The era of global politics driving the local.

In democracies, local political compulsions drive the policy. Often, there are mechanisms in place to make sure that these compulsions don’t lead to undesirable outcomes. This could be a wrong foreign policy stance against national interest. Or this could also be an unsustainable fiscal policy, which comes out of an unhealthy relationship with an attractive, but harmful foreign player.

When we consider the assumptions we have in this space, we tend to overestimate the extent of sovereignty. Sovereignty, in principle, produces independent and enforceable decisions. But when it comes to the complex matrix of international politics, it often is compromised. In this case, nationalistic governments are forced to employ certain slieghts of hand to placate their respective populace. More often, there is a tacit understanding between the political opposition as well as the ruling front so that the national interests are upheld. This has been the story of post cold war international politics. But the past two decades, especially the last decade forces us to see a paradigm shift. This means that an update of existing ways of looking at IR are inadequate to explain this shift.

It is no secret that the very same forces that engineered Brexit, 2016 have played a role in the election of Donald Trump as the US president. Much more important is the fact that they chose to do it publicly, for the whole world to see. The ideological universe of the European and American right wing coalesced into a single being - resulting into the multiplying effect in the reach and depth of the propaganda machine of both entities. And if we analyse their recurring themes, we see it has been regurgitated by various right wing forces across the globe - from Jair Bolsonaro of Brazil to Orban of Hungary to the Bharatiya Janata Party in India.

In a real sense, these arguments have stayed afloat across geographies and were used against different sections of human population, based on context. Interestingly, even when the perceived “enemies” changed, the arguments have surprisingly remained the same. This could be compared with the “Urfascism” as described by Umberto Eco, but even that would be a reductionist interpretation. This transnational right wing solidarity strangely resembles the similar solidarity inside the Soviet bloc of the cold war era.

Maybe, the right wing lacks the intellectual depth of the left’s movement, but definitely it has a breadth which covers a huge number of people across the globe. It has also succeeded to some extent in giving a quasi logical explanation to the politics that has been thrust upon them. The othering, the normalisation of hate and the vote bank politics of theirs bank upon a set of tools that the intellectual right wing has developed across borders. The fact that these tools are portable across cultures should never come off as a surprise. This is because cross-cultural portability of hatred and how it reinforces its own existence between two groups who hate each other is well documented. In fact, such studies form the basis of philosophies like Gandhi’s which sought to extinguish hate altogether by breaking the cycle of violence.

However, the implication of this transnational solidarity is not limited just to the right wing. As the power of this coalition has brought profound changes to the internal politics as seen in the US, the other side also doesn’t rest. Their intellectual response would be to create something that is bigger in scale because the right wing can only be dealt with from a position of strength. However, they suffer a serious limitation here. It was their own paralysis and inability to convince large sections of the population of their agenda, which led to the growth of this right wing in the first place. Their reckless pushing of ideas like uncontrolled globalisation has failed to move the masses. It created a global elite that was rich and powerful, but was as crippled as them when the right wing backlash came. But then, some of them like Elon Musk or Jeff Bezos were more than eager to co-opt with the other order.

As we can see, this conflict between the so-called right (which is an agglomeration) and the liberals (another agglomeration, very vaguely defined) is what defines the current politics. If we look at the chain of events after the killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, we see the same pattern. It is assumed that the assassination was engineered by Israel so that it would be difficult for Joe Biden to resume peaceful diplomacy with Iran. The foreign policy objectives of Israel to put “maximum pressure” on Iran was successful under the Trump administration. But when there is a regime change in the US, they conspired with the Saudis to execute this diabolic plan. The clandestine meeting of Mr. Netanyahu with prince MBS at the futuristic city of Neom only proves this point further.

It is nothing new though, the international realignments happening as a response to domestic adjustments in powerful countries. However, acquiring a single political colour which transcends national boundaries is something new. I have drawn parallels with the left wing international that marked the cold war era. But that was a different world - much less interconnected. Also, the people to people interaction between these forces is much stronger. How this could shape global politics is indeed something worth waiting for.

My bet is that this will expose itself as a contradiction in the long run. Those movements that hark back to a glorious past and express ultra-nationalism will be the very ones that are in need of the international solidarity that gives impunity and legitimacy to their not so legitimate actions. Towards this goal, they need to have an international community that doesn’t really poke its nose into internal matters like “Human rights”, which they could dismiss as “western” concepts.

“Urfascism” of Umberto Eco and Bolano’s “Nazi Literature in Americas” are good reads. Extrapolating that with the international solidarity of the right wing could probably help you explain the new found neighbourhood hate that is stealing your sleep. It may also help you make sense of a shift in the other direction, if ever such a thing is to happen again.

Written on November 30, 2020