Politics writer Siobhan Tolland tackles the aftermath of Trump’s election in the United States and the worrying rise of the populist right throughout the world.
Donald Trump’s victory as President of the United States changes everything. I mean it really does change everything. The stakes for our struggle for social democracy have just become outlandishly higher.
Trump’s power symbolises a significant qualitative political transition. The Austrian election next month can potentially see them having a neo-fascist president. Le Pen winning the presidential elections in France, next year, is no longer met with the incredulity and ridicule it should. There is no doubt, now, that the neo-fascists are beginning to coalesce and strengthen themselves as the emergent global economic and political ideology.
In the UK Theresa May’s talk about keeping the special relationship and business as usual with Trump as well as her ever closer relationship Europe’s dictator, Viktor Orbán in Hungary, shows where Westminster’s allegiances are in this seismic shift. Indeed, Westminster’s own shift to the right positions them as active and leading participants in that wider neo-fascist movement.
If that doesn’t terrify us then we are still in denial. And that denial is dangerous. Events over the last year have truly been seismic and we have to now accept that a new, post neo-liberal fascism has arrived. It’s sitting in Westminster. It’s sitting in Hungary and might lead Austria. It’s about to move into the White House and France might just well vote it in as president. The ultra-right are no longer isolated incidents but a growing global phenomena.
But the ultra-right do not go unchallenged and the global struggle unfolding also includes a new left gaining support and strength. We can see this crystallized in the Austrian presidential elections. Political history was made by seeing the traditional parties wiped out in the first round of the elections with two outsider candidates left: one an ultra-right candidate – the Freedom Party’s Norbert Hofer and another Green-backed, but independent, Alexander Van Der Belen (or Sasha). Austria stands hovering over a neo-fascist or a new left inclusive political future. Two new and distinct movements were vying for power.
This struggle is also playing out across the West. Greece’s Syriza, Spain’s Podemos, Bernie Sanders and our own YES movement sit as examples of how massive discontent and a political crumbling have been channelled into a discourse that rejects a xenophobic ordering of society and embraces a positive vision of inclusion and social democracy. Indeed Van der Beeler’s incredible victory in Austria highlights another rejection (albeit narrow) reject a bona fide Nazism rooted in the SS. With varying degrees of success, these examples show us that the grains of a new social movement can and will challenge global fascism.
Against the wasteland of status quo politics then, the political choices left to us have become stark. We either allow the rise of fascism that is now staring us in the face. Or we create a social democratic alternative across the globe. We build a newer democratic and inclusive society. As a relatively successful social democratic country how we react to, and interact with, these international events will have significant and long-term consequences for us and for Europe. Our struggle for independence, then, can no longer be seen as a just a Scotland – UK struggle. It must be understood as part of a wider international struggle.
We can no longer afford to see ourselves as a distinct singular movement. Our very survival is dependent on us becoming integral to the wider international ‘new left’ movement that is developing. We are not separate from the movement gathering around Bernie Sanders, or SYRIZA or Podemos. The anti-austerity, open and inclusive approach of these movements bind us together. If our independence struggle is to survive we need to start seeing this as one and the same global struggle for social democracy. Because if we have no international movement fascism will continue to gain strength unhindered. In this political context Scotland’s fledgling social democracy will become increasingly isolated amidst a sea of fascism. And we will be left politically asphyxiated.
The issue of leaving the European Union for Scotland has never become as important as it is in these post-Trump days, then. Leaving the European Union with the rest of the UK will only increase our isolation from the social democratic movements within the EU and Europe more generally. The UK’s impending departure from the EU has created an authoritarian fascism in Westminster and leaving will create a strong ideological merging with a wider international fascist conglomerate. Scotland will be forced into that relationship. We will not just be dragged out of Europe against our will. We will be dragged into an international fascism against our will. And our goals and aspirations will neither be welcome or tolerated.
These international events directly affect our re-emerging YES movement. France potentially falling to fascism will be absolutely relevant to us and our struggle here in Scotland. If we work on an isolationist approach, however, we will fail in our domestic goal. Because working separately will not allow a strong, credible alternative to fascism to develop. And a weak resistance will inevitably destroy social democracy in all its forms. That will include us.
But this is beyond our own national interests. Our civic nationalism means that we must protect these ideals at all levels. In these very difficult times it is our moral imperative to stick our head above the parapet and stand against fascism. Our role has to include solidarity with all organisations fighting against fascism and attempting to build a new alternative society. A strong international new left movement can and will pose a significant threat to global fascist interests, and we can no longer stand on the side-lines watching this happen. We must contribute to that struggle.
If we remain within a post-EU UK, our contribution will become significantly harder. Isolated from the EU, Westminster will use all its force to drown out our domestic and international voice. It is a priority of the Westminster ultra-right to fragment and destroy the independence movement not just because of the potential break in the UK but as part of an international move to destroy social democracy generally. At this juncture in our history, then, our movement and the international movement must be inextricably intertwined.
Yanis Varoufakis said that, for the left to become strong, we need to create an imaginative approach to our politics. Never has this been so true. The one impeccable truth from Brexit and the American elections is that the status quo is lost to voters. Now is the time for us to take ideological leaps. We need to meet these new political challenges with a vivacity that inspires, with a politics that truly makes life better for all of us, with a strong moral base grounded in humanity and equality. But more so, we need to push this forward as a genuinely international struggle. Or else we will all crumble.
Siobhan Tolland is a member of the SNP and writer of politics, contributing to various organisations and websites including Commonspace. Siobhan has a PhD in History, looking at the feminisation of socialism in the life and works of Mary Brooksbank.
Disclaimer: articles published on Red Thistle are the views of the individual authors and not necessarily those of SNP Socialists as a whole.