Skrevet av: Hedda Schøyen Grue
Radical-right populism has, according to statistics presented by Aftenposten, taken Europe and the United States of America by storm lately, and increased their impact a sixfold since 1980.
Since the end of WWII, the west has been spoiled thinking that democracy and peace are two constant factors, and not two abstract, unpredictable elements we need to keep intact. The right-wave challenge the international norms that connects states beyond their borders, test values that once lay the foundation of democracy, and threaten the liberal peace.
This wave is a result of the immigration crisis, intensified criticism of the EU, and global terrorism. This led to two big developments in 2016; Great Britain’s BREXIT, and later on with the election of Donald Trump in the United States of America.
The election of Trump motivated the European radical-right populists. Soon after his victory, populist leaders from all around Europe met in a conference in Koblenz, to discuss their “vision for a Europe of freedom”. Some of them were Geert Wilders, founder of the far-right Party for Freedom, and Marine Le Pen leader of the National Front. According to Le Pen, the countries most affected by the refugee crisis, will “wake up” in 2017. She said that the British already “woke up” in 2016, by leaving the European Union, and she hopes this will have a domino effect on the rest. Another attendant, Lega Nord leader Matteo Salvini, described the EU as a crime against humanity.
He expresses, together with other radical-right populists, a clear hostility towards the EU, which defies liberal peace and its belief in international organizations. Populists challenge the pacifistic views of liberal democracies, and tend to have introvert, aggressive and hostile beliefs that contradicts the idea of democracy itself. It is because of this growing movement that liberal peace is under threat.
Liberal peace and the right-wing development
The Liberal Peace Theory (also called the Democratic Peace Theory) is suggesting that democracies never initiate war against each other. Immanuel Kant was the first to present this theory in his book The Perpetual Peace, where he points out two main arguments that best describes it:
The first one focus on the institutional structure that is democracy. It argues that by electing the government, and having power distributed between organizations, it will reduce the authorities’ possibility of making aggressive decisions, which opposes with the public opinion.
The second explanation argues that citizens of a liberal democracy often supports peaceful values. And since the government in a democracy is bound by, and dependent of the citizens and the institution itself, they can’t engage in conflict with another democracy if this challenges the values of the population.
These two arguments work as a mutual understanding between democracies, and therefore prevent war between them. When states financially and ideologically dependent on each other, they will never turn to violent measures. However, the dyadic peace theory, which is the most prominent one, admits that democracies has the same possibility, as non-democracies to interfere with other non-democracies. This theory shows us that only when all states practice democracy by the rules, and all authoritarian states are destroyed; it can be international, perpetual peace.
The radical-right populist parties have, as you can tell from the diagram below, increased their influence drastically since the 1970’s. It was especially visible in the 2014 and 2015 elections. The extreme populist party Jobbik, became the second largest in Hungary. The nationalistic party Dansk Folkeparti, became the biggest in Denmark, and Sverigedemokraterna got a place in the EU-parlament for the first time ever. And in Germany, the far-right party für Deutschland have reached new heights after protesting against Angela Merkel’s generous and loose immigration regulation.
The first argument on how the populists might be able to destroy liberal peace, is their lack of equivalent values that we expect to find in socialistic societies. One important value is for example tolerance, which anti-Semitic and Islam hostile parties like Jobbik in Hungary fail to follow. And in 2011, the radical-right populists in Hungary managed to actually change the constitution and alter their democracy. The internationally acclaimed theorist and author behind the book Democracy Disfigured, Nadia Urbinati, says that this example shows us that some populists will try to block democratic processes when the opportunity presents itself. She describes these alterations as tools, that can be used to exclude political opponents from areas like press and governmental institutions.
International organizations and norms
Institutional liberalists believe in international organizations and norms that promotes cooperation between states. The second argument focus on how liberal peace depends on functioning international organizations. States that are bound in conventions, organizations and trading, does not want to start a war that can jeopardize their economy, break the law or throw them out of the safe environment of mutual protection. Many parties have lost faith in the EU, and the discontent rose during the immigration crisis in 2015. After becoming a real political contender in Great Britain between 2013 and 2016, the radical-right populists party UKIP emerged as a huge opponent to EU membership. This would be the beginning of BREXIT. They showed the world that it could be done, and sparked a fire for other populist parties. However, with the lack of international organizations, and mutual trading and safety agreements, democracies might start resolving problems with violence. It will decrease collaboration and dialog, increase uncertainty and suspicion, which again will create unstable states willing to take unnecessary risks.
We do not know what the effects will be, but we have felt the far-right waves before, and we feel it now. These days liberal peace is a concept under threat, and far away from Kant’s perpetual peace.
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