The alternative to democracy and the socialists
Eugenio Garcia Gascon
We must stand up against the populist-nationalist extremisms that preach dangerous utopias and, in that struggle, the social democracy must be in the front line
Populist-nationalist parties prioritize group identity, exclusion, sectarianism, fanaticism, and authoritarianism. They are on the dark side of history, and it could very well be that their irruption heralds the threshold of a new dark age. It occurs in Europe and outside the continent, as is the case in Israel, where an extreme nationalism merges with a no less extreme religion-based one. Western socialists would make a serious mistake if they stopped defending objective principles and replaced them with subjective principles. Nobody disputes that it is likely that they could achieve better results at the polls, but at the cost of resignations capable of driving us off a cliff. The price to pay for questioning and overthrowing liberal democracy as it has worked so far would be very high.
Emotions and feelings, passions, when they are extreme, as is happening in Europe, and specifically in Catalonia, are bad traveling companions and it should not be forgotten that they have struck Europe viciously in recent times. That fanatical populist-nationalist extremisms are taking control of the political agenda in Europe is bad news, but that should not exempt us from fighting them. There are increasingly numerous groups that exude hatred, targeting and shooting at the vital organs of democracy, while creating a climate of considerable hostility against the resistance, which is less and less numerous and often takes refuge inside because it fears open confrontation to the national-populist phenomenon.
The example of Israel
What is seen in Europe, and in Catalonia, is comparable to what Israel has experienced in this field for many years. Anyone who has lived in Israel soon learns that political issues are not worth discussing with populist-nationalists, and that this definition does not only encompass followers of Likud and the far right, but a growing number of people. Israelis who have been raised in national populism since childhood. To argue with them is to reason with the desert because their ideas are not based on reason but on tribal emotions and feelings. Furthermore, they are ridiculous because they argue as if they are in possession of the truth, the only truth. A ‘democracy’ like the Israeli one, or like any other national-populist, where the majority exercise their power without restrictions, can be more tyrannical than a dictatorship. “More damaging than theological superstition is the superstition of nationalism”, the philosopher Bertrand Russell rightly noted.
Instead of amending society wherever necessary, these populist-nationalist streams pursue an utopia, ignoring that utopias for all tastes have caused many bloodbaths in not too distant times. We live in a world where politics is unstable, fragmentary and, above all, unpredictable, in a way that has never been known since the birth of liberal democracy. This is a good reason to stand up against the visionaries who abound in Western societies preaching dangerous utopias. The socialist parties must be in the front line in this fight, and not succumb to the fashions of the moment, no matter how long-lasting.
Where they obtain representation, national-populist groups argue that their leaders have been democratically elected, as if this circumstance provided them with an unquestionable claim to be democrats. In reality, the opposite is true. It is no wonder that there are German citizens who call Alternative for Germany the Alternative for Democracy.
There is probably a tiredness of democracy, and populism-nationalism would be a symptom that many people, who threaten to become the majority as we go, believe in simple solutions to solve complex situations and problems, something that is not happening for the first time, people convinced that the ballot box gives them a carte blanche that allows them to trample on the rights of others.
Social Democrats must maintain their support for objective and rational values, and not bow to populism-nationalism. After all, national-populisms are comfortable and easy havens for those who are tired of democracy and dream of utopias and uncertain adventures. The fact that the Social Democratic votes are migrating to these groups should not make the Social Democrats abandon the universal values that generated socialism at the time, even if this forces them to have to work from the opposition.