The Rise of Populism: Easy solution for complicated problems

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Text: Žikica Milošević

 In the times of crises, the people tend to find easy answers. And they make rebellions. And they want to protest and dismantle the system they loathe, thinking that the system is opressing them. And it is not liberals’ fault. It is the fault of the Left.

CLEVELAND, OH - JULY 19:  Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, speaks to the media prior to the start of the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18.  (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

CLEVELAND, OH – JULY 19: Geert Wilders, leader of the Dutch Party for Freedom, speaks to the media prior to the start of the second day of the Republican National Convention on July 19, 2016 at the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland, Ohio. An estimated 50,000 people are expected in Cleveland, including hundreds of protesters and members of the media. The four-day Republican National Convention kicked off on July 18. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Đorđe Balašević, a famous Serbian musician, writer and poet, wrote some 25 years ago a memorable song in which he said: „It’s not the fault of the generals and moustache-wearing majors… They only knew to say „Fire!“… It is our fault that we let them do so.“ You cannot blame a wolf from being a wolf, nor a politician from wanting to get some power. Nor you can blame the people from being narrow-minded, if you did nothing to educate them. It is the vacuum that made the populists, and the liberals, often blamed for creating it, are not to blame.

Basically, the political world functions in a dichotomy of Right and Left. They have lots of names. Like Republicans and Democrats, Conservatives and Labour, Christian Democrats and Social Democrats or so. Depending on the country we are talking about. Usually there is one side championing the rich, the ones who took their chance to get rich, or the ones who believe in laissez-faire society. This side is now usually called Liberals, as opposed to some earlier times when „Liberals“ were the opposition of „Conservatives“. Basically, deep belief in free market and „small state“ which does not control much of the things. They try to create the environment friendly for profit, and social issues are in the second or third plan. And there are Socialists, or Leftists, who are primarily concerned with workers, middle class, disenfranchised and hard-working. Their primary concern is to protect the working people, to ensure health ensurance, social security, to make society capable of functioning without much conflicts. Usually, Americans were prone to the Liberal spirit, and the UK was in the same waggon until the creation of Keynsian „Welfare state“ after the WWII. Reaganism and Thatcherism reinstatarted the concept. And the Continentals, the Europeans, especially in Scandinavia or Germany, were on the other side: egalitarian, protecting „a little man“.

And after the end of the Cold War, the Liberals thought they have decisively won. There is no other system but Liberal democracy and the market controls it all. And there is a catch. The Socialist parties all around Europe started their tectonic shift from Left to Centre. It started with Tony Blair’s New Labour, than came Gerhard Schröder and Jacques Chirac. There was not Left any more. Nor Right. Just Left Centre and Right Centre. Just a mud in between. And there was just about „when it is all going to fall down“. The house of cards is never a good solution. And that is exactly what it was.

And since Democrats in the USA ceased to care about the workers in the post-Industial areas, but they „educated“ people to join the new economy of services (jobs are already in China, Vietnam, Mexico) and elevate themselves. OK, but how Homer Simpson and alikes can be elevated? And there are many ordinary people incapable of „elevating“. The idea was pretty racist in its roots. It seems that the Western world is going to provide intellectual services only, and the Third world is going to manufacture things without thinking. So, the Westerners are kind of „superior“, right? Wrong! Many people in the UK and the USA felt they cannot do anything if the traditional jobs are outsourced. Many of them had tow jobs and lived poorly. The Democrats and the Labour protected the rich, they felt. And there was no-one protecting them. And such situation could not last.

And since every social group has to have someone to champion them, the populist arrived. Big time. And they combined the leftist rhetoric with some of the rightist ideas, creating a mix of ideas that were appealing to those who felt left behind. National Front in France, AfD in Germany, UKIP, Brexiters, Trumpists, Bernie Sanders’ followers, Cinque Stelle in Italy, Podemos in Spain, Syriza, Golden Dawn in Greece. Wide range of ideas, from xenophobic or isolationists, to far-left. But they spoke to the ones who never felt so lonely and left alone.

So, Brexit succeeded. Trump succeeded. Ana Muhar from Jutarnji List explained it perfectly. We all feel closer to the globalist elites and cosmopolitan people in Cairo, London, Moscow, we are much closer to each other that a cosmopolitan person from London and a hairdresser from Birmingham, both English. And the internationalists always existed, but the trouble is that the ordinary people stopped believing that these countries were actually theirs. They felt threatened and reacted. We forgot about them, and did not protect them in the process of globalisation. So they started rebelling openly. And there is another catch. You cannot „educate“ people that free trade or global multuculturalism is great if they have an option to vote against it. You can do it in Soviet Union in 1933 or China in 1955. Send some commissaries to villages and factories and say „We are all same now, Socialism came, no God, all the nations are equal“ etc. But they could not vote against it. And in democracy the people can vote against. And we did not persuade them not to. We created vacuum, it created populism. In 1914 the nobility in Russia, UK or Austria had more in common with each other than with peasants and workers in their own countries. And in 1918 they were all ousted. Just remember how guilty we are for the vacuum. The Left betrayed common people, and they strike back.

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