Interview #25 – Hungary & Poland: Post-Communist Autocracies and Illiberal Democracy

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.

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Interview #17: Luke March on Left Populism

In this pantagruelic interview, POP discusses with Luke March about left-wing populist actors across Europe, the US and Latin America, the legacy of the Communist past, and the evolution of different families of left parties. We also talk about the Great Recession, the migrants crisis, Brexit, neo-liberalism, and the possible directions for the Left.

luke_marchLuke March is Professor of Post-Soviet and Comparative Politics at Politics and International Relations, University of Edinburgh, and Deputy Director of the Princess Dashkova Russian Centre, also the University of Edinburgh. His main research interests include the politics of the European (radical) Left, Russian domestic and foreign politics, nationalism, populism, radicalism and extremism in Europe and the former Soviet Union. He has published in a range of journals including Party Politics, Comparative European Politics, Europe-Asia Studies and East European Politics. His books include The Communist Party in Post-Soviet Russia (Manchester University Press, 2002), Russia and Islam: State, Society and Radicalism (edited with Roland Dannreuther, Routledge, 2010), Radical Left Parties in Europe (Routledge, 2011) and Europe’s Radical Left. From Marginality to the Mainstream? (edited with Daniel Keith, Rowman and Littlefield 2016).

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Ghosts from the past

CharlesCouglinFather Coughlin knew how to use the radio and he used it to deliver his messages to millions of people. First he supported Roosevelt and the New Deal, but later criticized him because of his relationships with the bankers. I would be curious to interview Charles Edward Coughlin now, in 2015, and to listen from his energetic, mesmerizing voice, what he thinks about the situation in Europe. Another cycle of economic recession, another time of social unrest. An age of barriers, drifting boats, night marches, proclamations.

Father Coughlin was particularly harsh with Jewish bankers, accused of being behind the Russian Revolution, and ended up backing Adolf Hitler and Benito Mussolini concerning social and political measures against both capitalism and Communism.

At the Congress, he once said, it is time to endorse a candidate ‘who can rise above his party and puts patriotism first. He may be a Democrat or a Republican or whatnot, but we’re through with the sham battle of politicians and now we’re on our own’.Kill the lie

In 2015, in Europe, it is time for important decisions, and the soul of Coughlin’s speeches resonates with our time, ominously, through new politicians. About democracy, and the way it was not able to prevent the great Depression, he said: ‘somebody must be blamed, of course. But those in power always forget to blame themselves. (…) And democracy once more, thinking that it has power within its soul, shall rise up to clap and applaud, because the youth of the land is going abroad to make the world safe for what? Safe for dictatorship? Safe against communism abroad when we have communism at home? Safe from socialism in France when we have socialism in America? Or safe, safe for the international bankers?

I wanted to talk about the last elections in Poland and in Spain, about PEGIDA in Germany and Salvini in Italy, but there will be time for that. Now, I just wanted to hear father Coughlin’s words again, because those who cannot learn from history are doomed to repeat it.