A new interview addressing many thorny issues of contemporary democracy. Left-wing populist movements across the globe, malfunctions of representative democracy, the dialectic between people and politicians, horizontal and vertical dimensions of populist mobilisation, the potential democratic renewal inherent in forms of direct democracy, the future of social democracy. This, and much more, in a fluvial chat with Giorgos Katsambekis.
What is going on in Poland and Hungary? A deliberate attempt to break with liberal democracy, Ben Stanley argues. In this interview we analyze the legacy of World War II and Communism and the role of Viktor Orban and Jarosław Kaczyński in the transformation of the two countries. Governmental control over the media, attempts to bring the judiciary under political control, and breaches of the constitution: What are the causes beyond these transformtions, and which will be the consequences for the future of the European Union?
Ben Stanley is Assistant Professor in the Centre for the Study of Democracy at the SWPS University of Social Sciences and Humanities (Warsaw). His primary area of research interest is the politics of populism in Central and Eastern Europe, incorporating analysis of party ideological appeals and voter behaviour. His current research activities include an experimental analysis of the links between conspiracy theory mentality and populism in Poland, measurement of populist attitudes in Central and Eastern Europe, and a monograph on Polish populism.
Enjoy the reading.
What happens to a country when a populist party rules? What happens to liberal democracy when the populist idea of power is implemented? Bartek Pytlas illustrates the case of Poland to answer these questions, and examines the rhetoric toolbox used by the ruling Law and Justice party (PiS) in order to control the state media, the Constitutional Court, and to fight against the European institutions.
We’re all supposed to be praising Beata Szydło for the grace with which she has accepted her defenestration, but I remember her disgusting exploitation of terrorist attacks in the UK to argue in favour of her government’s domestic policies. Not easy to forget.
— Ben Stanley (@BDStanley) 8 dicembre 2017
As well as Orbán in Hungary, the PiS government is undermining checks and balances, minority protections, and in general all the mechanisms that make liberal democracy *liberal*. All of this, while being part of the European Union (the same that five years ago won the Nobel prize for peace) and going against all its most important principles.
Enjoy the read. Continue reading
Yesterday, Sunday 2nd April 2017, 10.000 people rallied in the streets of Budapest to reclaim academic freedom and ask that the Central European University (CEU) remains in the Hungarian capital. Today the government discusses the faith of one of he most important universities in Europe.The Hungarian government has proposed amendments to the National Higher Education Law that would make it impossible for CEU – and possibly other international institutions – to continue operations within the country.
What can you do:
- Send a letter of solidarity (here the sample)
- Make a pubic and official statement of support as many other institutions, organizations and academic departments and faculties already did (here the list of statements of support)
- Sign the petition (here)
- Check for updates on the official CEU’s website, section #IstandwithCEU (here)
The pacific demonstration was a response from the academic component of the city but also the mobilization of thousands of citizens worried about the authoritarian drift of Orbán’s government.
Soon there will be news about this story, because it seems like there is an urge to silence such a cumbersome voice. Hopefully the government will listen to the people who mobilized to reclaim academic freedom, and to Tibor Navracsics, the European Commissioner for Education, Culture, Youth and Sport, who said: “Central European University is one of the most important higher education institutions not only in Hungary, but also in the European Higher Education Area. Therefore, I think it’s important that after the correction of possible irregularities, it can continue to operate in Budapest undisturbed.”
2015 seemed like the perfect year for populist actors. All over the world more or less populist discourses were spread among the public opinion. In 2016 the diffusion of populism reached new and unexpected peaks. What changed in the diffusion and perception of populism? Essentially, there are three lessons we can learn. Continue reading
“In its contemporary manifestations, the migrant figure has been imagined variously as a mechanical, animalistic, spectral, zombified, vampiric or cyborg entity”
The frame used by politicians and mass media to describe migrants and refugees recalls the tradition of horror movies. A devilish, dangerous, elusive and relentless presence threatens the borders. They come from the sea.
A shapeless horde, a scary multitude.
The zombies are what we do not (want to) understand. They are the American Indians, the slum dwellers, the colonized, Iraqis and Afghans, Eritreans. They are the by-product of an (internal and external) Apartheid imposed by relationships of strength.
The doors of the fortress (or hotspots) are the critical junctures of the system, the crumbling bastions of a civilization under siege: Melilla, Lesbo, Ventimiglia, Calais, Budapest, the Eurotunnel, Lampedusa. Between land and water, the entrance to “heaven” is strewn with rotting corpses, and the stench goes straight to the nostrils of all. Continue reading
We serve fresh populism, of all types.
Hot summer in Europe. Tsipras asked the Greek people to refuse the conditions of the Troika – and the Greek people answered “oxi”, which is translated as “no” but in this case means “yes Alexis, we’re still with you”; Varoufakis announced – first via Blog and then in T-shirt, cool as usual – that he resigns from his position as Minister in order to help Tsipras with the negotiations; Spain approved a package of measures unprecedented during its democratic history, limiting freedom of expression and public protest; Hungary is preparing to build yet another wall of this Europe under siege, to halt the advance of the refugees on the eastern front.
The Greek referendum marked a watershed in the history of Europe, with consequences that will be fully understood probably in the next decades. Now it’s too early to draw conclusions. The words of Varoufakis from his blog are probably the best way to reflect on what happened: “The superhuman effort to honour the brave people of Greece, and the famous OXI (NO) that they granted to democrats the world over, is just beginning.”
Jobbik, the Movement for a Better Hungary (Jobbik Magyarországért Mozgalom), looks like Golden Dawn from a political perspective, but gained more credibility than the Greek goodfellas. In 2014 they obtained 20.54% of the votes, winning 23 seats in Parliament. In April 2015, Jobbik has won its first ever individual constituency in Parliament (by-election), taking the Tapolca seat with a narrow majority. People in Tapolca must be pretty bored, but this is understandable since the only attraction in the small city is represented by a 300-metre-long cave system.
What is astonishing is that the rest of the country hardly resists to the temptation of hearing this mermaid-neo-fascist-song. It is true that Jobbik has softened its rhetoric in recent years, gaining mainstream support. (For a visual proof, confront the two spots, from 2010 and 2014: here and here).