Stiffer challenge to democracy from Far Right

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Members of the National Socialist Network perform Nazi salutes during a protest in Melbourne, Australia, on June 4, 2023 (Pic courtesy Al Jazeera)

The news that Far Right groups are making their presence felt in Australia would have come as an unpleasant surprise to defenders of democracy and pluralism the world over. While it is no longer ‘news’ that the Far Right is ‘alive and kicking’ in some parts of the West, the presence of this brand of politics in Australia was a relatively unknown fact.

However, current indications are that the Far Right has established a sizeable support base in Australia and this bodes ill for ethnic and cultural tolerance in the country, besides other matters of urgent importance in this connection.

A look at the more cogent reasons for the emergence of the Far Right in the West and outside over the past century could provide the researcher with some clues as to why vibrant democracies, such as Australia, are beginning to be saddled with the troubling political phenomenon currently.

Given Australia’s democratic vibrancy it is highly unlikely that the Far Right would be emerging as a dominant political force in the country any time soon but the fact of the matter is that economic instability has been increasing in the West in recent times and that Australia has been having its fair share of economic worries. Such instabilities provide fertile ground for the assertive emergence of the political Right anywhere.

It is shrinking economies that governments anywhere need to guard against if they are to keep the political Right at bay. Rising unemployment, for example, enables the forces of majoritarian ethnic chauvinism to point accusing fingers at minority communities as being responsible for decreasing employment opportunities among members of their dominant ethnic group.

White supremacist groups in Western Europe, for instance, consolidate their influence over their communities by pointing to the ‘ethnic other’, or minorities, as being the sole reason for declining economic fortunes among the majority ethnic group.

These considerations are of the first importance within and outside the West in contemporary times when a worldwide economic recession is beginning to exercise a stranglehold over countries. Decreasing economic opportunities are the ideal breeding ground of militant, Right wing political activism.

The ‘Skin Heads’ of the West epitomize this brand of politics and countries coming up against an assertive political Right should brace for an explosive emergence inter-communal violence inspired by this group and its allies. It needs to be remembered that white supremacist opinion in Britain and France, for example, has been gaining in strength over the years as a result of fanning anti-migrant sentiments among vulnerable sections of the majority white community.

That is, migrants from Eastern Europe, Asia and Africa, for instance, are projected by the Right as being responsible for the economic misfortunes of the white majority. Needless to say, a country is a few steps away from inter-ethnic violence from the moment majority communities are thus antagonized against minority ethnic groups by the Far Right.

It follows from the foregoing that democratic governments everywhere need to be on their guard against the emergence of the militant Far Right. This applies in particular to those states of the South with very weak democratic credentials. The latter’s problems are compounded several fold if they suffer from economic mismanagement, as is the case with Sri Lanka at present.

Sri Lanka faces the dilemma of keeping alive its democratic identity or what’s left of it while beginning all over again and getting on to a path of sustained economic growth. Only time will tell whether Sri Lanka would succeed in this exacting tight-rope walk. However, the challenge of the moment for the Sri Lankan authorities is to keep the spectre of the Far Right at a safe distance. A degeneration into fascism would have the effect of alienating Sri Lanka from the democratic world.

However, most ironically, it is the US that needs watching on the question of warding off the fascist threat. Today the US Far Right sees in the person of Donald Trump, a veritable epitome of its political aspirations. A come-back to the US presidency by Trump would amount to the US Right resoundingly returning to power and consolidating its hold over the state. In the normal course of things in US politics, it could be argued, a Republican administration should hold no terrors for the American public. Numerous are the Republican administrations that have given a good account of themselves and been of credit to the country.

However, truly democratic opinion in the US is bound to view the prospect of Trump returning to power with considerable trepidation. The trauma of January 6, 2021, when Trump backers stormed the US Capitol building with the aim of bringing Trump back to power in the face of a resounding defeat at the presidential poll through the use of mob violence is bound to die hard with US democratic opinion.

The lawlessness that was let loose in that dark hour in the history of the US could be said to have threatened as never before the core foundational values and institutions of the US governance system. Perhaps for the first time in its history the US seemed to be succumbing to fascist rule. That is, governance by an authoritarian ruler who was seen as embodying the hopes and aspirations of the Far Right, which have no commonality with cardinal democratic values.

At the time of writing Trump is facing a slew of charges in US judicial institutions, pertaining to his period of governance, but is dismissing them with disdain as being ‘ridiculous’ and ‘baseless’. However, he is yet to offer any proof of the insubstantial nature of the charges. This could be construed as amounting to subverting the Rule of Law.

The above is the ‘stuff’ that fascist rulers are usually made of. Their political beliefs and conduct are antithetical to democracy and its core values. Given time they become a law unto themselves, as is the case with most dictators.

Whether Donald Trump should be returned to the US presidency or not is a matter for the American people. They enjoy the freedom to accept him or reject him in his presidential bid. But ‘the writing is already on the wall’ and the US voter would need to think long and hard before casting her vote. The possibility is that a vote for Donald Trump could amount to the US voter flirting with fascism. Such fatal flirting would be tantamount to encouraging fascist rule all over the world.

Courtesy The Island

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