By BENJIE OLIVEROS
The shocking victory of Donald Trump in the US presidential elections – despite the lies that he dished out, his racist, xenophobic, homophobic, anti-women statements, and his blunders during the debates – has been attributed to the rise of the “populist right” in the US and Europe. Understandably so because the messaging of Trump’s presidential campaign and the Brexit, as well as rightist parties all over Europe, had a common theme: stem the tide of the influx of refugees and immigrants.
In Europe, ultra right-nationalist parties have been gaining ground. For example in Austria, the share of votes of the Freedom Party of Austria steadily increased, even doubled from its 10 percent share of votes, landing 18 seats in Parliament in 2002 to 20.5 percent of the votes landing 40 seats in 2013. This coincided with the steady rise in immigration and unemployment in Austria.
The same trend could be seen in France where the National Front saw its share of the votes rise from 14.9 percent in 1997 to 27.7 percent in 2015; in Britain where the United Kingdom Independence Party’s share of the votes rose from 0.3 percent in 1997 to 12.6 percent in 2015; in Germany where the anti-immigrant Alternative for Germany, which, when formed in 2013, got 1.3 percent of the votes increased it to 4.7 percent in 2015. Even in the Netherlands, the anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant Party for Freedom has been making a strong showing in the past two elections. These were also accompanied by high immigration rates and a bad unemployment situation.
However, the term populist right appears to be an oxymoron. Populism is defined as support for the concerns of ordinary people. While indeed unemployment is a legitimate concern of ordinary people, and rightist parties and movements are able to mobilize mass, fanatical following, the leaders and platforms of ultra-nationalist, rightist, fascist parties are far from addressing the concerns of ordinary people. The most conservative, reactionary faction of the ruling elite is leading ultra-nationalist, rightist, fascist parties.
Take for example the appointees of the incoming Trump presidency. The appointees, so far, have been described as the richest in White House history.
A number of them are billionaires or have represented the interests of big business. The incoming Trump Cabinet includes the former CEO of Exxon Mobil Rex Tillerson, who will be the Secretary of State; Gary Cohn, who will be the National Economic Council Director, was president and COO of Goldman Sachs; Andrew Puzder, incoming Secretary of Labor, is the CEO of CKE Restaurant Holdings, which owns fast food chains Carl’s Jr and Hardees; Linda McMahon, head of Small Business Administration, is a billionaire, the co-founder and former CEO of WWE; Steven MNuchin, incoming Secretary of the Treasury, was a partner in Goldman Sachs until he formed his own hedge fund; Wilbur Ross, Commerce Secretary, an equity investor who specialized in buying troubled companies; Betsy DeVos, another billionaire, will be heading the Education department.
Trump also has military hawks in his Cabinet namely, Gen. John F. Kelly as Secretary of Homeland Security; retired Marine Corps Gen. James Mattis, who sees “political Islam” as a significant threat, will be Secretary of Defense; Michael Flynn, a retired Army Lieutenant General who believes that the greatest threat to the US is “radical Islamic terrorism,” will be the National Security Adviser; and Republican congressman Mike Pompeo who supports the CIA’s use of torture will be its director .
Don’t forget the racists in Trump’s Cabinet, namely, Jeff Sessions who will be Attorney General and Steve Bannon, former chairman of Breitbart News, a far-right-wing website, is Trump’s Chief Strategist and Senior Adviser.
Of course it has always been the same: the US government, whether it is the Republicans or Democrats at the helm, has been working for the interests of big business, especially financial investment houses, oil companies and the military-industrial complex, at the expense of the working classes. It’s just that the Trump administration portends to be the worst of it all.
In the final analysis, these developments could not be accurately attributed to the rise of ultra-nationalists, fascists, and rightists. It could be attributed more to the failure of the proponents of neoliberalism. They pursue the same goals and interests as that of ultra-nationalists, fascists, and rightists. It’s just that they hide behind the trappings of “liberal democracy.”