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By Siavash Mohades
Edited by Nico Herrlett
The rise of the extreme right and alternative politics in the last 8 years is not an outcome of societies turning towards fascism, violence, or militarism. Instead, its rise results from communities frustrated with the current global order and the political centre-left as concerns over the economy's future and security have soared.
The Bless of Common Enemy for Libertarians and Conservatives
The 20th century ended with most of the South American countries under the far left and with Europe and the U.S. with the centre-left in power. The distributional policies of giving everyone a larger share of the “cake” of the economy worked somewhat well, especially during Europe’s post-war boom. This success was due to a large stock of wealth accumulated between World War II and the beginning of the 1990s, combined with long working hours and mass production.
However, the honeymoon of these policies ended as the cake stopped growing throughout the new century. The policy of outsourcing the problem to the East led to the importing crisis of mass immigration in Europe. Emerging issues with the former USSR, Russia, and, indirectly, China as well as in the Middle East led to millions of households looking for a new life in Europe and the US.
This meant there was a new demand for welfare policies, and those already used to a broad share of wealth, did not agree to share it with the outsiders. In essence, a combination of more demand for welfare and a stagnating economy with fragile supply chains led to an era, in which the idea of lowering the wealth share of the middle class was no longer accepted by the public.
The frustrated public eventually expressed their opinion at the ballots. Voters seeking alternative politics have voted for widely different political groups belonging to the centre-right and right, depending on the country and the context of its issues. For instance, the European voters were limited primarily to a nationalist right-wing politics, which exploited the anger of the declining middle class to reach power. Prominent examples are Fratelli d’Italia in Italy, or PVV and BBB in the Netherlands.
Nonetheless, Central and South American voters chose a more libertarian approach after decades of socialist policies that led to nothing but high debt, soaring prices and, as a result, widespread poverty, such as in El Salvador and Argentina.
These large differences between the rising conservative political parties since 2016 show how countries have responded differently in finding an alternative for the “failed left”. Indeed, in a 19th or 20th-century context, Milei and Meloni would have been the symbols of two political oppositions: one favouring the libertarian and global points of view (Milei) and one nationalist-welfare advocate (Meloni).
A New Global Order: Security, Economy and Third-World Development
The common enemy – the extreme left – has united these supposedly opposite ideas to help them design the new “global order”, which is heavily dependent on President Trump’s potential election this year. Interestingly, this new global order will differ entirely from what we imagined a few years ago, as it will prioritise reducing military expenditures in favour of growth.
The current unwritten plan for the new global order prioritises border security and the economy of the developing world as the fears of societal immigration-related crises have soared. The current activities of the Italian, Dutch and British party leaders also show that this new group of global leaders want to solve the developing countries' issues at the source by improving infrastructure and development locally. This was the theme discussed in Tunisia and at the Rome summit of African leaders hosted by PM Giorgia Meloni.
Yet, these plans might go to waste in developing countries' corrupt institutions – as they did in the 1970s and 1980s. Still, they can potentially reduce Europe’s costs of continuous mass immigration. There is hope that with more robust monitoring tools of funds, combined with the direct involvement of national authorities rather than the IMF, these programmes would build a better foundation for developing countries.
Immigration and Security: keywords in Europe and the U.S.
It is essential to remember that acknowledging the immigration crisis is not an unhumanitarian point of view. Almost every immigrant community has struggled to integrate with the hosts for decades. Take the case of the Irish and the Italians in the United States in the early 1900s: the cultural difference and the language barrier kept these communities problematic for the Anglo-Saxon, Dutch and Germans that had immigrated to the U.S. beforehand. However, the shared values of Christianity and freedom strengthened the loose ties over time and made them an integral part of Americanism.
However, this has not been the case in Europe. Immigration has not led to deep integration since multiculturalism was not the basis of any European society, unlike the U.S. and Canada. The concerns about immigrant communities in Europe not moving up the social ladder started rising in Germany as early as first mass immigrations in the 1960s, especially over local clusters of Turkish communities.
These concerns have now been reflected in the voting behaviour of the Dutch, Italians, Germans and the French, where the uncertainty about the future will reduce the election chances of those groups denying the issues caused by immigration.
Economy and Fighting Corruption: key words in Latin America
The Latin American story is quite different. The conservatives in El Salvador and Brazil emerged with the promise of reducing crime and corruption, and one may consider El Salvador relatively successful in doing so. Bolsonaro - the leader of the Brazilian right-wing - has also been planning for a comeback into politics, amid the declining reputation of da Silva’s Brazilian left, due to corruption and the welfare state instability, owed to high debts and poor asset management.
The new Argentinian president, Javier Milei, emerged as the saviour of the economy after decades of socialist policies that led to immense government size, debt, hyperinflation, and a continuously declining currency. The fact that populism and austerity measures worked hand in hand in the 2023 Argentinian elections might be quite tricky for the European mind to comprehend. Still, Milei’s solutions seem economically viable and, as many voters stated, are worth a try.
Many eyes will be on his government’s medium- to long-term performance, as many other American economies, such as Bolivia and Venezuela, have dealt with decades of declining economies and inflating governments. If his plan to reduce debt and downsize the state is successful, other South American economies with similar issues may follow suit.
Where is it all going to lead?
Predicting what will happen in the next four to ten years depends especially on the American elections later this year. If Trump secures his second term, it will be a new era for the world. After many decades, most of the leading economies will feature a conservative leader.
The preferred policy of these leaders will be all about deterrence, as opposed to the current American-European policy for resolving the Russia-Ukraine conflict, through aid and support for Ukraine. This will be the first step in establishing a new global order, in which political and military power imbalance is tilted again towards a more Realpolitik, individualist approach.
Sources: NOS, NBC News, Associated Press, ara
Written by Siavash Mohades
The opinions expressed in this publication are those of the author(s). They do not purport to reflect the opinions or views of MJPE or its Board. The designations employed in this publication and the presentation of material therein do not imply the expression of any opinion whatsoever on the part of the MJPE concerning the legal status of any country, area or territory or of its authorities, or concerning the delimitation of its frontiers.