Rad­i­cal pop­ulist na­tion­al­ism and the dis­course of ha­tred

Costa Blanca News (South Edition) - - Vox Pop -

By Paul Gor­don The three years from 2014 to 2017 will un­doubt­edly go down in the his­tory books as three par­tic­u­larly tur­bu­lent years in re­cent Bri­tish and Span­ish af­fairs. This pe­riod of po­lit­i­cal in­sta­bil­ity be­gan in 2014 with the Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum cam­paign which shat­tered the rel­a­tive tran­quil­ity and peace­ful­ness of Scot­tish daily life sim­i­larly to what has sadly hap­pened in Cataluña re­cently with the in­de­pen­dence cam­paign there as well. Many fam­i­lies and friends were sud­denly di­vided down the mid­dle, just like in a civil war, be­tween those in favour of main­tain­ing na­tional unity and those de­ter­mined to break up age old na­tional en­ti­ties spurred along by a wave of rad­i­cal na­tion­al­ist pop­ulism un­leashed in western Eu­rope in the early years of this new cen­tury. If this is how the new cen­tury has be­gun, what has the rest of the cen­tury in store for us and our chil­dren?

State bust­ing, to use that ex­pres­sion, has be­come the new po­lit­i­cal fash­ion of the mo­ment in Eu­rope. Sud­denly what we had as­sumed to be our rel­a­tively pros­per­ous and sta­ble coun­tries have been sub­jected to very pow­er­ful desta­bi­liz­ing cen­trifu­gal in­flu­ences from within our own borders; fre­quently aided and fi­nanced by shad­owy for­eign in­ter­ests anx­ious to fol­low the old maxim of di­vide and rule. Be­fore the late 1990s no­body really used to pay much at­ten­tion to the Scot­tish Na­tion­al­ist Party or to rad­i­cal Cata­lan sep­a­ratism. In my na­tive Scot­land when I was younger the SNP were re­garded as ec­cen­tric “Tar­tan Tories” that no­body really took se­ri­ously who were ob­sessed about the me­dieval leg­ends of Wil­liam Wal­lace and Robert Bruce. They did not rep­re­sent a cred­i­ble po­lit­i­cal al­ter­na­tive for most or­di­nary Scot­tish vot­ers and were seen to be on the mar­gins of nor­mal pol­i­tics and life. Up un­til 2007 Labour and, to a lesser ex­tent since, the Tories had tra­di­tion­ally dom­i­nated Scot­tish pol­i­tics. In the Scot­tish Par­lia­men­tary elec­tions of that year, a new era be­gan in Scot­tish and Bri­tish pol­i­tics with the first SNP ad­min­is­tra­tion, al­beit a mi­nor­ity one propped up with Tory sup­port, to take of­fice in the re­cently es­tab­lished Scot­tish re­gional gov­ern­ment based in Ed­in­burgh. From that mo­ment un­til the present the SNP has man­aged to re­main in power in Ed­in­burgh, with and with­out a ma­jor­ity, in charge of Scot­lands´ re­gional gov­ern­ment ad­min­is­tra­tion. A new era of rad­i­cal na­tion­al­ist pol­i­tics had be­gun which was to lead to the 2014 Scot­tish in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum agreed to by David Cameron.

Although most Scots re­jected in­de­pen­dence and the SNP have be­gun to lose elec­toral sup­port the threat of a sec­ond in­dyref still looms omi­nously on the Scot­tish po­lit­i­cal hori­zon as long as the SNP re­main in con­trol of Scot­lands´ re­gional gov­ern­ment and to the dis­tinct pos­si­bil­ity of an ex­treme or hard Brexit sup­ported by the May Lon­don Tory gov­ern­ment. Af­ter their re­sound­ing de­feat in the 2014 in­dyref the prospect of a hard Brexit has been a god­send from the heav­ens for the SNP which they have tried to use to their po­lit­i­cal ad­van­tage at ev­ery op­por­tu­nity.

In post-1978 Spain most Cata­lans have gen­er­ally not sup­ported ex­treme rad­i­cal sep­a­ratism from Spain either, even although many have voted for the na­tion­al­ist Con­vergèn­cia i Unió party. Up un­til 2010 and the pe­riod of lead­er­ship by Ar­tur Mas, Con­vergèn­cia i Unió ac­tively co­op­er­ated in fa­cil­i­tat­ing the gov­ern­abil­ity of Spain by sup­port­ing the two main Madrid based na­tional par­ties in the cen­tral gov­ern­ment un­der the lead­er­ship of Felipe González and José María Az­nar. How­ever, af­ter 2010 Con­vergèn­cia i Unió sud­denly changed di­rec­tion away from the cen­tre ground and started to sup­port rad­i­cal sep­a­ratism for Cataluña.

Since then the po­lit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion in Cataluña has be­come pro­gres­sively more rad­i­cal and po­lar­ized ul­ti­mately lead­ing to the il­le­gal ref­er­en­dum held on Oc­to­ber 1 of this year and the very short lived uni­lat­eral dec­la­ra­tion of in­de­pen­dence in the Cata­lan Par­lia­ment on Oc­to­ber 27 and the im­po­si­tion of di­rect rule from Madrid the fol­low­ing day.

The re­gional elec­tions called for the De­cem­ber 21 are an ex­cel­lent op­por­tu­nity for all Cata­lan vot­ers to par­tic­i­pate in free and fair elec­tions to de­cide the im­me­di­ate fu­ture, given that a ma­jor­ity of Cata­lan vot­ers, who are not sep­a­ratist, did not par­tic­i­pate in the Oc­to­ber 1 il­le­gal in­de­pen­dence ref­er­en­dum.

The Brexit ref­er­en­dum also marked an­other im­por­tant point in the con­sol­i­da­tion of this wave of rad­i­cal pop­ulist na­tion­al­ism and di­vi­sion sweep­ing across many parts of Eu­rope. Brexit will un­doubt­edly go down as a wa­ter­shed mo­ment in Bri­tish his­tory when, be­cause of the dis­mal qual­ity of the Bri­tish po­lit­i­cal class and a lack of good lead­er­ship, the coun­try’s po­lit­i­cal elite failed to carry out their duty to clearly ex­plain to the pub­lic the long term na­tional in­ter­est in the Brexit ref­er­en­dum cam­paign and in­stead squab­bled amongst them­selves for short term per­sonal and party in­ter­ests. If the Brexit process goes wrong and there are real neg­a­tive eco­nomic con­se­quences, the Bri­tish pub­lic could well turn on the po­lit­i­cal es­tab­lish­ment in de­spair. The cor­ro­sive ac­tion of rad­i­cal pop­ulist na­tion­al­ism at­tacked the weak­est point of Euro­pean unity, Britain, where for decades Euroscep­ti­cism has been pro­moted as be­ing fash­ion­able in many elite cir­cles and handed down to the masses via the pop­u­lar press for them to sup­port.

The first signs of the can­cer­ous fever of rad­i­cal na­tion­al­ism in con­tem­po­rary post-1945 Eu­rope ap­peared in the so­called Yu­goslav wars as­so­ci­ated in the pop­u­lar mind with the dis­in­te­gra­tion of the for­mer Yu­goslavia which had been largely un­der Serb dom­i­na­tion.

The post-1945 belle époque was over. The vi­o­lent dis­in­te­gra­tion of Yu­goslavia co­in­cided with the mirac­u­lous fall of the Ber­lin Wall and of the lib­er­a­tion of Eastern Eu­rope from half a cen­tury un­der op­pres­sive Soviet rule from Moscow.

An im­por­tant con­se­quence of the fall of Soviet dom­i­na­tion in Eastern Eu­rope has been that post-com­mu­nist Rus­sia has not been will­ing to fully ac­cept the per­ma­nent loss of its tra­di­tional Eastern Euro­pean back­yard and zone of in­flu­ence to the EU and NATO.

With the fall of the “Iron Cur­tain” across the Euro­pean con­ti­nent in the early 1990s at first it seemed that a new era of free­dom and hope had opened up for Eu­rope af­ter a twen­ti­eth cen­tury char­ac­ter­ized by war­fare, vi­o­lence and de­struc­tion on an in­dus­trial scale never seen be­fore in his­tory. A Pan­do­ras´ box with unimag­in­able con­se­quences was opened which has desta­bilised Euro­pean af­fairs ever since the col­lapse of the Soviet Em­pire. As Jean Claude Juncker, the EU Com­mis­sion Pres­i­dent, com­mented re­cently rad­i­cal pop­ulist na­tion­al­ism threat­ens to rip many Euro­pean states to pieces with dire eco­nomic and so­cial con­se­quences and cre­ate a Eu­rope, not of 28 or 27, but of 95. From a Machi­avel­lian point of view, the re­turn of Eu­rope to feu­dal­ism and di­vi­sion would be ben­e­fi­cial for other world pow­ers who would oc­cupy the vac­uum and see their in­flu­ence in the world in­crease.

A rad­i­cal na­tion­al­ist dis­course which of­fers the peo­ples of Eu­rope a fu­ture of ha­tred and di­vi­sion in­stead of hope, unity and progress is not what Eu­rope de­serves and we have a duty not to al­low it to take over our coun­tries.

We must not for­get the hard lessons of the re­cent past. The big­gest tragedy of Euro­pean his­tory, the Sec­ond World War, fin­ished only seventy-two years ago. This Sun­day, Novem­ber 12, is Re­mem­brance Sun­day in the UK, let us wear the red poppy with pride, but may it serve also as a pow­er­ful re­minder of the ter­ri­ble con­se­quences of rad­i­cal na­tion­al­ism which led Eu­rope to two world wars and al­most to­tal de­struc­tion in less than twenty years and the death of mil­lions of Euro­peans.

Paul Gor­don is a rep­re­sen­ta­tive of Euro­pean Move­ment UK in Spain

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