Friday, February 03, 2012

Which European political party would they be ?

[Can you find the product placement in this picture?]

Ironically, if Romney were running in Europe, Gingrich's accusation of his being a liberal would be true.  In Europe liberalism means wanting laissez-faire capitalism, no government interference in the economy, and no regulation.  Like his fellow liberals, Romney regards society not as a community but as a venue for a few to make as much money as possible.   They see the nation not as their country but merely as a market for whatever they're selling.  

An angry conservative with a big ego and grandiose ideas for radically transforming his country, this politician's frequently changing positions and amorphous ideology make support for him more of a cult of personality than a coherent political vision.  By inflating a former position as a minor academic political writer, this leader purported himself to be the intellectual leader of the Right.

That is a description of Benito Mussolini, leader of the Italian Fascist Party.

[Santorum making unverified claim]

In America a politician who touts his plebeian origins and claims to stand for the interests of working people yet consistently and invariably takes socially conservative positions and supports economic policies favorable to the rich, is called a Right Populist.  The obvious example is the later years of William Jennings Bryan when he went from a fiery orator for the cause of the common man, to being a pro-business religious evangelical.

The left narodniki wanted radical redistribution of land in Russia, from the rich landowner class to the peasants.  They wanted the abolition of Tsarism, the church, and of big business.  They wanted a new Russia.

The right narodniki wanted restoration of the 'mir' the almost mystical commune of the peasants, just as Santorum wants restoration of the American family. Right narodniki wanted more power and respect for the church and for the Tsar.  Like Rick Santorum's vision for America, they wanted the restoration of an old Russia that never was.

At the time of the Russian Revolution, the Narodniki were by far the biggest parties in Russia.  But they were agrarian parties with their support among the peasants in the countryside, while the Bolsheviki were a workers party with their support in the cities.  When the Reds seized power in Saint Petersburg and Moscow, they dragged the rest of Russia kicking and screaming behind them. 

Unhelpfully, 'Right Narodnik' translates into English as 'Right Populist'.

There was a European political movement which considered government to be an inherent evil and advocated reducing it as much as possible.  They said that wars were not conflicts between peoples but conflicts between governments and wanted the reduction of armies to a few border guards.  This party looked back to a vaguely described and entirely mythological golden age in the past and looked forward to a vast transformation of society from masses dependent on the state, to free individuals who rely on themselves.  Never quite able to articulate how such a society would work in practice, they were derided by most as impractical visionaries.   Because of their enthusiasm they were more powerful than their numbers.  This movement, the anarchists, consistently received 15% to 20% of the vote in Spain, Italy, and France for decades.

Like the Narodniki in Russia and the Populists in America, the anarchists also split into left and right factions.  The left anarchists wanted to free the workers by the abolition of the state and also of all other authoritarian hierarchies in society, by violence if necessary.  This made them the enemies of the church, of armies, of school hierarchies, of all bureaucracies, and, most of all, of capitalist corporations.  Left anarchists were idealistic about the workers.

Right anarchists wanted the abolition of the state, and to have social institutions like the church, school hierarchies, and, most of all, capitalist corporations, replace it.  Right anarchists were not idealistic about the workers, but merely cynical about the state.  Needless to say, Ron Paul would be among these.

Aside from the occasional assassination, invariably by left anarchists, they accomplished little.  In their defense however, the collective accomplishment of the other parties was to twice reduce much of Europe to smoking rubble and to kill tens of millions of Europeans.  Ironically, the two world wars having conclusively proven the truth of the anarchist position on war and the state, they became all but extinct thereafter.

Unlike their rivals, the Socialists, the Social Democrats wanted to keep a capitalist economy (and, implicitly, with it the class system).  But they wanted to tax and regulate it, to reform its worst abuses, and to provide social benefits and social services to the public.  This system was widely adopted in countries from Iceland to Israel.  It was easy to adopt because it was a compromise position between capital and labor.

The British social democrats, though literally called 'Labour', never quite changed anything much of the upper crust monopoly on Eton, Oxford, and Cambridge, and on the Eton, Oxford, and  Cambridge monopoly on every plum job in the kingdom.  (This is very different than in the egalitarian US where people are treated the same if they went to Harvard as if they had gone to Yale.  And both of those are considered nearly as equals by graduates of Goldman Sachs.)

Nor did any of them object much to being made peers and being promoted to the House of Lords when the opportunity came.  Labour in spite of its name was frequently at war with the TUC (Trades Union Council - the British AFL- CIO) and with the miners.

Derided as the Welfare State, social democratic programs became ever more expensive and consumed a larger and larger fraction of national resources.  Their popularity sank and social democratic parties were voted out of country after country.  In the end it was voted out even in its homeland of Scandinavia.  Today no country in Europe has a Social Democratic government.  (Except maybe Spain, since the election last year).

Nevertheless the legacy of the SD's is enduring.  Every country in Western Europe considers its social welfare benefits (health care, education, trade regulations, retirement pension plans, et cetera) as much a part of its landscape as its cathedrals and universities.

But it should be noted that most of them are hopelessly mired in debt on account of it and on the verge of bankruptcy.....

The National Front in the UK and the Front National in France are residuary parties, which is to say they are a collection of those having in common only that they are to the right of all the other parties.  Each stoutly denies racism while simultaneously expressing visceral hatred of everyone darker, more Jewish, or more Muslim than they are.  No one believes their denials.  

Neither the Tories in the UK nor the UMP in France will have anything to do with the National Front parties.  In England being in the National Front "is just not done."  In France it is outre.  

In the United States however, the Republicans are falling over themselves in competitively pandering to the Tea Party in election after election.  In the United States, so far from being political pariahs, the Tea Party have at least a veto over every act of the Congress, and are dominant in many state governments.

It is hard to know whether to have more contempt for the Tea Party or for their accomplices, the Republican Party.



  1. Anonymous12:58 PM

    National debt is a combination of a growth in expenditures and a knowing reduction in revenues by allowing the rich and corporations to escape paying a reaonable share of taxes necessary to support imperial wars designed to protect oil companies interests in foreign lands.

  2. Here are the top 15 sources of petroleum imported to the US according to the Department of Energy:

    Total Imports of Petroleum (Top 15 Countries)
    (Thousand Barrels per Day)
    Country Sep-11 Aug-11 YTD 2011 Sep-10 YTD 2010

    CANADA 2,829 2,637 2,670 2,479 2,537
    SAUDI ARABIA 1,479 1,075 1,187 1,093 1,086
    MEXICO 1,192 1,185 1,218 1,254 1,260
    VENEZUELA 806 906 979 1,008 1,007
    RUSSIA 592 585 609 648 624
    NIGERIA 580 892 876 1,174 1,053
    COLOMBIA 529 395 395 363 360
    IRAQ 404 637 473 422 464
    ECUADOR 305 309 205 229 217
    ANGOLA 304 331 335 417 422
    ALGERIA 291 298 396 543 512
    VIRGIN ISLANDS 189 185 189 302 261
    BRAZIL 188 228 240 181 289
    ARUBA 149 81 79 0 0
    KUWAIT 145 165 165 172 206

    Interestingly, we don't have troops in any of them.

    We do have troops nearby to protect Saudi Arabia and Kuwait from invasion by Iran but defending allies from aggression is something less than imperialism. Consider that we import more oil from the Virgin Islands than from Kuwait. The tailing off of oil imports from Aruba is a great sadness. If one is going to have an empire, it would be ever so much nicer if it consisted of SCUBA diving paradises like Aruba than barren shit-holes like Iraq and Afghanistan.

    Even though completely wrong, Anonymous' position is supported by how much fun it is to say and write 'imperialism'. Imperialism! Imperialism! Imperialism! Wonderful fun! Other ignorant but enjoyable invective is "Zionism!" "Fascist!" and to pretend to the common touch, "mutha fuckas!" But let no one think ill of Anonymous for using them - they are as much a part of adolescence as acne.

  3. Further advice to Anonymous - scattered about the keyboard, there are punctuation keys - notably the comma and period. They can be used to avoid having one's one sentence run on and on and on - and on and on.

  4. Anonymous11:43 AM

    Dog of the highest order.

  5. Anonymous raises an interesting question - what is the highest order of dog? The poodle is considered the smartest breed, thus highest in wits. The Saint Bernard and the Lhasa Apso are from the Alps and the Himalaya so they would be highest in geographic elevation. The highest in stature would be the Great Dane, the tallest dogs. Hounds are often described as noble, so they would be the highest in character.

    It is an interesting aside that not just hounds, but every breed of dog, is of better character than the sleazy troll, Anonymous.