anderosion of Western Culture.
Furthermore, in the past eighteen months, wehave seen many political parties express their prejudice thoughts towardsimmigrants, which has led to a rise in xenophobia3. Maire Le Pen, leader and presidentialcandidate of the National Front in France stated that she is “opposed to amulticultural France,” and “believes that those who have a differentculture and who arrive in France have to submit themselves to Frenchculture.”4 Donald Trump throughout his campaign has alsoexpressed several times his disapproval of immigrants entering the UnitedStates, especially immigrants from the Middle East and Mexico. Trump went as faras banning Muslim immigrants from entering the United States, and his sonDonald Trump Jr.
compared the Syrian refugee immigration problem to skittles,stating that “If I had a bowl of skittles and I told you just three wouldkill you. sic Would you take a handful?”5 Donald Trump has also disparaged Mexicanimmigrants by stating that they’re “bringing drugs. They’re bringingcrime. They’re rapists.”6 Many other political party leaders such asthe leaders from the Austrian freedom party and the Alternative Germany have alsoexpressed their animosity towards middle east refugees and immigrants. These far-right parties have capitalized on theircitizen’s fears.
People today relate the middle east with terrorism creatingfear of national security. In the United States, people have associatedMexicans with benefiting from American welfare promoting fear of economicalinsecurities. Seeing that most liberal or left parties have an “opendoor” policy towards immigration, far-right political leaders and manyconservative Europeans have condemned them for their incapability to containthe state of affairs.In addition to the right party’s easierideologies to follow during times of crisis, a significant factor to why thepopulation has shifted their political views is due to the left party’s identitycrisis. Many recent liberal governments in power were not capable of finding effectivesolutions to many of the problems their countries were facing.
A great numberof people no longer believe that these parties have the ability to accomplishthe goals they promise to achieve, and using this to their advantage, the rightmore conservative parties have utilized their platform in identifyingthemselves as reliable while blaming the other left establishments for thechallenges the countries citizens are facing.With the difficult conditions many are facing, constituentslook up to their governments to respond to the decline in living standards andgrowing inequality. They expect their governments to manage the upsurge ofimmigration, global warming and the other different consequences ofglobalization. Seeing that many of theseparties have not been able to effectively address these issues, the citizensaffected turn to more rigid ideologies in hopes of a better future. Charles A.
Kupchan in his report “TheDemocratic Malaise” inculpates democratic parties or more”liberal” parties for the difficulties the Western World is facing.Kupchan identifies that the continents affected the greatest by globalizationtoday are ones who have economies ‘open to the world’ like North American,Europe, and East Asia. In contrast, heexplains how Brazil, India, Turkey, and other rising democracies are benefitingfrom this shift of economy. Globalization has expanded wealth and enableddeveloping countries to achieve unprecedented prosperity but as a consequencehas caused developed countries to fall into crisis. With Donald Trump winning the US presidentialelections in 2016 and England leaving the European Union it has felt as ifthese two events generated a domino effect throughout Europe.
However, populistmovements were on the rise long before Trump started campaigning for office orEngland deciding to leave the EU. Thesepopulist parties have always been around and have gained success throughout theyears but having the United States, a country known for its liberal ideologies,vote for an illiberal president with completely different principles and forthe United Kingdom to separate and completely isolate itself from the EuropeanUnion shocked the world. Their success gave the far-right politicians acrossEurope the perfect platform to validate their positions.
The astonishing success of the far right overor nationalist and populist parties over the past year has magnified due to acombination of factors like the economic crisis, the refugee crisis and thepolitical identity crisis, which have brought about insecurities within countries.People are losing faith in their governments, and they are demanding change.Whether these parties will successfully foster the change its citizens are searchingfor is unpredictable. European citizens have a right to feel insecure.With terrorism, an economic crisis leading families to lose their homes, jobsand on top of that having to adapt to millions of refugees crossing their bordersEuropeans today feel hopeless.
Although one may argue that accepting refugeesis the humane thing to do, many European countries can no longer cope with thenumber of refugees coming in especially when trying to emerge out of theeconomic crisis. Take Malta, for instance, a European country in theMediterranean with a population of a 430,000. It was recorded that for every1000 Maltese inhabitants there are 14 refugees. For a state, that small havingto manage so many refugees is clearly unreasonable and unrealistic for thecountry.
I do not believe that the extreme right parties or nationalists andpopulists are the answer to these problems however left parties need to acceptthe fact that their policies have not been successful and in order to regain controlthey will need to find realistic solutions to the problems the continent as awhole is facing. Globalization during these recent years hasdefinitely contributed to the re-emergence of nationalist sentiments andpopulist parties around the world. Although there are many other causes that triggered the economiccollapse of 2008, globalization undoubtedly set the stage for this crisis.Globalization is also a clear cause of the immigration crisis today in Europewhich has eventually led people to support nationalist and populist partiesaround the world in hopes of regaining stability in their countries. 1 “Right-Wing Afd Enters German Parliament For 1St Time,Merkel’S CDU Wins With Historic Low”. 2017. RT International.
https://www.rt.com/news/404397-germany-elections-exit-polls/.2 Sheehy, Audrey. 2017. “The Rise Of The Far Right”.
Harvard Political Review, , 2017.http://harvardpolitics.com/world/rise-of-far-right/.3 Having or showing a dislike of or prejudice against people fromother countries.4 Melissa Bell, CNN.
2017. “Marine Le Pen: Impossible MadePossible by Trump Win”. CNN.
5 Shaffer,Leslie. 2017. “Donald Trump Jr Compares Syrian Refugees To PoisonedSkittles”. CNBC Politics.6 “Here Are All the Times Donald Trump Insulted Mexico”.2017. Time.